Category Archives: Song of the Week

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.

Not only has Australia launched some big international acts over the past few years, but they also have an abundance of local stars making great pop that the rest of the world hasn’t heard about (yet). Female singer E^ST (aka Mel Bester) can be filed next to Montaigne and Jess Kent in that category, both of whom have been featured here before. Although E^ST has a strong Aussie accent on new single Life Goes On, the track has a blissful electro-pop sound that you might guess was Scandinavian. In fact, the production is the work of a Brit – Jim Eliot. Jim’s credits include Kylie’s All The Lovers and Ellie Goulding’s Anything Could Happen, and it certainly has the same unusual combination of subtlety and anthemic-ness that those tracks share. I hope there is more to come from this collaboration! E^ST is signed to Parlophone and played her first UK gig a few weeks ago – sadly I didn’t hear of her til a few days later, so I’m hoping she’ll be back soon.


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.

Great pop music can come from anywhere in the world, but sometimes a new song comes along just to remind us that no-one does it better than the Swedes. Rhys is a young female singer who was born in the US, but has lived in Sweden since she was 10. Signed to Warner Music, she had a breakthrough hit this summer with the track Last Dance. It was a promising start with a current sound, but it’s her new single Too Good To Be True that really impressed me. Co-written and produced by former Cheiron member Jörgen Elofsson, it has a really fun, joyous feel and a soaring sound, with uplifting lyrics on a relatable theme I haven’t heard in song before. As someone who would prefer all films to have a happy beginning, middle and ending, the sentiment definitely appeals to me. I can see Rhys becoming the next Agnes, and she’ll be a strong contender if she pops up in Melodifestivalen 2018.


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.

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I think I’ve finally heard what other pop fans must hear when they listen to Carly Rae Jepsen. The new single from Polydor signing Hannah Jane Lewis is pure pop joy. Raincheck is sassy, but in a cute and bubbly way, without the slightest edge. It sounds like eating the best sour sweets (the fizzy worms from Waitrose, or the Haribo sour bears they have in America). Hannah studied at Tisch School of the Arts in New York (where Gaga also went), but is signed in the UK, was born in Surrey, and has been working with British producers like Karen Poole, Anita Blay and Phil Cook. Raincheck was written with Nicole Blair, Henrik Moreborg, and Tormod Løkling, three unfamiliar names that I shall certainly be looking out for in future. Researching Hannah herself provided an unexpected twist. Prior to her rebirth as an electro-popper, she had a past as a country artist, with plenty of remnants online, such as the music video for her Sandi Thom-esque single Seventeen Again. As much as I enjoy a bit of country, in this case I’m very glad she went pop. I don’t want to imagine a world where Raincheck never existed!


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This week Sofi Tukker returned to their natural home, soundtracking an Apple ad, and they did it in style. Their hectically brilliant new single Best Friend accompanied the announcement of the new iPhone X. Although the kooky New York duo are the artists taking primary credit for the song, it’s a collaboration with two other, equally Apple-friendly electro-pop duos, The Knocks and Nervo, plus Japanese DJ/influencer Alisa Ueno. The track has a bombastic bassline and a series of sassy hooks – there’s a lot more to it than the “Do you wanna meet me” line from the ad. You may know Sofi Tucker from their 2015 single Drinkee, which was heard in a TV ad for the Apple Watch.


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White Wing Dove is a sweet piece of blissful electro-pop that feels out of place amongst the electronic music of today. The Chainsmokers have had no influence here. Its purity and simplicity reminds me more of the mid-2000s – think Ladytron or Saint Etienne. I discovered the track on Popjustice’s handy New Music Friday playlist, which includes the best of the official NMF playlist and some extra pop treats. Priest are a duo from Orlando, made up of singer Madeline Priest and producer David Kazyk. White Wing Dove comes from their new EP Lost Lions, and they previously released a self-titled album in 2015, full of similarly pleasant tunes.


