We lost a rap legend this week way too soon. If you haven’t read Tom’s Status Ain’t Hood column on Prodigy, take some time to do so while you crank Mobb Deep. It’s officially summer, and as the weather gets hot hot hot, we’re looking out for the hot hot hottest tracks to bump on the weekend. Don’t forget that in the future, all albums will be produced by Jack Antonoff, but for the time being, he’s only repped by one song on this list.
This week was the summer solstice which means that it’s officially “Song Of Summer” time. Quite a few hopefuls are included on this list, DJDS’ “Trees On Fire” being one of them. The duo enlisted rising star Amber Mark (who we recently named an Artist To Watch) along with the young R&B singer Marco McKinnis to make a song that sounds like sweat sheen. “Trees On Fire” rides on a few words that rhyme (namely: fire, desire, higher, you get the picture), but both Mark and McKinnis have the vocal abilities to make this, well, fire. Neither are big enough yet to be immediately recognizable when this song comes on in a club, and the ease of that anonymity is exactly what you want in a dance track. –Gabriela
Calvin Harris is attempting to out-Khaled DJ Khaled. The recent tracks he’s shared from his upcoming Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 have featured Frank Ocean, Migos, Pharrell, Young Thug, Ariana Grande, and Future, and the rest of the album only continues things from there: John Legend, Schoolboy Q, D.R.A.M., Snoop Dogg, etc. But to label Calvin a less rap-centric DJ Khaled isn’t giving him enough credit for his actual, verifiable contributions to his own songs — namely, the production, a pitch-perfect lite-funk approximation that glides and slides like Frank. “Feels” is perhaps the most lightweight of the bunch, but it’s lightweight in the best possible way — a light-as-air, effervescent pop confection, a vehicle for Pharrell to do MJ whoops and Katy Perry to do Gwen Stefani and Big Sean to do, uh, Big Sean, all over some bouncy ska guitar and groovy keys. Just don’t be afraid to catch feels, and you might find yourself catching some. –Peter
“I’m up on the wall/ I make it look easy cause that’s what they want.” That’s the way Madeline Kenney opens “Rita,” but it’s not a flex. The way she sings it, backed by the soft glow of a thrumming bass and a twinkling guitar, it sounds more wistful than anything else, a painful reminder that even the so-called heroes among us are just messy people dealing with their own shit. But that chorus is where the song goes from good to great, the blissfully searing guitar pyrotechnics soothed by Kenney’s softly cooing vocals as the titular “Rita” becomes a cathartic mantra. Kenney’s upcoming debut full-length, like last year’s Signals EP, was produced by Toro Y Moi’s Chaz Bear, but this isn’t one of those times where an established name foists his trademark sound on a relative unknown. Instead, “Rita” is all Kenney’s show, and even when the song itself builds towards a explosive, anxiety-induced climax, she sounds as in control as ever. She makes it look easy. –Peter
There are two brand-new tracks included on Soccer Mommy’s upcoming Collection, whose main intention is to re-record some of Sophie Allison’s older cuts with a full band behind her. The first of those new songs, “Out Worn,” demonstrated how powerful that can be, but the second, “Allison,” keeps the restrained minimalism of her earlier work, with only a waxing and waning guitar to guide her voice through a standstill. “Allison” is a plea for self-possession and vulnerability: “Allison, put down your sword,” she addresses herself. “Give up what you’re fighting for ’cause he’s been waiting at the shore/ His feet are in the water, he’s waiting for an answer of your boat in the water/ But you’re not on the sea.” It’s a reminder to not keep your emotions bottled up — when you have a fantasy, share it; when you want to tell someone you love them, do it. “Allison” takes that waiting period between when you have a thought and when you finally verbalize it and makes it sound as beautifully sad and wanting and unsure as it actually feels. –James
Look, I am loath to say this because the “any song from this great album could have cracked this list” trope has become a bit of a cliche in this column and because mellifluous praise for Melodrama is becoming its own kind of truism, BUT: It really is that good, and I could just as easily be writing about “The Louvre” or “Homemade Dynamite” or “Writer In The Dark” here. “Supercut,” though, is the one that swept me away on first listen and still strikes me as most likely to become an anthem, a standard, and/or the soundtrack to a generation-defining movie scene. In fact it’s already the background music for a film — the one that won’t stop playing in Lorde’s head as she rues lost love — and it evokes all the magic they gave off with just four glimmering chords and a beat like a racing pulse. That’s all you need when you’re the finest lyricist in the game, spinning imagery on the level of “‘Cause in my head I do everything right/ When you call I forgive and not fight/ Because ours are the moments I play in the dark/ We were wild and fluorescent, come home to my heart.” With nothing more than audio, she accomplishes what the last scene of La La Land needed both music and moving pictures to pull off, a wistfulness so intoxicating that it’s tempting to remain inside it forever. –Chris