Feed Limmy Albums of 2018

I actually thought this might more straightforward than the ‘Songs of 2018‘ list since I haven’t listened to that many albums this year. Or so I thought. Perhaps it’s not necessarily true that I haven’t listened to that many albums. Music has never been more accessible to me ever. I tend to put on an album or a podcast episode when I’m engaged in a low-distraction task at home like cooking, cleaning or hanging the laundry. We are so spoilt in the streaming age – the convenience, the access, the sheer amount of material out every single week. It truly is overwhelming and hard to digest.

Over the past few years my listening pattern had changed. I absolutely relish in the control I have now as a consumer to be a complete master of my listening experience. I prefer to curate my own themed playlists which would soundtrack a myriad of moods and seasons (here’s my Spotify profile if you would like to peruse). I’d rather make my own ‘artist discography’ playlists rather than pass the hours with a prescribed set of songs picked out for me.

However, in the practice of me putting together my own playlists, I had come to really admire a well put-together body of work when I come across one. This list is more of 2018 honours list for bodies of work I have enjoyed. So in there will be a couple of mini-albums or EPs as well – whatever people wanted to call them. Here are 12 albums/EPs I have really enjoyed and connected with in 2018…

#12 – Charlie Puth “Voicenotes”

Literally no one I know listens to Charlie Puth. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him mentioned in my feed. Nothing. Therefore, I have zero self-awareness about liking his voice and his album. Basically, I went through this one week earlier this year where I was listening to a New York Times Popcast episode about Charlie and his Voicenotes album and then went to check it out and was surprised that I didn’t completely dislike it. Voicenotes dazzled me in the way Bruno Mars’ first album did back in the day. It’s a complete candyland of 80s/90s R&B influences without crossing over into pastiche, the silky vocals and youthful confidence is truly Charlie’s biggest drawing card. He, as I discovered, isn’t just a remarkable vocalist but also a brilliant producer, which really reflects in this album.

Key tracks: ‘Attention’, ‘Done for Me’ (feat Kehlani), ‘Slow It Down’

#11 – Years & Years “Palo Santo”

I distinctly remember getting butterflies halfway through my first listen of this album. It hit me that Olly Alexander and Years & Years would have been my teenage self’s absolute everything. Imagine what life would’ve been like as a young queer person and seeing Years & Years on primetime telly and playing big festivals. Palo Santo is nothing if not a collection of poems delicately wrapped in layers of electronic pop production that never try to outdo the heart of each song. In the centre is a rawness and vulnerabilty that draws you in to unpack more with each listen. Even now, I don’t feel I’ve fully gotten to the core of Palo Santo yet but I’m not in a rush. In an age of instant gratification maybe this is the kind of slow burn we need.

Key tracks: ‘All For You’, ‘Hypnotised’, ‘Hallelujah’, ‘Sanctify’

#10 – Troye Sivan “Bloom”

Bloom is such a gorgeous, highly stylised coming-of-age album that falls somewhere between soundtracking a Dolce & Gabbana citrusy-sea breeze fragrance commercial and an arthouse LGBT teen film. The charm is in the effortlessness of this – the unhurried pace, Troye’s chilled vocal delivery, and the themes of self-discovery. You walk around town on a quiet Sunday afternoon in spring with this in your headphones and I guarantee you’ll feel like you’re in an indie film.

Key tracks: ‘Seventeen’, ‘Bloom’, ‘My My My!’, ‘Dance to This’ (feat. Ariana Grande)

#9 – Ray BLK “Empress”

I’ve long been a fan of Ray since her 2016 Durt EP. She truly is a South London gem that should be appreciated and protected at all costs. Through her work you can see how she has grown as an artist and writer but I love that she has never wavered from her commitment to telling her story and painting you a picture of life in her community. The parallels to Ms Dynamite’s work is an obvious one. Let me just say, Ms Dynamite’s 2002 debut album holds such a special place in my heart. Even to this day, listening to ‘Brother’ would get me in my feelings. ‘Mama’ on Ray’s “Empress” EP brought that same feeling back around and I was listening to this for the first time while I was doing a food shop in Tesco and had to blink away the tears. At the same time, it made me smile that she did a rap from her mum’s perspective. My favourite line from the “Empress” EP is in ‘Got My Own’ where Ray’s doing a tongue-in-cheek flex about how much money she’s got and she’s treating her mum etc… and suddenly she adds, “I’ll get that pack of fizzy water, don’t use that tap no more – do I look like a buster?”. I mean, that is truly when you know you’ve fucking made it. When you’re buying sparkling water and you don’t have to entertain tap water any more.

