No Rome‘s 1975-produced (NOT THAT YOU’D GUESS) Do It Again is a miniature masterpiece.
Spotify’s credits leave the producer name blank on the Call Me Loop single so we can only assume this song is the work of DJ Earworm.
Shawn Mendes‘ Nervous is the most Julia Michaels song you’ve ever heard.
The LOVA EP is out today and it’s Quite A Treat.
Jain‘s new single features a picture of the singer catching a dove on her hand and is therefore brilliant, and also it’s brilliant because it’s brilliant. Worth investigating Jain’s 2016 album Zanaka too.
The new Christine and the Queens single was released on a day that wasn’t Friday, which means it doesn’t quality for top-of-the-playlist status, and also it’s not as good as the Clean Bandit and Demi Lovato single, so that’s all worked out fine.
Great to see Leon Else get a big moment on the generally-really-good 13 Reasons Why season two soundtrack album with My Kind Of Love.
Galantis and Uffie: what a team.
Betty Who‘s still going!
Nicole Millar is one of the more exciting artists working in a very crowded pop space: No Strings is the latest glimpse of a really rather great debut album that’s due for release later this year.
Riton and Kah-Lo have released their song again, and that’s fine.
Hard to know how to cover the existence of the (pretty great but that’s not the point) new Backstreet Boys single, really.
For different reasons it’s hard to know how to approach Hillsong Young & Free‘s latest godbanger. What a world!
There is no sight more magnificent, no pop glory higher than a nicely presented array of pop-related flyposters. “There’s something cultural happening!” it says. “Here’s a slightly illegal and therefore politely anarchic advertisement for it.”
And there’s a real treat happening right now at the interesting end of Kensington High Street. Non-industry wankers might not realise this but all three of the UK’s major record labels live on the same street: Sony and Warner Music are at one end, where the decent shops are, with Universal situated a not-quite-worth-a-bus-but-too-far-to-enjoyably-walk distance down the road, where the most exciting shop is a Screwfix. But Universal is also nearer than the other labels to Westfield, so it’s swings and roundabouts.
Let’s take a closer look at what’s on offer.
1. Years & Years
Olly’s nose ring almost forms a comma in the band name. While we applaud Years & Years’ consistent use of an ampersand — an punctuational arrangement with which some bands would play fast and loose between campaigns, creating a sense of disorientation in fans and anger among others — one can’t help wondering if Years, and years, while being the same band name, might actually be a better band name.
In this poster Years & Years are keen to impress upon us the urgency of their message: there’s no ‘the’ before ‘brand new single’. This is purely informational. New stuff out now, take it or leave it. Title, format, availability, bang, bang, bang.
This actually shows a great sense of confidence on the band’s part. They don’t need to make this release seem more monumental by adding a ‘the’. They don’t need to tell you where to get it or listen to it. All they need to do for the world to lose its shit is announce this new song’s existence.
2. The 1975
Let’s be honest here ladies and gents, The 1975’s Music For Cars campaign is already a total visual triumph. There are loads of these posters up around the UK’s major cities, and they all look absolutely brilliant.
The most exciting thing here is the 2018—2019 timeline top right: they’re already establishing the parameters of their own album era. Who does this? Nobody! They’ve got this whole thing planned out already. (Which is even more impressive when you consider that they announced the album’s title last April, before their last album campaign was even over, and actually stuck with that title. Again — who does this?)
Phwoar right? What a band.
3. James Bay
In some ways this is actually the reverse of the Years & Years poster. There’s a ‘the’, for a start: this is a big deal! It’s what you’ve been waiting for! This isn’t just any new album. It’s the new album. It’s the new album by James Bay and everyone’s talking about it. THE THE THE.
What you’ll also see here is that while Years & Years didn’t ask anything of the person seeing their poster — brand new single out now, do what you want with this info — with James Bay there’s an Apple Music button on the bottom. (Obviously we tapped it and nothing happened so we’re not sure what’s happening there.) The suggestion here is that James Bay’s people thought some people might see the poster and not realise that it was an advertisement, or that they were supposed to respond. “What if they see the poster for a new album, and don’t realise they’re invited to listen to it?” This is why the Apple Music logo is so important.
