Tuesday 10 January 2023

best of 2022: years & years, foxes, kim petras, charli xcx, MUNA, mabel

in a plot twist that no-one saw coming, i have decided to resurrect musing and lyrics... partly because i got an email last month telling me that my domain was about to expire, so if i'm paying £10 to renew it for the year, i may as well create some ~content~ for this severely neglected blog. 

in my defence though, i have genuinely been Very Busy over the last year, so in order to justify my extended absence for the three people who actually read this nonsense, let us go back to may 2021 when i last posted. 

back then, the world was still recovering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown that meant we were trapped in our houses and forced to socialise via zoom for the majority of 2020. at the time of writing, the UK was just about to relax its guidance on the number of people who could meet up and socialise indoors, so i was mentally preparing to be in The Club again and actually see my friends in real life. 

once the restrictions ended, i certainly made up for all the time spent indoors and had an iconic summer of attending gigs (my personal highlight was seeing little mix twice in one day in may 2021) and making weekly trips to our favourite bars and clubs. we also got to attend manchester pride again and zara larsson's headline performance was literally one of the best moments of my life.

i also decided to make the foray into ~dating~ after years of Being Alone, and while i haven't found The One (if such a thing does exist), it definitely showed me what i do and don't want in a potential partner. 

finally, despite my fear of commitment re: dating, i've actually continued to engage with the therapy techniques i first encountered during lockdown, and am very much in a self-help book era; seeing things written down is the only way i can retain information, and it's good to have a book to hand so i can look at it whenever i feel bad and stop myself spiralling. if you too have ever struggled with self-esteem and/or struggling to sleep, i would recommend overcoming low self esteem by dr melaine fenell and you will get through this night by daniel howell (yes, the youtuber). i'm now 1% more able to cope with distressing feelings/situations and for the first time in my life, can talk about my feelings instead of letting them build up and resulting in a Huge Breakdown. 

on a less serious note, if you're simply looking for some new years resolutions that aren't just body-shaming and pressuring you to lose half a stone by the end of january, this list is incredibly helpful. 

so that brings us to september 2021, when i managed to find a part time job i don't hate and began my full-time studies at the university of manchesterfor those who don't know, this is not a university where creativity is encouraged; the majority of people study biochemistry or molecular biology, and even within the music department, most people are more familiar with mozart than madonna (the only symphony i know is by zara larsson), so i assumed that my decision to write about hyperpop wouldn't be well received by my fellow peers and tutors. surprisingly though, people were actually quite interested in my research area, probably because it's something that nobody has ever written about. during my dissertation research, i could only find three other academic articles or essays that mentioned hyperpop, so as far as i'm aware, mine is the first masters dissertation on this topic.

looking at my dissertation feedback now, i agree with my supervisor that i could've ~refined~ my writing and made it more coherent, but my lack of ~academic~ experience - i've never officially studied music before, never mind at such a High Level - combined with my desire to write down literally every thought i've ever had about hyperpop (many of which were actually formed through a post on this very blog in 2016) meant it was slightly disjointed. 

despite this, i still managed to pass, and graduated last month on what was literally one of the coldest days of the year. the weather didn't dampen my spirits though, and i found myself trying to hold back tears at various points during the ceremony, because 15 year old me wouldn't have believed i'd get into this university, never mind graduate with a masters degree. but now that it's actually sunk in that i've just graduated from the 28th best university in the world, my full time job search has officially begun.

in the meantime however, i really want to get back into writing about music, so i'm going to start with the best albums of 2022.

1. years & years - night call 

the first album to be released in 2022 that i really enjoyed was night call by years & years, formerly a trio but now the solo project of olly alexander. their previous album palo santo contained a couple of bops, but for the most part was missing the euphoria that made their debut communion such a hit. an NME interview from april 2021 suggested that alexander felt creatively stifled while the trio worked together and he wanted to make more upbeat pop music than his bandmates. as a lover of Huge Pop Songs - and more recently dance music - i hate to say it, but i was low-key excited for him to become a solo artist if it meant the bops would return, and they definitely did. the first single starstruck was released in march 2021, and i remember breathing a sigh of relief as it was everything i'd been hoping for. he also released a version featuring kylie minogue, which is the epitome of Gay Rights. 

