meta-scriptA.G. Cook & The Art Of A Perfect Pop Song | GRAMMY.com

A.G. Cook

Photo: Alaska Reid & Julian Buchan

news

A.G. Cook & The Art Of A Perfect Pop Song

The prolific pop experimentalist, producer and PC Music founder talks to GRAMMY.com about his forthcoming album 'Apple,' covering Smashing Pumpkins and a brief history of auto-tune

GRAMMYs/Sep 6, 2020 - 05:48 pm

On the phone, producer and musician A.G. Cook sounds exactly like his pop creations—cheerful, accessible and eager to race off on a tangent to explore the next new shiny idea that comes his way. Smashing Pumpkins, Cher, and Theodor Adorno chime and dance and spiral around each other as he talks about making music that hooks you with a fuzzy bath of odd angles.

Cook's best known as the founder of the PC Music label, and for producing Charli XCX's last string of critically acclaimed albums. He's mostly been content to let other artists headline his upbeat, eclectic, warped productions. But that's all changed this year with the release of his album Apple (out on Sept. 18), preceded by a seven-CD set (!) called 7G of new songs, covers, experiments and irrepressible everything. We talked about pop music, auto-tune, and what it's like being the headliner for the first time.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

<style>.embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; }</style><div class='embed-container'><iframe src='https://www.youtube.com/embed/h86aRWFnXhg' frameborder='0' allowfullscreen></iframe></div>

You've released so much music this year! This seven CD 7G set, the Apple album; the Charli XCX album How I'm Feeling Now. You have a collaboration with Jonsi coming out. How on earth have you managed to do all this?

I actually finished the Apple album about a year ago. And I was just looking for the right way to contextualize it. And then with the 7G stuff, some of it was done kind of recently, but it's really an exploration of all the sounds that went into Apple. It's a time travel look at things I've been exploring since day one, since seven years ago when I was starting to do this full-time.

Obviously I'm fairly prolific and work with different people. But also I just thought it was the most true version of me to be quite saturated and seeing things from many different angles at the same time. That just felt like the right way to  do a debut.

Were you influenced by COVID and being forced to bunker down at home?

Elements of 7G for sure have a bit of this sort of COVID headspace. I've noticed that me and friends of mine—just having our time organized so differently meant getting deeper into weirder music or music that would actually take up more of your time.

You know, normally, I'd be like in an Uber hearing music on the radio and engaging with pop music in that way. But now I'm falling into the more eclectic side of streaming or even classical music. Suddenly, that all seems a little more approachable, and you end up enjoying the escapism of these slightly more epic projects.

So I think that also gave me the confidence to release it all at once. Rather than 7G being a big series or something, I tried to rationalizes this as an actual album. Because I think that's how I'm digesting music at the moment.

<style>.embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; }</style><div class='embed-container'><iframe src='https://www.youtube.com/embed/X0lzMJufNUk' frameborder='0' allowfullscreen></iframe></div>

These are your first full-length releases under your own name. Is that very different than collaborating with others on their album?

Not really. A lot of the people I work with I'm fairly close to. And other people feed into my music too, so their voices appear and disappear even if I'm kind of up front. So I definitely try and keep some of the collaborative vibe.

I'm always writing little songs and recording into my computer and doing that with friends and passing the mic around. I've always had this diary-entry form where I'll come back to a thing that reminds me of something or a song file I started a few years ago and be like, "Oh, this still resonates with me. Maybe I need to look into this properly."

It is you singing on most of these tracks, right? On Apple the songs "Lifeline" and "Oh Yeah," that's your voice?

Yeah. "Lifeline" sort of evolves into Caroline Polachek's vocal by the end. But it's mainly my vocal. In a lot of the songs on both albums you hear me playing with my voice and seeing either how polished I can get it or how raw.

The whole notion of recording your own voice or hearing your own voice back I think is sort of fun. I like the freedom that sometimes I've done loads of work to it, sometimes it's sort of just as it is.

On  "Oh Yeah," the vocal is almost ridiculously upfront. It's not meant to be fully humorous, but it's meant to be very human. You can hear my voice sort of trying to catch up with the melodies.

<style>.embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; }</style><div class='embed-container'><iframe src='https://www.youtube.com/embed/koI7IRSjfxc' frameborder='0' allowfullscreen></iframe></div>

One of the songs I was surprised to see you cover on 7G was the Smashing Pumpkings' "Today."

There's certain kinds of hooks that I'm just drawn to. I always heard the main riff as a Sigur Ros thing. It's got this interesting thing with the chord shifting—the chords barely repeat in that song.

"Jumper" on Apple seemed to pick up some of the melody of "Today." Was that intentional?

"Jumper" was me thinking about that kind of guitar song and how bendy it could be be. There's a guitar solo on there that's actually a vocal, but it's been produced pretty much like a guitar. We were actually putting this guitar sampler through auto-tune and letting it glitch out. We were swapping all the traditional effects that you'd normally have on guitars and vocals basically in that one.

Is pop a particular genre of music, do you think, or is it just whatever is on the pop charts?

I don't know how I feel about pop being used in a really strict genre sense. I've heard this term pop classicism used to describe, Gaga, Carly Rae Jepsen, Taylor Swift and Charli to some extent. And that does represent a sound. But there's also hip-hop dominating the charts, other things through TikTok—all kinds of genres, really. And all of those, to me still feel like pop music.

I think the thing that actually unites pop is the concise approach. Fitting things into three minutes or less, having a song structure that lends itself to being understood really easily, having hooks and different forms of hooks through sounds and noises.

I don't know if it's to do with songwriting, but it's this idea that the whole song is actually communicating one thing through the mood of the music and what the lyrics are doing and the sounds. It's understood in a really fast way. And then ideally, those things are also popular or designed to be popular or become popular.

I've been reading this wonderful book The Dialectic of Pop by Agnés Gayraud, and she talks about how Theodor Adorno just hated the idea that music should be understood quickly or easily.

Me and my friend Finn Keane, we have been very, very slowly compiling a book called How Music Ruined Music. Because throughout the ages and really stretching back to ancient music, every time there's a new development there's this whole wave of like, "Oh, this is gonna ruin music."

And you can go backwards: the mp3 is going to ruin it, apps are going to ruin it, streaming is going to ruin it, recording studios are going to ruin it, labels are going to ruin it. And then back to 12 tone is going to ruin it, orchestras are going to ruin it.

And that kind of keeps me going sometimes because, you know, it sort of tells you how much freedom there is really and how valuable music as an art form is.

One big thing that people say is going to ruin music is auto-tune.

Yeah, that's my favorite example.

It's funny, lately, I've been challenging myself and doing a few things where there's no auto-tune and I'm just trying to capture good takes. But I'm not doing in a purist sense at all. 