(Interesting-not-interesting sidenote: both the James Bay posters posted in this location include the Apple Music button, but a month or so ago we noticed another music flyposter, posted twice in the same location like these have been. The two posters were identical apart from the streaming service logo at the bottom: one was Apple Music, one was Spotify. Not worth upsetting anyone, right? Except perhaps Deezer. Obviously this point would have been better if we could remember the artist or even if we’d taken a photo, but there you go. It happened, we saw it, let’s not have an argument about it.)
Of course the main takeaway from this James Bay poster is that like all great advertisements it invites the viewer to consider some uncomfortable issues and ask her or himself some important questions. In this case, the internal dialogue surely runs something like this: “James Bay is actually quite hot now, and I suppose the truth is that James Bay was probably quite hot all along, and it was just the hat and the hair that stopped me seeing this. Am I going through life judging people on what look like before their X Factor live shows-style makeover, when really I should be seeing everybody’s full potential? But also, am I currently in my own hat-and-Jessie-J-wig era? Am I one frenzied major label styling session away from going The Full James Bay? Or have I already reached my own full potential? Is there hope for the future, or is this as good as it gets?”
Jess Glynne’s record-breaking tally of UK Number One singles recently hit six (SIX!) but that count will probably increase in the coming weeks because I’ll Be There is a right old stormer for reasons including but not limited to: it sitting somewhere in the magical area between banger and ballad, its message of support and inspiration and positivity etc etc, its semi-yodelled chorus, it just generally being a very robust and instantly enjoyable ‘pop’ ‘thing’.
Anyway we got her on the phone earlier today and there was a bit of a false start because she had to run into a polling station to vote, but that’s an excellent reason to delay the start of a phone interview so we didn’t have an argument with her about it. Pop journalism should not stand in the way of democracy.
Here are some questions and some answers.
1. There are going to be seven questions here: one for each of your Number One singles. Obviously this puts quite a lot of pressure on I’ll Be There getting to Number One. Do you think it will?
OH MY GOD. That’s a really big question. I’m so grateful for all the success I’ve had but I never put a song out thinking ‘this is a Number One’. I’m in love with the song, for so many reasons, but I’d just be happy if someone buys it. 1
2. There’s a line in the song about being there for someone when they come home and the lights are off. Is it about God, or is it about an Amazon Echo?
[Light chortling] No, it’s about a friendship. It’s about people having your back when you’re going through something really shit, and remembering you’re not alone in this world. You’ve always got someone to fall back on.
3. Is this from experiences of your own?
The song’s a special one: I went away with a group of people I love to the middle of nowhere. I rented this amazing house and I was very grateful to my label for doing this — it was with some people who’d worked on my first album and some people who hadn’t. One of the girls who came down on the last day was someone I’d written with a few times, Camille 2, and prior to that she’d been going through something quite bad. She’d messaged me last year saying that she’d been listening to my album, but through a different set of ears, and she said that I’d got her through some hard times. She came down to the writing thing and started this idea; when she played it to me I burst into tears. I love this song because it’s for me, but it’s also for everyone else.
4. There’s a slight yodelling feel in the chorus, did you intend to be bang on trend?
It’s weird actually because this was written a while ago now and it’s weird that now there’s a big yodel thing going on. I feel like I’ve got this extra intelligence that can see the future. Can I see my own future? No, I can’t do that. I shouldn’t have said that should I? It was a rash statement. I take it back.
5. Do you think you have any psychic abilities?
I believe in fate and the idea of getting out what you put in, and that kind of stuff. Karma, all of that. That’s because of my dad, though, he’s always been positive about life. I don’t think I’m psychic.
6. The song’s halfway between a ballad and a banger. What does this tell us about how the new album will sound?
The mood is a lot more mature and it’s not as upbeat as the last album, but it’s still got a happy element to it. I’m a hopeful person. I always look at an album as a book. That’s how I create one, anyway. I’ll Be There is the first chapter. I look at it as a story. It’s different, but in a great way.
