Spice up your playlist with Billboard‘s weekly roundup of tracks from the Billboard + Twitter Emerging Artists chart. After giving them a listen, make sure to check back next week for a new set of selections to discover the latest music.
“Fly,” Raury featuring Malik Shakur
On his Tumblr, Raury describes “Fly” as “an ode to the ones who were wrongfully murdered, mourning the deaths and also looking on the bright side to help us find peace.” The bittersweet ballad, written the day Raury learned police officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted for the death of Michael Brown, begins with a set of calm, pensive verses as the Atlanta teen envisions the promise of a better future for his children and the world at large. As the chorus approaches, Raury sings of his “hope one day we’ll fly / above the things that make humanity divide” while an acoustic guitar swells underneath the sentimental wish. To close the track, the singer enlists Malik Shakur for a spoken-word outro, whose addition is significant: he is the nephew of activist Assata Shakur, who herself is 2Pac‘s godmother. In his section, Shakur lists a set of future wishes, of which, “I hope he never becomes a hashtag” and “I hope he knows his skin is gold” may resonate the loudest. The track clearly resonated with listeners, who have pushed the song to 170,000 plays since its SoundCloud upload on Jan. 14. The resulting Twitter conversations help “Fly” glide to a No. 8 debut on the Billboard + Twitter Emerging Artists chart dated Jan. 31.
“Pendulum,” FKA Twigs
One of 2014’s most critically-praised new acts, FKA Twigs returns with “Pendulum” from her debut album, LP1. The experimental pop song plays with sonic contrasts: at times the production relies on futuristic bass and drums, but the instruments suddenly drop, leaving intervals of extended silence. Twigs’ warped sound echoes the frustration depicted in the lyrics from a lover irritated by an unreciprocated desire: “So lonely trying to be yours / When you’re looking for so much more.” The songbird seizes the chance to display her impressive pipes by sustaining a piercingly high register throughout the entire track. By the final note, Twigs has constructed a distorted pop song whose initial unfamiliarity transforms into a pleasing appreciation. Fans thought so: after falling from the chart last August, the song’s music video release swings “Pendulum” to a No. 4 re-entry on the Billboard +Twitter Emerging Artists chart.
“U,” Mikky Ekko
If you only think of Mikky Ekko as the guy on Rihanna‘s “Stay,” you’re missing out on a leading contender to become a breakthrough pop/R&B star. In “U,” Ekko crafts a mellow track that sets the listener at ease with a soulful, sensitive vibe. Throughout the track, the Louisiana native sprinkles a wailing falsetto, which, at its strongest, evokes memories of the best coos of Robin Thicke‘s career. Ekko’s sensual lyrics aim to persuade a lady: “You tell me all the things you wanna do / Baby it’s your body, let it choose / To love, love, love, to love.” Listeners definitely loved Ekko’s track: the song collected more than 107,000 plays on SoundCloud since its Jan. 13 arrival and triggered enough Twitter conversation to launch “U” at No. 45 on the Billboard + Twitter Emerging Artists chart. “U” features on Ekko’s album Time, which was released on Jan. 16.