the rest of the album was inspired by lockdown and the desire to go out and party, which seems to be a common theme throughout many of the albums released in 2022. obviously the pandemic was an incredibly stressful and traumatic time for many people - i too lost a relative to the virus and was unable to attend the funeral - but creatively it had a positive impact on the music being made, so at least something good came from it. 

speaking of losing a relative, i knew there was a reason why my favourite track on night call is see you again. at first glance, the lyrics may simply be referring to someone struggling to let an ex-partner go, but alexander told apple music that they're actually about his grandma who passed away and how he wishes he could see her again and spend more time with her. as someone who was incredibly close to my own grandma who i lost in 2019, the song took on a new meaning and perfectly encompasses the Sad Banger genre; catch me simultaneously bopping and shedding a tear to this song. elsewhere, the album draws on what has now become a staple of alexander's song writing; Being Queer. songs such as muscle, immaculate, intimacy and title track night call document the highs and lows of his past relationships. 

the album also sees alexander collaborate with dance producers and DJs such as regard and galantis, and as i mentioned in a previous post, i'm now a huge fan of Basic Bops, i.e. songs that wouldn't sound out of place at a hen party or bottomless brunch in a regional branch of slug and lettuce. a far cry from the Deep and Meaningful (and incredibly depressing) songs by the smiths and joy division i devoured as a teenager, sweet talker and hallucination contain simple lyrics and melodies that don't leave you with an emotional hangover. 

the only disappointing thing about the night call era was the accompanying tour. my friend and i went to see years & years at resorts world arena in birmingham, which had all the charisma and warmth of an airport terminal. part of the problem was that the venue was only half-full, and there were no big screens, so from our position at the back - our preferred spot as we are simply too old to be pushed and shoved in a crowd full of 19-year-olds - it was hard to see what was taking place on stage. luckily the bottle of wine i consumed throughout the show meant i didn't care too much, but i was expecting much more of a Stage Presence from alexander based on TV performances i'd seen. 

2. foxes - the kick

another album that was inspired by the constraints of lockdown was the kick by foxes. prior to this album, i'd always been a casual listener of foxes - real name louisa allen - but her first two albums never quite packed the same punch as singles such as let go for tonight and body talk. luckily this changed with sister ray, the first single from the kick. the title references the 1968 velvet underground song of the same name, which describes "an insane debaucherous party with heroin abuse, violence and an orgy, with sister ray being a drag queen heroin dealer" (thanks genius) and while foxes' version is a lot less explicit, the ethos of Going Out and Having A Good Time is very much the same, and i can confirm that when played in a gay bar, it absolutely goes off. 

the rest of the album contains the usual themes of heartbreak and the beginnings of a new relationship, but there's nothing typical about the kick. this is one of those rare albums that doesn't contain a bad song, so picking a favourite is hard, but my most-played tracks are potential, two kinds of silence and dance magic. i also found myself drawn to too much colour, which surprised me as i've always said that no album has ever benefitted from a Sad Piano Ballad. despite this, as someone who has always felt things Very Intensely and often feels like i'm Too Much for the people around me, its lyrics really resonated with me. 

however, there were no tears when i saw foxes live at night and day in february 2022. my friend and i arrived 60 seconds before she took to the stage, so we were right at the back and could barely see a thing, but i actually prefer this as it gives me more room to dance, and that's what this album was designed for. i was hesitant about going to night and day as it's the place i broke up with my first girlfriend when i was younger and i'd never returned since, but this gig was so good that any negative feelings have been replaced by an iconic gig that i would love to experience again. 

3. kim petras - slut pop/problématique

as a long-time fan of kim petras, i could barely contain my excitement when her EP slut pop was released on the same day as foxes' the kick. inspired by sex workers, the album contains the most explicit lyrics i've ever heard, most of which are far too graphic to repeat here, but if you love dance-pop and german techno (an ode to petras' native cologne) then you'll be bopping all night. again, every song is impeccable but my favourite is treat me like a slut, followed closely by superpower bitch

as someone who has had a difficult time with ~intimacy~, the irony of singing these lyrics at the top of my lungs isn't lost on me, but as this vice article says, these days being A Slut is more about the aesthetic of sex than actually engaging in it, which could also be due to the pandemic when sending nudes was the only way to feel close to someone. it's also weirdly empowering; to quote the author: 

