All eyes — and ears — may be focused on Justin Timberlake's big new release with Man of the Woods this week, but look a little further to find some new tunes just as worthy of your time. There's The Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar's smart team-up for the Black Panther soundtrack; teen boy band Why Don't We's Ed-Sheeran-penned catchy new single; a club banger from Steve Aoki and Daddy Yankee; smart pop songstress Tove Styrke's latest light earworm; and a slinky groove from 18-year-old Trinidad Cardona.
"Pray For Me," The Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar
It's been a minute since we've heard something new from The Weeknd, and "Pray For Me," off the stacked Black Panther soundtrack, nicely scratches that particular itch for dark, brooding alt-R&B. Over a resonant downbeat, Abel Tesfaye makes good use of his signature falsetto. Kendrick comes in with a sharp verse of his own: "Who need a hero? You need a hero," he raps. "Look in the mirror, there go your hero." He has a point: the Grammys may not have awarded him with the main prizes this year, but he's still on top.
"Trust Fund Baby," Why Don't We
Try not to get hooked on "Trust Fund Baby" by the end of its high-energy first verse, which jumps into the kind of bright, upbeat pop track meant to add bounce to your step. Written by none other than Ed Sheeran, the new tune from rising teen boy band Why Don't We is intrinsically catchy, from its tongue-in-cheek opening salvo ("What the hell are Louboutins?") to the rap-sung chorus and a handy little ka-ching sound effect drilling home the theme. And that eyebrow-raising title? Turns out the boys are preaching financial self-sufficiency to their future partners. "I like my women independent," they chant. "Save your money, don't spend it." If that's not a mantra for the next generation of post-recession kids, it's hard to imagine something more fitting.
"Azukita," Steve Aoki, Daddy Yankee, Play-n-Skillz & Elvis Crespo
What do you get when you combine the talents of EDM party DJ Steve Aoki and reggaeton master Daddy Yankee? "Azukita" is your answer, a club track roaring from the jump. It's a smart move on both sides, capitalizing on momentum behind hits like "Despacito" and "Mi Gente" to continue elevating Latin rhythms in dance music. A heavy drop and fast-paced bass set "Azukita" apart, balanced by the singing of Elvis Crespo and Yankee's familiar flow.
"Dinero," Trinidad Cardona
Phoenix teen Trinidad Cardona is only 18, but he's wise beyond his years in the smooth, dance-ready new Latin jam "Dinero." Cardona was still in high school when an impromptu a cappella freestyle he called "Jennifer" went unexpectedly viral online — and helped him snag a record label deal on the strength of his R&B vibe. "Dinero" is a strong taster of what Cardona has yet to offer: confidence, warm groove with Latin influence, and a facility in playing across styles and languages.
"Changed My Mind," Tove Styrke
Swedish artist Tove Styrke is cleverly marking out her own pop territory, with "Changed My Mind" as her third release in the last year of deft, winking songs that neatly nod at the complexities of modern love. "I wasn't really sure about us, but now I'm pretty sure about us," she shrugs, plainly stating one of those simple things that most of us have probably experienced, but that rarely are given the song treatment. Like "Say My Name" and "Mistakes" before, "Changed My Mind" relies on a light, minimalist pop backdrop. As she gears up for her album release in May, Styrke will also be found on Lorde's U.S. tour, an appropriate pairing of thoughtful contemporary lyricists.