This week, Selena Gomez dropped a surprising new song that takes its cues from the Talking Heads. Former One Direction member Liam Payne takes his place as a new voice in hip-hop, with an assist from Quavo. And rising artists Doctrine, Lauv, and Liana Bank$ experiment with refreshing new takes on alternative pop and tropical R&B.
“Bad Liar,” Selena Gomez
In an unexpected twist, Selena Gomez decided to sample the Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer” for her latest single. A dramatic departure from her previous work, “Bad Liar” is a whispery, slinky track laced with the irresistible chorus beat of the ’70s favorite. Gomez plays her voice like an instrument, modulating her breathy delivery and pitch for a surprisingly subtle pop song that builds effectively to hit status.
A mysterious musical collective out of San Diego that calls itself Doctrine has made its debut with a bang on “Play,” a sharply orchestrated piece of futuristic pop. An experiment in manipulation of choir voices, “Play” is a minimalist but textured track that takes its cues from classical choral music and finds power in floating, restrained layers and precise electronic production. From the first listen, it hits just the right chord.
“Strip That Down,” Liam Payne feat. Quavo
The return of the boys of One Direction continues this week with the debut solo single from Liam Payne. “Strip That Down,” featuring Migos rapper Quavo and with a songwriting credit to Ed Sheeran, is a straight-up hip-hop bop, riffing on the classic beats of standby hit “Rack City.” But Payne, a deftly powerful vocalist, lays on a syrupy melody to give it a modern update. With “Strip That Down,” he also officially sheds his parent-approved boy band status, singing smoothly about the joys of full-blown adulthood.
“People Like Me,” Liana Bank$ feat. Ayo Jay
As a songwriter for artists like Lily Allen, Queens-based artist Liana Bank$ has found success making music that’s rich and balanced. In her own work, her distinctive voice, marked by a lazy, breathy lilt, finds room to play. New release “People Like Me” off her forthcoming sophomore project is the kind of song you want to play all summer long, a breezy and tropical slow bop that’s nicely cut by a featured verse from Ayo Jay.
“I Like Me Better,” Lauv
Opening with a plucky instrumental and reflective intro verse, “I Like Me Better” feels like it could be a B side of Justin Bieber’s smash hit “Love Yourself.” Then it picks up momentum, finding a catchy drop and transforming into a proper summer jam without losing its meditative qualities. Californian songwriter Lauv is known for introspective writing and pretty melodies — he’s got a writing credit on The Cheat Codes and Demi Lovato’s “No Promises” — and “I Like Me Better” continues his streak of finding the sweet spot in down-tempo pop.