As 2016 closed out with a perfectly concocted storm of strange happenings, several artists released new tunes that have stood out from the pack. 2017 is set to start with some tunes by superstars both new and old, in addition to a few holdovers from the past year. Check out the Spotify link at the end of this post for this week’s Music Monday playlist!
1.) Heavy Hitters
The controversial X Factor UK winner started promoting his debut single in the United States with performances last week on James Corden and Good Morning America. After being dumped by Simon Cowell’s Syco label for tweeting inflammatory remarks back in 2014, Arthur has come back with a three-and-a-half minute devotional that traces his relationship with his lady from their very first chance encounter. Bolstered by Arthur’s quivering vibrato and falsetto, “Say You Won’t Let Go” topped the UK singles chart back in September and has already hit the upper half of the Billboard Hot 100 chart with virtually no promotion. Expect “Say You Won’t Let Go” and other Back from the Edge cuts to make an impact on US Radio later this year, including second single “Safe Inside” and the yearning album track “Can I Be Him.”
Speaking of UK artists who have successfully crossed over to the states, Ed Sheeran has just released the lead single off his newest album ÷ (Divide) and shattered Spotify streaming records with his surprise release. After a year-long hiatus from social media, the ginger Grammy winner announced the release of divide in a silent video on Twitter followed by previews of “Shape of You” and “Castle on the Hill” (which he simultaneously released). Of the two, “Shape of You” has come out on top in streams, combining Sheeran’s knack for conversational storytelling with the tropical musical box sound of the moment (see Sia’s “The Greatest” and Ryn Weaver’s “Octahate” from 2014).
Although The Chainsmokers have already announced another single after the release of “All We Know,” this track stands as testament to the strength of the duo’s ability to capture intimacy in disparate electropop music. Phoebe Ryan’s billowy vocals add an intimate layer to the potential hit, and the crunchy drop underscored by power chords captures the underbelly of a relationship long gone sour. Although the single follows the formula of previous hits by The Chainsmokers, “All We Know” is ethereal and nuanced—an ode to a more mature, complex relationship. Having shot past the 200 million streams mark on Spotify, “All We Know” has already proven itself as a Spotify hit, but could easily become The Chainsmokers first hit of 2017 should radio take note.
2.) On the Verge
Until their EP What Everyone’s Thinking was released in September of last year, AJR was perhaps best known for squeaky clean, over-the-top productions that played with folky vocals and samples that veered dangerously close to cheesy (including a snippet of the Spongebob theme song). Although undoubtedly catchy and often viral, the pop group’s earlier productions did not necessarily portend future success. “Weak,” an ode to giving in to temptation, combines storytelling verses with a bombastic chorus, hitting a key change that feels delightfully deserved—a fitting reflection of a band that so often pushes the limits of sonic acceptability. “Weak” is a rare gem of a pop song that is as extra as it is loveable without entering cringe-worthy territory.
Luke Christopher’s knowingly naïve take on love is a charming combination of pop and R&B over a piano refrain. Opening with “If I was a question / would you be my answer?” the track captures a sweet simplicity that also makes for an unshakeable chorus and easy listening experience.
2.) The Newcomer’s Debut
Calum Scott and Tiesto reduce Robyn’s 2010 dance ballad into a shadow of its former self—gone are the sickly sweet electronic sounds of the original, the combative kickdrum that attempted to overshadow the forlorn loneliness of its lyrics. Instead, Scott’s cover features a touch of piano, vocal echoes, a snap, and a softer kick, sketching the electroskeleton of the previous iteration but abandoning the club atmosphere for something a bit more hollow. The result is different—Scott’s voice is given more room to reverberate, and the effect is a bit less ironic and a bit more assured. However, the loneliness inherent in the original is only amplified by the bare bones version, and Tiesto’s minimal production really shines.