Rina Sawayama is a queer Japanese-English woman living in the public eye, so it’s depressingly easy to imagine her absorbing microaggressions from clueless whites every other day.
‘STFU!’ – the first single from her upcoming debut – bites back at the ignorami and the irresponsible political rhetoric deployed to embolden them with a fiery nü-metal-inspired assault.
If, like me, you’re watching the UK general election unfold through your fingers, then this is the anthem you need in your life. There are juicy injections of bubblegum, but this is a decisively heavy track, in sound and in spirit.
The music video uses a cringey first date skit to illustrate the cruel, casual bigotry that POC regularly endure. Actor and comedian Ben Ashenden mines laughs as a tragic Asian fetishist reeling off all the weeaboo hallmarks: Kill Bill, Wagamamas, a work-in-progress script about ‘a little Japanese woman’. Needless to say, Rina’s unlikely marriage of racial politics with nü-metal shuts him the fuck up.
Watch Rina Sawayama go full-on Samara-from-The Grudge in the ‘STFU!’ music video below:
2019 belonged to Billie Eilish. If you don’t agree, then you haven’t been paying attention.
Debut album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? expertly elevated the singer’s dark whisper-pop to mainstream palatability without compromising an ounce of its distinctive, trap-adjacent gloom. At just 17 years of age, Billie has racked up over 15 million streams worldwide, played acclaimed sets at Coachella and Glastonbury, scored a US #1 with ‘Bad Guy’, and embedded herself in the public consciousness as a Gen Z icon – thanks in part to a relaxed, highly attainable fashion sense.
The title of her new single ‘Everything I Wanted’ likely refers to this rapid rise to fame, and lo and behold, it has come at a cost to her mental health. Over the gentlest of beats – a notable departure from When We…’s bass-heavy menace – Billie acknowledges the pressures and vitriol she faces as a young woman in the public eye. She recounts suicidal dreams, and lambastes the dehumanising language used to discuss her on social media: ‘They called me weak, like I’m not somebody’s daughter’.
At its heart, ‘Everything I Wanted’ is a love song dedicated to the person you wake up next to after a bad dream. But a pessimistic message lingers long after it’s over: when Billie falls asleep, she goes somewhere very dark indeed.
After a run of basic AF singles, Meghan Trainor resurrects her moribund album campaign with icy electro bop ‘Wave’.
Is there a popstar working today with less edge than Meghan Trainor? In September, she treated fans to a cover of the Friends theme tune, and to the best of my knowledge, she’s one of the few artists to promote a single by unveiling an official Zumba® choreography video. Such white nonsense is to be expected from Meghan. Genuinely good pop songs like ‘Wave’ are not.
For the uninitiated, the 25-year-old found unfathomable success halfway through the decade with a saccharin formula of 60s doo-wop and skin-deep feminism. Hummable hits like ‘All About That Bass’ may have netted her a Best New Artist Grammy, but in a post-Lizzo world, her work comes off as aggressively basic. A much-delayed third album Treat Myself had its January 2019 release date wiped when none of its four singles caught on.
So what now for Mrs. Daryl Sabara AKA The Boy From Spy Kids? If her new single is any indication, the singer has opened herself up to the icy, drip-fed pleasures of scandipop. In true Tove Lo fashion, ‘Wave’ starts off sparse and ethereal, gradually adding layers of pulsing electronica, gospel choirs, and an unusual sitar-banjo flourish to form a majestic love song.
Watch Meghan recreate Kylie’s ‘All The Lovers’ on a budget in the ‘Wave’ music video below:
Sporting a simplistic techno bassline and swirling strings, Dua Lipa’s new single is a mean disco throwback.
