What once was is now evolved with several artists making new waves, but don’t call it a comeback. This week’s featured singers are giving old versions of themselves new meaning as they embrace the next chapter of their musical lives.
Usher’s new record is just as sexy and overtly subtle as it wants to be whisking away listeners to a fantasy of their own making. Tori Kelly is embracing her roots, figuratively and literally, as she returns with her debut single under her new deal with Epic. Childish Gambino has found his way back to music after a three-year hiatus with KIRBY’s help, on the heels of Swarm‘s arrival.
Meanwhile, a personal favorite has to be T-Pain’s album of covers. For those who know his true vocal range, this one is for us. So, sit back, relax, and press play on these incredible new releases from some of R&B’s finest.
Usher – “GLU”
The lead single from Usher’s forthcoming, untitled album under gamma, is a sensual reflection of how much he loves devouring his lady. As the crooner exclusively explained to VIBE, the song’s true meaning is obvious, “but still, there’s the imagination and there’s the fantasy.”
After teasing “GLU” on Valentine’s Day, he added, “Part of the reason that I decide to launch it [then] is because it’s a day of love. And what I found is, a lot of people who maybe don’t have love, and they just wanted to have self-love on that day. So I’m like, ‘All right, so you got this song, and then you can experience it in a different way.’ And the guy and the girl, or whatever your taste is, received it. But more than anything, I think it is striking conversation about R&B, striking conversation about sex, and it’s striking conversation about that connection. And I like that. It feels connected. It feels like people want it. People feel like they want to have fun.”
The unreleased “GLU” visual will also be his directorial debut. — Mya Abraham
Tori Kelly – “missin’ u”
Tori Kelly is embracing her roots and tapping into her R&B bag with her new nostalgia-fueled single, “missin’ u.” Her debut release under her new record deal is a nod to the ’90s/2000s. “This new era represents so much growth for me,” explained the 30-year-old. “I am extremely grateful for everything I’ve been able to do so far in my career but there’s so much more I’ve yet to share with the world. I’m stepping more into myself & feeling more confident than ever before & that’s something that has bled into my music as well.”
Whether you cry while tuning in or have a dance party for one, Kelly feels “the beauty of this song is everyone can relate to it in their own way.” More from the multifaceted songbird will be announced in the near future, but if you’ve been waiting for her comeback, this is it. — MA
Tamar Braxton – “Changed”
Tamar Braxton has a lot to celebrate these days. The singer-songwriter has announced she’s engaged, following the arrival of Queens Court with Evelyn Lozada and Nivea. Now, on her 46th birthday, Braxton has released her first single in years titled “Changed.”
Interpolated with the melody of SWV’s “Rain,” the reality star sings of tracing her steps after the man of her dreams proved to be fraud. When speaking about the new record, Braxton explained to Entertainment Tonight, “I just had to speak about what I was going through. I was single for a very, very long time. Looking for love, being let down, trying to figure out where I fit, you know, with love. And I had to write about that. Love is inspiring me, for good and bad.”
Her new album is set to follow very soon. — MA
Alex Vaughn – The Hurtbook (Homegirl Pack)
Earlier this week, Alex Vaughn announced that she would be releasing a new single daily—two remixes and one original—with Muni Long, Summer Walker, and Ari Lennox respectively as a mini followup to her 2022 album, The Hurtbook. The trifecta is now here in full.
With the empowering and effervescent “IYKYK” with Long, the sexually-liberating “Demon Time (Remix)” with Lennox, and the vulnerably introspective “So Be It (Remix)” with Walker, the EP is “a collection of anthems rooted in sisterhood, bold authenticity, and radical self-love.” — MA
T-Pain – On Top Of The Covers
because after years of suppressing his true vocal abilities behind autotune, T-Pain won season one of The Masked Singer, and his innate talent shined through. Almost immediately after his win, he began working on his newest release aptly titled On Top of The Covers.
“This covers album has been years in the making … It got put on hold for a bit, but now that I’m independent, I’m able to do whatever I want to do through Nappy Boy Entertainment and this is something I’ve felt strongly about for a long time,” he revealed in a statement. “These songs are not what you’d expect when you hear that T-Pain is doing a covers album and that is what I think is cool about it.”
The seven-track EP puts a distinct twang on classics like Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come,” Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” and Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me.” When choosing which songs to cover, T-Pain stated on Instagram, “Each one of these songs means something to me and helped me fall in love with music at different points in my life. I’m releasing this cover album from the view of what I hear when I listen to each song.” — MA
Childish Gambino And KIRBY – Swarm
Donald Glover’s new series, Swarm, premiered on Prime Video today, so it’s only right that Childish Gambino simultaneously release its accompanying EP. With the help of GRAMMY-winning singer KIRBY, who voiced the in-show’s fictional icon Ni’Jah, the two merged their talents to elevate the chilling series.
“KIRBY has such a versatile sound and songwriting ability, she was able to elevate and amplify every moment she was a part of,” said Glover in a statement. “It’s been a pleasure to collaborate together, to bring this story to life sonically and I couldn’t imagine what this would sound like without her involvement.”
While the Memphis native added, “I fell in love with the idea of becoming the Ni’jah character. What would she say in this scene? What would she sound like? It was liberating to go in and write & sing without any rules. There are people who are called ‘genius’ and people who truly are. After working with Donald, Michael, Fam & Riley I truly know the difference.”
Swarm stars Dominique Fishback as Dre alongside Damson Idris, Chloe Bailey, Paris Jackson, Billie Ellish, and more. Loosely based on the BeyHive, the series “is not a work of fiction [and] any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events, is intentional.” All seven episodes are currently streaming. — MA
Mac Ayres – Comfortable Enough
In the two years since Mac Ayres released Magic Ball, the 26-year-old vowed to live life. With his latest effort, Comfortable Enough, Ayres celebrates the complexities of a life lived. The 16-track LP teems with pretty soundscapes and dense lyrics of outward and inward relationships, following a man searching for inner peace.
“I’ve been taking my time writing lately,” he shared before his new project’s release. “We as creatives have to remember that we’re worth more than our discography. I’ve been learning how to enjoy life more and more every day and taking some ‘me’ time.”
The album’s title track is its centerpiece—a full expression of moving forward beyond heartache and failed connection. More than your classic story of hypothetical love lost, the crooner simultaneously rings in a song of self with this internal awakening and his brand of blue-eyed soul is a refreshing dose of euphoria. — Marc Griffin