Is it premature if I spend today packing my winter wardrobe up and replacing it with my summer stuff? I bought some cute new clothes yesterday, once I realised my last six or seven purchases had been extremely cozy girl and… oh sorry, just trying on a fashion blogger hat in this music space because why not? The hint of good weather, and my dad’s philosophical return to twitter has me feeling my limitless potential right now. The weather is gonna be banging all the way up until Sunday, so hopefully New Music Friday is delivering some absolutely stellar tunes for the playlist. The latest podcast episode is up if you haven’t listened yet, do play it, and do tell a friend. Otherwise find the best picks on the 2018 playlist and send me some new shit here. May your boss send a company-wide email allowing you to leave at 4pm today – enjoy the sunshine!
ARIANA GRANDE – ‘NO TEARS LEFT TO CRY’ ☑
I won’t trouble you with a rehash of how significant this release is for Ariana Grande, but suffice to say, it’s a pivotal moment. Ariana has been threatening proper stardom since her debut, but it wasn’t until the bridging single ‘Focus’ that the icon jumped out and although the Dangerous Woman era wasn’t necessarily the huge commercial success it deserved to be, it’s been pretty clear that she’s light years ahead of her contemporaries for a long while. It’s due to tragic circumstances that all eyes are on Ariana right now, why this song is probably the biggest pop event of the year, but just as she did in the immediate aftermath of that situation, she has absolutely delivered. ‘No Tears Left To Cry’ is a stunning song, it marries Ariana’s classic R&B sensibilities with updated production, what sounds like an actual celestial choir on BVs and a truly uplifting and empowering message born from utter sincerity. This song feels like Ariana at her most authentic, the exact sweet spot of her artistic leaning and what will spin commercially. And the chorus sounds like ‘Summer Of Love’ by Steps! What an absolute mood for 2018.
ANNE-MARIE – ‘2002’ ☑
I have endured a “teaser” campaign which involved Ed Sheeran (a co-writer on this song) commenting on Anne-Marie’s Instagram photos asking her to drop this track. The main conceit of ‘2002’ is the chorus which incorporates the song titles from no less than two Britney songs, one from *NSYNC, a Nelly hit, a JAY-Z classic and even a little Dr Dre reference. The problem with this conceit is that most of the tracks mentioned are from the year 2000, one is from as early as 1998 and ’99 Problems’ didn’t land until 2003, so unless Anne-Marie is some kind of Back To The Future style time traveller… the idea doesn’t exactly land. But I’m being pernickety. The song itself is actually a sweet, lilting mid-tempo, drenched in warm nostalgia and perfect for this good weather we’re having right now. The Anne-Marie album is shaping up very nicely.
KHALID, 6LACK & TY DOLLA $IGN – ‘OTW’ ☑
Khalid is just so prolific at the moment, it’s hard to keep up with his output. Is ‘OTW’ a lead into Khalid’s sophomore era or just a loosie to keep the engine oiled and the momentum going? It certainly sounds like the next phase of his artistic development – it has the elements that made American Teen such an instant debut – now something slightly more expensive, reflective of the lifestyle he is now immersed in. Just a year or so ago, he was worried about his car smelling like weed and his mum killing him for it. Now he’s cruising around in a droptop Porsche and dripping that velvet vocal over some darker, more mature, beats. Ty Dolla $ign and 6LACK put in a verse each, neither of which sound remotely phoned in, because despite being everywhere right now, a Khalid collaboration is always one that makes sense. Love this artist, love to see him grow.
LIAM PAYNE & J. BALVIN – ‘FAMILIAR’ ☑
An apt title for a song that sounds like it could be anything from a Blue album track to Drake’s ‘One Dance’ or Believe-era Bieber bonus track and something Jason Derulo could have injected some personality into. I can’t quite put my finger on what exactly this song reminds me of, but I’ll be sure to tweet it when I do. Since it sounds exactly like the 2002 Anne-Marie was banging on about, I actually quite like this song, but I wish it came from a less embarrassing artist. To even refer to Liam Payne as a Justin Timberlake knock-off is like… somehow offensive? Justin didn’t grind from middle school to his mid-20s to have this cos-player glean off any of his reflected shine, even if we’re being derogatory about it. Closer to Kevin Federline, then, but even that’s not right either, since K-Fed, despite his many shortcomings, was at least able to dance. No, what Liam is, and I say this with respect, is British. There is something so unwaveringly, solidly Midlands about him that no matter how much he tries to convince us that the Barlow of One Direction is now an insatiable hypebeast, he will only ever carry it off with the ease of that alien from Men In Black inhabiting the flesh sock of the hick he sucked the insides out of. I will listen to this, but only through headphones, and I’ll turn off Spotify session sharing when I do.
BLOSSOMS – ‘THERE’S A REASON WHY (I NEVER RETURNED YOUR CALLS)’
Listening to these songs is like the most sickening form of déjà vu, like… I know I listen to the same one every week, by a different band, but I can’t remember which is which and who is who, and why am I listening to this fuzzy, indie bollocks, why won’t Spotify fucking spare me? You know what annoys me most? There is absolutely no way a woman would be allowed to have such a flat, tuneless vocal and a terrible haircut and be successful. The bar is so criminally low.
FOLLY RAE – ‘SNIPER’
Folly Rae’s bio says her style is a cross between Lana Del Rey, Zara Larsson and Ellie Goulding, and I’m sorry but, no. This is wholesale lifted from Sigrid. I don’t dislike it or anything, it’s absolutely a compliment to sound like Sigrid, but… this is just Sigrid, like… it sounds exactly like Sigrid. I have already pledged my allegiance to Sigrid. I don’t need another Sigrid.
RAMZ – ‘FAMILY TREE’
The follow up to ‘Barking’ failed to chart, and I can’t see ‘Family Tree’ doing much either. I would like for the factory responsible for manufacturing all these extremely basic xylophone beats to cease production and close down. A plague!
SEAN PAUL – ‘TIP PON IT’ ft. MAJOR LAZER
I have a lot of time for Sean Paul but not a lot of love for this track. The usual character of his songs – and Sean Paul songs do have character, whether you like that character or not – is missing, lost in the generic production. It sounds nothing like Craig David and yet, it has an aura of him… That’s a par, in case it wasn’t clear.
NAUGHTY BOY, RAY BLK & WYCLEF JEAN – ‘ALL OR NOTHING’
I love RAY BLK’s voice but this song is boring, it’s not quite light enough to breeze on my summer playlists and it doesn’t hit the heart enough to become an emotional fave. “When I said I want TLC, didn’t mean somebody who creeps” is a great lyric though. Also did, I blink and miss Wyclef’s part? Such a minimal contribution it’s barely worth it.
NINES – ‘RUBBER BANDS’ ft. RAY BLK & SKRAPZ
This is fine. Like, it’s fine. Is this the best on offer on album release day, for Nines? Like, I will not be listening to this album based on this track – though RAY BLK, again, sounds incredible on it – it’s a bit… sludgy. Listen, every single song I have heard since Khalid has just been like some excruciating marathon distance between me and replaying the new Ariana, I’m sorry if I can’t offer up any proper critique right now, be grateful I listened this far at all.