After weeks of anticipation, the 2024 Grammy ceremony is just days away. Based on early critics’ polls, whispers expect Victoria Monét to sweep up at the award show. However, we won’t know the delivered winners until Sunday, February 4. After the Grammys, all music fans’ attention will shift to Usher. Ahead of the Super Bowl Halftime Show, Usher shared the tracklist of his forthcoming album, Coming Home. We’ll dive into the project’s latest single, “Ruin,” below. That wasn’t the only Usher unveiled. His curated festival, Lovers & Friends, has posted the official lineup for this year’s event.
If you’re not a festival person, no worries. Toni Braxton is heading to Las Vegas for her co-headlining residency Love & Laughter with Cedric The Entertainer at The Cosmopolitan. BJ The Chicago Kid, on the other hand, isn’t sticking to one city. When his Gravy Tour kicks off this spring, BJ’s goal is to touch down in every market across the country.
Speaking of road travel, Charlie Wilson’s career has spanned five decades. In celebration of his massive impact on music, the vocalist revealed his monogrammed star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame this week.
But what new music dropped this week? This Fresh Finds Fridays column features releases from Emotional Oranges, Jordyn Simone, Usher, Pheelz, Dram, Sinéad Harnett, J. Valentine, Lyrica Anderson, Trevor Jackson, Yaya Bey, Norelle, Liza, and Nate Curry. Check out this week’s roundup below. Don’t forget to let us know who you’re listening to in the comment section below.
Emotional Oranges – Blended
In five years, Emotional Oranges has become a force in the R&B space. The duo’s 2023 album, Still Emo, continues to pull in massive streaming numbers. But that hasn’t stopped the group from releasing new music. Their latest collaborative EP Blended with Nonso Amadi, gives supporters yet another musical reason to love them.
Blended is the best of each of the recording artists’ sonic worlds. With every individual track, the threesome comes together to step their foot deeper into the other’s respective areas of expertise. Not only is the Blended fluid in terms of genre, but it is also explorative. Blended shows off Emotional Oranges and Nonso Amadi’s creative dimensions. However, it still manages to showcase their unique differences that doesn’t feel divisive.
From the deeply striking R&B melody to the captivating Afrofusion productions, Blended is a sonic chef’s kiss. The four tracks are just enough to sustain the listener but simultaneously short enough to have the listener formulating what a full-length program from the three musicians could sound like.
On Instagram, Emotional Oranges shared a statement outlining the origins of Blended. “At last, our collab EP ‘Blended’ with our brother Nonso Amadi is here,” they wrote. “[‘Blended’ is] a beautiful four-song culture clash we made last summer that’ll hopefully add a little fire to your winter.”
Blended’s standout tracks are “Nowhere” and “In My Mind.”
Jordyn Simone – No Demo Left Unheard
Across the music industry, the word ‘demo’ is used to express a rough draft of what a musician has to offer. However, that definition can not be applied to Jordyn Simone’s EP No Demo Left Unheard.
Each of the three songs on the project surgically ensures each of her skills is fully realized.
Another purpose of a demo is for recording artists to craft flashes of creative intention on each individual song. Although these records don’t necessarily have a common thread, they have formulated a strong narrative behind Jordyn Simone, the artist.
Immediately, the listener can understand the vision Jordyn set out to achieve. You identify the sonic inspiration, the songwriting niche, and the passion for emotion-driven storytelling. The Los Angeles-based singer will leave you impressed with the curation of the project, leaving you to question, are you sure she’s a rookie? Her time on The Voice served her well. While also urging for the release of her debut full-length project.
Jordyn Simone took to her official Instagram page to share the inspiration behind the body of work. “Songs I wrote in friend’s bedrooms and studio apartments have turned into an ode to myself and creativity,” she wrote. “A love letter to the old me. A new door to vulnerability. I know you’ll feel the intention behind every word.”
No Demo Left Unheard’s standout tracks are “Our Crime” and “Alive.”
Usher – “Ruin” feat. Pheelz
Usher’s resurgence is a case study waiting to be dissected. With the living legend’s Superbowl Halftime Show performance around the corner, Mr. Raymond has given supporters another taste of his forthcoming album, Coming Home.
In his latest single, “Ruin,” featuring Pheelz, Usher shows why his tenure in R&B shouldn’t be questioned. Diving into his tried-and-true heartbreak bag, “Ruin,” harps on how emotionally scarring a bad relationship can be.