"the new slut era is all about self objectification: the knowledge and the power that you hold in knowing that you are hot. you’re a slut because of the way you posture yourself; because of the way you dress yourself; because of the way you interact with others. the power of self objectification is owning the light in which you are seen, rather than having another’s gaze imprinted on you. it’s redefining sex as a public expression, rather than a private act."

an honourable mention must also be given to our fallen comrade problématique, an album that was shelved by petras' label republic records. much like slut pop, it pays homage to her love of german techno and has already become a cult classic. my favourite tracks include deeper, hit it from the back, your time to cry and je t'adore

petras herself has encouraged fans to stream the album and expressed her frustration at working so hard on music that never saw the light of day. there may be a ray of hope though; a few weeks ago she posted a snippet of revelations - objectively the best song on the album - on her instagram, which many fans have taken as a sign that she might release it as a single or part of her upcoming album. if the Gay Gods are real, it will happen and the song can be played at full volume in the clubs, as it so deserves. 
4. charli xcx - CRASH 

the bops start coming and they don't stop coming, and nowhere is this more true than on CRASH, the fifth album from charli xcx and her final release with atlantic records. charli's struggle with her record label has been well documented over the years, and while she previously chose to reject the "major label" approach to song-writing and production with her mixtapes pop 2 and number 1 angel, she decided to embrace it on CRASH, and while critics were divided, it contains some of her best songs yet. 

leaning into the Basic Bop style of music making, used to know me samples the absolute banger that is show me love by robin s, and i'm embarrassed at the number of times i have requested it in the club over the past year. the rina sawayama-assisted beg for you brings a more subdued, garage feel to the dancefloor classic by september, though part of me wishes she'd used the original sample. good ones also falls into Basic Bop territory - it even received the remix treatment from joel corry - and is accompanied by one of the best music videos of the last five years. 

album tracks of note include constant repeat (potentially my favourite song of 2022), yuck, twice and lightning, another standout that reminds me why 80s music is still my all time favourite. then there's the bonus tracks, produced by george daniel of the 1975 who also happens to be charli's partner. selfish girl and what you think about me are fun tracks that see charli shrugging off criticisms from her fans, but the real highlight is sorry if i hurt you, another 80s-inspired synth fest that made me ugly cry when i saw charli sing it live at pryzm in kingston in june last year (a truly surreal moment, as i used to go out there most wednesday nights when i was a student). i also saw the CRASH tour in may, but as it was the sweatiest gig i've ever attended, it did make it difficult to fully enjoy myself as i was just desperate to get out of the venue for some air. luckily the afterparty was one of the best nights i've ever had, and it was only a tuesday. 

CRASH reached number 1 in the UK, so whether charli intended for it to be a mainstream hit or not, it clearly resonated with fans and cemented her as one of the best pop stars in the business. 


nobody does Trauma Bangers better than LA-based trio MUNA, and their 2019 album saves the world was always going to be hard to beat. as feared, their latest self-titled release didn't quite hit the mark, but they still retained the 80s-inspired sound that made songs like pink light, hands off and never so powerful. their self-titled album sees the group settle into a much more ~positive~ mindset, focusing on the personal growth and healthy relationships they've cultivated in the last three years. highlights include lead single what i wantno ideasolid - all of which echo the sentiments of Queer Joy celebrated on night call - and runner's high

i saw MUNA live in december last year and while they were excellent, i can't help but feel like they were slightly upstaged by their support act, drag race UK alum bimini, who performed several of their own original (iconic) songs and covers of the fear by lily allen and blue monday by new order. nevertheless, it felt great to be in a room full of fellow queers at a time when controversy over the world cup being hosted in qatar was at an all time high.

