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Song of the Week breaks down and talks about the song we just can’t get out of our head each week. Find these songs and more on our Spotify Top Songs playlist. For our favorite new songs from emerging artists, check out our Spotify New Sounds playlist. This week, Lil Nas X proves once again that in spite of controversy or haters, he will always break free.
Lil Nas X is very good at his job. He’s one of the most fearlessly fun pop stars in recent years, remarkably adept at wielding social media to his advantage, and creates on an unrestrained wavelength as young, Black member of the queer community. While his extremely online persona is often what catches attention, he manages to back it all up by dropping bops along the way, and his latest effort with Jack Harlow is no different.
“Industry Baby” is big and brassy, swinging for the fences in a different way than its immediate predecessor, “Montero (Call Me By Your Name),” the chart-topper that saw Lil Nas X self-aware to the point of controversy.
Here, riding the conversational waves of a trial regarding his involvement in a line of what have been dubbed “satan shoes,” Lil Nas X flips the script and reclaims the narrative. The teaser for the song showed him playing all the parts in a courtroom drama, and the full video tosses him into prison with an eventual escape. It’s giving musical theatre; it’s giving intermittently neon pink and fully nude Jailhouse Rock; it’s giving cinephile, with nods to Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. (Lil Nas X, drop your Letterboxd account!)
In addition to the fact that the Kanye West-produced track is benefitting The Bail Project, a national nonprofit organization on a mission to end cash bail, the song still fits into a lexicon of work that shows the young star being unabashedly himself. Nobody is immune to backlash, and Lil Nas X, at just 22 years old, has received more than his fair share — but every time the masses grow bothered by an aspect of his artistry, he chooses to highlight it just a bit more.
From the jump, he’s been speeding down his own path, showing absolutely no signs of stopping — and why should he, when he’s just having so much fun?
Find more information on the Bail X Fund here.
— Mary Siroky
EST Gee Ft. Future, Young Thug – “Lick Back”
2021 is shaping up to be EST Gee’s year, thanks to his signing to Yo Gotti’s CMG Records and high-profile features from Lil Baby and fellow Louisville rapper Jack Harlow. Having been shot at five times in 2019, Bigger Than Life or Death is not just a catchy title, but alludes to the realities of Gee’s bleak street rhymes.
On “Lick Back (Remix),” Future lightens the mood a bit with the outrageous line, “Suckin’ this bitch titty like I’m tryna get some syrup out it,” before following Gee’s lead and flippantly revealing he got shot at 10 years ago. Young Thug gets in on the action, too, boasting about busting guns in between brags about money and jewelry.
Not to be outdone on his own track, Gee mocks his enemies for making diss songs while he’s still a made man in the streets. “And I’m still good on every block I used to knock P’s on,” he spits. “Boss, I get you chalked, my name ain’t something that you should speak on.” It’s no wonder Jay-Z and Drake have co-signed him, too. — Eddie Fu
Kiana Ledé – “Ur Best Friend” feat. Kehlani
Kiana Ledé and Kehlani teaming up feels so remarkably correct that it’s shocking to realize that this is their first collaboration. Their two distinctly silky-smooth voices have come together over a nostalgic beat for “Ur Best Friend” and, appropriately, sound like they could’ve been singing together their entire lives.
The track is a slow groove and far from a sprint but both vocalists have runs for days, sliding up and down on their own time as they dance around each other — and the subject matter of the song. Infidelity and forbidden attraction are far from new ideas, but these two artists don’t feel like they’re treading new ground here. “It’s wrong, but you make me feel right/ Texting your phone while right beside him,” Ledé admits. Romance can be wildly messy, but their interpretation lands clean. — M.S.
Joshua Speers – “Just Kids”
Joshua Speers’ “Just Kids” is a dedication to youth and to adulthood; to the generations before and the generations today. Built atop some ferocious guitar attacks and a driving, decidedly major chord progression, Speers paints a portrait of innocence that lingers far beyond childhood — that deep down, whether we know it or not, we’re just kids having more kids.
Speers draws a clear line between the typical behavior of children (“Just kids catching their hands inside a car door when it slams”) and the more fraught and consequential behavior of adults (“Just kids sending their brothers off to war”). The guitar-forward sound suits his versatile voice well, and brings his ability as a songwriter to the forefront. It’s a powerful ode to the spirit of childhood, and how even if the unpredictability of life forces you into adulthood, there’s a part of us that will always be “just kids.” — Paolo Ragusa
Jeremy Zucker – “HONEST”
Jeremy Zucker, like many of his bedroom-pop cohorts, has a knack for creating songs that feel like the soundtrack to an introspective Saturday afternoon: they give the listener main character energy, littered with details that seem a bit too personal to be an accident. His latest, “HONEST,” is the second single to arrive ahead of his sophomore album and chronicles the betrayal that comes with the discovery that a trusted lover has been lying and manipulating him.
“Pathological liar” is a big term to toss around, and it’s one that Zucker used to describe the subject matter of the song, but he backs it up with emotional, visual language: “You’re a runaway truck, I’m a guy on a bike,” he laments. The rambling, mid-tempo nature of the track is deceiving; it’s not an easy listen, but it is an honest one. — M.S.
Namasenda – “Demonic” (feat. La Zowi)
Swedish future-pop darling Namasenda is usually known for shiny, pitched-up vocals played over and contributing to lush and ethereal soundscapes. But on “Demonic,” featuring Spanish rapper La Zowi, she drops her voice down low to a much more natural register, which in the context of her other work is basically the equivalent of a descent into hell. PC Music mastermind A.G. Cook handles the equally devilish production, creating a screeching trap and trance-influenced beat that perfectly matches Namasenda and La Zowi’s take-no-prisoners, do-what-we-want attitude. This is the beginning of a new era of Namasenda. — Curtis Sun
Harmony Woods – “Graceful Rage”
For Sofia Verilla, the path to forgiveness isn’t a simple maneuver from point A to point B. Under her Harmony Woods moniker, the Philadelphia singer-songwriter writes with a no-holds-barred approach that lends itself to gut-wrenching transparency. “I told you I wanted to kill myself/ You took that as meaning something else/ A clever way to get you to stay,” she sings on this sweeping rock ballad.
Through “Graceful Rage,” Verbilla delineates her moments of codependency and grief with a whip-smart cleverness. Here, no holds are barred; she delineates her mental strife with the type of precision you might present to a trusted therapist: “I hope you’re happy now telling everyone you love I’m crazy/ It’s okay, I understand, but have you talked to someone lately?” “Graceful Rage” is just as disarming and complex as your most arduous breakup. — Abby Jones
Anne-Marie, Little Mix – “Kiss My (Uh Oh)”
Kiss my what? Little Mix add another feather in their well-plumed cap as the dominant girl group of the past decade with “Kiss My (Uh Oh) — their latest collaboration with Anne-Marie off the pop star’s just-released sophomore album Therapy.
The video for the group’s second guest feature sans Jesy Nelson finds the girls basically living out their best Bridesmaids fantasies while on a can’t-miss bachelorette getaway with Anne-Marie and a gaggle of friends. “Love the feeling, hittin’ different/ I’m not ever looking back/ While I’m leavin’, I see you staring/ Go ahead boy, you can kiss my/ Uh oh, uh oh,” they sing on the cheeky shout-along chorus.
And while the kiss-off track may not reach the same stratospheric heights of, say, “Heartbreak Anthem,” their recent collaboration with Galantis, it will certainly have you telling the haters that they can kiss your, well…you know. — Glenn Rowley
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