Mark Ronson’s ‘Late Night Feelings’ is a mascara-smeared masterpiece

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Stream on Spotify

Score: 9.0/10

Add to library: ‘Late Night Feelings’, ‘Find U Again’, ‘Truth’, ‘Nothing Breaks Like A Heart’

Mark Ronson’s fifth album is an emotional knockout, buoyed by a stellar all-female line-up including Lykke Li, Camila Cabello, Alicia Keys, and YEBBA.

In this post-meme culture we live in, the threat of ‘catching feelings’ will provoke a near-ironic response from the nearest millennial and Gen Z listener. It is a response wrought with gory fears of rejection and heartbreak. If Drake’s ‘In My Feelings’ is to be believed, feels are a free pass to be uncompromisingly needy; if you ever receive a ‘Kiki, do you love me?kinda late-night voicemail, anyone with a fuckboi allergy would be wise to delete it.

Late Night Feelings basks in these connotations of messy melodrama, perhaps because Ronson acknowledges the resplendent beauty in watching yourself cry in the mirror. Don’t act like you don’t do it. 

As its cover art plainly reveals, this is a concept album about heartbreak. There are moments of camp – the 70s disco-infused title track basically stomps around swigging a glass of wine with mascara running down its face – but for the most part, Ronson’s MO is giving his contributors room to air their dirty emotional laundry, and the producer’s faith is rewarded with 13 nuanced takes on an age-old subject.

Camila Cabello dazzles on the minor-key tech house number ‘Find U Again’. The lovelorn damsel role she’s given to play is nothing new, but the popstar’s razory gargle and a helpful nod to mental health (‘I do therapy at least twice a week’) add shades of spunk to her unlucky-in-love character. 

The themes are consistent throughout, but Ronson’s productions span a pleasing array of genres – from country-dance hybrids (Miley Cyrus vehicle ‘Nothing Breaks Like A Heart’), to prog-folk (‘True Blue’, featuring Angel Olsen), to unremarkable tropipop (‘Don’t Leave Me Lonely’, the best of a triptych of tracks from rising star YEBBA, whose affected bleating can next be heard on Ed Sheeran’s upcoming collaborations album. I hope it was worth it, YEBBA!). 

Only ‘Truth’ looks at heartbreak from an outwardly perspective. Alicia Keys and Portland rapper The Last Artful, Dodgr use their time in the studio to express their political discontent in Trump’s America, and share their top tips for staying sane in a society that’s becoming increasingly numb to injustice: ‘Keep on educatin’, meditatin’, anything to keep me up’. 

The track’s phat industrial hip-hop stomp and lyrical grit sounds more like something from Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly than anything else here. The contrast is an absolute tonic in the context of the record. The crumbling democracy of a global superpower, the ramifications of which might just eviscerate civilisation as we know it, highlights the relative frivolity of our own personal, low-stake melodramas.

If Ronson likes to watch himself cry in the mirror, then he knows it’s always better when a fragment of your conscience, however tiny, knows the reason won’t really matter in the long run. Hearts heal. Eyes dry. Confront your reflection, top up your mascara, hit the town, and catch some late night feelings. 

Katy Perry’s ‘Never Really Over’ deserves to be prophetic

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Katy Perry’s latest single takes the tastiest morsels of her signature Big Mac pop, rustles up a fresh salad of Scandi influences, and serves up a surprisingly nourishing meal.

As the pop icon’s tentative return to the charts after enduring the bloodthirsty backlash sparked by 2017’s Witness, ‘Never Really Over’ obviously has some commercial boxes to tick. Produced by Zedd and Dreamlab, the verses are standard tropipop and tailor-made for Spotify playlists, as Katy meekly describes a relationship she can’t shake. But then something magical happens…

00:29 Katy starts belting. It sounds like ‘Roar’ but less embarrassing.

00:36 Katy belts the name of the song. This definitely isn’t ‘Roar’. You’re listening to THE NEW KATY PERRY. She flopped hard and now the quality control is on lock!

00:47 Drums slap. Oh God what’s happening.

00:48 JUSTBECAUSEIT’SOVERDOESN’TMEANIT’SREALLYOVERANDIFITHINKITOVERMAYBEYOU’LLBECOMINGOVERAGAINANDI’LLHAVETOGETOVERYOUALLOVERAGAIN

A lot of the song’s beauty can be attributed to its sampling of ‘Love You Like That’ by Norwegian singer Dagny. Katy somehow adds more words to that 2017 blog hit’s tongue-twisting chorus, unleashing a barrage of crisp, stuttering synths and addictive iterations of the word ‘over’ (there are 12 in this part alone).

