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Compared with the avalanche of recent weeks, the days leading up to Labor Day weekend were relatively slow for incoming new songs — which means we went through just 80 instead of 120! — providing a great opportunity to shine a light on some lesser-known artists. That, however, is not where we’ll start…

SZA (featuring Ty Dolla $ign) “Hit Different” If SZA’s recent Twitter flare-up with her label chief over her new album’s delay means it’s coming soon, we’re here for it: This Neptunes-produced track is slow and kinda low-key streamy, with a slow groove and sweet vocals — however, in the middle it shifts into what seems to be a totally different song, with a different vibe but a killer multisyllabic melody, and it comes with a cool, mostly socially distanced video that SZA directed herself. While SZA’s been featured on a lot of songs over the past couple of years, it’s been four since her stellar debut “Cntrl” — if this is a sampling of what we’ve been waiting for, it will have been worth it.

 

Monica (featuring Lil Baby) “Trenches” So, completely by accident, we picked two songs produced by the Neptunes, but we’ve gotta say this song snared us when Monica premiered it the other night on her Verzuz battle with Brandy — and while the beat and the Lil Baby cameo are both hot, what’s really shining through on this song is the gorgeous melody, which is intricate and tricky to sing, but of course Monica delivers with confidence and ease, dropping in some life lessons along the way (“Don’t let the game keep playin’ you”).

 

Actress (featuring Sampha) “Walking Flames” Actress is a prolific veteran British electronic musician who enlisted fellow Brit Sampha to handle vocals on this sultry track from his forthcoming album “Karma & Desire,” out next month.

 

Gia Woods “Chaos” This Persian-American singer caught attention when she came out via a music video in 2015, and she’s since established herself as a powerful artist with a strong message. But this atmospheric pop song, with its rollercoaster melody and an awesome autotuned leap on the chorus may be the best thing she’s done yet.

 

Sofia Reyes (featuring Darell and Lalo Ebratt) “Echalo Pa’ Ca” This young Mexican singer has collaborated with everyone from Wisin and Jason DeRulo to Michael Buble and her mentor, Prince Royce, and while the features from Darell and Lalo Ebratt here are hot, what really makes the song is the most earwormy hook we’ve heard since J Balvin’s global smash “Mi Gente.” Just try to get it out of your head…