This week was a pick-up in music news with the Thanksgiving holiday behind us. The 20th anniversary of Alicia Keys’ sophomore album, The Diary Of Alicia Keys, has everyone taking a trip down memory lane. For the lucky ones, they were able to have that musical journey with the highly decorated singer in person at the celebratory concert in New York City. Keys will continue to reflect on the past now that her autobiographical music, Hell’s Kitchen, is set to hit Broadway in 2024.
The Color Purple’s premiere brought out entertainment’s biggest stars. It even brought Paula Abdul and Fantasia back to each other’s warm embrace on the carpet. With the Oscar buzz growing louder around Fantasia’s on-screen performance, the singer’s latest business venture hopes to have consumers feeling the same way. Through Essence, Fantasia revealed that she is launching a wine brand.
But, what new music dropped? This Fresh Finds Fridays column features releases from Raiche, Sean Leon, Gemaine, Usher with H.E.R., Marsha Ambrosius, Leuca & Xavier Omär, and Moxie Knox. Check out this week’s roundup below. Don’t forget to let us know who you’re listening to in the comment section below.
Raiche – Loveland
Raiche may be young but her emotional intelligence is off the charts. Across her album, Loveland, she navigates several concepts and conversations that many struggle to grasp well into their adulthood. Throughout the thirteen featured songs, the Pittsfield, Massachusetts native isn’t afraid to contradict herself as she tackles these existential questions.
With one sole guest feature in Ty Dolla $ign, Raiche wants the space to emotionally work it out for herself. Loveland is about forging through the weeds of romance. In today’s dating climate, romantic gaslighting becomes too much to bear. For Raiche, she grapples with what decision to make. What do you prioritize? Is being provided for and being loved mutually exclusive? Loveland picks at it all.
During an interview with Buzz Access, which she posted on Instagram, Raiche discussed what she believes is the biggest takeaway from the album. “I don’t want my fans to hear this project and stop me there. I feel fans get attached to what they originally heard from their [favorite] artists, and I want to grow. I want to be able to grow. And I want that to be accepted by everyone [listening],” said the singer.
Vocally speaking Raiche played it too safe for my comfort but what did shine was her songwriting skills and understanding of music theory. Standout tracks on Loveland include “Big Daddy,” “Drive,” “Burn Your Clothes,” and “Simple.”
Sean Leon – In Loving Memory
Sean Leon is a creative force that has been in the background of the music scene for a while. His interest knows no limits. However, this year he’s emphasized that being a recording artist is at the forefront. Last month, he dropped the project, King & Sufferin. Weeks later he’s back with In Loving Memory.
This body of work explored the in-between. Plainly put, In Loving Memory is a lucid dream in which Dylan Sinclair, River Tiber, Jessie Reyez, Daniel Caesar, and Y (better known as Kanye West) make a guest appearance.
Sean takes each of the fourteen songs in countless creative directions including spoken word and alternative R&B. This is mirrored by the project’s subject matter. Across In Loving Memory, the musician is having a string of internal and external conversations simultaneously. The album’s title could be taken very different ways but I think that if we’re talking about the most obvious reference to death. But not in the traditional sense. Sean is done following the restrictive guidelines but in place to box him in. In Loving Memory is about finding freedom in expression in all aspects.
Before the album was shared publicly, Sean took to his Instagram to pen a note of gratitude. “The soundtrack is coming this year, an independent release titled, ‘In Loving Memory’ (made possible through the creative company Pupil). I am so ready for you to really hear me. I don’t know if you can tell, but I’m having a lot of fun this time. The industry feels more rigid than ever and that can suck the life and fun out of the game, but that’s why I’m breaking all the rules. God forbid, one day I may no longer be able to operate and move like this so while I can, I’m going to take advantage and have some fun with it til it’s time for me to be done with it. Rolling out great music is an achievement in itself, so let’s celebrate each other because we’re worth celebrating,” wrote the singer.
Standout songs are “The Glade,” “Equinox,” and “Memories.”
Gemaine – Just Gemaine
In the climate of short-length music releases, Gemaine has managed to find a healthy balance.
His new EP Just Gemaine adheres to the new industry standard of brevity but still manages to deliver a filling project. Despite the brief runtime on each song, the Compton, California native found a way to avoid filler and offer a hearty musical serving.
Throughout the body of work that features appearances by Jacob Latimore and Reggie Becton, Gemaine’s vision of commercial appeal is evident. Just Gemaine is a showcase of everything the singer has to offer. He has a variety of sounds sprinkled throughout, which shows that he’s open and willing to play around. From the fundamental classics to modern new school sonics, Gemaine has his ears to the streets. There are elements of trap selections and Jersey Club music. But he doesn’t abandon traditional R&B arrangements.