Key tracks: ‘Mama’, ‘Run Run’, ‘Empress’, ‘Got My Own’

#8 – Kate Stewart “In The Beginning”

I just knew immediately after hearing ‘He’s Good’ that I was going to love this new incarnation of Kate Stewart (the artist formerly known as K Stewart). This was a proper 90s/00s pop R&B affair. This one’s for anyone who’s a fan of Mariah, JoJo, Samantha Jade etc. It’s pristine vocals and I mean proper vocal vocals. It is vibes. It is emotions. Nobody else is doing shit like this right now and the fact is not anybody can walk up and do this like Kate’s done it. This body of work needs to be celebrated. I can imagine her getting out to Asia performing there, and this just blowing up absolutely in every country. Vocal royalty needs to be treated as such.

Key tracks: ‘He’s Good’, ‘Distraction’, ‘Loving You’.

#7 – SUMNI “Warning”

This will be the only K-pop album/mini-album you’ll find on here this year even though Spotify Wrapped 2018 will let us know that my Top 5 tracks of the year were all K-pop bops. My low-key obsession with SUNMI (formerly of the legendary Wonder Girls) this year literally came out of nowhere. Even though she had been in the public eye for over 10 years, I had no knowledge of her until this era. Between Wonder Girls and her relaunching as a solo popstar (she had a solo EP in 2014), SUNMI tapped into a new performance style that was a little odder, for lack of better words. It was less preoccupied with the K-pop female idol archetypes of being cute or overtly sexy but rather this character was more standoffish and cold, and it really suited her.

Warning the mini-album is a collection of songs crafted around this newfound persona. Opening with ‘ADDICT’ (sung completely in English), SUNMI invites you into the world of this femme fatale rhetorically asking “Who’s running the show?”. ‘Siren‘ – which could be taken as either the bewitching folklore character that drew seamen to their doom, or a literal alarm – is ball-busting 80s disco romp warning lovers not to get attached because she will not emote or empathise even if they’re crying. In its corner are the singles ‘Gashina‘ (a post-tropical house banger about a woman scorned) and ‘Heroine‘ (a pantomime bop about a love-hate relationship where she lets her man go on acting like he’s her ‘saviour’). ‘Black Pearl’ is a gorgeous gem with its surprising sax solo and sultry demeanour. Overall, if you’re after a theatrical female K-pop project that has slightly more class and quirk to it, I’d recommend SUMNI and don’t forget to turn on the subtitles for her music videos.

Key tracks: ‘Siren’, ‘Gashina’, ‘Heroine’, ‘Black Pearl’

#6 – Robyn “Honey”

We’ve waited a really fucking long time for a Robyn album and this thankfully hit the mark for me. Although it wasn’t as generous of a classic as Body Talk was, this was a natural next step for her – and I got just as much out of it. I found myself walking alongside Honey like Robyn and I had never missed a beat. I realised I never really appreciated the warmth and knowingness in Robyn’s vocals until this album. She laid the sonic blueprint out for all her pop predecessors over the last 10 years to adapt but in all the love I have for these Robyn-inspired records, nothing felt like home like Honey.

Key tracks: ‘Honey’, ‘Send to Robin Immediately’. ‘Missing U’, ‘Because It’s In The Music’.

#5 – MNEK “Language”

I know that Uzo is a student of Mariah and Janet like I am. I know that he understands the magic in creating a body of work that takes people on a journey, bonded with interludes etc. Language is truly best experienced as a whole from start to finish, with its various chapters. This is an unapologetically queer album written from a young black man’s perspective but overall, the themes are pretty universal – ‘Tongue’ tackles infatuation, ‘Girlfriend’ addresses a secret affair with a closeted man (OK maybe not that universal), ‘Phone’ vexes over trying to get over an ex that won’t stop getting in touch.

