With her 2019 debut album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, Billie Eilish summarily conquered the world -- topping charts, setting Grammy history, headlining arenas, becoming a teen icon. Happier Than Ever, her highly anticipated follow-up, makes a point of prodding at that world, analyzing societal norms and power dynamics while also operating from a much more public perspective than two years ago. Eilish’s extraordinary talent allows her to leap around sonic techniques (with the help of her older brother, Finneas, back again as her producer and co-writer), and Happier Than Ever is as wide-ranging as its dissimilar advance singles suggested it would be... but Eilish’s point of view, whether torching an ex-flame on “I Didn’t Change My Number” or reflecting on fame on “NDA,” proves unshakeable enough to make any risk ultimately pay off.
Silk Sonic, “Skate”
“You’ve been invited to Silk Sonic’s Summertime Jam,” read a social graphic announcing the second song from Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak’s collaborative project; although August is nearly here, the duo has at long last released the uptempo, beach-ready single that was all but inevitable. “Skate” turns “Leave The Door Open’s” smooth retro-soul flavor down the dial toward the disco station, with fluttering strings and breezy come-ons (“You smell better than a barbecue!”) locating an effect similar to Mars’ Unorthodox Jukebox hit “Treasure.”
Isaiah Rashad, The House Is Burning
TDE label artists have been known to take their time with their projects relative to the rest of the hip-hop and R&B world, and while the world still awaits the next chapters in Kendrick Lamar and SZA’s respective stories, Chattanooga rapper Isaiah Rashad has finally returned from a five-year absence with the pensive, technically dazzling The House Is Burning. Rashad has become a cult hero thanks to his microphone savvy, and The House Is Burning -- which includes guest spots from Lil Uzi Vert, 6lack and label mates SZA and Jay Rock, among others -- explores different facets of his personality while still impressively congealing into a whole.
Bleachers, Take The Sadness Out Of Saturday Night
Jack Antonoff’s latest opus as the leader of Bleachers arrives two weeks after the Clairo album Sling, and three weeks before the Lorde album Solar Power, both of which he helped create as a producer and co-writer. Pop’s busiest polymath isn’t stretching himself too thin, though: Take The Sadness Out Of Saturday Night, Antonoff’s third Bleachers album, is by far his most passionate and focused, with songs like “How Dare You Want More,” “Strange Behavior” and “Secret Life” -- the lattermost featuring another frequent Antonoff collaborator, Lana Del Rey -- adopting a confessional approach toward thoughts on personal ambition, across myriad pop-rock styles and tempos.
With “Just The Way,” Parmalee’s collaboration with Blanco Brown, becoming a No. 1 Country Airplay hit earlier this year, the North Carolina country group has positioned itself to move up the genre ranks and pull in more listeners with its first full-length in four years. For You never reaches too far to find its charms, as frontman Matt Thomas leans on his athletic vocal delivery to wax poetic on being “a hometown boy looking for a backroad girl,” and the rest of the band presents uncluttered country-pop arrangements in response.
Pop Smoke & Dua Lipa, “Demeanor” video
As Pop Smoke’s Faith album becomes the rapper’s second posthumous LP to top the Billboard 200 chart, its most pop-leaning track, the Dua Lipa-assisted “Demeanor,” receives the type of lavish music video that hints at a mainstream push for the single. At the very least, Lipa looks like she’s having a blast playing dress-up in a gaudy castle, in which patrons in powdered wigs drink and dance too much while Pop Smoke watches over the party in the center of a moving portrait.