What else is there to say about this totally new, never been heard before banger? Quite honestly when Gaga fires on all cylinders, there’s nothing like it. ‘Stupid Love’ might just be the best thing she’s put out since Born This Way and it marks a return to the sleeker off-kilter ARTPOP Gaga we’ve all missed since Bradley Cooper got a hold of her. Welcome back PopGa, we’ve missed you.
CHARLOTTE OC / FREEDOM
Charlotte OC was behind one of 2018’s best songs, the subtly brilliant ‘Satellite’ and then the similarly brilliant ‘Boyfriend’ and ‘Better Off On My Own’ landed in 2019 and there was momentary hope that a bloody good album was on the horizon. It never came and we’re in 2020. ‘Freedom’ is her best in a while, an instantly charming power-in-belief anthem that, as Charlotte OC songs tend to do, will worm into your brain and find a home in there. We might be burned but that hope for an album is still there.
LPX / NEW MOOD
Aggression can be so fucking cool, can’t it? LPX gets that, and ‘New Mood’ is dedicated entirely to the vibe. With abrasive guitars, Kate Nash speak-swearing, a throat-achingly screamed chorus, it’s a literal catharsis.
SONIKKU, LIZ / WKND
I haven’t been this surprised by a song in quite a while, and speechless too. ‘WKND’ manages to make me feel things that I can’t even voice so I’ll just list them; Classic. Pop. Madonna. Borderline. Britney Spears. KPop. PCMusic. Sega MegaDrive. Dreamcast. Amazing.
JOE STONE, CAMDEN COX / MIND CONTROL
Now ‘WKND’ has decimated by brain cells with its time travelling ways, ‘Mind Control’ helps cement me back in reality. And it’s a sticky dancefloor at 11PM with a Bacardi Coke in my hand. Camden Cox is one to watch if you haven’t been already because basically amazing songs seem to flock around her in the form of her own and collaborations. Gorgeous dance music made for the club and the gym floor, with vocals that keep the emotion pounding through. What’s not to like?
Understated intimacy is so hard to do well, especially concerning songwriting. It’s ever too easy to create something that hits like a sledgehammer but there’s a real talent in balancing on the line between it, knowing when to hold back and when to let the words and melody do the talking. ‘smiling when i die’ might just be Sloan’s best work yet because not only is it immaculately produced but it is also poised to obliterate with powerful lyricism. Sloan’s secret weapon may be exposed to all now, her adaptive skill in refining depression and anxiety into relatable couplets, and with big artists like P!nk recruiting her for their own design but ‘smiling…’ helps showcase a whole new side to that songwriting style – one of delicate contrast amongst the honesty.
TOVE LO / STAY OVER
Vagina Queen Tove Lo has dropped her understated latest album, Sunshine Kitty, and despite not really feeling most of the promo tracks it really only takes one listen to understand what she’s trying to achieve and one more to realise she pulls it off perfectly. ‘Stay Over’ is the most instant of them all, with her wistfully persuading a broken lover that staying in her arms for the night is the best decision he could make. As usual with Lo’s immaculate storytelling, she isn’t afraid to play the bad guy. Disregarding his actual need to repair for the sake of her own whim is a questionable feeling, but we’ve all been there. We all believe we could be the saviour, or that our love will be all-encapsulating enough to repair any present damage, and ‘Stay Over’ captures that perfectly with its dark and melancholic bedroom-pop style.
GEORGIA / NEVER LET YOU GO
Already making waves with the wild and nostalgic 80s banger, ‘About Work the Dancefloor’, Georgia seems perfectly poised to take the mantle as next big rising UK starlet. Though taking a different path to ‘About…’, ‘Never Let You Go’ still revels in its influences, sounding like an artist that has spent years building the confidence to release these epic reminiscent bangers. The greatest asset to them all so far is how well the production plays alongside the melody, the voice as important as the instrument, but there’s a real driving force in the middle of it that sounds so palatable and ready for any radio station to pick up right now.
CAROLINE POLACHEK / SO HOT YOU’RE HURTING MY FEELINGS
Take Sara Bareilles, Imogen Heap and HAIM and place them in the blender, spice appropriately.
Sprinkle with a slight pinch of sexual confidence and a hefty amount of mutual attraction.
Toss in razor sharp lyrics and a tongue planted firmly in cheek.
Blend, though not enough to make it too serious.
Pour into two bowls, serve alone in a quiet room lit by candlelight alone with the sound of your cats in the window.
What a fucking song.
Stick with me every week, around this time, for the very best of the week. Also this week look out for:
Cyn is back with her new EP Mood Swing and ‘I Can’t Believe’ is wonderfully weird and certifiably incredible… after thirty seconds.
