Listen Up

Saying farewell to two icons, plus new tunes in this week's musical wrap up

Ronnie Spector: You’d Be Good For Me

Ronnie Spector, best known as the lead singer of quintessential ’60s girl group the Ronettes, has died at 78 years old. Born Veronica Bennett in Spanish Harlem, she formed the trio with older sister, Estelle Bennett, and their cousin, Nedra Talley, in 1957. They soon became a popular live act in NYC, but their biggest hit—”Be My Baby” (with its opening drum beats making it recognizable in seconds)—came in 1963. The song is often noted as the greatest pop song ever. Though it may seem simple, it’s a lush, layered work—thanks to Ronnie’s yearning, tender but tough vocals and producer Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound production. Ronnie entered into a relationship with Phil, eventually marrying him and having a family, but suffered horrific abuse. (When he died she wrote, “He was a brilliant producer, but a lousy husband.”) She escaped the marriage in 1972 and went on to create a new version of the Ronettes as well as work on solo projects with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, punk group Dead Boys and the Heartbreakers, Joey Ramone, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Patti Smith, Keith Richards and others. We have chosen to share her 1975 song, “You’d Be Good For Me,” not only because it’s a delightful, string-laden disco track, but also because it was written and recorded when she found freedom: “I got a new sense of direction,” she sings. Ronnie’s five-decade musical career took her from pop to punk, new wave and beyond, but her sublime voice endured—and will live on.

Raveena: Rush

An upbeat pop-inflected R&B track inspired by ’80s Bollywood soundtracks, “Rush” by singer-songwriter Raveena comes accompanied by a colorful video directed by the songstress and Munachi Osegbu. Carried by Raveena’s pretty, featherweight vocals, the song was written a few years back and she says it represents the “genesis of exploring a more intense marriage between Bollywood sounds and the pop/R&B music. The song and video are centered around a character I created named Asha, a Punjabi space princess who is transported to a distant planet and learns highly advanced spiritual intelligence from the beings that live there.”

Shout Out Louds: Sky and I (Himlen)

Swedish indie-pop quartet Shout Out Louds return with “Sky and I (Himlen),” the melodic third single from their forthcoming sixth full-length album, House, out 18 February. The band’s keyboardist, Bebban Stenborg, takes on lead vocals for the track and brings life to thoughtful lyrics that address identity and isolation. An official music video directed by Shout Out Louds bassist Ted Malmros finds Stenborg driving a taxi at night picking up passengers, including frontman Adam Olenius who joins the driver in song from the back seat.

Rosie Thomas: All Is Full Of Love (Björk Cover)

Featuring guest vocal contributions from Sufjan Stevens, The Shins, Iron & Wine, Alexi Murdoch, The Head and The Heart’s Charity Theilen, The Lone Bellow’s Kanene Pipkin, William Fitzsimmons, Dawn Landes, Jeff Shoop and many more, singer-songwriter and comedian Rosie Thomas’ cover of the iconic Björk track “All Is Full Of Love” rises from a quiet rendition to an interwoven, empowered mélange. It’s the second single in Thomas’ Lullabies For Parents series, which has been designed to support, encourage and entertain parents (and includes more than music). The cover is an exquisite addition to a thoughtful mission.

Donna Missal: insecure

Recording artist Donna Missal’s minimal, emotional new track, “insecure,” from her in the mirror, in the night EP, finds the vocalist excising herself from a toxic relationship. Sega Bodega and Mura Masa produced the song, but its earliest origins stem from seclusion. “I wrote the lyric and melody to a click track when I was living in NYC over the winter,” Missal says. “I was alone in the studio apartment I was renting, under the covers of a bed in the middle of the room. I set a tempo on my computer, tried a time-signature that would stimulate melodic ideas that felt very new and challenging to me, without any music to guide me I felt very free and very alone at once. I was writing about separation, solitude, and emptiness a lot during this time.”

OkayPlayer’s James Mtume Playlist

Musician, producer, singer/songwriter and activist James Mtume sadly passed away this week. While many know him for his band’s 1983 hit “Juicy Fruit”—which was famously sampled in Notorious BIG’s “Juicy”—Mtume was remarkably prolific far beyond and for many decades, oftentimes behind the scenes. He was a session player with Don Cherry and Herbie Hancock, rose to prominence as part of Miles Davis’ ensemble and, in the ’70s, leaned into funk and electronic music—forming the NYC-based band called Mtume. A master of slinky, infectious music, Mtume created “lush vocals, sleek harmonies and percussive piano chops,” says OkayPlayer. For their latest installation of In Hip-Hop and Beyond, OkayPlayer explores Mtume’s “sonic signature” and how it’s been utilized, built upon and reimagined by artists over three decades.

Listen Up is published every Sunday and rounds up the new music we found throughout the week. Hear the year so far on our Spotify channel. Hero image courtesy of Raveena