Between May's randomness and June's endless heartbreak, I was beginning to think that July would be another moment of Summertime Sadness. Nevertheless, the artists of this week show that there is always a rainbow at the end of the storm. With the broken-hearted out of the way, room has been made for the fun ("Pink Noise"), the smiting ("Around), and the downright in love ("Sinner").
Get ready to turn up the heat with these latest hits that will be sure to reignite your summertime happiness.
"Pink Noise" - Laura Mvula
First of all: You're welcome.
Second of all: Thank you, Laura Mvula.
Everything this song is and everything this song tries to be is nothing short of excellent. Supreme. Top-notch and/or whatever whimsical adjective you fancy. This 80s-fueled dance pop track, "Pink Noise" will have you moving before the ten-second mark begins and you won't stop until long after it concludes. It's the fun summer song you've been looking for, long deprived of and my goodness it's a shame we haven't gotten it sooner. There's no denying that this song will have you hooked with its Janet Jackson and Grace Jones vibe. With its audacious trumpets and compelling vocals, "Pink Noise" is a summer hit I pray doesn't go ignored.
Also, if you're in the mood for a little self-care, treat yourself to Laura Mvula's newest album Pink Noise. Now available on all streaming platforms.
"The Jackie" - Bas ft. J. Cole & Lil Tjay
Juxtaposing their previous collaboration "Tribe," Dreamville's Bas and J. Cole return with a summertime hit made for the clubs. With the addition of rapper Lil Tjay, Bas and J. Cole share stories of their adventures while traveling along Jackie Robinson Highway, which connects Brooklyn and Queens ("The Jackie"). This song will definitely become a summer anthem. Between J. Cole's catchy hook and verse, Bas and Lil Tjay sing-song-esque melodious flow, the song is guaranteed to make you move. This is J. Cole's first appearance since dropping his latest acclaimed album, The Off-Season this past May. Meanwhile, Bas is rumored to be dropping an album later this year.
"Around" - JONES ft. Nardeydey
"Around" by JONES ft. Nardeydey perfectly captures and recreates the butterflies one gets in their stomach whenever a crush is near. It's the dopey grin you never knew you could make. The little giggle you're too embarrassed to release. It's the nervous feeling you get when you're uncertain if your crush feels the same. The excited feeling you get when you discover they do. It's incredibly cute. And it's the perfect summer vibe in a time where breakups seem endless. Perfect for a summer jam, "Around" is a charming, melodic tune worthy of being saved to your library.
"Get Up" - Logic
Logic returns from his short-lived retirement, with his second single in two weeks, "Get Up." In this reflective and acoustic-heavy single, Logic reflects on his journey and career as an artist. Focusing on his accomplishments, he gives recognition to his family, friends, and team for helping him get this far. Though, he is willing to also give some credit onto himself, crediting a lot of his success to his own determination, ambition, and perseverance. With lyrics like "every time I fall, you know I get up," Logic's new single "Get Up" is the motivational song you need for the summer.
YS Collection Vol.1 album, including single "Get Up," is now available on all streaming platforms.
"I Love You, I Hate You" - Little Simz
From the upcoming album Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, is Little Simz newest single, "I Love You, I Hate You." Reminiscent of 90s and 80s rap, Little Simz confronts her absent father over a grooving baseline and eccentric jazz track. Entering and leaving the chorus, she mentions that she loves her father, but because of the person he chooses to be she hates him. The verses are raw and impactful as she explains her resentment and hatred toward his absence and denial. Ultimately, she discovers that she must forgive her father for herself and that it is OK to simultaneously love and hate his existence.
Sometimes I Might Be Introvert will be released September 3, 2021.
"Day Off" - Cynthia Erivo
"Day Off" is the second single released from Cynthia Erivo's forthcoming album Ch. 1 vs. 1. Perfect for an early morning, or relaxing evening, this calming track is an alt-R&B song about making time to spend with a significant other. With Erivo melodiously requesting for one to take the day off, it's hard not to be allured by the soothing plea. By the time the song has concluded, you'll be so enraptured by the soul-stirring synth and tranquil vocals, you'll be compelled to do just as she asks.
Ch. 1 Vs. 1 will be released September 17, 2021.
"Make U Go" - Duckwrth
In his upcoming EP SuperGood 8, newly independent artist Duckwrth returns with single, "Make U Go." In his signature rap-singing flare, Duckwrth sings about the pleasures that he can give a woman, should he be given the opportunity to. Ever the confident one, Duckwrth assures her that she will have a great night, one worth bragging about to her friends. Though, despite his experience, she will not need to worry because despite his "thotty ways" she is the only one he wants to make go "ooh." This single is fun, relaxing, and the very song you need during this summer of break-ups. It's playful without being silly and smooth without being cocky.