One of the most interesting things about auto-tune, too, is the way it could have started much earlier.

The track "Believe" by Cher, those producers were the first to crank auto-tune to zero latency, you know. But when they were interviewed they just completely lied to avoid giving the trade secret away. They were like, "Oh, we just use like a really meticulous vocoder and did this and that" and everyone was like, "Okay, fair enough."

<style>.embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; }</style><div class='embed-container'><iframe src='https://www.youtube.com/embed/nZXRV4MezEw' frameborder='0' allowfullscreen></iframe></div>

But if they had just revealed that [they used auto-tune], you would have had this whole auto-tune wave potentially way earlier, rather than starting with the T-Pain era.

I think it's kind of amazing that the technology was actually around for a while before the style of it really blew up.

But for me, like, so many people now have had experience with apps or GarageBand having auto-tune. So for me auto-tune and that kind of computer recording is like as much of a folk instrument as anything else. I think it's pretty authentic.

I don't really see the binary between real and fake that much when it comes to auto-tune. It's a version of an instrument or a version of the voice. But it definitely didn't ruin music.

Noise Experimentalist Evicshen Talks First LP 'Hair Birth,' Crafting Xenomorph Face Masks & More

Charli XCX Press Photo 2024
Charli XCX

Photo: Harley Weir

feature

Charli XCX's Road To 'Brat': How Her New Album Celebrates Unabashed Confidence & Eccentricity

As Charli XCX releases her sixth studio album, revisit the creative decisions and ventures that led to 'Brat' — and how it all helped her become one of pop's most innovative stars.

GRAMMYs/Jun 6, 2024 - 05:32 pm

Charli XCX is a product of the internet. A teen during MySpace's peak years, Charli — born Charlotte Aitchison — landed her first gigs thanks to the platform. Her first amateur album, 14, caught the attention of a promoter organizing illegal raves in London, and soon enough, she was performing at those parties as Charli XCX — fittingly, a former online username.

Even though 14 never had an official release (and Charli has declared her distaste for it, calling the project "terrible MySpace music"), her earliest beginnings became the throughline to her current work. MySpace was a breeding ground for creativity and Charli used it to explore niche — and unheard-of — genres. To date, she's touched on every iteration of pop, including electro-pop and dance-pop, even being heralded as the figurehead for hyperpop. As a result, she's not your stereotypical pop star.

Just over a decade after the release of her debut album, 2013's True Romance, Charli XCX is bringing everything she's done from her MySpace beginnings to present day with her sixth studio album, Brat. Leaning on the time spent performing at raves and clubs as a young teen, she embodies the same childlike and larger-than-life approach she had when she was first starting.

Charli XCX was signed to Asylum Records in 2010 but felt lost, according to an interview with The Guardian. The process of figuring out her artistry earned her a trip to meet with producers in Los Angeles, where she met American producer Ariel Rechtshaid. After they wrote her eventual single "Stay Away," everything started falling into place. "I was freaking out: I had found a piece of myself in this crazy world where people are trying to drag you apart and make you into something," she recalled. "That's when things started to come together."

Before she even released her debut album, Charli XCX first found global success as a songwriter. After penning the club-ready song "I Love It," she opted to give it away to Swedish synth-pop duo Icona Pop because it didn't suit the sound Charli was leaning into. But she did feature on the 2012 track, which became a global smash and landed at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 — solidifying Charli as an artist to watch.

Almost a year later, Charli XCX released her major label debut with True Romance, her first studio album, in 2013. Although it didn't land on any major charts or spawn any hits, what the album did have was a clear, catchy direction. When reflecting on the album to NME, she stated that she was "just a MySpace kid" inspired by things that seemed out of reach for her, like the plots in teen movies and party photos from club scenes. True Romance was also integral to Charli discovering herself "as a person"; she's said that the album helped her better understand her voice, confidence, style, and stage presence.

Although True Romance didn't immediately make Charli XCX into a household name, it did usher in new opportunities for her as an artist. One of those opportunities was working with then-up-and-coming rapper Iggy Azalea on the track "Fancy," which marked a breakthrough moment for both rising stars. Along with spending seven weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and scoring Charli XCX her first two GRAMMY nominations (Record Of The Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance), she has insisted that "Fancy" helped open the doors for her to write for bigger artists.

Following the taste of the mainstream after "I Love It" and "Fancy," Charli XCX seemingly veered towards a poppier and brighter sound — and soon found herself on the charts as a solo act. Charli XCX's first top 10 solo hit, "Boom Clap," was first featured in the 2014 film The Fault in Our Stars and eventually became the lead single to Charli XCX's sophomore record, Sucker. Working with the likes of Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo, Rostam Batmanglij of Vampire Weekend, Benny Blanco, and more, Sucker showcased XCX's whip-smart songwriting and tongue-in-cheek aphorism, changing out gritty synths for glittery guitars and sky-soaring drums. 

But the new sound didn't necessarily indicate a new direction. She has admitted that she was chasing chart points with Sucker rather than writing songs that she enjoyed, and pieces of the album "feel fake" to her as a result. Still, Sucker helped validate what Charli already knew about herself, even if she got a little lost along the way. As she told The Guardian in 2018, rebelling on the outskirts of mainstream music is where she's meant to be, creating her "own language" and her "own world."

Shrugging off feeling rather stifled post-Sucker, Charli XCX began working with Scottish producer Sophie in March 2015. In October of that year, the singer released the track "Vroom Vroom" and unveiled an EP of the same name a few months after, both of which signaled that Charli was embracing a more experimental electronic sound and marking a change in sonic direction for her.

"I've worked with Sophie on the new EP and what we create together speaks for itself," Charli said about Vroom Vroom. "The album goes to other places and I can't wait for people to hear it. I feel the most creative I have in a long time and I couldn't be more excited for the next chapter." 

Although the EP didn't go over as sweetly as Sucker and True Romance did with critics and fans, Vroom Vroom is now heralded as a pioneering work in the hyperpop genre. When speaking with Vulture about the highs and lows of her career, she credits Sophie's production for the EP title track being a "f—ing masterpiece," noting that the song, in particular, was complex and niche, teetering between underground and mainstream. As she declared, it's why the song has "only retroactively found praise by those who now have a taste for that genre of pop."

