Spring rolls on, and while we may be forced to wait a bit longer to receive the gift of full new albums from artists like Lady Gaga, others have stepped in to fill the void and keep us both entertained and soothed. To kick off the month, JP Saxe, Julia Michaels and a long list of their artist friends—including Sam Smith, Alessia Cara and Jason Derulo—released a charity-focused version of their accidental pandemic anthem “If the World Was Ending.” Beyoncé jumps on Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage Remix” with a much-needed burst of confident energy. The Dixie Chicks satisfy fans waiting on their full-length album with “Julianna Calms Down.” JoJo makes a case for being all grown up on Good to Know. And Remi Wolf provides some fresh disco with “Photo ID.”
“If the World Was Ending,” JP Saxe, Julia Michaels and Friends
“If the world was ending, you’d come over right?” Canadian singer-songwriter JP Saxe sings. “Would you love me for the hell of it? All our fears would be irrelevant.” It’s a catchy snippet from “If the World Was Ending,” his tender ballad with pop favorite Julia Michaels, originally released in October. But well into the second month of COVID-19’s catastrophic impacts, it’s taken on new meaning. On Thursday, Saxe and Michaels shared a fresh version that tapped the talents of artists including Niall Horan, Kesha, Sam Smith and Jason Derulo, blending them into a mega-mix with all proceeds going towards Doctors Without Borders.
“As an artist, you hope that what comes from the most personal parts of your life will attach itself to some sort of cultural relevance,” Saxe told TIME back in April. “But this is certainly not what I had imagined!” Saxe and Michaels aren’t the first artists to ask fellow stars to jump in with musical contributions; Gal Gadot’s much maligned “Imagine” tribute came out in late March, with a similarly lo-fi concept. But where that star-studded collaboration read the room wrong, this one feels better suited to its moment.
First, there’s the assembled talent, an eclectic, global set of singers (Zara Larsson, Korean band The Rose, H.E.R., Fletcher, Camilo). Add to that a small thrill in hearing unembellished vocals from the likes of Alessia Cara and Keith Urban. (Some of the split-screen harmony pairings are a delight.) Then there’s the hopeless bittersweetness of the song itself, ever more real as isolation drags on. “We were imagining a hypothetical situation,” Saxe laughs about writing the song. The original release is both Saxe’s and Michaels’ most popular song on Spotify, streamed over 350 million times. Meanwhile on social media, listeners co-opted many of its keenly relatable lyrics to express their own concern and frustration during the pandemic. “If the song can accompany the kind of gratitude we feel for our medical professionals, I’m humbled and honored by that,” Saxe says.
“Savage Remix,” Megan Thee Stallion feat. Beyoncé
Houston rapper Megan Thee Stallion‘s “Savage,” off of her March EP Suga, was already a groovy jam with a popular dance challenge to go accompany it. But adding Beyoncé, another artist who calls Houston home, was a magical move for the remix. Bey lays down a few verses so full of attitude and of-the-moment pop culture references (“Hips tik tok when I dance/ On that Demon Time, she might start an OnlyFans”) that you’d be easily forgiven for believing rap was her primary calling. The original “Savage” was a stylish tune with Megan’s signature playful wordplay; the delightfully unfiltered remix with Beyoncé’s low-register additions works very well as yet another reminder that a woman’s place is absolutely in hip-hop. If Megan pioneered last year’s Hot Girl Summer, you can bet Savage Summer is now on its way. The cherry on top: proceeds from the single are headed to a Houston charity, Bread of Life, that provides meals to local families in need.
“Julianna Calm Down,” Dixie Chicks
The beloved country trio’s full new album Gaslighter is delayed indefinitely. Thank goodness “Julianna Calm Down” is out today to tide us over. Like a friend talking you through a bad night, Natalie Maines starts things off by calling out women’s names (Julianna is member Emily Strayer’s daughter) with lines of apt advice—and the brilliant, constant reminder to “breathe.” “I guess this is the time to remind you, sometimes what’s going through your head is just a temporary situation, and light will soon be shed,” she soothes. “Just put on your best shoes, and strut the f-ck around like you’ve got nothing to lose.” It’s a singsong track that starts out with a spare organ backing and eventually opens up, with finger-picked guitar, bluegrass twang and a lingering sweetness.
“Comeback,” JoJo feat. Tory Lanez and 30 Roc
You have to imagine JoJo is pretty tired of retelling her own history in the music business: first platinum hit at the tender age of 13 with “Leave (Get Out)” followed by a decade of label purgatory and struggle for creative autonomy. (She even re-recorded her first two albums recently, in order to be able to release them on streaming services.) Ever since her 2016 return with Mad Love, JoJo has been working hard to prove she’s much more than a young pop prodigy. And on new album Good to Know, she’s clearly moved on. Her new single “Comeback” is sultry and smoky, a slip of velvety R&B. JoJo has always had a voice that was mature beyond her years; finally, her music has caught up.
“Photo ID,” Remi Wolf
Bursting with funk and fun, “Photo ID” just feels like better days. L.A.-based rising artist Remi Wolf has a playfulness that won’t quit, while her disco sensibility makes you want to play the music on an endless loop. Wolf has an upcoming debut EP in the works for the summer, and it’s something of a soundtrack for an alternate universe: “Lit in line, smile for the photo ID / Inside, that’s where we can be free,” she sings—oh, to be in line for the club these days! Still, her whimsical production twists might just help conjure up that carefree spirit wherever you are, even if in “Photo ID” she’s got a jealous side to manage, too.