Song of the Week: Lauren Alaina – Three

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

This Song of the Week is partially an excuse to tell you a) Lauren Alaina has a new album and b) I visited Nashville! There are so many talented musicians in Nashville, and you can see them for free any day of the week, but the musical highlight of my trip was Lauren headlining a charity event at one of the Downtown bars (just around the corner from the one featured in the new Little Mix video). With powerful vocals, an infectious personality, and two great albums, Lauren has to be one of the most underrated artists in both country and pop music today. She is best known for competing in American Idol in 2011, but only had moderate success after the series ended. She acknowledged this in one of several touching moments during the gig, celebrating the news that, after years of hard work and persistence, she finally has her first proper hit with the poptastic Road Less Traveled – a former Song of the Week from 2015, which has now reached no.3 on the country chart. Her second album, also called Road Less Traveled, came out in January and is a much better representation of her relevance and pop sensibility than its more sweet and traditional predecessor. The lyrics cover her battle with bulimia (Road Less Traveled), dramatic family problems (Doin’ Fine) and the sacrifices that it takes to become a pop star (Three). We hear songs about superstars fed up with fame, but the story of a girl with an opportunity, giving up so much for something as simple as “three minutes on the radio,” is one I’ve never heard expressed in a way that rings so true. Lauren’s honest, direct personality allows her to expose the reality of being a potential pop star. I hope she’ll be successful enough to be complaining about paparazzi on her next album.

Future Hits: Turn the music loud, just to drown you out

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:

  • Little Mix ft. Machine Gun Kelly – No More Sad Songs
  • Just Us – Cloudbusting
  • Bruno Mars – That’s What I Like
  • Calvin Harris ft. Frank Ocean & Migos – Slide
  • Jason Derulo ft. Nicki Minaj & Ty Dolla $ign – Swalla

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

Future Stars: Sigrid (Island)

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I’m always excited about any new Scandipop artist with a major label deal and an international launch, but they do have a lot to live up to. Perhaps unfairly, I want them to prove they deserve the opportunity, because many great Scandi acts never get it – even those who are established in their home country. Norwegian 20-year-old Sigrid Raabe is one of those plucked from (near) obscurity to represent Scandipop on the global stage. As a teenager she released a few singles in Norway, and with the help of top Norwegian management company MADE, signed to Island last year. Her first international single Don’t Kill My Vibe, a quirky pop tune which mixes thoughtful verses with a fierce chorus, arrived in February to acclaim from indie blogs and pop geeks. Thanks to Spotify’s continued loyalty to Scandinavian acts, it already has nearly 9 million streams. The newly-released video shows a fun, youthful persona that softens her model-ish looks, giving her at least some chance of appealing to a mainstream audience. I’m still not entirely sure she won’t be the next Grace Mitchell or Tove Styrke, fading back into (near) obscurity when the label realises they overestimated the crossover potential for pop acts of this breed, but I’ll happily put that concern aside for now and invest some hope in Sigrid.

Future Stars: Harry Styles (Columbia)

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

It’s a shame not to have any music to review in this post, but by the time I send the next Future Pop, Harry Styles will already be a successful solo artist with a no.1 hit under his belt. His debut single Sign of the Times is released on Friday and he’ll perform it on Saturday Night Live a week later. Harry’s solo stardom has always been so certain that I would have featured him here the week I first saw his X Factor audition, or the week What Makes You Beautiful was released, if Future Pop had existed at the time. The only seed of doubt comes from the astronomical expectations, which he could never fulfil. But once he’s had a wobble (the “difficult second album,” perhaps), I believe he’ll get back on track and enjoy a long career. It’s natural to compare the 1D solo ventures to Take That, and wonder who is the Gary or Robbie, but I think Harry might actually be the Beyoncé. It took her a while to get into her stride as a solo artist after Destiny’s Child, and Kelly even had the upper hand for a brief moment, but it seems crazy now that her future was ever in doubt. I think that’s how we’ll see Harry in years to come. He certainly doesn’t have the talent of Beyoncé, but he has the star quality that even some of the biggest artists of today lack, and a special place in the hearts of millions of girls, creating a loyalty that is extremely hard to break. Take That are still selling albums, despite stealing the UK’s money and becoming totally unlistenable, after all!

