New Music Friday #65

Before I went to bed last night, Hayley Kiyoko was sitting at the top of the New Music Friday playlist. Of course The Weeknd dropped his new EP a little bit later and male privilege knocked everything down one – so we won’t be discussing Kylie today – but for a brief still second, everything was right in the world. Anyway at a glance, it looks like we’re rounding out Q1 with a last minute burst of good songs (it’s been a little bit of a wilderness, let’s be honest) and finally some albums worth listening to! Hayley, The Weeknd, Kacey Musgraves and, as I have literally just been informed, The Aces who are streaming exclusively on NPR. Issa GOOD Friday, y’all! Admin on my side has been lax of late, I’ll admit, but all new fave tracks will hit the 2018 playlist today and as usual you can send me recommendations for the podcast here. Three eps will drop on bank holiday Monday (I got busy and there was an editing backlog) and then we’ll be back on track. Enjoy your Easter, my lil bunnies.

It’s so weird to think sometimes that The Weeknd went from like… a soundcloud hit for “the cool kids” to one of the biggest male popstars in the world in what feels like a split second. It’s even weirder because I was actually around for the early mixtapes when they were happening, instead of catching up late, as is usually my style. ‘Call Out My Name’ is more House Of Balloons than Starboy – the name of the EP being My Dear Melancholy, was probably a giveaway we weren’t getting exuberant sparkly pop with a dark twist – and I’d forgotten how much I kinda miss that side of The Weeknd as an artist. Brooding and sodden with, yes, melancholy, this isn’t a track for your main playlists, because you don’t wanna get hit with this maudlin mood like a mack truck as you’re going about your every day. For lying in the dark and lamenting your screwed up love life, though? It’s perfect.

When you get distracted by the “lesbian Jesus” mythology of Hayley Kiyoko, it’s easy to forget that queer representation aside, she’s essentially just a really good pop girl, no more or less exciting as an artist than say a Demi Lovato or a Katy Perry or an Ariana Grande. (And for the record, we’re still talking extremely high calibre pop music here). So, no, ‘What I Need’ doesn’t exactly break new ground sonically – it’s fizzy, pink, lemonade pop, and kinda reminds me of a slightly more upbeat ‘Jinx’ by DNCE – but far be it for me to remove the context of a lesbian and a bisexual popstar singing a romantic duet to each other: I get that it makes a difference. ‘What I Need’ doesn’t have the same bite as ‘Curious’ or the liberating euphoria of ‘Feelings’ but it’s still a hugely listenable, well-crafted pop song and I cannot wait to hear the whole album later.

Absolutely no offence to Zak Abel, but I feel like I have been hearing his name for a million years and like… he is still yet to release a song that would make me tell a friend. It’s a shame because his voice is undeniable but the music is almost exceptional in how boring it is. This track being judged the third song the British public needs to hear this week is mind-blowing. The production sounds tinny, the vocal hollow. It’s like an Olly Murs track without the personality. Can you imagine even saying an Olly Murs track without the personality without feeling like you’re speaking in paradoxes? Yet that’s what this song has done to me. It has me thinking Olly Murs songs have personality, by comparison. I’m stressed.

Ah, this is more like what I expect from Charlie Puth. After being fooled by the Boyz II Men stylings of his Boyz II Men duet and the ‘P.Y.T.’ vibe of the Kehlani collab, here’s a cloying, schmaltzy, finger snapping mid-tempo to remind me I don’t like this artist even a little bit. It seems odd that these two white dudes, who I am assuming are straight, are singing a duet about love equality, and the cynic in me can’t help but feel like it doesn’t come from a place any more genuine than “this is the kind of message that sells”, but whatever. The point is that it’s not very good. And what kind of album is he releasing, by the way, because none of these songs have sounded like they have any connection to each other.

To bastardise the words of the inestimably magnificent Cher – “Whats going on with mysigrid”? ‘Raw’ was a bit of an unexpected change of pace after the ginormous bangerness of ‘Strangers’ but it has definitely grown on me, and I expect that in the context of a body of work it will further make more sense. But this is just… another one of these dull stripped back tracks? It’s pretty – the piano is twinkly – but pretty boring. I can’t imagine even enjoying this as an album track. What’s the long game? Momentum is lost. My interest is dampened. I reckon we have three more servings of this bollocks to come as well.

I’m harsh on The Vaccines every time they pop up on New Music Friday, but this track very much gives me “opening credit montage of Lindsay Lohan getting ready for school in the mid-00s teen movie she is starring in” and I’m not mad about it. Never gonna listen to it again, of course, but I appreciate the nostalgia kick.

The component artists on this track are Ne-Yo – who I am indifferent to, Bebe Rexha – who I want eradicated from the face of the planet, and Stefflon Don – who I want to be one of the biggest stars in the world. The track itself is neither here or there – island-flavour dance pop, you’ve heard this a million times before – and so whether you can you bring yourself to care about this is gonna depend on whether you like who is serving it up. I personally average out at “meh” and I won’t be making time for this. I’ve already forgotten how it goes and it only just ended.

The streaming numbers on the past two James Bay releases do not justify me having to listen to him for a third time because he’s placed in the top 10 of the New Music Friday playlist. It’s so so wild to me that anyone can have this kind of song be their favourite type of music. I know they exist, but I can’t wrap my head around it. I feel so shouted at and distressed, and confused because if I hadn’t seen the credits I wouldn’t even know which of the endless reams of major label guitar men was even yelling at me.

Why does this open with the piano intro from ABBA’s ‘Money, Money, Money’? Is it a mistake?? I’m so disoriented! The gospel-tinged Sam Smith parts of this track are perfectly fine – not anything I would care to listen to in my free time, but I understand why he shifts albums. The Logic feature I don’t really understand – he’s got quite an annoying tone and the lyrics are lightweight and generic compared to Sam’s more heartfelt, personal contribution. Still, he’s a very successful artist at the moment and the releases since the lead single from this Sam album have underperformed, so from a business point of view it makes sense. For my money, if you like this, listen to the album version instead.

I was initially thrown by the spoken verses – which I’m not keen on – but as the song progresses they begin to make more sense. This absolutely sounds like a sermon and a hymn, the verses like the lesson being preached and the bridge and chorus serving like the intermittent choir breaks. ‘Nostalgia’ is taking me to church, is what I’m saying. Pop music at its best. Brilliant. This will chart at like #76 and I’ll seethe for eternity.


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