Song of the Week: Noah Kahan & Julia Michaels – Hurt Somebody

Taken from this week’s Future Pop mailer. Click here to subscribe. All my Songs of the Week are featured on my Top of the Poptastic playlist, along with the rest of my faves from 2017.

I’ve featured a few songs written by songwriter supreme Julia Michaels in this section, but this is her first appearance as a singer herself. Ironically, it’s with a track that she didn’t actually write. Hurt Somebody was originally released as a solo single by guitar-pop artist Noah Kahan last year, while the new duet version debuted on last week’s New Music Friday. Produced by Lorde’s Royals collaborator Joel Little, it has a clipped acoustic-pop sound, and lyrics expressing a sentiment that isn’t often heard: “Hold me close and I won’t leave, cos it hurts when you hurt somebody.” The singers are basically saying that they want to leave their partner, but it’s easier not to, because hurting the other person would hurt them too. It’s an unusually honest explanation as to why people often lead others on in relationships, a situation that’s rarely explored from the leader-on’s perspective. The song hasn’t got much traction yet, but I think it’s very radio friendly and definitely has hit potential.

Future Hits: You know this ain’t the clean version

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:

  • Taylor Swift ft. Ed Sheeran & Future – End Game
  • Troye Sivan – My My My
  • Liam Payne & Rita Ora – For You
  • Jason Derulo ft. French Montana – Tip Toe
  • Justin Timberlake – Filthy

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

Future Stars: Pale Waves (Dirty Hit)

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

With today’s cool kids listening to grime, alt-R&B and whatever’s the latest trend in electronic music, not many indie acts have managed to win a young fanbase in the past few years. However, independent label Dirty Hit have done it twice, with The 1975 and Wolf Alice. The indie music scene seems to be pinning their hopes on their labelmates Pale Waves to follow in their footsteps. They were the only British band to make the BBC Sound of 2018 list, and appear on the cover of both DIY and Dork’s Class of 2018 issues. The group started out as a girl duo, before adding two boys to make up the numbers. I appreciate the ’80s teen goth look and broad Mancunian accents, and some of their tracks are quite catchy, but I feel musically they have been influenced a little too much by The 1975, who they’ve toured and collaborated with in various ways. Their biggest single Television Romance just sounds like a 1975 song with a female vocal. Personally I’d like to hear their ’80s references coming through more directly, rather than filtered via current sounds. However, Dirty Hit have shown they can make indie music relevant to a post-subcultural generation, so let’s see if they can do it again.

Future Stars: Ramz (Polydor)

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

I noticed the buzz around Ramz’s debut single Barking before Christmas, and included it in my Future Hits playlist, but it was still a shock to check the official charts for the first time this year and discover it had already reached the top five. Now that even my mum knows who Stormzy is, there’s no denying grime has gone mainstream, but what Barking demonstrates is that there’s a fanbase large and connected enough to propel a track by a brand new artist to the top in a short space of time. The fact that Ramz got a major label deal without having a large existing following is another telling sign about how the genre is being perceived, and the money labels expect to make from it. Polydor saw potential, and decided to take a chance. Like Not3sand Dave, Ramz (aka Ramone Rochester) is a young, charismatic performer who blends rapping and singing in a distinctly British style. His subject matter is everyday life, with a good dose of humour and cheeky references – there’s even a line in Barking about Hannah Montana-era Miley Cyrus. He ticks every box for the new age of accessible grime, which makes his speedy rise make total sense.

Future Pop: Stars of 2018 – the winners announced

Earlier this month I shared the 10 rising pop acts I felt could be the breakthrough stars of the year ahead, and invited This Must Be Pop readers to tell me which they thought, and hoped, would have the greatest success in 2018. And now, the results are in!

The act you think will be huge this year is…

1. BTS (29%)
2. Lauren Jauregui (19%)
3. Rak-Su (14%)

And the one you want to be the biggest new star is…

1. Sigrid (38%)
2. Billie Eilish (18%)
3. Pretty Much (16%)

Congrats to two very deserving winners! Sign up to the weekly Future Pop mailer to be first to hear about more new artists destined for stardom.

