In VH New Music Fridays, the Life staff cover this week’s new music releases, from pop to country to alternative.
Pop: Taylor Hopkins
Ariana Grande, thank u, next
After months of anticipation starting with Ariana Grande’s surprise release of the catchy, positive break-up track “thank u, next”, her 5th studio album of the same name has finally arrived. From the airy, dreamy songs like “imagine” to the pop bops like the brazenly titled “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored” to the honest, melancholy tunes like “ghostin”, Grande fans and non-fans alike will be playing thank u, next on repeat. Some tracks fail to stick out with their similar synth beats and shallow lyrics (“make up,” “bloodline”), but others, arguably just like Grande herself, refuse to be silenced.
The album is full of contradictions with Grande wanting love (“needy”) and space (“NASA”), grappling with fame (“fake smile”) and revelling in it (“7 rings”), struggling with the end of a relationship (“imagine,” “ghostin”) and accepting a breakup and being thankful for it (“thank u, next”). However, these changing perspectives don’t make Grande seem unsure of herself, rather they make her feel relatable and just as confused as the rest of us trying to navigate life. thank u, next proves Grande’s star power and simultaneous ability to give fans exactly what they want, while also evolving enough to capture new listeners who tune into thank u, next tracks on the radio. Grande’s album shows she has come a long way, and lived through a lot of pain, since she released Sweetener last year. She isn’t afraid to let the world know that she’s strong, independent and most importantly flawed.
Country: Alexa Bussmann
Florida Georgia Line ft. HARDY, “Y’all Boys”
FGL is back this week with another single leading up to the release of their new album. If this song isn’t the definition of bro-country and the epitome of FGL’s tried-and-true brand, then nothing is. But why fix what ain’t broke, right? “Y’all Boys” is admittedly catchy, although difficult to distinguish from literally every other FGL song ever recorded. Props to FGL for featuring the up-and-coming HARDY, a rock-influenced country artist from Mississippi. HARDY is currently opening for Morgan Wallen, whose song “Up-Down” featuring FGL provided a jumpstart to his career. I saw their Nashville show at Marathon Music Works last week, and HARDY definitely brought energy and character to the stage, wearing a Hawaiian shirt and singing songs like “REDNECKER.” HARDY packs a punch and brings flavor to what would otherwise be just another FGL single.
Maren Morris ft. Brandi Carlile, “Common”
Country music’s crossover queen is back with the riveting and rhythmic “Common.” Surging vocals paired with somber lyrics are perfectly on brand for Morris. As a bonus, critically-acclaimed americana singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile is featured in the second verse. With the release of “Common,” Morris announced that her second studio album GIRL will be coming out March 8. The album’s title track was released earlier this year.
Chris Janson, “Good Vibes”
Chris Janson isn’t know for his lyrical genius, and unfortunately “Good Vibes” is no exception. As it turns out, the only adjective that Janson knows is ‘good,’ and this song is anything but that. This cacophony of country-music cliches will blend perfectly into the monotony of modern country radio. Also, as a rule, let’s never use the word “vibes” in a song title ever again.
Hip Hop/R&B: Brendan Sawyer
“Talk” is Khalid’s first single since his 2018 EP Suncity. The bright beating synths of Disclosure’s production feels like something off Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book, and add a lot of life to the track, despite getting a little stale toward the end. Khalid’s vocals and melodies are as intoxicating as ever. While the lyrics are pretty much a glorified “Soooo what are we?” to his girl, “Talk” provides a catchy tune to tide us over to Khalid’s next project.
R&B and Rap: Tina Qin
Boogie, “Everything for Sale”
Taking advantage of a relatively uneventful week in rap (Roy Woods returns with single “Worth it”), I thought I would explore a lesser known album released earlier this year. I first discovered Boogie with Sunroof on his Thirst 48 Part II mixtape. The Compton rapper’s distinct sound is comprised of vocals like a raspier Chance and a consistently steady-paced flow. His debut album, Everything’s For Sale, is an introspective project that captures his candid struggles without sounding pitiful. It’s tone is entirely dejected but Boogie’s amusing wit and jazzy instrumentals makes for an interesting listen. While admittedly repetitive at certain points, what Boogie truly leaves his listeners with is a sense of raw honesty and consciousness that resonates above all else in his music. Worth the listen.
Indie and Alternative: Angela Karas
MARINA (formerly Marina and the Diamonds), “Handmade Heaven”
MARINA has returned to the alternative scene with her first new solo material since 2015’s FROOT. Her new single, “Handmade Heaven,” is surprisingly slow-paced for a lead single, but the singer tweeted that fans “have noooooo idea” what the overall sound of her upcoming fourth LP will be. She also released an accompanying music video for “Handmade Heaven,” but the name and release date for the album are still unknown. The singer has promised more information Feb. 14, so this is sure to be a good month for MARINA fans.
La Femme, “L’hawaïenne”
Looking for a super underground, new wave indie rock single to impress your friends and perhaps your French professor? Look no further than Paris-based band La Femme’s new song “L’hawaïenne,” an ambient track oozing dégagé (read: chill) vibes. No word yet on whether the over eight-minute song is part of an upcoming album, but stay tuned.
The Amazons, “Mother”
Perhaps best known for their high energy and workout-friendly basslines, “Mother” is a typical rock offering from the English band. While it checks all the boxes that make a rock song indeed a rock song, it does not stand out from similar tracks by other artists. If you like the band Royal Blood, you’ll probably like this song, but there is nothing particularly memorable separating the single from others of its kind.
Cover Photo: Maren Morris, Khalid and Ariana Grande