after a shamefully long absence, new music friday is back with all the music i've been loving pre-lockdown.
1. dua lipa
when historians look back at the 2020s (?), they will no doubt categorise our existence on this planet as pre and post future nostalgia, the long-awaited second album from dua lipa (aka dula peep).
before we were blessed with this disco-tinged, pop masterpiece, the world of pop was a sad and barren place, full of "soundcloud rappers" and despacito, something i wrote about at length here. (in that post, i lamented the fact that some of the industry's biggest stars had already reached their peak, but more on that later.)
the last few years have seen me praying for a pop revival that would deliver us iconic bops on a par with bad romance and teenage dream, and it would seem dua lipa answered my prayers with don't start now, the first single from future nostalgia.
prior to this, i'd never been a huge fan of hers, halfheartedly bopping along to new rules and hotter than hell if they appeared on my spotify shuffle, but as soon as i heard don't start now, it felt like a new era for the singer, who already had a string of hit singles and a (highly underwhelming) debut album under her belt.
dua's second album was inspired by both break ups and new love, and the bops kept coming with physical, future nostalgia and break my heart.
this slew of flawless singles sent Gay Twitter into meltdown, and i found myself taking back any criticisms i may have levelled at dua over the years, but of course i still had high hopes for the full album.
my friend kindly sent me a link to the album a few days before it was released - i.e. leaked - which i did feel slightly guilty about, but there was no way i wasn't going to give it a listen. the album tracks feature that same disco-inspired sound as her singles, but for some reason they felt slightly lacklustre in comparison to those songs, which i'd taken great joy in screaming along to in Tha Club every weekend.
now i've had a few weeks to process the album and listen to it all, i do like the majority of tracks - though the less said about good in bed and boys will be boys the better - but i find myself returning back to cool, an impeccable synth-driven bop and one of the few that doesn't contain any disco elements. perhaps that's why it stands out amongst the rest, or maybe it's the work of pet shop boys producer stuart price which gives it a more refined sound. either way, i can't get enough of the track and i only wish the rest of the album measured up.
then soon after the release of future nostalgia, i saw several people tweeting about "side b" of the album, which after a quick search i discovered was a series of unreleased songs that didn't make the cut, and i hate to say it but they were all iconic, particularly if it ain't me, a collaboration with normani that should have been a lead single. again, i feel slightly bad about sharing ~leaked~ songs but if you can get access to them, i'd highly recommend love is religion - an ode to 80s-era madonna -, the euphoric i'm free, along with berlin summer, bad idea, 258 and ball and chain. it's a travesty that these songs won't see the light of day, but that won't stop me playing them on repeat.
so that brings us to post future nostalgia, and already i'm seeing more and more artists embracing a traditionally pop sound, some of which i'll discuss in this post. i'd like to think it's dua's influence seeing as she's now a global superstar, and hopefully it will herald the start of a new era of Huge Bangers from her fellow pop girls.
2. lady gaga
one of those artists is lady gaga, who made her return to the music world with stupid love in february. as i said in this post, i felt she'd hit her peak with the fame monster (though i adored artpop and still do) so this slice of pop perfection couldn't have come at a better time after the country-inspired sound of joanne. once again, Gay Twitter were unstoppable when it came to leaking the song, and i actually heard it in Tha Club several times before it was released, but unlike charli xcx, who scrapped her album xcx world when the entire project leaked, gaga embraced the situation and gave fans what they wanted with an official release. while the release of her fifth album chromatica has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, i'll be playing this on loop while we await what will hopefully be another bop-filled masterpiece.
3. harry styles
as much as i love harry, i found it hard to really get into his second album fine line, which arrived in december last year. in an all too common phenomenon, the singles were excellent, particularly adore you, which i think is by far his best song, but the rest of the album felt slightly more subdued than his self-titled debut, despite his revelation that he'd taken magic mushrooms during the album's creation and wanted to have "more fun" with his songwriting second time around.
lacking a high energy bop like kiwi, the album centres around his most recent Break Up and finds styles in a more reflective mood, something i initially found boring. but i was determined to love the album, so i continued playing it every few days and then suddenly in february, something clicked and i found myself falling (sorry) for every song, even treat people with kindness, which i'd once found insufferable as it reminded me of something from a broadway musical.
tracks like cherry, to be so lonely and falling all deal with the aforementioned Break Up, but there are some moments of joy too, seen with the fleetwood mac inspired golden - which would make an exceptional driving song if i ever overcome my fear of getting behind the wheel and actually learn to drive - along with the super summery bops watermelon sugar and sunflower, vol. 6. there's plenty of drama too, best heard on she, a sumptuous six minute gem chock full of heady guitar solos, and closing track fine line, which never fails to make me tear up.
i can't figure out why i suddenly changed my mind about this album, but i'm glad it was able to work some kind of magic on me. sadly harry's tour has been postponed until next year, so the outfit i'd planned in homage to his look at this year's brit awards won't see the light of day until then, but at least it gives me more time to become word perfect.
4. little mix
another example of 80s-inspired brilliance comes in the form of break up song (i'm sensing a theme here), the newest single from little mix. much like dua lipa, i've always felt they've never released any major bops over the nine (!) years they've been together, and i prayed they would come through one day. that day has finally arrived and i get goosebumps every time i listen to break up song. with a Huge Chorus that pat benatar would be proud of, i'm hoping their next album will contain more of the same, and am envisioning a world tour with pat as the support, bringing her power ballads to the younger portion of the group's fan base and kick starting the 80s pop revival once and for all.
5. mel c
each member of the spice girls has had varying success with their respective solo careers, but lately i've been paying special attention to mel c and her super camp bangers. she kicked things off with high heels last november, a collaboration with drag act sink the pink that quickly became a regular fixture in my Getting Ready playlist, and her latest single who i am contains traces of robyn's club-ready sound.
typically the song was released just days before the UK went into lockdown, so i'm living for the day when the clubs will re-open and i can request the song incessantly. according to a recent guardian interview, mel c has been working on music with shura and little boots, best known for her iconic bangers new in town and remedy, so hopefully by the time we're allowed outside, she might have blessed us with some more new songs.
6. michael medrano
i first became aware of michael medrano when he released the uber dramatic love somebody else back in 2018, and he continues to produce exquisite bops such as fluids and do your thing!, his newest track that features a key change (!), something i've been hoping will return to mainstream pop music one day. but until the rest of the world catches up to his brilliance i'll be playing all these songs at full volume while dreaming of being in Tha Club.
7. breathe carolina
a few months before i stopped posting, i started a new series called throwback thursday, where i planned to discuss albums that my teenage self loved, and though i've not been writing much, i've still been re-listening to said albums.
one of those is hello fascination by pop punk/electronic duo breathe carolina, the title track of which still Goes Off. so imagine my joy when i discovered they were still making music and released an album last year. the pop punk influences have been stripped back but their new electro-pop sound is one i can't get enough of. i'd highly recommend too good, july, think about you, dead and drive, and am eagerly awaiting the day they'll tour the UK.