The Song That Offers More Than Just A Malcolm Gladwell Co-Sign:
Dan + Shay and Justin Bieber, “10,000 Hours”
Justin Bieber teased his new collaboration with Dan + Shay as “wedding music” on social media — which makes sense, as Bieber himself just got married, and the country duo often focuses its lyrics on stirring romantic themes. Yet listening to the heartfelt “10,000 Hours” will also make you reflect on how far Bieber’s own musical focus has come over the past decade: After starting off as a teenage heartthrob singing puppy-love songs to millions, he then strayed as far as possible from that baby-faced image, only to now end up back to singing G-rated admissions of devotion. “10,000 Hours” is a lovely country-pop tune, and hearing a wide-eyed, at-peace Bieber on the track is its main attraction.
The Song That Will Soundtrack The Sadder Moments of This Weekend’s Parties:
Travis Scott, “Highest in the Room”
“Highest In The Room” features all the hallmarks of a classic Travis Scott single: sizzling programmed beats, hooks conjured out of thin air, ad libs — “It’s lit!,” “Straight up!” — that at this point are closer to catchphrases. Yet there’s an inherent glumness on the track that sets it apart from even the most introspective moments of Astroworld. Scott has teased the song in the past, although the timing of its release will certainly lead casual fans to assume it’s about his split with Kylie Jenner: “When I’m with you, I feel alive/ You say you love me, don’t you lie,” he shrugs. Although “Highest In The Room” may not be the new anthem fans are hungry for after “Sicko Mode” took off, hearing Scott filter his singular style through a sorrowful lens makes for a more compelling listen than a standard party track could have provided.
The Mini-Album That Could Make Major Waves In The K-Pop World:
SuperM, The 1st Mini Album
Supergroups are nothing new in popular music, and there have even been K-pop supergroups in the recent past — but given how much the genre has evolved, particularly as a commercial enterprise, over the past five years, the debut of SuperM represents a highly anticipated event in mainstream music. The combination of members from SHINee, EXO, NCT and WayV could have sounded clunky or overly produced, but SuperM’s first project (five songs, plus two instrumental versions) proves a fairly seamless presentation of pop-rap and boy-band melodies that allows each member enough room to effectively operate, and makes the listener hungry for more. Those of us missing the opulent electro-pop of the early 2010s should immediately place SuperM’s “Jopping” in any playlist that also features LMFAO or Taio Cruz.
The Song That Shows A Bold New Side of One Of Pop’s Biggest Stars:
Camila Cabello, “Cry For Me”
The most memorable moments of Camila Cabello’s career thus far, from “Havana” to “Senorita” to her standout moments within Fifth Harmony, have carried a sense of hope, allure and romance. But on new single “Cry For Me,” the pop singer is pissed-off, and ready to take names. “When I said I hope you’re happy, didn’t mean it,” Cabello seethes at an ex; later she shouts “How can you be okay?” as an electric guitar wails beneath her. Even if Cabello doesn’t feel quite as natural being furious as playing it coy, “Cry For Me” has the delicious hook to pull off the new pose, and adds a powerful new dimension to her persona as her Romance era approaches.
The Song That Dares You Not To Clap Along:
Niall Horan, “Nice To Meet Ya”
Niall Horan’s debut album Flicker demonstrated that the One Direction alum knew how to produce guitar-driven pop music, be it soulful acoustic tunes like “This Town” or swaggering ‘70s rock like “On the Loose.” New single “Nice to Meet Ya” is once again a marvel of song construction, indebted to ‘90s dance-pop (that canned vocal hook!), with a hint of Britpop, studio strings in tow, and Horan’s charm holding the whole affair together. And, yes, those handclaps are undeniable and Horan knows it — this song begs to witnessed live, with thousands of fans trying to match the beat.
The Album That Wants To Be Your R&B Jams Collection For The Fall:
Summer Walker, Over It
Atlanta native Summer Walker first gained mainstream attention for a YouTube mash-up of songs by Drake, Rae Sremmurd, Ginuwine and Beyoncé. On her debut album Over It, the 23-year-old gets to present her own songs alongside some of her heroes, including Usher, Bryson Tiller and Jhene Aiko. Yet on the 18-track LP, Walker shines brightest when she’s on her own, showcasing a vocal flair and songwriting approach that’s reminiscent of SZA’s Ctrl, but a bit more raw and unflinching. Dig into tracks like “Potential,” “Tonight” and the album’s title track — although skipping ahead to the Drake remix of “Girls Need Love,” Walker’s Hot 100 breakthrough which ends the album, is an understandable impulse.
The Album That Will Influence You To Drop Hundreds of Dollars on an Awesome Halloween Costume:
Kim Petras, Turn Off the Light
Let’s just admit it: the fact that Kim Petras, a wildly talented pop artist, is so committed to making music specifically for Halloween absolutely rules. Just like her collection of songs in honor of the spookiest holiday last year, her second installment of Turn Off the Light is equal parts camp and killer hooks, with songs like “There Will Be Blood” and “Death By Sex” making you chuckle and then getting stuck in your head for days. Petras’ Clarity album from earlier this year still stands as one of 2019’s most cohesive pop efforts, but her Turn Off the Light series has the feeling of being for the real Kim fans, an enjoyable and ultimately endearing career decision.
The Album That Will Be Playing On Loop In Indie Record Stores For a While:
Angel Olsen, All Mirrors
Angel Olsen has become one of the defining indie artists of the 2010s through sheer consistency and force of will, with acclaimed song collections arriving every two-to-three years and offering piercingly intimate examinations of love and loss. All Mirrors is a triumph with a twist — Olsen wrote the songs alone, then brought in Ben Babbitt and Jherek Bischoff to help add 12-piece string sections into many of the arrangements. The result is a dazzling contrast between hushed emotion and lush musicianship: “I like the life that I lead/ Without you,” Olsen murmurs on “Tonight” as the orchestra swells to life, making for one of the more emotional moments of her catalog.