Prepare for the year of Janelle Monáe, who is teasing the release of her upcoming project Dirty Computer with a powerful mix of music and visuals, starting with the sultry funk of “Make Me Feel.” Meanwhile, country star Kacey Musgraves is kicking off her own return to the scene with two tracks, including the fresh, happy-go-lucky “Butterflies.” Artists NoMBe and Riz La Vie present two different visions of genre-bending, soulful alt-pop, and Logic once more stakes his claim as a talented rapper in a quick flex on “44 More.”
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"Make Me Feel," Janelle Monáe
Janelle Monáe is back — in a big way — with “Make Me Feel,” one of two projects she dropped this week in advance of her upcoming April album Dirty Computer. Where the other song, “Django Jane,” is a sharp feminist rap-manifesto, “Make Me Feel” is a fun-loving exploration of sexual fluidity. With more than an echo of “Kiss”-style Prince in the beat and the innuendo, “Make Me Feel” suggests Monáe is ready to be a bona fide queen of edgy dance-pop. And the video, a wildly fashionable Afro-futuristic party trip featuring Tessa Thompson, seals the deal.
"Napkins," Riz La Vie
“Life is good, who’s asking?” singer-songwriter Riz La Vie asks playfully off the top of the sinuous, infectious “Napkins” over a spare beat, musing with dark humor on the realities — and, maybe, mistakes — of youth. “Life is good, but it’s taxin’…. You are not entitled to my time or my passion,” he continues, a mantra of sorts to defining independence. Then he breaks into a low-key rap halfway through the track, recalling with loving specificity a night in short-lived love. The young New-York-based artist has become a master of this kind of youthful ennui in the course of releasing his last EP, mixing his warm voice with echoing melody.
"Drama," NoMBe feat. Big Data
NoMBe is the godson of Chaka Khan, but you wouldn’t necessarily know it from listening to “Drama,” a light and dreamy electro-soul pop track with an instantly addictive quality. “Drama” sits somewhere between the electric chords of Ratatat and the staticky echoes of Gorillaz — but feels sweeter and less manipulated than both. NoMBe, who sings and plays electric guitar, left Germany at age 19 with a one-way ticket to the U.S. to make music; luckily, after receiving recent cosigns from talent-spotters like Pharrell Williams, that risk seems to be paying off. “Drama” is just the latest off a progressive release schedule for debut album They Might’ve Even Loved Me, a collection of tracks paying respects to the women in his life.
"44 More," Logic
Logic almost sounds surprised at his own success on “44 More”: “Sold more albums my first week than Harry Styles and Katy Perry,” he reflects, “If that ain’t a sign of the times then I don’t know what is, man this s–it is scary.” Then again, Logic trades in being a grounded artist; the Grammy-nominated rapper made his biggest splash so far with the anti-suicide hit with Alessia Cara and Khalid “1-800-273-8255,” on which he sings morosely about returning from the edge. But on the rapid-fire “44 More,” he gets a chance to flex his precision rap skills more fully over a dark, looping beat — and slides in a few moral lessons to boot. “You in the club throwin’ dollars, but I’m savin’ mine so my kids go to college,” he notes, keeping up his reputation as rap’s role model.
"Butterflies," Kacey Musgraves
Country star and Grammy winner Kacey Musgraves has the light, sweet touch you want to hear on a song titled “Butterflies.” A toe-tapper with just a hint of her country flair, it’s a tune that leans more to the mode of Colbie Caillat than Maren Morris — but either way, should appeal to fans of country and female vocal pop alike. It’s an especially fresh-sounding addition to the country scene in a moment that sees mostly male voices dominating the charts. Musgraves is a fan favorite after two albums and a Christmas compilation, and “Butterflies” is one of two new tracks off an upcoming third album, Golden Hour, due out later this year.