Song of the Week: Brooke Candy ft. Sia – Living Out Loud

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When I saw Brooke Candy live in 2013, she was obnoxious and provocative. The music wasn’t great, but she certainly had personality and stage presence. Four years on and I’d long since moved on, so was surprised to hear she is still signed and her new single Living Out Loud is a collaboration with Sia. If you hadn’t heard of Brooke before, you wouldn’t guess from this track that she was a rapper. Instead, her contributions sound (quite topically, today) like early Lady Gaga, or the brilliant Art Angels album by Grimes. Sia dominates the song, and the chorus is one of her catchiest – after just two listens it was in my head all weekend. I assume this is meant to be Brooke’s pop crossover moment, but ironically I think she may have gone too pop to actually have a hit with this track. Luckily, nothing’s too pop for me.

Future Hits: Hey Mr DJ, when you gonna spin 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:

  • Ariana Grande ft. Future – Everyday
  • Stormzy – Big For Your Boots
  • Digital Farm Animals ft. Hailee Steinfeld – Digital Love
  • Rag’n’Bone Man – Skin
  • Train – Play That Song

For more Future Hits, subscribe to my  Spotify playlist, updated weekly with the next big thing.

Future Stars: Paris Jackson (Unsigned)

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

Paris Jackson, 18-year-old daughter of Michael Jackson, hasn’t signed a record deal or even confirmed she’s planning on pursuing a music career. Nonetheless, she’s already got more chance of succeeding than most artists who have been trying for years. Although she describes herself as an actress and model, she recently gave her first in-depth interview, and tellingly chose Rolling Stone rather than a fashion magazine. She’s known for her love of rock music, having gone through goth and emo phases (unfortunately her taste hasn’t improved since – she was recently spotted at a James Arthur gig), and tweets about writing songs. Her short, bleached hair and outspoken attitude have gained comparisons to Miley, and she’d certainly make an interesting addition to the current crop of pop girls. So far, she’s got herself a big manager and just announced her first acting role, in musical TV show Star. It may not be a singing role, but it’s another sign that music’s on her mind.

Future Stars: Ansel Elgort (Island Records)

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

Ansel Elgort is following in the footsteps of Hailee Steinfeld, hoping to translate his success as an actor into a pop career. He’s best known for his lead role in The Fault in Our Stars, a film based on a book with a cult following. However, it’s no Twilight or Harry Potter, and as such he’s no Robert Pattinson or Daniel Radcliffe, so it’s hard to know how dedicated his fans are. Celebrity status aside, he’s an interesting prospect as a new young male pop star, with a very different sound and persona to Bieber, Mendes and Jonas. Ansel’s first foray into music was as a DJ under the name Ansolo. Now he’s a singer too, signed to Island and releasing vocal pop music under his own name, but it still has an electronic sound. In the video for new single Thief he seems keen to let us know that a) he’s an actor and b) he’s not a sellout. His unusual voice takes a while to get used to (it would better suit rock music than electro-pop), and his over-emoting is equally uneasy viewing. Noting that the video was directed by his brother and stars his girlfriend, I wonder if this is a vanity project, only being allowed because of his famous name, or if Island has a strategy in mind to break a pop star who doesn’t rely on being likeable.

Song of the Week: The Musical Slave – No Plan

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

This might not be the most poptastic tune, but I had to share it as the song and video are so charming and uplifting. The Musical Slave is a Norwegian singer-songwriter, Kristin Vollset, who moved to Dublin a few years ago. By chance, she met a group of cheeky young lads who ride their horse around the streets of an area called the Liberties. She eventually befriended them – they now call her Norwigi. She wrote a song about the group, No Plan, and is also working on a documentary about them. I heard about it last week thanks to Irish blog Nialler9, and the video has been shared widely among Irish people online, who are calling it a “horse opera” and “a love song to Dublin.”

Future Hits: Bask in the glory of all our problems

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:

  • Martin Garrix & Dua Lipa – Scared To Be Lonely
  • James Blunt – Love Me Better
  • Major Lazer ft. PARTYNEXTDOOR & Nicki Minaj – Run Up
  • Julia Michaels – Issues
  • Zara Larsson ft. Ty Dolla $ign – So Good

For more Future Hits, subscribe to my  Spotify playlist, updated weekly with the next big thing.