6. mabel - about last night... 

the final album to be featured in this post is about last night... by mabel. i've had a long and complicated relationship with mabel's music, which began when she supported harry styles in april 2018, something that made no sense to me as her RnB inspired songs was totally at odds with harry's rock-pop sound. fast forward to 2020 however, and i found myself unironically enjoying her singles such as don't call me up, ring ring, boyfriend and god is a dancer, so when about last night... was released in july 2022, i was primed to become the mabel stan my past self never could have predicted.

it all began with let them know, the first single which saw her sample supermodel by rupaul. once again, her foray into dance-pop was inspired by watching pose, drag race and the documentary paris is burning during lockdown, and while it may have alienated the largely heterosexual fanbase she amassed via her early singles - let them know peaked at number 19 on the UK charts last august compared to don't call me up at number 3 and mad love at number 8 - my friends and i were instantly obsessed. 

unwilling to totally abandon her RnB roots, let love go featured a cameo from lil tecca (?) and overthinking saw her collaborate with 24kgoldn. i've personally never been a fan of verses from Inane Male Rappers as they add nothing to what is otherwise an excellent pop song (little mix are the worst offenders: did the superb Getting Over You anthem no more sad songs really need machine gun kelly on it? what value did ty dolla $ign bring to the otherwise sublime think about us? why was stormzy intruding on the already brilliant power?), but the disco-heavy sound of let love go and stargate's devastatingly good production on overthinking still shine brightly. 

also amongst my most-played tracks are animal and shywhich manage to blend mabel's love of RnB grooves with more conventional pop production - as well as crying on the dancefloor - another stargate masterpiece that makes me even more grateful for nights out in a post-COVID world - and i love your girl, which is about mabel "losing her mind" during a break-up and becoming infatuated with her ex's new girlfriend, though it could also serve as a queer anthem of sorts. good luck is also a fun party moment, but the spirit of the album is best encapsulated on definition, which never fails to make me feel like That Bitch. 

i'm furious that i didn't get to see mabel tour this album, which is ironic given my confusion at her supporting harry styles; i'm now at the point where i'd actually prefer to see her instead. if only i could turn back time to that show in 2018 and hear her Basic Bops in all their glory. 

Friday 14 May 2021

new (and old) music friday #57: tia kofi, VINCINT, years & years, addison rae, tinashe

i was incredibly alarmed to see that it's been two (2) months since my last post, but a combination of lockdown-induced depression and a lack of good music to write about means i've taken yet another shamefully long hiatus (apologies to the three (3) people who actually read this blog). 

but since then, more restrictions have been eased in the UK and we've been able to meet up to 6 people outside, so despite the torrential rain that continues to engulf manchester, i've spent the last few weeks freezing to death outside our favourite gay bar and regret nothing. from monday we'll be allowed to eat and drink inside and i couldn't be more excited, and i'm hoping some of these songs will be played.  

this edition of new music friday will see several songs go head to head in a battle to be crowned Song Of The Summer (SOTS for short). i know it's only may and the temperature shows no sign of increasing, but after completely missing out on any kind of summer last year, i wanted to get a head start.

so in no particular order, here are the contenders. 

1. tia kofi

first up is rupaul's drag race UK alumnus tia kofi, who appeared on series two and was declared baroness basic by her fellow queens thanks to her bargain bin outfits, so naturally i didn't lose sleep over her elimination. 

like many queens, she began releasing music after leaving the show and i was pleasantly surprised by her first single outside in, co-written by tom aspaul of black country disco excellence and victoria hesketh, aka little boots, responsible for the Absolute Banger that is remedy

it's been stuck in my head since february, and just when i thought the melody was fading, she released another single with dance producers cahill, who have remixed tracks by selena gomez, demi lovato and Gay Icon cheryl, so i knew that tia's track look what you've done would be a bop, and of course i was right. 

the Incredibly Camp production means it would fit right in at any canal street venue and providing the clubs open as planned in june, i can't wait to yell along to this song at 3am, watermelon VK in hand.

she's also booked to appear at manchester pride so hopefully i'll get to hear them live as well. 

2. addison rae

at 25, i consider myself far too old for tik tok and only made an account a few weeks ago, where i follow a grand total of 3 people. 

but try as i might, i haven't been able to avoid hearing about addison rae, best known for her tik tok dance routines and unlikely friendship with kourtney kardashian

like tia kofi, she's also embarking on a singing career, and when i first heard her debut single obsessed, i found myself hate-listening to it occasionally, until i eventually came to the realisation that it's a low-key summer smash in the making. 

the internet has not been kind to ms rae since the song's release, with cries of "too much autotune" and criticisms of the song's lyrics flooding her instagram posts promoting the song. 

however, when it comes to pop songs i don't discriminate, and i couldn't care less who wrote the song or how edited the vocals are if i can play it at full volume ten times a day and not get bored of it, so for this reason obsessed has the potential to become an inescapable SOTS.

