New Music Friday Graphic

A mix of new albums and singles from musicians like Weezer, Rebecca Black and JoJo showcased honest reflections of the highs and lows of life, a refreshing departure from the kitchy songs popularized on social media.

London-based singer-songwriter Arlo Parks released “Collapsed in Sunbeams,” her 12-track debut album chalked full of soft-spoken ballads, soulful beats and raw talent. The standout single “Hope” is an emotional yet elegant testament to perseverance in dreary times, exemplified with: “You’re not alone like you think you are / We all have scars, I know it’s hard.” Other notable tracks include “Black Dog,” “Caroline,” and “Green Eyes,” which I discovered via my Spotify-curated playlists,

Celeste, winner of the 2019 Brit Award for Rising Star, landed on the scene with her debut album “Not Your Muse (Deluxe),” a 21-track love letter to her past, her future, and most importantly, herself. “Ideal Woman” is a subdued and unapologetic rejection of societal standards, realized with: “I may not be your ideal woman / The heaven in your head / The one that’s gonna save you / From all your discontent.” While Celeste shines on her soft ballads, other tracks like “Tonight Tonight” showcase her range in upbeat, empowering anthems.

Far from their debut album, Weezer swapped guitar-forward pop-rock classics for soft, string-led ballads on “OK Human,” their 14th studio album. Intertwining honest expositions and rhythmic strings, opening track “All My Favorite Songs” invites listeners to dive into the newfound softened, mellow vibe of the genre-bending band. For those looking to transport to the 2010s era of indie music, “La Brea Tar Pits” and “Grapes of Wrath” are prime examples of melodic and symphonic ballads famous during that time.

If you have been keeping up with Disney drama, you likely already know that Joshua Bassett dropped “Only a Matter of Time'' on Thursday, his second song released amid the love triangle scandal with Olivia Rodrigo and Sabrina Carpenter. The piano-driven, slow-building track dives into the repercussions of karma, encapsulated best with: “But it’s only a matter of time / An eye for an eye, you’ll go blind / And when did you stop bein’ kind?” While Bassett announced he wrote the track in the summer of 2020, I am among those speculating that the song’s underlying message may be a bit more current.

Rebecca Black, infamous for her 2011 song “Friday,” returned to the music scene with her single “Girlfriend,” a synth-layered, cheerful disco track perfect for dancing around your room. The track oozes optimism and celebrates queerness, poignantly captured with: “I’m getting back with my girlfriend / Ready to dive in the deep end.”

Singer JoJo, who traditionally leans into R&B and pop tracks, stunned listeners with a folksy, Americana blues single benefitting the “I Have A Dream” Foundation. The track features softly plucked guitar and subdued vocals, showcasing JoJo’s versatile, raw talent and ability to create timeless tracks. The song addresses privilege and ignorance in America with “To all the kids without a silver spoon / American mood / You deserve much more, this one’s for you.”

This week’s new music releases gifted listeners with the perfect soundtrack for personal moments of reflection while in the car, useful for those looking to mull over life as we close out the first month of 2021.

Hanna Ellington is an assistant editor for the Arkansas Traveler.

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