7. In an article titled ‘Jesstynng With Jess Glynne’, what would be your opening joke?
I’m not good with jokes. People falling over makes me laugh, but that’s just because I’m evil.
Orla Gartland’s a really charismatic, sort-of-new singer songwriter whose newest release is low-key rumbler I Go Crazy. It’s out this week — she made it with collaborators The Usual Suspects, the newly-formed production duo consisting of La Roux’s Ben Langmaid and Sean Genockey.
There’s a great line in the song about being on “the edge of 22” which you will be 0% surprised to hear was inspired by Stevie Nicks. “There’s an undeniable Edge Of Seventeen influence,” Orla tells Popjustice. “Although I’d like to think I avoided stealing the groove completely…” Orla adds that there’s a ‘What would Stevie do?’ poster in the studio, which partly inspired the line. “I mean the real answer to ‘what would Stevie Nicks do?’ is probably a fat line of cocaine, but that’s not as interesting as writing a song is it?”
Orla’s from Dublin (Grafton Street is now full of busking Ed Sheeran wannabes, she notes) but she’s been living in Ealing for two years, and if you’re not well-acquainted with London let’s just say Ealing isn’t exactly where popstars tend to live. “I knew I wasn’t cool enough for east London,” is Orla’s explanation. “And I’ll never be cool enough. I know that. I look at it like this: I can either be the least cool person in east London, or be within the top three cool people on one specific road in Ealing.”
If you search Orla on Spotters you’ll find a couple of earlier EPs: the first is quite ‘real music’ so approach with caution but the second, 2016’s Shapeshifting, is a bit more electronic. Listen quickly, though, because Orla’s thinking of taking her old stuff down. “It’s the most pretentious thing to do and an entirely selfish move,” she smiles, although we’re on the phone so she might not be smiling, but she says it in a smiley way so let’s not think too hard about this whole thing. “But we all feel like we’re getting better at the things we do, don’t we? At the same time, though, if I like someone’s new song and see their older stuff online, and it’s not as good as the new stuff, sometimes I think: ‘Well, you’ve been working at this a long time, so fair play.'”
So she might take the old stuff down or she might not. She has not yet decided. In any case it’s the new stuff that’s important here. Orla’s at Waterloo Station when we speak; she’s waiting for a train to take her to the studio. We end up talking about spooky robot-gloved pop wizard Imogen Heap who, Orla declares, is really cool. “She has her own studio, she lives in a lighthouse and Taylor Swift wants to make music with her,” she adds, but that whole lighthouse thing just sums up Imogen Heap, doesn’t it? How would you even put shelves up?
“It’s architecturally difficult,” Orla concedes.
Realistically, the only way you could put a shelf on a curved wall would be to attach it vertically, and then everything would just fall off.
“You’re putting me off the lighthouse idea now,” Orla eventually says. “I hadn’t thought about that.”
Well think on, Orla Gartland. Think on.
Given three minutes to cook dinner Orla would prepare pesto pasta, which might be taking the concept of ‘al dente’ a little far, but that’s what she’d do. She might add some pepper or chicken.
She thinks Ariana’s new song might be her favourite at the moment. It’s all minor in the chorus and goes major in the verses, she says: “Not something people do in pop very often.”
Orla tends to prefer sans-serif fonts. Papyrus is her least favourite — it’s a joke font. She has no time at all for Papyrus. “The only time you should use it is if you’re doing a primary school project about Egypt and even then I’d say it’s too obvious a choice.”
Back in the distant past when life was much simpler and all our futures seemed so much less fragile — ie, the end of February — Troye Sivan had a chat with Popjustice and talked for the first time about an upcoming track called Bloom. It was, he said, “complete pop. Like: ‘Katy Perry Teenage Dream’ pop.”
Sonically light, Troye said; lyrically cheeky. A fun song. Very consumable pop.