Lauv has released the same song again but if you like him, you’ll love it. Quiet and lovely, it’s called ‘Feelings’.
The new Sofi Tukker EP contains one of their most subtly brilliant songs yet, ‘Ringless’.
Bebe Rhexa has repurposed Xtina’s ‘Beautiful’ into a feminist power anthem for Maleficent 2 called ‘You Can’t Stop the Girl’.
Mabel and Tiesto have a hit in their hands (SURELY) with the bizarrely structured ‘God is a Dancer’ which is great but not as good as ‘God is a Woman’ or ‘God is a DJ’.
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!
My stomach butterflies are telling me that September is going to prove to be somewhat of a stacked one, what with Charli XCX and Tove Lo both dropping their long awaited albums and plenty of other smaller releases bound to hit us between them. This week is all about the greatest band in the world, MUNA, whose stunning sophomore is already proving to be a delicately queer love letter to pop music. It’s the kind of music we deserve.
That being said, there’s also some really gems that have dropped this week too not from MUNA (although I was tempted to simply place the entire album in our dedicated playlist, it’s that good.)
MUNA / TAKEN
Proving that conceptual songwriting doesn’t have to be without relatibility, ‘Taken’ recalls an infatuation over someone already in a relationship, with Katie bemoaning her own desire to destroy someone else’s life just because they want what they can’t have. The production is smooth like silk: curving and swaying whilst the lyrics jut, particularly with gutting lines like Dad left when I was eleven, Mum said it’s ’cause he couldn’t keep from touching other women. The best lyricism is deceptively simple, almost as though it’s a topic we all recognise and expected to have been used before, but approached in an entirely different way that opens it up in new ways. ‘Taken’ does that, forcing you to sympathise with the one who wants to cause all the destruction because we can all fall in love with destruction sometimes.
OH WONDER / HALLELUJAH
Perhaps we ought to credit Oh Wonder a little for the now infamous Billie Eilish ASMR vocals? If there’s one thing about them that sets them apart from anyone else, it’s the exceptional vocal mixing. ‘Hallelujah’ is a positively stunning duet mixed perfectly, the vocals giving weight to one another, and an anthem of self-love that I really didn’t expect from them. Opening with the trademark minimal piano and whispery vocals, it’s not long before the beat picks up and the enormous chorus comes sweeping in. It’s marvelous.
CAMILA CABELLO / SHAMELESS
Camila is back, immediately following her number one single with a spunky double release. The fact an artist is actually taking the opportunity to relish their momentum in 2019 is a little surprising, let alone releasing two tracks. Once you hear ‘Shameless’ though you’ll understand that the label probably weren’t sure enough about it as a single in all of its BANKS inspired glory. It’s experimental for her, the chorus tore out in place of a hooktastic bridge and floor-shaking drop, but also feels like a decent follow up to ‘Never be the Same’?
SOFI TUKKER / PURPLE HAT
Is there anything more exciting than pop music’s ability to co-opt genres in consistently fresh ways? The way it can fit almost any other genre inside of its skin, evolving as it ingests new inspiration. Sofi Tukker understand this almost better than anyone, with their production constantly evolving as new inspirations find their way into the studio. ‘Purple Hat’, though, is the next step for them: it truly sounds like a cacophony of influences all smashed up into… a Reggaeton-Dance-Pop epic?
JAX JONES, ELLA HENDERSON / THIS IS REAL
Well, I honestly wasn’t sure we’d ever see this track come to light. How fitting that it has reared its head now attached to resident poltergeist Ella Henderson, who hasn’t been seen in years. If you don’t know already ‘This Is Real’ originally featured Selena Gomez (yes) but was seemingly shelved when a brief 10 seconds leaked on to the internet. A damn shame because, as we now know, it’s a pretty timeless house bop. Does it do much to change the wheel? Not really, and dance music doesn’t need to. The thing that makes this special? Ella Henderson’s absolutely stellar delivery, recalling every incredible dance mix vocal from the early 90’s. Those piano stabs and her belting practically transports me to a gypsy fair, spinning my brains out on the rides.
As I said this week is stacked and I could sit here and write about the new Grimes track (a dance inspired bedroom-studio bop), the new Tove Lo and Kylie Minogue feature (yes, they have done a duet!) or even the latest Charli XCX pre-release single. I could write about them, or I could repeat the new MUNA album for the sixth time today. Which is what I’m going to do.
