One new song a week, every week. Peep below for the full playlist, as well as a quick breakdown of each track:
Note: For the best songs from previous months, years, etc., head to the Playlists page.
April 15, 2019: “Georgia” by Kevin Abstract
It’s a vital part of nearly every boy band’s history: the it’s time for the leader to go solo moment. But BROCKHAMPTON isn’t a normal boy band, and Kevin Abstract isn’t a normal boy band leader.
As a result, Abstract’s new series of singles aren’t the type of Good Will Hunting, Matt Damon leaving Ben Affleck at the construction job breakaways that many going solo moments try to be. Abstract’s latest singles—and “Georgia” especially—aren’t without their pop leanings, but they’re also humble, earnest confessions that feel a lot more like soul searching than big leaguing.
April 8, 2019: “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X (feat. Billy Ray Cyrus)
Yes, Billy Ray Cyrus can rap. And yes, on this song, Billy Ray Cyrus does rap about buying his wife a Fendi sports bra. And yes, it’s all very, very awesome. But that’s not the most important thing about the remix to Lil Nas X’s country-trap hit.
This wild collaboration—between a 57-year-old country music vet and a 19-year-old who got famous on TikTok—has a lot to say about acceptance. The track comes just two weeks after Billboard removed “Old Town Road” from its country music charts, claiming the song didn’t fully represent the genre.
The response to this remix couldn’t be more different: the Internet immediately embraced Billy Ray is a rap star, just like Billy Ray was willing to embrace Lil Nas X as a country star. By blurring the genre lines even more, Lil Nas X is sending the music industry a message: ignore him at your own risk.
April 1, 2019: “Loose Ends” by Loyle Carner (feat. Jorja Smith)
For a song by two of London’s most exciting up-and-comers, “Loose Ends” feels strangely old school. It’s the sort of half-rap piano ballad that might feel more at home in 1999 than 2019, but that doesn’t make it any less effective today.
Jorja Smith, fresh off a supernova-hot 2018, splashes the track with addictively gorgeous harmonies and soaring vocal refrains. Meanwhile, Loyle Carner brings a thoughtful earnestness his lovesick verses, carefully staddling the line between corniness and profundity.
March 25, 2019: “Melt” by Nilüfer Yanya
“Melt” isn’t just a song, it’s an onomatopoeia. There’s a moment about 3:15 into the track—which is off Nilüfer Yanya’s remarkable new album, Miss Universe—where you really have no choice but to, totally, completely, melt.
Vocal harmonies soar, horns crescendo in the background, piano accents flourish and pop as the song crashes out on a wave of perfect, melodic peace. Yanya’s latest record is full of segments like this, coated in a multi-level genius that makes for some of the most fulfilling musical moments released this year.
March 18, 2019: “Numb Numb Juice” by Schoolboy Q
Schoolboy Q doesn’t need a red carpet. The L.A. rapper and godfather of modern bucket hat fashion announced his return with pure force, bursting into 2019 with a two-minute horror film score of airtight flows and technical lyricism.
“Numb Numb Juice” is raw, brutal and undeniably awesome. The track is basically an announcement that Schoolboy’s next album is on its way, and, like a terrifying rap doomsday clock, it’s a warning sign of what’s to come.
March 11, 2019: “Please Won’t Please” by Helado Negro
Helado Negro is the anti-George R.R. Martin of bedroom pop. The Florida-born songwriter is quick to the trigger when it comes to releasing his next project—he’s put out 11 albums in as many years—yet somehow nothing he does sounds tired.
This Is How You Smile, Helado Negro’s latest record, feels fresh from start to finish, and “Please Won’t Please” is the freshest song of them all. The ambient ballad lives and breathes in a calming, somber state—one infused with brooding vocals, powerful emotions and a haunting two-chord melody.
March 4, 2019: “Stay Flo” by Solange
Everything about Solange’s new album feels both effortless and completely calculated. When I Get Home is a record full of interludes, a concept the younger Knowles sister discussed at length during a 2018 radio conversation with Earl Sweatshirt.
Annd when you do interludes like Solange, that’s not a bad thing. “Stay Flo” bubbles unexpectedly out of the album’s previous track, building into a swell of piano loops, addictive ad libs and glazy synth backdrops. Just as quickly as it becomes a traceable, tangible song, start falling apart, fading away into the record’s next hazy permutation.
February 25, 2019: “3 Headed Snake” by Gunna (feat. Young Thug)
No one like’s a teacher’s pet, but Gunna has found a way to rock it. The 25-year-old Atlantan is easily the most popular artist under Young Thug’s YSL Records label, and so far he’s crafted a hugely successful career by building and reshaping Thugger’s formula.
