CRAIG JENKINS: DJ Mustard gifted Chicago crooner Jeremih’s career new life with sleek “Don’t Tell Em,” which warps Eurodance mainstays Snap!’s “Rhythm Is a Dancer” into sinewy electro-soul. Cali upstarts Echosmith look to the past as well on “Cool Kids,” which sounds like Lorde curating the Donnie Darko soundtrack instead of the latest Hunger Games one. Ultimately, Jeremih’s dancefloor come-ons float where the hammy sad sack modes of “Cool Kids” lag.
My Vote: “Don’t Tell ‘Em”
CAITLIN WHITE: Even if "Don't Tell 'Em" was up against another song that matched it stroke for stroke in sensuality, production and impeccable rapping, it would still come out on top. There's pretty much nothing sexier than an illicit romance, and once Jeremih is on the hook crooning about it and Mustard is on the beat, the song only needs YG to make this song a holy trifecta of forbidden pleasures. So on "Cool Kids," when Echosmith start channeling their tween-longing to be cool, it becomes clear that they'll probably never achieve this. The in-group that Echosmith look at longingly from their squeaky clean perch are the ones out on the dancefloor grinding to Jeremih — and they'll never reveal that the secret to being cool is all in the nonchalance. But someone should explain to Sierota siblings the concept behind "thirst," at least.
My Vote: “Don't Tell 'Em”
JASON LIPSHUTZ: The California kids of Echosmith earned their stripes on the Warped Tour a few years ago, and “Cool Kids” is the blissful sound of standing in a parking lot on a sweltering summer afternoon, swaying along to a hook and realizing that all of the outsiders in the crowd have banded together as one. “Don’t Tell ‘Em” continued DJ Mustard’s rightfully earned dominance this year, but pilfers too heavily from “Rhythm Is a Dancer” and reminds one that Jeremih has some killer singles (namely “Down On Me” and “Imma Star (Everywhere We Are)” that are more original than this one.
My Vote: “Cool Kids”
JILLIAN MAPES: Of all the beats DJ Mustard has churned out in the last few years, the one on “Don’t Tell ‘Em” is the most quintessentially DJ Mustard-y. Jeremih and YG turn in solid performances on top of that slightly warped beat, but make no mistake: “Don’t Tell ‘Em” is an earworm because of DJ Mustard. “Cool Kids,” meanwhile, is that semi-bland kind of catchy pop-rock that gets stuck in your head after you hear its nondescript chorus on a commercial for the billionth time.
My Vote: “Don’t Tell ‘Em”
JEREMY D. LARSON: It seems like years and years ago we were saying “this is DJ Mustard’s year,” but that was only like 8 months ago and now it’s time we made good on our promise. It’s an iffy showcase for Jeremih, and forces us to re-reckon with “Rhythm is a Dancer” for some reason, but until we hear that Mustard/Bieber joint, this is the producer’s pop jewel for 2014.
My Vote: "Don’t Tell ‘Em”
HARLEY BROWN: Jeremih and YG, duh. If it's got Lorde's stamp of approval, that's good enough for me. Interpolating "Rhythm Is a Dancer" is 10 points alone, and the song itself is just very sexy and, like Beethoven's Fifth, instantly recognizable from just a few opening notes. That's quite an accomplishment.
My Vote: "Don’t Tell ‘Em"
"Don’t Tell ‘Em”