Duckwrth's EP SuperGood 8 drops September 3, 2021.
"ARE YOU WITH THAT?" - Vince Staples
Having just released his self-titled album, Vince Staples returns with his second single, "ARE YOU WITH THAT?" In an album meant to offer fans and peers a new insight to who Staples truly is, "ARE YOU WITH THAT?" questions what Staples is down with and what he has outgrown. Throughout the song, he mentions gangbanging and violence nonchalantly and as a former aspiration. When he was younger, all Vince Staples imagined was being "a thug," now that he is older and wiser, he questions what he is willing to return to and the life that he now chooses to claim. With a more somber take, this song might not be a club sensation, but that's a sacrifice one is willing to take with a song of such substance.
Vince Staples, the album, including single "ARE YOU WITH THAT?," is now available on all streaming platforms.
"Go(l)d" - Mereba
"Go(l)d" is serene. Warm. Hopeful. And a little romantic. Beginning with a soft acoustic guitar and brooding rhythms, Mereba reflects on her journey and how she has changed during its travel. At the end of this journey, she has seen hardships, and she is unsure what everything she has seen means. Nevertheless, despite what she has seen and the confusion exploring the world has created, she manages to still "believe in gold" and the good things that the world has to offer. Doing so might make her crazy, nonsensical, or even a little naive, but in this new chapter of life (motherhood) a little faith can go a long way.
AZEB EP, including single "Gold?," is now available on all streaming platforms.
"Sinner" - Adekunle Gold ft. Lucky Daye
Nigerian singer-songwriter Adekunle Gold collaborates with Lucky Daye in his newest single "Sinner." Smoothly romantic, the song begins with a violin reminiscent of Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" only to later take a calming trance with the addition of drums and Adekunle Gold's melodious vocals. The song could easily fall into the a cliched romance about love being almost sinful, but with his entrancing instrumentals and a gentle, confident approach, the song is anything but. Instead, we are left with a something that reflects the peace one exudes when finding the one. This might be about sinner, but it isn't about one remorseful of their sin. Instead, Gold believes that if their relationship is sinful, he is more than happy to worship at this alter.
For more new music releases in the month of July so far, keep scrolling:
"Wild Side" - Normani ft. Cardi BNormani x Cardi B – “Wild Side” Out Now!Listen Here: https://smarturl.it/xWildSide Follow Normani:https://www.twitter.com/Normani https://www.facebook.com/n...
"Bouncin" - Tinashe
"F Yah Job" - Childish Major
"MIA" - Ray BLK ft. Kaash Paige
"Lonely As I Ever Was" - Spencer.
"Romeo" - Jungle ft. Bas
"Type of Day" - BJ the Chicago Kid
"My Lil Dance" - Hotboy Wes ft. Gucci Mane
"Nevada" - YoungBoy Never Broke Again
"Plastic Surgery" - YN Jay ft. Lil Pump
"Section" - Ant Clemons ft. Kehlani
"Fuck Him All Night" - Azealia Banks
"Whole Lotta Money (Remix)" - BIA ft. Nicki Minaj
"Wake Up" - Drumma Boy ft. Lil Got & Kollision
"Feeling Good" - Ledisi
"Worth It" - Mya
"Aura" - Mariah the Scientist
"Shirt (Partial)" - SZA
The 48:26 mark, thank us later.
"Good Good" - Tanerelle
"Gametime" - Amine & Lil Tecca
Featured image via Giphy
- New Music Releases This Week: Add to Playlist - xoNecole ... ›
- New Music Playlist: WILLOW, Tyler the Creator, Jorja Smith ... ›
Taysha Robinson is a writer and high school English teacher, based in metro-Atlanta. A self described philomath, you can find her reading books and articles of every genre, attending educational conferences, and hiking wherever the terrain will allow.
Amber Riley has the type of laugh that sticks with you long after the raspy, rhythmic sounds have ceased. It punctuates her sentences sometimes, whether she’s giving a chuckle to denote the serious nature of something she just said or throwing her head back in rip-roarious laughter after a joke. She laughs as if she understands the fragility of each minute. She chooses laughter often with the understanding that future joy is not guaranteed.
