This week, Mac Miller‘s estate releases his first posthumous track, the introspective and beautiful “Good News.” Selena Gomez comes back with her first album in five years, the slick Rare. Normani and Megan Thee Stallion team up to have fun on “Diamonds” off the Birds of Prey soundtrack. Indie-pop band Beach Bunny recall fun-loving days on “Cloud 9.” And Nathaniel Rateliff takes a solo turn, showing off his balladic side on “And It’s Still Alright.”
“Good News,” Mac Miller
“There’s a whole lot more for me waitin’ on the other side,” sings Mac Miller on “Good News,” the first single released since Miller’s death in 2018. It’s enough to make you cry. Earlier this week, the estate of the late artist announced an upcoming album, Circles, the project he was working on at the time of his death. Posthumous releases are always complicated, but this one feels true to his vision: Miller was an artist beset by demons yet on the rise, with a knack for sharp introspection and raw clarity, his rough-edged voice finding both beauty and pain in his reflections. His last full album, Swimming, was notable for its darkness but also its prettiness; “Good News” — with its simple, guitar-plucked melody — feels like a warm step into the light.
“Vulnerable,” Selena Gomez
Selena Gomez may have Disney roots and be one of social media’s most-followed celebrities, but as both an artist and a public figure she has become more understated, with a penchant for privacy. On her new album Rare, Gomez’s message is sleek, subtle confidence. Standout track “Vulnerable” suggests fragile edges, but it’s a sharply-tuned sonic treat. The wall-of-sound pre-chorus echoes her hits like “It Ain’t Me”; the verses follow a quick clip reminiscent of her Talking-Heads-sampling song “Bad Liar.” Combining these instincts — for minimalist melody, intimate vocals and a big electronic build — is smart. It took Gomez five years to release this, following 2015’s Revival. Rare is a pop gift, and a reminder that artists deserve whatever time they need to create the work they want.
“Cloud 9,” Beach Bunny
“Cloud 9” feels like it belongs in a movie, soundtracking the montage of a fresh-faced teenage couple falling in love as they hang out at the pier and run around romantically deserted parks. It’s a track off of the Chicago-based indie band’s forthcoming debut album — which is fittingly set for a Valentine’s Day release. The tune is propulsive and joyful, low-fi and low-key without feeling derivative. It starts bright and finishes with punch, leaving you wanting much more.
“And It’s Still Alright,” Nathaniel Rateliff
Tender with twang: that’s “And It’s Still Alright” from Nathaniel Rateliff, the soulful folk-Americana singer. Rateliff is best known for his Midwestern R&B-influenced group Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, but his new solo work takes him in a gentler acoustic direction, which is echoed across his upcoming album. His baritone has a lovely ragged edge, the sort of lived-in voice that seems suited for a campfire and a country lullaby. There’s something comforting about how uncomplicated and direct “And It’s Still Alright” is, too. “They say you learn a lot out there, how to scorch and burn / Gonna have to bury your friends, then you’ll find it gets worse,” he reflects. And yet, there’s a reason for the song title.
“Diamonds,” Megan Thee Stallion and Normani
Megan Thee Stallion and Normani are a dream team: one of them kicked off the Hot Girl Summer movement, and the other embodied it fully with “Motivation.” Together — rapping and singing with complementary styles on “Diamonds” — they’re unstoppable. Movie soundtracks can be a mixed bag, but we have the masterminds behind the upcoming Harley Quinn vehicle Birds of Prey to thank for this bouncy, bold collaboration. “You want me to be a little more ladylike?” Megan scoffs. “You don’t wanna go toe-to-toe with my pedicure.” It’s pure fun.