Future Pop: Stars of 2018

Now that we’ve surveyed the state of pop at the start of 2018, it’s time to review the candidates for this year’s biggest breakthrough acts. Here are the 10 future stars I think will capture pop fans’ hearts. Read on to learn more about them and have your say on  which you think, and hope, will make it big.

Billie Eilish

Billie is a perky blonde teen star from a musical family based in LA, but she’s definitely not the new Miley or Selena. Her alt-pop sound and outlandish style combine to create a unique, quirky artist for the Instagram age.

BTS

K-pop group BTS are already arguably the biggest boyband in the world, and as the west takes note of their pulling power, they’re sure to get more mainstream media opportunities like this and this in 2018.

Eves Karydas

Aussie singer Eves is probably the least established of the acts featured here, but she might just have the most pop star potential. Her first major label release, There For You, set the tone for an exciting year ahead.

Lauren Jauregui

Camila Cabello might have outshone her former bandmates in 2017, but she wasn’t the only fan favourite in Fifth Harmony. Lauren is talented and outspoken with a more alternative style, so her solo debut is sure to be intriguing.

PrettyMuch

PrettyMuch are the most polished and modern of the US boybands. They’ve had great support and investment from their label, and though it hasn’t quite clicked yet, I still feel the right single could skyrocket them.

Rak-Su

The most promising X Factor act in years, Rak-Su already have a no.2 single under their belts, and are ready to capitalise on their win with an EP of their most popular original songs expected in the next few months.

Sarah Close

Singer-songwriter Sarah is a YouTube star with true talent and pop star potential. Her girl-next-door persona is reminiscent of early Taylor Swift, yet her thoughtful electro-pop would fit right in on 1989 or Reputation.

Sigrid

The cute, charismatic indie blogger’s fave hasn’t quite made her mark on the pop scene yet, but with strong media support and a prominent showing in the 2018 tip lists, all she needs now is a hit-worthy song.

Why Don’t We

Boyband Why Don’t We look like they were picked at random from a sixth form college, but the accessible vibe gives them an appeal that stylish, edgy PrettyMuch are missing. They’re the underdogs only to people who don’t know teen girls.

Yungblud

Recently signed to Interscope US, Yungblud is a northern lad with charm and energy to spare. He’s a great live performer and talented songwriter, who represents the politically engaged, opinionated teens of today.

Now we’ve considered the options, it’s time to cast your vote! Sign up to my Future Pop mailer for the exclusive winners announcement on Monday 15th Jan.

State of Pop: 2018

2017 was a  difficult  year for new pop stars.  I can’t think of anyone who was unheard of this time last year, and has truly ‘made it’ since. Julia Michaels made good progress, but is hardly a household name. Dua Lipa finally had her moment, but that was at the end of a long and well-publicised album campaign. Anne-Marie troubled the top 10, but still hasn’t had a hit big enough to induce an album release date (five years after she first appeared on This Must Be Pop).

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A video might be able to rack up a million views in a matter of hours, yet the days of the overnight pop superstar are gone. Launching a new act to mainstream success  now involves social media stardom, celebrity connections, and/or a tonne of cash and blind faith from a major label.

This explains why, as I predicted back in 2015 (rather prematurely), it was a good year for the pop band member gone solo. The biggest breakthrough acts were former members of One Direction and Fifth Harmony. Harry Styles was voted most likely to succeed by This Must Be Pop readers last year, closely followed by Camila Cabello. Less predictable  were the achievements of Niall Horan, Liam Payne and Louis Tomlinson, who outperformed their bandmate (on  streaming  numbers at least). I still believe Harry will beat them on longevity, but it was a testament to the impact of the group that 1D fans supported its entire alumni rather than moving on – or perhaps a testament to the insecurity of major labels that they invested in these short shelf-life soloists over untested artists with promising pop potential.

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So, now it’s time to think about 2018. With 1D already out the gates, will other band members follow their pursuit of solo stardom? Camila’s  fellow 5Hers are definitely up for the challenge, and might be more appealing to a major label post-Havana. I reckon at least one more album is due before Little Mix  go their separate ways, but we could certainly see the first solo move from the girls  this year, in the form of a feature or collaboration. Also inspired by the absence of One Direction, 2018 will be an interesting year for boybands, as the proffered replacements face judgement by Gen Z. And on that note, we can expect to see outspoken, individual and perhaps even political pop wannabes, served up to appeal to a new generation of ‘woke’ teens.

Later this week, I’ll be showcasing 10 pop acts who I think have a shot at superstardom. Then it’ll be over to you to vote for who you think, and who you hope, will be the Stars of 2018. Make sure to follow on Twitter and Facebook for updates, and let me know what you think of the nominees.

The No.1 Most Poptastic Single of 2017: CNCO & Little Mix – Reggaetón Lento (Remix)

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While I enjoyed the  success of Despacito this summer, I couldn’t let myself believe that it would open doors for other Spanish-language crossover hits. After all,  we’re still waiting for a K-pop group to follow PSY into the top 10, over five years later. However, it turned out that Latin pop would be the saviour of an otherwise unexciting year in music.

Every week when putting together my Future Hits playlist, I check the Spotify charts, and while it’s normal to see some Spanish songs in the global chart, I noticed that in the wake of Despacito, they were trending  in the US, UK, and elsewhere too. Before I knew it, J. Balvin’s Mi Gente and Enrique’s Súbeme La Radio (with the help of Beyoncé and, bizarrely, Matt Terry) broke  the UK top 10. I’d also noticed that boyband CNCO, the winners of Simon Cowell and Ricky Martin’s Latin TV talent show La Banda, had two  songs on the charts: my initial favourite Hey DJ and their biggest hit, Reggaetón Lento. And then came the greatest news  yet: CNCO had recorded an English version of Reggaetón Lento as a duet with the biggest pop band of the moment, Little Mix!

A week later the collaboration appeared on Spotify, and it did not disappoint. It was the girlband/boyband duet that every pop fan dreams of (yet weirdly never happens), and it  combined the uplifting, sunny sassiness of  Latin music with the songwriting finesse of British pop, thanks to a makeover from Little Mix’s regular co-writer Camille Purcell. Coincidentally, it was released on the same day as my second favourite song of the year, BloodPop® and Bieber’s Friends, and I listened to them both on repeat  for the whole week. This was the one I never got bored of, and as it represents my favourite trend of the year, it was an easy choice for my no.1.

Released: 18th August
Writers: Camille Purcell, Richard Camacho, Jean Rodriguez, Jorge Class, Jadan Andino, Eric Perez, Luis Angel O’Neill
Best bits: 1. It started when I looked in her eyes, I got close and I’m like “Bailemos” – hey!
2. Muévete, muévete, báilalo, báilalo
3. So now we dancing un reggaetón lento, just get a little closer, baby, let’s go

The 2nd Most Poptastic Single of 2017: Justin Bieber & BloodPop® – Friends

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Released: 17th August
Writers: BloodPop®, Justin Bieber, Julia Michaels, Justin Tranter
Trivia: I liked this song until I realised what it reminded me of: a Melodifestivalen winning song by a cute boy with a silly dance routine. And then I loved it.
Best bits: 1. Actually, don’t answer that
2. And if it ends, can we be friends?
3. Know you’re wonderin’ why I been callin’

The 3rd Most Poptastic Single of 2017: Taylor Swift – …Ready For It?

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Released: 3rd September
Writers: Shellback, Max Martin, Ali Payami, Taylor Swift
Trivia: …Ready For It? is the most poptastic track on Taylor’s new album, but I think Endgame is the one with the biggest hit potential (not just because it features Ed Sheeran). I’m sure it will have its moment in 2018, as I suspect Taylor has held it back on purpose to give the album a longer shelf-life. So look out for that in my top 10 of 2018…
Best bits: 1. In the middle of the night, in my dreams
2. Baby let the games begin, let the games begin
3. I-I-I see how this is gon’ go, touch me and you’ll never be alone