Welcome again to FrontRow’s weekly music column. We’re still brainstorming on names, so feel free to email me with your suggestions. The column exists to highlight artists in Dallas-Fort Worth who are often overlooked and underappreciated by mainstream media. If local media doesn’t support stars, who will?
A “Young Legend” in the making, Bobby Sessions released Manifest, his debut studio album on Def Jam. Meanwhile, genre-bending soul singer Flower Child conjures the spirit of protest on “Truth to Power.” Luna Luna, a dreamy bilingual indie band, dropped “One Thing” ahead of their forthcoming tour. Country artist Dustin Massey pleas with an ex-lover on “Bad Love.” And Tusing alludes to a breakup on the folk-pop song “Up My Sleeve.”
If we missed your release this week, remember we highlight new music every Friday. Send your music for consideration to my inbox.
Penthouse Players (ft. Rick Ross)
Bobby Sessions is a man of faith. The Grammy Award winner speaks to God about his forthcoming legacy on “Penthouse Players.” The song opens with an introspective reflection of his award-winning career. “I knew I would eat back in high school at the lunch line,” he recites. Complimented by a repetitive chorus of piano arpeggios, Sessions begins his series of reflections. He’s aware of his recent career-defining accomplishment, but aspires towards greater.
His greatest competitor is time. “Fuck opportunity / what are you doing with it?” he asks. For a majority of his studio career, Sessions was hiding in plain sight. Now, with the spotlight upon him, he’s determined to capitalize on this well-deserved moment.
At the song’s mid-point, Rick Ross enters as the elder statesman. Ross is the living embodiment of Sessions’ prayers. As one of the few rappers to break through the South’s mainstream bubble and maintain relevancy over the years, the Maybach Music founder is a prime example to follow. With references to Tupac’s career as an aspirational archetype and acknowledgment of being one of the few rappers left with their own label, Ross closes the Sessions’ track with a continued prayer to longevity and wealth.
Truth to Power
Flower Child is a conjure woman. On “Truth to Power,” the musician seamlessly transitions between soul and hip-hop to construct an immersive genre-blending song, one that pays tribute to both genres respective traditions. Soul singers were the first contemporary musicians to harness music as a medium to illustrate the societal issues of race, class, and gender.
Flower Child modernizes the tradition on the latest release from Truth to Power, a Josey Records and Eastwood Music Group compilation album to emphasize the current state of racial and social injustice. The song’s opening lines, “One time for revolution / pick a side / pick a side/ baby love / where’s the confusion” ignites Flower Child’s delivery of attention-grabbing, critical lyrics.
Each lyric, crafted with attention to detail, reflects on the last 12 months of race relations in the United States. In one line, she says “the veil is lifted,” a reference to the George Floyd video, which sparked worldwide protests and conversions around police brutality and racial injustice. Another line describes racism as “the biggest crime since the beginning.”
She’s waking up listeners to the societal problems at hand. Although the song is current, soul, hip-hop, and gospel have long existed as a musical hub for protest music, specifically for Black entertainers to paint narratives of their lived experiences. The song’s topics are not new, just like racism is not new.
However, Flower Child excels at the maintain to balance soulful vocals, alongside back-to-back raps. If a listener doesn’t pay attention, you’ll miss her church references to the spirit “taking over like the Holy Ghost,” an intracommunal saying of when God takes over and spirit moves through.
This is a revival song. It’s a song meant for the spirit of liberation, revolution, and justice to move through.
One Thing (ft. The Undercover Dream Lovers)
The best breakup songs are the ones that hide in plain sight. We’ve all experienced a collective moment, where the listeners realize the emotional depth of a cheery pop song. At first listen, “One Thing” appears as a dreamy, synth-pop song with a memorable chorus of “you know / you got that one thing.” It’s a commonly used idiom to highlight that unique aspect of your lover. Luna Luna merges catchy pop with tender indie songwriting to construct a blissful summer song for unrequited lovers.
The Undercover Dream Lovers emerge as the foil. Oftentimes, breakup songs are sung from the singular viewpoint of a male lover. Undercover Dream Lovers provide the female perspective. “Can you make it better? / Wanna stay together?” The two vocals remain separate to emphasize the physical distance between the opposing viewpoints, but unite on the chorus “You know / you got that one thing” for a brief moment. An auditory last goodbye between two lovers.
An electric guitar and tambourine establish the tone for Dustin Massey’s toxic love track about an unhealthy lover. Historically, the woman lover has long been associated with unhealthy drug use. In this release, drug use is cocaine and Massey is experiencing withdrawals after their breakup.
Massey, an emergent country singer in his own right, pleads about the “bad love running through my veins.” His pleas reiterate the love the duo once had and built together. At one point, he even begs to “come inside” again. You decide the phrase’s specific meaning, but Massey acknowledges the unhealthy union of their love. To put it simply, the track is an ode to bad love.
Up My Sleeve
“You got all that you wanted from me,” croons Tusing on “Up My Sleeve.” The folk-pop single provides a simple, tender foundation for the singer to reminisces about heartbreak. In the background, a country-inspired guitar ebbs and flows, similar to thumps of a heartbeat, as Tusing muses about a former lover. Folk, like the blues and country, has always served as a foundation for heartbroken lovers to analogize their pains and immortalizes their muses. “I’ve tried so hard to hold on,” he describes. There’s no greater pain than heartbreak, y’all.