The Pop Scribe 10

2 weeks in the making, the fourth edition of The Pop Scribe 10 is a dizzy concoction of pop from around the globe. The world may seem to be on the brink of collapse, but this week’s playlist shows a united pop front with cuts from Portugal, Colombia, Venezuela, Norway, Sweden and the usual suspects: the US and the UK. All in all, it’s been a funny two weeks in pop with some high-profile disappointments (I’m looking at you Harry Styles/Noah Cyrus) and some low-key brilliant returns (TLC/Michelle Branch). Here’s hoping we are graced with more pop goodness over the next few weeks e.g. if a certain Ms. Perry would like to make her fully-fledged return that would be just great.

The fourth edition of The Pop Scribe 10 includes:

  • Grace Mitchelgiving us a masterclass in pop euphoria
  • RAC teaming up with former Vampire Weekend-er Rostam 
  • Latin pop queen Shakira reminding us of her love for mojitos
  • Electro experimentalist Arca flexing his pop muscles to stunning effect
  • Astrid S gliding through ethereal pop with sharp edges
  • Little Dragon exploring the life of pop through an 80s filter
  • The long-anticipated return of TLC in charming nostalgia-mode
  • Michelle Branch repositioning herself as an indie pop darling
  • Kate Nash hitting the sweet spot between her pop and DIY roots
  • Steps dipping their toes into the world of EDM

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The Pop Scribe 10

In just 1 week the pop gods have blessed us with yet another stellar selection of killer pop. This week’s edition of The Pop Scribe 10 is all about newness, featuring a host of fresh new talent (for me, anyway) mixed amongst some old favourites. In case it wasn’t already obvious, this week is also the week of the mercurial, magnificent and downright MAGICAL Goldfrapp. Their new album Silver Eye is everything and more you can imagine from the Frapp returning to electropop in 2017 – thank the lawd.

The third edition of The Pop Scribe 10 includes:

  • 2 slices of Goldfrapp in earth-shattering electro mode
  • Becky Hill serving us VOCALS…and then some more vocals
  • The angelic cupcakKe blending sax with sass
  • Bleachers with an 80s pop anthem Brandon Flowers would kill for
  • Sofi de la Torre finding the melancholy in money
  • Calvin Harris bringing the heat with Young Thug, Pharrell AND Ariana (!)
  • Tei Shi soaring through sweet, shimmery pop
  • The Saturdays’ Vanessa White stepping convincingly towards solo stardom
  • Janine saying a spectacular NO to love

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The Art of the Sad Banger

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Do you ever feel like a plastic bag? Drifting through the wind? Wanting to start again? If the answer is YES, then you’ve most probably encountered the mythical ‘Sad Banger’ at least once in your lifetime. Okay, maybe some of pop music’s saddest stompers aren’t as mysterious as I’m making out but, after a recent moment in which I found myself bingeing  on the darker side of pop, I felt it was high time I tried to unpack the power of the Sad Banger.

For many people, myself included, a music selection based on your mood can often be the perfect release whether you need to laugh, cry, or cry some more. While ballads and tender acoustic strums are all well and good, nothing quite tops the melancholic euphoria of a Sad Banger which typically encompasses feelings of: sadness, anger, regret, bitterness, pain, suffering etc. etc. (I am emotionally stable while writing this – promise.) Even if you’re not particularly down, the perfect Sad Banger can often create the illusion that you’ve just gone through some kind of crisis whilst still allowing you to pump your fist – case in point: Robyn’s stone-cold classic Dancing On My Own.

Making a playlist for this post really got me thinking about the abundance of brilliant Sad Bangers which have punctuated the world of pop in the last decade. From Miley to Marina, it’s been hard to escape the tear-soaked pop tune but, you know what, maybe this is what us 21st century pop fans are here for. Without getting too morbid, the world’s hardly been much of a barrel of laughs in recent years, while we all seem to be dealing with a digital hangover in the midst of a social media maelstrom. Is it any coincidence that Steps titled their new album Tears on the Dancefloor? (probably, tbh.)

