Lizzo has been relatively quiet since entering the pop stratosphere in 2019, but she’s found an effective way to break the silence: her new single “Rumors” feels like a major event in popular music, thanks to the new era it heralds, a co-starring performance from Cardi B and Lizzo’s overflowing confidence, which helped her break through with “Truth Hurts” and “Good As Hell.” The concept of “Rumors” is that, when it comes to Lizzo and her new pal Cardi, they’re all true -- “Spendin' all your time tryna break a woman down / Realer s--t is goin' on, baby, take a look around,” Lizzo tells her haters -- but the song’s payoff is in the details, like the drum pounds that lead to the celebratory horns of the chorus, and Lizzo’s quick (and NSFW) aside about Drake.
Machine Gun Kelly, “Papercuts”
“Don't belong, I'm a punk,” Machine Gun Kelly declares on new single “Papercuts,” before adding, “hello world, you f--kin' suck.” While MGK’s musically inventive and commercially fruitful pop-punk renaissance has been driven by uptempo, hard-charging sing-alongs like “My Ex’s Best Friend” and “Bloody Valentine,” “Papercuts” slows things down to let the multi-hyphenate reflect on the newfound interest in his career; the result is one part lighters-up anthem, one part guitar chug a la Green Day’s “Brain Stew,” and wholly authentic to his no-damns-given approach.
WizKid feat. Justin Bieber & Tems, “Essence (Remix)”
WizKid’s team-up with Tems, “Essence,” has been climbing up the Hot 100 in recent weeks after being released last year on the Nigerian crossover superstar’s Made In Lagos album, and it’s easy to hear why: the song is effervescence epitomized, a marriage of vocal yearning and sumptuous production that fits in on any summer playlist. The addition of Justin Bieber on this new remix thankfully doesn’t attempt to rework the song’s core delights, merely adding the pop star into the mix as another smooth-singing romantic -- and perhaps sending “Essence” even higher up the charts.
The main reason why Dan + Shay have become one of the biggest country-pop success stories of the past five years? The duo has gotten the art of hook-writing down to a science: every song on new album Good Things -- including previously released hits like “10,000 Hours” and “Glad You Exist” -- sports a clean, shiny chorus, plucked out of the ether and primed for radio. The result is a project of straightforward pleasures that abides by its title, with Dan + Shay spending 32 minutes tossing out catchy refrains about love, fulfillment and friendship.
Elton John & Dua Lipa, “Cold Heart (PNAU Remix)”
Put four Elton John classics -- “Kiss The Bride,” “Rocket Man,” “Where’s The Shoorah?” and “Sacrifice” -- in a modern dance blender, add in one of the biggest pop voices on the planet, and you’re left with “Cold Heart,” a kicky and kitschy collaboration between the legend and Dua Lipa that’s cobbled together by Australia’s PNAU. The snippets from earlier hits are recognizable, but not distracting; meanwhile, John and Lipa perform admirably while preventing “Cold Heart” from being more than a tossed-off quarantine collaboration.
J Balvin, “Que Locura”
J Balvin has announced that his next album, José, will be out on Sept. 10, and “Que Locura” has been teed up as a tropical, surprisingly heartfelt mid-tempo single to preview the project. Unlike on the recent party-starting Skrillex collaboration “In Da Getto,” Balvin sounds restrained here, leaning on his falsetto and injecting his sing-rap verses with lilting melodies before arriving back at a subtly breathtaking hook.
The Killers, Pressure Machine
Give the Killers credit for continuing to upend expectations as they approach the two-decade mark since their breakthrough: Pressure Machine, the best-selling group’s seventh studio album, swerves away from the bright anthems of last year’s Imploding the Mirage and carves out a narrative focus on frontman Brandon Flowers’ childhood home in Utah. By investing in Flowers’ talent as a storyteller, Pressure Machine pushes the band’s own story forward, becoming essential listening for longtime fans and rejecting those that had pigeonholed the Killers simply as big-festival fodder.