Start things off with an introduction to the new sound of solo Harry Styles in “Sign of the Times.” Get stuck on rising pop artist TOTEM‘s song about a relationship gone awry—imbued with political undertones, or go on an emotional journey in the folksy “Straight Razor” from singer-songwriter Matt Maeson. Consider the funky groove of enigmatic British group Mulàn. And finish off with the lush pop of Spain’s Sofi de la Torre.
"Sign of the Times," Harry Styles
One Directions can rejoice, as Harry Styles is finally back in the music scene, releasing an anxiously-awaited debut single that recalls the glam pop-rock of legends like David Bowie and Queen. “Sign of the Times” hints at a new, well, direction for Styles as he chooses a distinct lane from his former bandmates, who each appear to be pursuing their own genres. Produced by Jeff Bhasker and co-written by Styles, the tune swings between echoing falsetto and operatic anthem in this moody first taste of his solo career.
"Straight Razor," Matt Maeson
On first glance, there’s nothing fancy about Virginia-born singer-songwriter Matt Maeson: just a guy and his guitar. But his raw performance of cutting emotional ballad “Straight Razor” is bound to get right under your skin as its intensity builds. Maeson grew up traveling around the American heartland performing for prisoners with his parents, who ran a ministry, before becoming a self-pronounced “runaway pastor’s kid” with his own troubles—and then making a comeback as a musician. In the folksy “Straight Razor,” that rollercoaster history imbues his voice with rich desperation.
"Hanging On," TOTEM
At first pass, “Hanging On” sounds like a suave R&B-inflected pop jam of a relationship gone awry. But the smoothly produced new tune is actually deeper than that. As the artist explained to Entertainment Weekly, it’s one of the first songs he wrote following the U.S. presidential election, and its message—of disillusionment in a relationship that has lost its “feeling of safety”—is meant to channel post-election emotional confusion. No matter where your politics fall, though, “Hanging On” will find a way to get stuck in your head.
Mysterious British band Mulàn brings the groove with “Done.,” a contemporary toe-tapper of a funk tune with sharp, distorted guitars and an easygoing rhythm. Despite the limited details about the group, it’s a promising sound, one that takes the catchiest elements of electronic music and massages them into place in a song that’s just the right amount of old-school and over-produced.
"$," Sofi de la Torre
Look no further than the sultry Sofi de la Torre for lush, lazy-in-a-good-way R&B with “$.” The Spanish singer’s new drop is a woozy tune that falls somewhere near the realm of pop, her husky, lingering vocals rising over a layered beat that belies the song’s somewhat dark dismissal of creature comforts and a love that isn’t quite right.