Key tracks: ‘Girlfriend’, ‘Tongue’, ‘Correct’, ‘Honeymoon Phaze’, ‘Paradise’

#4 – Kali Uchis “Isolation”

I’m still not sure exactly what a Kali Uchis is but what I know is when I randomly played her Isolation album, I knew this was one of the best albums I’ve heard this year. The Colombian-Amerian artist created her own vortex of Winehouse-esque soul, pop, reggaeton, R&B, and funk – and I’m living for it. It’s sort of retro in a Latina Lana Del Rey kind of way but still incredibly modern in its approach and fusion.

Key tracks: ‘Dead to Me’, ‘Body Language’, ‘Tyrant’ (feat. Jorja Smith), ‘Just A Stranger’ (feat. Steve Lacy’),  ‘After The Storm’ feat. Tyler The Creator and Bootsy Collins).

#3 – Kacey Musgraves “Golden Hour”

This is my gardening album of 2018 and it means a great deal lot to me. Whenever I’d be in my backyard weeding or planting or tidying up, I’d have this album on. As far as modern country records go, this does a great job of reaching out to the pop audience without losing its identity. Tracks like ‘Slow Burn’, ‘Lonely Weekend’, ‘Happy & Sad’ have been really comforting whenever I’ve been alone.

Key tracks; ‘High Horse’, ‘Lonely Weekend’, ‘Happy & Sad’, ‘Slow Burn’.

#2 – Mariah Carey “Caution”

As any Lamb would tell you, this truly is a brilliant Mariah Carey album for 2018. A solid R&B body of work that doffs its hat to her musicality without dating her. She may be known worldwide for her multi-octave range, whistle notes and big belting finales but in Caution she strips it all back to show that she doesn’t have to showboat to get your attention. The Blood Orange collab ‘Giving Me Life’ is a mood and a moment – slotting beautifully in with some of her fan favourites ‘The Roof’, ‘Babydoll’ and ‘Lullaby’. ‘A No No’ is a classic showcase of Mariah’s wits and sharp lyricism, “Snakes in the grass, it’s time to cut the lawn / Ed Scissorhands aka I cut you off”. If you don’t know, you better know.

Key tracks: ‘A No No’, Giving Me Life’, ‘The Distance’, ‘Portrait’.

#1 – Janelle Monáe “Dirty Computer”

What a masterpiece of a concept album. What a masterpiece of an album about womanhood, queerness and breaking free of societal expectations. It is proud, political, angry, sincere and sensual all at the same time. The spirit of Prince is more than alive here, especially in ‘Make Me Feel’ and in the hedonistic ‘Screwed’ and ‘Crazy Classic Life’. ‘Pynk’ and ‘Django Jane’ are a celebration of female sexuality and liberation. It’s hard to think of a feminist body of work more significant, intelligent and truly aurally pleasurable than this in recent years.

Follow me on Twitter @feedlimmy / Instagram @lovelimmy

And my 2000s pop podcast Right Back At Ya! – @rightbackpod

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/right-back-at-ya/id1384164995?mt=2

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/0XLneIjlau2BxFZcTecdP6?si=xn7p0mkiQWSDNI0rKm6zUg

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Feed Limmy Songs of 2018

Guess, what? It’s another year-end list. 2018 overall has been a year spent in deep infatuation with female K-pop stars. I’ve been saying for the past few years that Western pop hasn’t really been hitting the spot for me in the way their South Korean counterparts are. The melodies, the juxtaposition of genres and styles, and above all, the commitment to serving full-blown productions. We’re talking music videos, live performances, styling, choreography. Everything is just an experience.

For the first time ever, my Top 5 most played songs of the year on Spotify were occupied exclusively by K-pop tracks. There were three BLACKPINK tracks (‘DDU-DU DDU-DU’, ‘As If It’s Your Last’ and ‘Forever Young’) and two SUNMI singles: ‘Siren’ and ‘Heroine’ – the latter was my most played song. I mean, I was definitely obsessed with it at the time of release. I must’ve had it on repeat for two weeks straight for it to come out on top of the list.

My Songs of 2018 isn’t made up of what I’ve listened to the most but more of a combination of what I’ve definitely been obsessed with and songs that I felt have definitely been MOMENTS this year. So here are 25 tracks that have stood out for me…

#25 – joan ‘Tokyo’

It’s not like me to really listen to male artists but this indie-pop duo from Arkansas is really doing it with their swirl of nostalgic 80s synths and sentimental lyrics. They sound like sweet boys who wear beanies in summer and make music in their parents’ basements, all around them are takeaway containers where veggie dumplings and ramen used to be. I hope they get more mainstream attention in 2019.

