New Music Friday Graphic

This weekend’s new music releases included catchy-but-basic, saccharine tracks from two female pop stars, satisfyingly quirky alternative jams, and some smooth and seductive R&B surprises.

Starting off this weekend’s playlist of new releases is “Level of Concern,” Twenty One Pilots’ first single since July 2019. The upbeat, danceable anthem features relevant and hopeful lyrics about leaning on a loved one during the current global health crisis. Although, I could have done without the line, “Wonderin’ would you be / My little quarantine?” I’m sorry, but truly, what does that mean?

My favorite thing about the track is its departure from the band’s signature –and tedious– style of loud talk-singing. The smoother, more refined vocals in “Level of Concern” are quite lovely, and give me hope for the continued evolution of Twenty One Pilots’ sound.

Following up the alternative jam is a new song from pop princess Selena Gomez, who I admire as a person but whose music is not exactly my style. With basic, unimaginative lyrics – “I want a boyfriend / But I just keep hitting dead ends” – and excessive electronic manipulation, “Boyfriend” just does not do it for me.

I will concede that the song’s simplistic writing and steady bass beat make it adequate for dancing to at a party or bar, but I will not be adding it to my library any time soon.

“Let Me Down,” by quirky, part-meme-lord-part-musician Oliver Tree, full name Oliver Tree Nickell, epitomizes his signature sound. That is, it is heavily-produced, catchy, and features an even guitar/drum beat paired with the artist’s unique, hard-to define vocal style.

Nickell announced on Twitter that the track, an apology to his fans for cancelling the release of his debut album, would be his “FINAL SONG + VIDEO.” Given his reputation for tomfoolery, I am somewhat doubtful that this claim will hold true, but either way I enjoyed the fun, punk-influenced party anthem that is “Let Me Down.”

One of my favorite weekend releases, toe-tapping pop-R&B-crossover bop “Ride with Me,” by Pink Sweat$, delivers the dreamy, anthemic vibes I expect from the artist, whose real name is David Bowden. Bowden’s silky-smooth voice and expressive vocals lend themselves perfectly to this uplifting, cheerful love song.

I got major summer vibes from this song, which gave me a welcome reminder that the current situation will not last forever, and carefree, sunny days spent lazing with friends and significant others will come again (eventually).

Unfortunately, I did not feel so positively about pop star Charli XCX’s “forever,” an excessively autotuned electropop love ballad. From the deafening, ear-grating wall of synthy sound effects that opened the track, to the artists overly breathy vocal delivery and boring lyrics, I could not find anything redeeming about this predictable, underwhelming track.

Another lovely R&B gem included in the weekend’s new releases is “Inside Friend” by Leon Bridges, featuring John Mayer. The slow, stripped-down track perfectly showcases Bridges’ sultry, soulful voice, which is well complemented by Mayers’ smooth but subtle backup vocals.

Thanks to the two vocal powerhouses and their excellent songwriting, this dreamy song about a comfortably casual relationship is genuinely sexy. “Inside Friend” is the perfect song for slow dancing in your sweatpants in the living room with your romantic partner (as long as they were already quarantining with you).

“We can be lazy, baby, embrace me / In this feeling so right / Don't think about leaving anytime tonight.” Well perfect, because you literally cannot leave the house, for public health reasons.

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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