New Music Friday Graphic

Whether you’re planning to spend the weekend curled up in bed or dancing at your favorite bar, there’s a song for you in this week’s releases. The playlist includes fresh hits from Taylor Swift and Kesha, as well as more emotional hits from Demi Lovato and an unexpected collaboration between Justin Bieber and Kehlani. Russ also makes an appearance, but we’ll get to that later.

With “Only the Young,” released Jan. 31, Taylor Swift uses an upbeat anthem to encourage America’s youth to get involved in politics and take control of the future of their nation.

While I was a little annoyed at first by the repetitive line, “Only the young, only the young / Can run / Can run / So run, and run, and run,” I quickly recognized the call to action. Lyrics like “The game was rigged, the ref got tricked / The wrong ones think they’re right,” refer to the allegedly rigged 2016 U.S. presidential election. Others like “You brace for the sound you’ve only heard on TV / You go to class, scared / Wondering where the best hiding spot would be,” provide powerful allusions to recent mass shootings.

Swift released the song alongside her Netflix documentary, “Miss Americana,” which follows the singer’s life and career over several years.

Though I am certainly no Belieber, Justin Bieber’s “Get Me,” released Jan. 28, features R&B star Kehlani, and that was enough to convince me to give the song a listen.

This passionate R&B love-song duet is a drastic improvement from Bieber’s “Yummy,” which was released at the beginning of the month. However, while “Get Me” is lovely, I cannot get the atrocity that is “Yummy” out of my head while listening to Bieber yet again moan about his relationship with his wife, Hailey Baldwin. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy for them, but if I were Baldwin, I would be tired of these weirdly personal, erotic love songs being released to the world. Luckily, Kehlani’s sensual vocals steal the show with this tune, taking it to the next level and bringing a welcome sense of euphoria.

On a more emotional note, Demi Lovato debuted and performed “Anyone” at the Grammy Awards on Jan. 26. This was her first time performing since she was hospitalized for a drug overdose in 2018, and she received a standing ovation after the powerful performance.

The song, which was recorded four days before her overdose, is a beautifully simple piano ballad that expresses the singer’s feelings of isolation and anguish through lyrics such as, “I feel stupid when I sing / Nobody’s listening to me.” Lovato demonstrates the sheer power of her voice when she belts out the chorus, “Anyone, please send me anyone / Lord, is there anyone? / I need someone.” Though it’s a tear-jerker, this song brings a sense of healing through the singer’s strong, steady voice.

Kesha’s “Tonight,” released Jan. 28, is a truly wild ride. The song begins with a similar, but more upbeat, sound to Lovato’s “Anyone,” with a piano and Kesha’s powerful vocals preparing listeners for an experience similar to her 2017 “Rainbow.” However, approximately 40 seconds in, the song takes a sudden detour into the realm of raunchy hip-hop-EDM, with lyrics reminiscent of the singer’s former “Animal” days: “Okay, we stayin’ up tonight, there’s no turnin’ back / I got my shorties up so high, bet y’all think I’m runnin’ track.”

When I first hit play on “Tonight,” I was overcome with a sense of grandeur. By the end, I was ready to put on a leather skirt and hit the town. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear this song playing at a dimly-lit club with questionable characters waiting for their turn in a bathroom stall. While there are some weird electronic and off-key moments in the song, they culminate in an awesome beat drop about two minutes in that leaves any listener ready to head bang.

“Tonight” is the opening track to Kesha’s “High Road,” her latest album, which was released Jan. 31.

Finally, Russ’s “Guess What,” released Jan. 30 featuring Rick Ross, left me thinking just that: What? I was curious, and even hopeful, when I first saw the rapper’s name on this week’s playlist, but the tune was a woeful miss from the start.

Russ repeats the question “Guess what?” approximately 40 times throughout the song, which is annoying enough. He also keeps mentioning that, among other things, he’s apparently put his logo in his pool. I don’t claim to be an expert in all things pool or fame-related, but what does putting your logo in your pool do for you? The entire song seems like he’s bragging about things that no one really cares about. Kesha at least made a solid party hit; I can’t imagine “Guess What” playing in any setting. Nevertheless, there’s an ongoing global health crisis and impeachment trial, Mr. Russ. Perhaps we should get our priorities straight, or at least stop wasting time with mediocre, tooting-your-own-horn music.

Elizabeth Green is the photo editor of the Arkansas Traveler. She worked as a photographer from 2017-2019 and has also reported for the Lifestyles section.

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