1) Eminem – Walk on Water (feat. Beyoncé)
Earlier this year, Jay-Z proved that rap isn’t just a young man’s game, producing a masterpiece in 4:44. But he’s not the only one making a statement – this fortnight saw the grand return of music legend Eminem, delivering the first single for album REVIVAL alongside a subtly placed marketing campaign. Walk on Water subverts all expectations – there’s no Skylar Grey, there’s no drums, and Em’s not rapping fast. Instead, Shady delivers a heart-wrenching account of the problems of living up to legacy. On the Beyonce-assisted track, Em is both angry and resigned – over the sounds of paper tearing, he raps “And I try not to listen to nonsense / But if you bitches are tryin’ to strip me of my confidence / Mission accomplished / I’m not God-sent”. The track is brought together by a stunning hook from Beyoncé, creating a masterful look at Slim’s current life. If you haven’t given it a listen, you’re missing out.
2) Kimbra – Top of the World
The curse of the sophomore was strong with Kimbra. Whilst her debut album was a colourful take on pop, its follow-up went backwards, seeing the singer-songwriter fall into overdone sounds. My interest in Kimbra had all but faded: she had failed to take the creative risks I had come to associate with her. This is why Top of the World is such a nice surprise – Kimbra is once again at her most creative. Over a Glass Animals-inspired series of tribal hums and drums, Kimbra uses her unique vocal talents to inhabit a number of different vocal tones. As the track’s beat shifts from tribal to laid-back, Kimbra shifts too, switching from raspier calls to a more traditional smooth tone. This track is vivid, experimental and wholly fantastic.
3) Bjork – Blissing Me
Blissing Me is the latest single from Bjork’s upcoming record, Union, and boy does it deliver. Dwelling in the same laid-back tones as Vespertine, this new track is beautifully soothing. The track’s instrumentation is serene and blissful, plucks conjuring images of beautiful glades and forests. If this wasn’t enough, Bjork’s sweet melodies inhabit the track’s background, adding further beauty to the already-gorgeous instrumentation. The track follows a similar narrative to Headphones (from 1995’s Post), detailing the love of two “music nerds”, as she aptly puts it. It is, to be frank, absolutely stunning.
4) Jaden Smith – Icon
Living up to your dad’s legacy is always difficult. Especially if your dad is Will Smith. Jaden remains determined to do so on his debut album SYRE, which dropped last Friday. Featuring a fantastic sample from Cab Calloway’s The Hi De Ho Man, ICON is an undeniable banger and a clear stand-out from the record. Jaden here is confident and full of fire, bringing out the brag-rap with powerful delivery – “I am just an icon living / Start a record label? MSFTS just did it.” Despite Jaden’s polarising nature, ICON is surprisingly fantastic and bodes well for his future career.
5) Yung Lean – Agony
If there was any doubt about Lean’s progress as an artist, it’s now gone. Yung Lean’s virality had always been a part of his success, but on Stranger (his latest LP), Lean truly establishes himself as an artist. Soulful track Agony is truly exemplary of this. This is a song ravaged by loneliness: its pianos are out of tune, its vocals blunt but cold. Amidst the desolation, Lean paints his experiences of psychotic episodes and isolation, describing the pain of watching “horses in the fields” and “flying kites reaping” outside his hospital window. As the track comes to a close, Lean is joined by an Icelandic Children’s Choir, adding a haunting childishness to his seclusion – “Isolation caved in / I adore you, the sound of your skin”.