3. years and years

when olly alexander of the band years & years announced that it would become his solo project, i was hardly surprised, as he's always been the face of the group and wrote the majority of their second album palo santo himself. 

i was praying for more songs that echoed the dance-pop production of palo santo and starstruck definitely didn't disappoint.

it feels far more euphoric and upbeat than previous years & years releases, and i know it will be A Moment when we can finally hear it in Tha Club. 

4. troye/regard/tate mcrae  

by far my most played song on this list, i was obsessed with you the second troye sivan began teasing it on instagram, playing the five second snippet an embarrassing amount of times until it was finally released in full last month.

a collaboration with dance producer regard and canadian singer-songwriter tate mcrae, the song is incredibly versatile and could be played in the background of a low-key, government approved, garden gathering or at full volume in a club once such things are allowed. 

it also has the potential to bring troye into a more ~mainstream~ space as regard is best known for his work with rising star raye and his mega hit ride it, a remix of jay sean's 2008 song which, like many things, went viral on tik tok. 

but regardless of the new audiences troye might reach, he'll always have the support of The Gays, no matter which producers he works with. 


another song i was obsessed with from the get go was higher by VINCINT, whose 80s-inspired bops have been firm favourites of mine since 2019. 

when it comes to Huge Bangers, it's definitely on a par with his impeccable 2020 single hard 2 forget and i find it hard to believe that there are people who wouldn't rush to the dancefloor if either of these songs came on. 

6. shift K3Y/tinashe

i've always been somewhat underwhelmed by tinashe's muted R&B-inspired pop - though i think we can all agree that 2 on was A Moment - so when she teamed up with house producer shift K3Y for love line, i was hooked straight away

hopefully this won't be a one-off and she'll fully embrace the dance-pop sound that made both the MAKJ remix of just save room for us and the alarmingly catchy dance like nobody's watching some of my favourite songs of 2020. 

much like troye sivan, tinashe can simultaneously appeal to gay and straight audiences, with love line being appreciated equally by the pornstar martini-sipping huns at slug and lettuce and the gays who've supported her since her 2016 album nightride and her struggles with RCA records; we do love an underdog after all. 

i also just discovered that she came out as bisexual last year, so we can officially claim her as a Gay Icon. 

7. becky hill 

one of the most unexpected things to happen during last year's lockdown was that i became an all-out becky hill stan, something i wrote more about here

her newest single last time doesn't deviate too far from the formula that made her previous releases so successful - this usually involves collaborating with producers and remixers like sigala and MK - but there's something about last time that i can't get enough of. 

it has that same carefree, euphoric feel as the other songs competing for SOTS, and her recent announcement that she's queer will hopefully attract legions of dance-loving gay fans; i'm already manifesting her being the final mystery headliner for manchester pride this year. 

8. bebe rexha 

i've already professed my love for sacrifice - which as i feared was the only good single on yet another new album full of underwhelming tracks - but then two new remixes appeared that have moved me to tears imagining how good they'd sound in Tha Club. 

first is the niiko x SWAEE version, which features the typical house production employed by so many remixers and would be a nice addition to a pre-drinks playlist. 

then there's the gorgon city edit that demands to be played before a sweat-drenched crowd at 4am. with its thumping bassline and trance-like feel, it makes the original seem tame in comparison. 

shamefully it only has 78,000 spotify plays - most of which are probably from me playing it at full volume in my room after drinking a bottle of rosé every weekend - but as i said before, sometimes the most underrated tracks are the best.

9. joel corry/RAYE/david guetta

i couldn't name a more iconic trio when it comes to Basic Bops, aka my new favourite genre of music. 

david guetta has been releasing music since the beginning of the millennium and is responsible for some of the most iconic bangers of all time, while RAYE has been gradually establishing herself as a mainstay of the pop and dance world, appearing on tracks with jonas blue and jax jones

then there's joel corry, who rose to fame on geordie shore before turning his hand to music. it's a gamble that paid off as his singles lonely and head & heart both reached the top 10 in the UK charts and he was nominated for 3 BRIT awards this year. 

their collaboration BED was released back in febuary and the chloe wilson remix was released at the beginning of may, and i've had both on repeat.

much like addison rae, i found myself "ironically" listening to him for a while - not like i had much choice as his songs received so much radio play - before realising how much i genuinely enjoyed it, and a few weeks ago i managed to convince my friend to come and see him with me in november at victoria warehouse

i'm hoping i'll be able to recapture the energy of the dance room at PRYZM, a club i attended most weeks at uni, but until then i'll settle for playing his songs in my room and hopefully hearing them in Tha Club. 