“Lyrically I think it’s the most subversively queer song on the album,” he added. “I don’t even think it’s necessarily the big single or anything like that, but I really hope the song ends up spreading its wings way further than the people who wouldn’t normally listen to my music.”
Troye Sivan - Bloom (Lyric Video) - YouTube
Comments on all this now that Bloom is now out in the open:
1. If this exquisite bumbanger is not necessarily the big single ‘or anything like that’ then TS2 is going to be very good indeed, which is to say that if the big one is still to come we are in for Quite A Treat.
2. The idea of it being ‘complete pop’ is quite interesting. It’s hard to think of many current artists who’d stick out something this melodically or structurally straightforward in 2018, still less get away with it. Mind you perhaps the key factor here is that the Teenage Dream feel, now eight years old, is now firmly in the realm of nostalgia. It reminds the listener of being young, or at least eight years less old. Still sounds like a 2018 song though, doesn’t it?
3. This is 2018’s best song about bumming but while the subversively queer element shouldn’t be underestimated, it’s worth noting that pop music is often at its best when it brings people together and Bloom is actually incredibly inclusive because many straight people are also very keen on anal activity.
4. If the CGI Troye from Bloom’s lyric video and the puppet Ed Sheeran from the Happier video spent time together do you think they would get on? Do you think they’d discuss the things that made them different, or would they bond over the things they had in common? Would their chat skim the surface of life’s peripheral concerns, or would they find the conversation heading quickly, inevitably, towards an intense discussion of what it means to be human, and what it means to be something other than human? And would they accept that they are less than human, or would they find clarity in the notion that they are somehow more than human: each here on Earth to do a popstar’s bidding in the world of promotional pop video clips, but each also with their own hopes, dreams, fears and passions? As the evening wore on would they realise that the things that made them so different, Troye’s flickering pixels, Ed’s sponge and fabric, were the opposites that were always destined to attract? Would there be a moment, later on, when their eyes met, but somehow — they’d both realise — not in the same way their eyes had been meeting all evening? Would there be something else this time? Something neither of them could deny any longer? Would they kiss?
“We’ve been doing a tonne of writing sessions and we’ve got loads of songs,” Catrin out of Dusky Grey says when we call her for a chat. “Now it’s just a question of releasing them.”
She and Gethin are off to a good start today with the release of new single Joy Ride which, in common with a lot of Dusky Grey’s tunes, is “about being young, having fun and growing up, and all the tribulations that come with it”.
Dusky Grey - Joy Ride [Official Video] - YouTube
In the song’s video the band race around a carpark in shopping trolleys, which has clear health and safety ramifications that Catrin doesn’t seem to have fully considered. “We are running around quite quickly,” she admits.
“We wrote the song about being at a house party growing up,” she adds, “and the way everyone tries to fit in, and tries to conform to peer pressure and do things they normally wouldn’t want to do, to look cooler than they are.” And this is why, you see, the video shows people being competitive (with shopping trolleys) then realising they have a lot more fun when they just do their own thing.
“You should always be yourself even if it’s difficult,” Catrin says. “And sometimes it is difficult. But if you’re the best version of yourself life is much more fun.”
Very nice but let’s go back to those shopping trolleys. Has Catrin ever nicked one in real life? “I’ve borrowed one,” she begins. “But I put it back.” Further prodding reveals that when Catrin ‘borrowed’ the shopping trolley she didn’t even leave the carpark, but perhaps the most tragic part of the whole sorry tale is that she hadn’t even been drinking. One evening she simply thought it would be fun to push a friend round a carpark. “You know what it’s like when you live in the countryside,” is Catrin’s defence. “All you can do is hang out in parks and carparks.”
She can’t choose a favourite between parks and carparks: each has its own set of dangers. It’s swings and roundabouts, we say. QUITE LITERALLY! Because you get swings in parks and, very often, roundabouts in carparks. It’s a great joke, and we both laugh. And then the phone call is over, but the power of Catrin’s words and the message in Dusky Grey’s lyrics will surely live on forever.