Thankfully, I’m a strong believer in musical therapy, which is why I hope my playlist of Sad Bangers can help you find some light at the end of the tunnel. It seems to be working for me…

Check out my selection of Sad Bangers below:

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The Pop Scribe 10

After a 2-week break The Pop Scribe 10 is back back back! Things went a bit quiet after my first rundown of the best new releases in pop, but now I’ve got a brand new selection for you to feast upon. Making this second playlist was actually a bit more of a struggle than last time as the obvious pop bangerz seemed few and far between BUT, upon closer inspection, these past two weeks have gifted us with some subtly brilliant slices of pop from some unexpected places…

The second edition of The Pop Scribe 10 includes:

  • Zara Larsson perfecting both the sad AND ‘symphonic’ banger
  • (Clean Bandit providing the symphony)
  • Delightfully twisted pop from newcomer Billie Eilish
  • Blondie doing their best version of Blondie in 2017
  • Gorillaz returning with their classic Eastern-infused electro
  • A hazy tropical delight from Drake
  • Charli XCX (praise be) feat. Mura Masa
  • Icelandic troubadour Ásgeir on stunning pop form
  • Goldfrapp edging us ever closer to Silver Eye
  • The Sound of Arrows giving us LIFE

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5 reasons why Number 1 Angel pushed pop forward in 2017

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Praise be! Last Friday marked the release of untouchable pop artiste Charli XCX’s third mixtape Number 1 Angel and, after a weekend of debauchery soundtracked by said mixtape, I think it’s about time I threw in my two cents on why this is such an important release in the world of pop.

Apols in advance this is titled and reads like a Buzzfeed article!

1. The PC Music sweet spot

For a couple of years now PC Music has steadily been infiltrating the mainstream: the mysterious Sophie worked on Madonna’s deliciously trashy Bitch I’m Madonna, while Danny L Harle teamed up with Carly Slay Jepsen for the effervescent Supernatural. However, Charli has been one of the only mainstream pop artists to fully embrace the PC Music sound. Number 1 Angel feels like the perfect crossover moment where current pop trends collide with PC Music’s plastic, electro-experimentalism. Trendsetting? This is pop of the future.

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2. Girl Power

Starrah, Raye, MØ, Uffie, Abra, cupcakKe…

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…you only have to read the featured artists on Number 1 Angel  to understand Charli’s love and support for innovative and daring females in music. This guest lineup showcases female talent past, present and future, celebrating ladies in music who’ve firmly carved out their own lanes. From start to finish, Number 1 Angel presents us with a real sense of authentic female collaboration in the name of great pop music.

3. E•MO•TION

No, sadly the world wasn’t quite ready for a Jeppo and XCX collab (although, note the pic below!!) but one thing the pair do share is an ability to shape brilliant pop songs around the emotional highs and lows of L.O.V.E. While Number 1 Angel is laden with club-ready bops it also shows off Charli’s softer side, pairing dynamic pop production with lyrics that feel like they’ve been beamed straight from the XCX diary.

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4. Lipgloss. Lipgloss. Lipgloss.

5-STAR. HI-NRG. ACID CANDY POP PERFECTION.

Oh, and cupcakKe.

5. “XCX, Charli!”

Remember when Missy proclaimed “This is a Missy Elliott exclusive” or Jason cried “Jason De-rulooo”!? Charli has now adopted her very own tag line and, you know what, it works. 5 out of the 10 tracks on Number 1 Angel feature the “eh-eh-XCX” or “XCX, Charli” tags, announcing the arrival of brand Charli: popstar supreme.

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Check out the mastery of Number 1 Angel for yourself and let me know what you think:

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The Pop Scribe 10

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It has been a truly mammoth week for pop: Steps reunited in spectacular form; Charli XCX dropped a 10-track mixtape/opus; Nicki Minaj appeared out of nowhere with 3 brand new tracks, ranging from standard to stunning …and that’s not even the half of it.

In the spirit of that ‘#FridayFeeling’ and because there are just too many great new pop tracks this week to remain unheard, I’ve compiled a 10-track playlist known as ‘The Pop Scribe 10’. The playlist collects my favourite pop cuts from the past week and will be updated weekly, bi-weekly or maybe even monthly depending on the state of things in Pop Land. The playlist isn’t in order of best to second best, but you can usually assume that the first track is a veritable masterpiece. I’m also a strong believer in playlists sequenced like albums, meaning STAY OFF THAT SHUFFLE button and enjoy the shift in tone and atmosphere. (You can, of course, enjoy the music however you please – it’s fine.)