August is coming to a close as we head closer and closer to spooky season, which means the big heavy hitters will be coming pretty soon to release their new albums. For now, buckle up and listen to these incredible highlights of the week:
LIZ / BTR 2GTHR
LIZ seems to have lit a rocket beneath her feet as I haven’t noticed material skyrocket in quality like this in quite some time. Despite a plethora of synth-girls attempting this type of style right now, most notably Slayyyter who featured in Liz’s latest single, ‘BTR 2GTHR’ manages to eclipse them by bathing in the influence of 90s dance/trance. It’s a fantastic and quirky release that evokes classic dance music just as much as it does contemporary pop, and god damn I haven’t been as excited about pop music as this makes me feel.
CHARLI XCX, HAIM / WARM
Speaking of quirky synthstress, Charli XCX is continuing her album rollout by teaming up with summer girl’s HAIM for the deliciously balanced ‘Warm’. Introducing a much needed warmness in Charli’s typically icy cold production, ‘Warm’ is one hell of an earworm – slowly etching itself into your cold skull with each chorus. And that’s before HAIM even show face, which actually ends up overshadowing Charli herself with their smooth as silk harmonies.
EA KAYA / BACK OF YOUR HEAD
Zara Larsson has seemingly fallen foul to the sophomore curse, inevitably shelving her album release in the guise of ‘wanting better material’. If it’s better Zara Larsson material you’re looking for, ‘Back of Your Head’ is right here. Entirely self-written, ‘Back…’ is stunningly mature with a melody to die for, an enthusiastic empowerment anthem for the cold nights. One thing is for sure, this song will be bouncing around the back of my head for the rest of the week.
TONES AND I / THE KIDS ARE COMING
There’s no escaping Billie Eilish right now, even if it’s not Billie herself. ‘The Kids Are Coming’ might be the closest not-Billie-Billie song I’ve ever heard, but crushed together with a touch of Eurovision charm and ludicrousness. Designed to be listened to with earphones, don’t give it your first listen without them – each little production choice popping in like poltergeists in the background, it’s absolutely undeniable in both its pretentiousness and charm.
LANA DEL REY / NORMAN FUCKING ROTHWELL
Everyone will have an opinion on once reigning hipster queen Lana Del Rey, and over the years her material has shifted around in both inspiration and emotional weight. ‘Norman fucking Rothwell’ is the best thing she has possibly released since her first album, an evocative and powerful ballad that doesn’t revolutionize who Lana is but truly feels like the peak of everything she has worked on so far. It really does feel like everything led to this song, and it really is a masterclass in the much sought after bluesy vibe she typically gets assigned to. With warm strings, an exuberant vocal and a crippling melody throughout… there’s really not much else to say about this other than… wow.
make sure you give our dedicated playlist a little spin this week too, as there are plenty of other amazing songs that dropped this week, from Alphabeat to Post Malone, that deserve your attention.
So Below has had somewhat of a miraculous 2019 so far, ‘Clear’ being the third release in a row that successfully melds her dream-pop into a terribly exciting package of gorgeous lyricism and roof-raising choruses. She’s always been able to translate a effervescent melancholy but ‘Clear’ really feels like something else; it’s getting lost in the ocean of emotion, the thunderstorm rolling past, and the rubble left behind. By the time it finally comes to finish, the whole world has changed. It really is that good.
5SOS / TEETH
Behind the slight whiff of pretentiousness, ‘Teeth’ marks 5SOS’s embrace into a harsher alternative rock more than ever; if ‘Youngblood’ was the walk then ‘Teeth’ is the run, in fact immediately hitting a sprint. It’s not hard to imagine a world in which the likes of Charlie Puth, Ed Sheeran and Shawn Mendes try to replicate this sound but it feels like 5SOS beat them all to the punch. Between a Billie Eilish-esque bassline and some damn addictive hooks, I think we’re witnessing the new trend wave begin to stir?
POPPY / CONCRETE
Anything I write here cannot prepare you for this song. ‘Concrete’ is the sound of the zombie apocalypse colliding with the cutest of Japanese anime, it’s pure aggression and metal mixed with Queen and J-Pop, it’s monumentally bat-shit from start to finish and IT WORKS. Despite switching gears at blistering speeds, every shift only adds more to the power of the song. And at the heart of it is this cutesy enigma: Poppy. This is… quite simply the oddest but most brilliant song I’ve heard in months? Don’t even get me started on the closing Paramore outro. Incredible.
