By Raisa Bruner
April 5, 2019

Anitta shows she’s got the range on Kisses, a trilingual album from the Brazilian superstar. Meanwhile, a viral hit — Lil Nas X‘s social-media-assisted country-trap crossover “Old Town Road” — gets a Billy Ray Cyrus remix that should only boost its popularity and chart potential. K-pop girl group BLACKPINK set out a powerful mission statement of global domination with the percussion-heavy “Kill This Love.” Singer-producer Ioanna Gika looks inward and finds a world of complexity on Thalassa. And Little Big Town critiques societal standards for women on the tender ballad “The Daughters.”

“Rosa,” Anitta with Prince Royce

Discovered off of YouTube as a teen in 2010, Anitta is now Brazil’s biggest pop star. Her music tops charts across Latin America (see: “Bola Rebola” with J Balvin and Tropkillaz, “Terremoto” with MC Kevinho) and her social media presence rivals many of the U.S.’s most popular artists. Now she’s released Kisses, her first trilingual album, and it’s time she receives the global attention she deserves. Kisses features appearances from the likes of bossa nova legend Caetano Veloso, rappers Snoop Dogg and Swae Lee, fellow Latina star Becky G and even DJ Alesso; on each track, she showcases a slightly different style, from harder baile funk or funk carioca (the club-ready “Onda Diferente” and “Juego”) to Brazilian balladry (sweet album closer “Você Mentiu”) to her own take on EDM (“Get to know me”). “Rosa” captures Anitta at her finest: over a sinuous trap-pop beat, she and bachata-R&B artist Prince Royce weave a sensuous story. You don’t have to speak Portuguese — or, in the case of this song, Spanish — to fall under Anitta’s spell.

 

“Old Town Road (Remix),” Lil Nas X feat. Billy Ray Cyrus

The 19-year-old Atlanta rapper Lil Nas X has had a wild few weeks. The social-media-savvy artist first put out the country-trap track “Old Town Road” back in late 2018. It took off on the app TikTok, eventually jumping into chart status and nabbing him a record deal with Columbia. When it was pulled from Billboard‘s official country charts at the end of March thanks to its mixed genre, he became an even bigger draw. Now, we have a remix featuring country mainstay Billy Ray Cyrus, guaranteeing the track a return to its country status once more. The unlikely pair are nicely complementary: Cyrus’s characteristic twang serves as a fresh counterpart to Lil Nas X’s easy baritone flow. It was already a hit; now it’s not going anywhere.

 

“Messenger,” Ioanna Gika

After a period of personal turmoil, singer and producer Ioanna Gika headed to her familial home in Greece to process and create Thalassa, her debut solo album. Sweeping and ethereal in the tradition of artists like Enya, Thalassa takes its cues from the epics of its birthplace. “Messenger” turns a stuttering electronic beat into a persistent chord of anxiety under choral arrangements and atmospheric verses. Gika has said the album is a “document of the dread, the adrenaline, and the surrender in the moments when you realize the only way to survive is to brace yourself and go through.” “Messenger” maintains that kind of breathless, urgent energy: a calling to carry on.

 

“Kill This Love,” BLACKPINK

If you like your K-pop with attitude and a serious drumbeat, girl group BLACKPINK have the track for you. “Kill This Love,” off the foursome’s new EP of the same title, is a no-holds-barred song that mixes singing and rapping in Korean and English. In the tradition of their popular male counterparts like BTS, BLACKPINK leans into the combination of a big drop and complex visuals. But BLACKPINK has plenty to boast of on their own, too: Jisoo, Jennie, Rosé and Lisa already have the most-watched K-pop group video on YouTube. “Kill This Love” promises to keep up their momentum as they make a play for Western audiences, with that menacing beat putting them front and center.

 

“The Daughters,” Little Big Town

“Oh girl, wash your face before you come to the table,” this thoughtful new ballad from country quartet Little Big Town starts off; it’s the group’s first new song off an upcoming ninth album. “Girl, know your place… shoulders back and stand up straight, watch your mouth and watch your weight.” A tender, unflinching reflection on the superficial standards women are held to, it will speak to many women who have put their own dreams second to the requirements of society, family or both. There’s a certain resignation in lead singer Karen Fairchild’s lilting voice, but it’s also a delicate reminder that we are not alone in our struggle. “I’ve heard of God the son and God the father,” she sings. “I’m just looking for a God for the daughters.”

 

Write to Raisa Bruner at raisa.bruner@time.com.

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