Solar Powered Edition

Here comes the sun.

The competition for Song of the Summer just got a lot more interesting. For a while there, it seemed that “Peaches,” “Leave the Door Open,” “Kiss Me More,” and “Good 4 U” were all the clear frontrunners. But then the Kiwi Queen returned. It’s been four long years since Lorde released Melodrama, a melancholic masterpiece that solidified her status as one of the defining pop stars of the last decade. Her new single “Solar Power” makes it clear that her reign is far from over. It’s also a bold and…well sunny new direction after two albums full of teen angst and heartbreak. Few would have pegged Lorde as the one who would pull us out of the winter doldrums with an absolute beachside bop. “Forget all of thе tears that you've cried, It's ovеr (Over, over, over), It's a new state of mind,” she sings as she dances in the sand before the buoyant earworm of a chorus. The new album drops on June 20, the summer solstice. Brighter days really are ahead.

Oh, and for those wondering, Harry Styles’ “Watermelon Sugar” took the title in 2019 and BTS’ “Dynamite” won in 2020. Don’t @ me. These are just facts.

Anyway, here’s what’s new and noteworthy this week!

MOVIES: In the Heights

You heard it here first folks. Hot Musical Summer has arrived and blessed us with the long-delayed and awaited adaptation of Lin-Manuel’s OG musical In the Heights, set in the largely Dominican Washington Heights neighborhood in NYC. Tell me you didn’t watch that trailer and get friggin’ HYPE. This is the movie musical we’ve desperately needed since the Cats debacle, full of rollicking dance numbers, dream-chasing, swoon-worthy romance, sizzling summer vibes...and yes, our beloved Lin shows up, too. The reviews are euphoric and it’s now available on HBO Max AND on the big screen! Just give yourself plenty of space, cuz these bops are bound to get you outta your seat and singing along.

Other Notable Releases: Bo Burnham: Inside (Netflix), the new comedy special shot and performed by the deeply meta comedian in his home, alone, over the past year that critics are calling a “claustrophobic masterpiece.” The Dry (VOD), a crime drama about a federal agent who returns to his drought-stricken Aussie hometown to investigate the decades-old death of a teenage girl.

TV: Loki

Every Marvel movie would benefit from including more of the irresistibly charismatic Tom Hiddleston, God of Mischief imo. It’s about time the charming, cunning trickster finally got to be the star of his own show, and I’m very pleased to report that the six-part Loki (new episodes released weekly on Wednesdays on Disney+) is every bit the time and space-hopping romp he deserves. Like the equally entertaining and genre-bending Wandavision, Loki takes the Marvel formula and molds it into something unexpected and surreal, this time an off-kilter time-crime thriller that’s, most importantly, a hell of a good time. I mean, they got Owen Wilson in this thing. Woooow, c’mooon now you have to watch!

Other Notable Releases: In the heartfelt fantasy series Sweet Tooth (Netflix), based on a DC comic, a boy who is half human and half deer survives in a post-apocalyptic world with other hybrids. Speaking of charming protagonists, the dashing French gentleman thief Lupin (Netflix) is back with Part 2 of his plans to avenge his father using all manner of disguises and sleight of hand. 

Books: The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris

You best believe I smashed “Place Hold” at my local library as soon as I read this one described as “Get Out meets Devil Wears Prada.” Here’s the hook. Nella, a young editorial assistant and the only Black employee at her company, has just about had it until Hazel, the eponymous “other Black girl” is hired. Any camaraderie is cut short, though, when a series of unfortunate events occur that makes Nella a pariah and Hazel an office darling. Then a note appears on Nella’s desk: LEAVE WAGNER NOW. Things escalate quickly from there and shocking twists await. Race and the workplace couldn’t be more prescient subject matter and critics say Harris’ debut is an electric and eviscerating social satire cum-thriller that should be at the top of everyone's summer reading list.

Other Notable Releases: In How the Word is Passed, The Atlantic staff writer Clint Smith leads the reader on an unforgettable tour of monuments and landmarks that offer an intergenerational story of how slavery has been central in shaping our nation’s collective history, and ourselves. In The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu by Tom Lin, an orphaned son of Chinese immigrants blazes through the West to rescue his wife from a California crime syndicate in a tale that mixes the stylings of Cormac McCarthy and Ted Chiang.

MUSIC: Japanese Breakfast - Jubilee

Michelle Zauner is putting us all to shame in 2021. In April, she released her best-selling memoir Crying in H Mart that began as a viral New Yorker essay and is now set to get a film adaptation. Lucky for us, all that time branching out hasn’t kept her from gifting us a joyous new album inspired by both Bjork and...Wilco? Only Japanese Breakfast could make it work and sound so good with this eclectic collection of sunny hooks and absolutely shredding guitar. It’s her boldest album yet, and goes big on both lyrical themes and riffs. If Michelle keeps this up, might as well just call 2021 the Year of Jubilee.

Other Notable Releases: Sleater-Kinney, made up of those Pacific Northwest punks Carrie Brownstein (of Portlandia fame) and Corin Tucker, rages against modern times in their signature alt-rock style on Path of Wellness. Acclaimed mandolinist and headman for the Punch Brothers goes solo on his newest, Laysongs, a collection of folk-infused tunes steeped in religious imagery that explores big questions about faith and doubt. 

That's it for this week! If you have a friend who might like this, please forward it along, and if you got this from a friend, you can subscribe below.

Until next time,