JoJo’s Intimate ‘Small Things’ Video Comes With A Powerful Note: ‘Black People Made Me Who I Am’

At the beginning of May, JoJo dropped her fourth album Good to Know, and throughout the year, we’ve been getting to know its songs, thanks to a sexy video for “Man” and a creative quarantine collab with pal Zelda Williams for “Lonely Hearts.”

On Tuesday (June 23), she let us see something else: an intimate, low-key blockbuster clip for “Small Things,” a rainy and personal slice of acoustic heartbreak. As directed by Santiago Salviche, JoJo herself appears as glam as ever, but also raw and vulnerable, backed up by dancers whose movements begin in insular positions (like bathtubs) before leaping out to vibrant life.

In the video description, JoJo wrote that she waited to release the video in light of the widespread activism for racial justice over the past month. “I’ve been trying to wait for the right moment to share this video with you,” she wrote. “With everything going on in the world and in our own backyard, I didn’t want anyone to misconstrue its release as some kind of indication that I’ve moved on from the revolution at hand, here in America. I want to say it clear as day: Black people made me who I am.”

“Not only my longest standing friendships, but also the record executives, mentors, teachers, romantic partners, and loyal fans who believed in me and took a chance on me – they have all shaped me. Without their support in every way, and without the artists who inspire me to make music, I would not exist,” she continued. “My support for Black lives/art/love/safety/freedom is not a phase nor does it have an expiration date. I’m honored to be a part of R&B culture and I never take my warm reception for granted.”

She characterized the video as “a piece of art that we made to express how painful it can be to hold in your feelings. To act like you’re okay, when – in all honesty – you’re not. I wanted to video to feel like catharsis.”

JoJo also shouted out by name the “beautiful artists/dancers” she appears alongside in the video: Morgan Choice, Halima Dodo, Dominique Battiste, and Alexandra Carson. She concluded her message with a quote from Toni Morrison: “The function of freedom is to try to free someone else.”

Check out JoJo’s magnetic “Small Things” video above, and read her full statement here.

Beyoncé Just Dropped A Powerful A Capella Rendition Of ‘Black Parade’

Beyoncé‘s parade route continued on Tuesday (June 23) with an a capella rendition of her celebratory anthem, “Black Parade.”

The new release was a followup to Queen Bey’s original “Black Parade” production that came on Friday (June 19) in honor of Juneteenth, which celebrates the end of slavery in the United States. Specifically, the now-155-year-old holiday marks the date in 1865 when enslaved people in Texas learned of their freedom as declared by President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation two years prior.

The song’s lyrics are lush with proud historical and cultural references to her ancestry. “I’m goin’ back to the South,” the Texas-born mother of three sings. “Ankh charm on gold chains, with my Oshun energy.”

“Happy Juneteenth Weekend!” the singer wrote in an Instagram post on Friday. “I hope we continue to share joy and celebrate each other, even in the midst of struggle. Please continue to remember our beauty, strength and power.”

But beyond simply celebrating, Beyoncé is doing the work: She used the opportunity to bring attention to small, Black-owned businesses, sharing a link to a page on her website that functions as a directory. Proceeds from the track will go to her charity, Black Business Impact Fund. “‘Black Parade’ celebrates you, your voice and your joy and will benefit Black-owned small businesses.”

You can listen to “Black Parade (Acapella Version)” by Beyoncé exclusively via TIDAL here.

John Legend Brings Doo-Wop Charm Debuting ‘Ooh Laa’ On The Tonight Show

John Legend does a lot of talk shows. It’s kind of his thing, along with being half of one of the most visible celebrity couples on the planet, collaborating with a diverse array of artists, and devoting time to charity work and activism. Really, the guy is made to be on TV, as seen perhaps definitively in the Between Two Ferns Netflix movie, where he plays a menacing, yet relentlessly charismatic version of himself. It’s good.

For his appearance on The Tonight Show on Monday night (June 22), though, Legend brought his usual good-guy charm to perform his song “Ooh Laa,” backed up by a full band. The show is still being hosted remotely, like all late-night shows, but Legend took the opportunity to make his appearance more dynamic than his typical sitting-at-a-piano posture.

Backed up by a quartet back and three vocalists, Legend sang the song from a mic stand, swaying to the retro doo-wop beat and holds court. It was the first live debut of his song “Ooh Laa,” which kicks off his new album Bigger Love. The album also features appearances from Jhené Aiko, Rapsody, Gary Clark Jr., and more.

