This Fresh Finds Fridays column, curated by contributor Flisadam Pointer, features released from Leon Thomas, Ciara, Amaka, Usher, Tinashe, Xavier Omar & Elhae, Snoh Aalegra, Vedo, Jessie Reyez featuring Miguel, Pania, and IX Wulf.
Check out this week’s roundup and don’t forget to let us know who you’re listening to in the comment section below.
Leon Thomas – Electric Dusk
Leon Thomas has spent nearly half of his life in the spotlight. If you focus solely on the last several years, the multi-hyphenated entertainer has had no problem playing the background penning or producing hits for other musicians. But on his debut album, “Electric Dusk”, all eyes are on Thomas.
The 12-song project features vocal appearances by Thomas’ EZYMNY Records label head Ty Dolla $ign, Benny The Butcher, and Victoria Monét with guest production by Childish Major, Axl Folie, Don Mils, and Sapphire Adizes, to name a few. Electric Dusk is Thomas’ first full project since his 2018 EP Genesis, and sonically, it shows. Previously released singles “Breaking Point” and “Crash & Burn” are stellar examples of how much he’s grown as a producer, songwriter, and vocalist. But as a fair warning, these two lustrous records are deceptive. Electric Dusk isn’t a clean-cut body of work with striking metaphoric lyrics. Thomas takes it all the way there and more, showing no interest in preserving the innocence of a former television teen star.
During a closed press conference, Thomas shared that tracks “Blue Hundreds” and “Fade To Black” were the project’s defining tracks. While “Blue Hundreds” is undeniably the most daring, as Thomas pulls from psychedelic rock and funk; it is “Love Jeans” featuring Ty Dolla $ign and “Sneak” are the most impactful, of course, outside of “Breaking Point Remix” featuring Victoria Monét.
After years of fighting the attention of R&B lovers, thanks to Electric Dusk, Leon Thomas finally has it. The ball’s in his court, but Thomas’ focus isn’t on just delivering the game-winning shot. Electric Dusk is his means to an end. The larger goal is getting Thomas’ jersey to be victoriously hung from the rafters.
Ciara – CiCi
Earlier this week, Ciara announced that her beloved family is growing. The singer and her professional quarterback husband, Russell Wilson, are expecting their third child together. That’s not the only thing expanding for the Grammy Award-winning entertainer. So is her discography. On her own record label, Beauty Marks Entertainment, Ciara has dropped her new EP CiCi.
Prior to the release of the seven-track project, Ciara was sure to share a flurry of singles, whether they were her own or if she collaborating with another act. While her tracks “How We Roll” featuring Chris Brown and “Forever” featuring Lil Baby made the final cut, unfortunately, “Da Girls,” “Better Thangs” featuring Summer Walker, and “Jump” did not. Frankly speaking, it was for the best.
Fans online have crowned “BRB,” the unsung gem, but the true standout track on the EP is “2 In Luv.” The remaining records that appear on CiCi, including “Winning” featuring Big Freedia, frame a vivid picture of where the R&B veteran is at, both professionally and personally.
This isn’t the first time Ciara named one of her bodies of work after an individual (see her 2015 album Jackie, which was dedicated to her mother). However, this is the most crystalline she’s been. CiCi isn’t Ciara’s most audacious project by any stretch. Ciara switches between pop R&B, traditional downtempo ballads to dance crossovers of Jersey club as well as New Orleans heard after past releases. But, where it lacks imagination, it makes up in cohesiveness. As a listen, this is the first time I feel like I’m seeing Ciara outside of the veil of fame.
Amaka – Oasis EP
Amaka, formerly professionally known as Jessica Nwokike, left her VanJess moniker, but her decade-long history of musicality is only growing stronger. On her solo debut EP Oasis, Amaka pushes the limits of how R&B is viewed. The six-track project, which was produced by Grammy Award-winning musician Kaytranada, is Amaka’s past singles “Cruising’,” “Leave It Behind,” and title track “Oasis,” exhibited the scope of the singer has been holding back.