Credit: Ally Green
The sound of her laughter is rivaled only by her singing voice, an emblem of the past and the future resilience of Black women stretched over a few octaves. On Fox’s Glee, her character Mercedes Jones was portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as the vocal duel to Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), offering rough, full-throated belts behind her co-star’s smooth, pristine vocals. Riley’s always been more than the singer who could deliver a finishing note, though.
Portraying Effie White, she displayed the dynamic emotions of a song such as “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going” in Dreamgirls on London’s West End without buckling under the historic weight of her predecessors. With her instrument, John Mayer’s “Gravity” became a religious experience, a belted hymnal full of growls and churchy riffs. In her voice, Nicole Scherzinger once said she heard “the power of God.”
Credit: Ally Green
Riley’s voice has been a staple throughout pop culture for nearly 15 years now. Her tone has become so distinguishable that most viewers of Fox’s The Masked Singer recognized the multihyphenate even before it was revealed that she was Harp, the competition-winning, gold-masked figure with an actual harp strapped to her back.
Still, it wasn’t until recently that Riley began to feel like she’d found her voice. This sounds unbelievable. But she’s not referring to the one she uses on stage. She’s referencing the voice that speaks to who she is at her core. “Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind,” the 37-year-old says. “It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women. I got so comfortable in [doing so], and I really want other people, especially Black women, to get more comfortable in that space.”
“Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind. It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women."
If you ask Riley’s manager, Myisha Brooks, she’ll tell you the foundation of who the multihyphenate is hasn’t changed much since she was a kid growing up in Compton. “She is who she is from when I met her back when she was singing in the front of the church to back when she landed major roles in film and TV,” Brooks says. Time has allowed Riley to grow more comfortable, giving fans a more intimate glimpse into her life, including her mental health journey and the ins and outs of show business.
The actress/singer has been in therapy since 2019, although she suffered from depression and anxiety way before that. In a recent interview with Jason Lee, she recalls having suicidal ideation as a kid. By the time she started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants in her thirties, her body had become jittery, a physical reminder of the trauma stacked high inside her. “I was shaking in [my therapist’s] office,” she tells xoNecole. “My fight or flight was on such a high level. I was constantly in survival mode. My heart was beating fast all the time. All I did was sweat.”
There wasn’t just childhood trauma to account for. After auditioning for American Idol and being turned away by producers, Riley began working for Ikea and nearly missed her Glee audition because her car broke down on the highway while en route. Thankfully, Riley had been cast to play Mercedes Jones. American Idol had temporarily convinced her she wasn’t cut out for the entertainment industry, but this was validation that she was right where she belonged. Glee launched in 2009 with the promise of becoming Riley’s big break.
In some ways, it was. The show introduced Riley to millions of fans and catapulted her into major Hollywood circles. But in other ways, it became a reminder of the types of roles Black women, especially those who are plus-sized, are relegated to. Behind the scenes, Riley says she fought for her character "to have a voice" but eventually realized her efforts were useless. "It finally got to a point where I was like, this is not my moment. I'm not who they're choosing, and this is just going to have to be a job for me for now," she says. "And, that's okay because it pays my bills, I still get to be on television, I'm doing more than any other Black plus-sized women that I'm seeing right now on screen."
The actress can recognize now that she was navigating issues associated with trauma and low self-esteem at the time. She now knows that she's long had anxiety and depression and can recognize the ways in which she was triggered by how the cult-like following of the show conflicted with her individual, isolated experiences behind the scenes. But she was in her early '20s back then. She didn't yet have the language or the tools to process how she was feeling.
Riley says she eventually sought out medical intervention. "When you're in Hollywood, and you go to a doctor, they give you pills," she says, sharing a part of her story that she'd never revealed publicly before now. "[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that's not fixing my problem. If anything, it's making it worse."
“[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that’s not fixing my problem. If anything it’s making it worse.”
Credit: Ally Green
At one point, while in her dressing room on set, she rested her arm on a curling iron without realizing it. It wasn't until her makeup artist alerted her that she even realized her skin was burning. Once she noticed, she says she was "so zonked out on pills" that she barely reacted. Speaking today, she holds up her arm and motions towards a scar that remains from the incident. She sought help for her reliance on the pills, but it would still be years before she finally attended therapy.
This stress was only compounded by the trauma of growing up in poverty and the realities of being a "contract worker." "Imagine going from literally one week having to borrow a car to get to set to the next week being on a private jet to New York City," she says. After Glee ended, so did the rides on private planes. The fury of opportunities she expected to follow her appearance on the show failed to materialize. She wasn't even 30 yet, and she was already forced to consider if she'd hit her career peak.
