songs of the week

6 Best New Songs of the Week

Photo: Getty/Shutterstock

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.

Ariana Grande, “Better Off”
Ari’s understated new album Sweetener doesn’t provide the big ballads of Arianas past, instead striking a more reserved tone. She’s said she wanted to avoid the played out vocal gymnastics and instead explore an even wider range: emoting with a tool that isn’t her whistle register. “Better Off,” the only traditional-ish ballad on the album, if only because it has strings and moves slow, achieves that new balancing act. Ari comes across assured in shaking off a bad relationship (read: Mac Miller) but doesn’t rely on vocal tricks as evidence off her newfound sense of security or self-confidence. Simply laying out the facts — “on the road a lot, had to keep it a thousand / so that I’m better of not being around ya” — and delivering them with unwavering conviction does the job. Ariana has been criticized, in the past, for playing the pop star too robotically and leaving too much of herself out of her work; I’d argue that on Sweetener, and “Better Off” especially, she’s the most present she’s ever been. —Dee Lockett (@Dee_Lockett)

Beyoncé, “Wake Up”
Ariana Grande’s “R.E.M.” is cute or whatever — seriously! — but Beyoncé bodied her unreleased demo “Wake Up.” Rumored to have been left off a concept album she scrapped in favor of her self-titled album in 2013, “Wake Up” uses a Pharrell beat and features a surprise (crying) appearance from Blue Ivy Carter. Ariana kept the “Wake Up” chorus, but changed the lyrics and the song is the worse for it: “Ooh child! I can stop praying now,” Bey muses. With this song, same! –Hunter Harris (@hunteryharris)

Hermit and the Recluse, “Sirens”
At this point, it’s worth making a distinction between “New York rap” and “people who are from New York who make rap music.” Both are technically the same thing, but the latter category treats geography as happenstance. The city is a city, but it might not have any sonic bearing on the artist’s music. The former, on the other hand, is a cottage industry with varying viewpoints: old dudes wishing for the glory days of this city’s rap scene, young guys who didn’t get to experience the glory days of this city’s rap scene but want to re-create it now, and other guys who maybe got to experience it but are carving out their own distinct lane, rapping subtly over gritty loops. The rapper Ka, appearing here under the alias Hermit and the Recluse, pretty much exemplifies this move, and on “Sirens” and his other projects from his recent discography, he’s more or less given up on adding drums to the beats he raps over; instead, he tells intricate, complicated tales of loneliness and anger, of meditative sadness and simmering frustration. “Sirens,” along with the rest of his Orpheus vs. the Sirens album, is some of the most beautiful, rewarding music I’ve heard this year. —Sam Hockley-Smith (@shockleysmith)

Soccer Mommy, “I’m on Fire” (Bruce Springsteen cover)
There’s always been a slight sadness to to Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire.” All that sexual buildup leads to very little payoff and so we’re left with the Boss’s lyrical blue balls. But the desire he’s describing isn’t exclusively carnal; there’s a hunger for an even deeper connection that isn’t being reciprocated and it’s agonizing for him, mentally. Soccer Mommy, the Nashville singer-songwriter also known as Sophie Allison, bottles that anxiety in her woeful interpretation to great effect. The way she sings Springsteen’s words feels like this: You’re texting a crush, but it’s not just a crush— this is an all-consuming infatuation, and you’re waiting for a reply back, watching those three little dots in iMessage appear, disappear, then reappear again, and your heart is racing. And then it’s over. The ellipses stop forming and the blankness in their absence begins to feel like a full stop. Still no response. The conversation has ended for however long it takes them to start typing again. What are they thinking? What are they trying to say? Do they have nothing to say? Is this it? It’s that crushing anticipation — the gray unspoken territory — that was eating away at Springsteen all along. Soccer Mommy just exposes it. —DL

The Outfit, TX, “Rocket”
This morning, while running through Prospect Park, I felt like I was in the middle of a rain forest. The ground was wet, and everything smelled lush (don’t ask how something can “smell” lush — you know exactly what I mean). I was listening to an older release from the quietly prolific Dallas rap group The Outfit, TX, and though Dallas isn’t exactly known for its rain forest–like climate, it felt perfect. For as long as they’ve been around, one of The Outfit’s central appeals has been the way they cram Texas’s deep, and deeply stacked, rap history into songs that somehow manage to sound classic and progressive at the same time. If “Rocket” is your introduction to the group, you’ll only hear one voice: Outlaw Jayhawk rapping aggressively over a disorienting, crystalline synths. It’s worth more than a few compulsive rewinds. —SHS

Mitski, “A Pearl”
Have you ever felt personally victimized by Mitski? No, just me? Welp. “A Pearl,” the song I love most right this second from her stellar new album Be the Cowboy, is, for me, nothing but a prolonged slap in the face. A melodic oof. She’s describing a person who is in what sure sounds like a healthy relationship but unwilling to let it be because the toxins from old relationships won’t allow it and, honestly, you just couldn’t drag me harder. Resisting what’s good for us by getting caught up in our inability to let the past die there is all too familiar, and not just to me. When we’ve been deprived of happiness and a love that isn’t constantly draining, having it another way becomes foreign. It’s suspiciously easy, so the instinct isn’t to trust it. This is Mitski’s central problem: “It’s just that I fell in love with a war and nobody told me it ended.” Rebuilding isn’t that simple when you got too used to being broken. —DL

6 Best New Songs of the Week