V’s New Music Round-Up

Here are some of the biggest and best releases of the week

Hello and welcome! Now as we get close to ho, ho, ho season, wanna get into the bop, bop, bops of it all (yes, I’ll be here all week, month, year, as long as you need me)? Then welcome to V’s New Music Round-Up, where we tune you into some of the biggest and best releases of the week, whether they be singles or albums.

Here are this week’s top picks:

Fighting Demons by Juice WRLD

Image courtesy of Grade A Productions/Interscope Records

Musically, you can tell by listening to the rapper’s second posthumous album that there’s a clear understanding of how to bring the mainstream into rap, the way someone like, say, Post Malone does, without losing too much of it. But the themes here are really the main focus, talking of descending into fatal spirals, losing yourself to outer circumstances and substances. It even lifts a largely mediocre track like “Wandered to LA” because it works so much better in context. With a few other star-studded collabs (I personally think SUGA fits the somber mood best), it’s a reflective and dark record for the late rapper that serves as a reminder of life’s fragile nature.

KEYS by Alicia Keys

Image courtesy of AK Worldwide Productions

Is KEYS an innovative concept for a record? In a time where we as a consumer base are embracing it more, then it certainly is one. But the problem is in the very conceit itself. Because the two halves of the record are supposed to display such distinctive sounds, they end up sounding like just two very long tracks, one piano-driven and one similarly production-driven. And not all of them get the same treatment, there are standalone tracks on both discs. They’re good individual songs and the idea of it all is an interesting one, but the pay off isn’t as worth it.

“Heat Lightning” by Mitski

Image courtesy of Dead Oceans

Mitski has really run the gamut of her range with her past few releases. After the depressingly buoyant “The Only Heartbreaker,” we get into a deeper, darker, grander space of pop and instrumentation here. It’s like a musical soundscape experience, the kind that would only be served SO much better listening to on Dolby Atmos surround sound (#notsponsored). This ode to insomnia is almost reminiscent of 70s balladry-pop in its pacing, but is distinctly 2021, distinctly Mitski, and distinctly good.

“FRIKI” by Feid and KAROL G

Image courtesy of UMG Recordings

What helps “FRIKI” stand out from a lot of reggaeton songs that have gone big this year is such a distinct focus on finding and keeping a beat. It’s persistent with its percussion and manages to maintain this very consistent vibe throughout, which doesn’t seem like a big deal but often can be when you take a very commonly understood and loved style and try to find ways to branch out with it. And there’s also this underlying darkness to this song, neither artist sounds like they’re having a lot of fun (unless that’s unintentional…). It’s a (subtle but) fresh approach to a familiar genre that I appreciate.

“It Was A…(Masked Christmas)” by Jimmy Fallon, Ariana Grande, and Megan Thee Stallion

Image courtesy of St. James Place/Republic Records

Why does this sound like a club mix of Grande and Justin Bieber’s “Stuck With U?”…Anyone? Either way, you have to give it to Jimmy Fallon, for a novelty song that’s pretty much an ode to getting booster shots (which, if you can, do it) and masking up, it’s catchy as hell. It doesn’t really sound Christmassy either, which definitely helps it be more of a bop that you can listen to year round, especially with its slight synth production, Grande’s vocal runs, Megan’s cute intro speech, it all just…works.

“WYD Now?” by Sadie Jean

Image courtesy of SELENE

TikTok sensation Sadie Jean’s debut single is the right balance of vulnerability. a bit of self-loathing, curiosity, the full run of feelings you feel when you’re in a complicated relationship space. It helps that she keeps the actual song at a slower and softer set, at no point does the music dictate the mood. It’s like an antithesis to Olivia Rodrigo’s “Drivers License,” for instance, where the pounding beats and changing melodies add to the atmosphere. Here, it’s all about Jean’s own words and thoughts, which are key to getting an idea of her complex perspective, the difference between the two is of context. It’s a downer of a song, but it downs so well.

“Universe (Let’s Play Ball)” by NCT U

Image courtesy of SM Entertainment

This song from the first unit of South Korean boy group NCT (the South Korean group dynamics are a story of their own, I encourage research) is here because it’s…interesting. Really, I don’t know what to compare it to or what reference I can find. Maybe like a sultry BTS, or a basketball court face-off, a Street Fighter soundtrack piece, a trap-influenced love song? It keeps pivoting with the actual music and beats and actual delivery constantly, and I recommend listening to it because it makes absolutely no sense and deserves being experienced at least once (I definitely might in the future).

“Blue Hippo” by Maya Hawke

Image courtesy of Mom+Pop

Everyone’s favorite season three “Stranger Things” find is quite a proficient folk rock and indie space musician that deserves a listen. “Blue Hippo” is a good example of her specific style, finding the quirky intricacies of her very specific emotions to use as a theme, taking angelic and almost ethereal vocals with a folky, generally upbeat indie sound that’s steeped in a fusion of classical and Americana. It always possesses a very specific POV and is just, honestly, really soothing and beautiful to listen to. 

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