. . .
We’re only four minutes into our Zoom call before Riley delivers her new adage to me. “My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway,” she says.
On this Thursday afternoon in April, the LA-based entertainer is seated inside her closet/dressing room wearing a cerulean blue tank top with matching shorts and eating hot wings. This current phase of healing hinges on balance. It’s about having discipline and consistency, but not at the risk of inflexibility. She was planning to head to the gym, for instance, but she’s still tired from the “exhausting” day before. Instead, she’s spent her day receiving a massage, eating some chicken wings, and planning to spend quality time with friends. “I’m not going to beat myself up for it. I’m not going to talk down to myself. I’m going to eat my chicken wings, and then tomorrow I’m [back] in the gym,” she says.
“My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway."
This is the balance with which she's been approaching much of her life these days. It's why she's worried less about whether or not people see her as someone who is humble. She'd rather be respected. "I think you should be a person that's easy to work with, but in the moments where I have to ruffle feathers and make waves, I'm not shying away from that anymore. You can do it in love, you don't have to be nasty about it, but I had to finally be comfortable with the fact that setting boundaries around my life – in whatever aspect, whether that's personal or business – people are not going to like it. Some people are not going to have nice things to say about you, and you gotta be okay with it," she says.
When Amber talks about the constant humbling of Black women in Hollywood, I think of the entertainers before her who have suffered from this. The brilliant, consistent, overqualified Black women who have spoken of having to fight for opportunities and fair pay. Aretha Franklin. Viola Davis. Tracee Ellis Ross. There's a long list of stars whose success hasn't mirrored their experiences behind the scenes.
Credit: Ally Green
If Black women outside of Hollywood are struggling to decrease the pay gap, so, too, are their wealthier, more famous peers.
Riley says there’s been progress in recent years, but only in small ways and for a limited group of people. “This business is exhausting. The goalpost is constantly moving, and sometimes it’s unfair,” she says. But, I have to say it’s the love that keeps you going.”
“There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman,” she continues. “We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
"There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman. We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
Last year, Riley starred alongside Raven Goodwin in the Lifetime thriller Single Black Female (a modern, diversified take on 1992’s Single White Female). It was more than a leading role for the actress, it also served as proof that someone who looks like her can front a successful project without it hinging on her identity. It showcased that the characters she portrays don’t “have to be about being a big girl. It can just be a regular story.”
Riley sees her work in music as an extension of her efforts to push past the rigid stereotypes in entertainment. Take her appearance on The Masked Singer, for instance. Riley said she decided to perform Mayer’s “Gravity” after being told she couldn’t sing it years earlier. “I wanted to do ‘Gravity’ on Glee. [I] was told no, because that’s not a song that Mercedes would do,” she says. “That was a full circle moment for me, doing that on that show and to hear what it is they had to say.”
As Scherzinger praised the “anointed” performance, a masked Riley began to cry, her chest heaving as she stood on stage, her eyes shielded from view. “You have to understand, I have really big names – casting directors, producers, show creators – that constantly tell me ‘I’m such a big fan. Your talent is unmatched.’ Hire me, then,” she says, reflecting on the moment.
Recently, she’s been in the studio working on original music, the follow-up to her independently-released debut EP, 2020’s Riley. The sequel to songs such as the anthemic “Big Girl Energy” and the reflective ballad “A Moment” on Riley, this new project hones in on the singer’s R&B roots with sensual grooves such as the tentatively titled “All Night.” “You said I wasn’t shit, turns out that I’m the shit. Then you called me a bitch, turns out that I’m that bitch. You said no one would want me, well you should call your homies,” she sings on the tentatively titled “Lately,” a cut about reflecting on a past relationship. From the forthcoming project, xoNecole received five potential tracks. Fans likely already know the strengths and contours of Riley’s vocals, but these new songs are her strongest, most confident offerings as an artist.
“I am so much more comfortable as a writer, and I know who I am as an artist now. I’m evolving as a human being, in general, so I’m way more vulnerable in my music. I’m way more willing to talk about whatever is on my mind. I don’t stop myself from saying what it is I want to say,” she says.
Credit: Ally Green
“Every era and alliteration of Amber, the baseline is ‘Big Girl Energy.’ That’s the name of her company,” her manager Brooks says, referencing the imprint through which Riley releases her music after getting out of a label deal several years ago. “It’s just what she stands for. She’s not just talking about size, it’s in all things. Whether it’s putting your big girl pants on and having to face a boardroom full of executives or sell yourself in front of a casting agent. It’s her trying to achieve the things she wants to do in life.”
