Star Tracks compiles the most interesting new music from a broad range of established and emerging artists. This week’s playlist features new music from Megan Thee Stallion, Maggie Rogers and Makaya McCraven.
Click here to listen along to the Spotify playlist, which includes additional tracks we loved this week.
Fireboy DML: Ashawo
Fireboy DML — perhaps the smoothest vocalist to crossover from the recent Nigerian pop explosion — has fully embraced the “Playboy” persona on his third studio album, which dropped last week. “If I cheat on you I’m sorry/ And if you cheat on me don’t worry,” the 26-year-old sings on the chorus of “Ashawo,” his casual delivery of the (hilarious) line leaving the listener to decipher whether it implies a blasé attitude toward monogamy or betrays a numbness that comes with fame. Either way, the track’s breezy beat and bright guitar licks are too seductive to resist, even if you were one of the thousands of fans who spent hundreds of dollars in hopes of seeing Fireboy at the disastrous Kultureland Festival last weekend. Rumour has it the Playboy wasn’t even in the country. Maybe next time. — Richie Assaly
PinkPantheress: Picture in my mind
A dance bop with prancing synthetic keys and an ever quickening pace, “Picture in my mind” is actually a reminder to the uninitiated. PinkPantheress, known as the quintessential drum and bass sad girl, once had this track called “just a waste” with the sauciest Michael Jackson sample that pushed you onto the dance floor. “Picture in my mind” is a return to that initial form. This time with her trademark breathy vocals PinkPantheress reflects on dating someone who’s essentially the same as her that doesn’t match the “Picture in my Mind.” She constantly reiterates in the hook “I don’t think we can try to fight it / So, why are we together?” as if reaffirming to herself that she’s making the right decision in breaking up with someone who has so much in common with her.
“Picture in my mind” is a mastery of melancholy along with PinkPantheress’ closest dalliance to a full-fledged pop song which makes this track so interesting. It also helps that Sam Gellaitry’s vocals on the post-chorus and backing on the hook bring the sun to PinkPantheress’ sullen. Over a year into her career and PinkPantheress still hasn’t missed yet. — Demar Grant
Beyoncé: MOVE (feat. Grace Jones and Tems)
Beyoncé is back with a vengeance, but this time she wants us all on the dance floor — wherever your own dance floor may be. “Renaissance,” the artist’s highly anticipated seventh studio album, was released on July 29. Dedicated to her late Uncle Johnny, who died from complications with AIDS, the album is a love letter to the LGBTQ community, particularly the Black LGBTQIA community, that both created and influenced the sounds, styles and freedoms expressed on “Renaissance.”
A defining song on the album is “MOVE,” which features Nigerian singer Tems and queer model, actress and singer Grace Jones, over a Jamaican and West African bass-driven record. “MOVE” is all about falling in love with yourself and your community, about relishing in however you define and reclaim your independence as the song transitions from hard hitting rap to soft melodies. It showcases the powerhouse that is Beyoncé — who has no issue getting a nod from the likes of Jones — displaying her ability to make you want to move and to cry all within the same record. To move is to feel and feeling can elicit a variety of emotions — I think this explains the necessity of the album. She wants us to feel all we have withheld these past two years, while dancing out the pain and the stress. The state of being and being free within that state is the mission, and the result is a magical explosion of love and joy that ripples through the bodies of her listeners. Just make sure you “MOVE” out of her way in the process. — Annette Ejiofor
Maggie Rogers: That’s Where I Am
Maggie Rogers, the American singer-songwriter who was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 2019, is back with a new album: “Surrender.”
On first listen, I nearly had a jump scare, expecting her breezy vocals and background tracks, but was met with something else entirely, yet still familiar. Her sound has developed a new life, with deeper vocals and heavier instrumentals — far from her featherlight 2016 single, “Alaska,” that brought her mainstream success. But it works, especially for a project created during the stressors of the pandemic.
“Want Want” has more of her signature pop flavour, while “Anywhere With You” sinks deeper into her heart-wrenching slow tracks with a twist. But the real magic happens on “That’s Where I Am,” the second track on the album that feels like an introduction to this new iteration of the Maggie Rogers we have come to love.
Her 2017 single, “Dog Years,” has been my steady favourite, but “That’s Where I Am” might be coming for its throne. — Alessia Passafiume
Makaya McCraven: Dream Another
There’s typically a point midway through the summer — mid-August, lets say — when the energy shifts and things slow down just a little bit: the kinetic excitement of the season has dissipated, giving way to a lazier, more lethargic time that is shaded ever so slightly by the shortening days and a fleeting dread of the colder months to come.
“Dream Another,” the latest single from American jazz drummer and bandleader Makaya McCraven, manages to capture that feeling, at least in my imagination. The lightly psychedelic track, which layers sitar, flute and guitar over a killer bass line and shuffling drumbeat, is warm and inviting, its chords and melodies containing a cosy touch of melancholy. As the sun sets, throw this track on, go for a walk and just bask in it. — RA
Megan Thee Stallion: Ms. Nasty
Before she was a certified hit maker, Megan Thee Stallion was dropping her raunchiest raps over dreamy synths, ticking hit-hats, and booming 808’s on her early EP “Tina Snow.” She naturally changed her sound and what was once smooth became biting and the public loved it. But during the Tina Snow era, there was interesting juxtaposition that left Meg’s sound: slo-mo dreamscapes with dreamy synths crossed with satin-slick flow and lewd lyrics. It’s a totally unique combination of skill, style and production that only Meg approached and subtly mastered before moving to bigger things. “Ms. Nasty” is a revival that she acknowledges herself spitting “Young Tina Snow goin’ hot on the album” at the top of the track.
The bars are as bawdy as ever and the production just as surreal, showing that after all the hot girl summers, there’ll always be snow. — DG
TOBi: That’s Alright
TOBi is a shape-shifter. On his latest single, “That’s Alright,” the typically animated Toronto rapper and singer slows things down just a touch for a track that blends together a subtle Afrobeat rhythm with retro-sounding sax and keys that recall 90s-era Sade. “Girl I wanna show you love/ We’ve been blessed from above,” he sings in a sultry serenade.“I’m definitely influenced by my Nigerian heritage and my culture,” TOBi explained to the Star ahead of his performance at Manifesto. “I’m just mixing that with contemporary hip hop and R&B.” The result is smooth as butter. — RA
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