In an interview with Fallon, Legend revealed that his wife, Chrissy Teigen, surprised him with a nice Father’s Day setup in the backyard, and explained a bit more about helping to set up FreeAmerica, a social justice organization centering around America’s status as the country with the most incarcerated people in the world.

He said the initiative aims to highlight the fights activists have longed taken up in that space. “We’ve been trying to amplify their work and help change the system,” he said. Watch the performance and find his conversation with Fallon above.

Camila Cabello Was The Cutest Googly-Eyed Baby, Her Emotional ‘First Man’ Video Shows

On Father’s Day, Camila Cabello only had eyes for one man. (Hint: it wasn’t Shawn Mendes.)

On Sunday (June 21), the singer released a tear-jerker of a music video for her single, “First Man,” the emotional ballad that closed her sophomore solo album, Romance, which released in December.  The video, like the song itself, is a compilation of home movies dedicated to her dad, Alejandro Cabello.

Spliced by footage of the present-day pop star singing to-camera, her eyes at times bloodshot from crying, are clips of a younger Camila singing into a karaoke machine. There are also scenes of her mother, Sinuhé, feeding and burping an adorably googly-eyed baby Camila in her hometown of Havana, Cuba.

“Papa, I made this for you,” Camila wrote in an Instagram post announcing the release on Sunday. “thank you for loving me, unconditionally, ferociously, and constantly. doesnt matter if I fail or succeed, doesn’t matter if I feel on top of the world or like the dirt on my shoe lol. you love me just because you love me, without me needing to do or be anything other than just me. thank you endlessly, for everything. Thank you for showing me what love is and for showing me how to be loved. I will always be your little girl.”

Camila and her father have a particularly special relationship. Earlier this year, Alejandro walked the Grammys red carpet arm-in-arm with his daughter, who brought him as her date rather than her “Señorita”-collaborator and main squeeze, Shawn Mendes. There, Camila debuted her live performance of “First Man” in a touching, surprise performance, which ended in a big hug between the two.

Vincint’s Queer Eye Anthem, Chloe X Halle’s Clubby Call, And More Songs We Love

“We are owed an unpayable debt,” the New York-based artist Michael Love Michael wrote in the announcement for their latest track “JFC,” which doubled as a fiery call to arms. “We owe it only to ourselves to claim our freedom.” Though the singer’s recent releases “6 Jaguars” and “Rope,” marked by ambient vocals and plush ‘80s synths, have always filtered political topics through decadent pop production, “JFC” finds Michael plainly furious, and rightfully so. “I can’t believe all the ways that a great white lie / Wanna ruin how I live my best Black life,” they voice in a reverberating whisper that builds and bites over an icy, trap beat; in this “anthem for collective Black liberation,” Michael has found their power in protest, and the courage to say “I don’t owe you fucking anything.” —Coco Romack

Noname’s ‘Song 33’ Addresses J. Cole, Toyin Salau, And More In Just Over A Minute

Earlier this week, J. Cole dropped the song “Snow on tha Bluff,” which seemed to target Chicago rapper Noname for a tweet in which she called out “y’all favorite top selling rappers” for their silence during a time of mass protests and demonstrations calling for racial justice. In a follow-up tweet thread, Cole clarified that he had respect for Noname, urged his fans to follow her, and said, “I love and honor her as a leader in these times.”

But one of Cole’s lines in the song remained at the heart of the dispute, especially among fans: “It’s something about the queen tone that’s bothering me.” Noname apparently even tweeted the words “QUEEN TONE!!!!!!” before deleting it. Now, she’s responded with a new song called “Song 33.” It’s only 70 seconds long, but it’s packed with wisdom.

Over a Madlib-produced beat, Noname first addresses the patriarchy, then laments the death of Toyin Salau, a 19-year-old Black Lives Matter activist found dead after she tweeted about being sexually assaulted. “Why Toyin body don’t embody all the life she wanted?” Noname asks.

From there, the rapper addresses Cole, but not by name, accusing him of recording and releasing “Snow on tha Bluff” as an ego flex instead of devoting his platform to, as she mentions, the killing of George Floyd at the hands of police, as well as recent possible lynchings and the targeting of trans women.

He really about to write about me when the world is in smokes?
When it’s people in trees?
When George was begging for his mother, saying he couldn’t breathe
You thought to write about me?

