Hello friends, and first and foremost let me say, the podcast is hella late again, I know, but for the past week and the next three my time is not my own! A bitch busy, namsayin. And on that note, I have to announce a hiatus on What’s Poppin’ because I need those weekends back to work on… something else. You know I’ve done a lot of learning this year about what workload I can handle without dropping the ball, and a sacrifice has to be made. I’m gonna be back with a season 2 in June (9th), and I guess a slight format change, though I haven’t given it much thought. Please do “feedback” to me if you’re a listener, since I would be interested to know what you like and what you don’t, and look out for the On The Latch cross-over ep in the next couple of days. Because there will be no podcast, I’ll be doing some bonus rounds on the blog to cover off any key new releases, such as the new one from Christina Aguilera which fell just outside the top ten this morning, and I’m still always wanting to hear your recommendations so drop them into this playlist here or @ me on Twitter. Best bits from this week on the main playlist. Here are my thoughts…
JESS GLYNNE – ‘I’LL BE THERE’
Jess Glynne, with all her #1 singles, is the UK’s most successful female artist, on that metric. The only Jess Glynne song I could hum to you, confidently, knowing I was correct in thinking that it was the right melody and also attributable to this artist, is the Clean Bandit collaboration that launched her. And yet somehow, I still know that this song sounds exactly like every other track she has ever released. Perhaps that is the appeal of Jess Glynne? The reliable release of a song you’ve heard her sing before, the one that sounds like Brexit street parties, fun for all the we-buy-one-album-every-quarter-and-we-buy-it-in-Tescos family? I forgot how ‘I’ll Be There’ sounded as soon as it stopped playing, but the vague mood of it is still hanging over me, just like… a bit echoey and celtic. I like to pretend I don’t understand the success of an artist so dull it’s almost a defiance, but I do. People are just fucking basic.
MARSHMELLO X JUICY J – ‘YOU CAN CRY’ ft. JAMES ARTHUR
Marshmello doesn’t miss a beat with this moody production, but James Arthur’s nasally congested upper register is absolutely curdling. Juicy J isn’t inspiring much in me either, with some rote lyrics about being on the grind. The most interesting thing about this track is that it proves however skilful a producer may be, and really this is the first combo breaker of bangers in a long chain for Marshmello, you ain’t shit without decent artists on the topline.
GRM DAILY – ‘LONDON’S CALLING’ ft. SKRAPZ, AVELINO, ASCO, LOSKI & AJ TRACEY
Some of London’s finest grime talent come together on four full minutes of bars over a dramatic, orchestral beat. Deceptively low energy on first impression, perhaps because I was expecting such a line up to be trying to out do one another, a second play had me sucked in. Lyrically dense, so not really one to interrupt the main playlist but I’m gonna stick this on one of my offshoots.
FLORENCE + THE MACHINE – ‘HUNGER’ ☑
I love millennial anxiety jams and ‘Hunger’ is a platinum example of how to turn angst into bangers. Florence alternates between almost chatty delivery and her usual whoop-and-wail in this yearning for the same freedoms of “the youth of today”. The next generation have their own problems, of course, it’s a bit “the grass is greener”, but that feeling of knowing then what we know now and wishing we could turn the clock back is relatable, I think, as the clock ticks us closer to our thirties. I’m not sure when I would listen to this, since that vaguely tribal, percussive, spacey-ness isn’t really my bag, but I do like this song a lot.
LSD – ‘GENIUS’ ☑
It’s interesting isn’t it, that Labrinth is the same amount of time on from his debut album as Rita Ora, and definitely hasn’t had the consistent success – on and off the charts – as Rita in the meantime, but no one would ever lay the “who?” card on him. Just an observation. Anyway, he is of course one of this countries best musical talents, and as such I will always root for him. This collaboration with Sia and Diplo seems to suggest a more long-term project, like, since they’ve got this awfully-clever new band name (LSD! LOL!!!!) but on the other hand perhaps they just really wanted to make a hallucinogenics reference, and this track is a one off. What Diplo and Sia are contributing exactly, I’m not sure, since I only hear Lab in the production, and even the topline has more than just a touch of his flourishes. It’s an usual pop song, but absolutely top class, and I’m super into it.
