Category Archives: Song of the Week

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When I featured DeJ Loaf in Future Pop in 2014, it wasn’t with any expectation that she’d be releasing music that I would enjoy. In fact, although I thought she’d be respected by the hip-hop community, I didn’t think she had much commercial potential at all. Turns out, I was wrong! The Detroit rapper is now a singer, with long plaits replacing her edgy short-haired look. She’s still very cool, of course, but her new single No Fear is surprisingly poppy. It’s not a huge anthem, but it’s really sweet, summery and fun. It’s always nice when a quality pop song comes from an unexpected source. Welcome to Planet Pop, DeJ Loaf, I hope you’ll stick around!


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I’ve been a fan of Hey Violet since I first heard of them, under their original name of Cherry Bomb, back in 2012, but they have struggled to fulfil their great potential. They started out as a more serious rock band, then went pop, but finding a sound that balances the two genres is tricky as rock is currently a very separate, self-sufficient music scene with only a small number of crossover acts – none of whom are making much impact on the radio, streaming or singles charts. I have been quite underwhelmed by Hey Violet’s singles, but I was still excited to hear their album when it was released… and it turned out to be really good! It was hard to choose one song to feature here but I went for the punky, high-energy album closer This Is Me Breaking Up With You, because it represents what I want most from the group. It’s free and feisty, and will certainly be a highlight of their live show. Other songs such as Unholy and My Consequence place them more alongside Melanie Martinez and Halsey, and are as good as anything on their albums.


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I’ll start by saying that if you’re not familiar with Susanne Sundfør, you should go and listen to her last album Ten Love Songs straight away. Now. Then come back and listen to her new single, Undercover. The simplest way to summarise Susanne is that she’s a Norwegian electro-pop singer, and she’ll certainly appeal to fans of artists like Margaret Berger and Annie, as well as the new crop such as Sigrid, but there’s also more to her than that. Her music is majestic and orchestral, dark and beautiful, intricate and emotional. I loved Ten Love Songs so much that I purposefully kept my expectations low for her future output, as it does have the feel of a one-off special album that can’t be recreated. Sure enough, the first single from the new album isn’t as immediate as her previous singles Delirious and Fade Away, but it does have the sound and feel of Ten Love Songs, which is promising enough for me. Undercover is delicate and interesting, building up and developing as it goes on. It has the heartfelt lyrical candor Susanne has become known for, and the powerful, almost classical vocals, that contrast with the pop melody and unique production.


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It looks like we’re in for another summer of generic Spotify-pop, so we might as well try to enjoy it. As usual, we can look to the Swedes for help with this. The new single by producer Victor Rådström, aka Neiked, is a delightfully sweet pop tune. Call Me is the follow-up to his 2016 hit, Sexual. It was co-written by Camille Purcell, one of Little Mix’s main writers, along with Alex Papaconstantinou and Viktor Svensson (co-writers of poptastic Euro-hit Cool Me Down by Margaret), among others. Oh and yes, that lyric really does say “Cos you hit bottoms, hit them like no other.”


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After the success of Despacito, it would be nice for other similar Latin hits to be given a chance to cross over, and this new release is in prime position. Hey DJ by boyband CNCO and reggaeton artist Yandel has gained 36 million views in just over 3 weeks. CNCO are the product of Simon Cowell and Ricky Martin’s TV talent show La Banda, which formed a group out of auditionees from across Latin America. Hey DJ is the lead single from their forthcoming second album, and has a lovely summery vibe and a sweet teen party video. There’s also an amusing shoutout at the end when Yandel randomly says “Sony Music” – is this a thing in Latin music?


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The Harry Styles album arrived on Friday, and it’s predictably acceptable. I don’t hear any huge hits but it’s lovely to hear Harry’s voice without bracing for Louis to arrive and ruin the song at any moment. It also feels really genuine, not overthought – unusual for a debut album with so much riding on it. By not trying too hard, it shows confidence that this will be the first of many – just like when Harry speaks, and his slow drawl shows confidence that we’ll keep paying attention. Surprisingly (to me) it’s the ballads I like best, as they have the best vocals and songwriting. My favourite is Two Ghosts, the one that’s rumoured to be about Taylor Swift. Fans have linked the lines about “red lips” and a “white shirt” to Style, the song she allegedly wrote about Harry, and he giggled his way out of denying or confirming it on Radio 1 last week. I find it more likely  he’s just politely playing along with a convenient PR angle, but it’s interesting to speculate nonetheless.  My favourite fact about the album is that it’s produced by the same team responsible for Cam’s Untamed, a 2015 country-pop album that I always thought deserved a shot in the UK.


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After a couple of weak years, I’m very excited about Eurovision 2017, which takes place this week. There’s a diverse mix of contemporary pop styles and unusually few boring ballads, and although Italy has been a standout bookies’ fave, the contest still seems very open. I thought it would be tricky to pick a favourite, until I heard the Dutch entry, and my mind was immediately made up. The Netherlands’ best recent performance was with country duo The Common Linnets, and they’ve taken a similar approach with female trio OG3NE, winners of The Voice of Holland. Lights and Shadows starts simply but impressively, with beautiful harmonies and a folky melody – think Bellefire or The Corrs. It would be good enough if that’s all it was, but halfway through there’s a twist – it turns into an uplifting, sing-along pop anthem. It’s the musical equivalent of Bucks Fizz ripping off their skirts. You can see all the music videos and rehearsal clips for this year’s entries here – my other faves include Italy, Romania, Estonia, Sweden, Azerbaijan and F.Y.R. Macedonia.


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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.”