And later:

Yo, but little did I know all my reading would be a bother
It’s trans women being murdered and this is all he can offer?

Notably, the end of “Song 33” features Noname looking forward, proclaiming that her perspective — as well as her activism, which she mobilizes regularly on social media — is the future. “We democratizing Amazon, we burn down borders,” she raps. “This a new vanguard, this a new vanguard / I’m the new vanguard.”

Cole tweeted out the link to the song on Thursday night. Noname helpfully tweeted out all the lyrics to “Song 33,” so you can follow along with those below as you stream the song above.

J. Cole’s ‘Snow On Tha Bluff’ Divided Listeners — So He Weighed In

Over the past few weeks, as demonstrations in all 50 states and abroad have gone hand-in-hand with a slate of new protest music, artists like Denzel Curry, YG, and H.E.R. have released new songs that grapple with police brutality and racial injustice.

On Tuesday night (June 16), J. Cole released a sparse new song called “Snow on tha Bluff.” It doesn’t take aim at the police, but shortly after its release, fans connected its words to Chicago rapper Noname, who had tweeted about “y’all favorite top selling rappers not even willing to put a tweet up” to support the demonstrations that had begun at the end of May, shortly after the killing of George Floyd.

Cole seemingly addresses this message directly on “Snow on tha Bluff,” rapping, “She mad at the celebrities / Low-key I be thinking she talking about me,” and later:

Now I ain’t no dummy to think I’m above criticism
So when I see something that’s valid, I listen
But shit, it’s something about the queen tone that’s bothering me

Fans quickly made the connection between those words and Noname’s message. On Thursday morning, Cole explained himself further in a series of tweets that led off with, “I stand behind every word of the song that dropped last night.” He also shouted out Noname by name and encouraged people to follow her: “I love and honor her as a leader in these times. She has done and is doing the reading and the listening and the learning on the path that she truly believes is the correct one for our people. Meanwhile a n—a like me just be rapping.”

As Pitchfork points out, Noname apparently reacted to the song in a since-deleted tweet that echoed one of Cole’s lines in the song: “QUEEN TONE!!!!!!”

“Snow on tha Bluff” also features Cole asking the subject of his song to adjust the way the message is being sent:

Just ’cause you woke and I’m not
That shit ain’t no reason to talk like you better than me
How you gonna lead
When you attacking the very same n—as that really do need
The shit that you saying?

This is something Cole addressed in a tweet in the same thread: “I haven’t done a lot of reading and I don’t feel well equipped as a leader in these times. But I do a lot of thinking. And I appreciate her and others like her because they challenge my beliefs and I feel that in these times that’s important.” He closed out with a plea to “be gentle with each other.”

Around the end of May, Cole was spotted by a fan at a protest wearing a face mask. Check out “Snow on tha Bluff” in full above, then see Cole’s full statement in tweets right here.

How Wallows Powered Through Quarantine With Group Texts, Iced Coffee, And Jams

In this age of self-isolation and quarantine, it’s never been more important to check in on each other and to connect. This goes for artists, too, who have been social distancing alongside us: livestreaming concerts and hangouts, creating their own talk shows, and… well, that’s what we want them to tell us, with Remote Access.

As of mid-May, the last time Dylan Minnette, Braeden Lemasters, and Cole Preston — known together as pastel pop-rock band Wallows — had seen each other in person was when they filmed a music video in March. The visual, which brings their jaunty tune “OK” to vibrant life, doubles as a showcase for the trio’s fellowship. They shot it in a single day in Los Angeles, cruising around in a van, jamming, scooting around on Heelys, and eventually ending up on a soggy couch behind a fast-food joint. And then the world shut down.

The COVID-19 pandemic led performing artists en masse to cancel festivals and tours worldwide, including Wallows, who had to ditch a run of headlining shows. At the same time, amid all the uncertainty, the optimistic refrain of “OK” took on an entirely new significance. “The lyric ‘Can we get up and try to feel OK again?’ [was] trying to spin a positive message,” Lemasters told MTV News. “We never forced that message on the song, but it just happened to take on this weird meaning at the time.”

But Wallows leaned into the resonance, despite self-isolating in three separate locations. (The group text is on fire; “I feel like I probably send at least 300 texts to these guys a day,” Minnette said.) Last month, they connected virtually to record an acoustic take of “OK” as well as a sparkling cover of The Beatles’s “With a Little Help From My Friends” with all proceeds going to Feeding America. They’ve also been getting creative in quarantine, chipping away at new music with collaborators Sachi DiSerafino and John DeBold and connecting via FaceTime to share ideas. Even though they can’t physically be in the same room, the digital catch-ups help keep their body language — essential to in-person creation — intact.

