Prince: Purple Rain (Live)
It’s tough to lose Prince, who passed away this week at the age of 57. The seemingly invincible artist’s personal back catalog is an infinite jukebox of hits and buried treasures—which helped launch others’ careers and inspired countless musicians from D’Angelo to Chaka Khan, Sinead O’Connor, Janelle Monae, Miguel and The-Dream. Through his singular talent for songwriting and performance, the freaky-and-proud-of-it artist united his listeners—collapsing lines drawn by gender, race, age, sexuality, genre and more—and we’re devastated to lose one of the greatest musicians of our time. Capture a sliver of his everlasting spirit through one of the few YouTube videos he hadn’t yet taken down: a performance of “Purple Rain” in 2007, during the only Super Bowl halftime show that ever lived up to its hype. Take note of the actual rain pouring down from the skies. Vale to the eternally funky Prince of Paisley Park.
Laura Mvula: Phenomenal Woman
Singer-songwriter Laura Mvula has had a lot of emotional hills to climb these past few years. The success of her strange, inventive debut LP Sing to the Moon—which lost the 2013 Mercury Prize to James Blake’s Overgrown—manifested with panic attacks, a formal diagnosis of clinical depression and a divorce with her husband, whom she met as a student at Birmingham Conservatoire. Her second album Dreaming Room, out this June, reflects much of her journey—describing both the sorrow of loss and the ferocious rebuilding of spirit. Tracks like “Overcome” and her latest, “Phenomenal Woman,” reflect the latter.
Róisín Murphy: Mastermind
Considering the inimitable Róisín Murphy took an eight-year pause between 2007’s Overpowered and last year’s Mercury Prize-nominated Hairless Toys, fans are surely thrilled to be averaging an album a year right now. The Irish singer/songwriter/producer has just announced her fourth solo album Take Her Up To Monto which is due out this July, and from it comes the new song “Mastermind.” The track begins with a dark intro, with Murphy offering an almost spoken-word narrative before bursting into a synth-heavy dance tune. Over the course of six-and-a-half-minutes, Murphy truly takes listeners on a trip—between the glittery and ethereal to the peculiar—but the outcome is sublime.
The Flaming Lips: Space Oddity
Four months later, it’s still hard to fully grasp that David Bowie is no longer with us, too. The latest tribute comes from The Flaming Lips, who have covered “Space Oddity” with utter, heartfelt emotion. In the accompanying music video, the band plays in an empty church (one member on the organ), pews filled with white balloons, before filling the space with lasers and screeching distortion. “Space Oddity”‘s lyrics take on yet another meaning with the passing of Bowie, and a testament to his poetic writing that connects us all.
The singer-songwriter Charli XCX and divergent sound designer SOPHIE—each compelling in their own unique brand of pop—bring out the best in each other in the four-track EP Vroom Vroom, one that provokes all of the senses and hits listeners like a steamroller. The title song “Vroom Vroom” gets the music video treatment, and through a mostly black-and-white lenses, it shines and sweats and glares and squeaks just like the weirdly aggressive-yet-delicate party track itself (“skintight leather bodysuit” makes another good metaphor). There’s cameos from the PC Music squad (Hannah Diamond, who features on Charli XCX’s track “Paradise” and founder AG Cook, sporting his eyeglasses), plus some Beats product placement. Charli XCX, in the midst of preparing her third full-length album, also launched her own recording label, Vroom Vroom Recordings, to be a breeding ground for experimental pop.