Dawn Richard slowly progressed as a solo artist, escaping the shadow of her days as a member of Danity Kane with last year’s sinewy take on electro-R&B, Blackheart. At some point (hopefully soon) she’ll release RED*emp*tion, that album’s follow-up, and she’s teased us with singles throughout 2016. First came “Not Above That,” then “Honest” and “Wake Up.” Now comes the bright “Cali Sun,” as straightforward an aim into pop as Richard has shown herself willing to go. That’s not to say “Cali Sun” seeks the lowest common denominator – the song is full of flourishes that remind us of Richard’s singular vision – but it features a melody and chorus that’s a far cry from hushed devastation of those early singles “Not Above That” and “Honest.” There’s a warmth here that even the jittery percussion can’t break, as D∆wn rises above, staring boldly straight into the sun.
Listen to the full version of “Cali Sun” via Apple Music.
For other great new music from D∆wn, check out her feature on the recently released Machinedrum single “Do It 4 U,” also via Apple Music.
Back in 2013, Italians Do It Better-affiliate Twisted Wires shared “Half Lives” as part of the label’s After Dark 2 compilation. Some three-plus years later, the enigmatic act returns with a double-single, “0000” and “Struck Twice,” which is a reworked version of their excellent After Dark 2 single.
The single is available through Italians Do It Better – and comes with instrumentals and club mixes of both tracks. Purchase here.
The Royal They is a New York-based punk rock band set to release their debut, self-titled cassette (!) later this month. Over the last year, they’ve released the tracks “Sex in a Public Place,” “Full Metal Black,” “Laurels” and “Lyric Machine,” as well as “Kamikaze,” which is getting re-released as their record’s lead single. The song is true to its title, a blazing fireball that is anchored by a frenzied, composed rhythm section and an uninhibited, fearless vocal. “I’ll rip right through your body,” they repeatedly sing before doing just that. You can’t say they didn’t warn you.
The Royal They is out September 24 via King Pizza.
The best rap songs are all about the art of storytelling. Recently, artists such as YG and Kendrick Lamar have perfected the art, and in the past, artists like Tupac, Notorious B.I.G. and OutKast all engrossed listeners with their vivid storytelling. Young Dolph knows this lineage, and the opening track of the recently released Rich Crack Baby deftly operates on the line between club banger and storyteller. “In My System” has a simple hook – “I got cocaine running through my motherfuckin’ system” – yet Dolph and Baton Rouge native Boosie BadAzz populate the hardened track with enough personality and specificities to help it transcend its basic hook. “I clocked in when I was 12 and never clocked out,” raps Dolph at one point, before pointedly rapping, “Tell me what you was doin’ when you was 2, nigga / Did you know what was a straight shooter, nigga?” After being born into a narcotic lifestyle – like the best storytelling – Dolph finds redemption. “Mom and daddy, they doin’ good now / Nowadays they tellin’ me stay out the hood now,” raps Dolph on the third verse as the script flips. As much as they want to keep him out, it’s already in his system.
Listen to Rich Crack Baby via Apple Music.
Dissecting the 2016 MTV VMAs biggest winners and losers.
Watching a replay of Beyoncé’s epic performance at the 2016 MTV VMAs – where she performed a medley of cuts from the excellent Lemonade – I’m hard pressed to think of a comparison that does her justice. First, I likened her to Steph Curry draining 3s, but even he isn’t hitting 100% of his shots. Her B.F.F. Serena Williams? As far ahead of the pack as she is, she still loses a game here and there. No, her dominance is more like watching Usain Bolt sprint into a pool and then turn into Katie Ledecky for the final 100m. And then, when they got to the podium, instead of standing on it, they smashed it with a Louisville Slugger.
Sunday night was the latest example that Beyoncé – like another sporting great, LeBron James – isn’t competing against her peers as much as she is the legendary acts she’s followed. Beyoncé was in such complete command of the stage Sunday night it relegated Rihanna to house band status, froze Britney and scared Taylor Swift from even showing up. As Beyoncé finished her spectacular performance with a rousing rendition of “Formation,” her litany of back-up dancers fell to the floor in the symbol of Venus. Even with all her masterstrokes, she’s still capably of painting an even bigger picture – taking a cue from another member of her class. She’s the artist formerly known as Beyoncé. You can call her Queen.
Better luck next year. (Although it will probably be all about Gaga.)
Watch Beyoncé’s Lemonade medley via MTV’s Facebook page.
Local Natives will release Sunlit Youth September 9 via Loma Vista, and have shared a fourth cut prior to the album’s release. “Coins” is once again anchored by Taylor Rice’s sun-kissed vocals, and the synths that come in during the chorus counter with a washed out bliss. Gorilla Manor and Hummingbird have both proven to be albums with lasting appeal, and they are staying comfortably in their own lane with the prerelease singles for Sunlit Youth. And on “Coins,” they prove just how much currency their sound still has left.
Emotion‘s deluxe edition already featured 17 original songs, so the thought of more material to add to (and cap off) the Emotion era is overwhelming and gratifying. But that’s just what Carly Rae Jepsen delivered with Emotion Side B, an eight-track collection of songs left on Emotion‘s cutting room floor. While Emotion side A remains perfect the way it is, this collection goes to show just how inspired the recording sessions were for her 2015 LP. The album has some serious highlights in tracks like “Higher,” “Cry,” and my personal favorite, “Fever.” The song first appeared as a special Japan-only cut on Emotion Remixed (along with “First Time”), and sparkles with an 80s nostalgia, much like the best cuts from Emotion. “You wanna break my heart,” Jepsen cooly dissects on the chorus. It’s all right, cause she’s “got your fever, I’ll be feeling it forever.” Us too, CRJ. Us too.
Listen to Emotion Side B via Apple Music.