This momentum is taken to further heights as the song shifts into a sublime middle eight that clobbers you with memories of ‘Teenage Dream’, particularly the potent Americana of its ‘Let you put your hands on me in my skin-tight jeans’ hook. Yeah, Katy went there. 

Crucially, ‘Never Really Over’ comes packaged with a strong media narrative, a weapon Katy has not had in her holster for some time. Do lyrics such as ‘We were such a mess, but wasn’t it the best?’ refer to her once-tumultuous romance with fiancé Orlando Bloom? Or are they a plea to the casual single-buying fans who used to keep her record sales afloat via album-equivalent units?

You’ll have to keep streaming to be 100% sure!

 

Carly Rae Jepsen’s ‘Dedicated’ is a crisp and chic pop gem

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Stream on Spotify 

Score: 9.0/10

Add to library: Just delete ‘Now That I Found You’

Dedicated is Carly Rae Jepsen’s much-anticipated follow-up to 2015’s Emotion, an album that’s widely agreed among music fans to be the apex of contemporary pop.

That’s a hard act to follow, but as the title suggests, the Canadian maverick again comes committed to calibrating the perfect pop album. 

Say what you like about her, but Carly’s songs are instantly recognisable – or at least they would be if they were played on the radio (‘Call Me Maybe’ aside). Her cult fanbase have come to expect heart-on-sleeve tales of love, told through maximalist synthpop arrangements and petal-soft vocals gilded with a sweet rasp.

On her third effort, however, Carly shakes some of the fizz out of her sound. It’s a notably mellower set of tracks, even if the themes of intimacy and loneliness are no more bittersweet than they’ve always been. 

The bad news is there’s no full-throttle, arms-aloft bops a la ‘Run Away With Me’ tucked away in the tracklist. The good news is Carly is horny, which naturally makes the obsessively insular songwriting far more interesting than the crisp and chic midtempo music that surrounds it.

Lyrically, ‘Everything He Needs’ delights in a young woman’s newfound sexual power. To call it Carly’s smuttiest track to date wouldn’t be saying much. The 33 year-old has long been expressing her sexuality in the kind of girlish aphorisms a high schooler would have scrawled across their journal. This is what Carly excels at, and while her imagery is a touch more eyebrow-raising these days – ‘When he can’t sleep, I understand / Like pressure points, my love can ease him in my hand’ – it is still sung with a wide-eyed amazement that’s startling in its purity.

There’s no shortage of intoxicating subtlety – from lowkey yet melodious cuts like ‘The Sound’ and ‘For Sure’ (listen out for a gorgeous afrobeat outro), to the Parisian nü-disco throb of ‘Julien’. As one of the few uptempo moments of the album, ‘Now That I Found You’ is a crushing disappointment, blindly microwaving the effervescent joy of Emotion into a substance-less mush. Electric Guest collab ‘Feels Right’ is a jaunty, piano-led rocker that’s mildly compromised by an interesting choice of upper register courtesy of Carly.

I admit the standard I’m holding Carly isn’t entirely fair. To her credit, from the immense pressure of delivering another instant classic, she’s managed to forge a handful of diamonds. ‘Happy Not Knowing’ and ‘Real Love’ are snappy and affecting dance numbers, but only ‘Want You In My Room’ truly advances her sound.

Picking up where the herculean 80s pop of Emotion left off, Carly’s perfectly at home amid the track’s big 80s drums and twinkly guitars, but there’s a worldbeat flair to its deeply funky synths that’s new for her. At the song’s heart is an amusing ‘my window is open for you’ motif that’s very much from the Mae West School of Seduction.

It’s no accident that the album’s best track happens to be yet another insight into Carly’s libido. If Dedicated proves anything, it’s that the girl’s getting good at it.

Err, good at writing about it, I mean.

 

Dido: Still On My Mind – ‘Dinner party music with interesting new flavours’

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Stream on Spotify

Score: 7.5/10

Add to library: ‘You Don’t Need A God’, ‘Take You Home’, ‘Friends’

Believe me when I say I did not expect the first 2019 release I would write about to be from bloody Dido.

Still On My Mind isn’t a bad record by any means. It’s actually rather gorgeous. But despite the considerable artistic growth it signals, the singer is forever destined to be an early-noughties punchline.

