New Music Friday #21

It would be an understatement to say that this is a sombre New Music Friday. If you follow along with the playlist it opens with Ariana Grande’s 2015 single – ‘One Last Time’ which currently sits at #1 on iTunes as people adopt it as the tribute song to the people who died or were injured in Monday night’s terrorist attack in Manchester. The pop twitter community was hit hard by not only a personal loss, but by an attack on a space where so many of us have had “irl” encounters. I have felt crushingly overwhelmed all week, so I can’t even imagine how hard it has been for those directly affected. If you want to help them you can donate to the Manchester Evening News fund for families of the victims. I have also closed out with Oasis – ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ which spontaneously united the crowd in Manchester in song after yesterday’s minute silence, in just the most perfect display of togetherness. In between, there’s actually some really great new music out today. Click HERE to listen along, and enjoy the sun today.

Debuting on Blonded Radio – Frank Ocean’s Beats show – last week, this is actually the first time I’ve heard ‘RAF’ an ode to designer Raf Simons. I’m confused as to which “version” of the track this is since I didn’t listen to the show and as far as I’m aware there are two different Frank Ocean verses in existence, but this one I enjoyed just fine, Frank rapping instead of lending his distinctive croon to proceedings. The all star cast of this collaboration are very much flexing for the gram on this fashion loving joint, but I’m into it.

Opening with that Madonna – ‘Lucky Star’ intro sound, ‘Cut To The Feeling’ is a three-and-a-half minute 80s influenced dancefloor filler so typical of the Queen of 80s influenced dancefloor fillers. Sparse, handclap percussive verses burst into a full, shimmering chorus while the lyrics are the special Carly Rae blend of sugar sweet and yearning. I would have liked to hear something less… reductive of herself from Carly Rae but this cut is apparently a leftover from the E·MO·TION sessions that has ended up on the soundtrack for a movie, so I’ll allow this lack of progression.

Dagny is part of that Scandi stable (which also includes Sigrid, Astrid S, Tove Styrke) that I’m obsessed with right now. ‘Wearing Nothing’ has arrived just at a time where my brain must be figuring out the pattern because it has exposed to me how similar all that Scandi pop actually is. The almost half-spoken verses, yelping hooks, icy production… don’t get me wrong it’s a vibe, but maybe too much of a good thing? Anyway, Dagny’s take on wanting to get naked with someone is highkey relatable and regardless of the samey sound, also highkey listenable.

I didn’t realise this was an instant grat when I listened to it yesterday, which kinda goes against the New Music Friday “rules” but… well it’s too late now. ‘Strangers’ is an important song in context – an explicitly queer (check the pronouns) duet between two bisexual women of colour – one of whom is a member of a commercially successful girlband. Halsey has been open about her sexuality since the beginning of her career and her sexuality has always been part of her appeal. For Lauren, who I think was outed by fans and then Perez Hilton, being an LGBT role model has far more been foisted upon her, but she absolutely has to be commended by how visible and vocal she has been in the months since. LGBT representation in mainstream pop leans heavily towards the white gay man and calls it progress – which it is! – but my heart warms a lot to think about how many young girls will feel seen by these singers and this song. Also important to note, that even without the context, this is a gorgeously sad song and Lauren’s vocals are as much the highlight here as they are in everything she contributes to Fifth Harmony.

God I do love Hanson, but this is not a classic from them. It sounds like the kind of instrumental you get playing under twee YouTuber videos. Hard pass, but I cannot wait to see them live in a couple of weeks.

A light, lilting reggae-tinged track from Lil Yachty that succeeds at being inspirational and uplifting (if a tiny bit cheesy) in a way Hanson failed to. Stefflon Don puts in a blink and you’ll miss it verse that doesn’t add but doesn’t take anything away either. This is so summery and cute I can’t help but sway to it.

My favourite song from the Little Mix album gets a Stormzy touch. Firstly, WHERE ARE ALL MY MOTORBIKES? Secondly, isn’t Stormzy just a total babe? His verse largely hinges around the message of him wanting his power to sit alongside the power of his girl, not eclipse or control it, which is exactly how his presence on the track has worked out. With ‘Hair’ which was a fuck you break up anthem diminished by letting the male voice clapback in the middle 8, while ‘Power’ (which is especially great if you think of it as a pegging anthem) has actually been, if not elevated, certainly not reduced by a male feature. Stormzy, man. I just love him so much.

I was expecting more from this song but I don’t know why, since Martin Garrix is a woefully one-note producer. Troye Sivan tends to have much more personality in his voice, but he must be as bored of this song as I am because there is nothing to suggest he is even “there” on the song, never mind there for anyone in any kind of emotional capacity. Dull.

Nick Jonas is ED-R&B now, is it? Well, whatever. Mike Posner completely drags down what is otherwise a perfectly serviceable funk-flavoured jam. Lead single material, it ain’t. But Nick Jonas has been suffering from an identity crisis ever since he unceremoniously imploded the Jonas Brothers and this is the closest he’s got to what I think of as a more authentic him since. If he had any sense he’d shanghai Niall Horan and take ‘Slow Hands’ for himself. In the meantime, this will do, I suppose.

Pia Mia popped up on Kylie Jenner’s social media for the first time in a long time recently, so I really should have guessed new music was coming. Unfortunately ‘I’m A Fan’ is completely unremarkable – which is not to say bad, it’s just that I don’t really care to hear it again.

The Queen of Kosovo returns! Has it been worth the wait? Well… yes and no. ‘Your Song’ is tropical house, but more house than tropical, so it sounds on-trend but not tired. The Ed Sheeran BVs I could do without, and this is clearly only the lead because of his co-write, but you know what? He’s done alright. The verses are very noticeably basic and Sheeran-esque but Rita has clearly come out of this session better off than other artists who might have bagged a Sheeran cut lately, since the lyrics are just overly descriptive and not… trash. There’s a really nice drive to the melody, her voice sounds clear and fresh above the mix, and with any luck there’s better (see: the rumoured Charli XCX and MØ collaboration) to come.

I had no idea Shakira was coming back, but as far as I can tell this is a Spanish-language album which would explain why there isn’t the notable excitement I would expect around a new Shakira release. ‘Nada’ is a bit of a boring ballad, but it’s nice to hear her distinctive tones again nonetheless.

Follow my 2017 playlist here…


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