Dua Lipa’s singing technique is the vocal equivalent of resting bitch face. This icy detachment has been utilised to chart-topping effect on several occasions, most notably on the Calvin Harris collab ‘One Kiss’ – the ubiquitous popularity of which is best summed up by this video of football fans chanting the chorus:
‘Don’t Start Now’ is a similarly club-ready throbber, but it’s nowhere near as comically apathetic. ‘New Rules’ producer Ian Kirkpatrick demonstrates zero chill in trying to cultivate a sassy disco throwback in the vein of ‘I Will Survive’ – falling back on swirling strings and even appropriating a famous line from the Gloria Gaynor classic.
Despite whiffs of desperation, ‘Don’t Start Now’ is stabilised by Dua’s cool and aloof presence. The 24-year-old strikes her usual standoffish pose, yet there’s an emotional conviction bubbling underneath the fairly innocuous lyrics. It’s a deadly combo that suggests the breakout star is only getting started.
Watch Dua Lipa flit between dull-looking parties in the ‘Don’t Start Now’ video below:
Had it been unleashed at the height of Obama-era optimism in 2011, Kesha’s new single ‘Raising Hell’ would have a three-week minimum stint at #1 on lock.
The infectious LOL-pop number – replete with horn-driven breakdowns – is as purpose-built for sorority house party playlists as ‘Tik Tok’ or ‘We R Who We R’. At its heart is a message of salvation through sin, a textbook credo for a Kesha song, written for the ‘misfits of creation’.
A welcome difference this time is a dose of churchy delirium (handclaps, dramatic pianos, chintzy organs) that not only allows Kesha to really SANG, but also dovetails nicely with 2017’s GRAMMY-nominated ‘Praying’.
But where that ballad was a searing account of alleged abuse at the hands of disgraced über-producer Dr. Luke, ‘Raising Hell’ is a rapturous celebration of freedom. Even when the unmistakable voice of bounce legend Big Freedia commands you to ‘drop it down low’, this is a party where the guests are drunk on gratitude more than anything else.
Watch Kesha preach the good word and kill her abusive husband(!) in the ‘Raising Hell’ video below:
Psychedelic gloss and a midway U-turn towards gospel make this a pleasingly soulful return.
Harry Styles is very good at writing songs about nothing. That skill has been a liability in the past – see laughably hollow solo debut ‘Sign of the Times’ – yet new single ‘Lights Up’ somehow makes sense of his flair for nebulous lyrical imagery.
Presumably the first offering from the singer’s upcoming sophomore album, the song emulates the hushed ecstasy of indie-pop heavyweights like Miguel or Tame Impala, with a midway U-turn towards gospel and a psychedelic finish.
Musings on knowing ‘who you are’ and shining ‘so bright sometimes’ land with all the sagacity of that guy who brings his acoustic guitar to every house party doing shrooms for the first time. Thankfully, the lush milieu and stacked harmonies add a soulfulness that would otherwise be missing. For three magical minutes, Harry Styles sounds like he’s got something to say.
Watch Harry brush skin with some sweaty people (yes, woman AND men) in the ‘Lights Up’ video below:
Are those the macho revs of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle you hear? Or the enthused purrs of KatyCats the world over?
‘Harleys In Hawaii’, the latest single from Katy Perry’s yet-to-be-announced fifth studio album, promises both.
Produced by Charlie Puth and Johann Carlsson, it’s a tantalising midtempo built on guitar plucks and woozy synths. Giving her sexiest performance in years, Katy invites her lover – who may or may not hold a Hells Angels membership card – to join her on a tropical escapade. According to the fanciful lyrics, she apparently makes this suggestion on a rather humdrum Sunday, because that’s what being a millionaire is like.
‘Harleys’ bridges the optimism of summer with the cool resistance of autumn, lying somewhere between Lana Del Rey’s ‘Doin’ Time’ and Camila Cabello’s ‘Havana’. Like the latter’s now-iconic ‘Havana-na-na-na’ hook, the titular island state is immortalised with its own equivalent: a breathy ‘Hawaii-aii-aii’. At least it should be a hit somewhere.
Watch Katy burn rubber in the ‘Harleys In Hawaii’ video below: