Taylor Swift's new release "Gorgeous" may be ruling the news cycle, but there's plenty more music to consider this weekend. Look to Niall Horan, whose folksy new album Flicker is a promising solo debut. For an R&B fix, young Moroccan-American artist Dounia has a slinky, nimble take on the genre. Rita Ora delivers with a dance bop in "Anywhere." Aussie talent Bobi Andonov explores the darker side of pop. And Scottish artist Lewis Capaldi makes a great soundtrack for sadness, in case that's more your mood.
"Seeing Blind," Niall Horan feat. Maren Morris
Horan's debut solo album, Flicker, is a sweet and folksy turn from one of boy band pop's prior titans."Seeing Blind," his collaboration with U.S. country star Maren Morris, is a standout. An acoustically-driven ballad that turns into a toe-tapper of a tune, the duo both have rich, intimate voices that play well off each other. "You're too good to be all mine," they duet. Morris may not be the other boys of One Direction, but fans of that group's slower love songs will find plenty to like in this new co-ed direction.
Dounia is a Queens girl, a Moroccan-American model-turned-singer-songwriter with the kind of refreshing honesty, tongue-in-cheek humor and ever-present social consciousness that finds a happy home in her fluid rhymes over glittering alt-R&B beats. "I've got some rich taste with no funds to match, but they'll catch up and stack up at that / and they'll overflow, cuz my flow ain't half bad," she flaunts on "Status" off her debut album Intro To, her confidence clear. (She got her start making music by putting a diss track about an ex on SoundCloud.) What makes Dounia stand out besides her delightfully direct lyrics, though, is the seamless way she switches between shimmering, light vocals and cheeky spoken delivery, spiced by a New York vernacular. It's brainy R&B you can vibe to.
"Apartment," Bobi Andonov
When it comes to dark, atmospheric pop, Australian singer-songwriter Bobi Andonov should be a go-to. His wild falsetto elevates the throbbing pulse of "Apartment," an eerie and promising debut from a rather mysterious artist. For comparisons, think Prince and George Michael — and then add a modern hit of percussive production. The angst and tortured delivery on "Apartment" make it hard to turn away from. In love's pained throes, Andonov finds a sweet spot for his voice.
"Mercy," Lewis Capaldi
Lewis Capaldi has the kind of deep, textured voice that you could listen to for hours. He finds expressive rough edges, then smoothes them out into the sweetest of notes. "Mercy," his newest single off of debut EP Bloom, lets him stretch both sides. It's the most upbeat song in the strong collection, but that's not saying much: Capaldi's talent is tugging at heartstrings — or rather, pulling at them with all his vocal might. Over a soaring, sweet melody, the Scottish singer-songwriter — who started playing guitar at nine, was singing in pubs at 12, and is now a ripe old 20 — gives the heartbroken a salve in the form of song.
"Anywhere," Rita Ora
Rita Ora is now on a roll. First there was "Your Song," then her Avicii collaboration "Lonely Together" — and now "Anywhere," an equally expansive party-ready bop. While it starts out as a pretty classic pop banger, it segues into a spliced-up electronic break a minute in, picking up the tempo and delivering on danceability. "Over the hills and far away, a million miles from L.A., just anywhere with you," she sings breezily. "Take me anywhere." The lyrics may be vague, but the catchiness is undeniable.