SHAWN MENDES – ‘YOUTH’ ft. KHALID ☑
Like Charlie Puth with Boyz II Men, Shawn Mendes made a mistake inviting Khalid onto his track to show up his noodley-arm voice compared to the rippling muscle of Khalid’s croon. The exposing of Shawn’s weakness aside, this is the best track I’ve heard of this campaign so far, that Joel Little production blending all the elements – gentle guitar, sparse but thudding drums, vocal harmonies – into a song that could comfortably fit on either artist’s full-length, a perfect marriage of their styles. Honestly could not be any more grateful for how in demand Khalid is at the moment. We love a prolific talent!
TROYE SIVAN – ‘BLOOM’ ☑
That neon light, 80s influenced, Carly Rae Jepsen baiting sound comes to the Troye Sivan project in a much less wholesome way than we’re used to. ‘Bloom’ is a “first time” song at face value, and more specifically to 20gayteen, a whole ass ode to bottoming (pun intended). Lyrically, the metaphors are Gwen Stefani subtle – gardens, fountains, gas in the motor, the very concept of blooming – but I quite enjoy the coy-but-not-really mood of it all. It isn’t quite as propulsive and fun as ‘My My My!’ but I suspect it will age better, a more classic pop track.
RAYE – ‘CONFIDENCE’ ft. MALEEK BERRY & NANA ROGUES
Taken from Raye’s new Side Tape (and someone please tell me what this is, I’m only just getting my head around the fact that people release “mixtapes” that are basically albums), it’s a completely new vibe for her, since it doesn’t sound like Charli XCX or sample a song I already know. I have been asking for Raye to show us who she is as an artist for time now, but typically ungrateful, now that it’s here, I’m not sure I give a shit. There’s nothing wrong with this song, a very light, breezy kinda melody that lends itself to whistling as you walk down the street, but there’s not much right with it either. Like so much pop music I listen to at the moment, it just… happens. And so what? I do like the idea of Raye though, and I’m excited to watch her open for the good sis Rita later this month, so I’ll be striving to enjoy this more than it deserves.
YOGI – ‘BABY’ ft. MALEEK BERRY, RAY BLK & KID INK ☑
Maleek Berry on the feature again, this time in the company of RAY BLK and Kid Ink for a Yogi production. RAY dominates – that super Noughties hook and a better verse than either of the dudes – and this is a sundown on the rooftop after a day spent in the sunshine jam that might be my fave release of the week.
JULIA MICHAELS – ‘JUMP’ ft. TRIPPIE REDD
Ol’ Mumble Mouth is back with another track, “jarm” stylised as ‘Jump’. How does anyone listen to this chick and take her seriously? Like, how does your brain not get snagged on the absolutely intolerable way she enunciates? Ariana Grande cops a lot of flack for not making her words clear, but Julia Michaels affected style of singing is far more offensive since she doesn’t even have the range to support it. Another pop song that just “happens”, though I feel like it could have been better with a different vocal.
CHRISTINA AGUILERA – ‘ACCELERATE’ ft. 2 CHAINZ & TY DOLLA $IGN ☑
The first new music from Christina Aguilera in six years, and I understand why the diehards might feel a little disappointed. For someone who hasn’t fully enjoyed a Christina album since Stripped however, the expectations were not so much low, as non-existent, and as such, I’m surprised by how forward thinking this track is. Sure, she could have released another loud, wailing pop tune and threw herself full (your) body against the same immovable wall of indifference she found herself facing during the Bionic and Lotus eras, or she could deliver something both interesting and current, curtail the vocal theatrics, and recruit two of the most in demand feature rappers to bring in new ears. I’m actually madly excited to hear this album now, whereas previously I couldn’t have cared less. Somewhere between the retro-stylings of ‘Ain’t No Other Man’ and the dated electro of ‘Not Myself Tonight’ people forgot that Christina is extremely confident, maybe even masterful, in a more hip hop and R&B arena, and a return to that sound should be celebrated. ‘Accelerate’ is grown up, but still young enough to be relevant, and reminds me a little of ‘Desnudate’, one of her most under rated cuts. But I understand why pop twitter is uncertain. Hold tight though, if you’re missing her signature runs, you know she can never keep them restrained for long.