Read More: Get Glitchy With These 7 Artists Essential To Hyperpop

In 2017, XCX's work in hyperpop continued with two Top 40 tracks, "After the Afterparty" and "Boys," the latter of which became an instantly viral track thanks to its sultry cameos from a slew of male celebrities. Both were meant to be part of Charli's third studio album, but after the album leaked, she opted to release two more electronic experimental mixtapes — 2017's Number 1 Angel and Pop 2 — rather than labelling them albums. Much like the way Charli approached her earlier recordings, the two mixtapes were her return to experimentation, and, by not calling them albums, she could freely create and avoid charting pressure from her label

From the fall of 2018 to the fall of 2019, XCX released a slew of singles with other artists — "1999" with Troye Sivan, "Blame It on Your Love" featuring Lizzo, "Gone" with Christine and the Queens, and a few others all leading up to the release of her third album, Charli. Equal parts explorative and expansive, Charli saw XCX explore every emotion in abundance. Although she didn't move too far away sonically, at the time Charli was the "most personal album" she had ever made. She told The Standard that it "encapsulated all sides" of who she is, because she'd rather create the music she wants to create instead of sacrificing her art for a thinly veiled attempt to become a bigger artist.

Five years separated Sucker and Charli, but the star only took eight months to release her next album, 2020's How I'm Feeling Now. A six-week DIY experiment throughout the early months of the COVID-19 lockdown, How I'm Feeling Now became Charli's pandemic album. Produced alongside longtime producer AG Cook, she crafted an album that touched on the universal experiences everyone was going through ("I'm so bored – what?/ Wake up late and eat some cereal") and bristled with longing to return to a sweaty and sticky dance floor. 

While Sucker was Charli trying to appease the public at the expense of her art, her snarky fifth studio album, 2022's Crash, leaned into that mindset tenfold. Playing a dramatized "soulless" caricature of herself, Charli wrote and promoted the conceptual album satirically, stating that it's her "major label sell-out" album by heavily leaning into the concept of selling one's soul to get what you want. And it worked: the album debuted at No. 1 on the UK Albums Chart, her first time ever hitting No. 1 in the UK, in addition to debuting at No. 7 on the Billboard 200, which was her first top 10 and her highest-charting album to date in the United States. 

Looking back, XCX felt that Crash, much like Sucker, didn't resonate deeply with her. "There were songs on Crash that I would never listen to," she asserted to The Face earlier this year. Longing to change things up, yet again, brings Charli to Brat

For an artist who is truly a sonic shapeshifter, it makes sense that she'd eventually return to her club roots on Brat. "Von Dutch," the album's lead single, serves as a throwback to her teens with its punchy synth-driven electropop melody reminiscent of her earlier tracks. The album's second single "360," an electro-pop ear-worm, features Charli's signature on-the-nose songwriting, singing, "I went my own way and I made it, I'm your favourite reference baby." It's apt, then, that the music video brings together the internet's "It Girls" — Julia Fox, Gabbriette, Emma Chamberlain, and many others — to try and find the next viral sensation, all while poking fun at the ridiculousness of the influencer world.

"I just want to be able to make the music that I want to make without having to sacrifice any of my artistic decisions," Charli told The Standard during the release of Charli. "I don't ever want to become something that I'm not because I've done that before. I didn't even know myself properly as a person let alone as an artist. I think I've figured out who I am now."

Five years later, and the release of Brat is, in a way, her coming full circle. Pairing her origin story — illegal raves, club nights and the internet world — with a decade of working on her own music and collaborating with big-name artists has been the catalyst to Brat. But it's also her official declaration that she's staying true to her artistry, for herself but also for her fans.

As she told British GQ ahead of Brat's release, she still grapples with the temptation of tapping into a more commercial sound. "Sometimes I tempt myself with going there, but I think the problem is my fan base knows that that's not who I am, so they kind of smell a rat, and they're like, 'This is inauthentic.' But then I think that sometimes puts me in this position where the masses are like, 'What the f— is this?'

"But I would in no way be as happy, creatively satisfied or, honestly, as good as some of the people who are operating on a hugely commercial level," she adds, "because maybe I'm just not built for it."

And maybe she's not. But her unashamed and unfiltered confidence is exactly what's made her such a beloved star, as well as what brings Brat together — and it's likely what we'll continue to see from Charli XCX from now on.

Lady Gaga's Biggest Songs: 15 Tracks That Show Her Avant-Garde Pop Prowess

Troye Sivan performs in concert during Primavera Sound Festival on May 31, 2024 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Xavi Torrent/Redferns)
Troye Sivan performs during Primavera Sound Festival on May 31, 2024

Photo: Xavi Torrent/Redferns

list

9 Outstanding Sets From Barcelona’s Primavera Sound Festival 2024: SZA, Amaarae, Charli XCX & More

Barcelona’s illustrious city festival celebrated 20 years of big music moments at Parc del Fòrum. From Vampire Weekend to Troye Sivan, read on for nine unforgettable sets from Primavera Sound 2024.

GRAMMYs/Jun 5, 2024 - 06:04 pm

Primavera Sound is known for its heavy-hitting lineup and even bigger surprise guests. The Spanish festival celebrated 20 years in 2024, and transformed Barcelona's Parc del Fòrum into a masterclass of genre diversity and LGBTQIA+ inclusivity. There, under mostly sun-soaked skies, a wide range of international and native acts lit up multiple stages from May 29 - June 2.

Primavera Barcelona always promises an eclectic mix of performances that showcase native Spanish talent as well as major international headliners to get the party going. However, it’s not just the massive talent that pulls in the crowd. While the mainstages were graced by American superstars  Lana Del Rey,  SZA and Troye Sivan, the festival’s line-up was elevated by the vibrant non-stop DJ stylings of rising Brazilian star Clementaum and the divinity of Arca — who was rightfully labeled "madre!" by a buzzed up Boiler Room x Cupra activation. 

Primavera Sound’s diverse lineup guaranteed a highlight for every kind of festival goer: from the dad rocker to the 20-something throwing themselves head-first into new music. The festival amped up the energy and was keen to ensure a safe space for all music lovers (including regularly signposting a pro-LGBTQIA+ "Nobody Is Normal" campaign). If you weren't in Barcelona to experience the magic happening at Parc del Fòrum, read on for nine highlights from Primavera Sound BCN.

Arca Delivers A Divine Boiler Room Performance

Drawing on heavy doses of electronica, pop and techno, Venezuelan producer and DJ Arca’s unpinnable sound is exactly what made her sets unmissable. Arca set Primavera alight with two incredible sets: an early morning rave on the Amazon Music Stage on May 31, and a second, more intimate event inside Boiler Room x Cupra’s industrial set up on June 1.

The musician's Boiler Room set brought the club to Barcelona, weathering attendees through a humid thunderstorm with sweaty, fusion beats and remixes (Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Zedd) that made her experimental anthems even more exceptional. 

Read more: 8 Essential Latin Electronic Releases: Songs And Albums From Bizarrap, Arca & More

Vampire Weekend Ignite Indie Nostalgia On Their Primavera Return

We all love a bit of Spanish sunshine, but nobody seemed quite as home on-stage as Vampire Weekend. Having last played at the festival in 2008, the 16-year wait was well worth it with a set list doused with indie rock nostalgia and new bangers that kept the late-night crowd grooving.

