The past few weeks have brought exciting releases from some of the biggest names in music, alongside artists who are about to break through the mainstream music scene. Check out the five best tracks below, and be sure to listen to these songs on the Spotify playlist that follows.
1.) Heavy Hitters
Since last fall, Sia has been promoting an eclectic mix of Top 40 rejects written for artists on the magnitude of Rihanna (“Cheap Thrills”), Adele (“Alive”), and Shakira (“Move Your Body”). Although excellent, each “This Is Acting” cut found the artist embodying the work of others—accents, vocal tics, and phrasing—that clouded the perception of her identity. In “The Greatest,” Sia eschews her year of imitation, releasing a ballad that nearly matches the arresting rawness of her breakout hit, “Chandelier.” Like that single, “The Greatest” evokes the quirky twists and cracks we’ve come to love from the artist (most easily heard in the “uh-oh” that opens the tune)and pairs sparse production with moving visuals—a music video tribute to the 49 victims of the Orlando Pulse shootings. “The Greatest” is pure, authentic Sia, and one of her best singles yet.
Last Friday, pop chameleon Lady Gaga released her first proper contemporary single in anticipation of her fifth studio album, three years after her last project, ARTPOP, received a lukewarm response. After spending the past few years exploring nearly every genre of music—jazz alongside Tony Bennett in the Grammy-winning duet album Cheek to Cheek, classical in the vein of an homage to the Sound of Music at the Oscars, glam rock in a tribute to the late David Bowie at the Grammys—it may come as no surprise that the inconstant talent is attempting to explore new sounds. In “Perfect Illusion,” Gaga incorporates rock elements—electric guitar, screams, belting—to great avail. With a monster hook (“It wasn’t love, it was a perfect illusion”), Gaga attempts to make pop flavored disco-rock music, squarely in her own lane. This one will either shoot straight towards the top of the charts or quickly fizzle out, but Gaga—more importantly— has redefined both herself and our expectations of pop music in 2016.
2.) On the Verge
Post Malone – “Déjà vu”
Using one of the most well-wrought crossover strategies of 2016—“add Justin Bieber to your track”—Post Malone rocks smooth vocals over a strikingly familiar hip hop beat (see: Drake’s “Hotling Bling”). “Déjà vu” sounds like a reconfiguration of pop elements, assisted with a hypnotic and repetitive chorus clearly made to saunter up the charts over the fall months in the same way Drake did last year. Both vocalists sound particularly exposed here, coated in glossy reverb and overly saturated guitar strums.
Flanked by springy snaps and sirens, Korean popstar CL makes her American debut with “LIFTED,” a rolling, tropically-flavored hip hop anthem that showcases the rapper’s vocals. The popstar, who has already made a huge splash in Korea as the lead of 2NE1, is honing her sights on an American audience—with the help of supermanager Scooter Braun (Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Tori Kelly). “LIFTED” certainly shows promise, coming in strong without too much of the venomous edge of previous Diplo-helmed collab, “Doctor Pepper.”
3.) The Newcomer’s Debut
Over a simple loop of guitar arpeggios, Jessie Reyez shows off her soulful vocals, cracking and snarling while confessing the tumultuous nature of her relationship. In the opening line, “Figures / I gave you ride or die and you gave me games / Love,” Reyez showcases a penchant for deep songwriting that reflects a wide range of conflict and angst. When her voice masterfully cascades through the hook (the titular “Figures”) halfway through the song, it becomes obvious that this new artist is poised to be a vocal superstar. Meghan Trainor seems to think so too, having penned a tweet directed at the rising soul artist, in honor of this stunning bit of heartache. The minimalistic music video features a bare-faced Reyez perched on a white chair—rightly focusing all attention on her vocal prowess.