Honestly, the state of NMF UK today. How is a YONAKA cover of Taylor Swift sitting in second place on the playlist while Normani – trending worldwide still, the only artist everyone is talking about right now – is languishing at #12? Very embarrassing. And I like YONAKA, don’t get me wrong, but… this ranking? A mess. Hell even the Swae Lee and Drake track is nowhere to be seen. And here I am trawling thru all these polyphonic UK beats like an eedyat. Anyways. The banner releases for this week to follow, check back on Wednesdays for some less-well known finds, and a happy birth of a superstar day to one and all, but especially Madonna and Normani.
JORJA SMITH – ‘BE HONEST’ ft. BURNA BOY
Doth mine ears deceive? Is this an upbeat Jorja Smith song? With a Burna Boy feature? Wellety well! Easily her best release since the Preditah feature a couple of years ago, Ms Jorja is feeling! ha! self! on this sexy lil seduction tune, and good for her. If I were to… be honest… this is one of those songs that feels like you’re listening to it forever even though it’s of a pretty regular 3 and half min length, I was a little bit disinterested by the end, but in general I like this. I hope this is a sign of a less slow jam and ballad direction for Jorja in future.
MILEY CYRUS – ‘SLIDE AWAY’
Miley is just being Miley lately and it can be very exhausting to try to keep up, so I have decided not to. In contrast to what feels like a very noisy separation from her husband of less than one year, Liam Hemsworth, ‘Slide Away’ is chill, poolside playlist if you’re on your holidays vibes. Lyrically there is no attempt to be coy – this is Miley’s break up song. For the curious (nosey!) it’s interesting to hear her side of the story, but the scenarios described are so intrinsically tied to Miley’s specific situation (unless everyone has both oceanside and city residences they flit between?) that it’s hard to listen to without feeling like I am, unwillingly, being drawn into the aforementioned noise.
TAYLOR SWIFT – ‘LOVER’
The title track of Taylor Swift’s upcoming album is a pleasant listen, if a little harsh on the ears for a track that is aiming for that first dance at weddings lane. I’m sort of intrigued by this Taylor era – unlike Reputation, where she deliberately withdrew, Lover seems to be business as usual promotion-wise, but it feels sort of flat. The fervour that usually reaches even me in the lead up to a Taylor album just isn’t there. I have no doubt she’ll be as successful as ever, but it does seem like something has changed.
SHURA – ‘SIDE EFFECTS’
A few years back I livetweeted my first listen of the first Shura album – one I found to be a perfectly okay record, if a little done. It was nothing I hadn’t heard before, was my only real criticism, which is why I felt miffed when Shura herself replied “lol” or something along those lines, because I think it’s a bit off when artists actively seek out “negative” commentary online. Especially since my comments were pretty neutral. I most certainly did not @ her! Happily, I have really, really enjoyed the more recent Shura material – f I were to livetweet I would say so! – and ‘Side Effects’ is no exception. Rich, layered production and melodies that stick. It’s so floaty and sweet. Love it!
NORMANI – ‘MOTIVATION’
I have been planning what to say about this song since I first listened to it a week or so ago and now that the moment has come, I feel completely blocked up by all the thoughts I have. Firstly: the song itself. Managing to sound exactly like my youthful years in the golden age of pop R&B but also the future, ‘Motivation’ incorporates horns (an underused but always game-changing instrument), drums that remind of ‘Check On It’, a hook that is memorable after just one single listen and even more besides. It’s bright, it’s fresh, it’s summery and it lends itself to all occasions. You got a BBQ? Car ride? Dance floor? Group hang? Play this song! Crucially it is so radio friendly it should really be reported to HR for being over familiar. Simply put, it sounds like a smash. I don’t want to speak too long on the video, because you can see for yourself what that did, but wow, such a moment. Perfection. Completely faultless. What an arrival! And the tributes? We stan a pop star who is also an HISTORIAN. I’m obsessed. As for Normani herself? I could go for days, truly, but I think Ellis put it best in a voice note this morning when he said that this artist, this video, this song – this is what we have as a benchmark now. When we say “future superstar” THIS is what we’re talking about. It looks different. It feels different. The pop landscape shifts to accommodate. I keep saying we do not deserve this, but we do. We do deserve. We deserve pop this good. Normani is here.
MUNA – ‘STAYAWAY’
Fuck you, MUNA.
BROCKHAMPTON – ‘BOY BYE’
I don’t watch Strictly, so I’m no expert on the names of ballroom dances, but the beat of ‘BOY BYE’ reminds me of… the music for a ballroom dance, maybe a tango? We’re one week out from the full GINGER album now and I am a little shook by how menacing the vibe of it seems to be – every single so far has had such a dark, prowling energy. I’m kind of living for it. ‘ Boy Bye’ is probably the least hooky of the bunch so far, but no less listenable.
CHARLI XCX – ‘CROSS YOU OUT’ ft. SKY FERREIRA
As someone who cares little for either of these much hyped artists, I honestly wasn’t expecting it to be much cop, but… I actually really like it? It sounds like the middle point between The 1975 at their most distorted, LANY or joan at their most 80s high school dance and MUNA at their saddest and angsty.
SWAE LEE – ‘WON’T BE LATE’ ft. DRAKE
Swae Lee, best male vocal in R&B/hip hop/pop right now, has been popping up on all sorts of collaborations ever since Rae Sremmurd – the duo he formed with his brother – went on hiatus. ‘Won’t Be Late’ sounds like the end of summer, or maybe just the end of a summer night. It’s a little bit jazzy, a little bit funky, a little bit tropical and a whole bit excellent.