New Music Friday Graphic

Friday’s eclectic mix of new music releases includes everything from unique gospel-pop fusion and stunning vocal offerings to cheesy breakup songs and excessive auto-tune.

First up on Friday’s playlist is “Holy (feat. Chance the Rapper)” by Justin Bieber. As someone who has never been much of a Belieber, this track pleasantly surprised me. The charming ode to Bieber’s wife, Hailey Bieber, is peppered with simple piano progressions punctuated by a steady snare drum beat, evoking a cross between a smooth R&B jam and a Sunday-morning-worthy gospel song.

Of course, this spiritual vibe is by design, since the song –which features Christian-influenced artist Chance the Rapper and gospel-choir backing – vocals describes the way that Bieber’s relationship with his wife makes him feel closer to God. Between lyrics in which Bieber recalls how he rushed to the altar “like a track star” because he couldn’t wait to wed Hailey, Chance raps about the long, sometimes difficult road to finding and marrying the person God intended for him. The effect is a cohesive, beautiful tribute to love and spirituality, powerfully delivered by two men who clearly adore their wives.

“Diamonds” by Sam Smith, the next new track of the day, also shines brightly (pun intended). Both danceable and worthy of an emotional breakup playlist, this bop incorporates plenty of drums, electronic guitar and slightly distorted backing vocals, while still allowing Smith to be the main event. As with most of Smith’s music, the listener can really hear the emotion – in this case, pain– in their gorgeous, soulful voice as they sing about betrayal and cruelty by a materialistic ex-lover.

Similarly mournful, “Welcome Back (feat. Alessia Cara)” by Ali Gatie, sees Iraqi-Canadian artist Gatie yearning for a lost love, whom he misses deeply, to wander back through his door. This overwhelmingly mediocre track features a basic melody layered with trite lyrics and uninteresting raps. Gatie’s almost aggressively auto-tuned voice does not do the song any favors either. If the track has a saving grace, it’s the verses by Gatie’s fellow Canadian singer-songwriter Cara, whose smooth, expressive voice injects a bit of spirit into this snore of a song.

“Me x 7 (feat. Tierra Whack)” by Alicia Keys brings a unique and captivating sound to Friday’s pop-heavy playlist. This sultry, experimental R&B track comes from Keys’s new album, “Alicia,” which also dropped Friday. The reverberating, hazy quality of Keys’s vocals and the distinctive lilt of rapper Whack’s voice are difficult to pin down with words, but they mesh perfectly to create a surreal, intoxicating sound on this track.

The song’s message of committing to self-care and self-respect, rather than living to please others, also provides a welcome, important reminder for these stressful times.

This Friday's new releases offer something satisfying for almost everyone’s musical tastes, with plenty of sure-to-be hits and great additions for playlists of every flavor.

Sarah Komar is the news editor for The Arkansas Traveler, where she previously worked as a staff reporter in 2019 and early 2020.

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