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Varg2™ & Bladee, 'SHINIE'

As we near the year's end, #NowPlaying recommends songs that slipped through the cracks, but remain in our headphones.

To an exceedingly esoteric portion of Gen Z, few had a better 12 months than Drain Gang ambassador Bladee. The Fool, his fifth studio album, was a saccharine trance-inspired record and silly bright spot in 2021; to me, however, the Swedish rapper performs to his highest capabilities when assisted by other artists. His excellent tape with Mechatok, Good Luck, came out last December, and his song with Varg2™ marks his best performance of the year.

"SHINIE"'s title reflects the music itself: shimmering, reflective, alluring. Bladee's tracks are filled with an ever-present naivety, as if he's materialized in front of you with an effervescent halo like the Ghost of Innocence Past. Through layers of auto-tune, lines like the opener "sunglasses on at night, I can not see competition" carry an unbridled joy. Listening to Bladee is like discovering beams of sound from another planet: fleeting, yet indicative of something beautiful just out of your grasp. By the track's latter half – as Bladee vocalizes "change for me" over layers of twinkling, bouncing synths – you're fully immersed into the world he and Varg2™ have created, one of delicate emotional intimacy.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Reanna Cruz is a news assistant for NPR Music's Alt.Latino.