How’s 2019 treating you so far? I’ve already had to buy a new laptop, left my iPad in Liverpool, and been continuously ASSAULTED by one of those mid-level colds that won’t fuck off – but!! I’m also organising the 20th edition of my short plays night, Briefs, and it’s happening this Thursday (17th January) near Waterloo. Eight new shorts, of which I have written/directed one; and wow it’s NEVER BEEN this stressful (waiting until after New Year to cast all the pieces was not a classic decision!) but it’s coming together really well and if you’re stuck for something fun to do that night, I’d recommend it. Tickets here. [/plug]
Before we get to this week’s stuff, I’ve been thinking about the artists I’m most keen to release new music very soon, and these are they: Zara Larsson! Marina! RIHANNA! Selena! And you know what, I hate the here’s-every-song-off-the-album-before-the-album’s-even-out strategy, but if Sigrid and Avril Lavigne wanna give us another track or two in advance, that would also be splendid.
ICYMI last week, I am keeping a rolling playlist of my favourite tracks week-by-week throughout the year, and blogging as I go. Will it be a fad that lasts, or will I have forgotten all about it by Valentine’s Day? Probably the latter! But God loves a trier!
Playlist here if you fancy following it (and embedded at the bottom of this post).
▶️ Dancing With A Stranger – Sam Smith and Normani
Last year it was suggested to me that gays dislike Sam Smith because we’re jealous of him? Wild!!! Idk, I do think people can be way too spiteful about him but… he has a startling track record of ignorance! And the majority of his songs are so boring! That said, I’ve always been open to a Samaissance, should he ever discover a beat, and lo – it might be happening! And who better to help usher him into a more interesting era than Nor-fucking-mani?!
First time I listened to this, I was like, “wow, this is starting really well!!”, then I looked at my phone and saw there was only 20 seconds left. I don’t know if I was expecting it to build a bit more? But Dancing With A Stranger gets better with every listen: the production is lush, and actually I quite like that the chorus sounds more like a pre-chorus? Normani is OBVIOUSLY a star, and I’m so excited to see what she does this year. This song, for a start, deserves big things. And more like this from Sam would be brill too.
▶️ More Than That – Lauren Jauregui
Lauren felt like the de-facto leader of Fifth Harmony after Camila left, and I’m DYING for her to do well on her own. More Than That is very strong, at least on its topline: the lyrics are brilliantly snappy (“Boy you better come stronger than this liquor”) and fiercely delivered; and I love the melody on the vocals too. I’m just a bit dubious about what’s behind them…?
The trap-y vibe doesn’t not work, I just wonder if it could do with something a bit… punchier. Like in a similar ballpark to Nina Nesbitt’s Loyal To Me, you know? There’s a strong chance I’m talking out of my arse here, but I feel like trap was VERY IN in pop music in 2018 (see: Sweetener), and More Than That is a great song, but in terms of standing out… I’m not sure. But I really want Lauren to have a breakout solo smash, so fingers crossed I’m spectacularly wrong. I feel it could grow from a 7 to a 9 very quickly.
▶️ Knock Me Off My Feet – SOAK
I’m not massively familiar with SOAK, you know, but I do like this. It’s about confronting mixed feelings towards your hometown – which I think a lot of hashtag-millennials will find hashtag-relatable – and I love the video. Will I still be listening to it this time next week? Hard to say! But right now it’s a pleasant way to spend three minutes.
▶️ Nights Like This – Kehlani feat. Ty Dolla $ign
Kehlani was the featured vocalist on two of my favourite songs of last year – Hayley Kiyoko’s What I Need and Charlie Puth’s (!) Done For Me – and it’s time for her to get the top-tier stardom she deserves. Written by its two performers alone, Nights Like This is a rich, emotionally exposing midtempo angstbop with some cracking lyrics (“On some nights like this, I just wanna text you, but for what? / You gon’ say you want me, then go switch it up”). I hope Kehlani has the mainstream success we as a society FAILED to give Tinashe.
▶️ When I Was Older – Billie Eilish
I haven’t seen Roma (that’s a lie; I started watching Roma but then realised I wasn’t in the right mood to pay attention to anything, so put something like The Heat on instead), but this is great, isn’t it? First time I heard it on the Spotify NMF playlist I was like, “…not for me”, but there’s a lot here: I love how it gradually unravels, I love the borderline creepy vocals, I love the bassline… Strobes. The last couple of minutes or so need strobes.
I don’t know if I’ll ever make a beeline to specifically listen to this, but I welcome its inclusion on my rolling playlist; that’s a fact.
▶️ Craving – ISA
Do I genuinely adore Craving, or does it just remind me of two of the most slept-on bops of last year; Emily Burns’ Cheat and The Chainsmokers’ (no, really) Side Effects? Who knows! And I’m not 100% sold on the chorus – a shame, given how great the build-up is – but I heard it for the third time and noticed a MARKED IMPROVEMENT in how much I was enjoying it, so ONTO THE LIST IT GOES! Fuck it!
That’s it for this week but feel free to shout at me on Twitter if I’ve missed any greats. Yes, I have heard the Westlife song, and no, I haven’t included it because that line about bellies and hair, or whatever it is, made me scratch all my skin off.
Here’s the rolling playlist to date: