Song of the Week: Pretty Much – Would You Mind

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Labels are so wary of the cost of a major pop launch these days, that they are rare treats for us who love to follow their every twist and turn. That’s why I’m excitedly tracking Syco/Columbia’s new US boyband Pretty Much, who I first featured last month. At the time they didn’t have any music online but I was expecting it to be very current, cool and upbeat, like a boyband version of post-2015 Justin Bieber. I also assumed the aim was to create a modern, updated version of the American boybands that have been most successful in the past, Backstreet Boys and *N Sync. What I did not expect was for their debut single to actually sound like an early release by one of those groups. In fact, it could even be compared to their predecessor, New Kids on the Block. Would You Mind is a 90s-style boyband track that could even be called “dated,” yet everything else about this campaign is smart and innovative. I love the ethnic diversity in the casting, the social media posts which are fun without trying too hard, and the clever marketing tricks such as this dance video posted by a big YouTuber on the single release day. They’ve clearly got Spotify on board, as they were top of last week’s New Music Friday despite very little prior hype. The single certainly is poptastic (thanks to Savan Kotecha and his brilliant team, including Max Martin on keyboards!) but it’s a brave move to take this direction when it’s so far from the tastes of a teen pop fan today. Are Pretty Much good enough to change those tastes? I wouldn’t bet against them.

Future Hits: Addicted to your drama

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My weekly playlist features five tracks I predict will be future hit singles in the UK.

Tracklisting:

  • Louis Tomlinson ft. Bebe Rexha & Digital Farm Animals – Back To You
  • Pretty Much – Would You Mind
  • Post Malone – Congratulations
  • Portugal. The Man – Feel It Still
  • Khalid – Young Dumb & Broke

For more Future Hits, subscribe to my  Spotify playlist, updated weekly (when I remember) with the next big thing.

Future Stars: Cardi B (Atlantic)

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Cardi B is Belcalis Almanzar, a 24-year-old rapper from the Bronx, who is best known for appearing on reality show Love & Hip Hop New York. She has done what many reality stars have failed to do, and successfully translated her popularity on the series into a burgeoning music career. She quit after two seasons to focus on music, and the gamble has paid off. Her latest single Bodak Yellow is her first to break the Billboard Hot 100, with 14 million YouTube views in the month since release. She recently appeared on the Wendy Williams Show to perform the track, which tells of how she was able to give up her job as a stripper when she became famous and started “making money moves.” Cardi became a fan favourite on Love & Hip Hop thanks to her sassy personality and drama-filled life. The series charted her relationship with jailed rapper Tommy Geez, thought she’s since switched him for a much more successful hip-hop boyfriend, Offset from Migos, who she collaborated with on her previous single, Lick. Her catchphrase (“owww!”) was getting on my nerves after watching just one interview, but she’s certainly an entertaining addition to the rap scene. Whether or not she becomes a mainstream star, she’s certainly made her name among hip-hop fans, and has a huge social media fanbase ready to hear what she does next.

Future Stars: Ruel (Unsigned)

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A few weeks ago, I doubt Ruel was on any A&R’s radar outside of Australia, but the 14-year-old singer from Sydney will be attracting much more attention since the release of his debut single, Don’t Tell Me. The track is currently in the UK viral top 10 on Spotify and no.14 globally. With his vocal talent and a teen star look, Ruel could have become famous on Musical.ly or Instagram, but his music and marketing are not targeting Gen Z. He’s more like a male equivalent of Birdy, who also skipped past the teen market, despite releasing her debut single at age 14. This allows him to stand out from his peers, and catch the attention of the music industry, in a way that young artists with much bigger followings haven’t been able to, because they’re unknown outside their social media bubble. Ruel is a protegée of Aussie producer M-Phazes, who’s worked with local stars such as Guy Sebastian, rappers including Eminem, and had a cut on the latest Zara Larsson album. The pair previously collaborated on a song called Golden Years, and performed on Like a Version (the Australian Live Lounge). With his youthful cuteness and a single that sounds like Rag’n’Bone Man (but much less growly), Ruel could have the mum market sewn up, and I reckon he’ll pick up plenty of fans of his own age along the way. And if you’re wondering how he came up with the name Ruel, it’s actually just his first name. His full name is the extremely un-Australian, Ruel Van Dijk.