It’s not easy to keep a mainstage crowd going on opening night (especially as the band faced some line-up changes for the festival) but Vampire Weekend's catalog-spanning performance rocked. They ran though hits "A-Punk, "Campus" "Oxford Comma," and new tracks ("Classical", "Gen-X Cops", "Connect")  from their new fifth album, Only God Was Above Us – a record which frontman Ezra Koeing described as "feeling perfect" on stage. 

No Vampire Weekend set is complete with some curveball covers. This year, to match the beat of their long-overdue festival return, the band kept things fresh with an incredible cover of Sbtrkt’s "New Drop, New York" performed against a smokey, dark red stage backdrop. Whether performing their own catalog, making surprise appearance alongside French rock band Phoenix  or dropping electric covers, Vampire Weekend prove they’re music more than hitmakers — they’re also a summer festival bucket list act too. 

Troye Sivan Kept His Headliner Set Hot

Troye Sivan kicked off his mainstage set on Friday night dripping with innuendo. Replete with sexy outfit changes (including a pair of crotchless pants), effortlessly cool choreography and a very well-positioned mic in his pelvic region, the two-time GRAMMY nominee showed Barcelona that he not only has stadium-worthy tunes but is a stadium-worthy performer. Performing a medley of hits from his third studio album Something To Give You, Sivan's infectious pop tracks were perfectly timed to sexy and immaculately polished dance choreography (featuring his reliable backup dancer troupe of Simone Nolasco, Mauro van de Kerkhof, Benjamin Williams, Ainsley Hall Ricketts and Theo Maddix) against a campily creative set. 

The singer yearned alongside Spanish musician guitarricadelafuente on a silver silk bed as they duetted "In My Room," and belted out Ariana Grande’s "supernatural" in front of a mesmerizing anime video backdrop. Whether it was intimately crooning to synth-pop summer banger "Honey" or throwback hit "1999," Sivan was undoubtedly a mainstage highlight. As he wrapped up his set, the singer shouted out Barcelona's art and culture as an inspiration for Something To Give You. The Primavera performance was one of the biggest shows of his life, and closed this set with his anthem queer hit "RUSH."


Read more:
Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Troye Sivan On "Rush," The Importance Of Dance-Pop & The Spirituality Of Partying

Yeule Opens Primavera With An Electric Set

Kitted out with tattoos, American flag-styled cargo trousers, a heather gray bikini top and chunky boots,  yeule is exactly as you see them: an uncategorizable phenomenon. While their set clashed with major alt-metal and indie acts Deftones and Pulp, yeule’s distorted, glitchy universe was more than immersive; it was an electronic, energetic undertaking that swept the audience away. Away from the main stages, yeule’s set felt like a charged techo-pop portal to their world of emotional, alt-rock tunes.

Shaped by everything from nu-metal, Avril Lavigne and My Chemical Romance, yeule sounds neither human nor computerized. Often conceptualized as being something of a "cyborg identity," yeule's music translates with a darkly alluring style onstage. They opened with the melodic "Electric" from their second studio album Glitch Princess, while the rest of the setlist beautifully emulated their recent album Softscares; an emotional futuristic electro-pop record. The musician’s punk rock inflected "cybermeat," "sulky baby" and "dazies" were highlights, pulling the crowd closer to the stage as well as new listeners in from nearby smaller stages. 

Performing against a flickering urban city backdrop illuminated the midnight sky, yeule's set created the perfect isolated, small-stage universe to hear their deafening screamo notes during "Bite My Neck" and the hauntingly mellow electro-rock closeout track "software update."

Clementaum Brings The Brazilian Party Spirit To The Boiler Room

The Boiler Room x Cupra stage was the place to be this year. While the Parc del Fòrum never fails to pull together an eclectic mix of talent, Primavera Sound truly thrived in showing its ability to channel the club, ballroom and EDM into a live festival setting. There was never a set that didn’t bring the festival goers in glam outfits and the ultimate dance party vibes. However, the raging techno beats of Clementaum that most caught our attention.

Playing to a packed room with festival-goers tightly crammed in even behind her decks, Clementaum led a chant ("Vai Brazil!") as her country’s flag was proudly waved in the crowd.  Feeling more like a late-night rave, the Brazilian DJ had us thriving on deep beat drops and pummeling beats that you couldn’t help but dance to. Artfully skilled, Clementaum fuses Afro-Latin rhythms, ballroom culture and amped-up electronica for an incredible, heart-racing high.

The trance beat-packed El NICK DGO x Clementaum banger "Dale Pal Party" had everybody dancing, while a full-throttle remix of "Puttuna" pushed things into another level. However, her live rendition of "Pirigótika" (a track with Brazilian singer Bibi Babydoll) was her hallmark performance, and proved that if you haven’t heard of Clementaum, be sure this won’t be the last time you come across her name. 

Amaarae’s Captivating Set Can't Be Boxed In By Genre 

There’s nothing Amaarae can’t do. Taking over the Amazon Music stage on May 30, the Ghanaian American Afrobeats musician can take on anything from punk to R&B. In Barcelona, Amaarae’s chameleonic talent showcases that no style (or genre) is too much for her to turn into a captivating set.

Amaarae proved that whatever mood she brings to stage, she devours, from effortlessly performing slow burner "Wasted Eyes" to silkily switching to "Disguise," a song of desire and domination, and segueing to alternative anthem "Sex, Violence, Suicide." 

Learn more: Meet The Latest Wave Of Rising Afrobeats Stars: AMAARAE, BNXN, Oladapo & More

Charli XCX Proves Her Pop Legacy For Primavera’s Final Night

Nobody throws a party like the ultimate "it" girl Charli XCX. From ranging pop bangers ("I Love It" to "Party 4 U"), the British pop star kept crowds dancing until 4 a.m. — and for good reason. While fans weren’t frightened away by heavy rain and thunderstorms during the festival’s final night, Charli XCX and her fans made Primavera’s final night one to remember. 

And, if you were lucky, you might’ve caught the star pull off an incredible surprise DJ set alongside co-collaborator A.G Cook, and finance The 1975 band member George Daniel. While the early announced pop-up set for her upcoming sixth studio album Brat fell just outside of the festival on Sunday, the sweaty beach-side crowd was packed with fans flocking from Primavera Sound to make sure they got their early hit of Charli XCX ahead of her mainstage set later that night. 

Ethel Cain Gets Political (And Personal)

Following the breakthrough of her sophomore album Preacher’s Daughter, Ethel Cain has been on an unstoppable rise. A goth-pop mix of Lana Del Ray and heartland-style emo rock, the Tallahassee-born musician is crafting her own Americana aesthetic shaped by desire, death and South Baptist Christian influences.

