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.
Kanye and Kid Cudi, “Reborn”
We’ve been talking about suicide a lot around these parts because of recent high-profile losses, but it’s a subject that’ll never die. It shouldn’t. We should always be talking about what it’s like to lose the will to live, to feel suffocated by sadness, to be consumed by nothingness. Kid Cudi has made a career of talking about his mental health. I can’t think of another rapper who has been as candid as he has about seeking treatment to keep himself alive. But not everyone has the language or peace of mind to process what they’ve been through once they’ve pulled themselves out of depression. Kanye and Cudi have never been experts at synthesizing these experiences into music — it’s messy, so it sounds that way. But on Kids See Ghosts, and on “Reborn” especially, they’re doing their best.
Kanye is able to look back on his rock bottom with some clarity and unpack what it’s meant to deal with private demons in public hell: “I was off the meds, I was called insane / What an awesome thing, engulfed in shame,” he raps. That is perhaps the realest thing Kanye has said this entire album cycle. It’s easy to strip a guy like Kanye of his humanity — and even he sees his bipolar disorder as an enhancement to that humanity — and dismiss him for crazy. But, as we saw last week, mental illness doesn’t give a damn about celebrity or ego. “Reborn”’s power, then, is in its therapy: When Cudi chants “keep moving forward,” it’s just a simple affirmation, but simple is what’s needed when the mind is clouded in confusion. Hearing it from two famous men in recovery makes the message all the more vital. I want the best for Kanye and Cudi, but it’s better to see them want it for themselves. —Dee Lockett (@Dee_Lockett)
Christina Aguilera ft. GoldLink, “Like I Do”
One day soon my neighbors will come knocking on my door, asking me to please turn down the Xtina song I have on repeat. I will not comply. “Like I Do,” produced by Anderson.Paak, is a bop! It’s smooth and slinky, and exactly what I needed to renew faith in Christina’s forthcoming album. GoldLink’s verse isn’t a stunner, but it’s an ample precursor for Xtina to “make this simple for you, lay it out on the table for you.” She’s at the height of her powers here, putting a new guy — and the rest of us — in his place. “You were raised in all my glory,” she reminds. Mrs. Aguilera, are you trying to seduce us? It’s working. —Hunter Harris (@hunteryharris)
Snail Mail, “Golden Dream”
Snail Mail reminds me of my youth. Not just because Lindsey Jordan, the woman behind the project, is a teenager herself. Her songs capture that unmistakable attitude of the young: incomplete, flustered thoughts, mood swings, and so much meaning in every little thing. There’s all this weight attached to everything, but the pressure mostly falls on yourself. When you’re young, you don’t know how to stop blaming yourself for things you can’t control. Jordan ends this song by calling herself stupid for investing too much energy on a path leading to a dead end. It’s sad and it makes me a little sad for her, but also excited because I’m old enough to know she’ll snap out of this shit real soon. –DL
Shannon Shaw, “Freddies ‘n’ Teddies”
Shannon Shaw’s throwback-classic voice has somehow hidden under the mainstream radar, toiling away in charismatic Bay Area bands like the Clams, and Hunx and his Punx. With Shannon in Nashville, she went for the Dan Auerbach treatment; his crackling production and crisp horns create a tight record of Amy Winehouse songs done to a two-step country rhythm. To get it, she traded in the punk grit, which is fine, but unfortunately she also ditched the camp of her old world, too, leaving a record of straight-ahead lovesick cuts. But on “Freddies ‘n’ Teddies,” her malted-milk, Americana humor shines through the Auerbach patina. Through the Morricone strings and the lovely new bells-and-whistles, there’s Shaw with a hand-on-hip frustration, a phone call away from ditching her fumbling boy for the “other Freddies and Teddies lining up at my gate.” It’s a moment to love on a record of heartache. —Matt Stieb (@MatthewStieb)
Khalid and H.E.R., “This Way”
Put Khalid with a female vocalist and the result is liquid gold. We heard it when he teamed up with Normani on “Love Lies,” one of the best songs of the year, which was for the Love, Simon soundtrack. Now he’s back with a different woman, on a different soundtrack: Khalid and his fellow SoundCloud R&B veteran H.E.R. join forces for Future’s actually good Superfly soundtrack on this bitter ballad about two exes who resent wasting time on each other. It’s like eavesdropping on a public breakup on the sidewalk, where a couple is seeing who can intentionally hurt the other the worst. Khalid and H.E.R. are so nasty to each other — “You’ll never change / just another fight between you and your pride,” she tells him — but damn do they sound sublime tearing each other apart. –DL