As far as the storytelling is concerned, this project is a look at the ups and downs of romantic interests. From infatuation to heartbreak and to the blissful honeymoon stage. Gemaine is playing the long game, for sure.
Gemaine took to his Instagram to outline the meaning behind the project’s title. “I named this project ‘Just Gemaine’ because this is the first time I really feel I’m in the driver’s seat for my career and life. I have been my main influence, but that doesn’t mean I did it alone,” wrote the singer.
Across the six songs featured on the project, the standouts are “Don’t Miss,” “Speechless,” and “Pain Club.”
Usher & H.E.R – “Risk It All”
The Color Purple is set to hit theaters nationwide on Christmas Day. For the film, they put together an all-star cast. So, it’s only right for the soundtrack that they did the same. Last week, the project’s lead single, “Lifeline” by Alicia Keys, was released. Now, it’s time for the second serving.
For the soundtrack’s second single, “Risk It All,” Usher teamed up with one of the stars of the film, H.E.R., to help convey the movie’s message of love’s power. Based on his own solo works, Usher’s discography proves that he is a notorious crooner. But in “Risk It All,” he shows another side of himself. Usher is more than his sexuality. His emotional vulnerability is a side that should be broadcast far more often.
H.E.R. highlights why the EGOT whispers were justified. If this vocal performance indicates what her acting portrayal will be like in the film, movie audiences are in for a treat.
The Color Purple soundtrack will be released in its entirety on December 15.
Marsha Ambrosius – “The Greatest”
The debate about which singer is the greatest singer of all time (or GOAT) is never-ending. However, during BET’s 2023 Soul Train Music Awards, Marsha Ambrosius professed her running as part of the Soul Cypher. In her latest single, she revisits this topic.
Instead of focusing on herself, on “The Greatest,” Marsha turns her pen toward the most potent lover she’s ever had. Get your mind out of the gutter. It is just about doing the deed between the sheets. For Marsha, it’s about the emotional and spiritual connection. Ok. Yes, the physical support stuff, too.
“Are you scared of this love I have to give? / Are you afraid there’s only one life to live? / If we do this again / Don’t pretend / You said the day I met you that you’d never let me go / Enchanted by your passion, I’m enamored, got me wanting you / And the things you do to me / You’re by far / The greatest of them all,” sings Marsha.
Marsha Ambrosius’ catalog is full of beautifully written ballads and soul records centered around love. Some were even sung by other artists. But “The Greatest” is a record that the listener will be glad that she kept for herself.
Leuca & Xavier Omär – “Some Days”
As we enter the thick of the holiday season and seasonal depression, many people wrestle with feelings of loneliness, inadequacies, and more. Unfortunately, most aren’t given the space to express these emotions. However, singer Leuca’s latest single is here to amplify that everything isn’t always good.
On “Some Days,” he taps his friend and past collaborator Xavier Omär to drive the point home. The two singers come together to stress that you don’t have to fake the funk in order to be down or accepted. In fact, if you actually speak your truth, you may find the support you need is actually surrounding you. “Some Days” is an honest conversation about how difficult life can be and how that strain can take a toll on your emotional, mental, and physical well-being.
In a post on Instagram, Leuca wrote about the importance of the record. “I’ve said this before, but this is really a piece of my heart, put out there for the world to see. Vulnerability and sharing how you feel is super important, especially as a man. It’s okay to say you’re sad, it’s okay to feel broken. I think all of us can relate in some way,” wrote Leuca.
“Some Days” is Leuca’s follow-up to his EP To Love You In The Dark.
Moxie Knox – “Clothesline”
As a phrase goes, fool me once shame on you. But if you mage to fool me twice, that shame falls on me. Bronx singer Moxie Knox learned this life lesson the hard way. However, instead of letting it defeat her, she funneled that into her song, “Clothesline.”
On this single, Moxie is tired of being a fool in love, so she’s breaking the cycle. The track was originally released in April 2021 as part of her album, Ride. Thanks to the single’s new music video, the song has been thrown back into the algorithm for R&B lovers to discover.
“Nothing to say / You just walk away / Like I’m a shirt on your clothesline / I don’t know if I can handle this / Too many moments coming and going / Leaving me empty and with no way / To be sure if you’ll come back someday,” sings Moxie.
While there is no true victory in this record, it is important for Moxie to take this moment to reflect on just how down she was. Moxie wants to ensure that during the healing process, she analyzes where she played a part in her own emotional demise.
*Post design cover credit: Derek Blanks