what’s in my ear: my 2014 summer playlist

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 – by Abigail Opiah, Contributor

Since Un’ruly’s dedicating August to the playlists that underscore our summer adventures, I decided to share some of the sounds I’ve actually been listening to this summer that you might want to add to your rotations. The songs range from a twist on a Michael Jackson classic to a poppy all-girl collaboration and a new take on Afro Beat. These songs are sure to compliment the various directions your summer can take. Enjoy!

“Good Kisser” by Usher – I’ve always secretly been a fan of Usher so when he performed this single on an episode of the hit NBC reality singing competition, “The Voice” –I was so excited! I’m really attracted to the heavy drum beat and syncopated rhythm of the track, and I also find myself trying to decipher the lyrics to see if being a good kisser has a double meaning! 😉

“Azonto” by Wiz Kid – Anyone that knows me, knows my LOVE for African sounds! On a recent trip to London this summer, I attended a get together and discovered this club banger by Wiz Kid – an African artist that is part of the new evolution of Afro Beat taking Europe and West Africa by storm. The Afro Beat I’m used to was pioneered by the late, great Fela Kuti so at first I was a little hesitant to embrace this as its new form, but I’ve since come around.

“Love Never Felt so Good” by Michael Jackson (Feat. Justin Timberlake) – The definition of a classic is something that can withstand the test of time and this track is a testament to the staying power of the late King of Pop, Michael Jackson! The fact that this song was recorded in another era but is still embraced by people of today is why I just love MJ. I can’t turn on the TV without hearing this song in a car commercial or walk down my block without hearing it blaring from speakers from someone’s stoop. MJ forever!

“Bang Bang” by Nicki Minaj, Jessie J and Ariana Grande – This interesting collaboration is very reminiscent of the 2001 monster hit, “Lady Marmalade” featuring, Pink, Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim and Mya. I’m mostly attracted to the vocals of British songbird Jessie J – who’s super talented in my eyes and has the cross-over appeal of say, an Adele or Amy Winehouse.

“Stay With Me” by Sam Smith – OMG! When I first heard this song I melted into putty! Smith is almost like the second coming of Boy George but with major SOUL. R&B songstress, Mary J. Blige was also blown away by Sam’s talent and the raw emotion of this song that she wasted no time performing a duet with him. Just a really beautiful song to help mend a broken heart.

“The Man” by Aloe Blacc – When I first heard a friend of mine listening to this track, I automatically thought I was listening to singer, Anthony Hamilton’s latest release. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it wasn’t in fact Antony Hamilton, but rather a super talented singer by the name of Aloe Blacc. This track has totally become my summer anthem and picks me up when I need reassurance in what I’m capable of doing and achieving.

“V.3005” by Childish Gambino – I’ve always appreciated Childish Gambino A.K.A. Donald Glover, as a comedic actor (NBC’s “Community”) but I now have a new found respect for him as a musician. Taking a page from rapper, Drake’s book (who also acted before transitioning over to music), Gambino is really good at sliding from rap verse to melodic hook. Definitely one of my faves of the summer!

 “She” by Laura Mvula – I first introduced you to this British songbird last year after she caught my ear performing this haunting song on NBC’s Today Show.  Fast forward several months later and this track still gives me chills, not to mention the album is doing really well and Laura is enjoying a lot more exposure.

“Am I Wrong” by Nico & Vinz – After hearing this song for weeks, pretty much everywhere I went, I finally caught this Swedish duo performing the song live on the Ellen DeGeneres show. The song, for the most part defies categorization, but definitely has Afro undertones, which is why I’m not surprised the video was shot in Africa. No matter what, this track makes me move my feet!


“When Rivers Cry” by Somi (Feat. Common) – I first met Somi last summer when I ran into her at day two of our “You Can Touch My Hair” exhibit in Union Square New York, but I’ll admit that I had no clue who she was until I started following her on Instagram. Her debut album was just released this month and she’s already receiving rave reviews. With its sweet melody, this track is definitely my favorite off the album and her style is that of an East African version of Jill Scott.

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