While playing a late afternoon set, the singer stepped out under the blazing sun delivering incredible vocals to fan favorites "Crush’’ and "House of Nebraska." The singer’s set highlights were elevated by two things: a new song and a political call-out that broke the divide between the festival crowd and on-stage artist. Dressed in a ‘Free Palestine’ t-shirt and with a keffiyeh hanging from her mic, the musician denounced genocide and advocated for the people of Gaze before launching into her viral anti-pop song, "American Teenager." 

Amidst her anti-war advocacy, the singer also slotted into a somber new song "Amber Waves," showcasing her penchant for eerie melodies and what fans can expect on her currently untitled upcoming project. 

Learn more: 15 LGBTQIA+ Artists Performing At 2024 Summer Festivals

SZA Brings Stardom, Swords & The Splits To 'SOS' Set

Whether it’s the instantly recognizable intro to "Good Days" or the viral rotations of "Kill Bill," SZA has long been dominating and driving contemporary pop and R&B. The GRAMMY winner highlighted her artistic versatility with deep cuts and chart hits (including those from her massively popular sophomore album SOS) to a packed mainstage crowd.

With a stage set designed to look like a ship, SZA was amplifying the message of SOS loud and clear – with hits, charismatic stage movements and impressive vocals to match. And, she didn’t stop there. From knife play routine to "Kill Bil" to full-throttle Miley Cryus-style and riding an anchor to dropping the splits mid-set, SZA gave a performance that continuously raised the bar. 

Read more: How 'SOS' Transformed SZA Into A Superstar & Solidified Her As The Vulnerability Queen

Music Festivals 2024 Guide: Lineups & Dates For Lollapalooza, Coachella, Bonnaroo & Much More

June 2024 albums list hero
(Clockwise from top right): Kehlani, Tems, Gracie Abrams, Carly Pearce, Camila Cabello, and Peso Pluma.

Photos (Clockwise from top right): Tim Mosenfelder/WireImage, Scott Dudelson/Getty Images for Coachella, Todd Owyoung/NBC via Getty Images, Jason Kempin/Getty Images for ABA, Cindy Ord/MG24/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue, Todd Owyoung/NBC via Getty Images

list

15 Must-Hear Albums In June 2024: Charli XCX, Kehlani, Peso Pluma, Normani & More

Lots of exciting releases ring in summertime this June, with highly anticipated albums from Tems, Meghan Trainor, Gracie Abrams, Camila Cabello and several other stars across genres.

GRAMMYs/Jun 3, 2024 - 01:08 pm

June's rising temperatures bring a heat wave of releases, and also important events. Pride Month, Black Music Month, and Juneteenth all happen in the next four weeks, and whether it's to celebrate or to console our hearts, a variety of new albums will soundtrack this journey.

The first Friday of the month packs a powerful group of women: Charli XCX's will release Brat, Meghan Trainor's returns with Timeless, Carly Pearce brings forward hummingbird, Tems makes her official debut with Born in the Wild, and DJ Peggy Gou will also put out her first LP, I Hear You.

Women continue to dominate later in the month, and former Fifth Harmony members Normani and Camila Cabello will both drop new material with Dopamine and C,XOXO, respectively. Gracie Abrams will return with The Secret of Us, as well as Kate Nash and her 9 Sad Symphonies, Joni Mitchell and The Asylum Albums (1976-1980), and Kehlani with Crash.

Of course, there will also be plenty of fresh music from male artists, too, like Peso Pluma's Éxodo, Imagine Dragons' Loom, Kygo's self-titled LP, Lucky Daye's Algorithm, as well as a new live album from Paul McCartney & Wings, titled One Hand Clapping. Closing out the month, all ears will be tuning in to Omar Apollo's God Said No, Lupe Fiasco's Samurai, Neil Young & Crazy Horse's Early Daze, a still unnamed Steve Aoki album, and many others.

Below, get to know more about 15 of the most exciting albums dropping in June 2024.

Charli XCX — Brat

Release date: June 7

The reception to Charli XCX's upcoming album cover — a low-res image of the word "brat" centered in a lime green background — was controversial, but that was precisely her intention. "I wanted to go with an offensive, off-trend shade of green to trigger the idea of something being wrong," the British singer told Vogue Singapore. "I'd like for us to question our expectations of pop culture — why are some things considered good and acceptable, and some things deemed bad? ... I'm not doing things to be nice."

Following 2022's Crash, Brat is Charli's sixth studio album, and boasts 15 club-ready tracks. Over on X (formerly Twitter), the pop provocateur stated that she "was born to make dance music," and that this is the album she's "always wanted to make." A preview of Brat's sleek, smacking sounds can be heard on singles "Von Dutch" and "360," plus a few other tracks shared in advance. The album also includes "So I," a tribute to late producer and DJ SOPHIE.

In support of the album, Charli lined up a slew of performances and DJ nights (dubbed Partygirl) in June, including stops in London, New York, and São Paulo. Later on, she will join Troye Sivan on their 2024 co-headlining Sweat Tour, set to kick off in September and hitting arenas around North America.

Tems — Born in the Wild

Release date: June 7

Nigerian singer Tems earned the eyes and the ears of international media with her Afrobeats-infused R&B. First raising attention with her feature in Wizkid's 2020 single "Essence," she later built up a devoted fandom through two EPs: 2020's For Broken Ears and 2021's If Orange Was a Place. In 2022, she was credited as a featured artist in Future's "Wait For U," which led her to win a GRAMMY for Best Melodic Rap Performance.

On June 7, Tems will release her long-awaited debut album, Born in the Wild. The official announcement came with a teaser video for the title track, disclosed one day after her Coachella set in April. "It's all over the news, all over the news, I know this/ Under the sun, struggling to find my focus/ When I was young, younger then/ I was always running away," she sings, reflecting on her childhood in Lagos. "I grew up in the wilderness/ Didn't know much about openness." 

The record's first single,"Love Me JeJe," came out on April 25, followed by the announcement of a world tour spanning Europe, North America, and Australia from June to November.

Carly Pearce — hummingbird

Release date: June 7

"When you hear this album — wherever you are on your journey, I hope it shows you that pain can be a lesson that shows you just how strong you are and what you truly deserve," Carly Pearce wrote on Instagram as she announced her fourth studio album, hummingbird, in March.

The release follows 2021's 29: Written in Stone, which documented the country star's journey through marriage and divorce at the age of 29. "The last few years have been a season of loss and growth, of healing and happiness," Pearce added. "A belief that if I did the inner work, I would rebuild myself stronger than I was before, and a knowing that I have done some living and will always be unapologetic about it."