‘Dido’ is shorthand for the era of British dinner party music. The glossy, post-trip-hop splendour of megahits like ‘Here With Me’ and ‘White Flag’ set the scene for a glut of MOR starlets – from Jem’s wafer-thin folktronica, to Katie Melua pondering over Beijing’s bicycle population, backed by acoustic guitar and (trigger warning) a Chinese bamboo flute.

As a Dido fan, I can admit she excels at precisely two types of songs. There are the vanilla ballads that sent 1999’s No Angel and 2003’s Life for Rent flying off the shelves at Tesco. Then there’s the vanilla house tunes, both solo and with brother Rollo’s dance act Faithless, which in this example are supposed to represent Dido’s adventurous side.

The good news is, for much of her fifth record, Dido commits to a headier, more electronic sound. Don’t get me wrong – what counts as an uptempo on a Dido album is still highly relative. You probably won’t end up pre-seshing to synthy delights like ‘Take You Home’ (with its seductive ‘la la la’ hook) or ‘Mad Love’. We’re still in red-wine-on-the-patio territory here.

What you should appreciate is the confidence Dido and Rollo – together writing and producing the lion’s share of the record – have in this material. ‘Hurricanes’ opens with guitar plucks and a cold wisp of a vocal. So far, so familiar. But it builds in a way that no other Dido track has before, erupting unexpectedly into an intoxicating chillwave climax.

The next track ‘Give You Up’ works well because it does nothing of the sort. It’s the kind of sparse piano ballad Dido diehards will love, complemented by a stunning choir. This time, there’s no payoff, but the fact that I found myself waiting for one at all makes this a good lesson in how to raise (and toy with) a listener’s expectations in the space of two songs.

Musically, there are some nice surprises – from the horn-laden (and just plain horny) experiment ‘Hell After This’, to the Balearic tones bubbling beneath ‘Friends’. Yet the biggest shock of all comes from hearing the gentle, unassuming Dido finally acknowledge her commercial accomplishments: ‘I’ve done a hundred things / You’ve only dreamed’.

No matter how vanilla the songs may objectively be, the staggering success of Dido’s first two albums means her place in the pop history books is guaranteed. For the first time in a long time, Still On My Mind suggests she’s ready to use her platform in an interesting way.

 

40 pop songs from 2018 you need to hear

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Click here for the Spotify playlist

40. Years & Years – All For You

Olly Alexander does his diva idols proud on this glow-in-the-dark floorfiller.

Read my Palo Santo review

39. Taylor Swift – Delicate

Bubbling emotions. Dainty vocals. A sprinkle of experimentation. The old Taylor is alive and well.

38. Jesse Saint John – Move

Songwriter to the stars steps into the limelight with this sweat-drenched pop-punk curio.

37. 5 Seconds of Summer – Youngblood

No one was expecting the Australian One Direction to stay relevant in 2018, but this well-deserved hit has a chorus that could wake the dead.

36. Bipolar Sunshine – Pedestal

The Manchester singer’s lazy pronunciation somehow stays one step ahead of the lush cocktail lounge beat.

35. Tove Lo  (featuring Charli XCX, Icona Pop, Elliphant and ALMA) – Bitches (remix)

For fans left blue-balled by the all-too brief album version, this all-star remix was a wet dream come true.

34. Confidence Man – Out the Window

Imagine Deee-lite doing big beat.

33. Cupcakke – Duck Duck Goose

An R-rated grab bag of classic Cupcakke-isms – ‘I thought I came but I peed on the dick’ etc. – and EDM house beats.

32. Rae Sremmurd, Swan Lee & Slim Jxmmi – Powerglide

Who doesn’t want to hear three buzzy hip-hop acts go mano o mano over a churning trap beat? 

31. Planningtorock – Much to Touch

Non-binary electronic musician Jam Rostron knows immersion is key to overcoming one’s prejudices. For all its sass and braggadocio, ‘Much to Touch’ doesn’t berate its antagonists, but instead cordially invites them to get up close and personal.

30. Little Mix – Wasabi

More than a sassy hair-flip to the haters, this inventive number splices slick 00s urban-house pop with snatches of garage rock.

29. Lizzo – Fitness

Nobody is more qualified to coach a sweat-drenched class in female agency than the formidable Lizzo.

28. Jessie Ware – Overtime

The London-born singer returns to her dance roots with this after-hours banger. For Jessie, house is where the heart is.

