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Heat Check: Transposed Emotions And Atmospheric Plot Twists

Faty Sy Savanet of Tshegue performs on stage during Day two of the Womad Festival 2019 in Malmesbury, England. Tshegue is featured on this week's Heat Check.
C Brandon
Redferns/Getty Images
Faty Sy Savanet of Tshegue performs on stage during Day two of the Womad Festival 2019 in Malmesbury, England. Tshegue is featured on this week's Heat Check.

We all love a good plot twist, right? Otherwise you end up in a feedback loop of verse-bridge-chorus monotony you've been spoon-fed for decades and convinced you "like."

Luckily, more artists big and small are making habit of pushing the boundaries of both story and song structure. Saba's "Prom / King," Travis Scott's "SICKO MODE," Drake's "Is There More," SZA's "The Weekend" and Solange's "Almeda" all come to mind as fairly recent bangers who end up so far-flung from where they start, you have to check your lock screen to see see if the song title's changed.

This week's Heat Check picks are meant to surprise and entice, challenge and charge up. Instead of the tired-and-true single formula, these sonic stories disorient in the best way possible. They compel your ear to stay agile and might even inspire you to do some obscure sample-digging. Think of these new selects as the misunderstood villains, the relinquished good-guy acts and the boy-meets-girl rom coms torn to satisfying shreds.

You know the drill. Enjoy the Heat Check playlist in its entirety on Spotify and find comfort in curation that comes from actually listening.

Vince Staples, "So What?"

This spidery, wise-crackin' two-minute morsel — with interjections from fans and haters — premiered during the first episode of The Vince Staples Show.

Kemba, "The Feels (feat. Portugal. The Man)"

After a rewound voicemail, the guitar-laden beat produced by Brasstracks and Black Milk really kicks into high gear at 2:40 and takes Kemba's words on a transcendent ride from blasé to blisteringly dark.


Murky, lurching and decided darker than many other tracks on Ginger, that G-funk sample of D-Flexx around the 0:59 mark triggers a deeper appreciation for the melancholy within the party.

Baby Rose, "Over"

From an introspective whisper to an all-out guttural roar, Baby Rose balances a haunting and empathetic delivery. Around 2:55 in, all logic subsides, giving way to strings and pure heartache.

Tshegue, "Solola"

Intergalactic Afropunk duo Tshegue's releases are sparse, but every time a new bomb drops, it reminds you of the pair's unmatched ability to get your BPM jumping.

DeeWunn, "Jaw Jump"

Infectiously rumpus and shamelessly sexy. This is a dancehall burner with real bars baked in.


"It's hard to stay low" for this New York newcomer. And it's that extra layer of bass that's bound to take you high.

Bibi Bourelly, "Wet"

The talented pen behind some of this decade's most brazen and soul-barring cuts — think Rihanna's "Bitch Better Have My Money" and Selena Gomez's "Camouflage" — saves the most sincerest "F*** you" for her own naysayers.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Sidney Madden is a reporter and editor for NPR Music. As someone who always gravitated towards the artforms of music, prose and dance to communicate, Madden entered the world of music journalism as a means to authentically marry her passions and platform marginalized voices who do the same.
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