#24 – Amy Shark ‘I Said Hi’

I feel a bit guilty for not staying in touch with what’s happening with pop back home in Australia. Every now and then a really cool name would show up on Idolator or a Spotify playlist like Tkay Maidza, Jess Kent or Nicole Millar and I’d get that mix of excitement and FOMO. Amy Shark is a singer-songwriter from the Gold Coast signed to Sony who is enjoying great success this year with her debut album. This moody little single ‘I Said Hi’ caught my attention immediately with its new-gen Avril vibes and candid lyrics about how lonely it gets when you’re chasing your dream.

#23 – Cher Lloyd ‘None of My Business’

I’m gonna sing Cher Lloyd by… Cher Lloyd. What a tidy little comeback from one of my favourite ever X Factor breakout stars. There is definitely a certain kind of fondness for Cher Lloyd amongst gay men of our generation and it’s really heartwarming. ‘None of My Business’ does a wonderful job of bridging what’s great about 2018 pop with what we loved about her in the early years. With these nursery rhyme-like melodies and lyrics that pack a fistful of attitude, this feels like a classic Cher Lloyd record but with a bit more grace. The smirk and eye-rolls are still there, trust, but she’s maybe a little less bothered and little less OTT about it these days.

#22 – Shawn Mendes ‘Lost in Japan’

I can pick Shawn Mendes out from a crowd of a thousand but I couldn’t sing you a single one of his songs. No ma’am. ‘Lost in Japan’ was something of a surprise for me. It may not be innovative by any means from what he normally does but young man, slap on a mischievous funk bass line and some winking emoji lyrics about a rendezvous, and I’m on the first Easyjet over.

#21 – Charli XCX ‘No Angel’

I think cerebrally I’ve always known Charli XCX to be a highly honourable purveyor of pop but I’ve never accepted her into my heart until maybe the last few months. I think there are times where she is over-hyped, for instance, I don’t think all that screaming and shouting on Twitter was warranted for something like POP2. There are definite moments, please don’t get me wrong. But let’s address it for what it is… moments. The singles Charlotte brought us this year – ‘Girls Night Out’, the double A-side ‘Focus’ and ‘No Angel’, and ‘1999’ (more on this later) – really turned me around. She would be the popstar of my dreams if I were a teenager in 2018. ‘No Angel’ very marginally took the spotlight from ‘Focus’ for me purely because I’m really into this gyrating, robo-reggae rhythm and the earnest lyrics about self-redemption.

#20 – BLACKPINK ‘See U Later’

The amount of times I have strutted out of the office with this turned up loud. What BLACKPINK really do well is that feisty, ice-cold princess gig. You can tell there is vulnerability in there somewhere but they would never wait around long enough for you to figure it out. ‘See U Later’ is a brilliant kiss-off track with a few peppery lines (in English) that’ll stay on your tongue long after they’re gone. “See you later… maybe never?????”

#19 – Clean Bandit feat. Demi Lovato ‘Solo’

It’s hard to take in that Clean Bandit is one of Britain’s most significant pop groups at the moment… but the charts and streaming numbers don’t lie. It’s even harder to deny them this when they’re dropping precise, radio-ravaging candy like this so consistently. Where years ago I was banging on about how ‘crying at the disco’ was my favourite sub-genre, nowadays, sad bangers are ruling the charts. ‘Solo’ somehow manages to become something enjoyable you’d blast on Greek island getaway with your mates and also something you’d crank up when you’re post-break up bruised and finding yourself home alone with a £6.99 bottle of Malbec.

#18 – Rina Sawayama ‘Cherry’

I have been excited about the prospect of popstar Rina Sawayama ever since ‘Cyber Stockholm Syndrome’ and ‘Alterlife’. I completely appreciate her perspective of 00s pop R&B through a 2018 Dazed/i-D reader lens. ‘Cherry’ with its blossoming chorus and stunning music video with choreography and a restraint, high fashion statement completely did it for me. Similar to Charli, Rina would be the kind of popstar a teenage me in 2018 would be completely and utterly obsessed with. She represents the dream.

