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The Agony & The Ecstasy: music news

The Cassie mixtape, Jai Paul's new album plus an unexpected Kelly Rowland & Missy collabo

MIXTAPE OF THE WEEK: Cassie - 'RockaByeBaby'

Cassie's remarkable new mixtape features an all star cast including Jeremih, Wiz Khalifa and Ester Dean (on the bratty, MIA-ish 'Bad Bitches') and minimalist production from Mike Will Made It, Da Internz et al. It's possibly the best R&B release of the year so far; bold, inventive and a seamlessly addictive listen. Best lyric: in 'RockaByeBaby', as Cassie raps "Got my Gaga/ Poker face/ And these weak bitches gon' fold up". Bow down. 

WTF OF THE WEEK: Jai Paul - 'Jai Paul'

Jai Paul's debut album came out of nowhere on Saturday at the blogger-unfriendly hour of about 10pm. A collage of finished tracks ('Jasmine', track 9), demos and samples, it's a captivatingly odd future-soul/pop mesh - and appears to be self-released by Jai Paul rather than a leak, as Crack In The Road have studiously noted. Jai Paul's only interview to date was with Dazed in 2011. Then, he told Michael Cragg that his favourite song was 'A Thousand Light-Years From You' - which now seems to be entitled 'Good Time', Track 8 on the album: "It's quite fucked up. It's got sort of like ELO harmonies, 90s hip hop drums, Motown guitar and a Harry Potter sample at the beginning." Finally it comes to light - all 54 seconds of it.

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: Noah - 'Do You Remember'

Premiered on Dazed today, the video for Japanese singer Noah's new track 'Do You Remember' is a melodrama in soft focus, interweaving ballet dancing with romantic vintage footage in hi-gloss monochrome. It's taken from her split with California-based "night music" producer SELA. (who produced Kitty Pryde's 'UNfollowed'), released today on Flau. Noah lays minimal classical piano with pattering beats and wispy, sure vocals - a beautiful spare song with a longing pull; one for warm hearths and hearts.

SURPRISE OF THE WEEK: Fantasia - 'Without Me' ft. Kelly Rowland & Missy Elliott

Sometimes they come in the unlikeliest of places. And with a career build on a earnest R&Ballads, American idol alumnus Fantasia wasn't the most likely to turn in a trap beat with a pitched-down hook. 'Without Me' is cut from the same cavernous cloth as 'Beez In The Trap' and Rowland's own 'Motivation', as vocals weave over the minimal production from Harmony, Kyle Stewart and Lambert, while Missy is aggro and turned to 100, delivering her best verse for years. There's also a very good bit which sounds like the squeak of thighs chaffing in leather trousers. Taken from Fantasia's album The Side Effects of You, coming April 23.

SONG OF THE WEEK: Cat Power - 'Bully'

Cat Power's 2012 album Sun was marked by it's bright optimism, fruit of years of personal issues from the singer. She debuted her new track 'Bully' on Jools Holland this week, and at first it seems to return to the weighty piano ballads of her middle period (like the wrenching tale of trauma 'Names' from 2003's You Are Free). But threaded through 'Bully' is the clear-eyed acceptance of Sun, as she delivers the final line "Everything we now know, with a smile on our face/ I can never forget."

K-POP SONG OF THE WEEK: Brown Eyed Girls - 'Abracadabra'

Originally a hit in 2009, the four-piece Brown Eyed Girls found themselves on a worldwide platform this week when PSY used the 'hip shake' from 'Abracadabra' in his new video 'Gentleman'. In the lead up to his new single's release, he promised a "PSY-style" take on a traditional Korean dance (K-Pop translation: a dance craze of four-year vintage) Just as 'Gangnam Style' starred HyunA as dance partner/love interest, PSY's new video puts Brown Eyed Girls' Ga-In on a worldwide stage - but 'Gentleman' can't compete with it's source material 'Abracadabra', with it's squelchy electronic hook and iridescent rap/pop twists and turns.