New Music Friday Graphic

While spunky new releases from Glee icon Darren Criss and neo-soul sweetheart SZA bring a special vivacity to this weekend’s playlist, nothing beats the warm nostalgia of a blast from the aughts.

At the forefront of Friday’s release radar was the re-recording of Taylor Swift’s 2008 album “Fearless,” now appropriately dubbed “Fearless (Taylor’s Version).” The 26-track project is a near-replica of its namesake, with the added allure of six formerly unreleased tracks cut from the original “Fearless.” In this revisitation of songs she wrote as a teenager, and the body of work that solidified her place in country music history, Swift’s growth is clear-cut. Though her vocals have aged like wine, there is an innocence still present in songs like “Hey Stephen” and “Fifteen” that defined my –– and so many others’ –– coming of age.

Doja Cat and SZA are an other-worldly duo in “Kiss Me More,” a vibey, disco-revival treat that I know will find its home on every H&M dressing room playlist. The pair’s voices meld flawlessly, elevated by a funky beat that carries the track’s mood throughout. With a contagious confidence and sensuality, “Kiss Me More” belongs on every warm-weather playlist.

In his plucky new single “f*ckn around,” Darren Criss proves he is indeed not f*ckn around. Backed by a funky bassline and sanded-down drum licks, Criss delivers drama and indignation in lyrics like, “All the fights, fires you started / Stab my back, say you’re a martyr / Oh my god, I know I can’t stop it now.” Though simple and repetitive, the lyrics cut deep and give the track a replay-worthy memorability.

In the aftermath of an arduous past few years, Demi Lovato has rediscovered herself on her latest album “Dancing With The Devil,” released in tandem with her YouTube documentary series of the same title. The whole album is deeply moving and explorative, but the song I’ve found myself coming back to is “Sunset,” a soulful romanticization of the fear that can accompany growing closer with someone. Lovato’s voice and storytelling are ever-powerful as she makes an emotional reemergence into the spotlight.

AVIV’s “Black Coffee” will be Tik Tok’s next “Space Girl” –– I’m calling it now. With her delicate harmonies and smooth instrumentation, the Toronto-based pop newcomer has an era-defining charm sure to command attention as summer inches near. Though only 15 years old, AVIV demonstrates an age-transcendent knack for songwriting that prevails through clever metaphor. Throughout the song, AVIV explores the process of moving on, comparing distant memories to grains at the bottom of a coffee cup.

This weekend’s lineup was a perfect balance of childhood nostalgia and of-the-moment flare, showcasing the best of both new and seasoned artists.

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