Right well it’s a bloody great week this week, so let’s not wait any longer with meaningless opening drivel. Get into this.
RAYE, RUDIMENTAL / REGARDLESS
Avid music fans will clock the sample immediately but, you might not know it from the intro, the song is cleverly built around it as opposed to structured only around it. If there were any justice in the modern pop scene, RAYE would have a flightless career where this could bother the radio and charts, but still she feels like a bit of a hidden secret because of it. The new EP needs you to check it out, like immediately, but for now let your body sink into this smooth bop.
AVA MAX / MY HEAD & MY HEART
Ava Max is doing that thing where you drop extra songs after the album has come out and tack them on as a deluxe edition but… this might be better than everything on the standard album? The girls really cashed out on sample checks this week, didn’t they. Unlike RAYE, ‘My Head & My Heart’ is built entirely around its sample and somewhere Alice Chater is fuming for not picking it up first. It’s cheap as hell but it still sounds so damn good.
RVBY / THINKING ABOUT YOU
Give this the minute it deserves because once that smooth glitter fades away and the bass line takes centre stage, the song comes at you like a hammer to the face. And the best thing is that it gets even better, culminating in a perfect pop standard last 30 seconds glitterbomb of excellence.
NIKKITA / POSTCARD LOVER
Slowing it right down like a school disco DJ, Nikkita comes in like a storm cloud on the horizon. Dropped into my contact box ten days ago, I haven’t been this bowled over by a vocal in years. Vocals are subjective really, so you’ll either be into it or not, but the way they’ve coupled this devastating delivery with its enormous swelling orchestra feels like being hit by an ocean wave. One of those rare ballads that feels like it could just be you and the song left in the world, you’ll really not want to miss this one.
WANYI / LOVED YOU ONCE
Also dropped into my contact box is this silky romantic dedication to a love since lost, the words at odds with the dreamy production. Bringing a huge chorus reminiscent of classic Steps into the future, WANYI swerves from her usual upbeat Carly-Rae esque pop to prove a nice strong ballad isn’t out of her remit. Particularly noteworthy are the deliciously soft vocals, so much so that it’s pretty damn easy to fall into this.
This is a bit of a stacked week, so make sure you’re checking out the dedicated playlist for the best weekly music. You really won’t want to miss the Fickle Friends track, not the Lastlings one for that matter. Trust me.
What year is it again? RedOne alone takes me back at least ten years, but Desmond Child having a hand in this and resident classic-pop-girl Max as well? Luckily this is an absolute blast. Tinged with Abba, this is everything Ava Max should have been doing following the sudden success of ‘Sweet but Psycho’.
ELLIE GOULDING, BLACKBEAR / WORRY ABOUT ME
Ellie’s upcoming album, if it ever sees the light of day, will apparently balance the trap leaning collaborations with her authentic songwriting self by splitting the album directly in two and showcasing both. ‘Worry About Me’ is more of what you’d come to expect from Ellie and doesn’t even attempt to spin the wheel, but it’s a solid affair filled with some nice little Ellie touches (operatic cooing, the gritty THIS and THAT hidden away, cahoo-ha-hool) and a pretty great feature from blackbear.
CAMDEN COX / HEALING (REDFIELD REMIX)
‘Healing’ was already one of the best songs of the year, so I wasn’t exactly expecting a remix to have much to add. Sometimes I love being wrong. Redfield manages to keep that wistful emotion throughout but suddenly it’s instilled with such a brooding and addictive energy that I might never play the original again!
KOVEN / WORLDS COLLIDE
Well, the new Koven album is currently encapsulating my entire life. A proper collision of pop music and dance, which is one of the best couplings ever really, with an absolutely faultless opening in ‘Worlds Collide’. If you’re into this D&B meets Dubstep meets pop banger, be sure to check out the entire album asap.
FLETCHER / FOREVER
I suppose sometimes an artist not breaking through keeps them hungry for it, knowing each release is important to their entire career prospects. Fletcher still feels hungry, despite having quite a few songs under her name now. ‘Forever’ might just be her best yet – a gorgeous and intimate mid-tempo with a total sugar rush of a chorus. And the best part? She clearly has even better to come still.