Hummingbird holds 14 tracks that encapsulate the GRAMMY-winning singer's redemption and "true love for country music." Among them is her current single, "We Don't Fight Anymore" with Chris Stapleton, and the title track, and previously released tracks "country music made me do it", "heels over head," "my place," and "fault line." 

Peggy Gou — I Hear You

Release date: June 7

With 2023's "(It Goes Like) Nanana," DJ and singer Peggy Gou bounced from underground savant to worldwide summer queen. The single went viral on TikTok, entered charts across the globe, and led Gou to become one of the most in-demand electronic music artists in recent years — culminating with the title of first female DJ to headline Ushuaïa Ibiza.

Now, the South Korean-born, Berlin-based phenom is gearing up to release her debut LP, I Hear You, out June 7 via XL Recordings. According to a press release, the album depicts Gou "boldly claiming her voice through the kaleidoscopic lens of '90s house music." Featuring 10 tracks, it represents the "culmination of years of work," and includes the aforementioned "(It Goes Like) Nanana," 2021's "I Go," "I Believe in Love Again" with Lenny Kravitz, and lead single "1+1=11."

"I Hear You is more than just my debut album," Gou stated in the press release. "It embodies countless hours of dedication in my journey to create something timeless, and is a testament to the power of listening, to ourselves and to each other."

Bon Jovi — Forever

Release date: June 7

Rock icons Bon Jovi have been active for so long that it feels accurate to name their 16th studio album "Forever." In fact, the New Jersey band is celebrating their 40th anniversary with the release, set to drop on June 7.

"This record is a return to joy," said frontman Jon Bon Jovi in a statement. "From the writing, through the recording process, this is turn up the volume, feel good Bon Jovi." Forever follows 2020's 2020, and marks the band's first release after Bon Jovi's vocal surgery in 2022. Ushering in this new chapter, they also shared a Disney+ four-part documentary named Thank You, Goodnight: The Bon Jovi Story, and lofty single "Legendary."

In February of this year, Jon Bon Jovi was honored as the 2024 MusiCares Person Of The Year. The award recognized his extensive philanthropic work in a benefit gala during GRAMMY week — and granted the band yet another reason to celebrate.

The Decemberists — As It Ever Was, So It Will Be Again

Release date: June 14

Following a six-year hiatus, The Decemberists are back with their ninth record, As It Ever Was, So It Will Be Again. The double-LP holds 13 tracks that are split into four thematic sides, and features guest appearances from The Shins' James Mercer and R.E.M.'s Mike Mills.

After sharing the opener and lead single, "Burial Ground," the folk rock band from Portland, Oregon, shared the 19-minute prog closer "Joan in the Garden," which was inspired by the story of Joan of Arc — and ultimately teased As It Ever Was, So It Will Be Again will have many musical layers. 

"I wanted to make my own version of Joan," vocalist Colin Meloy said in a press release. "But the song that came was as much about the creative process as it was about the actual woman, about angelic visitation and creative visitation and the hallucinogenic quality of both."

Last month, The Decemberists announced a lengthy North American summer tour, starting on April 30 in Kingston, New York, and wrapping it up with a special hometown show on Aug. 3 in Troutdale, Oregon. 

Normani — Dopamine

Release date: June 14

Since her highly addictive 2019 hit, "Motivation," Normani has kept fans on the tip of their toes for a solo debut LP. She even turned their questioning into a website: wheresthedamnalbum.com. At last, the wait is finally over: after five long years, Dopamine will come out on June 14.

The album is spearheaded by lead single "1:59," which features rapper Gunna and blooms with late '90s R&B inspiration. Normani also shared a sultry album teaser, "Dopamine (First Dose)," which features a snippet of her latest release from the album, the airy "Candy Paint."

"The album feels like liberation, like a season of freedom," said the former Fifth Harmony member in an interview for WhoWhatWear earlier this year. "Not just because the record is finally coming out, but because it's a celebration of everything I have been through to get to this moment … I know I needed time, experiences, and space coming out of [Fifth Harmony] in order to become the version of myself I needed to be."

Peso Pluma — Éxodo

Release date: June 20

Almost exactly a year after releasing his third studio album, Génesis, Mexican star Peso Pluma follows his GRAMMY-winning LP by doubling down. Éxodo, his fourth studio effort, is a double album comprising 24 tracks — 16 corridos tumbados, 8 urbano songs — and a stellar guest list featuring Cardi B, Rich the Kid and Quavo, Anitta, and more.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Pluma stated that this album will confront more directly the negative press that surrounds him. "[On Génesis] people already saw the good side, the superhero side. But I think this year, they're going to know a darker side," he added.

He's previewed Éxodo through seven tracks so far, including "LA DURANGO" with Junior H and Eslabón Armado, "Rompe La Dompe" also with Junior H and Oscar Maydon, and "LA PEOPLE II" with Tito Double P and Joel de la P. Pluma is currently on a massive arena tour throughout the U.S., set to conclude on October 11 in Montville, Connecticut.

Gracie Abrams — The Secret of Us

Release date: June 21

Sixteen months after releasing her debut album, Good Riddance, GRAMMY-nominated singer Gracie Abrams is already back with her second LP, The Secret of Us. Set to drop on June 21, the project holds 13 tracks and is led by the lively pop and sharp lyrics of "Risk."

The single was co-written by Abrams and her childhood best friend, Audrey Hobert, and co-produced by Abrams and The National's Aaron Dessner (who helmed the production of Good Riddance). On Instagram, Abrams shared that she and her team "had real, true fun writing this album," but that "there were also the occasional tears." The raspy-voiced star also revealed The Secret's track list, which includes a collaboration with Taylor Swift in the track "us."

Abrams opened several dates of Swift's The Eras Tour in 2023. She'll celebrate her new album later this year by returning to the Eras Tour lineup, joining Swift again for the final North American shows in October, November and December. 

Lake Street Dive — Good Together

Release date: June 21

"The ethos of Good Together can be described as 'joyful rebellion,' just as energetic and danceable as it is defiantly principled," reads a press release on Lake Street Dive's upcoming record. Produced by Mike Elizondo, the album's main goal is to "highlight our shared humanity" through the quintet's dynamic, genre-bending compositions.

"There's a lot to be angry about in the world right now, a lot of pain and rage and divisiveness, but it isn't sustainable to constantly live in that anger — you need something else to keep you going," drummer Mike Calabrese said in a statement. "Joy is a great way to sustain yourself, and we wanted to encourage everyone to stay aware of that. In a way this album is our way of saying, 'Take your joy very seriously.'" A glimpse of those feelings appear in the laid-back album singles "Better Not Tell You" and the title track.

Lake Dive Street have also announced the biggest world tour of the band's career, kicking off its North American leg on June 14 in Asbury Park, New Jersey, and wrapping on October 12 in Atlanta, Georgia. In January 2025, they head on to Europe and the U.K.