When they spoke with MTV News recently, Minnette was only a few days into a new venture of purple hair, a move for which Lemasters and Preston voiced their support. They also agreed with another one of their bandmate’s thoughts near the end of our call: “I talk to you guys more now than I do on tour!” See more of their quarantine camaraderie below.

MTV News: “OK” came out right as tours and festivals were getting canceled and social distancing was starting to be encouraged. How different was releasing a song in that situation?

Minnette: Just for a second before it came out, we were like, “Should we wait?” [But] if anything, people want something during this time … anything we can do to give people music during this time and be as productive as possible because the thing that’s been exciting to me during this time is when a new album comes out. There’s not many coming out right now, so when something does, it’s really exciting.

MTV News: The “OK” video is a hangout video, though for the past few months, everyone’s had to do virtual hangouts. It’s nice to watch it and remember what that’s like. But was it exhausting to have to film it in a single day?

Minnette: Honestly, that shoot was so much fun. I never felt exhausted. It was literally 1 a.m. and pouring rain in the shot where we’re on that couch. You can’t really tell, but it was raining, and it’s 1 a.m. and cold. We’re holding this wet fast food, or whatever, but it was still so much fun. I especially have a good memory of that in my mind because it was the last time we saw each other. I haven’t seen Cole and Braeden since we shot that video, and that was two days before they really put in stay-at-home orders.

Preston: I was so exhausted that whole day because, I mean, all of us were in Heelys at one point, but me and Braeden, ’cause we’re not necessarily singing the song, for a lot of the shots, it was like, “Go Heely back and forth, around, and go on the Heelys over there.” And Braeden’s really good at Heelying, but I am not at all. My calves were absolutely shredded after that day.

Minnette: Me too! I learned how to Heely that day. It’s a workout. I left my Heelys there! I was so excited to have my adult-sized Heelys, and I left them. I would’ve been Heelying all around my house this whole time. If I was the dude with purple hair Heelying around the neighborhood during quarantine, that would’ve been insane [laughs].

MTV News: Some of that footage of the making of the video ended up in the “With a Little Help From My Friends” video, too. Where did a lot of that footage come from?

Lemasters: We didn’t want to go the route of having our friends sing the song with us and have a whole FaceTime session, or whatever. So we thought it’d nice to compile videos from tour and things we’ve done with our friends from our band circle, just showing us all hanging out and having a good time. It just makes you realize how much you appreciate your friends and how much you miss them in times like this if you can’t really see them.

MTV News: When you recorded a socially distanced acoustic version of “OK,” I imagine the logistics have to be worked out up front to make it go smoothly. What was that process like?

Preston: It is weird because — if there is a streaming service that does this, somebody tell us about it, but nothing happens actually in real time. Obviously we can’t literally play the song live and have it sync up properly because it would just be a nightmare. So I made a rough track with a count-in and a metronome, and then we decided what would each do, and then they played along to those on video and then came back to me. I edited that in and did my part to that. So it was just a step-by-step thing. Not too difficult but definitely kind of annoying to do.

Minnette: We have another coming out, too. Same setup, same system. It’s all Cole — Cole does the dirty work for Wallows.

MTV News: Is there a way to, say, jump on Zoom and do some kind of group jam session?

Preston: That just sounds, like, so high-tech to me. Like, that is the scary future Elon Musk takeover happening to me [laughs].

MTV News: You guys are a creative unit, so you rely on body language and eye contact when you’re making music. Is it weird to not have that?

Minnette: We’ve been on a lot of FaceTimes. So, yes, but I can still see their facial expressions if I have a bad idea. I can still see them, like, “You don’t like that idea.” We can still do that because of FaceTime.

Preston: Not to bring acting too much into the mix, but because Dylan and Braeden have been working on projects in the past, we’re already used to kind of having to do stuff when all three of us aren’t in the same city or the same place. We’re weirdly lucky in that sense, that we have experience being apart.

MTV News: What do some of those facial expressions look like?

Lemasters: Mine would honestly just look like me thinking.

Minnette: No, no. I know your you-don’t-agree-with-me face. You’re always kind of smiling. You put on a face like you’re supporting it, but it’s so obvious that you’re not.