Do make sure to check out the playlist, updating every Friday! There’s plenty of songs that didn’t quite make it into the highlights but might have done in any other week. At least check out that Koven album!
Quite possibly the strongest New Music Friday in months. Whittling this one down to five highlights was hard y’all, and I’m pretty sure in any other week others would be near the top. As it stands, the highlights are complete best of 2020 contenders.
EMILY BURNS / HELLO
Burns has gone out of her way to express her scandi-pop influence with that quintessential British charm, and honestly, she’s not way off the mark. ‘Hello’ basically picks up where Cher Lloyd once picked up with an absolutely stunning melody. However, it’s that little whiney synth that makes this a standout. Truly a masterstroke.
GRACEY / GONE
Often I wonder just how much impact Charli XCX has had on pop music considering her somewhat lack of chart success in contrast to her consistent status in pop music. Then I hear songs like ‘Gone’ and I can practically feel her bleeding through. ‘Gone’ is strong enough on its own merits, yet another stunner from Gracey, but that Charli-esque GONE GONE GOWAN is the one.
CALL ME LOOP / DOWNHILL FROM HERE
I wonder if I’ll ever stop featuring Call Me Loop on this blog? Considering her consistency, I wouldn’t bet on it. Keeping with her delicious pop appeal, ‘Downhill…’ doesn’t try to change the formula, but it does continue to show another side to her – just as she did with The Pussycat Dolls’ ‘React’ – that keeps me constantly looking forward to whatever she puts out next.
LOVE HARDER, JULIE BERGAN / OUTTA MY HEAD
At this point Bergan’s name is becoming a stamp of approval. Anything she features on just bounds with character, drips with cool. ‘Outta My Head’ would be in every gym around the country if there was any justice, and easily has one of the best ‘da da da’ sections since Kylie.
PURITY RING / STARDEW
Okay, so I did say this was a strong week, and this was where it got hard. Ultimately the return of Purity Ring deserves an entry every time. Atmospheric electro-pop is chronically underappreciated but somehow they’ve always managed to maintain a cult like status. ‘Stardew’ goes on to prove why – there’s always heartbreaking emotion behind the fizzing production.
This is quite possibly the best new music Friday of 2019 so far, and to accommodate the extra rise in effort this week, we’ll be highlighting a few more exceptional works. With Caroline Polachek dropping one of the best albums of the year, Sasha Sloan releasing her new EP, and Katy Perry returning with another banging pop song… It’s one hell of a week.
CAROLINE POLACHEK / PANG
‘Pang’, the title track from Polachek’s mind-blowing new album, starts simply with a smattering of electronic bleeps before launching its charm offensive. A smack in the face to anyone who swears that electronic pop songs can’t accurately bring the human emotion that real instruments can, ‘Pang’ delicately explores that deep seated feeling in our chests, and might just be one of the strongest songs of the entire year. Beautifully minimal but bursting outwards when it needs to. Danny L Harle’s style continues to evolve in such an epic way that it really does feel like we’re looking at one of the next big producers of our time.
KATY PERRY / HARLEY’S IN HAWAII
Although ‘Never Really Over’ and ‘Small Talk’ occupy similar lanes to material Perry has worked on before, namely taking influence from the monumental Teenage Dream era and its pop sledgehammers, there wasn’t really any kind of expectation as to how ‘Harley’s…’ would sound once it eventually dropped – save for those leaked music video images from months ago. Luckily it’s everything you didn’t expect it to be and more. Following up from Witness album track ‘Tsunami’, it’s a sultry tropico-bop that feels more inspired by Ariana Grande than Perry’s back catalogue. And god damn, does she own it, especially when those last minute ad-libs come soaring through.