When looking over your past dating history, it is important to understand where you went wrong. But also when the scars left by other people have impacted you moving forward. “Babe, you broke me and took your time with it / Babe, you gave me all these memories that I regret / All I can do is congratulate / You ruined me for everybody (Ooh) / Yeah, you ruined me for everybody / Wake up in the mornin’ / A different girl be on my line / Constantly be callin’ every day, I still decline / See? This exactly what you did / You ruined me for everybody,” sings Usher.
On “Ruin,” Usher demonstrates yet again sonically he can not be put into a box. His award-winning range just won’t let it happen. The slow pacing and Afrofusion base make it a hit in the making.
Dram – “Marry Me”
Last year, Dram treated his supporters to his album What Had Happened Was… as well as the deluxe installment. But he still has more music clamoring to be unleashed from the vault, and he’s doing just that.
Dram’s latest single, “Marry Me,” is him standing comfortably in his lover boy era. The record, which was co-written with Elijah Wilkerson, is a blissful emotional confession. As the title suggests, Dram is ready to make a lifelong physical and spiritual commitment to something outside of his music because when you know, you know.
“Because I love you / More and more, my day by day, my feelings grew for you / What I had in mind is to give you all of mе ’cause / Honestly, you’re all I need / Girl, I’m down on onе knee / Will you marry me? Will you marry me? /Say, ‘I do,’ ” sings Dram.
Dram is a grandiose act, and “Marry Me” is an even more ostentatious record. The musical match made at the altar.
Sinéad Harnett – “Say Something”
London native Sinéad Harnett made her name in R&B thanks to her sultry voice and bold production choices. On her latest single, “Say Something,” she’s leaning into subtly. The record, co-produced by Jack Dine, is a tender exposé of Sinéad’s innermost feelings.
“I yearn to know / Was the glimmer only from my mouth? / As light as a feather, faith starts to float / The weight of your absence is far more than gold / Tell me I’m patient, or tell me I’ve lost control / Why won’t you/ Say something, say something to me,” sings Sinéad.
As she searches for answers to heal her inner emotional turmoil, the listener is left questioning why I haven’t ranked Sinéad higher in my daily artist rotation. “Say Something” serves as the first taste of what’s to come from her forthcoming album, Boundaries, and the public is ready to dig in.
J. Valentine – “The Day After”
As the co-founder of R&B Money, J. Valentine knows the pillars of the genre very well. But is also abundantly clear through his music that he knows what a woman yearns to hear. On his latest Shawn Holmes-produced single, “The Day After,” Valentine is ready to give 150% to meet the emotional needs of his lover.
Oh no, Valentine doesn’t have an interest in a dwindling performative sort of love. Valentine wants a marathon He, like many others, wants a consistent connection. The difference is Valentine is ready to be in the effort to make it happen.
“I give you the most cause / You don’t ask for much / You want me hands-on / So I always stay in touch / Today we both got time / But I ain’t say it’s mine / Go ahead call it in / We gone take the night off / I won’t make you do it alone,” sings Valentine.
“The Day After” is J. Valentine’s follow-up to “Thank Me For That,” which was released in 2023.
Lyrica Anderson – “They Gon Lie”
When you find yourself as a trending topic, it’s easy to want to hide under a rock until the social media storm blows over. However, for Lyrica Anderson, instead of running from it, she has embraced the attention, using it as the inspiration for her latest single.
On “They Gon Lie,” Lyrica isn’t sparring anyone’s feelings. Not her former business manager. Not even her ex-husband. “N***a sold me a dream / Said he buy me a Range Rove
Just to get in my jeans / But he never even came close / Do the most to get some / But you ain’t gonna get none / You changed your name cause you never been A1 / Do you even listen to yourself,” sings Lyrica.
When backed into a corner, Lyrica is going to fight back full force and create an empowering track in the process. She will no longer be silent or be made a fool. This is Lyrica’s truth, and she’s going to shout it from the mountaintops.
“They Gon Lie” is Lyrica Anderson’s first release in 2024.
Trevor Jackson – “James Dean”
Trevor Jackson has spent most of his life in front of the camera. For most, experiencing the glitz and glam of Hollywood is enough to dull their tether to their humble roots. In Jackson’s new single, “James Dean,” he makes it clear that he’s hyperaware of the blessings he’s earned.
As he sings, “I know that I come a long way / It took some patience yea / Living out here in LA / You don’t know what I done saw yea / Every single night I pray / And thank Him that I made it this far / In my space coupe still chasin’ the stars / Lately I been feeling like James Dean / Hottest thing outta Indiana since James Dean,” Jackson not only remembers his modest but often retreats to it when things become clouded.