The first ever Pop Scribe 10 includes: 

  • 3 appearances from Charli XCX in pop domination-mode
  • Steps well and truly pulling it out of the bag
  • ionnalee stepping out of the mystery of iam and into banger territory
  • A thrillingly dark and gnarly slice of new Goldfrapp
  • Louisa Johnson on her best behaviour, but also very much not.
  • Reflective, wooziness from Nicki Minaj
  • Lorde: the balladeer
  • Little Dragon channeling the sweeter side of the 90s

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Fem The Future

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Today in my local HMV I was surrounded by blue. Yes, Ed Sheehan had intercepted every corner of the shop to promote his new album, meaning even the staff themselves had to swap pink shirts for a deeper shade… I was shocked to see even the carrier bags offered were covered in that dreaded divide sign. The thought of becoming a walking promotion for an artist who far from lights my fire and baffles me with his chart notoriety was just too much. This got me thinking a lot about International Women’s Day and its relationship with pop music. In my mind, women have always been running rings around men in the field of pop music, crafting genuinely progressive tunes and championing social change. So why is a ginger chap from Suffolk afforded renewed success and minimal scrutiny when so many female pop acts aren’t?

Since the dawn of time I always regarded women as being the dominant force in pop music. Growing up on a healthy diet of Spice Girls, Britney and, of course, Madonna, I listened to and watched females who shaped and shifted pop over and over again. Obviously, at that time I had little awareness of the male gaze, the male-dominated music industry and the masculine bravado which reduces women in music to one-dimensional ‘singers’, whose only other talent is ‘looking good’. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve fallen into these traps myself and found myself checking my reactions – this mess is engrained in society. Thankfully, the internet has really started to open up this conversation and provide platforms for important explorations of femininity – just look at Beyoncé’s landmark Lemonade.

It’s easy to shout about the Ed Sheerans and The Weeknds of this world but for too long female pop artists have been undervalued for their artistry, technical ability and, importantly, social impact. I mean, let’s not forget the invaluable representation countless women in pop have provided for the LGBTQI+ community… Without losing myself in this discussion, I really wanted to use this post to celebrate the women in pop: musicians, writers, producers, technicians, managers, or, all of the above, who continue to keep the pop landscape as thrilling, forward-thinking and inclusive as it was when Madonna first cried: ‘Express yourself!’

Check out my Fem The Future playlist below for some of the best female collabs of last year:

The 2017 Tease

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Last year us pop fans were treated, or in some cases subjected, to a number of BIG pop teaser campaigns. In order of appearance: ANTI, Lemonade and Joanne all offered very different interpretations of the pre-release come-on, in which fans were thrown breadcrumbs across social media as they anxiously awaited the arrival of a new era from their fave.

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Rihanna’s ANTI was an agonisingly chaotic, strung out and seemingly expensive pre-album roll out, which took over a year to come to fruition. In contrast, Beyoncé’s Lemonade was an almost guerilla-style cultural event that teased the audiovisual album just a week before its release. In even further contrast, Lady Gaga’s Joanne was a more straightforward tease that gradually re-positioned ‘Mother Monster’ as a homegrown country gal over a 2-month period.

The ever-evolving and ever-saturated world of social media has completely flipped the idea of a ‘traditional’ album roll-out on its head. Pre-social media, I have the fondest of memories of bounding into HMV to pick up Madonna’s Confessions on a Dance Floor on its release day (9th November 2005!) after the blast that was the Hung Up single campaign. The truth of the matter is, before digital downloading and streaming shook up the music industry into the unstable mess it is now, pop megastars tended to enjoy fairly fail-safe promotional campaigns.

This might be one of the last relics of that period:

Sigh.

