A star-studded lineup of artists featured on a track does not a summer hit make, and nowhere is this more evident than in DJ Khaled’s latest single “No Brainer,” released on Friday.
The ubiquitous yell leader enlists Justin Bieber, Quavo and Chance the Rapper in this would-be summer bop from his upcoming album Father of Asahd; the quartet had previously collaborated on the 2017 single “I’m the One.” But while “I’m the One” had an infectious beat and palpable energy (and eventually reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts), “No Brainer” sounds more like a formulaic, half-hearted attempt to replicate last year’s hit.
The requisite Bieber-sung hook and DJ Khaled catchphrases shouted from the sidelines are all present, but just don’t quite land this time around; Chance’s verse feels tacked on, and the whole song starts to wane after the third chorus. The accompanying music video also feels a bit forced. It’s simultaneously an ad for vaping, Ciroc, and the Cardi B-approved clothing line Fashion Nova, with the Biebs offering up some curious dance moves in between errant product placements. The only redeeming moments come when the camera pans to DJ Khaled’s adorable young son Asahd, perched happily on Bieber’s lap.
Critics and fans alike have been quick to christen “No Brainer” as the official song of summer 2018, while ignoring the fact that in order for a song to rightfully receive this accolade, it has to actually slap. While “No Brainer” has, in theory, all the right ingredients for a certifiable summer bop, in praxis, the song actually kind of sucks.
There’s been some discussion of other songs that could conceivably be 2018’s song of the summer, with Cardi B’s trap-meets-salsa tune “I Like It” being the most obvious frontrunner. As Rolling Stone’s Brittany Spanos explains, the reggaeton-inspired single from Invasion of Privacy “sounds like it was chemically concocted in a mad scientist’s lab to be 2018’s reigning song of the summer.”
She’s not wrong. It’s nearly impossible to walk down my block in Bed-Stuy, or really any block in the city, without hearing “I Like It” blasting from apartment stoops and car windows—a telltale signifier of a summer-defining song. The J. Balvin and Bad Bunny features on the track only make it better, if that’s even possible.
Drake’s recently-released album Scorpion has also yielded some strong contenders for song of the summer. “In My Feelings,” “Nice for What” and “God’s Plan” are all bops, each with a ubiquity that feels appropriate, if not necessary, for summer 2018’s defining song. There’s the viral dance challenge associated with “In My Feelings” that’s given us Will Smith Instagram gold and a reprimand from the NTSB after people began jumping from their cars.
“In My Feelings” has also provided fans with a new aspect of Drake’s life to scrutinize now that he’s finally owned up to being a father: who is Kiki, and does she love him? The New Orleans bounce-infused “Nice for What” also deserves some consideration, and in “God’s Plan,” Drizzy offers up an instantly-iconic turn-of-phrase that’s destined to grace Instagram captions and Tinder bios for months to come: “I only love my bed and my mama, I’m sorry.” It’s pithy and peak Drake.
In the face of these standout songs, “No Brainer” seems like a pretty weak contender for 2018’s summer anthem. Of course, there’s always a certain hysteria to be expected in the wake of a new DJ Khaled song, especially when it features a plethora of big names like Bieber and Chance. But let’s save the unbridled enthusiasm for a track that’s truly worthy of being called song of the summer.