Taking to Twitter, Amaka reverberated the sentient, writing, “I’m so proud of myself for what I’ve been able to do as an independent artist so far, and I have no intention of being safe or dimming my light ever again. I’m here to impact and connect, music first over everything!”
That’s not to say that her love for her family is now a thing of the past, as Amaka admitted her previous single, “Cruisin’,” was written after the passing of her father. Hell, even her new stage name is tied back to her lineage, being that it is an abbreviated version of her middle name.
However, as Oasis proves, Amaka is now boundless of expectations formed by listeners of her VanJess discography created with her sister, label executives, or limitation of the quintessential R&B sound. On the standout track, “Hold Tight,” Amaka uses everything in her musical arsenal, including dreamy vocal delivery, addictive storytelling, and brilliant structuring to craft the perfect record.
Amaka has already shown that she is a fierce R&B act. But on her EP Oasis, she highlights that she can do much more. Should she choose to dip into electronic music, other musicians better beware.
Usher – “Boyfriend”
When you find yourself at the center of a social media storm, take a page out of Usher’s book. Following his onstage moment during his My Way Las Vegas residency with fellow entertainer Keke Palmer, the singer sparked several debates about relationship etiquette. So, in a veteran move, Usher turned the drama into a new sassy single, and fans have Darius Jackson to thank for it.
Usher’s latest single, “Boyfriend,” is the ultimate clap-back at everyone that had a negative thing to say about him putting on a show worth the ticket piece. As he sings, “Somebody said that your boyfriend’s lookin’ for me / Oh, that’s cool, that’s cool / Well, he should know I’m pretty easy to find / Just look for me wherever he sees you,” Usher, Camper, and Rico Love its clear that they injected humor into their pen.
For the official accompanying video, Palmer plays the star as she pays homage to the cinematography and choreography of Usher’s 2001 video “U Don’t Have To Call,” directed by Little X. Palmer took to Twitter to thank the Grammy Award winner for the opportunity, writing, “Usher! I remember when I was 12 and auditioned for ‘In The Mix’ 🤣. You have been killing it all my life. As a true lover of the arts, your talent and craftsmanship are a rare combination that I aspire to achieve as a performer. You are a living legend who is worthy of awe! Thank you for encouraging me and seeing me as the entertainer I am.”
To which he replied, “My goal in life as an artist is to make things that people feel…things that make the next generation feel inspired to chase their dreams. Thank you for inspiring me and being inspiring. 🙏🏾”
“Boyfriend” is Usher’s third single this year, following “Glu” as well as “Good Good” with Summer Walker and 21 Savage.
Tinashe – “Needs”
The leading ladies of rap aren’t the only ways brazen enough to explicitly outlet their sexual desires. In Tinashe’s new single “Needs,” she is flying the flag of intimate liberation for women in R&B. Co-produced by Royce David and JonnyMade, “Needs” is the latter end of Tinashe’s cocky era pushed further by her last track, “Talk To Me Nice.”
While “Talk To Me Nice” was focused on the assertion that her time should not be wasted. “Needs” details what she wants to do with her spare time, and to put it mildly, it doesn’t entail long walks in the park. Originally teased back on August 7, “Needs” lays out her sexual urges for her partner in lust as she sings, “Open twenty-four hours / There’s no shirts or shoes required / Eat your heart out / My body is a buffet / Eat my p*ssy, boy, don’t call me / I can’t be ya one and only / Not today / Tell that girl that I got my bands up, yeah / Heard she a fan, yeah / Come and get your man.”
There’s absolutely no shame in Tinashe’s game she doesn’t want to pay into the trope of innocence. Instead, she sternly adopts the bad girl persona on her quest to be pleased. Long gone are the days of purity politics, and for Tinashe’s sake, it’s for the best.
“Needs” is a fusion of R&B vocals inflections with trap rap production tailored made for the dance floor. This is the space that is Tinashe’s go-to sound when she’s not leaning into experimental electronic. If her forthcoming project, BB/ANG3L, is a project full of records similar to “Needs,” no club is safe.
