Category Archives: Song of the Week

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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.


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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.


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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.”


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It’s always a delight to find that a new track I’ve discovered on Spotify is actually by a British act. Currently sitting atop the very diversely international New Pop Revolution playlist is Dusky Grey, aka Gethin Williams and Catrin Hopkins, two 19-year-old singers from North Wales. Their single Told Me is a simple, sweet duet. The sound is acoustic-pop but somehow manages to be a bit reggae and a bit country at the same time. Originally a solo act, Gethin released an album as Dusky Grey called Hide & Seek, but when he featured Catrin on this track and it was signed to East West/Warner Music, they became a duo. In addition to the Spotify boost, the track has been supported by BBC Introducing in Wales and Merseyside, and they will be filming a video for it next month. In the meantime we’ll have to make do with this video of them singing it live… in Welsh.


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This week I’m off to the Netherlands for Eurosonic festival, where artists from around Europe will be performing. As the first showcase festival of the year, this is their chance to get the attention of live agents, festival bookers and the media, in the hope of breaking out of their local scene to build a following across the rest of Europe in 2017. I featured some of the acts I’m most excited to see on This Must Be Pop, including Icelandic teen star Glowie (real name Sara Pétursdóttir), who I’ve been obsessed with since I discovered her while browsing the festival line-up last week. Collaborating with Stop Wait Go, the team behind Icelandic girlband The Charlies, Glowie has released a series of world-class pop tunes. Her sound is modern and mid-tempo, sweet not too saccharine. The best example is her debut single No More, with its cool stop-motion video filmed around Reykjavik. No Lie and Party also come highly recommended.


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Star is the new US TV series from the creator of Empire, following a girlgroup on the pursuit of stardom. The pilot episode aired on Fox last month, and 4 songs by the stars of the show were released as an EP via Republic Records. The three girlband members were found through auditions, but lead singer Jude Demorest (who plays the titular character, Star) already had, or perhaps still has, a solo deal with Epic. She’s listed as a co-writer on Work From Home by Fifth Harmony, which may mean it was originally meant for her (5H are also with Epic). The premiere had mixed reviews, but I enjoyed it enough to keep watching, and there were a couple of songs I loved: I Can Be and I Bring Me. The tracks are sassy, confident, quality R&B-pop, and the girls are talented performers, so I really hope the show picks up steam and they actually have a chance of becoming a real thing, like a cool 2017 version of S Club 7. I Bring Me is full of attitude and witty lines – it reminds me of L.A.N.C.E. by June’s Diary, the group produced by Kelly Rowland’s talent show Chasing Destiny. American TV needs to keep offering up R&B girlgroups until one works, and we can all enjoy their musical output in the process.


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Ever since I saw indie-pop girlband MUNA at The Great Escape in May, I’ve been impatiently waiting for my two favourite songs from their set to be released. Therefore I was very excited to receive an email last week setting the date for their debut album About U, which comes out on 3rd February. Those elusive tunes had to be on the way! And sure enough, a few days later, the brilliant I Know a Place had arrived. It’s a mid-tempo, heartfelt electro-pop tune that builds up and grows on you with every listen. It’s an uplifting track with a timely political message, on the importance of safe spaces for LGBTQ and other communities. I always thought of MUNA as most comparable to Haim, but actually this track, its lyrical theme and its positive reception by pop fans has made me realise they’re more like Tegan and Sara. Now I’m just waiting for their big ballad, If You Love Me Now, to be unleashed.


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A few weeks ago I enjoyed a country song on The Voice, started thinking about visiting Nashville (definitely has to happen in 2017), and quickly descended deep into one of my country phases. The perception of country music has definitely improved in the past few years, but that hasn’t really helped me – I now find myself having to explain that, with the exception of Kacey Musgraves, I don’t listen to cool country music. Chris Stapleton and Sturgill Simpson mean nothing to me. I like it as mainstream as it comes – basically just mumsy pop songs with a twang. I’ve had Spotify’s Hot Country playlist on repeat for the last week, and my favourite discovery so far is this MOR-tastic tune, Til Tomorrow by unsigned duo Walker McGuire. The chorus melody is so uplifting and comforting, not a hint of originality but give it one listen and you’ll be singing along.


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With 2NE1 out of action while CL pursues her solo career in the US, there’s a spot open for a new K-pop girl group to win my heart. Fellow YG act Black Pink are obvious contenders, but I’m also impressed by a new group that I heard of more recently. Twice has more than twice as many members as 2NE1 or Black Pink (there’s nine of them – which is not actually unusual for a K-pop band) and have quickly become superstars since their debut only just over a year ago. They were formed on a reality show called Sixteen, and their first video was the most viewed debut for a K-pop act, gaining 50 million views in five months. That might sound impressive, but new single TT is currently at 58 million after less than a month – basically, these girls are huge. TT is a fantastic video, mixing the quality of a blockbuster film with cute outfits and immaculate choreography. As is traditional, the verses are in Korean while the chorus is in English, and therefore you need to watch with the subtitles on to get the full experience. I had to turn to Reddit to understand the meaning of TT, though – it actually represents the crying emoji (the vertical lines being the tears).


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I featured British trio Sälen as Future Stars back in June and at the time it took some serious detective work for me to find their names and a photo. Debut single Diseasey was followed by the hazy, summery The Drwg and new release Copper Kiss, which sounds sweet until you pay attention to the lyrics. Now they’ve declared their allegiance to Island Records and come out of the shadows, gradually illuminating the full picture of what they’re all about. I’m hoping they’re building up to a pop crossover moment in 2017, following in the footsteps of Years & Years (with whom they share management). It’s like watching a caterpillar transform, but you don’t know for sure if they’re going to turn into a butterfly or a moth. Whatever happens, I’m very intrigued.