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The fact that Taylor Swift had her first UK no.1 with Look What You Made Me Do is a little sad for me, as a long-time fan. The song represents a disappointing lack of self-awareness (which once was one of her biggest strengths) and a self-indulgent prioritising of musical experimentation and media attention-seeking over quality songwriting. But on the bright side, the video made the song feel a bit more camp and lighthearted, and we now know we’ll be getting another electro-pop album from Taylor, which is an exciting prospect as 1989 was such a treat. I felt a wave of relief on hearing the new song …Ready For It?, which was released without warning this weekend. My Max Martin radar seems to be in good working order, as I loved this track even before I knew it was his work. Maybe I was tipped off by the Britney-esque ellipsis at the beginning of the title. …Ready For It? has a similar sound to Tove Lo, a member of Max’s production protégées Wolf Cousins, so I’d be interested to find out if she has any connection to the song (was she involved in production, a secret co-writer, or were parts of the song originally meant for her?). There’s also unexpected similarities to Taylor’s own secret co-write, This Is What You Came For by Calvin Harris and Rihanna. It turns out what I saw as a favour to her boyfriend of the time was more of an indicator of where Taylor was headed musically than I imagined. But the best thing about this song is that it affirms that Taylor can experiment without sacrificing her songwriting ability – thanks to Max keeping her on track. The “in the middle of the night” section could even be a sample from her country days. I’m not sure it quite matches the best tracks of 1989 but it certainly would have been a worthy inclusion on that album, and that puts it ahead of what most pop artists could ever achieve.


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Before Kesha’s new music emerged, I felt we were being prepared for it not to be very good, with stories about Sony rejecting the tracks she wanted to release. I was expecting something kooky and self-indulgent, a Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz situation. Actually, she skipped the Dead Petz and went straight to her Malibu. The storyline was that Kesha wanted to defy the commercial restrictions of major label pop, but in fact her new album is exactly what she should be releasing at this stage in her career, regardless of the legal and personal context in which she releases it. The sound is mature, but still consistent with what she’s done before, reflective of the musical influences she’s always cited, and fitting with current trends. The album doesn’t represent Kesha clinging to her pop star roots, but puts her in line with Haim, Leon Bridges, or any of the artists who reference 60s and 70s music for a Radio 2/Adult Contemporary audience. Spaceship in particular reminds me of the earthy blues-pop of Elle King, and stood out to me as the meeting point of the old and new Kesha. The lyrics express the feeling of being a misfit in a fun and quirky way, but the melody shows her musical talent and the stripped back production gives the message more depth and authenticity. I’m usually the first to say artists should listen to their teams, and let the experts make the musical decisions, but in this case the artist was the one who knew best. It’s a pretty heart-warming turn of events.


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I’ve recently taken to listening to Spotify’s New Music Friday playlist in full every week, and it’s introduced me to some great songs that I never would have heard otherwise, such as Wonder by Blackmagic and this new track by British folk act This is the Kit. Don’t be put off by folk – By My Demon Eye is actually a very sweet, unique and interesting pop song. This is the Kit is the alias of British singer Kate Stables, a fave of 6 Music who has been working under that name since 2003. By My Demon Eye comes from her album Moonshine Freeze, released last month. It’s all very twee, but the unusual use of African language and the various different sections of the song prevent it from being too introspective or annoying. The line “Tako takoti o takoti sman yamba takoti” translates as “Boil boil water boil, let the liar be boiled,” and comes from an African folk story about a tortoise and a rabbit, where both animals were boiled to find out which one was lying (don’t try this at home).


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MisterWives are an American indie-pop group who don’t get much attention from pop fans, but they have actually released some really catchy tunes. I loved their anthemic 2015 single Our Own House, and their latest album Connect The Dots brings a new favourite with its lead single, Machine. It reminds me of the distinctive sound of Aura Dione, and could have been a fun girlband single. Although the lyrics of Machine criticise the culture of getting big name writers to provide hits for pop stars, I’d love to see band members and Machine co-writers Mandy Lee and Etienne Bowler writing for more mainstream artists.


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After the last time I wrote about Declan McKenna I didn’t think I’d ever feature him again. I was a little snarky (who? me?) which led to a reader complaint, and Declan even quoted me (in an ironic way) in his Twitter bio. But I’m all about equal opportunities around here, so when someone does something good, I’ll recognise them for it. Why Do You Feel So Down from his debut album caught my ear on a recent New Music Friday. Although he’s a teenager from Hertfordshire, he’s managed to make a track that reminds me of Swedish indie-pop of the mid-2000s. It has a strong, catchy melody with bouncy production and an uplifting feel, joyful and sweet with a youthful yet nostalgic sound. I would like to formally offer a truce to Declan, and concede that he’s not trying too hard to be cool anymore, as he actually is quite cool.