27. All Saints – After All

All Saints and William Orbit relive their early 00s glory days with this transcendent ballad.

Read my Testament review

26. Yaeji – One More

Sublimely mellow house pop from the Korean-American whizzkid.

25. The 1975 – TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME

‘TOOTIME…’ deftly adapts tropipop rhythms to the band’s indie sound, with Matt Healy reining his booming voice into a reedy purr.

24. Let’s Eat Grandma – Hot Pink

Producer SOPHIE dangles sickly-sweet synthwork like a lure, all before a crunching bassline takes the patriarchy in its jaws.

Read my I’m All Ears review

23. The Carters – Apeshit

A flex of absolute power from two pop titans.

22. SOPHIE – Immaterial

A bizarre burst of electro-catharsis. Trivia: its parent album is up for a 2019 Grammy, making SOPHIE (alongside songwriter Teddy Geiger) the first ever transgender woman ever to be nominated.

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21. Christine and the Queens – Doesn’t Matter

We all love a good sadbanger – ‘Dancing On My Own’ anyone? – but only this French maverick could bring a full-blown existential crisis to the dance floor and still make you bop.

20. Charli XCX (featuring Troye Sivan) – 1999

Anne Marie’s horrible tribute to the year 2002 should have put any artist off getting nostalgic about years their target audience barely remembers. Leave it to Charli XCX – pop’s savviest curator – to celebrate her early bubblegum influences in such an affectionate manner.

19. Post Malone – Better Now

This undeniable pop crossover was the cherry on top of a huge year for the famously dishevelled rapper.

18. Mariah Carey (featuring Ty Dolla Sign) – The Distance

An unexpectedly smooth production from dubstep icon Skrillex, bookended by an infectious cheerleader chat.

17. Denzel Curry (featuring Nyyjerra) – CASH MANIAC

Come for the charismatic boasting – stay for the funky alt hop-hop production.

16. Courtney Barnett – Nameless, Faceless

The alt-rock sensation taunts chauvinist keyboard warriors and paraphrases Margaret Atwood on this scuzzy banger.

15. Amber Mark – All the Work

An intoxicating fusion of bossa nova and house music.

14. Rosalía – Malamente

‘Malamente’ is Catalan for ‘badly’. The sparse new flamenco soundscapes have a delicious ebb and flow, but lyrically, Rosalía’s superstitions loom large.

13. Daphne & Celeste – Alarms

From my Daphne & Celeste Save the World review:

“If you can’t hear an inexplicable beauty in the acid-trance gem ‘Alarms’, then maybe you don’t deserve to be saved.”

12. Kendrick Lamar & SZA – All The Stars

Film soundtracks devoured the charts this year, but knockout performances and a chorus that’s staggering in its simplicity made this the promo single to beat.

11. Kali Uchis – Just A Stranger

The indelible, OutKast-aping hook may belong to The Internet’s Steve Lacy, but Ms. Uchis is our Mistress of Ceremonies, feeling every inch of herself with humour and pageantry.

10. Parliament – I’m Gon Make U Sick ‘O Me

One-part takedown of US pharmaceutical giants, two-parts doctor-patient roleplay. Grandaddy of psychedelic hip-hop George Clinton prescribes a tasty pill that’s hard to swallow.

9. Calvin Harris – One Kiss

I dug 2018 Calvin – a handsome, mustachioed hipster with a lucrative knack for 90s diva house.

8. Cardi B – I Like It

Vain, obnoxious, and shamelessly self-serving. In other words, everything I love about Cardi B.

7. Robyn – Honey

Painstakingly built synthpop that’s a sweet and viscous as its titular substance.

6. Drake – Nice For What

Masterfully sampling Lauryn Hill and legendary bounce artist Big Freedia, ‘Nice For What’ is a rump-shaker from start to finish.

5. Troye Sivan – My My My!

From my Bloom review:

‘It’s like Phil Collins sharing drugs with M83 in the bathroom of a Berlin gay club.’

4. Tirzah – Holding On

Using wheezy, accordion-style synths and bursts of white noise as percussion, the London singer sets her nagging issues with intimacy to an awkwardly danceable beat.

3. Rina Sawayama – Cherry

In her ascent to the upper echelons of pop, Rina is fighting two battles. The politically savvy English-Japanese singer has already baked concerns over the underrepresentation of Asian acts into her music. This year, she bravely used this suitably fragrant electropop ditty to come out as pansexual.