LIZ / LAGUNA NIGHTS
Liz clearly sold a part of her soul to some demon somewhere, having featured as a highlight on this very blog several times in the past few weeks, but the music continues to just astound in totally different ways each time. ‘Laguna Nights’ might be her best yet, a nostalgic 00’s floor-banger that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Selena Gomez greatest hits album. It works because of the sheer charisma in her delivery, taking us back on a time-warp to the times it clearly takes inspiration from. For those 4 minutes, you can lost in it, and that only happens with the very best.
L DEVINE / PEACHY KEEN
Had you told me that a song that samples ‘Bette Davis Eyes’ and sounds exactly like Terror Jr. would be Devine’s next release, I’d have spat in your eye. But ‘Peachy Keen’ is exactly that, and she does it so well that there’s almost no doubt that her sound was ever anything but. Smartly, it toys with the sample ever so, leaving the brain to piece together where it has heard it from. This might be Devine’s best effort yet.
SOFI DE LA TORRE / DIMELO
‘Dimelo’, meaning ‘Tell Me’, is one of Sofi’s slowest efforts yet. Still accompanied with her bedroom-style beats, it’s a stunningly intimate ballad that aims right for the heart from the very start. Nobody quite does ballads like Sofi, and that’s in part due to the beautiful delivery every time. It takes charm to blend two tongues together and for that to translate to everyone, regardless of the language they know, and it comes across effortlessly here. The pain and heartbreak practically drip from every word.
SASHA SLOAN / TOO SAD TO CRY
Speaking of heart-slashing lyricism and delivery, Sasha Sloan’s new album comes equipped with one of the most powerful lyrical creations of her entire work so far.
I’m too sad to cry, too high to get up Don’t even try ’cause I’m scared to fuck up Don’t like to talk, I just lay in my bed Don’t even try to go out with my friends Lied to my doctor, she knew I was faking Gave me some pills, but I’m too scared to take them I try and I try, but I’m too sad to cry
I mean, take a look at that right there. There’s an exceptional talent here and a bravery to discuss the hardest of topics as if they were nothing, and it’s much harder than anyone will ever give credit for. The song itself stands right back and lets those lyrics take the spotlight, until Sasha steps forward with some delicious vocals in the second half. It’s just… stunning.
DJ SPOONY, SUGABABES / FLOWERS
If there was any justice in the world, this would be picked up by every radio station around the country and the UK would have no choice but to embrace back one of the greatest home grown girlbands we’ve ever had. Yes, girls, the original Sugababes are finally back, having fought for the name for a number of years. MKS, and the bulging vault of leaked tracks, is DEAD. ‘Flowers’ is the genius first step, fitting so well that you almost forget about the original song itself. Let’s hope there’s MORE to come and SOON.
P!NK, KHALID / HURTS 2B HUMAN (MIDNIGHT KIDS REMIX)
Well I certainly didn’t expect this floundering single to have fresh life breathed into it at this point of the campaign via one of my favourite remixes ever at this point. Not really taking the song apart at all, the song instead injects this wonderful explosion of emotion that sounds like it belonged there all along. Considering the emotional weight of the original song, it’s a real feat how well this manages to slot right in. This is… exactly what remixes are about.
Well there are eight major highlights above, and even then I could keep talking about songs we’ve missed. Highasakite have dropped a Part One EP, and ‘Just a Small Quake’ is monumentally stunning, Allie X has followed up with the delightfully catchy and breezy ‘Rings a Bell’, ORKID‘s ‘CloudsNdrivebys’ features such an infectious synth/trumpet blend that I want in every one of her songs from now on, and Fickle Friends have co-opted the Wii Theme Song (Bolded for impact, yes the Wii theme song) into their new album lead, ‘Amateurs’. It’s one HELL of a week.
Nina Nesbitt is re-releasing her brilliant album as an acoustic bundle with three new songs, one of which is this intimate but catchy ode to self-abuse. Essentially another take on her song ‘The Best You Had’ but with a driving beat, much like the rest of her material the power in this is its simplicity and her vocal delivery translating a weighty amount of the emotion. It’s subtle in all the right ways, like all the best mid-tempos are, and is the exact Autumnal song I need right now.
