I know we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that Taylor Swift threw the first record release party at Stonewall but imagine, for a moment, the power of a video that swerved caricature, swerved established career narratives, swerved this era's visual identity and showed instead what real homophobia looked like for real people.
Two songs, both out today, use a very familiar lyrical idea. On Matoma's Bruised Not Broken, Kiana Ledé sings that "sticks and stones might break my bones"; in Taylor Swift's You Need To Calm Down she notes that "snakes and stones never broke my bones".
The Taylor Swift one's just better, isn't it? It takes the phrase and chucks in 'snakes' to bring it into Taylor's world, then puts the whole thing into the past tense. In general terms I'd happily live the rest of my life never hearing any sticks and stones reference in another song*, but pop law clearly states that if you're going to use a cliché**, you have to put a twist on it. No twist, no list(en). Rules are rules.
* This absolutely also applies to any deployment of the "love is a drug" metaphor
** Particularly a cliché that's based on total nonsense — the "words will never hurt me" part of the whole sticks and stones idea is, clearly, absolute bullshit
The Song Of The Week is TAPED by Naaz.
Naaz's steady journey in the direction of the pop a-list takes a big step forward, a big step up and a slight step sideways today with TAPED. "Sometimes, people will hear your pain but not actually listen," she wrote in some blurb I've copied and pasted off the internet. "It's like their ears are taped to whatever they don't want to hear." Additionally, she says that in her mid-teens she'd basically taught herself to stop speaking, as it'd often get her in trouble. Once she turned 18 and her music started taking off she had to socialise more, which meant she had to talk more. "I felt like my mind, ears & mouth were TAPED shut for years, and therefore I became an extremely open person — just to make up for all the years before where I mistreated myself with my mindset."
- Bastille's Doom Days album is out today, it's the best Bastille album in the entire history of Bastille and Another Place is a Pompeii-sized gloombanger.
- The new Little Mix single is a strange one — it interpolates an old Soul II Soul hit, and by 'interpolates' I mean it just uses the chorus, throws in some new verses that don't exactly push the boundaries of pop songwriting, doesn't bother itself too much with boring ideas like middle eights, and calls it all a day at 2:41. The artwork's really good.
- As noted the other day, Shura's new single is v excellent. It's quite La Roux-esque, isn't it?
- Glowie's new single is Absolutely Fine.
- When I went to the Madame X playback a couple of weeks ago I was impressed, in a strange sort of way, by the way Madonna had insisted on holding back the two songs most likely to have pleased older (and more recent) fans. The safer songs, in other words. One of them's the Vogue-esque I Don't Search I Find, which I've chucked on this week's playlist.
- Not on Spotify but available here as a pay-what-you-fancy download and available to hear here is one of Call Me Loop's strongest songs so far: it's called Property, CML wrote it having been "incensed by recent news", and cash from the downloads goes to the Abortion Support Network.
- For some reason there's a great cover of Natalimbruglia's Torn this week. It's by Swedish Idol semifinalist Hanna 'Fair But' Ferm.
- Taylor Swift isn't angry about Katy Perry any more and in a way that's a bit like homophobia, isn't it? (??) You Need To Calm down is pretty messily executed — and we haven't even seen the video yet — but I'm generally in favour of big artists releasing big songs about knobends being pathetic.
Shura's announced her new album Forevher (WHAT A TITLE) today and, with that announcement, comes a borderline-remarkable new song called Religion (U Can Lay Your Hands On Me) (WHAT A DEPLOYMENT OF PARENTHESIS).
There are two versions of the single; the proper version, which is just over four minutes long, and an edit which is a few second on the saggy side of the magical pop length of 3:30. The longer version is probably the best one, because it's longer.
In the video Shura does some vaping, hangs out with some nuns and at one point is briefly obscured by a lawnmower — the mark of a true star.
The album's out on August 16, which seems like a long way away but it'll be with you before you know it as life continues to flash before your eyes. One day you'll wake up and you'll be sixty years old. You can pre-order vinyl and CD on Shura's official site.
Dear iTunes libary,
I hear you're planning some big changes to our relationship and I wanted to write this letter to tell you that I understand. We have been growing apart for many years. And while I don't think you'll ever really be gone from my life, I think we both need to face up to where our relationship is now, what it means, and what we're going to do for each other moving forward.
We've been together for a long time now, haven't we? This must be one of the most significant relationships of my life. You've been with me through bad times I thought would never end and good times I thought would never begin. I love you. Or rather, I loved you. We became increasingly distanced, and I take some responsibility for that.
I just don't know who you are any more. I don't even know where you are.
Remember the time I attempted to use something called Tunespan to split you into more manageable chunks, but got confused about where all the chunks were, and which bits of which of them were in the cloud, on my laptop or on a hard drive? That was my fault. I thought I was making things better, but I just made them worse. I started to resent you for something that wasn't your fault. I guess I just felt insecure about the size of my hard drive.
But you also need to take some responsibility for what happened. Do you remember when you introduced me to iTunes Match? You changed that day. Parts of you suddenly looked different. Parts of you sounded different. You were never the same and neither was our relationship. I couldn't trust you any more. I remember how comfortable I felt back in the early days of our relationship, when I knew exactly where you were and what you were doing. Suddenly, when I didn't know where you were, I found myself panicking. Maybe this says more about me than it does about you. But I think it definitely says things about you.