Lemasters: And I know in my head I’m not selling this at all, that I’m interested.

Minnette: Cole, you always have the same face.

Preston: Yeah, I have only one face.

Minnette: I never know when you think something’s good or bad ever.

Lemasters: Cole, you look up in the sky when you don’t like something.

Minnette: [imitating] I’m going to pretend that I’m thinking about that.

MTV News: What’s been your quarantine routine? Wake up, iced coffee, getting into a pattern — what’s been going on?

Lemasters: The lyrics to that System of a Down song [“Chop Suey!“]. “Wake up!” “Why’d you leave the keys upon the table? / You wanted to!” I have no idea what those lyrics are. Um… what do we do? Wake up, go get coffee…

Minnette: I call Cole and Braeden. “Morning, bros!”

Lemasters: I’ve been watching [YouTube channel] Vsauce, a lot of Vsauce. I watch First Take on ESPN [with] Stephen A. Smith, a lot of basketball highlights. I’ll go for walks in my neighborhood.

Preston: I have the first hour of my morning exactly the same every single day, which is: I wake up, and my cat is screaming to be fed, so I feed the cat.

Minnette: Me too.

Preston: Then I make coffee. While my coffee’s brewing, I go into Animal Crossing and I do my daily rounds, ’cause there’s very mundane tasks. You have to find the fossils, you’ve got to shake the trees, talk to the villagers, whatever, get the nook miles going. All you Animal Crossing people know exactly what I’m talking about. And then after that, I just kind of wing it.

MTV News: Dylan, you decided to dye your hair purple, what, a few days ago? How come?

Minnette: Yeah. My hair was just getting long and unruly and awful. I know that I wanted to change it at some point, so it was time.

Preston: Me and Braeden are sitting here with our long-ass unruly hair [laughs].

Minnette: You guys can actually grow your hair out! Mine, like, the only thing that starts to grow more and more is the sides of my hair. So my head is starting to get, like, [mushroom-shaped].

Preston: You’ve got to get that hammerhead vibe going.

Minnette: It looks really sick, honestly. It looks really good.

Preston: He’s doing the [disapproving] face! [all three laugh]

Azealia Banks’s Icy Prayer, Shamir’s Accidental Quarantine Anthem, And More Songs We Love

A decade ago, Baltimore-raised Naeem was known as Spank Rock, an enthusiastic party rapper whose rhymes found a home on dance floors and music blogs. But the artist, going by his given name of Naeem now, sounds more realized than ever on his new album, Startisha, which features collaborations with Justin Vernon, Francis and the Lights, and more. “Stone Harbor,” a wonderfully glowing club track, finds Naeem reflecting, “Every love I’ve had, I think of you” as he asserts his truest self. Sounds like a different kind of party, but a party all the same. —Patrick Hosken

H.E.R. Honors George Floyd With ‘Painful’ New Song ‘I Can’t Breathe’

Five years after Eric Garner uttered his last words, “I can’t breathe,” while being choked to death by New York City policeman Daniel Pantaleo — and sparked by the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin during which Floyd repeated those same, harrowing words — the phrase has returned as a rallying cry for protesters around the world calling for an end to police brutality and systemic racism against the Black community.

As demonstrations continued, after many celebrities have leveraged their platforms to support activists on the ground, Grammy-winning singer-songwriter H.E.R. joined the conversation, honoring the painful words that propelled a passionate and necessary movement with an emotional performance. On Wednesday (June 10), she debuted the new song, “I Can’t Breathe,” which described as “very painful” and “very revealing,” during iHeartRadio’s Living Room Concert Series.

“These lyrics were kind of easy to write because it came from a conversation of what’s happening right now, what’s been happening, and the change that we need to see,” H.E.R. said, speaking from a Brooklyn studio with an acoustic guitar in hand. “I think music is powerful when it comes to change and when it comes to healing and that’s why I wrote this song, to make a mark in history. And I hope this song does that.”

Keeping the beat with mid-tempo strumming, H.E.R.’s raw vocals take center-stage. She sang: “What is a gun to a man that surrenders / What’s it gonna take for someone to defend her / If we all agree that we’re equal as people / Then why can’t we see what’s evil?” Then, Floyd’s words reverberate throughout an explosive chorus: “I can’t breathe / You’re taking my life from me / I can’t breathe / Will anyone fight for me?”

Watch the singer’s powerful iHeartRadio performance, kicked off by “I Can’t Breath,” below.