CHARLIE PUTH / MOTHER
Sometimes the best songs come at you from nowhere, and despite Puth’s production talents being tapped by various artists now it looks as though Puth still has enough inspiration for himself. ‘Mother’ positions him as the male Eilish, complete with the warmest of plunky basses, by painting himself as the bad guy in the back of his car with his lover. Much like ‘Attention’ it’s basically just a left-field pop banger that sounds like an enormous hit before it’s even hit the ground running.
CHARLI XCX / SILVER CROSS
The Atlantic Queen of Pop Charli XCX drops her new album today, following approximately 400 promotional singles, but luckily she saved one of the best songs for the day of release. ‘Silver Cross’ doesn’t depart too much from Pop2 or Number 1 Angel, its thick bassline and reedy strings right at home in her typical sonic palette, but there’s a melodic confidence here that reminds me of True Romance all over again. Her ability to translate emotion into icy cold instrumentals is commendable, and there’s a special mention needed here for the incredible bridge. I’m glad that the best song on the album is a Charli solo track.
ROBINSON / DON’T SAY
Robinson has been on the cusp of breaking through with numerous songs clocking up the millions of streams online, and ‘Don’t Stay’ is definitely her most commercial release yet. Without sacrificing any of her acquired charm so far, it dabbles in Sigrid-esque synths but with an enormous Maggie Rogers chorus. Basically any album with this and ‘Karma’ on is an album I need delivered to my door right NOW.
HALSEY / GRAVEYARD
‘Nightmare’, Halsey’s political dedication to scream-pop, has been sanctimoniously dumped from her upcoming album. In its place is this much more melancholic, softly pastel epic. Clearly inspired by her number one hit ‘Without You’, it is a song entirely committed to substance over style – the substance being a really, really strong melody. I’d follow you to the grave is a fairly familiar melodramatic sentiment that feels apt for this dark princess of pop, and luckily the instrumental swells and bleeps in all the right places, meaning this is actually one of her warmest releases yet despite the dark sentiment.
+ Awfully titled budding artist SONIA dropped a gorgeous mid-tempo called ‘Joyride’. + Ella Henderson finally came out of the shadows to release a Julia Michaels song. + Miley Cyrus and Lana Del Rey team up with Ariana Grande in an effort to spice up one of her shelved songs, and they’re the best part of ‘Don’t Call Me Angel’. + Meghan Trainor is back with a little bit of a cringefest but it’s actually good? + Gabrielle Aplin is shouting quirky Japanese words in her song about pottery!
Another great week on our hands, here are our absolute favourite tunes of the week:
GRACE CARTER / DON’T HURT LIKE IT USED TO
Grace Carter is the next British starlet that knows their way around a weighty ballad, each one emotional sledgehammers of character that evoke Emeli Sande and Adele but with a much more nuanced and pained outlook. ‘Don’t Hurt Like It Used To’ stuns from the first key, her characteristically huge voice keeping up with the equally big production. Her previous single ‘Heal Me’ was a revelation, and this very much feels like the dark sister track to that.
R3HAB, JULIE BERGAN / DON’T GIVE UP ON ME NOW
‘Don’t Give Up On Me Now’ continues Julie Bergan’s reign as 21st century dance queen, as she rises to the occasion for yet another banger of a dance track. It’s a pretty simple dance song, but Bergan as a pop star continues to enamor in her quest for world success.
AVICII, AGNES, VARGAS & LAGOLA / TOUGH LOVE
Posthumous releases are difficult to listen to, especially if you have a deep connection to the artist in question. Avicii left behind a short but rich legacy, his presence revolutionizing both dance and pop music around the globe. ‘Tough Love’ might not be as polished as his older material, but it’s boundless in effort and is the clear sound of an artist continuing to absorb inspirations. It’s difficult not to imagine Agnes taking this to Eurovision, its clear Europe sound a perfect fit to the infamous stage.
TEAMWORK, NINA NESBITT, AJ MITCHELL / AFTERHOURS
Firstly let’s acknowledge the fact Nina Nesbitt released the best album of the year so far to relatively quiet success. ‘Afterhours’ is a departure from anything on the album, more akin to the generic Chainsmokers-style hits that are all over Spotify right now. Nina elevates this with her presence, her icy vocal the highlight – and she deserves the streams.
