Chika, Once Upon a Time
Even with a nomination for best new artist at Sunday's Grammys, Chika is still craving her very own fairy tale. So that's exactly what she created with her brand new EP Once Upon a Time — from beginning to end, Chika takes control of her narrative and spins it into a modern fable. Swinging between rapid-fire bars and chillwave-inspired R&B, Chika exudes a quiet power on her new EP, spinning yarns about her own mythical rise ("Hickory Dickory"), retelling the story of Cinderella with a queer twist ("Cinderella [Pts. 1 & 2]"), and determining that she will be her own savior ("Save Me"). No one can tell Chika what her story is, especially since she's the one writing it so eloquently.
Phoebe Bridgers feat. Maria Taylor, "Summer's End" (John Prine cover)
What better way to celebrate four Grammy nominations than to cover a song by last year's Lifetime Achievement Award winner? Phoebe Bridgers' stunning cover of the late John Prine's "Summer's End" will have you immediately in your feelings — the "Kyoto" singer's airy vocals drift over top of the restrained strums of acoustic guitars, as she coveys every bit of emotion from Prine's musings on time gone by. Bridgers is further bolstered when the chorus arrives, and she's joined by singer-songwriter Maria Taylor; the pair's luscious harmonies are accompanied by a string section, sending this song into a bittersweet sense of strange bliss. If you're in need of some serotonin, press play on this stunning cover.
Shaed, "Part Time Psycho (with Two Feet)"
Ever feel a little crazy sometimes? Not all of the time, but occasionally? Shaed can relate, as they explain in their brand new single "Part Time Psycho." The grooving, indie-pop track follows the band on a path of stress, anxiety, and a casual declaration of paranoia. Chelsea Lee's voice is in rare form, as she croons about the feeling of "something pullin' on my chain/ twistin' the wires in my brain," while the addition of alt-rocker Two Feet's calm-and-collected baritone adds yet another frighteningly good layer to the excellent new song.
Pussy Riot, "Panic Attack"
Have you ever wondered what panic sounds like? Pussy Riot seeks to answer that question on "Panic Attack," the final track of their 3-song EP of the same name. Throughout the track, melodies and styles shift dramatically with little warning, sending shivers down even the straightest of spines, as lead singer Nadya Tolokonnikova walks you through how she's feeling: "Feel like it’s all downhill/ Feel like I’m dead and still," she sings. "I’m running but it’s uphill/ Too many hills, too many pills."
"‘Panic Attack’ was born as the result of me staring at the wall for 24 hours in the middle of the pandemic, feeling 100% helpless," Nadya said of the single in a statement. "I was trying to write something uplifting to encourage people to get through the tough times. But I was just failing and failing. Magically, at the second I allowed myself to be honest and write about despair I was experiencing, I wrote the track in like a half an hour."
Ryan Cassata, "I Met Jesus at the Gay Pride Parade"
Trans singer-songwriter Ryan Cassata is tired of bigoted people getting to dictate conversations around religion. So on his latest track, "I Met Jesus at the Gay Pride Parade," he seeks to become a part of the narrative. Through a blend of unfiltered vocals and well-crafted storytelling, Cassata paints a picture of not only tolerance, but love and acceptance within religious communities. As he explained of the track on a recent episode of the Talk Out Loud podcast, "I wrote it after what happened at the Capitol ... these people claim to be Christians, but they're not actually practicing what Jesus Christ practiced, which was inclusion and welcoming everyone at the table. Like, he wouldn't want all this hate!"
Shungudzo, "There's Only So Much a Soul Can Take"
"People really piss me off." With five words, Zimbabwean-American singer Shungudzo immediately gets you on her side in "There's Only So Much a Soul Can Take." The funk-inspired single sees the up-and-coming artist trying to deal with all of the negative pressure from today's world, before finally admitting that it's just all too much. If the excellent single doesn't get the point across, the gorgeous visual (directed by Michael Elias Thomas) certainly will, as Shungudzo struggles inside of her small apartment, before bursting forth into the real world, allowing herself to finally breathe.
“The video represents how external stressors — including digital ones — impact our internal selves,” Shungudzo said in a statement. “It’s also a statement about the fact that all of us have breaking points, and that it’s okay to admit to being hurt by people, systems and things. After all, we can’t heal any wound that we deny having.”
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