Every Friday, EW’s music team runs down the five best songs of the week. In today’s edition, an alt-pop frontman makes a solo splash, Gang Starr drops a posthumous release, and Celine Dion makes the astonishing return we expected while Mandy Moore makes the surprise one we didn’t.
Celine Dion — “Imperfections”
There are three wildly different directions to go in selecting one track from Celine Dion’s just-released trifecta of singles off her upcoming November album, Courage (her first English-speaking album in six years, soon followed by her first official tour in more than 10). For a fresh reminder of her power-ballad preeminence, pick “Lying Down”; for that brazen untamed build of “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now,” go with the title song. But maybe it’s best to simply whet your appetite before November with the coolly mellow, decidedly modern “Imperfections,” a lightly electronic track dominated by danceable synth that merely hints at Dion’s vocal power. If it’s indeed the autumn of Celine, best to lean in slowly and enjoy the quiet before the leaves fall and the volume turns way up. —Marc Snetiker
Brittany Howard — “13th Century Metal”
The Alabama Shakes singer brings a full-throttled mix of noise rock, jazz, and (yes) metal in this declarative single-take jam off her solo LP. The message here is strong but simple. “I promise to think before I speak/ To be wary of who I give my energy to/ Because it is needed for a greater cause,” she spits over stuttering keys and drums. Later, she turns the spotlight on us: “Do the best you can today/ No matter where you’ve been/ But you can change, if you wanna change/ I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of this bulls—.” Howard’s “13th Century Metal” is Gil Scott-Heron meets Sonic Youth — an urgent, inspirational, riotous anthem for today’s disaffected masses. —Alex Suskind
Gang Starr — “Good As It Gets”
Posthumous releases aren’t always up to snuff. The new single from iconic East Coast rap duo Gang Starr is. Their first track since 2003 is a surprisingly poignant and fresh return to the days of record scratches and sharp-tongued rhymes. “I rock diamonds that cut glass out of window panes/ Baldhead Slick blazing tracks when the indo’s flame,” says late rapper Guru over a light piano, fading string section, and MC Lyte sample. The song’s lone contemporary flare comes courtesy of J. Cole, who drops by for a typically fiery feature. But this is Gang Starr’s show, and the young rapper is happy to cede ground to a fallen favorite (“Guru flows forever like a diamond”). In a statement, Premier calls “Family and Loyalty” a “continuation of what I never wanted to end.” Hopefully there’s more left in the archive. —A.S.
Little Hurt — “Good As It Gets”
Colin Dieden, the former Mowgli’s (their apostrophe, not ours) vocalist, makes one hell of a second impression as frontman of his own alt-pop solo project, Little Hurt. His debut single is just the kind of pop track for which words like “zippy” and “catchy” ought to be reserved; it whistles along with an infectious lightheartedness, with unpretentious production that shows smart restraint of a great hook. “Good As It Gets” is my favorite pop surprise of the month and a remarkable debut — and in the scope of lesser-known solo endeavors, it’s quite possible that it may be, ironically, far from as good as Dieden will prove to be. —M.S.
Mandy Moore — “When I Wasn’t Watching”
Out of seemingly nowhere, the This Is Us star shook the Internet with the drop of her first original (non-Tangled) music since her 2009 album, Amanda Leigh — and just like her recent career rise, it’s all kinds of delightful. There’s a sweet, tempered Zen at play, not unlike Kacey Musgraves in its delicate toe-dip into earthy twang, but Moore’s territory feels fresh and fitting for her. Even if you don’t count “Candy” on a playlist, Moore’s return is an exciting one with a clear intention to explore how an old favorite can stake a claim in a new musical landscape. —M.S.
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