Kehlani — Crash

Release date: June 21

It's already summer in Kehlani's world — or at least this is what their single "After Hours" feels like. Marking the Californian singer's first release since 2022's Blue Water Road, "After Hours" samples Cordel "Scatta" Burrell's "Coolie Dance Riddim" and sets expectations high for their upcoming record, Crash.

While little else is known about the album, Kehlani has been teasing bits and pieces of it on social media. She also released a second track, a booming dedication to a loved one called "Next 2 U," which Kehlani declared is "my favorite one" from the album.

Though Kehlani has yet to announce a coinciding tour for Crash, she'll play three shows at LIV Nightclub Las Vegas, in the Fontainebleau hotel. The first took place on May 31 — just hours after "Next 2 U" arrived — and the other two are on July 21 and Aug. 2.

Camila Cabello — C,XOXO

Release date: June 28

Another Fifth Harmony alum will make a comeback this month: Camila Cabello is set to release her fourth album, C,XOXO, on June 28. The LP marks a new sonic and visual era for the Cuban-born, Miami-based artist, and its inaugural mark came in the form of platinum blonde locks.

"The voice that I found with my new album has this big baddie energy vibe," Cabello explained in a recent Billboard cover story. "Part of that spirit is taking risks, not giving a f— and doing whatever you want. I think the blonde was me staying true to that feeling." The first single off the project, "I LUV IT" with Playboi Carti, displays how this fearless persona takes shape through hyperpop synths and a sample from Gucci Mane's "Lemonade."

Cabello also realized that this LP was a love letter to the city of Miami. "So much of the inspiration for this album was driving, listening to music, rolling the windows down and hearing what people in the city are listening to," she added. Among its collaborators are names like City Girls ("DADE COUNTY DREAMING"), Lil Nas X ("HE KNOWS"), and Drake, who features on "HOT UPTOWN" and "UUUGLY."

Imagine Dragons — Loom

Release date: June 28

Upon announcing Imagine Dragons' upcoming album, Loom, vocalist Dan Reynolds shared on Instagram that "working on this record was a rollercoaster." As he explained, "some days the songs came from a place of sadness and heartache and others joy and jubilance."

A press release further elaborated that the quartet's sixth LP will "represent the pinnacle of their artistic journey of self-discovery," while also balancing their familiar sounds with fresh ones. Through nine tracks, including lead single "Eyes Closed," Loom intends to symbolize "new beginnings on the horizon, the excitement for a new day, moments yet to come." As Reynolds added in his Instagram post, "may the things that loom in the future and distance be a beautiful tapestry of joy and pain that you can hang on your wall to reflect on as life passes us by."

The festive vibes will extend throughout the year, as the Las Vegas outfit just announced a world tour, which kicks off on July 30 in Camden, New Jersey. So far, they will stop through multiple cities in the U.S. and Canada through Oct. 22, but international dates are expected for 2025.

Omar Apollo — God Said No

Release date: June 28

"I gave it my everything," Omar Apollo said in a press release. "And God said 'no.'" Fortunately, the singer wasn't talking about crafting his sophomore LP, God Said No, but rather what led him to do it.

The 14-track record is described as "a survey of the emotional wreckage that followed the end of a torrid love affair," and was partially recorded at the legendary Abbey Road Studios in London. To process his grief, Apollo spent three months in the British city, and soon began to shape his most "soul-bearing and immediate body of work" so far.

In addition to vulnerable singles "Spite" and "Dispose of Me," Apollo also collaborated with musician Mustafa on "Plane Trees," and confirmed a participation by actor Pedro Pascal in an unspecified track — likely to be his namesake, "Pedro."

Lupe Fiasco — Samurai

Release date: June 28

Chicago rapper Lupe Fiasco is gearing up to release his ninth studio album, Samurai. Entirely produced by longtime collaborator Soundtrakk (who also produced Fiasco's previous effort, 2022's Drill Music In Zion), the record is "smooth, yet cerebral, brimming with ideas," according to a press release. It is also one of Fiasco's most personal works to date: "The album weaves things from my life as an artist, touching on things other artists go through," he said in a statement.

Samurai's eight tracks accompany the narrative of a battle rapper's career, from first honing his skills until mastering his craft. "Before rap even, martial arts was my whole life, and it still plays a huge role in my life," Fiasco added. "The overall themes of the album speak to the constant fight and the battle one goes through being in the entertainment industry. Some of the things we need to defend."

As for the title, Fiasco shared that "the word 'samurai' means to serve," and that his relationship to the word "meant that you need to be at the service of other people, either in the overall community, or in this instance, the rap community at large that I've been a part of for years."

Twenty One Pilots' Road To 'Clancy': How The New Album Wraps Up A Decade-Long Lore

Tinashe performs at the 2024 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival
Tinashe performs at the 2024 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival

Photo: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Coachella

list

Love "Nasty"? Get To Know Tinashe With 10 Songs That Show Her Honesty & Artistry

While you wait for Tinashe's new album, 'Quantum Baby,' dig into her impressive catalog of solo hits, and collaborations with the likes of Britney Spears and Ty Dolla $ign.

GRAMMYs/May 31, 2024 - 01:37 pm

Tinashe is a true triple threat, acting, dancing, and dropping banger after banger as a singer. In just under a decade, she’s released six studio albums, went independent in 2019, and has been showered with critical acclaim for her creative freedom. Regardless of major or independent label backing, Tinashe has shown a commitment to her craft, each release remaining at a high caliber.

Quantum Baby, her seventh studio album and part of the BB/ANG3L trilogy — and fourth to be released under her Tinashe Music Inc label — doesn’t have a concrete release date yet but its lead single, "Nasty," is doing a good job of getting people interested. Released in April, the song became an instant hit with Tinashe fans and garnered a wider audience after being used in a viral video. Even fashion brand Marc Jacobs hopped on the trend with a TikTok now viewed more than 2.9M times.

Because of the viral social media posts, streams for "Nasty" have gone through the roof. The song garnered 600k+ streams in a single day on May 22. Not only has "Nasty" become a hit, but it’s pushed many listeners to generate their own version of Tinashe’s "is somebody gonna match my freak?" lyric.

In honor of her latest hit, and ahead of Tinashe's highly-anticipated next album, press play on 10 essential songs from across her discography which showcases her chameleon-like ability to handle various music genres and styles with ease.

"Needs" (BB/ANG3L, 2023)

"Needs," the second single from BB/ANG3L, wastes no time getting straight to the point. When the sultry beat drops, Tinashe purrs about her many talents and offers a few clear directives for her romantic partner. By the end of this 2.5 minute song, there’s no denying it’s her declaration of total sensual independence.