#17 – Kacey Musgraves ‘High Horse’

Just as it was for many pop gays, Kacey Musgraves and her Golden Hour album was an amazing discovery for me. It seems like the time is right for a new country crossover queen to emerge and Kacey did so with such elegance with this gentle, glittery disco-Nashville number. Not for a moment did it feel like she was over reaching or trying too hard, which made her all the more appealing to the pop community. More on Kacey when I do my albums of the year list.

#16 – Charlie Puth feat. Kehlani ‘Done for Me’

It wasn’t until I listened to an episode of the New York Times Popcast discussing Charlie Puth that I really had to give it up to him. I can’t think of a male vocalist since Adam Lambert (and going even further back, Darren Hayes) that has really impressed me like Charlie has. ‘Done For Me’ – with Kehlani – is him finally becoming cool, I think.

#15 – MNEK ‘Tongue’

I could not be happier for Uzo because 2018 really saw him come out and deliver A-grade live performances with choreography and not to mention, one of the best albums with Language. The more I listen to ‘Tongue’ to more I get to savour the layers and dimensions to it. In the first listen, you clasp the monotonous spoken-word chorus over strutting club beats, but then the layers of harmonies wrapped around the verses and all the ad-libs come to the forefront. It’s genius work.

#14 – Ariana Grande ‘God is a woman’

It’s hard to discuss the world’s biggest popstar because everything astute and thoughtful there is to be said about her musicality – especially in the Sweetener era – has been articulated by critics and people with far more intelligence than me. But when it’s all said and done, ‘God is a woman’ is a completely spellbinding, slow-burner that seemingly plays to a cool, shadowy sensuality but, in actual fact, is a remarkably produced Max Martin-aided bop that has multiple levels to it.

#13 – Janelle Monae ‘Make Me Feel’

This Prince-gleaning neon-funk bop is just absolutely one of the most pleasurable music moments for me this year. As a long time admirer of Janelle Monae (she shook my world with the ‘Many Moons’ video and Metropolis: The Chase Suite EP and I’d been on board ever since), this more brazen and sexually-liberated Janelle was a welcomed surprise.

#12 – Kylie Minogue ‘Dancing’

Kylie is one of my favourite artists of all time. I would maybe even go as far as saying absolute favourite. It’s a little known fact that even people closest to me don’t know about. Any kind of reservation I might’ve had about the pop grand dame embracing country music was quickly hushed when ‘Dancing’ came out. While Golden might not have completely done it for me (I actually think it would’ve sounded better if she had given us a straight up country pop record without all the unnecessary electronic-pop flourishes in some tracks), I embrace moments like ‘Dancing’, ‘Radio On’ and ‘Sincerely Yours’. Kylie is the ultimate queen of melancholy, brightly-coloured pop and she has done this oh so subtly throughout her career. Check ‘I Should Be So Lucky’, ‘Hand On Your Heart’, ‘Never Too Late’, ‘All The Lovers’, ‘Into The Blue’ etc. The double entendre of “when I go out, I wanna go out dancing” will never not get me. Play this at my funeral.

#11 – Louisa feat. 2 Chainz ‘YES’

This second coming of Christina Aguilera’s ‘Dirrty’ absolutely sent for me. There are moments in these troubled times where a really fun pop banger comes around that doesn’t necessarily align with whatever Capital or Radio 1 is playlisting but that’s not to say it doesn’t deserve a moment. With all the nostalgia for the 00s going around at the moment, it is possible that Louisa might’ve been a little ahead of the curve with this one. I think had she had the chance to deliver an A-grade pop performance on TV with a big troupe of dancers and an image/styling that blatantly reeked of throwback 00s vibes, like what Charli XCX’s playing at with ‘1999’, perhaps this would’ve fared better.

#10 – Charli XCX feat. Troye Sivan ‘1999’

This is just a straight-up confetti-blasting throwback bop and I’m so happy for Charlotte that she’s clocking up radio airplays with it. I think in this day and age we can be too #woke and overthink one’s approach to pop when really, we’re forgetting the importance of having fun and keeping it simple. It’s a shitty world out there – we got Brexit, we got Trump, we got drones fucking grounding our flights… let’s go back to a time where things appear to be simpler and better. Nothing airbrushes the past better than nostalgia. I’m living for Charli XCX giving us the fast-food equivalent in music. Absolutely brilliant escapist pop.