Song of the Week: Blackmagic ft. Fetty Wap – Wonder

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Since being released earlier this month, Wonder by Nigerian singer Blackmagic hasn’t attracted much interest, and this itself is a wonder. Not only does it feature Fetty Wap, but Wonder is a very current and commercial, summery song with a carnival vibe, which sounds like a huge potential hit to me. The only thing I’d change is making the female vocals more prominent and frequent throughout the track. Afrobeats hasn’t had a crossover hit for a while, and I don’t believe this sound should be a passing trend. It’s a genre that western audiences should embrace, and would if they had more exposure to it, as proven by the success of Fuse ODG and OMI’s Cheerleader. Blackmagic, a singer, rapper and songwriter whose real name is Efemena Mukoro, has released three albums since 2013. Wonder originally appeared in early 2016, but was re-released with Fetty Wap on board by Ministry of Sound this year.

Future Hits: All of my homies gonna shine

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My weekly playlist features five tracks I predict will be future hit singles in the UK.

Tracklisting:

  • Selena Gomez ft. Gucci Mane – Fetish
  • Ed Sheeran – Perfect
  • The Script – Rain
  • French Montana ft. The Weeknd & Max B – A Lie
  • Chase & Status ft. Emeli Sandé – Love Me More

For more Future Hits, subscribe to my  Spotify playlist, updated weekly (when I remember) with the next big thing.

Future Stars: Tom Grennan (Insanity/Sony)

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22-year-old singer-songwriter Tom Grennan represents a new breed of young men that crosses between the usually opposing categories of hipster and lad, the same strange intermingling that created the man-bun. Androgyny through a Topman filter. Tom’s look makes him hard to place as an artist, as he’s neither edgy or accessible, and his music is in the same no man’s land. He has a husky, soulful voice very similar to Hozier, but sometimes undermines his talent and authenticity with affected pronunciation, such as on his early single, Something In The Water. So far, Tom is best known for featuring on Chase & Status’s 2016 single All Goes Wrong, which helped him get a spot on the BBC Sound of 2017 list. Since then he’s released a few more singles and appeared on new track Memory Lane by grime MC Bugzy Malone, which I think has hit potential. As a solo artist, earlier this month Tom released Found What I’ve Been Looking For, which has the most commercial appeal of any of his tracks so far, as it’s more energetic and melodic. It could go down well with the Radio 2 audience, if he’s open to taking that route.

Future Stars: Jain (Sony France)

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The breakthrough success of Christine and the Queens was one of the most pleasant surprises of 2016, and I hope it will mean that British audiences are more open to similarly quirky European acts. The prime candidate to follow in her footsteps is another French female singer, Jain, whose music and visuals are a mix of Alizée and Petite Meller, blending cool, weird and cute. The 25-year-old, born Jeanne Galice, travelled the world as a child, living in Africa and the Middle East, and you can see the influence of this on her multicultural sound. Jain is best known for her debut single Come, which reached no.1 in France and Spain, and top 20 in Belgium, Italy and Poland. The stylishly silly video has over 64 million views. Her debut album Zanaka was released in 2015, but it has taken the last two years for her to reach a wider audience, thanks to festival appearances (including Glastonbury 2017, and BST Hyde Park, where I saw her recently) and TV performances (including Later… with Jools Holland in April). Her video for new single Dynabeat got 700,000 views in its first 5 days, showing that she now has a fanbase ready and excited for what’s next.

Song of the Week: Wolf Alice – Don’t Delete The Kisses

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Much like Susanne Sundfør, I’m awaiting the new album from Wolf Alice with equal parts excitement and trepidation, as I loved the last one and hope not to be disappointed by the follow-up. I can say that Wolf Alice’s Visions of a Life will have at least one song as good as anything from their debut, as I was instantly obsessed with new release Don’t Delete The Kisses when I discovered it on last week’s New Music Friday playlist on Spotify. The band has always had interesting lyrics, and that’s what stands out most about this sweet and witty track. It captures the feeling of having a crush, and being afraid to let the person know. The early refrain “what if it’s not meant for me, love?” is oh-so relatable, but what I loved about the song is that it’s not just about wallowing in self-doubt – it develops into a much more positive, inspiring end. While the first single from Visions of a Life, the rawkus Yuk Foo, showed Wolf Alice’s edgier side, I’m glad the thoughtful alt-pop that made me a fan will be present too.

Future Hits: Eat, sleep, and breathe it, rehearse and repeat it

Taken from this week’s Future Pop mailer. Click here to subscribe.

My weekly playlist features five tracks I predict will be future hit singles in the UK.

Tracklisting:

  • Zedd ft. Liam Payne – Get Low
  • Kesha – Praying
  • Dua Lipa – New Rules
  • JAY-Z – The Story of O.J.
  • Moon Taxi – Two High

For more Future Hits, subscribe to my  Spotify playlist, updated weekly (when I remember) with the next big thing.