Elhae & Xavier Omar – “Favourite”
The summertime is all about fun, relaxation, and family time. Xavier Omär has kept his head down, using the past few weeks to enjoy the presence of his loved ones. However, to ensure that he still has fans top of his mind, Omär joined forces with fellow musician ELHAE for the new record “Favourite.”
As the brainchild of the pair who are the sole writers, “Favourite” is Omär’s follow-up to his last single, “Magic,” which was shared back in May. The record, produced by Piccino and TAVE, combines the singer’s two favorite elements – a steady bass groove and a platform to gush over a positive, nurturing love.
Omär opens up his sweet dedication, singing, “Just know you’ll always be enough / I didn’t know the way I need you / Special for love, it’s different people / If you ever doubt I’m sure, I’m yours.” Later in the second verse, ELHAE adds to the verbal confirmation, harmonizing, “Girl, you got my heart / You told me I don’t need to feel / The weight of the world on my shoulders / This girl got my head in the clouds / Girl, you’re just so wow.”
In March, ELHAE treated fans to his project, Forgotten Flowers. Omär, on the other hand, hasn’t shared a full project since his EP blurr last year. Selfishly speaking, it might be time for another Xavier Omär album.
Snoh Aalegra – “Wait A Little Longer”
After breaking her two-year musical hiatus, Snoh Aalegra has unlocked the doors to her vault, flooding fans with new drops. First, the singer shared “Be My Summer,” then “Sweet Tea.” Now, she teamed up with producers Sensei Bueno and Mellodust on her latest single, “Wait A Little Longer.”
With each record, Aalegra digs her heels further into the signature R&B sound supporters have come to love. But as the track pulls inspiration from legend Stevie Wonder’s 1980 “Don’t Make Me Wait Too Long” record with Roberta Flack, Aalegra adds dimension to the track by blending in jazz arrangements and instrumentation.
“Wait A Little Longer,” which was co-written by Aalegra, Daijah Anasa Ross, and Sensei Bueno, is about the desperation felt when discovering that a lover has decided to move on. This humiliation is emphasized as the musician sings, “Like a season never endin’ / Like tryin’ to catch the wind / I know I didn’t stand a chance / But I can’t help but try / It’s just who I am / I lied when I say, ‘We can still be friends’ / Boy, the love I have for you, still remains / Now we’re back to strangers.”
Although Snoh hasn’t formally announced an album with three songs under her belt, an announcement could arrive any day now.
Vedo – “Intentional”
On his new single, Vedo is single-handedly restoring R&B lovers’ faith in the dating market. The musician has blazed a trail of baby-making music heard throughout his Mood Swings album, which dropped at the top of the year. His latest song, “Intentional,” is the first step on his guide map to the vertical tango in the sheets.
As the title suggests, the initial act before establishing soul ties with a lover is being mindful of not only who you are courting but how you, through your actions, show that you are serious about locking them down. Within the lyrics, which were co-written by Vedo and Camper (who also served as the record’s producer), the pair gives the blueprint on how to unlock the part of yourself.
“Whether it’s good or bad / I’ll take it all / When you lovin’ me / Give me your all / So the vision’s clear / That you want me to come drown in your water / Love how intentionally / You trust me with your body / So deep that you can’t find me / Ooh, we might start a family / ‘Cause when we pour into each other, we both grow / So I know that this love’s intentional,” sings Vedo on the track’s second verse.
Vedo’s leadership skills while in a relationship aren’t about controlling his partnership. Instead, it’s on how to make his love feel at ease which will bring out the best in them, therefore, building the best possible them.
The recording artist took to Instagram to share the inspiration behind the track, writing, “Everything I do is ‘Intentional’ from loving you, caring for you, making you smile, making love to you, being that shoulder to lean on, and being the source of strength for you when you can’t be strong yourself. All was intentional. I will leave no room for you to wonder. I’m yours.”