#9 – Ariana Grande ‘no tears left to cry’

This is admittedly a strange pop record and yet everything about it just works. In here we have elements of garage beats layered with stabbing synths and Ariana’s angelic vocals that switch from grand sweeping notes to kittenish semi-spoken word lines. There is a persistent tide of optimism in ‘no tears left to cry’ that doesn’t try to sweep the sadness under a rug but rather bring it to the light and live alongside it. This in itself is a life lesson.

#8 – Normani x Calvin Harris ‘Checklist’ (feat. Wizkid)

This Afrobeat-influenced Top 40 dance pop banger was all kinds of exciting for me from the moment it dropped. Normani is very much on her way to becoming the next big breakout star and I’m sure she is going to move mountains in 2019. The strategic move of aligning with credible and established collaborators like Khalid, Calvin Harris and Wizkid to introduce her as a solo star is very astute but it’s her fiery delivery on ‘Checklist’ that really made me sit up. Her ability to embody this jam with a swagger and accent that isn’t necessarily native to her tells me she is a performer to be reckoned with.

#7 – Rita Ora ‘Let You Love Me’

This song stabbed me in the heart and drained the blood from my veins within the first minute. Atlantic Records-era Rita Ora has been delivering hits after hits and I was well on the ride, but it wasn’t until they delivered a nerve-damaging emotional bop like this that I knew I had to take a breather. The song’s sentiments about self-sabotaging and fear of intimacy spoke to me in ways I didn’t expect to be spoken to.

#6 – Kim Petras ‘Heart to Break’

This song has been pure joy for me and will always remind me of the summer of 2018. I have the pleasure of working with Kim and to have spent a bit of time with her when she came over to the UK to play her first sold-out headline show. I think in her I saw someone who was not only a formidable songwriter and vocalist but a true scholar of pop music, someone who deeply understood Britney, Gwen Stefani and Madonna references (and everything else in between). Above it all, I was drawn to her feverish commitment to making escapist pop – not just for us but for her – in the face of whatever the real world was throwing our way.

#5 – Toni Braxton ‘Long As I Live’

Toni Michelle Braxton has no right barging into 2018 with a lush, modern day R&B classic like this. We are complete undeserving. ‘Long As I Live’ – with its pulsating rhythms and nocturnal piano-synths – sound like something evocative of a 90s Babyface LP and no less, with Toni’s timeless, quivering aching vocals. I’d even go as far as saying this is the best Toni Braxton song we’ve had this decade.

#4 – Ariana Grande ‘breathin’

This song has low-key been such a meaningful soundtrack for me personally. The arrival of ‘breathin’ coincided with me learning to take better care of myself this year. Year after year I do these lists and towards the top end of the list, I usually find songs that have resonated with a fragile or complicated part of my life. And I guess this is no different.

#3 – Calvin Harris feat. Dua Lipa ‘One Kiss’

This was the song of summer 2018 for me. You’d be in a park with mates, nursing a cider, and hear this tune coming out of a tinny portable speaker. With Dua Lipa emerging as the UK’s biggest female pop entity of the minute, teaming up with dance music supremo Calvin Harris who was suddenly circling back to house music… ‘One Kiss’ kinda feels like a modern day classic that has always been around.

#2 – BLACKPINK ‘DDU-DU DDU-DU’

BLACKPINK was such a dominating pop force in my life this year. This YG-managed girl group, initially hailed as the second coming of 2NE1, slowly but surely got me stanning. Even though ‘DDU-DU DDU-DU’ sounds like something from about four years ago with its garish EDM drops, the blockbuster music video and BLACKPINK’s utter commitment to nailing every live performance sparked an excitement that caught fire in me and in fans worldwide. Without me realising, they had become one of my favourite girl groups alongside Girls Aloud, Sugababes, Spice Girls, 2NE1 etc. With BTS blowing the gates open with K-pop presence in Western media, I can only hope that by this time next year we’d all be on the BLACKPINK fandom.

