“Never had a lot, this is all I need / People never care ’til it’s R.I.P.,” Drake raps on “Love All” from his long-awaited Certified Lover Boy album. Forever operating with a chip on his shoulder — even on a song that features a Jay-Z guest verse — Drake has once again checked in from hip-hop’s Mount Olympus to wax poetic on the tribulations of fame, the disrespect that colored his rise and the relationships he hasn’t been able to keep intact. The 21-song Certified Lover Boy takes a few tracks to get going but hits a groove in its second half, with Rick Ross, 21 Savage, Tems and Kid Cudi helping Drake express his blockbuster-selling emotions.
Lady Gaga, Dawn of Chromatica
Lady Gaga’s Chromatica album was a party amid worldwide lockdowns: released in May 2020, the superstar’s triumphant return to electro-pop provoked sing-alongs and spontaneous dance breaks a few months into the global pandemic. Dawn of Chromatica, a star-studded remix album, keeps those fun times rolling by rearranging the album but never sacrificing its inherent thump — Bree Runway and Jimmy Edgar turn “Babylon” into an even more hyperactive banger, for instance, while Arca’s glitchy take on “Rain On Me” yields surprisingly soulful results.
ABBA, “I Still Have Faith in You” / “Don’t Shut Me Down”
“You’ve waited 40 years for a new ABBA song and now there are two!” the legendary pop group’s social media accounts declared on Thursday to mark the release of real, actually new ABBA music, a stunning development for a group that’s been silent for decades while still remaining relevant within pop culture. The best part of this unexpected return is that the new songs sound great: “I Still Have Faith in You” sounds regal and heartfelt as a karaoke-ready power ballad, while “Don’t Shut Me Down” grazes the sugary highs of ABBA’s greatest pop hits.
Meek Mill & Lil Uzi Vert, “Blue Notes 2”
Days after Meek Mill returned alongside Lil Baby and Lil Durk on “Sharing Locations,” he’s already back with his fellow Philly star, Lil Uzi Vert, on a sequel to his 2016 cut “Blue Notes.” Here, Meek goes berserk over a trap beat and distant electric guitar squeals; Uzi bats cleanup in the back half of the song, but this is Meek’s show, and he asserts himself more forcefully on “Blue Notes 2” than he did on last week’s collaboration.
Imagine Dragons, Mercury – Act 1
While they’ve been collecting radio smashes and playing to arenas, Imagine Dragons have concurrently pushed themselves to evolve, refusing to abide by mainstream expectations on their full-lengths. As previewed by the markedly different singles “Follow You” and “Cutthroat,” Mercury – Act 1 shakes up the band’s sonic approach while still sporting melodies that can appeal to sprawling crowds, with songs like “Lonely” and “Monday” stomping forward with playful pop-rock, programmed beats and frontman Dan Reynolds’ devil-may-care approach to his vocal takes.
Daddy Yankee, “Métele Al Perreo”
Even as summer is winding to a close, Daddy Yankee is providing pristine beach-party music: the energy of new single “Métele Al Perreo” is unrelenting, to the point where it’s a wonder that the reggaeton star possesses the lung capacity to rattle off so many syllables without a break. Produced by Luny of the Luny Tunes, the song’s combination of Yankee’s rubbery flow and sweltering beat makes for grade-A Labor Day playlist fodder.
Charli XCX, “Good Ones”
As we approach the decade mark since the release of her spectacular first few singles, Charli XCX has continued to hone her pop craft and demonstrate her songwriting gifts. “Good Ones,” which precedes her fifth studio album, boils down poor romantic decisions into two chewy minutes and change, its propulsive electro-pop recalling her True Romance days.