Ed Sheeran’s blockbuster album Divide may have come out way back in last spring, but that doesn’t mean he’s letting the music go, instead re-upping his ballad “Perfect” with a new Beyoncé duet. Meanwhile, creative R&B star Miguel branches out into edgier zones on the new War and Leisure. DRAM and the U.K.’s Lady Leshurr team up for a Yogi-produced rap track oozing confidence. Boy band PRETTYMUCH find a spiced-up new groove with French Montana. And influential internet star Baby Ariel drops her first original song.
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Miguel is best known for his smooth-talking, nearly psychedelic take on bedroom R&B, but new album War and Leisure pushes his identity as an artist further. forward “Wolf” flirts with straight-up rock ‘n’ roll, layering in distorted, reverb-heavy guitar chords and old-school percussion. As for Miguel? His voice, usually so sinuous and butter-smooth, gets a rougher treatment here that’s just right for the content: “I love the taste of your flesh, woman,” he admits, turning romance into something a little darker.
"Perfect Duet," Ed Sheeran and Beyoncé
It’s no secret that Beyoncé is magic. In her third feature in as many months (she also jumped on the “Mi Gente” remix with J. Balvin and Willy William, and helped Eminem out with his impending return on the emotional “Walk on Water”), Bey offers up her ballad prowess to give Sheeran’s latest single an added boost. It’s a song built for a voice like Beyoncé’s, resonant and inviting. If you liked the original — and it’s hard not to find pleasure in the unimpeachably sweet Irish-tinged melody of “Perfect” — then this version will only add to your enjoyment.
"No More," PRETTYMUCH feat. French Montana
With “No More,” PRETTYMUCH turns the traditional precision harmonies of the run-of-the-mill boy band into something much more exciting. Spiked with a Latin melody and some Spanish-language lines, “No More” is a feisty entry into the newly-brewing battle of the boy bands. Moroccan-American rapper French Montana (of “Unforgettable” fame) adds to the group’s cred with a seamlessly blended verse — and gives the song a necessary breather between the fivesome’s rapid-fire chorus deliveries.
"Cakin,'" Yogi, DRAM, Lady Leshurr
Over a sing-song beat with echoing edges by the producer Yogi, rapper DRAM and U.K. grime MC Lady Leshurr find an irresistible flow. Add in an unexpected gospel backup on the chorus and a rich melodic break, and “Cakin’” becomes a whole other beast: the kind of make-the-money anthem that deserves a spot on your workout playlist and your morning pump-up soundtrack. DRAM’s verses are full of personality, while Lady Leshurr brings a distinctive and articulate British flair to the proceedings.
"Aww," Baby Ariel
If you’re of a certain age, Baby Ariel is a pretty big deal: she’s the most-followed user on Musical.ly, a popular lip sync video app that launched the Florida teen into stardom in the real world, thanks to hordes of young fans. But now for the first time, Ariel is making her own music, following in the footsteps of fellow social media stars turned original artists like Shawn Mendes. “Aww,” her debut single, is a light and frothy pop bop with of-the-moment minimalist production, a sweet message and an especially sharp musical break. As for Ariel, she proves herself perfectly capable of sharing her own voice.