Face to face with some great songs you may have missed…

Before I get into some of the songs from the lower reaches of this week’s NMF, I just want to confess something and issue a retraction. Firstly, I have never ever lied on this blog before. Even if I have sometimes changed my mind later down the line, whenever I write in the moment it is always my genuine and present thoughts. I don’t get paid to do this, I don’t have any PR reps or pals to keep onside, so you can trust there is no agenda other than I am a narcissist who likes to loudly share her opinions. But last week, I was… at the very least, ambiguous, about something I don’t like, and the dishonesty is weighing on my conscience!!! So I just need to say, definitively: I don’t rate ‘Small Talk’ by Katy Perry. I let the fact that I love Katy and genuinely want her to bounce back out of the sort of rut she’s been in, plus everyone on the timeline (and every other review that was already out by the time I woke up) saying it was one of the best songs she’s ever released and I was too tired to fight, influence my thoughts. The truth is, I was underwhelmed from the beginning and the “sliced bread” lyric absolutely murdered any goodwill I was mustering to consider it a grower. I haven’t played it since. If you read the review back, I guess I was careful not to be super enthused about it, but I think it probably seems like I think ‘Small Talk’ is good and I do not. I just want to be clear. I wish her the absolute best though, I hope it still does well even if I do not care for it!

Anyway, with that off my chest, here are this week’s hidden gems!


Brand new artist AWA makes an excellent first impression on this ever so slightly problematic jam about needing to be treated badly by a lover because it helps inspiration flow better. I’m mostly kidding about the problematic thing – I mean, did she lie? When was the last time an artist in love wrote anything decent? How are you all enjoying those new Taylor Swift songs, huh? EXACTLY. AWA, (Swedish, winner of the first season of The X Factor, in that country aged just 15!) is joined by Ebenezer (British, behind ’53 Sundays’, a song I was lowkey obsessed with last year) on the track, proving American quality R&B doesn’t necessarily always come out of America.


Ariana’s buddies dropped an EP off the back of their collaboration and while I haven’t got round to listening to it yet, this is the track that popped up on the NMF playlist. It’s got a Michael Jackson-via-The Weeknd vibe to it, also if you pattern it, the verses sound a bit like the verses on Ari’s ‘NASA’, particularly the fact that every line ends in “tonight”. It’s not exactly the same but enough to hook my ear as a vaguely familiar melody. It’s a catchy little shoulder shrugger.


I know not everyone is a fan of the downbeat pop age we find ourselves in – I, myself, grow tired of it – and yes, the beats are very dulled and unobtrusive (and samey, god! so samey!) but a strong melody or a clever lyric can always transcend – and this track has both. Also in fairness to the beat, there’s a lovely, juddering electronic sound happening in the mix that sets it apart from other songs in this lane. It sounds kind of warped, which is appropriate for another problematique song about the romance of toxic relationships. It’s all good fun though, right!?! I’m starting to fear end of the world fever has these girls not knowing their worth.


ieuan has the type of clear, smooth vocal it’s almost comforting to listen to, and this vaguely haunting, dystopian “fear of tech” song gives me a mid-00s Darren Hayes-lite vibe. On a tangent, I think about Liam Payne and his wholly unconvincing pivot to R&B/hip hop far more regularly than I would like to, but there’s just something so (or at least… qwhite) fascinating about the cringe of it all. I think it’s the aggression at which it was tackled, perhaps. You can’t just go from Gary Barlow to Justin Timberlake without showing the six degrees of separation first. And so I often find myself listening to the more mellow, R&B pop tracks with male vocals that hit NMF every other week or so, and thinking “this would have been a good first step for Liam Payne, kinda let’s you know the destination he has in mind, but doesn’t veer too far off the path he’s already on”. Maybe not this song exactly, but something like it.


Looking at the biog for VALERAS “a busy year supporting The Wombats, Greta Van Fleet, The Amazons, Fickle Friends…” and feeling very “I don’t go here”, but actually! Bands with female vocalists playing music that would fit nicely onto the soundtrack of any teen movie released between 2001-2004 is super my bag, so it turns out VALERAS are in fact “for me”, and this hooky, melodic guitar-pop isn’t all that off brand after all. The other good thing about this song is that it reminded me Hey Charlie exist – another band in that teen movie soundtrack pack that I recommend to anyone who is into that as much as I am.


DRAM, the cutest, most sunshiney rapper that isn’t Chance, teams up with H.E.R., multi-talented future icon and watt, the man behind some of the biggest pop hits of the past few years, for a layered, soulful addition to any sex playlist. There’s a weird verse towards the end built around a phone signal metaphor, but that aside I can’t fault this song.


Imagine Justin Bieber’s Believe album (his best album!) reproduced to sound like 2019 and not 2012, and you would have a vague approximation of the wave this song is on. Melodically it is very reminiscent of ‘Catching Feelings’ in particular, which is probably why I like it so much as that was one of my fave Bieber tracks at the time. An anthem for people who form online crushes, I think of Zac Efron when I listen to this.


Ceraadi are a sibling duo with a complicated backstory (they were originally a four-member girlband which included their other two sisters and first came into the public eye on a reality show starring Christina Milian according to the quick Google search I just did) but there is nothing complicated about ‘Dumbstruck’! A bubblegum R&B love song which sees the sisters bounce off of each other (one rapping, one singing) it manages to sound fresh and old-school at the same time, a proper classic bop.

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