10. GRACEY/billen ted 

i wrote about GRACEY back in february, extolling the virtues of her low-key pop sound, but her latest release got you covered sees her heading straight to the (metaphorical) club with production duo billen ted, giving us a garage-inspired dance track that i can imagine blasting from every car radio this summer. 

i especially love the fact the song is dedicated to one of her closest friends as i've always believed that friendships are just as important as ~romantic~ relationships but never seem to be discussed in the same way in pop music. 

with so many of us being unable to see our friends in person over the last year, this song couldn't have come at a better time as we're finally able to socialise again, reminding us how important friendships are during tough times. 

~the results~

so now that we've discussed all the contenders, it's time to crown the Song Of The Summer. 

i feel it's always best to go with my gut when it comes to such important matters, but i've also taken into account the number of times i've played the song on spotify, how easy it is to sing along to, and the number of different situations it can be played in.

and the winner is... 

you by troye sivan, tate mcrae and regard. 

i was instantly hooked by the infectious melody, highly memorable chorus, the fact it can be played at both low-key and upbeat social events, plus its ability to appeal to both gay and straight audiences, so i'll continue to play it on repeat throughout the summer months. 

Friday 12 March 2021

new (and old) music friday #56: slayyyter, rita ora, mette, bebe rexha, boy sim

i have once again taken an unintentional month-long break from posting on this blog, but since my last new music fridaythe UK's lockdown has finally begun to ease, with all pupils now back at school and the ability to meet one (1) person outside to "socialise". 

however, after weeks of springtime sunshine and temperatures finally starting to rise, this week we've been hit with 27mph winds and torrential rainstorms, so any plans to meet up will have to be shelved for now. 

luckily there's been several bops and bangers making things bearable, and now that my favourite club night girls night out has announced its return in june this year - following the announcement that nightclubs could be open by the 21st - i'm even more excited to finally hear them on the dancefloor.

 1. rita ora

one person who hasn't had the best time during The Pandemic is rita ora, who broke lockdown rules by hosting a 30th birthday party in london back in november, paying the venue £5000 to host the celebration and turn off the CCTV cameras.

so when she released her bang EP in february this year, it's safe to say she wasn't the most popular artist around.

i've never been a huge fan of her myself - with the exception of i will never let you down and anywhere - but as soon as i heard the axel f/crazy frog (!) sample on bang bang, i was instantly obsessed.

i've also had the one and big on repeat too, the latter of which is actually my favourite song from the EP as it makes my Daily Walk around the block feel like i'm walking the runway at versace.

i will admit that i liked it slightly less when i saw ed sheeran has a writing credit on it, but now that my days of being a Music Snob are far behind me, i'm prepared to overlook this as imanbek's production is too good to resist.

2. dua lipa

dua lipa caused uproar when the track list for the moonlight edition of future nostalgia was released and normani wouldn't be featured on if it ain't me, a leaked track that she was most likely bullied into releasing by hordes of angry gays.

while it's true that the track feels like it's lacking something, i'm just glad it finally got an official release and i know it will be A Moment when we can finally hear it in the club.

i've also been loving that kind of woman - another previously leaked track - with its 80s-inspired sound, and the slightly more subdued fever, which i wasn't a huge fan of when it was first released. if you're looking for a more upbeat version, i'd highly recommend the disco-tinged vantage remix.

 3. boy sim

boy sim's debut album pink noise will always have a special place in my heart as it was pretty much the only thing i listened to back in 2018.

i've been waiting not-so-patiently for his return to the music world and he finally came through with the surprise release of fire last month.

with a stomping bassline and his signature synth-driven sound, the self-produced track sees him seeking revenge by burning down the house of his ex-lover... metaphorically of course.

he told paper magazine that the track is his "first step into a new sound i haven't done before" and it's clear that he's embracing a new direction, taking the electro-pop melodies found on pink noise to new heights. 

