Sounds of May: Listening Guide

(Shideh Ghandeharizadeh | Daily Trojan)

Finals are over, the sun is out and temperatures are on the rise in southern California, and though safer-at-home orders are still in place for Los Angeles residents, this month’s listening guide will help keep the boredom at bay with fresh music and podcasts. This guide will help you kick off your summer break after crushing finals, get started on some late spring cleaning or finish that at-home workout. Whether you want to discover new artists or see what’s to come this month from your die-hard favorites, May has brought plenty of new melodies and podcasts to fill your homes. 

New music out this month

Here are some of the latest songs and albums from artists from a variety of genres. 

“Dark Lane Demo Tapes” by Drake

If you’re a fan of Canadian rapper Drake, you’re in luck because he recently dropped an impressive 14-track mixtape called “Dark Lane Demo Tapes” on the first of the month. The mixtape is considered a lead-in to his sixth studio album, which the artist himself announced will come out later this summer. The project features several of Drake’s “demos,” hence the title of the record. It’s a compilation of some of Drake’s songs that have been leaked on the internet and ones he’s previously released on SoundCloud, as well as some new sounds fans have never heard. The demo reel showcases Drake’s melancholic R&B/hip-hop flow, precise delivery, musical hooks and beats. Take a listen if you want more insight into how Drake’s sound has developed and what to expect on his next album. 

“The End of Everything” by Noah Cyrus

Soft vocals, acoustic sounds, gentle piano and slow-burning melodies occupy the eight tracks on multi-platinum artist Noah Cyrus’ new EP, which was released May 15. Cyrus shares a lot of raw emotions in her lyrics about growing up, including experiencing loneliness and heartbreak at a young age. One of the more memorable songs that play to these themes is “Young & Sad,” which begins with a voicemail from Noah’s father, Billy Ray Cyrus, reminding her that she’s never lost in the world and to keep smiling because everything’s going to be okay. Cyrus has admitted in the past to struggling with depression and anxiety and has never been shy about speaking out on mental health issues. In 2019, she teamed up with the Seize the Awkward Campaign to share her story. The campaign encourages young people to open up to their friends about mental health challenges and create a safe space to discuss their concerns. This album reveals an intimate and more serene side to who Noah Cyrus is and what she has experienced as an individual. 

“Stuck with U” by Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber

Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber collaborated on a pop quarantine-themed song called “Stuck with U,” which dropped May 7. All of the sales from listening, watching and sharing the ballad benefit the First Responders Children Foundation, which helps fund grants to support the children of first responders and families during the pandemic. The song boasts Grande’s four-octave soprano vocal range and Bieber’s falsetto register. Tonally, the song has a slow and sweet yet dynamic harmonious sound. The release of the duet also came with a music video which features a series of self-recorded clips from the two pop stars as well as clips featuring fans dancing in their homes to the song.

“Notes on a Conditional Form” by The 1975

English band The 1975 is releasing its fourth studio album on May 22. “Notes On A Conditional Form” is bound to be the perfect indie soundtrack to your summer. If you’re unfamiliar with The 1975’s unique blend of genres and influences, the group has a funk rock, indie pop sound. Many of its songs will make you want to dance around in your living room or jump in your car and take a drive. The band released a single called “Guys” off the album on May 13, which will make you long for the days with your friends pre-quarantine. Along with the other early releases from the album, the singles reveal how heartwarming, confessional and incredibly thought-provoking the 22-track album will be. Based on the single, the familiar indie sound that The 1975 has produced over the years is likely to continue in its new album. 

“Chromatica” by Lady Gaga

Making a return to her dance-pop roots after her deeply personal and intimate work on “A Star is Born” and her 2016 album “Joanne,” pop music icon Lady Gaga is less than two weeks away from dropping her long-awaited sixth studio album on May 29. But before getting too excited to binge-listen to every song on Chromatica, the star recently announced that the second single off the album will come out this Friday. The upcoming single “Rain on Me” is a collaboration with fellow pop singer Ariana Grande. Neither artist has released any teasers of the song, but there’s no doubt that these two Italian, New York-raised singers have made a hit. Gaga has also announced song collaborations on the album with Blackpink and Elton John. Based on the visuals in the music video for “Stupid Love” and Gaga’s recent Instagram posts, there’s no doubt that with the birth of this new album, she is once again reinventing herself. 

May Graduation Playlist 

Get up and get dancing! You deserve it. Congratulations to the Class of 2020. In honor of all the achievements, dedication and hard work you’ve put in over the past few years, here’s a playlist dedicated to you. 

  1. “Congratulations” by Post Malone, Quavo
  2. “Sunday Best” by Surfaces
  3. “Good as Hell” by Lizzo
  4. “Moment 4 Life” by Nicki Minaj, Drake
  5. “We Are Young” by fun., Janelle Monae
  6. “Best Day Ever” by Mac Miller
  7. “Good Life” by Kanye West, T-Pain
  8. “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds
  9. “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen
  10. “Young Forever” by JAY-Z, Mr. Hudson

Podcasts to cure your quarantine woes

Have you started to experience cabin fever yet? Take a listen to these podcasts while you’re going about your daily routine to curb the quarantine monotony you may be feeling.  

“Unlocking Us”

This podcast explores the ideas, stories, experiences, books, films and music that mirror the universal human experience. Brené Brown, the podcast’s host, is a researcher and No. 1 New York Times bestselling author who also hosted a notable TED talk about the power of vulnerability in 2010. In the most recent episode of “Unlocking Us,” Brown sits down with writers Jay and Mark Duplass to talk about their memoir, “Like Brothers.” Their discussions revolve around paradoxes in love, creativity and relationships.

“Modern Love”

If you’re a fan of the popular New York Times column “Modern Love,” then you may already be familiar with this podcast. But if not, “Modern Love” features readings of the column by the essayists themselves. Most episodes are around 20 minutes long. They are easy and amusing to listen to, as they are told and written by real people. The archive of love stories are fascinating and inspiring because their essays are about not only budding romances and first dates but the committed love involved in caretaking, confinement, loss and redemption. On May 12, an episode called “Alone in a Pandemic” was released. In the episode, we hear from people who are living in solitude during the pandemic and learn how they’re coping. There’s nothing more fitting and comforting at this time than to hear stories about how others are finding joy and love during challenging times. 

“Crime Junkie”

The name of the podcast says it all. If you’re into true-crime stories then this podcast is well-suited for you. Hosted by Ashley Flowers and Brit Prawat, each episode covers a new true-crime story. It’s not difficult to become thoroughly engaged in the way these events are told by the hosts. The tantalizing twists and turns of different stories narrated as dark mysteries which are slowly uncovered make this podcast one that will keep you listening.   

“Chasing Cosby”

Famous American stand-up comedian Bill Cosby led a dark, secret life behind his comedic façade, which the episodes of this podcast uncover. From the Los Angeles Times and hosted by investigative journalist Nicki Weisensee Egan, the podcast garnered firsthand accounts from many of the women involved in the sexual assault charges against Cosby. Each woman has the opportunity to speak her truths about the man who once brought warmth and laughter into Americans’ homes. These are the stories of the women who brought him to justice.