Jon Batiste, “I Need You”
Fresh off of helming the music for Disney/Pixar's latest hit Soul, it’s full steam ahead for Jon Batiste, who will unleash his new solo album We Are on March 19. The Late Show with Stephen Colbert bandleader’s “I Need You” is a delightful marriage of contemporary jazz melodies and slick pop production, while its accompanying video pays joyous tribute to Harlem’s vibrant history of swing dancing.
3OH!3, "I'm So Sad"
Crunkcore founding fathers 3OH!3 are making their best music since the Want days, and "I'm So Sad" (co-written by Benny Blanco) is, as one YouTube commenter put it, "actually unironically really good." It also includes this hard-hitting line: "I should probably have some kids by now."
GucciHighWaters, Nothing,Nowhere, "Rock Bottom"
The highlight of GucciHighWaters’ Joke's On You album is "Rock Bottom," a pop-trap composition that features singer-songwriter Nothing,Nowhere (Joseph Mulherin) and samples the classic “I can’t believe you’ve done this” Vine. Written over Zoom, Gucci (born Morgan Murphy) tells Billboard that the song is about two people who just can’t give up on their toxic relationship. “This track really feels like the next level for me. I’m really proud of it and I hope people enjoy it,” he says.
Kitten, "Do U Still Love Me?"
Another delirious groove courtesy of Kitten, the alt-rock outfit fronted by Chloe Chaidez (who's also the guitarist for Nasty Cherry). "I've waited so long for someone who can handle me," she admits over woozy synths.
Upsahl, Blackbear, “Drugs”
Nearly one year after its release, Upsahl's "Drugs" has undergone a 2021 makeover. Now with 50% more rapper-producer Blackbear, the track was a banger then, and it’s a banger now. And if you don’t like it, Upsahl doesn’t care! “I'm not tryna make a friend or fall in love,” she shrugs.
Winona Oak, “Winter Rain”
Winona Oak has worked with artists like The Chainsmokers and R3hab, but on “Winter Rain,” she presents her soft-loud vision of dance-pop on her own, giving the type of vocal performance that will snap any unfamiliar party to attention. The drums on the hook sound absolutely massive, hammering in Oak’s words and causing some involuntary head-knocking.
Griff, “Black Hole”
“There’s a big, black hole where my heart used to be / And I’ve tried my best to fill it up with things I don’t need,” Griff declares on the chorus of her latest top-notch single, providing a shout-out to the many who indulge in retail therapy. The British rising star spent 2020 sinking every shot she hoisted up, and “Black Hole” gets her 2021 off to a rollicking start.
Finn Askew, “Egotism”
Interested in a song that sounds vaguely like a Benee track as sung by Justin Bieber? “Egotism” by British teen Finn Askew contains both the clipped rhythmic-pop croon that the Biebs has popularized and the slightly rougher edges that would make sense on alternative radio. At that type of intersection, the singer-songwriter -- who just released his first EP, Peach -- could become a budding star.
Since Canadian singer Mike Milosh’s 2013 debut Woman, he has reliably produced suave, soulful tunes that veer into pop territory when the tempo picks up. “Safeword,” from Rhye’s just-released album Home, immediately enters that realm, but the elliptical track adds new elements to the hook as it progresses, eventually amplifying its string section around his velvety words.
For a song about a phone charger, “Charger” is surprisingly heartfelt: a misplaced cable at her ex’s place represents a minor inconvenience for Elio, but she doesn’t want it to mean anything deeper for them. The whizzing bedroom-pop track is filled with smart lines (“God, that's so classic / I’m three precent away from being stranded,” Elio bemoans to open the song), absorbing the listener in her digital-age post-breakup struggle.