Song You Need to Know: Joeboy, ‘Better Thing’

Joeboy has a knack for the sticky, sub-three-minute single — see his breakout hit “Baby” from 2019, and last year’s “Call.” His voice is not overpowering, but it quavers effectively to communicate longing. And the singer maximizes the impact of his harmonies by picking beats with just a few musical elements. That means that every time he multi-tracks his voice during a chorus it feels like an act of generosity, a reason to draw closer and listen harder.

There are several sticky moments on Joeboy’s debut album, Somewhere Between Beauty & Magic, but maybe none as rich as “Better Thing.” The track contains little besides a guitar loop — a meandering riff that seems to tie itself in a fancy knot — and a gliding beat that could be tapped out on a table. During the verses, Joeboy sings conversationally, matching the easy sway of the percussion. But he scoots through the chorus at what seems like quadruple time, cramming extra words up against the beat. Joeboy teases reverent, wordless harmonies to open the song, and these return during the hook as well, so the unvarnished track suddenly feels intoxicated with melody.

Somewhere Between Beauty & Magic came out Friday through emPawa Africa.

Find a playlist of all of our recent Songs You Need to Know selections on Spotify.