You tried again, didn't you? You tried to make sense of yourself when you came up with Apple Music to put some spice back in the relationship. But I didn't know if bits or all of you were still in iTunes Match. Is some of you still in iTunes Match, or are you all in Apple Music? Are the bits of you in Apple Music still the bits I originally held on my hard drive, or are some of them automatically replaced songs with the wrong artwork?
I think perhaps, in the more recent years of our relationship, I wanted you to be one thing, and you wanted to be something else. Or, rather, you wanted to be lots of other things. I didn't ever love you for your apps, or your streaming services, or your movies or your radio stations. I started to miss the music library I fell in love with. I loved you for what we built together. You were so beautiful when we met. So confident. What happened?
Well, yes, I know you were doing all that other stuff because I'd started seeing Spotify, and again I take responsibility. If you hadn't feared losing me, you might not have tried so hard to win me back, and you might not have lost sight of who you really were.
We had some good times though, didn't we? I remember those endless days we spent together: ripping CDs I didn't even like, burning CD-Rs and printing out sleeves. Remember the time I found a hack to give things half-star ratings? That was a great day. I loved you so much that I even tried Ping when you offered it to me. I accept, too, that at times I was too demanding. There was that time you got yourself a brand new logo and I said I hated it. And the time I complained about not being able to see the full title of Mini Viva's Left My Heart In Tokyo. I can't criticise you for not loving who you were when I, too, refused to accept you as you were.
I'm writing this letter now because I've heard you've got some changes planned for how we'll be seeing each other in the future. I really hope we can make it work, because I do miss you, and while I know things can never be the same I do still want the old you back. I think you do too.
Hopefully, sometime soon, you can be yourself once more. And I'll be able to love you all over again.
There is, of course, a lot of good stuff out today. But one of the songs that stands out sonically also stands out for another reason. It's by Madeon, featuring Madeon on vocals, and these are the credits.
Obviously, only a twat would go down the route of complaining about songs having too many writers, or too many producers, or too many guest vocalists, because obviously all those things tend to coincide on some of the best songs. (It's a topic that comes up every few months; the BBC's Mark Savage delved into it last week, in the wake of the Ivor Novellos.)
On the other hand, for a number of reasons, a lot of artists and a lot of the people around them are losing sight of the fact that just because a multiname pileup is how pop can be made, and just because that's how it's most quickly and easily made, and just because that's what appeals to the more easily manipulated parts of the streaming world, that doesn't mean that's how pop has to be made.
I'm not saying All My Friends is better than any of the songs it's better than simply because there's only one name involved. Again, those would be the words of a twat. I wrote a song called Do A Poo two years ago, and Do A Poo is not better than Yesterday by The Beatles, a song with twice as many writers. I mean, I say it's not better — it's not far off. But you get the point.
(Actually, in the modern era George Martin would probably have ended up with a writing credit on Yesterday, because that seems to be how things work now.) (I have absolutely no idea why I've started talking about The Beatles, apologies.)
I guess the thing with the Madeon single being just a Madeon single is simply that it's a nice thing, right? A different thing. A nice little different thing, and a very decent pop tune from a man who noted on his Facebook that All My Friends is "the kind of music I hoped I would make someday".
Normal New Music Friday operations are cancelled this week and from now until the end of time the last Friday of May will always be known as Pop Music Super Friday because JESUS CHRIST WHAT A WEEK FOR POP MUSIC.
Has Katy Perry stormed back with a Zedd-produced, Dagny-interpolating electronic pop thunderer? Yes she has, because JESUS CHRIST WHAT A WEEK FOR POP MUSIC.
Miley Cyrus: has the quite literal daughter of a mother released Mother's Daughter, an inventive spooktune of epic proportions, along with an entire EP called SHE IS COMING? Naturally! JESUS CHRIST WHAT A WEEK FOR POP MUSIC.
Would it be fair to say that Mark Ronson roped in Camila 'Camila' Cabello for a sad and slinky end-of-the-night jam? Yes it would. JESUS CHRIST WHAT A WEEK FOR POP MUSIC.
How about Rosalía boshing out a full-on superstar-has-landed moment in the shape of Aute Cuture? Yep, because make no mistake JESUS CHRIST WHAT A WEEK FOR POP MUSIC.
If you're in the mood for hearing the song Madeon's entire career has been building towards you're in luck due to this week's execution of the simple equation JESUS + CHRIST = WHAT A WEEK FOR POP MUSIC.
Cheryl! She's been quiet since the last one. But is there, by any chance, a synthy midtempobanger called Let You out this week? YES OF COURSE THERE IS BECAUSE JESUS CHRIST WHAT A WEEK FOR POP MUSIC.
Cardi B? JESUS CHRIST WHAT A WEEK FOR POP MUSIC.
Tove Lo? JESUS CHRIST WHAT A WEEK FOR POP MUSIC.
Rita Ora? JESUS CHRIST WHAT A WEEK FOR POP MUSIC.
Charli XCX and Diplo collaborating on a wobblepop version of the Spice Girls' Wannabe? JESUS CHRIST WHAT A WEEK FOR POP MUSIC.
Bebe Rexha??? Lauv???? Laleh????? Gucci Mane & Justin Bieber?????? King Princess???????? JESUS. CHRIST. WHAT. A. WEEK. FOR. POP. MUSIC.
Also, Ed Sheeran has released an acoustic version of I Don't Care.