Every week Vulture highlights the best new music. If the song is worthy of your ears and attention, you will find it here. Read our picks below, share yours in the comments, and subscribe to the Vulture Playlist for a comprehensive guide to the year’s best music.
Willow Smith, “Boy”
Willow Smith gets it. Willow Smith is it, and she’s a Gen-Z sage, as evidenced by her beautiful, dreamy new album The 1st. I would call it “surprising,” but if you’ve been following the youngest Smith’s evolving musical identity since the days of “Whip My Hair,” you know she’s been steadily putting out lovely, strange, and flat-out impressive jams for years — despite being just 17. In a full album of delights, “Boy” stands out as a ridiculously perfect youth ballad. It’s autobiographical (“I come from a cluster of super bright stars, and probably to him it feels scary to reach that far”). It’s angsty (“Hey mom I met a boy, he’s super sad. But I think that I love him. Is that bad?”), and it’s filled with teenage insecurity.
Smith’s proverbial Boy of course plays guitar, likes Quentin Tarantino, and wakes up to panic attacks, but the rich, beautiful, and preternaturally talented Girl (herself) who sings about exploring galaxies is still afraid he thinks she’s boring. But beyond youthful agita, Smith has managed to tap into some timeless truths about the beauty and pain of relationships: “Anxiety attacks when I wake up in the morning. Dude, how come this is wack? Is love just torment?” Give me more of these transcendental lullabies, but next time in that inexplicable British accent. —Jordan Crucchiola (@jorcru)
Sam Smith,”Midnight Train”
You’re going to want to hate “Midnight Train” because it’s the spitting image of Radiohead’s “Creep.” That’s fine. But what’s the point of hating a gorgeous rip-off of an already gorgeous song? He certainly didn’t make the original worse. Even if Smith faces another lawsuit for this (he also once borrowed a little too much from Tom Petty), consider the trouble worth it. The song also gets better if you imagine Smith purposely did this just to further troll Radiohead, a band he will probably still tell you he doesn’t know. —Dee Lockett (@Dee_Lockett)
Statik Selektah ft. Run the Jewels, “Put Jewels on It”
Killer Mike and El-P use their best ’90s New York flows on Statik Selektah’s “Put Jewels on It,” from his upcoming album 8. “Hey Statik, meet me at Max Fish, man, like 2 a.m.,” El-P begins in the intro, giving a nod to his favorite Lower East Side bar before launching into a classically wordy verse. Combined with the beat — which in true Statik Selektah fashion, is packed with scratches, samples, and driven by a DJ Premier–inspired bass line — El’s “lyrical miracle” style rapping could turn the song into a work of ’90s “real hip-hop” pastiche. But as he always does, Killer Mike restores equilibrium in the second verse, loosening the song’s rigid tone with his Dirty South twang, while managing to keep up with El’s lyrical complexity. “Put Jewels on It” proves, once again, that this sense of balance is what makes Run the Jewels work so well. On their own, El and Mike are good, but together they are practically untouchable. As Killer Mike says on the track, “I only trust Jamie, I don’t trust nobody / And if you fuck with him, bullet holes in yo’ body.” —Corinna Burford (@coriburford)
You want to root for Shamir. He was supposed to be a leader among a new wave of genre-less, gender-ambivalent, indie-ish artists, but that was never the image he wanted. After his 2015 debut album, Shamir said to hell with being an industry puppet, retreated to Philly, had a mental breakdown, then reemerged earlier this year with a whole new sound. This is not an artist who wants to be defined, but he has leaped into a hole carved out by the lo-fi collective. He’s now making bedroom punk, sort of. His second album this year, Revelations, is a scatterbrained, no-budget, awful, mesmerizing half-hour view inside the mind of an artist who, if nothing else, at least feels free. The project sounds like what you expect working through the worst episodes of mental illness — Shamir had a suicide attempt and was recently institutionalized — might produce. A lot of the album dances around that subject, but “Blooming” is his fight song. “I’m too strong to just lay down and die,” he sing-chants over some straightforward guitar and drums. Like I said, it’s hard not to root for him. —DL
Tom Misch, “Movie”
Sometimes you just need some sentimental, slow-moving white soul, you know? —JC
Damn, Yaeji really knows how to construct a vibe. The New York producer-rapper known for her international vision of what deep house can sound like has a tremendous new EP out. You might’ve heard her Drake cover of “Passionfruit” from it, or the intoxicating “drink i’m sipping on.” I now direct your attention to “raingurl,” a Korean-English stripper’s anthem. Hear this song and know that it might send your body twerking on over to the nearest pole, and that’s okay. Just let the thrusting beat take you where you didn’t know you needed to go. —DL