V’s New Music Round-Up
Here are some of the biggest and best releases of the week
Hello and welcome! Ooooooh, we’re nearing the end of the year, huh? Remember how we felt at the end of last year? All optimistic about “what was to come” and full of “well 2021 can’t be that bad?” Well…….anyway, welcome to V’s New Music Round-Up (I’m avoiding, can you tell?), where we tune you into some of the week’s biggest and best releases, whether they be singles or albums. And believe me, I need some of these, whether you do or not.
Here are this week’s top picks:
LIVE LIFE FAST by Roddy Ricch
Except for “late at night” (which I really don’t care for, with a vengeance, mind you), every track on this album, you can tell, has intent. Each production choice measured, each lyric thought out. Granted, not all of them work, at least in a whole package where they end up sounding too similar to each other (and some of his contemporaries). But there are moments where you really hit the unexpected, like the gospel choir in “slow it down,” or the entirety of “bibi’s interlude” that make Ricch’s sophomore effort at least generally “fair.”
“Poison” by Aaliyah and The Weeknd
After FINALLY getting Aaliyah’s full catalog on streaming services earlier this year, it comes as absolutely no surprise that this posthumous track featuring some unreleased verses would be something worth waiting for. And it features the man no one can get enough of this year (although I’m verging on overload) the Weeknd, serving as a capable supporting act to match her vocals that just kind of float in space on this hyper-space pop song. Although I wonder why Aaliyah’s vocals sound so distorted, whether it was a production decision or just the way they were available to producers.
“Tears In The Club” by FKA Twigs ft. The Weeknd
…okay, after two back-to-back tracks this week featuring Abel Tesfaye, let me say that his ability to stay in a lane and embrace the different avenues it can take is impressive. “Tears In The Club” is a moody and atmospheric FKA bop that embraces the sensuality and the danceability of it all, it’ll have you slow jiving and grinding in the club while, inevitably, also embracing the tears that fall…okay, now I get this song.
“Read My Mind” by Rebecca Black and Slayyyter
As far as love songs go, “Read My Mind” is a good amount of kitschy and sexual. But the digital dreamscape synth-rock melodies really take it to a whole other place, it’s like listening (and bear with me, this is as weird as it gets) to a 22nd century arcade-themed sex jam? Listen, I know my references get weirder and weirder, but it’s all to serve the express purpose of encouraging you to listen to it and develop an idea of it for yourself. Black and Slayyyter are a match made in heaven on this track, you can’t tell them apart, a testament to their combined skill.
“The Best Part of Life” by SAINt JHN
This week’s list is full of a lot of sincerity, and this track is no different. A dedication to his fans and supporters, “The Best Part of Life” could just as easily work as a standard love song. But I choose to go with the former (and so does JHN) because it adds some more complexity to the song, and it adds a thought of not just being grateful but also a desire to keep things at that state lest it all goes downhill.
“Wrap Me Up” by Jhene Aiko
A repurposing of her previous version of the song is a lot more festive and a lot more steeped in the space of dream pop that she’s been embracing over her past few releases. The chimes, the horns just poking through, the vocal runs in the background, it’s this perfect storm of what an R&B christmas sounds like. You’re going to be bopping, swaying, jingling, grooving, all the movements this song entails.
“Call It Like I See It” by Big Time Rush
I’m sorry, our first Big Time Rush song in nine years (!!) sounds like nothing has changed at all, how can’t we be obsessed? Listen, let’s call a spade a spade here, this is nothing particularly groundbreaking, it’s no florals for spring. But it’s modern, it’s brassy, it’s horn-heavy, it’s larger than all of our lives, and damn it if it isn’t fun as hell. It’s kicking off their reunion in the way it should, with a look at their past and a foot in the future, like ABBA did just a few months ago. It’s cashing in on those nostalgic vibes that brings back the fans, lean into the newer stuff when they’re invested.
“More Than Friends” by 24kGoldn
An interpolation of the classic Biz Markie song “Just A Friend,” this song is a lot more of the pop hitmaker that 24kGoldn has morphed into over the past year with his album cycle. Look, I’m a little unsure of how attractive it is to lure someone in by saying, “Look, I’ve had Kylies, Rileys, and Holly too, Only girl I ain’t had yet was y-o-u,” but in HIS OWN WAY, it’s a lovesick little ditty that’s a good add to your festive playlists, at least for that jingle-like production.
“Beautiful” by NCT 2021
After the truly bonkers energy of last week’s “Let’s Play Ball (Universe)” (which I still cannot get out of my head, damn you), this is WAY more traditional and straightforward. If last week was…Tekken (I’m guessing), this is perfect for the soundtrack for one of those Hallmark Christmas movies that makes you feel feels. They sound as sincere as all those boy bands from the 90s (with a lot more immaculate production, mind you). It’s all very operatic and larger than life, the way that allows a group dynamic and impeccable harmonies to shine. Now I’m fully invested in NCT 2021, let’s just say that.
“How to Love Other People” by david hugo
The title track from hugo’s new EP is like this melange of Conan Gray and Ed Sheeran, at least in the musicality and acoustics of it all. It mostly sticks to a simple guitar melody throughout the verses, upping the pace on it in the chorus, and adding some percussion to drive it home in the end. What makes this song work (apart from hugo’s own charming and earnest as all hell vocals) is that it’s a progression, you feel like you’re moving with it. There’s pay off, there’s an end goal, it sticks the landing (see, I can use a sports metaphor too, dad).