There are plenty of reasons why Ed Sheeran has grown from a busking warbler to a stadium headliner in under a decade, but the chief one is that he understands the power of an explosive pop hook, be it on wedding-ready ballads like “Thinking Out Loud” or a dance floor filler like “Shape Of You.” “Bad Habits,” his first solo radio single in years, falls into the latter category, a guitar-pop summer anthem about nighttime vices -- with the type of chorus that immediately imprints itself into your memory and has primed itself to blare from car speakers well into the fall.
Doja Cat, Planet Her
One listen to Doja Cat’s 2020 single “Say So” suggested an inevitable breakthrough, a song so undeniable it streaked to the top of the Hot 100; that same listen also revealed the singer’s dexterity, as she confidently crooned, rapped and delivered a rhythmic pop refrain we’d be humming along to for months. Planet Her, Doja Cat’s engrossing new album, presents her as a newly minted star, and one capable of doing a little bit of everything: there are surefire radio hits, R&B detours, hilarious sex metaphors, earnest love paeans, stone-cold bars about twerking (see the delirious highlight “Get Into It (Yuh)”) and some heartfelt falsetto, all of which sound natural on Doja’s singular planet.
Tyler, The Creator, Call Me If You Get Lost
With an album cover that nods to Ol’ Dirty Bastard and DJ Drama drops throughout the full-length recalling mixtape days of yore, Tyler, The Creator’s Call Me If You Get Lost could be mistaken for a trip down hip-hop’s memory lane for the ever-outlandish MC. The follow-up to 2019’s Igor does have an esoteric throwback feel, but never gets bogged down in nostalgia: tracks like “Lemonhead” with 42 Dugg and “Rise!” with Daisy World are live-wire showcases for emerging talent, as well as for Tyler’s viscous, reliable flow.
Rauw Alejandro, Vice Versa
If Rauw Alejandro’s exhilarating “Todo De Ti” eventually helps the Puerto Rican star cross over to the U.S. mainstream, then Vice Versa, the sophomore album that the single preceded, serves as the progressive vision for Latin urban music that Alejandro wants to set forth from the A-list. His voice floats over guitar, reggaetón production and dance beats; like Doja Cat, another artist with an ambitious full-length released today, Alejandro comfortably sings and raps in equal measures, grabbing whatever instrumental arrangement is thrown his direction.
Lady A, What a Song Can Do (Chapter One)
After changing their band name last year, Lady A has returned with a seven-song new project that carries the intention of a fresh start after years of steady Nashville success. The Dann Huff-produced What a Song Can Do (Chapter One) doesn’t attempt to reinvent the country trio’s sound, however, with songs like “Chance of Rain” and the single “Like a Lady” sporting their radio-ready harmonies and polished pop-rock influences.
Anthony Ramos, Love and Lies
Anthony Ramos is enjoying the type of professional month that most artists would kill for: weeks after he starred in the big-screen version of In The Heights, his second full-length, Love and Lies, has received a high-profile rollout, urging fans of the Broadway adaptation to hear what else he has to sing. Removed from the context of their back-to-back releases, however, Love and Lies stands on its own as a document of a young artist’s hopes, fears and personal thrills; the explicit “Lose My Mind” will certainly alert listeners to the fact that Ramos can do more than family-friendly musical numbers.
Lady Gaga, Born This Way: The Tenth Anniversary
Lady Gaga’s 2011 album Born This Way was something of a coronation for the pop superstar, arriving on a tsunami of hype following smashes like “Bad Romance,” “Poker Face” and “Just Dance,” and allowing Gaga to explore glam-rock and heartland sounds in front of millions of listeners. Ten years later, Gaga has asked artists ranging from Years & Years to Big Freedia to Kylie Minogue to reinterpret some of its track for an anniversary edition, and the covers sparkle when their creators get particularly inventive -- like Orville Peck’s emotional, country-western take on the title track.