TAYLOR SWIFT / THE MAN
It would be easy for me to pretend that the Taylor Swift album doesn’t exist, especially after it followed a four-punch of some of the worst pop singles I’ve ever experienced, but it’s actually not that bad nor is it anything like what the singles that preceded it suggest. ‘The Man’ isn’t perfect but it’s probably the best that the album offers, it’s lyrically smart with something to say and above all it’s an undeniable pop song. Why on earth the label and Swift did not lead the album with this will be a question on my lips for a lifetime, but for now I’ll settle with this being the next single PLEASE.
ROTHWELL / FOLLOW WHEN YOU’RE DANCING
‘Follow When You’re Dancing’ is the retro 80’s banger that you absolutely needed following the past four songs. Easily the best thing Rothwell has put her name to yet, it’s a cacophony of bouncing synths and cooing ad-libs, culminating in a soulful and spirited Robyn-esque dance bop with a chorus so HUGE it instantly recalls ‘Teenage Dream’ and spending summers with tunes blaring into the smoggy heat from the car. Do I have any idea what the title means? Absolutely not, and I do not care.
BONUS GOODNESS MURA MASA, CLAIRO / I DON’T THINK I CAN DO THIS AGAIN
Clairo is having a bit of a breakout moment right now which makes ‘I Don’t…’s release right now even more miraculous for the Summer. Fresh and delightful, it’s the complex summer banger we absolutely needed right now. Because really the best summer bangers aren’t one-note happiness, they are nostalgia, tears and fresh sweat.
‘Stayaway’ has been out for just over 12 hours and I’m already positive that it is going to end up in my top five of the year, if not the top 2. The sophomore slump is a real issue for many artists, and considering MUNA’s debut album showed itself to be one of the most impassioned and well constructed debuts in the last ten years, the pressure really was on to not only recreate that but to elevate it. ‘Stayaway’ is the kind of song careers revolve around, melodically a masterpiece and lyrically devastating, it’s hard not to find something new to love with each listen. That’s if you can stop repeating the gloriously powerful pre-chorus. If this was the 00s, I’d have the lyrics plastered all over every single online profile I inhabited.
Leaving you was easy, now I’ve got to do what’s hard – I’ve got to stay away.
MILEY CYRUS / SLIDE AWAY
Authenticity is a much sought after thing that simply cannot be fabricated and shows itself at the sparsest of moments, like Demi Lovato releasing the heartbreaking ‘Sober’ before her publicised relapse or Ariana Grande referencing her exes shortly after Malcom’s death, Miley channels her recent split with long-term-flame Liam in the devastating ‘Slide Away’ – a song about recognising the two worlds both of you inhabit have shifted so far away that they are now unreachable. Considering Miley’s career has been filled with a plethora of characters, it is simply remarkable to see her peel away the layers and present something so visceral. We haven’t seen this since the raw, and incredible, Dead Petz… experiment – which really felt like the real Miley Cyrus shining through. Hopefully between this and ‘Mother’s Daughter’, she’s more ready than ever to occupy that character completely.
PVRIS / HALLUCINATIONS
The best thing about ‘Hallucinations’ is how it manages to subvert the typical PVRIS formula by blending their enormous, effect-soaked choruses with a surprisingly intimate production. Considering how well they do LOUD it’s simply delicious to hear Lyndsey’s vocals given the space, with only strings and a slight beat accompanying her. Of course, that doesn’t stop the ceiling-crushing chorus from fitting right in to place when you least expect it. With hints of BANKS and Florence, this era really feels like PVRIS taking the next big step for their artistry.
NORMANI / MOTIVATION
Everybody I know has been, rightfully, freaking out about Normani’s sudden reintroduction (mostly because of the star quality on display in the marvelously nostalgic music video). ‘Motivation’ needed a few plays from me before it sunk its claws in but it’s so god damn exciting to see such a huge pop culture moment being made from a debuting solo artist. There’s been a lot of swing for Normani over the past year and it seems like it’s allowing her to hit the ground running. Though that’s not to discredit her, as her charisma and confidence is pouring out of every ounce of the song. She knows this is it, and it sounds like it.
And if you don’t get it yet, just watch the video. You will.
HYPHEN HYPHEN / TAKE MY HAND
‘Take My Hand’ truly reveals its cards at the three minute mark, a cathartic implosion after several minutes of atmospheric teasing. Whilst this won’t be for everyone, and at times it sounds like the soundtrack to some buzzy and dark Netflix series, it’s a momentous release that sounds unlike anything else released this year. Between gasps for breath, bass that sounds like it’s going to burst open the speakers and their trademark chant-like vocals, this is the closest you’ll come to an out of body experience this year.
This week was simply fantastic, and there’s a whole bunch of other songs that could have made our highlights on any other week. Make sure to check them out and let us know what your highlights would have been: