Shawn Mendes is back with “If I Can’t Have You,” his first new single of 2019 ahead of a Saturday Night Live performance this weekend. BANKS also returns, this time leaning into even darker sounds on the haunting “Gimme.” Esperanza Spalding, the virtuoso jazz artist, explores the mysteries of the body — and blood — on a lush, engaging new project, starting with “Lest We Forget.” Vampire Weekend’s long-awaited new album, Father of the Bride, is a sunny addition to their discography, bringing with it some unexpected assists from the likes of Steve Lacy. And YG comes through with a mariachi-inspired new track, “Go Loko.”
“If I Can’t Have You,” Shawn Mendes
Shawn Mendes doesn’t have to prove anything anymore; the former teen star turned rock-pop idol has sold out stadiums worldwide, put together a well-received 2018 self-titled album and has so far seamlessly navigated the waters of his celebrity. “If I Can’t Have You” is our first taste of new music since the album, and it’s a promising follow-up, giving him ample space to test the upper reaches of his tenor over the piano-driven pop melody. “I can’t write one song that’s not about you,” Mendes complains warmly in the chant-like chorus, a line destined for fan sing-a-longs.
Back in 2014, Californian electro-R&B singer BANKS was already exploring the intersection of hip-hop, pop and electronic production on platinum hits like “Beggin for Thread” in a style that has since evolved to take over the mainstream. Now, after a multi-year gap following the release of her well-received 2016 album The Altar, BANKS is returning to join the mix. But she has new tricks up her sleeve, too: “Gimme” is darker and heavier than her earlier work, leaning on minimalist, hollow percussion as layers beneath stuttering synths. If this is a sign of the BANKS to come, we’re promised a worthy follow-up.
“Lest We Forget (blood),” Esperanza Spalding
Esperanza Spalding has long been hailed as a jazz prodigy, an innovative Grammy-winning bassist and singer who has leaned deep into her explorations of new ways to approach her craft. On “Lest We Forget,” off of her 12 Little Spells project, Spalding unearths a haunting, R&B-styled side. The album with 12 tracks first came out in 2018, but is only being released digitally now, with four extra tracks to boot; each “spell” correlates to a body part. “Lest We Forget,” which is her take on blood, starts with a delicate hum before the instruments and lyrics come into play. “Blood is humming us,” she murmurs, “a constant tone accompanying the incessant muscling.” There’s a fluidity and consistent richness to the song that echoes her words.
“Flower Moon,” Vampire Weekend feat. Steve Lacy
To follow up 2013’s Modern Vampires of the City, Vampire Weekend return this week with Father of the Bride, a bright, extensive 18-track album full of their signature experimental indie rock. “Flower Moon” feels fresh and fun from the get-go: a Vocoder-addled opening line will catch your attention, with a delicate, wistful sax underlying it. But the bouncy, handclap-driven rest of the song will keep it, boosted by the appearance of The Internet’s Steve Lacy, adding in echoing vocals and guitar. The song is less a story than a mood: a piece of warm-weather jazzy noise that’s both bittersweet in its lyrics and sunny in its disposition.
“Go Loko,” YG feat. Tyga and Jon Z
Nothing like a little Spanish guitar to underpin a slow-burning summer jam, which is ostensibly what West Coast rapper YG could have on his hands with new single “Go Loko.” The guitar and mariachi melody serves as a surprising — and welcome — contrast to YG’s rapping, with verses from fellow Californian Tyga and Puerto Rican trap star Jon Z. None of the three have to work too hard, preferring to deliver their lines with low-key energy (although Jon Z does heat things up). Overall, there’s something blurred around the edges here, like a hazy summer night in Los Angeles. Which seems to be what they were aiming for: after all.