Like Drake to Lil Wayne, Aaron Rodgers to Brett Farve or Obi Won to Qui Gon Jinn, there comes a moment where every great student surpasses their teacher. This may not be Gunna’s kicking Darth Maul into an endless pit moment yet, but in the meantime it’s so satisfying to watch the pupil and master hone their crafts together.
February 18, 2019: “Pipe Dreamz” by Rina Mushonga
Describing Rina Mushonga’s style is like reading off the answers from a crossword puzzle. Separately, the Dutch-Zimbabwean singer’s influences—’80s synth-pop; Animal collective-style psychedelia; African dance music—sound like a random word association.
But together, it all makes sense: Mushonga’s sophomore album, In a Galaxy, is a focused, highly concentrated blend of pulsating backbeats and pounding electronic drums. “Pipe Dreamz,” the record’s opening track, introduces the formula with a sprawling ballad that tours listeners through everything that makes the rest of the project so insatiably compelling.
February 11, 2019: “Imagine” by Ariana Grande
Success is boring. There’s a reason it felt so defeating to see Tom Brady hoist his sixth Lombardi Trophy this year: unless you’re a Patriots fan or a team owner anxiously awaiting his big, sloppy victory kiss.
And at this point, Ariana’s success is starting to feel pretty dang Brady-an. With 2018’s Sweetener and its quick-strike follow-up track, “thank u, next,” Grande crowned herself as pop’s undeniable princess. Then she turned around and did it all again just five months later.
The record is full of tight-popping trap beats and unstoppable ear-worm choruses, and it might be Ariana’s best project to date. “Imagine,” the album’s first track, sets the table for all of that: it’s full of sugar-sweet harmonies, genre-hopping vocal deliveries and, in terms of entertainment value, it’s basically the opposite of a 13-3 Super Bowl victory.
February 4, 2019: “Hire” by Girlpool
Girlpool’s latest covers a lot of ground. What Chaos Is Imaginary, the duo’s third studio album, is a 14-track plunge through somber ballads and hard-hitting indie anthems.
“Hire” manages to be both at once. The crisp, guitar-driven track is easily the record’s most complete song, managing to pull everything together into a singular, simply beautiful rock song.
January 28, 2019: “Dylan Thomas” by Better Oblivion Community Center
Is there a band Phoebe Bridgers isn’t in? The 24-year-old songwriter has done well to establish herself as indie rock’s version of the time turner-wielding Hermione Granger from The Prisoner of Azkaban, somehow finding the hours to release three albums with three different groups during the last three years.
And her latest project couldn’t be more compelling. Teaming up with Bright Eyes frontman and indie rock veteran Conor Oberst, Bridgers is taking a fascinating approach to folk rock, filling the duo’s surprise album with biting guitar riffs and hilarious boasts (“I’m taking a shower at the Bates Motel”). “Dylan Thomas” is record’s strongest track, throws all Bridgers and Oberst have to offer into one bold, high-energy folk jam.
January 21, 2019: “I’ll Come Too” by James Blake
“I’m gonna say what I need, if it’s the last thing I do,” James Blake sings confidently in the opening seconds of “I’ll Come Too.” At first glance, it’s not a particularly shocking statement—Blake’s never been afraid to show his emotions—but his vulnerability has never been more compelling than on his latest album, Assume Form.
The record is littered with exciting new changes for the English producer (trap drums! an André 3000 feature!), but those flourishes shouldn’t overshadow what makes Assume Form so exciting: the words. “I’ll Come Too” is the strongest display for Blake’s newfound lyrical talents—it’s a song full of poignant romance, humor and a straightforward, no-nonsense description of longing.
January 14, 2019: “Seventeen” by Sharon Van Etten
Before she was a recording artist, Sharon Van Etten worked as a sommelier. That experience, couple with her two decades of experience studying, working with and performing in the music industry, has led to one undeniable fact—the woman has taste.
And “Seventeen,” the third single from Van Etten’s upcoming album, is nothing if not tasteful. Like a way-too-expensive glass of red wine, the track hits on lots of classic, familiar notes—a repetitive piano riff; a building bass line—but it’s also full of powerful, emotion-eliciting surprises.
January 7, 2019: “Juice” by Lizzo
Instead of vaguely promising to “practice self love” in 2019, just listen to this song once a day instead. Lizzo’s latest is filled to the brim with self confidence and unapologetic swagger—exactly the sort of resolution-keeping motivation you might be needing one week into the new year.
The Minneapolis-based rapper’s never been better than she is on this ode-to-the-’80s single, spewing addictive choruses while pleading “not guilty” to any harm caused by her fabulousness. “Juice” is already one of 2019’s most irresistible tracks, and, quite possibly, just a teaser of what Lizzo has in store for us this year.