While some would say the boys are back in town, I’m here to say the boys are back from the 2000s.
Middle school-aged me is champing at the bit to talk about these musical icons’ newest releases. One I adored and the other, I could gladly do without. I remember being barely seven years old and crying while listening to John Mayer’s “Your Body Is A Wonderland.” My self-obsessed kid self was convinced he wrote the song for me, and I know for a fact I wasn’t alone in that delusion.
As a ’90s baby, I was deeply immersed in the boy band world, feeling pressured to choose between NSYNC or Backstreet Boys. I didn’t love either (the only boy band that will ever have my heart is the Jonas Brothers). But, I can’t deny that Backstreet Boys major hits “Everybody” and “I Want It That Way” were major parts of my musical upbringing.
The acoustic hearthrob and the longtime adored boy band both released music this week. I have my favorite. What’s yours?
We also had some heavy album drops this week with Post Malone, The Highwomen, and superstar newbie Mahalia. Each record brought new life into the music scene in their own unique ways.
This New Music Friday definitely gave me a run for my money.
Let’s hit it.
“Hollywood’s Bleeding” an album by Post Malone
- Malone continues to break musical genres in his third album release. The New York native starts it off with “Hollywood’s Bleeding, a song I’m dubbing a hip-hop emotional ballad that shows off his strong vocals. In “Saint-Tropez,” Malone gives us the harder hip-hop vibe we expect from him, singing about how long he’s waited, and how hard he’s worked, to get rich. The future hits continue with “Enemies” featuring DaBaby, a future club anthem, and then with “Allergic,” which illustrates a more alternative sound. On “Die For Me” featuring Future and Halsey, the only part I enjoyed was Halsey’s flawless verse. We get a real rock n’ roll taste with “Take What You Want” featuring none other than Ozzy Osbourne and Travis Scott, a perfectly curated collaboration. The vocals and lyrics on “Staring at the Sun” featuring SZA were strong, but not my favorite. I expect “Internet,” which was co-written by Kanye West, to be the artist’s next number one hit. Lyrics that discuss a dangerous, paranoid lifestyle led by society’s obsession with social media and the internet. “I Know” gave me some of my favorite lyrical lines of the album, like “S*** was sweet until I was a sucker, shout out Jonas Brothers.”
“The Highwomen” an album by The Highwomen
- This is one of the album releases I have been most excited for. These four country female powerhouses not only gave us 12 beautiful tracks, they gave us a statement. If there were ever a power anthem album for women, this is it. “Loose Change” is simplistic in its sound, but complex in its message of the value of a woman. The performers give us hardcore country with “My Name Can’t Be Mama” and with “If She Ever Leaves Me” they give us an emotional ballad about falling in love. “Old Soul” is authentic, gorgeous, and is relatable to anyone who has ever felt wise beyond their years. “Don’t Call Me,” with its upbeat country/folk tempo, is a savage way of telling someone to find someone else to rescue them. “My Only Child” is a beautiful tribute to all the listeners out there who grew up without any siblings. Nonetheless, the full album is emotionally inspirational.
“Love and Compromise” an album by Mahalia
- Soul-pop star Mahalia Burkmar is 21 years old and has blown me away with her debut album. Her effortless, yet flawless vocals, and her attention to detail in her lyrics are, together, captivating. “Hide Out,” according to an interview with Apple Music’s Zane Lowe, starts off with interludes from an old Eartha Kitt interview. Right off the bat, the track had me hooked and ready for more. The choir touch in “I Wish I Missed My Ex,” combined with the singer’s vocals, is fun, relatable and impossible not to sing along with. She shows us her raspy style in “Good Company” and gets vulnerable in “What Am I?,” second guessing how her lover feels about her. In every track, she gives us a genuine cultured sound, but especially in “Regular People.” The old-school jazz vibes in “Karma” make me want to whip out a bottle of scotch from a decanter and sing the lyrics at the top of my lungs. The ’90s R&B pop vibes are undeniable in “He’s Mine” and the collaboration is stellar in “What You Did” featuring Ella Mai. I am in love with every track on this record and am officially obsessed with the English singer.
“Ain’t Together” by King Princess
- My favorite female artist this year continues to do no wrong. On “Ain’t Together” she takes a subtle approach, but her chill persona allows it to work effortlessly. I am furthermore convinced that good music just oozes out of the 20-year-old New York native. In a society where relationship labels seem to be controversial or uncool, the singer-songwriter addresses the topic. With lyrics like “We say I love you but we ain’t together. Do you think labels make it taste much better?,” she’s laying it all out on the line. And it “ain’t chill.”
“homecoming queen?” by Kelsea Ballerini
- While the country star’s vocals in this are stunning, I love this song mostly for its message. For decades, the stereotype of a homecoming queen is they are beautiful, perfect and adored by all. But, in this acoustic ballad, Ballerini paints a realistic scenario where the smiles and tiara are all a front, and lying underneath is an insecure girl eager to feel loved. It is the kind of song high school girls all over the country need to have on repeat.
“Pick U Up” by Foster the People
- Funky, fun and electronic, Foster the People is throwing a party with this one. Close your eyes when you listen and you’ll go back in time to when disco lights, neon colors and short-shorts were the norm. I love this group because they always remain true to themselves while defying the today’s basic pop music odds.
“Carry Me Away” by John Mayer
- Tender and captivating, John Mayer is still, if not more, musically relevant. His vocals remain mesmerizing and his simple behind-the-scenes instrument approach continues to draw me in. His words “I want someone to make some trouble, been way too safe inside my bubble,” hit me like a sharp dagger. Being in a bubble was essentially my entire summer, so I can relate. Mayer plays it flawlessly cool in his newest release, which leaves me wanting more. Like an entire album with tracks similar to this one.
“Let It Be Me” by Steve Aoki & Backstreet Boys
- On a mission to stay relevant, Backstreet Boys and Steve Aoki gave us a pop EDM track, one of millions on the musical genre list. My only question: how do the boy band member’s vocals still get so high at almost 40 years old? Listen, I’m not saying the song is horrible, it’s just not great. I say they gave us an acoustic album of their greatest hits and leave the high-pitched pop EDm to today’s teen boy bands.
“Superpower” by Adam Lambert
- Lambert is one of my favorite American Idol finalists. After touring with Queen as their lead singer, honoring the late legend Freddie Mercury, the singer-songwriter is giving us some serious edge with his latest release. Not only is this track giving me hard rocker vibes, he throws in some funk. If you know Lambert, you know his vocals are his superpower, and they’ve never been more prevalent than in his newest song.
“February 2017” by Charli XCX featuring Clairo & Yaeji
- I probably wouldn’t have even reviewed this release if Massachusetts native Clairo wasn’t featured on it. It’s the 21-year-old’s first brush with pop fame, collaborating with the likes of hit-maker Charli XCX. I really dig the auto-tune in this, which is something I thought I’d never hear myself say. This is the kind of EDM basic pop the Backstreet Boys should have left alone.