New Music Friday's quite boring this week so let's instead use our time to marvel at the aspect ratio deployed in Caroline Polachek's Ocean Of Tears video. There are times, aren't there, when it feels like 4:3 is giving us less. But that's only if you're thinking horizontally. Don't be fooled by the dark portions of a YouTube embed: a visionary like Caroline lives their life vertically, meaning that in this case a 4:3 video is actually giving us more.
She's on tour this October. Tickets went on sale this morning.
Australian singer of song and established bubblewrap advocate CXLOE returns today with Sick, a song she says is about the fact that "sometimes we just want that raw emotion of feeling sick over someone, like an obsession … That pit of your stomach sick". Which is all very well, but the main point here is that while Sick begins like any number of songs by any number of emerging solo artists, it packs a huge punch of a chorus and is, when all's said and done, a totally amazing pop single.
Sick is CXLOE's third consecutive stupendous song (following I Can't Have Nice Things and Low Blow — both released earlier this year) which means she's entered pop's Gold Zone, a coveted area reserved for emerging acts actually worth investing your energy in.
THE GOLD ZONE EXPLAINED
- One great single: FLUKE.
- Two great singles: COINCIDENCE.
- Three great singles: GOLD ZONE ACHIEVED, SOMETHING'S DEFINITELY HAPPENING HERE.
Gold Zone rules are harsh but fair. Two great songs followed by a duffer? Sorry, you need to start again. A great song, then an alright song, then a great song? Apols, the second song has voided the first.
Gold Zone membership is not for life and can be revoked if a run of three great songs is followed by more than one consecutive substandard tune. This means that if CXLOE's next single isn't up to scratch (UNLIKELY) she'll still be in the Gold Zone, but if the one after that's a stinker (POSSIBLE, STILL UNLIKELY) she'll need to re-earn her Gold Zone status by releasing three new great songs in a row.
I'm still figuring out the finer points of Gold Zone membership. Should it also apply to established and returning artists? (I think it could.) How do EPs and albums affect it? (The rules really only make sense in the run-up to a Body Of Work.) Does a hit song that's a shit song (HSSS) have any bearing on the whole thing? (I'm leaning towards no.) But in a pop era packed with an unprecedented number of pretty good new artists with pretty good music, the Gold Zone might be our best chance to make sense of what's really happening.
The Song Of The Week is Icy by ITZY.
Icy, which I should warn you right now goes like the absolute clappers, is the lead track off the new EP by relatively new K-pop five-piece ITZY, whose first release popped up back in February. Like a lot of the best pop music Icy feels like it could go in any direction at any moment and you've got to love a song that includes the lyrics "beep beep" and "blah blah". There's a great bit in the video where one of them eats an apple. AN APPLE!
- Tove Lo's released her best single in years; Alma comes along for the ride.
- Sydney-based singer Lola Scott is currently sitting on 227 monthly Spotify listeners. Luxurious pop wobbler Heaven Knows should change that (and the spectacularly-titled Warzone Of The Suburbs, from earlier this year, is also worth a listen).
- THE NEW ARIANA IS ABSOLUTELY FINE.
- Best Raye single yet? Yes.
- The Charming Horses and Bymia single doesn't exactly have a double chorus but its chorus does have a great 'secret compartment' with the "cos you got me inappropriate" part.
- Not to say the Carly Rae Jepsen vs Gryffin single is slightly less than the sum of its parts, but if you think about the Gryffin of about three years ago and the Carly Rae Jepsen of, well, about three years ago, OMG isn't exactly a case of both acts firing on all cylinders.
- I'm sorry about this because I know you probably really like it but I just find the new Haim song totally awful. What a racket!
Today I reveal the twelve best British* pop singles of the last twelve months. On September 19 the act/s responsible for the best of the lot will win twenty quid (cash).
On prize night a panel of judges will decide on the winner at a top secret (I haven't booked it yet) London venue. If you'd like to join us all on the night, drop me a line on [email protected] explaining why you should be a judge and saying which song should be kicked off the shortlist — and which song should take its place.
The overall winner will receive a pair of overalls with a £20 note stuck in the pocket.
* I will be taking questions about the inclusion of Tiesto on the night and not before.
- Hayley Kiyoko's I Wish, probably although not definitely this week's best new song, is a superstar pop moment 'and no mistaking'.
- Charlotte Lawrence takes a step up and slightly to the side, into Eilishish territory, with Why Do You Love Me. The shift suits her; the song has an impressive team behind it, including Ali Tamposi, Ryan Tedder, Andrew Watt and Charlie 'You Can't Handle The' Puth.
- Bishop Briggs also comes into focus this week with the Joel Little-produced Champion.
- Sam Smith Has Experienced Sadness.
- chloe mk's new single opens with quite a line: "I miss David Bowie, I miss Prince, I miss the way it used to feel when we were kids."
The Song Of The Week is Circle Of Life / Nants' Ingonyama by Lindiwe Mkhize and Lebo M.
Popjustice reader Court Clark took exception, yesterday, to my claim that some of Ingrid Michaelson's new songs were bangers. "It seems like you don’t understand the meaning of the word 'banger' when referring to music," he wrote. Of course, as we all know, the word 'banger' ceased to really mean anything specific about three years ago, but I think if there's one thing we can all agree on it's that Circle Of Life is an absolute banger for the ages. Jon Favreau gets a production credit on this new version. Well done Jon!
- The David Guetta and Martin Solveig single has almost certainly been ruined by, well, David Guetta and Martin Solveig. The writing credits suggest Alex Hope, Noonie Bao and Sasha Sloan — three women entirely capable of making a song on their own — actually wrote the song (it sounds like the uncredited vocalist is Sasha). All of which leads to one simple demand: RELEASE THE ORIGINAL VERSION.
- The Ina Wroldsen/Syco experiment seemed to have hit a bit of a wall but Forgive Or Forget is a smash-in-waiting.
- Considering how record-breaking their record-breaking run of hits was, Girls Aloud have so far had a fairly minor influence on what pop sounds like today, but Call Me Loop's pulling some Aloud moves with exuberant wankbanger Self Love, which also nods in the direction of Little Mix's Move but exists as a rather excellent pop moment in its own right, too.
- The K.Flay album's out today. Play it from beginning to end please, it's very good.
- Sofi Tukker's Swing is 'quite something'.
- The new Justin Bieber version of Billie Eilish's bad guy almost works…
- Sigma are really running on fumes at this point.
Ingrid Michaelson's new album came out a couple of weeks ago and I've found myself going back to it again and again: it's obviously one of 2019's best albums to date, and that's before you even get into the fact that each of the tracks on Stranger Songs is inspired by a different character, scene or theme from Stranger Things.
Is this album eleven tracks long? YOU BET IT IS LADIES AND GENTLEMEN.
Here's the new video for Missing You, which like every other song on the album works brilliantly even if you have no interest in or knowledge of Stranger Things. If you have been watching, according to a track-by-track commentary on Billboard it's about the Nancy, Steve and Jonathan love triangle.
One of the album's best songs is the first Ingrid wrote for what eventually bloomed into a full-on album project — it's called Christmas Lights ("I promise I'll make things right, but until then I will talk to you through the Christmas lights") but to be honest they're all good. Pretty: banger. Take Me Home: banger. It's quite literally a good album.
Ingrid's playing London's Union Chapel in November; tickets are on sale here. Hopefully by that point she'll have started work on an album about Tiny House Nation.
If you like your pop with a Stranger Things twist have a listen to Esther's extraordinary Kvällsgäst, which came out on Friday.