as the 34658th week of the UK's national lockdown draws to a close, it's hard to think of anything to be excited about beyond the fact that it now goes dark at 5pm instead of 4 and drag race UK every thursday.
the last few weeks haven't been good for new music either, and i've struggled to find songs that i've wanted to write about, hence why i haven't uploaded anything here since the end of december.
last month i joined vocal after weeks of being bombarded with instagram adverts, where creators can earn money for each post they publish, and while i was sent an email about a guy who made $2000 a month from just one article, my total earnings are currently $0.03, which is roughly 22p.
nevertheless, it gives me an outlet to write more in-depth album reviews, and my first post was dedicated to miley cyrus' long awaited and somewhat lacklustre album plastic hearts, which can be read here.
then just two weeks later, producer SOPHIE died in an accident at her home in athens, and while other people have written about her impact on pop music far more eloquently than i ever could, it's something i still have to mention as it's the first time i've felt the loss of an artist so intensely since david bowie died in 2016.
it wasn't just her musical output that will be sorely missed, but the sense of community that she and the other artists from PC music have cultivated over the last few years, giving anyone who felt alone or misunderstood access to a group of likeminded people, and i know i would never have discovered girls night out and the friends i have today if it wasn't for them.
luckily her legacy will continue through the genre that is now widely known as "hyperpop" and artists such as 100 gecs, dorian electra and of course charli xcx, whose total sonic overhaul wouldn't have been possible without SOPHIE's input on the vroom vroom EP, which i still believe is her best work.
so apart from playing immaterial on repeat, these are the other artists that i've been enjoying recently.
i usually save my favourite song till last, but i just had to break the rules today and mention troubled paradise first, as i'm fairly certain this will remain my favourite song of 2021, even though it's only february.
as is often the case with slayyyter, she began teasing the song via twitter on the 18th january and i instantly knew it would be her best song yet.
i was slightly disappointed with the singles she'd released before troubled paradise, and feared she was moving away from the pop sound that made me love her early singles such as i'm high and platform shoes, but luckily she has returned to her electro-pop roots and i'm all for it.
2. allie x
another Absolute Banger i've had on repeat is GLAM! by allie x.
but when she released cape god last february, i just couldn't get into the more ~experimental~ sound she'd chosen to explore, lamenting the lack of bops.
so imagine my joy when she released GLAM! last week, a demo from 2013 that never made it onto her debut album collXtion I.
it seems that the bisexual community is finally getting the representation it deserves, first with rina sawayama's excellent single LUCID and now this.
daya came out in 2018 and bad girl is an ode to her girlfriend that sees her turning her back on the male gaze, declaring "i already know just what i like".
it's a sentiment i really appreciate after years of people - both in and out of the LGBT community - not taking my sexuality seriously and assuming i must be straight because i don't look stereotypically "gay" - whatever that means - and i hope it provides a similar sense of reassurance to other people who have also experienced this.
now for something slightly more subdued, something that rarely happens on this blog.
as a long time lover of Big Pop Songs - the origins of this obsession can probably be traced back to i wanna dance with somebody by whitney houston - i was surprised that i enjoyed GRACEY's EP the art of closure so much.
she first made it big when she appeared on don't need love with producer and DJ 220 kid; the song charted at number 9 in the UK.
this was followed by alone in my room (gone), which was one of the songs in the popjustice twenty quid music prize.
i'd always enjoyed the track and found myself listening to it more and more after the judging, so when the full EP arrived, i was instantly obsessed with don't, another mid-tempo track about someone who just won't commit, and 99%, a far more upbeat song that's one of my favourites from the last year.
hopefully a full length album will follow and her postponed headline tour will finally take place at some point in the future so i can scream along to alone in my room after half a bottle of (overpriced) wine.
5. ally brooke
the pandemic has resulted in me becoming a Huge Fan of several ~mainstream~ artists i'd previously ignored, and one of them was ally brooke, who rose to fame as part of girl group fifth harmony (i've never been an avid listener of theirs, but i still maintain that sledgehammer is one of the best songs of the last decade).
following the group's "indefinite hiatus" in 2018, she released a string of solo singles, the first of which was low key, an RnB inspired track featuring tyga that i didn't really pay much attention to.
the next few singles were a bit hit and miss, but naturally i found myself drawn to the disco-pop sound of no good, as well as her forays into the world of dance such as feeling dynamite and all night.
i'm glad to see she's embracing the pop sound that made her so successful rather than distancing herself from it - as so many artists who were part of a girl or boy band often do - and hopefully a bop-filled full length album will follow sometime in the future.