CXLOE / LOW BLOW
‘Low Blow’ is CXLOE’s best song yet, positively bouncing as the production relentlessly rolls on. Typically when you’re starting out you need to have a song that either bleeds enough character for people to stop and notice you, or you need a damn good song that hits you on the very first play. For what this lacks in the former, it perfectly captures in the latter.
CARLY RAE JEPSEN / TOO MUCH
With one week away from the release of her new album, Dedicated, Carly has finally decided to drop a fantastic pop song. Drawing inspiration from Swifty’s ‘Delicate’, ‘Too Much’ sparkles with a new and exciting energy that only she can bring. It’s tender but sexual, sweet but daring, and we can finally start to get excited about the album.
Be sure to keep an eye on our dedicated playlists for new releases every single week!
P!nk is hurting, queer talent is thriving and Marina Diamandis is terrified of love – it’s new music Friday. Let’s get into it:
P!NK / HAPPY
P!nk teams up with the ever-impressive Sasha Sloan to create what may be her most brutally honest song since ‘Family Portrait’. It’s the sound of a mother, a lover, a pop star twenty years into their career, looking back on a life filled with anxiety and doubt. Sasha’s razor sharp lyricism is the perfect compliment to Moore’s terrifyingly tender vocals, but it doesn’t shy away from the hooks in delivering its message. If there’s any justice in the world, this needs to be enormous.
BETTA LEMME / PLAY
This would be the Queerest song you’ll hear today, had Dorian Electra not also released this week (see below). ‘Play’ is abrasive and absolutely bonkers, its main melody one of those instantly recognizable samples that makes you question why it hasn’t been sampled before, and its absolutely undeniable. Produced by Danny L Harle, it’s Aqua reborn for the thirsty pop fans. Did anyone ask for it? Who cares. I la la la la la love it.
SAM CREIGHTON / SMILE
‘Smile’ is just as fascinated with looking into the past as ‘Play’, though revels more in the inspiration than direct replication. You won’t realise at first; the song sounds like almost every other Spotify song by Astrid S, Tove Styrke, Orchid, Kiiara (I could go on), but the chorus is a masterful sledgehammer of 00s R&B dedicated to shutting down the sleazy mass of masculinity. “Tell me to smile, I dare you” – she practically begs, oozing with cool.
DORIAN ELECTRA / FLAMBOYANT
Queer talent often has to infiltrate a system by conforming before our own talent is recognized, and even then we can find our heterosexual counterparts commandeering our efforts as if they were always their own. Dorian Electra is an enigma that would inevitably frustrate the modern pop game, and ‘Flamboyant’ is a fantastic reclamation of a word that has been used against feminine queer men for years, but the true charm of it is how it balances on such a tight string of modern and fascinating production; twisting an obvious dark-club bop with a 90’s soundboard and a totally out-of-place but perfect piano riff – it’s a masterpiece in masquerading.
TERROR JR / LOVED BY YOU
‘Loved By You’ is the sound of Terror Jr carving out their niche for success, losing some of the jagged edges that made them so interesting in the process. It’s still brilliant enough to include here, and it’s easy to get lost in the relentless production and sweet vocal, but without their typical depth and running to a short 2:20, I’m left craving more.
MARINA / BELIEVE IN LOVE
Love + Fear campaign drama aside, Marina’s first album in four years had arrived with a dull thud. Skip immediately to the second side, to find the stunning tracks like ‘Believe In Love’. Admittedly it would appear Marina’s once quirky production and lyricism has been sandblasted away, but nobody quite delivers the quiet bliss of disassociation like Marina at her best. ‘Believe In Love’ is the sound of your mind floating away, caught in melodies and fears drifting by, it should have been the blueprint for the entire album.
FLETCHER / IF YOU’RE GONNA LIE
Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ ‘Under the Bridge’ continues to inspire some damn good pop music, the trend continues with ‘If You’re Gonna Lie’ – if Fletcher isn’t sued for stealing the guitar riff then I’m looking damn forward to the album this is taken from.