The anticipation back then felt both magical and measured; only the artists/record labels themselves could really control the medium and the volume in which you were teased, be it through TV, radio or print media. Nowadays, that thrill is spread thin across social media and too often overshadowed by the gimmickry which follows – namely memes. For that reason, it takes a true wave of hype and mystique (+ a considerable marketing budget) to cut through the crap and really grab your attention on social media… Lo and behold, the return of Ms. Katy Perry:

Thankfully, after the constant uncertainty of 2016 it seems like we may be about to encounter not only a disco-pop (!) revival but, most importantly, a new era from a pop star who just ‘gets on with it’. Harking back to the golden age of big pop comebacks, the stars feel aligned for Katy to re-emerge on Friday with new single Chained to the Rhythm, its accompanying video AND an exclusive Grammy performance this Sunday.

At a time when there are now teasers for teasers, digital treasure hunts, or maybe no tease at all through surprise releases; it is strangely reassuring to know that pop stars such as Katy Perry still exist to guide us through the memory of what it felt like to be an expectant pop fan before the dawn of social media.

Good Ol’ Gaga

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How could I NOT write about Artpop aficionado herself: Lady Gaga and her Super Bowl halftime hoot!? (That’s enough alliteration for now, but it was a hoot.) Unfortunately, due to the very nature of hyper-internet-journalism there’s already a fair few articles out there which cover the sociopolitical side of things pretty succinctly. Both of these are worth a click and a read:

 

So what about the setlist itself? Bar the gloopy Million Reasons, which has been rubbing me up the wrong way ever since that god awful video, the choice of tracks was pretty on the nose:

It’s hard to argue with the inclusion of such pop behemoths as Poker Face, Just Dance, Telephone and Bad Romance. Even Born This Way and its ham-fisted, but well-intentioned, representation of queerness felt utterly vital in the backdrop of a strange, new America. As many critics have already noted, when Gaga said: “We’re here to make you feel good” – she meant it. The fact is: Gaga’s music has never really been designed to be deeply analytical or inward facing. Much like some of ABBA’s biggest and best hits, Gaga’s brand of pop often deals in big universal emotions which somehow feel completely personal to you, the listener. 

The magic behind these songs doesn’t really need explanation. To my ears, the chants of ‘Ra Ra-ah-ah-ah, Roma Roma-ma’ just feel that little bit epic and evil. I don’t know why, they just do…and I love it. This is why Gaga’s performance was both authentically Gaga and widely applauded. Don’t be fooled by the elaborate fashion and academic interpretations; at its core, this is pop all about pure, unadulterated FEELING.

However, in order to completely contradict the purpose of this post, I started to think about what a setlist with a healthy dose of politics would look like. Additions would include: 

  • Americano – a batshit pro-immigration opener
  • Do What U Want – a defiant nod to anti-abortion legislation
  • Perfect Illusion/Bad Romance medley – just a general sense of chaos (?)
  • Born This Way (The Country Road Version) – a liberal call-to-arms for conservative country lovers
  • The Edge of Glory – a positive vision of what America could be + a bangin’ closer

So there we have it. It’s probably just as well Gaga avoided my suggestions in light of the heavy backlash received by past performers Janet Jackson (nipple-gate) and M.I.A. (finger-gate). Nevertheless, have a listen to my alternate reality setlist below:

    Ásgeir’s Winter Wonders

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    While some turn to hot water bottles and blankets as the winter months freeze on, these past few days I have found myself tuning into the wondrously comforting music of Iceland’s Ásgeir Trausti. Ásgeir’s music sits somewhere between the gentle folk of Bon Iver (For Emma era) and the chilly electronics of Björk (Vespertine era) and, at its best, these influences are blended into gorgeous electro/folk-infused pop…aka the sound of winter.

    ~Even as I write these words I can hear a voice in my head shouting: ‘Is this actually pop!?’ But let’s leave that for another post…~

    The brightest of these Icelandic gems form a quintet of songs which I’ve very cleverly named: Ásgeir’s Winter Wonders. At a time in the year when everything can seem a little bleak, particularly if you’re ‘in between jobs’, these ‘Winter Wonders’ provide a perfect spot of Icelandic escapism in soothing pop form.

    Wrap up and take a listen to the playlist below:

    P.S. Ásgeir also has a stunning new single out called Unbound, but I didn’t want this to seem like a big ol’ promotional post. Nevertheless, check it out…