Pon De Replay: Edition No.1
Why hello there, and why Happy New Year. Welcome to my very first column about pop music. Before you ask: yes, I have indeed christened this here rambling-point of mine in honour of Rihanna's incredible, career-defining, somewhat callipygian debut single 'Pon de Replay'. For I can vividly remember seeing its video on TMF aged 11 and thinking 'Holy Shola Ameobi. WHO IS THIS LADY?' And that was the beginning of our long-term liaison. It was an awesome, mysterious, life-changing kind of song, whose title conveniently translated as 'Play it Again' in some sort of Barbadian pidgin. Essentially, cheekily, I should hope the songs I post here are also the kind of songs you'll feel inclined to play again.
This month, I'm going to blabber on about some recent and upcoming releases, tunes I've found on blogs, and tunes that have flown miraculously into my inbox.
2012 was a successful year for tween-themed pop, what with all our Maynards, 1Ds, Jeppos, and Aplins. And this year's going even bigger, perhaps even a bit more mature. Alongside fellow adolescents A*M*E, Syron, and Little Nikki, one name you should certainly look out for is 17 year-old Chloe Howl, who takes a leaf out of the Jamie T/Kate Nash book of sweary, Lahndahn-twanged bedroom-pop. She dropped debut single 'No Strings' last month, and – blimey – it's got balls. Like, really massive balls. We're talking a chorus which goes a bit like, "No more crawling in your bed, fuck your no strings … I hope I have twins," as well as affecting lines like "I don't even know if I'm the right sex... you don't even know if I'm the right sex." Borrowing from the best (Foster The People in the verse, Calvin Harris in the chorus), this arrangement won't leave your brain for a least a morning, maybe even a day. It's that outstanding. She's just signed to Columbia Records, so if you don't hear big things very soon, I'd be rather surprised. Shocked and appalled, even.
Next, you should all know that there's a Chicago-based producer who goes by the name GOLDHOUSE. He uploaded his Morning After mixtape as a free download a few months back, and basically, it's a funky, enjoyable, heady pop cocktail. (And it's not really a mixtape because every single song on it is by him). Anyway, the ingredients all seem to float around jumpy-up-downy kinda electro-pop, and the result sounds a bit like what might happen if (yes, this is one of those comparisons) David Guetta were to hook up with that weedy guy out of Passion Pit. It's naff but sort of cool at the same time. The best tune of all is 'Nothing to Lose', which turns out to be great walking music, and also great waiting-for-your-bath-to-run music.
I've been thinking about why the world didn't explode and waft away into a void of nothingness last month, and I've since come to the deep, logical conclusion that it's probably just because Ashanti is back, and triumphant. That's right: Ashanti 1, Mayans nil. Ashanti rules them all. Ashanti stood up and fought off that meteor with her bare hands, and saved our lives in the process. But in all seriousness, her latest single 'That's What We Do', assisted by Lil Ronnie on production and R. Kelly on vocals, is a great big astonishing, heartbreaking slab of R&B at its most glorious, sleek, and harrowingly mid-noughties. Hearkening towards, and improving on, her 2004 collab with Kelly and Ja Rule, it's lifted off an album entitled BraveHeart which comes out on January 29th through Entertainment One. Busta Rhymes and Keyshia Cole are also guesting on it, so these are exciting times.
And now for some edgy Pitchfork reader-tailored pop. Scandi-pop, to be precise, and yes, predictably, it does sound a smidgen like The Knife. The song is called 'Down On Life', it's by Elliphant from Stockholm (you may know her from her Adam Kanyama hook-up 'Tekkno Scene'), and it comes out on January 20th as part of a great whopping self-titled EP. It's not quite clubby enough for moustachioed hipsters to consider it ridiculous (Usher's their only exception, I believe), but is still incredibly, incredibly catchy. Think M.I.A at her most accessible. The video below features some truly wicked things like girls on horses, girls on icebergs, girls with bubblegum, and dogs humping space hoppers (Director Tim Erem spoke to us about the video here).
Devotion by Jessie Ware was my favourite album of last year, and On A Mission by Katy B was my favourite of the year before. They were both clear-cut examples of bass-pop perfection, and both thorough, intense guides in how to make pop music all trendy, sexy and playlist-friendly. Some feat, and some talent, so you can only imagine my delight when I heard these two ladies were working on a song together last year. The result is an unsurprisingly lovely, heart-warming ode to R&B icon Aaliyah, in which Ware's sultry, aspirated tones provide the faultless counterpoint to Katy B's bubblegum sing-song. Produced by Rinse legend Geeneus, the best, most euphoric moment comes at the bridge when the duo partake in a funky, glorious call-and-response. It made me cry, and you'll probably cry too. You can get 'Aaliyah' as part of the Danger EP, available as a Free DL on Katy B's website now. It also features turns from Diplo, Wiley, and Iggy Izalea.
When Ware tours the UK in March, her main support is going to be hotly-tipped R&B star and massive-pair-of-lungs-bolstered-by-autotune, Mikky Ekko. I cannot express my excitement, and neither can you, probably. Judging by his work so far with the underground (Two Inch Punch; Clams Casino), the A-list (Rihanna) and the universally acclaimed (Paul Epworth, Adele's producer), a truly phenomenal, massively successful crossover is surely on its way. Here's the throbbing, bassy, glitchy Emperor rework of his recent Clams collaboration 'Pull Me Down'.
Finally, here's a new mixtape from JoJo. Shock horror: it isn't bad. Embedded below is the banging, belting bundle of joy 'We Get By'. Just try and stop yourself singing along to the "can't work a nine to five" line at 2.10.
There are two main things you should you know about Njomza, Chicago's most precocious and outspoken RnB upstart. The first is that she makes incredible pop music; the second, that she just can't help taking her clothes off. Some advice: start by kicking back to the material on her latest mixtape, Gold Lion, a masterwork of chilled-out late-night slow jams, all graceful, auto-tuned perfection and sombre, Drake-like production. And only then look at its artwork. [read more]
"Bow down bitches / bow, bow down bitches." March has been a pretty mint month for pop comebacks. Not only did we receive that terrifyingly ballsy, brazen intro-or-maybe-an-actual-song from Beyoncé, but we even heard the first fresh material in more than a decade from Mutya Keisha Siobhan, the new incarnation of the founding members of the Sugababes. [read more]
Baauer's 'Harlem Shake' has to be the most irksome phenomenon of the year so far, right? Presenting the perfect antidote: California pop singer LIZ, who makes outstanding, glossy, commercial-sounding R&B coloured in with a splash of bubblegum and a touch of the lyrically absurd. [read more]
This year has been the best, most relentless year for pop music this century. No doubt about it. It's been tricky keeping up, what with all the extravagant comebacks, the crossover successes, the surprisingly brilliant changes of direction, and the album releases from popstars we thought terminally unproductive (Charli XCX, Sky Ferreira). [read more]