Ariana Grande offers up another low-key jam with collaborators Social House. Plus, Haim continue the season’s vibes well into August on the dreamy new tune “Summer Girl. Rapper Rapsody calls in D’Angelo and GZA for her homage to an iconic woman in “Ibtihaj.” Pop’s rising star Ava Max delivers a duo of new bops, including the catchy “Blood, Sweat & Tears.” And Devendra Banhart explores mourning in the lullaby-like “Memorial.”
“Summer Girl,” Haim
No matter that it’s already August. The Haim sisters still very much have summer on their minds — and California, L.A. in particular, if the lyrics are anything to go by — in “Summer Girl,” a delicate, evocative piece of rock from the trio. As with all their most notable music, “Summer Girl” feels both retro and timeless; its era is the sun-drenched California of the late 60s, but a minor-key sax, some warm, bluesy thrums and a hummed chorus tune suggests something more ethereal, too. They’re not jamming out in “Summer Girl,” just letting the season lead them to something sweet and new.
“Blood, Sweat & Tears,” Ava Max
Ava Max has been making music on the very edge of pop’s mainstream for a year now, with her hits “So Am I” and “Sweet But Psycho” racking up millions of streams and cracking Billboard‘s top ten even if she hasn’t broken through to the big-league spotlight — yet. “Blood, Sweat & Tears” might help change that, along with a recent MTV VMA nomination for Best New Artist. In the vein of Swedish pop phenom Tove Lo and fellow singers of Albanian heritage Bebe Rexha and Dua Lipa, Max has a powerhouse voice that she puts to use over anthemic tunes with an edge. “Blood Sweat and Tears” is prime singalong material with an instant catchy factor. You don’t need to work too hard to get wrapped up in its hard-charging melody.
“Ibtihaj,” Rapsody feat. D’Angelo and GZA
Grammy-nominated rapper Rapsody has a lot to say — and that’s a good thing. Eve, her third album due out Aug. 23, is a celebration of women of color, each track titled after a different icon. Her first single “Ibtihaj” pays homage to the Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, who became the first woman to compete in a hijab while representing the U.S. at 2016’s Rio de Janeiro events. With Rapsody’s approach to this body of work, which she intends to draw attention to important legacies, she shows she’s a wordsmith who nods to the past. In this instance, she samples songs including GZA’s own — and pushes her craft forward.
“Memorial,” Devendra Banhart
Don’t listen to Devendra Banhart’s latest unless you’re ready to sink into sadness. “Memorial,” the emotive singer-songwriter’s latest offering and third song from his upcoming album Ma, is a mourner’s tune. He’s said it’s about three different people — a poem of sorts about grief and our strange human reactions and, yes, memorials. But it’s also an intimate exposure of a wound. “Love’s just a word and not what the word means / But I’ll say it just the same,” he sings, his words sometimes taking on a gruff Leonard Cohen edge. It’s simple, and in its simplicity, it speaks volumes.
“boyfriend,” Ariana Grande and Social House
Ariana Grande picks her collaborations sparingly: the last time she featured an artist on her own work was back on “Side to Side” with Nicki Minaj. Then she appeared on Troye Sivan’s “Dance to This” and her longtime collaborator Victoria Monét’s “Monopoly.” Now there’s “boyfriend.” If the new song with Social House doesn’t feel like much of a departure from form or style, that’s because the singer-songwriter-production duo have also been behind her recent major hits “7 rings” and “thank u, next,” too. So “boyfriend” is another low-key jam in that vein: tender, breathy, unhurried R&B about a conflicted relationship status with Grande’s signature attitude and a dose of Social House’s alternative vocals to switch things up just enough.