Riley says she has big dreams beyond releasing this new music, too. She’d love to star in a rom-com with Winston Duke. She hasn't starred in a biopic yet, but she’d revel in the opportunity to portray Rosetta Tharpe on screen. She’s determined that her previous setbacks won’t stop her from dreaming big.
“I think one of my superpowers is resilience because, at the end of the day, I’m going to kick, scream, cry, cuss, be mad and disappointed, but I’m going to get up and risk having to deal with it all again. It’s worth it for the happy moments,” she says.
If Riley seems more comfortable and confident professionally, it’s because of the work she’s been doing in her personal life.
She’d previously spoken to xoNecole about becoming engaged to a man she discovered in a post on the site, but she called things off last year. For Valentine’s Day, she revealed her new boyfriend publicly. “I decided to post him on Valentine’s Day, partially because I was in the dog house. I got in trouble with him,” she says, half-joking before turning serious. “The breakup was never going to stop me from finding love. Or at least trying. I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness, and you enjoy it and work through it.”
Credit: Ally Green
"I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness and you enjoy it and work through it.”
With her ex, Riley was pretty outspoken about her relationship, even appearing in content for Netflix with him. This time around is different. She’s not hiding her boyfriend of eight months, but she’s more protective of him, especially because he’s a father and isn’t interested in becoming a public figure.
She’s traveling more, too. It’s a deliberate effort on her part to enjoy her money and reject the trauma she’s developed after experiencing poverty in her childhood. “I live in constant fear of being broke. I don’t think you ever don’t remember that trauma or move past that. Now I travel and I’m like, listen, if it goes, it goes. I’m not saying [to] be reckless, but I deserve to enjoy my hard work.”
After everything she’s been through, she certainly deserves to finally let loose a bit. “I have to have a life to live,” she says. “I’ve got to have a life worth fighting for.”
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Singer and actress Janelle Monáe exemplifies how change can be a powerful catalyst for growth and transformation.
Monáe, who rose to fame in 2010 following the release of her debut album, The ArchAndroid, captivated fans' hearts with her powerful vocals, catchy tunes, and style. Around that time period, when various female artists were known to wear provocative ensembles on stage, the "Tightrope" songstress set herself apart by wearing her signature black and white suits and continued to do so for almost a decade.
In the later years of her career, after the release of her studio albums The Electric Lady in 2013 and 2018's Dirty Computer, many began to notice the shift in Monáe's artistry and fashion, which some widely praised.
Although the now 37-year-old rarely addressed the reason behind the transformation over the years, that would all change when Monáe sat down with radio personality Angie Martinez on her IRL podcast earlier this month.
During the interview, Monáe --who was promoting her latest album, "The Age of Pleasure"-- opened up about her mental health struggles, how she would cope, and why she chose to live in freedom.
Janelle On Why She Stopped Wearing Her Signature Suits All the Time
Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
In the May discussion, the "I Like That" vocalist revealed she suffers from anxiety, which she claimed would occur around "winter to spring."
Monáe added that when she has her bouts with anxiety, she tends to turn to food as a coping mechanism. Further in the interview, the "Lipstick Lover" singer disclosed that her emotional eating habits caused a weight fluctuation and that she could no longer fit into the suits she once wore earlier in her career.
Monáe explained that even though she tried to diet and exercise to return to her smaller figure, she ultimately stopped and made peace with herself with the help of therapy because she acknowledged that she isn't the same person she was nearly a decade ago and shouldn't try to be even if it was a highly "celebrated" version.
"I'm petite, but it can get thick... When I couldn't fit them suits anymore, and I was like, 'Oh my God, what is going on?' I would be dieting, running, or exercising, trying to fit into [it]. I'm just like, 'No. No, we're here. This is where we are.' We [are] not about to be utilizing life trying to be an old version of ourselves. No matter how celebrated that version of me was. I'm here. I'm here," she said.
Janelle On Freedom
As the topic shifted to freedom and what that meant to Monáe, the "Primetime" vocalist shared that in this new era of her life, she enjoys it because she can boldly express herself however she wants and honor who she is as a person right now.
Monáe also revealed that she had found ways to become a better artist and the best version of herself because of her freedom.
"What is the new version of freedom? What does that feel like? That's usually when I feel the most free is when artistically, I can honor exactly who I am right now," she stated. "I feel most free as a human when I can honor exactly who I am right now."
Monáe's fourth studio album, The Age of Pleasure, is set to be released on June 9.
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