At first glance, the music video’s setting inside a grocery store might seem random. But all it takes is one focused listen to the lyrics to find the connection between the song and its visuals. A grocery store provides its shoppers with a plethora of options and, as the title of the song makes clear, Tinashe isn’t afraid to pick up what wants when she needs.

"I Can See The Future" (333, 2021)

Tinashe’s music generally adopts a first-person perspective; her own thoughts and desires placed in the spotlight. On the bass-heavy R&B track "I Can See The Future," she subtly brings in the emotional perspective of a man she has her eye on. In the pre-chorus, she sings "He said I don't play 'bout what's mine/I'm not a psychic/I can't read your mind/If you with it, don't waste my time."

As Tinashe talk-sings through most of the song, her raspy voice exudes an enviable confidence while selling her partner a vision of love. By the time we get to the bridge, she explicitly responds to his concerns about her potential indifference. "Get ready for love/Get ready for me/I've made up my mind/I want you to myself," she sings, her vocals muffled in certain sections. Could that allude to her unwillingness to commit?

KAYTRANADA - "The Worst In Me" (BUBBA, 2019)

Listening to KAYTRANADA’s music is the equivalent of a perfect summer evening where you get to dance on a rooftop with your friends. Bring in Tinashe’s vocals and you only turn up the volume on these good vibes. That’s exactly what happened when the duo linked up for "The Worst In Me."

The song explores a relationship rife with uncertainties and bruised emotions. In the chorus, Tinashe sings "I want your love" which sounds encouraging enough. But when she slips into a higher register and immediately follows up with "You bring out the worst me," she hammers home how this is no love song.

Despite the somber message burning beneath the beat, KAYTRANADA and Tinashe succeed in getting listeners on their feet. Fans of "The Worst In Me" were excited when it was announced the duo would reunite for KAYTRANADA’s upcoming album, Timeless, out in June 2024.

"Bouncin" (333, 2021)

On "Bouncin," Tinashe explores a familiar topic — her undeniable sex appeal — but does so by tapping into her "divine feminine energy." In addition, she showcases a few different vocal layers, moving from her strong mid-range to a breathy falsetto. Sung high, the lyrics in the first verse are almost undecipherable. Chopped-and-screwed background vocals add an unexpected texture you can’t help but sing with once you know where they’ll come in.

Thanks to dwilly’s production, the song has just as much nuance as Tinashe’s explorative vocal performance. A plucky, synth melody brings in a playful video game quality while a ticking sound in the background introduces a sense of urgency. When all put together, these elements transform "Bouncin" into a sonic rollercoaster.

"Save Room For Us" feat. MAKJ (Songs For You, 2019)

With a driving beat and moderate tempo, "Save Room For Us" effortlessly captures the melancholic stage after a breakup we might not have initiated. Before Tinashe gets to the chorus, it becomes obvious she's begging her lover to reconsider their decision.

"I think for a long time I didn’t want people to see a vulnerable side to me because I thought they would think I was weak," Tinashe said about bringing more raw emotion to her music. While it’s true the song has plenty of believable yearning, she proves she’s also the type of pop star who knows how to spin her tales of sadness into a dancefloor anthem.

"Die A Little Bit" feat. Ms Banks (Songs For You, 2019)

"Die A Little Bit" stands out as one of Tinashe’s darkest, most experimental songs to date and depicts L.A.'s tricky social scene. While that may be the official line, the single was also her first as an independent artist and could easily describe her artistic journey/newfound freedom.

"Searching for something in someone without a soul," Tinashe sings on the highly danceable track. "Running in circles 'cause I suck at letting go/ Starting to feel like there's no chance of breaking through/Plenty time wasted, what am I waitin' for?"

"Superlove" (Superlove, 2016)

On "Superlove," Tinashe worked with industry juggernaut producers Tricky Stweart and The-Dream to create a slick and utterly infectious pop/R&B track. By incorporating the best elements of hip-hop subgenre Miami bass, "Superlove" manages to transport you to the past without sounding dated.

"Superlove" is technically included on the tracklisting for Joyride, Tinashe’s third studio album, and was meant to serve as its lead single but was released during a period in her career where her album was perpetually delayed. (Joyride was released almost two years after "Superlove.")

"Superlove" landed at No. 72 on Billboard’s 100 Best Pop Songs of 2016. With its feel-good energy paired with the type of music video that would’ve reigned supreme on MTV’s "TRL" (think attractive people rolling around in the sand and lifeguards performing provocative choreography), this song is a testament to the electrifying pop star Tinashe has always been.

Britney Spears - "Slumber Party" (Glory, 2016)

Tinashe has, multiple times, gone on record saying Britney Spears is one of her idols. In 2016, she was able to live out a childhood fantasy by featuring on a remix of "Slumber Party," a track originally included on Spears’ album, Glory. Over a pop-friendy reggae beat, the track details a night between two lovers.

Tinashe takes over the second verse, and layers in additional vocals and adlibs throughout. While none of the lyrics she sings are updated, she rises to the occasion and goes toe-to-toe with one of pop music’s biggest icons. Tinashe’s timbre, polished yet rich in texture, is perfectly suited for the modern pop soundscape. On "The Kelly Clarkson Show," Tinashe discussed  performing with Spears and how she could feel the star power radiating from the "...Baby One More Time" singer. "You’re that person now, too," Clarkson reassured Tinashe.

Ty Dolla $ign - "Drop That Kitty" feat. Tinashe & Charli XCX (Drop That Kitty, 2015)

At the time "Drop That Kitty" was released, each artist on the track was having their own respective moment. Ty Dolla $ign was gearing up to release his debut album, Charli XCX had the massive success of "Fancy," her duet with Iggy Azalea, and Tinashe had released the third single from her major label debut.

Each has their own distinct energy and bringing them together for the track could have been disastrous, but it was the type of chaos you want to listen to on repeat. Ty’s melodic rapping is tinged with autotune, while Charli chants lyrics. But when Tinashe’s vocals come in on the post-chorus, they’re as sweet as honey. Though the lyrics are fairly surface ("I know you want it all/I'm giving you a show/You like what I'm doin'"), the song continues to be a consummate pre-game banger.

"Pretend" feat. A$AP Rocky (Aquarius, 2014)

Those skills were put on full display with the music video for her debut single, "2 On." While the logical follow up might’ve been another energetic bop, her label chose to release "Pretend" a mid-tempo ballad featuring rapper A$ASP Rocky. But if you’re new to the world of Tinashe, "Pretend" delivers something special.

The song’s theme is relatable as it introduces the different ways people can ignore issues in a relationship or create imagined versions of happiness. Tinashe’s vocal performance, one of her strongest on a slower track, illustrates how she doesn’t need any feature to shine bright.

Chief Keef On Almighty So 2, His Long-Awaited Return To Chicago & Why He's "Better Now Than I Ever Was"