4. slayyyter

while i was still recovering from the emotional rollercoaster of slayyyter's single troubled paradise, she went and dropped clouds, a textbook example of a Sad Banger and quite possibly her best song yet.

combining a thumping bassline with lyrics about feeling like she "didn't belong" in the music industry, she manages to create a song that's deeply personal yet extremely relatable for anyone who has struggled with their mental health.

she also delivered another iconic music video, paying homage to katy perry's teenage dream album cover and giving dorothy's wizard of oz a fashion forward twist.

while we eagerly await the release of troubled paradise, it seems slayyyter is already "putting the pedal to the metal for my next album", as she revealed in an interview with enfnts terribles.

heidi montag recently posted a video of her and slayyyter in the studio, so hopefully they were recording the y2k hyperpop collaboration we deserve.

5. zara larsson

another person i've never been a Massive Fan of is swedish singer zara larsson, though her 2019 single all the time is an absolute banger.

so when she released the disco-inspired banger look what you’ve done, it definitely took me by surprise.

i'm delighted to see that the sound kylie and dua lipa have brought back to the forefront of pop shows no sign of stopping, though i still found myself disappointed with the majority of her third album poster girl.

naturally i favoured the more upbeat tracks such as title track poster girl - which she says is about her love of smoking weed (?) - along with right here, fff and previously released singles love me land and WOW.

the rest of the album sticks to the ariana grande, RnB-inspired sound she's favoured for most of her career so far, and i wish she would just fully embrace the disco-pop sound.

i will say that watching her live-streamed concert on monday - a collaboration with IKEA that i'm living for - gave me a newfound appreciation for her vocal range and ability to command a stage, but i still don't think we've seen the best of zara yet.

6. mette

one artist who seems to have found their signature sound after just one release is mette, who i came across thanks to an instagram story posted by l devine.

born mette towley, the 29 year old has had an incredibly varied career as a model and actress.

she spent four years as a backing dancer for pharrell, appearing in rihanna's music video for lemon and the 2019 film hustlers, as well as revlon's live boldly campaign along with gal gadot and ashley graham.

however, she describes music as her "first love" in this interview and it's clear that she's poured all her passion into debut single petrified.

drawing from a range of sonic influences, it combines RnB-style beats with a flurry of delicate synths and a huge piano-driven chorus.

lyrically the song might seem like your typical Break Up Song, but mette has described it as an ode to "my oldest friend... my inner child".

when looked at through this lens, the song takes on a new meaning, with a powerful message about learning to trust your instincts and push past any rejections and self-doubt that might have stopped you following your dreams.

but if this is an indication of what to expect from mette, she's got nothing to worry about.

7. the 1975/charli xcx/no rome

after what feels like an eternity, the 1975 and charli xcx finally teamed up for a long-awaited collaboration, and they brought no rome along for the ride too.

while their "supergroup" still doesn't have a name, their song spinning sent their collective fan bases into a frenzy. 

charli described it as "stunning/exquisite/tasteful and chic" and i couldn't have said it better myself.

with plenty of autotuned vocals and the house-inspired production favoured by the 1975's george daniel, it's a testament to their shared vision.

my only complaint is that i would have liked to hear more of matty's vocals, but hopefully the 1975 will add the song to their set list for future shows.

8. armin van buuren/alesso

in the last year i've found myself becoming obsessed with ~dance~ music, to the point that "dance pop" was my most-played genre on spotify last year. 

i'm fairly certain the origin of this is the student night i attended most wednesday nights at PRYZM in kingston between 2014-2017

the venue features several different floors and rooms playing different music, and though i complained every time we weren't in the 80s roomi think i sub-consciously began to enjoy the songs played in the main "dance room", all of which seem to have the exact same beat and synths in the background. 

it's reached the point where my brain automatically classifies them as "PRYZM bops", and now i'm back from uni, i've been able to fully embrace my love of these songs. 

a classic example of this is leave a little love by alesso and armin van buuren, but there's something that sets it apart from every other "PRZYM bop" currently sitting in my spotify playlists, and it begins at 2:29.

that thing is A Key Change, a facet of pop music i've loved ever since i heard i wanna dance with somebodybut the one place i never expected to hear it is the middle of a dance track by two of the world's biggest DJs. 

i've been secretly praying that mainstream pop would one day embrace The Key Change, and now my wishes might finally be coming true.

if armin van buuren and alesso can embrace it, here's hoping other artists and producers will too. 

