The latest EP from Tank and The Bangas, Friend Goals, is just as vibrant and adventurous as the New Orleans band themselves. Their major-label debut, 2019’s Green Balloon, reminded us of Tarriona “Tank” Ball’s deft brand of brazenness. It also showcased a dauntless mixture of hip-hop, jazz and funk. Songs like “Dope Girl Magic” enthralled listeners with the lead singer’s gritty emcee flow while “Smoke.Netflix.Chill” slowed things down with opulent rhythms and sultry crooning.
Friend Goals continues to present the inherent complexity of Tank and The Bangas, but in a much more succinct manner. At just six songs long, it’s almost as if we’re being reintroduced to their artistry all over again. For the most part, it feels fresher than ever. Opening track “Fluff” gives off modest ‘90s electronic vibes; playful synths underscores Ball’s pithy descriptions of notable moments from her career. Whether it’s being “pretty at Coachella” or obsessing over “movie star dreams,” Ball narrates aspirations that perfectly fit the star she’s become.
“Self-Care,” the EP’s lead single, is a sonically eclectic attempt to ease loneliness through indulgence that falls palpably short in its desperation to be different. “TSA” underscores how the band flourishes when left to the pure devices of R&B; a cameo by the illustrious PJ Morton and his velvety vocals only add to the track’s appeal. In combination with Ball’s intonated prowess, the pair are simply too good to pass up.
“Mr. Insta” highlights our cultural obsession with social media and proves to a rumination over a phenomenon that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon: “Notifications got me looking in the mirror like / Mr. Insta, why you got my image on display / Facebook out here tryna ruin my day / Mr. Insta, can you please help me delete my page?” Ball’s own piercing self-awareness when it comes to the power of public perception juxtaposes nicely against rapper CHIKA’s hard-hitting guest verse about her own online ups and downs.
The old-school homage to rap that is “To Be Real” is one of the most poignant moments of the project as Ball makes her bars as malleable and prophetic as she can. She also conjures up the lyrical delivery and spiritedness of the great late Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes of TLC—a feat that isn’t easy to accomplish by any means, even in 2020. The last song on Friend Goals is its title track, on which Ball’s choral animation feels a little overwhelming at times. However, her descriptive recollection of childhood memories alongside Pell’s rapturous bars bring a semblance of universality to a tale that promotes genuine camaraderie over fictitious bonds.
What Tank and The Bangas always bring to the table is a willingness to roam into aural territory that is difficult to predict. Their authenticity, unapologetic demeanor and fun disposition make them a light that shines bright in the music world. While Friend Goals is a step forward in their experimental nature, it also shows us that the group is constantly reinventing their sound and the best is truly yet to come.
Candace McDuffie is a culture writer whose work has appeared in outlets like Rolling Stone, MTV, NBC News and Entertainment Weekly. You can follow her on Instagram @candace.mcduffie.
Revisit Tank and The Bangas’ 2019 Paste Studio session.