Music That Deserves a Second Look

In the second half of 2018, incredible music was released, and with many high-profile musicians releasing new music in the first few months of 2019, it appears that trend will continue. As tends to happen in such a deep field, songs that deserve more recognition slip through the cracks. Here are six artists who have released songs that you might have missed but should listen to:

The 1975

The 1975 is releasing another album in May, but their third studio album, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships (November 2018) should not be ignored. This is especially the case for its second single, “Love It If We Made It,” which really is a “sign of the times,” as lead singer Matty Healy declared was his intent while writing it. The world is a mess, and Healy doesn’t shy away from that, commenting on various injustices including the refugee crisis, police brutality and systemic racism, Donald Trump, and the unnerving consequences of the Internet. Yet, there is an underlying sense of something close to optimism in the melody at the end of the track. I highly recommend watching the music video for the song; the visuals are extremely powerful.

The other tracks are about about online relationships, but “Sincerity Is Scary” stands out from the rest.  Somehow, Healy manages to hit the nail on the head when it comes to modern dating culture. The beat is infectious and features jazz influences.  For a band that often has dark material, it is nice to see them show another, more upbeat side of themselves. The music video is also fun to watch, showing Matty Healy in a happier state of mind.

Ariana Grande

While everyone is (rightfully so) obsessed with “thank u, next” and the new album, Ariana Grande just released Sweetener in August, and with it, an absolute gem in “Breathin.”  This song was inspired by Grande’s struggles with anxiety and panic attacks after the Manchester bombing that occurred at her concert in May 2017. As someone who struggles with anxiety, I was pleasantly surprised by how well Grande portrayed the pain it inflicts on you without making the musical arrangement somber.  

Another song not to be ignored is “Better Off,” an honest, subdued-yet-positive song about moving on from toxic relationships.  Grande is known for her powerhouse vocals and catchy singles, but the stylistic departure and bluntness of the lyrics show that she is maturing as an artist.

Lana Del Rey

Lana Del Rey is set to release her sixth studio album, tentatively titled Norman Fucking Rockwell, on March 29, and she has put out three songs so far. “Mariners Apartment Complex,” released in September as the lead single, is beautiful. The song is uplifting, but at the same time, it makes you think about life and how much you’ve grown.  Stylistically, the song taps into the folk and psychedelic rock genres, a departure from the mostly mainstream sounds featured on her previous album, Lust for Life.

With the two singles released in 2018, it seemed like the album had a clear stylistic and lyrical theme, but on January 9, she released melancholy piano ballad “Hope Is a Dangerous Thing for a Woman Like Me to Have—But I Have It.”  At first, I didn’t like the song, but the more I listened to it, the more it grew on me. Lana is not devoid of hope entirely, but the truth is, it is harder being a woman right now in the U.S. than it was four years ago.

Now that Del Rey has released three singles, it appears that her new album will still have a sense of optimism, but it will be tempered by reality.  I am looking forward to hearing the record in its entirety.

Gabrielle Aplin

In late November, English singer-songwriter Gabrielle Aplin released “My Mistake” as the lead single for her upcoming third full-length album, which will be released in 2019. This piano ballad is a raw and deep exploration of the vicious cycle that is self-doubt, which often leads to self-sabotage. During college, everyone doubts themselves at least once, so “My Mistake” is incredibly relatable in that vein.

Hozier

After a lengthy four-year hiatus, Irish musician Hozier is finally back with new music; his sophomore album, Wasteland, Baby! will drop on March 1, and four songs are already available.  “Movement,” which was released as the first single in November, proves that he is perfectly capable of living up to the insanely high expectations set by his debut album.  The song features his trademark haunting melodies, but the lyrics are not melancholy; instead, they examine love in a positive light. The artwork for the single (and the album) depicts Hozier underwater, and the music makes me feel like I am moving and swimming underwater—masterfully done.

As if he had not outdone himself already, Hozier released “Almost (Sweet Music)” in January.  No moody music? No problem; Hozier sounds equally comfortable with the guitar and an upbeat melody.  The song is about falling in love after some time alone, and the lyrics reference 17 of Hozier’s favorite jazz songs.

Lauren Jauregui

Former Fifth Harmony member Lauren Jauregui has officially launched her solo career with “Expectations,” which will be on her upcoming album, and the song is nothing short of incredible. It is an electric guitar driven ballad that shows off Jauregui’s vocal range and edgy personality. “Expectations” does not sugar coat the reality of being in a relationship; instead, it is raw, honest, and relatable, and the song is all the better for it.