Inspiration can come in unexpected places. Singer Cautious Clay found it as a kid in Cleveland upon hearing the 2002 Pharrell-produced hit “Nothin’.” The Indian-style flutes littered across the beat inspired Clay to pick up the woodwind instrument at age 7. He took up the saxophone in high school and ended up minoring in jazz at George Washington University, but the music that followed those years of formal study sounds far more casual than one might expect. Clay’s breakout single, “Cold War,” rides a laid-back groove that defies any neat classification. The same goes for Clay himself — he’s an acoustic troubadour with a modern swagger, a pop-ready songwriter with a silky sheen. Sept. 15 at 10 p.m. (doors) at the 9:30 Club. Sold out.
When Childish Gambino — the musical alias of “Atlanta” star Donald Glover — stormed the Internet in May with “This Is America,” a blistering critique of violence and racism, it was a far cry from the soulful falsetto musings of his previous hit, “Redbone.” Then, the singer coasted into the hot months with two warm and breezy singles, “Summertime Magic” and “Feels Like Summer.” Who was this guy and who was he trying to become? Listeners have been trying to answer that question for nearly a decade as Glover has aimed to replicate his television success on wax. His ambitions are rivaled only by his ability to keep even the most fickle fans on their toes, waiting to see what he’ll do — or who he’ll become — next. Sept. 19 at 7:30 p.m. at Capital One Arena. $49.50-$129.50.
Sting and Shaggy
As unlikely pairings go, Sting and Shaggy are in the upper echelon. The rocker best known for his early-’80s hits with the Police and the Jamaican crooner famous for the cult classic “It Wasn’t Me” teamed up earlier this year on “44/876,” an album brimming with the feel-good summery reggae you might hear on a cruise ship. The album leans more toward Shaggy’s wheelhouse, but Sting’s clear reverence for tropical sounds — dating to the reggae-tinted songs he wrote in the Police — enables them to pull it off. These stars’ brightest and more formidable days are behind them, but this collaboration works well for those in need of a nice staycation. Sept. 19 at 8 p.m. at MGM National Harbor. $101.82-$142.73.