Héloïse Letissier isn’t like most pop stars.
Christine and the Queens – No Harm Is Done, ft Tunji Ige
The former theatre student from Nantes makes what she describes as “freakpop” and was inspired to create Christine and the Queens after seeing a troupe of drag queen musicians in London. A mixture of performance art, music and photography, the project has so far given birth to one album, Chaleur Humaine, which has gone on to be a massive success in France. Earlier this year, the English-language version of that album’s lilting Christine, retitled Tilted, was released in the US, with a new version of the album due out there next month. As well as rerecorded songs, it also features a new collaboration with Pennsylvanian rapper Tunji Ige on the slowly percolating electronic pulse of No Harm Is Done. In an interview with The Fader, Letissier explains that the song explores anger but attempts to capture that moment “before something happens, before we choose in which fight we want to engage”. This sense of barely harnessed self-control drips from every second.
Mereki – Jenny feat Kitten
Australian-born, LA-based singer Mereki’s debut single, 2013’s Blue Lake, was a gauzy, soft-focus pop song complete with an Instagram-filtered video of a vintage wedding scene. Fast forward to 2015 and something fairly drastic has happened at chez Mereki because, musically at least, that filter’s been set to black. May’s Nothing Matters is a careening ode to living at full tilt set around battered drum machines and crunchy synthetic guitars, while new single Jenny is even more of a short, sharp shock. Produced by Justin Raisen, who you won’t be surprised to learn given the sonic similarities has also worked with Charli XCX and Sky Ferreira, and featuring fellow kohl-eyed pop newcomer Kitten, Jenny is a chant-along anthem for female friendship (“when I was lost you found me”) that sounds like a fist fight.
Selena Gomez – Same Old Love
Speaking of Charli XCX, her influence (and actual voice) is all over the second single from Selena Gomez’s forthcoming album Revival. Cowritten by Charli alongside consistent hitmakers Stargate and Benny Blanco, it’s rumoured Same Old Love was originally meant for Rihanna who tweeted the song’s niggling hook last summer, presumably when she was still making music and not designing socks. Built around a fairly straightforward finger-click beat and pretty piano, the resigned verses feed into Selena’s recent high-profile boyfriend woes (“you left in peace, left me in pieces”), before, well, Charli XCX takes over on the chorus (unofficially at least, given that she’s not listed as a featured artist as she was on Icona Pop’s I Love It, another song she co-wrote). Regardless of its history, and who may or may not be singing what, Same Old Love is ludicrously catchy and oddly brutal.
MNEK & Zara Larsson – Never Forget You
Swede Zara Larsson, 17, has made an appearance on the pop playlist before with the brilliant, Rihanna-esque Rooftop, while producer, songwriter, singer and fellow precocious talent MNEK’s fingerprints can be found on most of pop’s current frontrunners. Never Forget You – out today – finds them collaborating for a sort of ballad/banger hybrid. Larsson handles the yearning first verse while a doom-laden piano riff plays out around her. Around the 50-second mark, the vocals drop out and, in lieu of a chorus, a sort of two-step-meets-90s-Timbaland beat erupts from nowhere. When the chorus does eventually hit second time round, it’s a peach, the highlight being the perfect way the melody lifts slightly into the refrain, “’Cause I will never want much more, in my heart I will always be sure”. Plus, if you worried that showboating ad-libs were a thing of the past, then the last 30 seconds should convince you otherwise.
Alison Wonderland – Games
It must have taken Australian DJ, producer and singer Alex Scholler about 30 seconds to come up with her moniker, Alison Wonderland. Thankfully, the limp pun is the worst thing about her. Her recently released debut album, Run, which nestled inside the top 10 in Australia,features a hotchpotch of collaborators – from New York rapper Johnny Nelson, to Norway’s Lido, to pop ruiner Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips. Its highlight is Games, a song that Alison Wonderland tackles solo. Pulsating around squelchy vocal samples and echoey drum claps, it works because it feels like it’s bubbling up to some sort of big emotional explosion that never quite materialises, the chorus building until it deflates into an exhausted sigh. In the video, the games you play to try and keep a relationship on course are represented by American Football, gymnastics and chess, which sounds about right.
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