Zayn, Ariana Grande, All Saints + More: Best Songs We Heard This Week
Happy Friday, PopCrush readers. You ready for the weekend? Same, but not before taking a deep-dive into some of the best releases of the week.
As always, we've gathered together our favorites from the past few days and #NewMusicFriday, from debut singles from promising new talents to triumphant girl group comebacks to the latest smash from former 1D-turned-solo superstar Zayn.
Ariana Grande, “Be Alright”
Sure, the haters underestimated Ariana. They called her a “Mariah wannabe,” and a “doughnut licker,” maybe even a “ponytail with legs.” But her stellar work as host and musical guest on Saturday Night Live forced many to reconsider — and her live debut of “Be Alright” was an especially bright spot. The house-y track weighs in at a slender two minutes and fifty-seven seconds, and its short-and-sweet stature begs repeat listens. Finger snaps, keyboards as buoyant as the song’s message and toward the very end, shimmery chimes reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac’s “Everywhere.” Magic. - Samantha Vincenty
Marian Hill, "Down"
For those unfamiliar, Marian Hill is not a person, but rather two: Jeremy Lloyd and Samantha Gongol, a Philly-bred songwriting duo who've slowly built buzz in the past few years with an assortment of syncs for TV shows, advertisements and high fashion campaigns. (Fun fact: The name comes from the lead characters of The Music Man.) Their sound is a unique blend of electronica with heavy flourishes of jazz, and their latest track "Down" throws in a perfect hip-hop beat break into the otherwise lowkey, piano-led production. "Are you down, diddy down, diddy down, down, down, down?" Gongol relentlessly stutters. D-d-down. Most definitely down. - Bradley Stern
Zayn Malik did a whole lot of talking in the months following his One Direction departure, and most of his words felt like thinly-veiled, softball insults lobbed at both his former band members and their very specific demographic of fans (namely, young women). So it is with begrudging reluctance that the following proclamation be made: His solo material is, so far, good — great, even — and latest track “BeFoUr” is his best yet. A smokey, synth-filled electro-R&B track with a pulsing beat, “BeFoUr” signals the return of Zayn’s blessed falsetto — the one that elevated so many 1D tracks to celestial-status. If the rest of Mind of Mine is this good (and all snippets thus far sure do indicate it so), it’ll be impossible to stay mad at him much longer. — Ali Szubiak
Silences, “There’s A Wolf”
Nostalgia’s a trap, and the Northern Ireland alternative rock outfit are urging you to keep your distance. “There’s a Wolf,” the first single from forthcoming EP Luna, opens with a folky ease and smoky vocals well-suited for campfire tunes – soon, though, it peppers guitar strums with techy effects and sends it bounding across genre. It’s Marcy’s Playground returning from EDM Summer Camp with enough edge for entry to the cool kids’ ensemble. Member Conchur White told Bittersweet Symphonies memories can “make us miss something that we never cared that much for,” but damn if I forget this combustion anytime soon. - Matthew Donnelly
Mura Masa feat. Bonzai, “What If I Go?”
I’m a real sucker for house-pop hybrids this week. And always. The 19-year-old (!!) producer born Alex Crossan was one of my picks for Best New Artist of 2015, and “What if I go?” bodes well for his forthcoming debut full-length. Layering harps and steel drums over his bouncy electronic composition, Mura Masa plays with the vocal pitching he’s been fond of on previous tracks but lets vocalist Bonzai shine on her own too, and the result is both sweet and impeccably crafted. – Samantha Vincenty
Sara Diamond, "Just Give In"
You're probably not sitting at a hockey game thinking "Damn, that anthem singer should really drop a twinkly electro R&B banger." (Good luck finding me at a hockey game to begin with.) But, lo and behold, here we are with Sara Diamond, singing of the Montreal Canadiens' anthem — and children's songs for KIDZUP Records. Don't let that G-rated CV fool you: "Just Give In," her debut pop single produced by Noah Barer & Cavewerk, is slinky and shimmering as all hell, making her one of the more promising and unexpected voices (watch out for those soulful runs toward the end of the track, especially!) to arrive on the scene. - Bradley Stern
Strong Asian Mothers, “The More That I”
An atmospheric meld of R&B, electronica and hip hop, “The More That I” sees genre-blending at its most harmonious. London-based trio Strong Asian Mothers kicks things off with a soft hum, allowing the track some much-needed breathing room before its multi-faceted musical layers begin to mount in an ever-growing, upward motion. There’s a pause between verses — a musical respite if you will — in the form of a low drum beat, softly mimicking a live pulse. Because “The More That I” is a track that feels very much alive, all blissful synergy and heaving horns. It’s fitting, then, that things build until they can’t anymore, ultimately erupting in a crescendo of sweeping strings, commanding horns and bellowing synths. This is an act to watch, for sure. — Ali Szubiak
All Saints, “One Woman Man”
Admission: Before this week, I’d have hardly counted myself among the All Saints devout; I might now. The second offering from the enduring Brit group’s forthcoming LP delivers an aggressive admonition – stay away from my man – through harmonies that are, conversely, as delicate and glistening as dew drops. The song leaps across keys and up and down octaves with finesse that can only come from a 23-year-old ensemble: who said pop groups can only be flashes in the pan? - Matthew Donnelly
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