The execution is stunning. Taken on its own, ‘Even though I’m satisfied, I live my life within a lie’ is a maudlin lyric. But you’ll struggle to name a song more liberating either in sound or in message – from the twinkly percussion, to the stomping Y2K beat, to a lead vocal that caresses the track like a beam of sunlight.  

2. Childish Gambino – This Is America

Renaissance man Donald Glover turned his frustrations with police brutality into an unmissable audiovisual event. The track’s trap-afrobeat experiment is uniquely danceable, but it doesn’t dilute the message – the production is foreboding when it wants to be, and joyous when it needs to be.

Yet it’s the words Glover doesn’t say that makes ‘This Is America’ so important. Repeat viewings alone aren’t enough. It’s that special beast that compels you discuss it with a friend, a colleague, or your Saturday night Uber driver, if only to make sense of it all. As Glover himself sings: ‘You go tell somebody…’

1. Ariana Grande – No Tears Left to Cry / thank u, next

Where do I even begin with Ariana Grande’s stranglehold on 2018?

‘No Tears Left to Cry’ had a horrible task. It was the singer’s first release since the tragic terrorist attack at her concert at Manchester Arena last May. The single was obligated to live to up to that emotional gravitas and pay tribute to the 23 victims – while also making commercial sense for a young artist yet to hit their peak.

But with a little help from the Max Martin hit factory, Ariana kicked off a new chapter in her career with daring piece of theatrical dance-pop, as laden with UK garage as it is with heavenly wails. The lyrics are relentlessly optimistic, but sung with a pain that’s yet to fully heal.

‘thank u, next’ shares a similar attitude, but represents a calmer, more patient R&B side to her repertoire. Sadly, it was another single released under tragic circumstances. Rapper Mac Miller, who Ariana split from earlier this year, had passed away in September. But once again, she read the room perfectly and honours him with a reverent lyric.

The other exes lucky enough to be documented don’t exactly escape unscathed, but the song is more an ode to practicing self-care than a revenge anthem. Listeners identified with this chill acceptance of life’s disappointments, and more importantly, the successes that come when you finally learn to love yourself.

Read my Sweetener review

Fright Sound Tape: Your Halloween party playlist

My PostMore than any other night of the year, Halloween is your chance to dance like you’re somebody – or something – else.

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Don’t fuck it up! Turn off the lights, fill up your goblet, and whack on this spooky Spotify playlist of 20 holy Halloween classics – 10 old, 10 new.

1. Echo & The Bunnymen – The Killing Moon (1984)

‘Fate up against your will.

Through the thick and thin.

He will wait until

you give yourself to him’

‘The Killing Moon’ is a great post-punk rock record, period. The chorus above unravels with spontaneous grace, every word coming naturally and serving a purpose. Okay, purpose might be too active a word. The song’s presiding feeling is one of resignation – an acceptance of Fate’s master plan.

At the story’s centre is a romance doomed to end in at least one death. But the plot beats are signposted by gothic symbolism that keep things just on the right side of ghoulish fun. A serious piece of music then, but one that evokes the morbidity of the Halloween season as organically as a bloodied butcher knife.

2. Lady Gaga – Bad Romance (2009)

Catchy monster sounds? Yas! Nightmarish storytelling? Yas! Dance routine? Yaaaaass!

3. Michael Jackson – Thriller (1982)

The iconic ‘Thriller’ video opens with a disclaimer that Michael Jacksonin no way endorses a belief in the occult‘. Scoff as we might of the quaintness of the message – perhaps it was necessary. After all, no one in pop culture icon before or since has made the supernatural look more fun.

4. Britney Spears – Freakshow (2007)

Britney has never been afraid to experiment, sprinkling this slut-dropper with menacing dubstep wobbles way back in ‘07.

5. Bobby Boris Pickett – The Monster Mash (1962)

My friends and I sang the entirety of ‘The Monster Mash’ at our school talent show when we were 16 – with absolutely no backing track. That’s how iconic it is.

6. OutKast featuring Kelis – Dracula’s Wedding (2003)

Even when playing vampires sentenced an eternity together, Kelis and André 3000 are a match made in heaven.

7. Grace Jones – I’ve Seen That Face Before (Libertango) (1981)

Fusing a classic Argentine tango with reggae arrangements, this is a Frankenstein’s Monster of a song. But as usual, it’s Miss Grace Jones – singing with suicidal detachment – who brings the spook.