Jessie Reyez – “Jeans” featuring Miguel
In entertainment, sex sells. For R&B musicians, it’s a lot deeper than that. Sexuality is the genre’s bread and butter. But as Jessie Reyez’s new single “Jeans” featuring Miguel, what’s understood doesn’t always have to be said. In fact, sometimes it’s best to let the mind wander with descriptive sensual metaphors.
While Miguel is on a hit streak with singles over the past few months, “Jeans” marks Reyez’s first billed song since the release of her 2022 album, Yessie. Pulling a page out of Ginuwine’s 2003 playbook (“In Those Jeans”), the pair revel in the pleasures of the regions down below thanks to the crafty writing of Reyez, Jeff “Gitty” Gitelman, Jordan Johnson, and Stefan Johnson.
The title of the track was as apparent, but as the pair sing in the chorus, “Cause you fit / Better than a pair of jeans, baby / Fill me up better than a feast / Don’t think I could ever let you leave, baby / You fit / Like your mama made you just for me, baby / Stroke makin’ me forget to breathe, baby / That face lookin’ like a seat, baby,” the muse of “Jeans” is evident.
Reyez teaming up with producers Gitty and The Monsters & Strangerz, churned out another exceptional musical showing.
Pania – “Gettn Ova U”
On her new single, Pania is repurposing the age of saying, “A drunk mouth speaks a sober mind.” While Jamie Foxx blamed his sexual prowess on the alcohol, for the West Melbourne, Australia native, her record “Gettn Ova U” is all about using a few beverages of liquid courage to numb her as she heals from heartbreak.
As the latest offering from her forthcoming project, We Still Young, the range of storytelling across records yet still managing to be cohesive is commendable. “Gettn Ova U” is the newest installment in Pania’s eventful romantic saga heard across past drops “Burna Fone,” “All Mine,” and “P Stands For Playa.”
Producer Hamley gives Pania room to air out her grieves without stepping too far outside of her mid-tempo range. The pair’s working dynamic is epitomized most in the lyrics of “Gettn Ova U.” As Pania sings, “I just hit the club / ‘Cause you don’t give a f*ck about me / And you broke me down last night / Tryna build myself up with these hands / One too many / I’m out / Can’t feel you no more / Tryna find me some closure / Can’t do that sober / One too many / Don’t need you no more / So long as my cup is full baby I’ll get over you with all this liquor,” listeners are instantly pulled into the singer’s drap mood as if they were a friend in the room witnessing this spiral in real-time.
By the end of the track, Pania has changed out of her three-day-old pajama set after coming to grips with her relationship’s demise and is ready to begin stage one of the healing journey. Although she’s not fully healed, she’s ready to hit bottomless brunch with the girls, having officially blocked her ex in her phone number and across social media.
IX Wulf – “Scales Tip My Way”
According to X (formerly Twitter) users, R&B music in its current state lacks the vulnerability heard generations prior. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. With each release off of New Jersey native IX Wulf’s forthcoming EP Heal Yourself First, the crooner chips away at his hardened exterior and his gentle inner workings.
Following behind his past singles “To Your Side,” “Feel Alive,” and “Doubtful,” Wulf’s latest track adds to the growing narrative he’s forming about the modern emotionally evolved man. On his record, “Scales Tip My Way,” which was produced by Yogic, the song demonstrates that not all men are playboys. In fact, some are actively and strategically vying for the heart of one sole lover.
As Wulf sings, “Leave it to me / I’ll give you all that I got so I get a shot / It’s so hard to believe / So I’ll dial myself sometimes / So look me in my eyes when you kiss me / Just forgive me / You should know I’m insecure / That I love you so much more / ‘Cause I never felt before / Scales tip my way,” he admits that putting himself out there does strike up fear but he’s willing to do if for that right one.
Just as a crustacean exposes themselves to danger with each season’s molt, this tender phase allows the creator to grow into a considerably larger home. This also rings true with IX Wulf’s “Scales Tip My Way,” as he continues to shake off his confined views, he can stretch out to a massive love that his form self wouldn’t have had the bandwidth for.