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Allow us to reintroduce ourselves: Our name is Rec-Room Therapy. Each week, we discuss recent hip-hop tracks.

Today, Justin Timberlake might be trolling us; Migos decide to say something; and Alicia Keys looks for some commonality.

Our distinguished panel consists of  Marcus DowlingPhil R, and Aaron Miller of Austin Mic Exchange.


Justin Timberlake: “Can’t Stop Feeling”

Justin Timberlake is both voicing a character and serving as executive music producer on an animated movie called “Trolls”. Apparently, he has written and recorded several original songs for the soundtrack. One of them is “Can’t Stop The Feeling”. And while his last pair of records – collectively, 2013’s The 20/20 Experience – were produced by Timbaland and Jerome “J-Roc” Harmon, he’s collaborating with another old friend here: Swedish hit-maker Max Martin. This marks the first they’ve teamed up since N*SYNC’s 2001 album Celebrity. (There’s also a dude named Shellback who helped with this track, too.)

MARCUS: The worst thing that the music industry has done to its “final stars” (as in: the cast of hitmakers from 2000-2005; 2005 being the last year before record sales began to precipitously decline) is force all of them to engage in this game of diminishing returns. They just keep on putting out music that sounds derivative of the prior year’s trends, and in doing so, run the risk of tarnishing these stars’ excellence.

Sadly, “Can’t Stop The Feeling” sounds like The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face,” and in bearing the vocal of 2002 breakout star Justin Timberlake, follows course in this depressing trend.

This song is the complete opposite of “Suit and Tie”, which was Timberlake’s last lead single. “Suit and Tie” was classic and bore an essence that made it an industry standout. This is one level below The Weeknd’s smash and is lyrically in the same place as Time/Life collection hits. Yikes, yikes, yikes.

See also: Fergie’s “LA Love”; Avril Lavigne’s “Hello Kitty”; Gwen Stefani’s “Used To Love You”; that Alicia Keys thing we have in here this week.

This is a real bad trend. But, this is the record industry we’re talking about here, and the argument that failing to adjust to Napster entirely broke the record industry is starting to become completely apparent.

This song isn’t necessarily bad; it just feels lifeless to the point of in many ways seeming nonexistent.

AARON: Y’all know I think JT is the most talented, charismatic dude on the planet, but “Can’t Stop Feeling” may well be the first time “they” have extracted all the sex from a Timberlake joint.

Hadron Collider? Voodoo? I’m not sure how they pulled it off, but here you have it: The first Justin Timberlake song that absolutely no one will ever get pregnant to.

He has been on the smoothest grown man shit for the last few years, so I can give him a pass. I’m sure the marketing and delivery of this feel good, g-rated, hand-clapper has his tailored pockets on swole, and this will get play at kids parties and church camps all over.

I find myself simultaneously disappointed and wishing I had some roller skates.

PHIL: Max Martin somehow made Timbaland sound like Steve Albini.


Migos: “Say Sum”

Earlier this year, Migos dropped Young Rich Niggas 2, a sorta sequel to the trio’s breakthrough mixtape. It sounded… like Migos. But they’re mixing up the formula with “Say Sum”, a new single that finds them in slightly poppy, slightly funky territory for probably the first time. The track was produced by Atlanta’s Honorable C-Note.

MARCUS: I’m so not mad at this.

Migos have stayed around long enough where they’re just good enough to be able to be buoyed by great production to head in basically any direction. Quavo’s voice is such a part of the archetype of what relevant hip-hop culture is in the current era that it actually sounds like as much of an instrument in this track as the 808s.

Thos song feels like an excess single from The-Dream’s Love vs. Money album; it would fit between “Sweat It Out” and “12 Play.” The fact that the rap trio known for “Fight Night” could also reach this space of emotional connection to a song says more about the Honorable C-Note on production and everybody jacking Quavo’s flow than anything else, but generally, wow.

Migos are dependable urban pop radio superstars.

Again, wow. Who would’ve predicted this?

AARON: I’m always mad at these clowns.

In some kind of arrogant and unqualified way, I feel it is my duty as rap-fan Prometheus 2016 to hold the torch on hating these guys. I will do it by my damn self if I have to.

I can’t stand the way they rap, what they rap about, and maybe even who they are rapping for.  I’m not saying all music must free your mind and elevate shit, but goddamn, how much nothing can you rap about? It’s like the Trap equivalent of making small talk about the weather.

The answer is like ten albums and counting whether I like it or not, so fuck me I guess.

They are never gonna blow minds but they can rap and everything. Why can’t they tell me better stories?

The beat is kinda nice, though.

PHIL: I respect the stylistic change-up in a Stockholm Syndrome, thanks-for-not-waterboarding-me sort of way. I didn’t think Migos had this in them. I would not begrudge the American people if they made “Say Sum” a hit. At the same time, this song is ultimately a little listless for me to spin it on my own time.



Alicia Keys: “In Common”

Alicia Keys in back! Four years have passed since her Girl On Fire, and now she’s gearing up for a new album. Since it’s 2016, we’ll probably get a 30 minutes heads up on when it’s coming out. The album’s lead single is “In Common”. That we do know. We also know that it was produced by frequent Weeknd collaborator Illangelo.


Like, we had that Swizz Beatz garbage that was two bars of rap and 14 bars of hook, and now here’s Alicia Keys performing a song set to lyrics that, similar to her husband’s song, have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH HER REAL LIFE.

I mean, I like Afro-house as much as the next progressive-minded music fanatic. But yeah… this just sounds like it’s that song you hear at parties where people wear nice clothes and engage in benign versions of “Eyes Wide Shut” behavior. Thinking of Alicia Keys at that party in 2016 is not something I signed up for.

Here’s what’s funny about how bad this is. Kelela’s CUT4ME mixtape is almost three years old, and three years later, like eleventeen urban pop chanteuses have attempted to make music better than it, and they’ve only scratched its excellence. Here comes Illangelo trying to approach anything on that mixtape for Alicia Keys, and of course, they try real hard, but also fall real short.

There’s a really good argument that says that Alicia and Swizz are like the anti-Will and Jada. This only cosigns that notion.

AARON: Hmmmm.

Not sure what’s happening here. I love Alicia Keys but I don’t love this song. I feel like she is the Benjamin Buttons of the R&B divas here. She started out the most elegant and mature female vocalist in half a generation ,and evidently by 2016, she has reverse-grown up to the ripe old age of 17.

Who is this low self-esteem, fence-sitting, bummer singing this song? This is not the Alicia Keys that I (pretend)to know. This is a body snatcher clone or maybe Swizz vampired all her swag and just wore her down with too much yelling on them one-bar loops. I’m no doctor but she sounds depressed. I feel like he does donuts on the tennis court in the backyard trying to impress her when she just wants to talk and make some art or something.

The track is dark and fits the mood – I just don’t like how it all comes together. On one hand, the concern troll in me is worried about her. On the other, lizard brain says, ” How am I supposed to Milly Rock to a damn cry for help?”

Also. Mr. Beats, you should probably ask yourself, “Is she doing the Beyoncé fake-problem thing or playing a character?” Why is she singing sad-ass ex boyfriend songs, huh, son?

I think you need to stay at hotel for a few years and give her some space.



 Follow Rec-Room on Twitter, where we’re limited to 140 characters:  @marcuskdowling, @philrunco, @gitmomanners, @jrlopez, @dc_phelps, @Aaron_ish, and @CAMcGrady.