8. Childish Gambino – Boogieman (2016)

Like much of Donald Glover’s “Awaken, My Love!” LP, ‘Boogieman’ uses horror clichés to allude to racial tension in America: ‘But if he’s scared of me / How can we be free?

9. Cerrone – Supernature (1977)

TL;DR ‘Donna Summer does “The Monster Mash”’.

10. Katy Perry – Dark Horse (2014)

Shielded by walls of trap-for-kidz – before the real thing dominated radio – Katy plays the role of sexy sorcerer with aplomb.

11. Warren Zevon – Werewolves of London (1978)

Sharp imagery – ‘Saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand’ – and a howl-along chorus. What’s not to love?

12. Rihanna – Disturbia (2008)

There is a grim irony in this four-on-the-floor headfuck being co-written by Rihanna’s own Big Bad, Chris Brown.

13. Talking Heads – Psycho Killer (1973)

It’s almost unfair that we associate one music’s finest basslines with David Byrne’s paean to the murderous mind. But on an eerie October evening, the pairing emulsifies splendidly.

14. Peaches – Trick or Treat (2009)

A sleazy synthpop romp – with a lesson Michael Myers and his sexually active prey can agree on: ‘Never go to bed without a piece of raw meat.’

15. Rockwell – Somebody’s Watching Me (1984)

Rockwell owes a debt to Michael Jackson’s generous ‘backing vocals’ (he does the unshakeable hook), but the one-hit-wonder’s own paranoid rants are worth the price of entry alone.

16. Shakira – She Wolf (2009)

The lycanthropic ‘ah-woos’ may be fabulously half-hearted, but the Columbian superstar’s sexual liberation is anything but.

17. Screamin’ Jay Hawkins – I Put A Spell On You (1956)

The legendary blues singer claims not to remember recording ‘I Put A Spell On You’. How fitting that he wails like a man possessed.

18. Travis Scott featuring Kendrick Lamar – Goosebumps (2017)

The goosebumps in question are romantic ones, but the horror-movie atmospherics still get under the skin.

19. The Rolling Stones – Sympathy For the Devil (1974)

Going solely by its lively groove, you could almost forget this is a darkly comic celebration of Satan’s role in historical atrocities. A devilish sleight of (red right) hand that makes it perfect for a Halloween party playlist.

20. Kanye West, Jay-Z and Nicki Minaj – Monster (2010)

On a career-defining verse, Nicki swaps alter egos with the ferocity of Linda Blair in The Exorcist. But by the end, the Minaj brand is as recognisable as any Halloween costume.

 

Troye Sivan’s ‘Bloom’ needs a splash of colour

bloom

Stream on Spotify

Score: 7/10

Add to library: ‘My! My! My!’, ‘Bloom’, ‘Plum’, ‘Lucky Strike’

Anyone on the pop blog scene will be au fait with Troye Sivan’s ‘My! My! My!’ – the synthpop spectacular that sounds like Phil Collins sharing drugs with M83 in the bathroom of a Berlin gay club.

Understandably, the poptimist who fell for its whirring groove back in January might have tentative hopes for the Australian singer’s sophomore album to be something on the scale of Carly Rae Jepsen’s Emotion, an unapologetically sugary listen with enough five-star press clippings to soften its perilous fall from the charts.

But for better or worse, Bloom never again matches the glittery nerve of its big single (or its fabulous, voguing video).  

Then again, Troye was never obliged to stray far from his 2015 debut Blue Neighbourhood. The uncluttered, Lorde-ish stylings that album embraced have since proved popular with the masses, embedded in the kind of slow-burn hits synonymous with the streaming era. 

Troye plays it safe with ten mid-tempos buffed to a lustrous electropop sheen. Ironically, for all its approved-by-committee glory, there are zero single options here. Yet as a collection, Bloom is a rather fetching vehicle for its star, and at a mere 37 minutes, never outstays its welcome.

Queer lyrical themes aside, there’s not much of a spark to slower songs like ‘The Good Side’ and ‘Seventeen’. The former is John Grant-lite, the latter plugs the holes in its melody with a crap ‘oh oh oh’ line. At the same time, they’re both tenderly written snapshots of a young man’s burgeoning sexuality.

The pop-cynic would argue that the short runtime flatters Troye’s limited range, both as a vocalist and an emoter (not least next to a guesting Ariana Grande on the misleadingly titled ‘Dance to This’). Doe-eyed apathy is his brand, and although his flower is certainly in bloom, you might come away hoping for a splash of colour next season.