This week, pop icons Britney Spears and Katy Perry released new music to much internet clamor, and several new artists pushed the bounds of mainstream acceptability. In this week’s Music Monday post, we pull out the best new songs from the last week for your listening pleasure. Don’t forget to check out the Spotify playlist at the end of the post.
1.) The Surefire Hits
In recent years, Britney Spears has been a shadow of her former self—an aging icon fettered to the bright lights and sounds of a Las Vegas residency, seemingly cursed with pop singles tailored to keep her on the cusp of the mainstream. Her last three major efforts felt lackluster—the spoken feature “Scream and Shout,” the passable fan fodder of “Work B*tch,” and the slightly embarrassing Iggy Azalea collab, “Pretty Girls.” Diehard fans and critics have given her a pass—and enough financial support—to keep the once revolutionary “Oops I Did It Again” singer afloat in our Twitter feeds, memes, and collective consciousness. Britney’s latest, “Make Me,” not only shatters those waning expectations, but reinvents her music for the 2016 soundscape, easily earning a contending spot for “song of the summer.” Capitalizing on the indie whisper-pop of artists like Selena Gomez, “Make Me” is a stunning exhibition of the popstar’s often overlooked voice. The chorus, a shamelessly saccharine electronic wave of “Oohs,” is the sound of a woman reclaiming the spotlight from all of us— no passes needed.
Katy Perry is often cited as a textbook example of manufactured pop stardom (usually alongside a footnote pointing to production duo Max Martin and Dr. Luke). “Rise” is the rare Perry tune with the artist in the lead writing spot, and without a Dr. Luke credit. “Rise” or as Perry explains, “a song that’s [been] brewing inside me for years,” is an intriguing ballad doused in reverb that sees Perry’s voice take on gargantuan size. The triumphant number is a solid addition to the Perry discography and one that should reinvigorate anticipation of her next album, due out later this year.
“Love Myself” singer Hailee Steinfeld makes a break from her typical pop formula with new single “Starving.” The Pitch Perfect 2 actress achieves a unique, summery sound that mixes Zedd’s signature gritty EDM drops with the razor-sharp clarity of Grey’s nature-based beats. In a strangely experimental move, “Starving” opens with an acoustic guitar strummed against the backdrop of running water sounds. When the beat drops, Steinfeld lilts through an earworm of a chorus: “I didn’t know that I was starving till I tasted you / Don’t need no butterflies when you give me the whole damn zoo.”
2.) The Newcomer’s Debut
Terror Jr, the band created by Kiiara’s producer Felix Snow, builds off the successful production of “Gold” by Kiiara, using similar snaps and rhythmic female vocals over a tropical beat. “Say So” is a poppy continuation of the Kiiara aesthetic that further cements Felix Snow’s desire to redesign the bounds of mainstream music. Check out “3 Strikes” for another excellent example of electronic innovation from this rising band.
3.) The One-of-a-Kind Track
In preparation for her final album, controversial hip-hop activist M.I.A. is releasing progressively darker, more provocative music. Her latest, “Go Off,” finds M.I.A flexing her flow over a Skrillex-produced loop. The supporting music video features the destruction of a canyon with explosives. “Go Off” is MIA in her prime form, taking the unique essence that made her “Paper Planes” an international hit, and retooling it towards the apocalyptic. If not striving for the chart success, M.I.A. is attempting to make a lasting impact with her last few singles and her album, A.I.M., coming out in September.
Honorable Mentions: Snake Hips – “Cruel,” Maty Noyes – “In My Mind,” Grouplove – “Welcome To Your Life,” Felix Jaehn – “Bonfire,” morgxn – “Love You With the Lights On,” Wensday – “Bones”