Friday 24 May 2019

new (and old) music friday #38: carly rae jepsen, hilary duff, natalie portman, bee gees

1. carly rae jepsen

to say that i was excited about the fourth album from carly rae jepsen would be an understatement, but after a string of disappointing albums from my favourites artists in the last few years, i was somewhat nervous about whether it would live up to its predecessor, the incredible E•MO•TIONof course, the whole point of music is that it's completely subjective - a song i can't stand will no doubt be someone else's absolute favourite - however, when it comes to carly rae, there's no question that run away with me is her magnum opus and it's unlikely she'll ever do anything better. nevertheless, out of the 200 songs she wrote in the build up to the release of dedicated, i was hopeful there might be one to rival it. 

moving away from the disco-inspired sound she'd initially set out to create, dedicated sees her return to the bombastic 80s sound that came to define E•MO•TION, so when i pressed play on the first non-single track want you in my roomi breathed a sigh of relief. taking her cues from cyndi lauper, it's an instant foot-tapper and has been stuck in my head all week. 

other highlights include the sound, its gentle piano melody giving way to a punchy chorus that sees carly begging her lover for more than just sweet nothings, the woozy synths of automatically in love and real love, which despite its incredibly catchy chorus nearly brought me to tears as she opens up about how she longs for something more substantial. 

while lead single party for one failed to thrill me, as did the more muted julien and no drug like me, now that i found you is a party-ready bop that deserves to be played at full volume only, while too much sees jepsen celebrate the highs and lows of life and love. 

but my absolute favourite is happy not knowing, which is chock full of glossy 80s synths and retains that same sweetness found on her second album kiss. whether jepsen can ever reach the dizzying heights of run away with me again remains to be seen, but in the meantime i'll be playing dedicated on repeat and praying she announces UK tour dates sometime this century.

2. john lundvik

dubbed the "gay world cup" by some, last weekend saw the return of eurovision, now in its 64th (!) year. while conflict raged over their decision to host the competition in tel aviv, the competition was as tense as ever; i felt genuinely sick waiting for the result. i was pleased to see that the critics awarded the most points to sweden's entry, an incredible bop by john lundvik titled too late for love, which features both a gospel choir and key change. it also received the best reception from the audience and i was confident he'd be crowned the winner, so imagine my horror when the public voted for the netherlands and the incredibly bland arcade by duncan laurence. lacking the lyrical prowess of hozier and the stadium-filling charm of coldplay, the track landed somewhere in the middle and i found myself switching off just a few lines in. the fact that sweden came second only added insult to injury, but i'll be blasting too late for love on repeat while i lick my wounds. 

3. bee gees

speaking of key changes, this next track is an absolute masterclass from the kings of disco themselves, the bee gees. while they're widely known for hits such as stayin' alive, jive talkin' and how deep is your love, their lesser known songs are just as good. my mother introduced me to secret love, which i can only describe as the distant cousin of chain reaction, one of diana ross' most iconic tracks and a mainstay in my disco playlist for years now. however, when i listened to both tracks to compare, i found myself favouring secret love for reasons i can't quite explain; perhaps its their unabashed adoration of all things dramatic and their commitment to what some may call "cheesy" pop but there's nothing dated about this track. i'd also highly recommend you win again and love you inside out, which contains perhaps the most dramatic breakdown of any pop song, save for i wanna dance with somebody

4. aly & aj

they've done it again; from their humble beginnings as disney channel stars to one of the most critically acclaimed pop duos of the last few years, sanctuary - the latest EP from the michalka sisters - contains bop! after! bop! from the title track which serves as a touching ode to their fans, to star maps, written as a "revenge song" when the #MeToo movement first broke, to my favourite track not ready to wake updescribed as a "classic love song", their slick 80s-inspired sound is a cut above the Sad Piano Ballads currently clogging up the top 40. after reading this teen vogue article where they revealed they're not signed to a major label, there's only one thing left to say: someone get them a contract ASAP! 

5. natalie portman (!)

annoyingly, and completely by coincidence, i watched vox lux the day before it was released in UK cinemas; if i'd known i would have waited to see it on the big screen, but either way it quickly became one of my all-time favourite films. this excellent i-D article takes an in-depth look at the sudden influx of male-directed biopics chronicling the rise and fall of female performers, but vox lux is by far the most unfiltered. we see 13-year-old celeste and her sister ellie survive a school shooting in 1999, before being transported into the present day, where celeste (played by natalie portman, who also sings the majority of tracks and serves as the film's executive producer) is dealing with one controversy after another while trying to hide her drug and alcohol problems from her teenage daughter and fighting with her sister, who is responsible for writing the majority of her hits and feels deeply underappreciated. 

a world away from the perfectly polished images female pop stars have been expected to present since the dawn of time, this film joins TV shows such as fleabag and killing eve as an unflinching portrayal of Unlikable Women, finally allowing us to be seen in all our glory and gore. it also features an incredible soundtrack penned by none other than sia, which begs the question: why on earth has she been releasing sub-par songs for the last few years when she's capable of bangers such as private girl, EKG and blinded by love? i'm still praying the tides will turn and we may one day return to the glory days of the mid 2000s when bad romance topped the charts, and i'm hoping sia will lead the charge with an album of vox lux-inspired bops. 

6. kim petras 

it took a while, but the slightly more subdued releases from the german pop sensation have finally worked their magic on me. it finally clicked when i read this interview she did with paper magazine, where she discussed how her recent break-up and some "personal shit" influenced the music she was listening to - kanye, rihanna and travis scott to name a few - which subsequently led to the more trap-inspired tracks she's been putting out lately. blow it all is undoubtedly my favourite as kim celebrates her gradual ascent to pop stardom, but got my number and sweet spot - which wouldn't look out of place on a kylie album - still bring that playfulness she became known for on early releases such as hillside boys and i don't want it at all. the interviewer also mentioned can't do better; the synth-driven power ballad failed to capture my attention back in 2018 but after re-listening i can't get enough and have been yelling the lyrics at the top of my lungs every chance i get. 

7. hilary duff 

it amazes me that i've never discussed what dreams are made of on this blog before. if you've no idea what i'm referring to, please watch the lizzie mcguire movie, which follows lizzie on a school trip to rome that culminates in her singing this iconic song to a bemused audience full of her classmates. upon re-listening to it a few days ago, it struck me that it contains all the elements of a Perfect Pop Song, which is a) a mid-song break down, b) a "hey!" refrain and c) the (often elusive) key change. tragically the song isn't available on spotify or itunes, so here's hoping the many youtube videos taken from the film remain online forever as i know i'll never get tired of this timeless bop. 

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