"Slow Down Love" by Louis the Child
Between co-producing the Chainsmokers' number one hit, "Closer," and traveling across the country playing sold-out shows, 2016 was a busy year for teenage Chicago duo Louis the Child. Now they're back with a new EP, Love Is Alive, and this track off of it—with its alluring vocals and moody synths—is emblematic of the band's forward-thinking take on pop.
"Crew" by Goldlink
Goldlink moves into a new lane on his debut album, At What Cost. While his older singles pulled in influences from electronic music to produce chaotic but exciting electro-rap, At What Cost pulls back on the experimentation, yielding a more soulful sound. On "Crew," he's joined by fellow D.C. rapper Shy Glizzy, and the two reminisce about their hometown and the many ways they've been blessed during the last few years.
"HUMBLE." by Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick Lamar season is back. The Compton-based rapper appears to be gearing up for the follow-up to his critically acclaimed and socially conscious album To Pimp A Butterfly. "HUMBLE." is the latest single to arrive, and where TPAB steeped itself in '70s funk, this new single sounds like what might happen if a drumline started to use metal bats. The sonic switch-up is exciting, but lyrically, Lamar remains committed to addressing the plight of black people in America.
"Come Closer" by WizKid ft. Drake
Two years ago, on OVO Radio, Drake premiered a surprise remix of "Ojuelegba" by Afrobeats star WizKid (with a guest verse from grime star Skepta). The release hinted at the direction Drake would go with his next two projects (Views and More Life), but also helped to introduce Afrobeats to North American audiences who may not have been paying attention to the sound that was blowing up just across the Atlantic. WizKid's latest single finds him linking back up with Drake, and it retains the effortlessly silky pop charm of his older work—but now he seems ready for the big stage.
"9 (After Coachella)" by Cashmere Cat ft. MØ & Sophie
Cashmere Cat is such a trickster. Over the last few years, the EDM producer has pivoted toward the pop world, collaborating with the likes of Ariana Grande and Camila Cabello. The cheekily titled "9 (After Coachella)" opens with the Danish singer MØ saying "I know / I know / I know / I know / you'll never be mine" over oddly cheerful handclaps. That glimmer of excitement ends up breaking down as the song degenerates into a playful, percussive mess. Perhaps this is indeed the sonic equivalent of a post-Coachella morning.
"Starship" by Grant
Space tends to offer a lot of inspiration for EDM artists—e.g., Daft Punk's whole aesthetic—and it has certainly done so for Los Angeles-based producer Grant, as evidenced by his latest single, "Starship." The song is driven by euphoric, glittering synths, but it still manages to find space for a buoyant dubstep drop. Space, for Grant, certainly seems to be an unexplored place of wonder.
"100 Shots" by Young Dolph
Earlier this year, Memphis rapper Young Dolph was shot at dozens of times while riding around Charlotte in his SUV. He survived, but the altercation inspired his latest album, Bulletproof, as well as its standout track, "100 Shots." Dolph is a fairly straightforward gangster rapper who'd rather leave feelings aside than commit them to record, and "100 Shots" follows that model, but when he rhymes "I got a sweet tooth / But I stay away from suckers," it's easy to imagine him cracking a slight smile in the booth.
"The One" by The Chainsmokers
The Chainsmokers are the reigning kings of pop music right now, and it seems impossible for them to release a song that isn't a hit. "The One" is yet another effective example of what seems to be their formula: opening up their hearts before letting them get caught up in a massive EDM chorus. The formula might be easy to identity, but that doesn't make it any less effective.
"Love Yourself" by Mary J. Blige ft. Kanye West
Mary J. Blige's career spans three decades, and 25 years after her groundbreaking debut album, What's The 411?, she doesn't appear to be slowing down. "Love Yourself," her latest single, features a surprise appearance by Kanye West and is a welcome reprieve from her flirtations with U.K. house on 2014's The London Sessions. Blige is back on the familiar ground of contemporary R&B—and the record even offers up a taste of straight-up gospel in certain emotionally charged moments.
"Now or Never" by Halsey
Two years ago, Halsey arrived on the scene with her breakthrough album, Badlands, a post-genre stew of synthpop, EDM, and alternative rock. Her new single, "Now or Never," is a soothing ballad that carries less of the angst of her previous work, instead embracing a bit of emotional distance. Maybe it's a sign of maturity—or maybe she's just holding back until her full-length album to really bare her soul.
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