This incredible week doesn’t stop here, check out my playlists below for MORE MORE MORE of the week:
“I keep on hoping to find you reaching in between the sheets.”
It’s been eighteen years since Kylie Minogue changed pop music as we know it with the undeniable ‘Can’t Get You Out of My Head’, and yet it still remains a milestone in pop music production. ‘Insomnia’ wears its inspiration on its sleeve, an almost direct homage to the undeniable bouncing beat and relentless obsession of ‘Can’t…’.
Insomnia itself is a creative topic that has been mined to near-death, and frankly the glamorisation of mental health disorders is a worrying trend for 2019, but the way Daya ties it all together with the theme of obsessing over a lover, completely unable to sleep without them on your mind, as well as the clear reference to classic Kylie? An absolute stellar knockout single. This really feels like a momentous release for her.
CHARLOTTE OC / BOYFRIEND
“I don’t even want a boyfriend, so why the hell am I still sitting here holding your hand?”
Charlotte OC has been quietly delivering downcast Folk/R&B tinged pop for a few years now: her rich and slightly smokey vocal perfectly matched to the stripped production. Her previous single, ‘Satellite’, marked the shift in sound to a more electronic, sparse style – and her skill for crafting a melody shone even brighter with it. Considering ‘Satellite’ slowly crept up to being one of the strongest tracks of last year, ‘Boyfriend’ is the LONG AWAITED follow up for us and…
It’s bloody brilliant: a perfect blend of her previously established sound with a timeless, Leon-esque funk. Just as we thought, Charlotte OC’s secret strength is crafting melodies that don’t necessarily sound instant, instead they slowly find their way into every corner of your mind.
CALL ME LOOP / BODY LIKE YOURS
“He’s so close to perfect, I couldn’t ask for more…”
Consider me frustrated that Call Me Loop hasn’t broken through to the mainstream yet considering her penchant for delivering perfectly crafted pop songs that are notoriously easy to digest whilst also switching things up just enough to keep it interesting. ‘Body Like Yours’ is taken from her latest EP, Drama, which ditches Loop’s previous singles such as ‘Love the Lie’ and ‘Give ‘N’ Take’ for one cohesive package. Lyrically exploring the painful contrast of head vs heart, ‘Body…’ showcases Loop’s expertly refined touch when it comes to pop music. Instant. Hooks. Everywhere.
RIA MAE / NOT YOUR TYPE
“If you don’t like my style, I’ll tone it down.”
File Ria Mae under the Betty Who/Call Me Loop categories for artists that just cannot seem to break through despite the quality of their material. ‘Not Your Type’ is positively encapsulating, a true Carly Rae Jepsen-esque production masterpiece that would sound right at place on a Katy Perry album. The parent EP, Stars, may struggle to find its sound a little but there’s a confident pairing in ‘Not Your Type’ and Ria’s delivery that absolutely deserves to be pursues more. Ria, keep on making these!
DAGNY, STEVE AOKI / HIT YOUR HEART
“You know I’m coming back to you like a bullet.”
You’ll have found, more than ever, Steve Aoki’s name attached to various pop starlets over the past few years. It feels like a real attempt to push his production style out into spaces his music usually wouldn’t permeate, and for the most part it has resulted in brilliant weird pop collaborations like ‘Lie to Me’ and ‘Are You Lonely’. It’s always refreshing to see dance music collide with pop, especially if it manages to pierce the mainstream enough to shift the landscape a little.
‘Hit Your Heart’ doesn’t feel like a landscape shifting epic, but it does sound like it’s at least trying. Where else will you find an abrasive Icona Pop vocal, a classic Britney Spears breakdown and blaring trumpets in the same song? Dagny has already proven she can deliver excellent and surprising pop music too, if ‘Love You Like That’ is anything to go by, so this is yet another string to her versatile bow.
If you’re not following the playlist, then don’t expect to find the good stuff on Fridays. Seriously, do it.