6. troye sivan/kacey musgraves/mark ronson
when troye sivan released easy, i felt like it was definitely one of his best songs, and just when i thought it couldn't get any better, he blessed us with a new version featuring vocals from country star kacey musgraves and production by mark ronson.
initially i wasn't sure what to make of it as i've always despised country music and found kacey's texan drawl mildly annoying, but the new order-inspired production gives the song a bit of a ~kick~ that the original was missing.
as a result, i now find myself favouring the new version and have even made peace with kacey's vocals, as lyrically her verse adds a new level of devastation to the break-up-in-progress song.
7. leann rimes
recently i've been getting Really Into Remixes, often preferring them to the original version of a track as they can provide more of a dancefloor feel.
i vividly remember being obsessed with the original when it was first released in 2000 (!) as part of the coyote ugly soundtrack.
much like all the things she said, the music video definitely contributed to my bisexuality, as the scantily clad barmaids awakened a feeling in me i couldn't explain as a child.
nowadays it's a mix of attraction and envy as i would love nothing more than to perform an iconic bar-based dance routine for a crowd of drunken strangers, but while going to Tha Club is still not an option, this club-ready remix of can't fight the moonlight has been making lockdown 1% more bearable.
it takes the already dramatic power ballad and gives it a disco-inspired twist, and the key change is somehow made even more dramatic, meaning it will be a classic in my Getting Ready To Go Out playlist for years to come.
8. nicole scherzinger
always on the lookout for what most people would consider "trashy" pop music, i was overjoyed when my friend sent me a spotify link to nicole scherzinger's song killer love, from the album of the same name.
released in 2011, it's what i call Peak Pop production, featuring plenty of Huge Choruses and the synth-driven sound that made lady gaga such a huge star back in 2008.
so naturally once i'd played killer love 300 times, i listened to the rest of the album, which is definitely a Mixed Bag.
another highlight is of course wet, which never fails to make me Lose My Shit every time i hear it, but there were also a few other songs i'm now obsessed with.
after club banger nation however, things veer into Sad Piano Ballad territory, made bearable only by low-key bop heartbeat, featuring enrique iglesias.
there's also collaborations with both 50 cent and sting, neither of which really add anything to the album, but luckily try with me stops the second half of killer love being a total snooze fest.
reminiscent of katy perry's part of me, the track starts out slowly with a piano-driven verse before launching into an absolutely Huge Chorus that would make it an excellent karaoke song.
overall the album serves as a time capsule to the glory days of pop and while i was too ashamed to embrace my love of it at the time, i now play it proudly at full blast, probably to the annoyance of my family.
i found myself listening to cascada the other day and while i've previously written about them, i uncovered a whole album that i'd never heard of, despite it being released in 2011.
marking a departure from their trademark eurodance sound, it was their least commercially successful release as none of the singles received airplay on UK radio and they were dropped from robbins entertainment, their US label.
this could explain why i wasn't familiar with it, as i only discovered the first track san fransisco in 2018.
listening to the rest of the album however, i was instantly obsessed with the production, which is reminiscent of heidi montag's impeccable debut superficial, another 2010 classic.
highlights include sinner on the dancefloor, au revior, night nurse and pyromania - reminiscent of lady gaga's track the fame - but my favourite has to be stalker, a bop so powerful it literally brought me to tears.
whether it was a change of musical direction or lack of promotion, it's a crime that this album didn't get the recognition it deserved as it showed the group's willingness to experiment with a different sound, perhaps as a result of critics calling their debut album "repetitive" and "unoriginal".
nevertheless, i'll be playing it on repeat and dreaming of the days when we can return to the dancefloor.
10. rebecca black
wednesday marked the tenth anniversary of rebecca black's viral hit friday, which did not go down well with critics and listeners alike, though she didn't let this deter her and has continued releasing music over the years, most recently the excellent girlfriend.
i'd completely forgotten about her and the friday debacle until she appeared on edgelord with dorian electra, and it seems she's found a solid fanbase in the world of hyperpop.
the joy of this rapidly growing musical movement is its ability to embrace artists who might not be accepted in mainstream circles, and so comfortable is black in this arena that she recruited dorian electra, big freedia and 3OH!3 for a remix of the track.
the result is a hyperpop classic that will no doubt be passed down through generations, featuring production from none other than dylan brady.
while the original lyrics were heavily criticised, in a post-ironic world where anything goes - so much so that black released saturday - a "sequel" to her first single - in 2013 - the song has reaffirmed its status as something of a cult classic and will no doubt introduce black to a whole new fan base that were too young to experience the hysteria of friday the first time around.