The five best songs we heard this week

By Alex Suskind and Jason Lamphier
July 16, 2021 at 10:00 PM EDT
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Friday Five
Credit: Republic Records; Dana Trippe; Syd/YouTube; Caroline Polachek/YouTube; Alexander Wessely

Every Friday, EW's music team runs down the five best songs of the week. In today's edition, Pop Smoke's takes a victory lap, Swedish House Mafia make a return, Syd is living her best summer life, Willow recruits Tierra Whack, and Caroline Polachek channels Jody Watley and Aaliyah.

"Tell the Vision" — Pop Smoke feat. Kanye West, Pusha T

The late Pop Smoke takes a victory lap on "Tell the Vision," a sad but celebratory cut off his just-released posthumous collection Faith. In between Kanye adlibs, a heartbreaking Angie Martinez cameo, and the usual braggadocios antics from Pusha T ("The crown is only for the king, they tryna place it on a clown/I declare war, nickname 'He Sell Raw'"), Smoke delivers his patented guttural bark, reflecting on all he's accomplished: "Look, I remember the days, same fit for a week straight/I used to eat fifty-cent cake, now, it's Philippe's." Later, in the chorus, it's "Look momma, I made it" — a reminder of what could and should have been for the Brooklyn rapper, who was gunned down last year at the age of 20. —Alex Suskind

"Bunny Is a Rider" — Caroline Polachek

Who is Bunny, you ask? In an alternate universe, it'd be Bunny MacDougal, Charlotte York's overbearing, wrist-squeezing former mother-in-law in Sex and the City. But the titular elusive heroine of Caroline Polachek's latest single is something else entirely: She's a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, tucked inside a steamy, enigmatic alt-pop track that somehow manages to be off-kilter and infectious. "Bunny is a rider/Satellite can't find her" sings the former Chairlift frontwoman over producer Danny L Harle's slick bass; an Aaliyah-indebted sample of his cooing baby daughter; and some clever, seductive whistling effects that call to mind Jody Watley's 1987 classic "Looking for a New Love." As red-hot as it is ice-cold, this is a rabbit hole you'll be falling down all summer. —Jason Lamphier

"It Gets Better" — Swedish House Mafia

Swedish House Mafia skipped town in the middle of an EDM boom they helped spearhead. Now they're back with their first new single since 2013's "Don't You Worry Child." A brooding, tightly coiled affair, "It Gets Better" starts things off. steady until a bouncy cowbell busts in and breaks the tension. Things shift again mid-song: the drums drop out, the synthesizers multiply, and an infectious new rhythm slips into the picture — while highlighting what this newly-reunited supertrio were so good at in the first place. —AS

"Fast Car" — Syd

Syd's in summer mode, parked on the side of the Pacific Coast Highway, smiling and making out in the front seat. The Internet singer is also taking some pretty overt cues from Prince: "Take me there, I wanna ride/No one can see inside/Do with me what you like," she coos over reverbed drums and bright keys before dropping a blazing, '80s-inflected guitar solo for good measure. —AS

"XTRA" — Willow feat. Tierra Whack

With her fourth studio album, Willow Smith solidifies her transformation from fledgling pop princess to bona fide emo-punk diva. Citing her influences for Lately I Feel Everything, the 20-year-old singer has name-checked everyone from Paramore to My Chemical Romance to her own mom, Jada Pinkett Smith (the former frontwoman of a nü-metal band called Wicked Wisdom), even enlisting her skate-rock idols Avril Lavigne and Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker for a handful of tracks. But the record's most showstopping, left-field cameo comes from laconic hip-hop darling du jour Tierra Whack, who pierces through the post-grunge wall of sound on "XTRA" to turn in a commanding, airtight verse about packing up and moving on ("Now you dead to me, so suit up/Your new girl wig look all chewed-up"). When she and Whack join forces on the song's full-throated, badass chorus — "Need somе time alone to breathe/I need some tree and fresh air/Imma need to put you aside" — Smith proves her innocent hair-whipping days are long behind her. —JL

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