Throughout her career, Carlie Hanson has made a habit of releasing undeniable indie-pop bangers about love, loss, and just about everything in between. So when listeners first get a taste of her new single "Ego," featuring rising emo-rap star Iann Dior, they may be surprised to hear something entirely different. Gone are the big synths and dreamy strings, now replaced by blown-out beats and grungy guitars for a pop-punk anthem of 2020. Her relatable lyrics remain squarely intact, though, with lines like "Tell me why it burns to be so cold/ See me through your screen, you got fomo/ Yeah, everywhere I go, it's a freak show" landing with the efficiency her followers have come to adore.
Shamir, "Other Side"
Shamir Bailey has shown time and time again that he is as adaptable and malleable as musicians come nowadays. Never has that fact been more apparent than on "Other Side," his brilliant new country-twinged single that embraces the storytelling roots of the genre. Told from the perspective of a widow searching for answers following the death of her husband in the Vietnam War, "Other Side" basks in the banjos, stomp-claps and steel guitar licks that evoke that country-Western feeling, while also showing off his incredibly impressive vocals. It's not even close to what you would expect, which is exactly what you should look forward to from each new Shamir release.
Chaz Cardigan, "Room"
For the majority of 2020, Chaz Cardigan has been steadily releasing big pop anthems with tidy messages of self-love, self-care, and destigmatizing mental health issues. On "Room," the singer takes a short rest from that refrain, now turning inward toward the softer indie-pop that kicked off his career back in 2018. The song sees Cardigan thinking back on his last relationship as he paints a picture of his ex's bedroom, before letting them know that he can still "close my eyes and in my mind I’m in your room."
Starrah, "Keep Calm"
Songwriting superstar Starrah is continuing on her path toward success as a solo artist, and her latest single shows that she is heading in the correct direction. "Keep Calm" follows in the same vein as her last release "How It Goes," as the moody, crystalline production (courtesy, this time, of none other than fellow songwriting superstar James Blake) blends effortlessly with her excellent songwriting to make a song that will be stuck reverberating around your mind for the rest of the weekend.
KC Ortiz, The Campground
On her stunning EP The Campground, transgender rap phenomenon KC Ortiz outdoes herself once again. Throughout the new project, the star only bolsters her reputation as a wordplay-expert, putting down bar after witty bar as she proves once again why she deserves your undivided attention. "I feel I'm getting more comfortable creating the music I feel in my spirit instead of trying to please everyone, writing what I love instead of trying to follow the trends," she said of the project in a statement. "The trends will come and go, and you have to decide if you're going to follow them or create them."
Rachel Lark, Sex and Balances
We all need a little comedy in our lives, especially nowadays — lucky for us, Rachel Lark is here to provide some much-needed laughter. Sex and Balances sees the singer-songwriter tackling some massive issues through her personal lens of razor-sharp, satirical wit. She goes from lampooning bored straight couples looking for a bisexual partner to spice things up on "The Unicorn Song," to singing an anthem of nihilism on "The World's Really F---ed But This Show Will Be Pretty Good" with tactical precision, all while showing off her impressive vocals and expert songwriting capabilities.
Doug Locke, "Why?"
"Why?" is a question many people have been left asking themselves looking at the events of 2020. One of those people is singer-songwriter Doug Locke, whose new song of the same name directly addresses the violence faced by Black and LGBTQ people this year and throughout history. The brooding song condemns the "epithets from Presidents as my brothers fall with no justice," while simultaneously paying tribute to the "49 Southerners, 49 sons and daughters" who lost their lives in the Pulse nightclub shooting of 2016.
"We are a Nation divided and our collective consciousness is sick," Locke tells Billboard of his new song. "It is my sincere hope that we can collectively find our way back to love, and inspire a shift in people's hearts and minds across the Nation to see the value and beauty in all forms of human life." The star added that 50 percent of all proceeds from his single will be donated directly to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
Hope Tala, "All My Girls Like To Fight"
London-based artist Hope Tala is simply not messing around. "All My Girls Like To Fight," the first release off of her upcoming Girl Eats Sun EP, is steeped in Spanish rhythms and guitars, while Tala's airy, ethereal voice floats above it all, making this song as intoxicating as it is catchy. "I wanted to create a visually rich tale steeped in drama and intrigue to match the suspenseful Spanish guitar chords we started with in the studio, and wanted to portray women as having strength and agency in the narrative," she said of the single in a statement.