When announcing the record on Instagram, Jackson penned a note about the song. “For the town,” he wrote. “The Midwest Mafia, The Children of the Corn, my BornArt Banshees! This is my love letter to my home state and the people that raised me, and the ones I was raised with.”
“James Dean” is Trevor Jackson’s first single release since his 2021 album The Love Language.
Yaya Bey – “Chasing The Bus”
In a world driven by conflated social media declarations, untainted perspectives can be difficult to hold on to. What’s real and what’s fake blurs more and more by the day. But the even more tricky task is not to get caught up in the vicious cycle of comparison, which is a breeding ground for insecurity.
For Yaya Bey, this led to her latest single, “Chasing The Bus.” To the outside world, the Brooklyn, New York native is the picture of self-assurance. Sadly, sometimes that’s far from the truth, or so the record points out.
“Tomorrow’s coming / Today is always on her way out / I love you, baby / But it seems we’ve been stuck in a drought / The storm is coming / But you still somewhere having your doubts / I guess you waiting on the time,” sings Yaya.
There’s something about the whimsical production paired with Yaya’s blend of low-fi with neo-soul sound that makes this harsh reality a smoother pill to swallow.
To provide fans with the background behind the record, Yaya took to Instagram to share a touching note. “I wrote this song as a metaphor for departing from self-doubt and the people who count me out,” she jotted. “Silly you … Silly me.”
“Chasing The Bus” is the latest single off of Yaya Bey’s forthcoming album, Ten Fold, which is due out on May 10.
Norelle – “Again”
It is often said that when you aren’t looking for love, that’s when they’ll find you. It is that unexpectedness that forces the subjects to find head over heels for one another. This fairytale idea is at the center of Norelle’s new single, “Again.”
The record, which was co-produced by Adam Blackson, Simon Martinez, and Steve McKie, is Norelle’s take on those romantic stories. As the Cleveland, Ohio native’s Grammy Award-nominated vocals draw in, the track’s lyrics (which were co-written with Jessy Wilson) build out the fantasy for the listener.
“Moving through me like a hurricane / Never imagined that I’d feel this way ‘bout you / Got me speechless and I can’t explain / Where you came from, but I pray you stay / all up in my mind / redefining life,” sings Norelle.
In a statement shared with ThisIsRnB, Norelle spoke about the inspiration behind the record. “I’m a lover of love,” she said. “So some aspects of love will be woven into any song I write, but for ‘Again,’ the production is really what drove and inspired the energy behind the song. It’s big, it’s powerful, it belongs in stadiums. So, I wrote a love song that everyone can belt out at the top of their lungs and fill every space in the room.”
“Again” is Norelle’s follow-up to “Like A Tattoo.”
Liza – “In The End”
You can not control the actions of others. But you can regulate your own. But what are you to do when the person you love throws that self-control out of wack? Well, that’s what Liza further explores in her latest single, “In The End.” The Ethiopian-Canadian is a gentle soul and should be treated as such, especially by her lover.
“Stuck in my ways cause I might entertain what you do / Too vulnerable, just might end up calling you / Cause where do we go when / Feelings still live here / We’re both apart now / Leaving doors open / I can go look but know I won’t / Find someone like you,” sings Liza.
Produced by Akeel Henry, Kevin Ekofo, and Jack Rochon, “In The End” is a light and airy conversation about practicing emotional regulation.
“In The End” is Liza’s follow-up to “CallMe When You Get This.”
Nate Curry – “Crash Out”
Some loves are just too intense to let go. For Nate Curry, the lengths that he’s willing to go to retain his lover are straight out of Romeo & Juliet. On the Sacramento native’s latest single, “Crash Out,” professes his crazy-in-love mentality.
Teaming up with his past producing partner, Cássio, Curry injects his enthralled feelings into a record. Although the lyrics are necessary robust, as Curry sings, “I’m ready to crash out about you / Trust me I can handle it / Ready to crash ‘bout you / F*ck I look like leaving you hanging / Come on let’s go / You already know / I’m ready to crash out ‘bout you / I stand on that,” the point is quite clearly made.
With Curry focusing on crafting the record’s melodic energy, “Crash Out” is a mere appetizer for what’s to come.
“Crash Out” is Nate Curry’s first release since sharing his 2023 album Tight Knit with the world.