9. nick jonas 

i know it's only march, but this is heaven is already a strong contender for best song of the year, thanks to its impeccable 80s-inspired sound. 

while it sadly doesn't feature a key change, it has an excellent saxophone solo to rival if you're too shy and it's not living by the 1975, a band who have always been open about their love of the 80s.

it also contains vocals from a gospel choir, another feature of some of my all time favourite songs including like a prayer, if i believe you and the thirty seconds to mars cover of U2's where the streets have no name.

i recently made a power ballads playlist to collate all of my favourite dramatic 80s songs in one place, and while most of the songs are specific to that decade, i also added this is heaven to it. 

much like the key change, i'm praying this song and the recently released supernatural by paloma faith will kickstart what i'm calling The Michael Bolton Resurgence. 

as the true king of power ballads, how can we be lovers is a staple of my playlist, featuring a key change and dramatic guitar solo. 

it's clear that younger artists are now starting to take inspiration from this once-derided genre, so hopefully there's more to come.  

10. bebe rexha 

much like becky hill - who i discussed in this post - bebe rexha is one of those artists who is everywhere and nowhere at the same time. 

despite starting her solo career in 2014 and collaborating with artists such as nicki minaj, lil wayne and more recently doja cati struggle to think of any song of hers that i really love, but that all changed with sacrifice

a marked departure from the RnB and hip-hop inspired sound she's become known for, this is an absolutely Huge Banger that will no doubt be played in every single gay club at full volume once venues reopen, and i'm praying she will continue to embrace this sound on future releases.

 11. ultra naté/mila jam/angelica ross

i discovered this song after my friend suggested that i listen to gaydio, and fierce was one of the first songs i heard when i tuned in to the station.

i've always been aware of it and used to listen to it during my endless days steaming and organising clothes at a fashion showroom back in 2018, but they've definitely improved the playlists since then and i'm living for the mix of "basic" club bangers and songs such as this, which are pretty specific to the gay community.

i quickly added it to my spotify but didn't listen again until a few days ago, and i haven't stopped since.

much like sacrifice, this song would be right at home in a sweaty basement club, though i fear it might be too ~niche~ to ever be played in a mainstream venue.

the collaboration between ultra naté - best known for her 1997 hit free - and transgender actresses mila jam and angelica ross is a clear homage to the ballroom scene of the 1980s/90s and is guaranteed to make you feel like That Bitch each and every time you press play.

Friday 12 February 2021

new (and old) music friday #55: slayyyter, allie x, daya, GRACEY, cascada, rebecca black

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. 

1.  slayyyter

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.

she also announced her debut album of the same name will be released on june 11th, and i'm praying for more Huge Bops and iconic music videos.

2. allie x 

another Absolute Banger i've had on repeat is GLAM! by allie x. 

much like slayyyter, i adored her early releases like catch, prime and bitch as well as the excellent album super sunsetall of which featured an 80s-inspired sound. 

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. 

as she explained in this instagram post, she wanted the track to sound like heaven is a place on earthand the 80s sound that made me fall in love with her can be heard all over the track.

3. daya

i'd never paid much attention to daya until she released bad girl, a mid-tempo synth-driven bop that could only have been written by a scorpio. 

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.

the disco-pop sound can also be found on what are we waiting for? - also with afrojack - and dance it off, her latest collaboration with laidback luke, as well as the dannic remix of said song.

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.

nowhere is this more evident than on the dave audé remix of leann rimes' classic track can't fight the moonlight.

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. 

the first half is absolutely iconic, partly because it contains poison and don't hold your breath, both of which were released as singles and reached the top 10 in the UK charts. 

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. 

as the name suggests, club banger nation deserves to be played at full volume to a heaving crowd at 3am, while say yes is another Huge Bop and my personal favourite from the album.

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.

9. cascada

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. 

while most people know the eurodance group for their Massive Hits like everytime we touch, miracle and evacuate the dancefloor, their album original me didn't receive the same critical acclaim. 

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 famebut 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.