Following the enormous success of her Megan Thee Stallion team-up “WAP,” Cardi B continues to preview her next era, this time with a song that recalls her debut: “Up” contains the boisterous energy and slick wordplay that made songs like “Bickenhead,” “Money Bag” and “Drip” highlights on 2018’s Invasion of Privacy. Cardi has a shiny new hook in which to rule hip-hop radio, but listening to her unfurl lines like “Big bag bussin' out the Bentley Bentayga” is the real reason to return to “Up.”
Foo Fighters, Medicine at Midnight
Now more than a quarter-century into their run, Foo Fighters have been able to masterfully experiment with their modern rock approach while still catering to fans’ arena-friendly desires. Medicine at Midnight was produced by Greg Kurstin, best known as a pop whiz with Adele, P!nk and Kelly Clarkson credits; as such, Dave Grohl and co. sound as accessible as ever, toying with dance rhythms, flashy background vocals and hooks that wouldn’t sound out of place at top 40 radio -- while also deploying headbangers like “Making a Fire” and “No Son of Mine.”
CNCO, Deja Vu
Deja Vu is the sort of low-stakes but heartfelt project that could ultimately open up CNCO to a wider audience, as the group selected 13 personal favorites for a skillfully executed covers album. The quintet takes on songs like Enrique Iglesias’ “Hero” and Sin Bandera’s “Entra En Mi Vida” with a mix of reverence and invention, honoring the originals while utilizing different harmonies to amplify their power.
Dan + Shay, "Glad You Exist"
Have Dan + Shay been taking pointers from their “10,000 Hours” collaborator Justin Bieber? The duo were country radio staples prior to their Hot 100 top 10 team-up with the pop superstar, but new single “Glad You Exist” boasts perhaps the cleanest vocal harmonies of the group’s career: each line on the love song springs into the next, and by the time that “Oooh-oooh-oooh” post-chorus arrives, it’s hard not to hum along.
Polo G, "GNF (OKOKOKOK)"
Chicago rap star Polo G sounds like he’s ready to brawl with whomever comes within 20 feet of him on "GNF (OKOKOKOK),” during which the MC follows up last year’s The GOAT with pummeling ferocity in under two minutes. Polo G has made a name nationally thanks to his incisive storytelling, but here he recalls the kinetic force that NLE Choppa displayed on their 2020 collaboration “Go Stupid.”
Martin Garrix feat. Tove Lo, "Pressure"
Martin Garrix’s new single features the type of melodic thump that begs to be experienced in a packed club or festival field; alas, “Pressure” will have to be experienced in quarantine now, but the producer’s freshest single in years is going to land like a stick of dynamite whenever it reaches the live scene. Credit also goes to Tove Lo, who says that “destructive passion” was a lyrical focus in the press release, and gives a vocal take full of something slightly sinister lurking underneath her warmth.
Hayley Williams, Flowers For Vases / Descansos
Less than a year after unveiling her long-awaited solo album, Petals For Armor, Paramore leader Hayley Williams has returned with a surprise project that’s not quite a follow-up: Flowers For Vases / Descansos was recorded solo during quarantine, with Williams making use of extra space on the tracks to reflect on personal change and moving on from regrets. As a result, the most personal creative period in Williams’ career becomes even more revealing.
The Weather Station, Ignorance
Veteran singer-songwriter Tamara Lindeman has made an album about experiencing climate change, and in the process, created the most stunning indie release of the young year. Ignorance is rooted in folk but spirals beyond its borders, as songs like “Tried To Tell You” and “Heart” use Lindeman’s careful storytelling as a fulcrum for wonderfully unexpected tempos and refrains. This is an album to explore, dissect and cherish.