The core of “Passenger,” a track by the U.K. singer Asha Gold, is the stuff of late Nineties, early 2000s R&B: These simple, carefully articulated guitar riffs reach back to Marques Houston’s “Grass Is Greener,” Tyrese’s “Signs of Love Makin,'” and Jon B.’s “Don’t Say.” Gold slip-slides across this gilded surface, singing curving lines with precision that belies the aimlessness described in her lyrics — “I’m a quick runner, catch me if you can/I ain’t got a job, and I ain’t got a plan.”
Gold nails the formula in the first 20 seconds and doesn’t need to do much else. But she makes two additions. First, she beefs up the hook with the bulging, hyper-muscular bass common on today’s playlists. Second, she sneaks harmony vocals into the second verse. These waft prettily through the background, providing gentle reinforcement for the guitar.
“‘Passenger’ was one of the first songs I ever wrote,” Gold said last year. “I had been traveling in Europe, and on my train home I heard a guy on the platform playing a riff on guitar which caught my attention. I asked him what the chords were and wrote the song the next day with the voice note he had kindly recorded for me. It’s about escapism and how all your stresses seem to fade when you’re traveling, constantly on the move.”
“Passenger” came out in the first half of 2020, and then reappeared on Gold’s debut EP, GOLD01, last month.
Find a playlist of all of our recent Songs You Need to Know selections on Spotify.