#1 – SUNMI ‘Siren’

This has to be #1 for me. I’ve had this on repeat for months and I still can’t get over it. Ex-Wonder Girl SUNMI got my attention last year when she made her solo comeback with ‘Gashina’ which was one of my Songs of 2017. What really drew me in was SUNMI’s unconventional performance style in this era and she absolutely sunk her teeth into ‘Siren’ (just watch the music video). The high drama in this throbbing 80s disco-pop banger, which hears her cut down an eager lover from going further with her emotionally unavailable self, is absolutely bad-ass in every sense.

Listen to my Songs of 2018 playlist on Spotify here:

Follow me on Twitter @feedlimmy / Instagram @lovelimmy

And my 2000s pop podcast Right Back At Ya! – @rightbackpod

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/right-back-at-ya/id1384164995?mt=2

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/0XLneIjlau2BxFZcTecdP6?si=xn7p0mkiQWSDNI0rKm6zUg

 

 

 

 

Feed Limmy 32 Songs of 2017

Have I even listened to enough new music in 2017 to be doing this list? According to Spotify, my two most streamed artists this year were sister to The People’s Minogue, Kylie, and British pop evergreens Atomic Kitten. Neither have had any new music to show for this year – except maybe if you want to count the NERVO collab Kylie appeared on.

Aside from the Kittens, S Club Juniors, Mis-Teeq, Samantha Mumba, Billie Piper and iio all turned up in my most streamed tracks of the year. It would seem at the year I turned 30, I had suddenly become nostalgic for the Smash Hits era of my youth. There I was, properly getting into acts I had skipped over the first time around like S Club Juniors/S Club 8 and Honeyz, losing hours and weeks on YouTube blackholes of Top of The Pops and CD:UK performances.

In the brief moments where I was actually present in 2017 – it felt like this was the year pop got its groove back. It has been mostly rhythm-led, thanks to the dominance of Caribbean, tropical house, Latin pop and afrobeat influences, which suit me just fine. This year is also the first year in ages where there aren’t any non-singles in the round up, so RIP the album, I guess.

Here are my 32 songs of 2017 (it’s not a round number because, full disclosure, there are two singles here that were actually released late last year).

#32 – NCT 127 ‘Limitless’

Okay so this is NCT 127, a nine-member strong boy band subgroup of NCT. This is one of three different subgroups they have going including NCT U and NCT Dream, which by the way can feature the same members in changing configurations. It’s all very confusing to the casual observer of K-Pop like yours truly. However, what is clear to me is that ‘Limitless’ is a treat. It’s bristling with hard, trap beats and laser-sharp synths – and yet in the heart of it – a skyscraping, classic boyband chorus that sounds like something you’d hear from a late 90s Backstreet Boys writing session.

#31 – Lotto Boyzz ‘No Don’

Birmingham afrobbean (as they would describe it) sensation Lotto Boyzz crept up on me with this one. It wasn’t until several casual listens that ‘No Don’ sunk its hooks in. It’s the interlocking of different melodic and rhythmic nods from Carribbean and African music, with a completely on-trend production that won me over. There is a sense that sound is gonna be what dominates ‘urban music’ in 2018.

#30 – Lauren Faith ‘Rush’

Emerging British singer-songwriter Lauren Faith glows on this rose-tinted slice of pop-R&B. A breezy, innocent and effortlessly charming soundtrack for a blossoming romance, ‘Rush’ – co-written by Faith with Zena Kitt (Karen Harding) and Luke Fritton (Kylie) – sounds like the youngest cousin of your favourite Jessie Ware song. You know the one. She’s now coming of age a little, doesn’t want her mum buying her clothes anymore, and is learning to contour from watching Courtney Act tutorials on YouTube.

#29 – Jessica Mauboy ‘Fallin”

The darling fleur of Australian pop, Jessica Mauboy, has managed to carve out a deep-rooted career in the music industry since taking silver on Australian Idol over 10 years ago. In her latest incarnation as actress of drama musical series “The Secret Daughter” where she is principally the soundtrack of the show as well, Jess has found a way to re-connect with the masses. ‘Fallin” – an original song taken from the soundtrack – saw her back in the Top 20 for the first time in two years and earned her three nominations at the ARIA Awards. The song’s bluesy and acoustic elements show what a timeless vocalist she has become, while still giving us something that feels delightfully current in a Sheeran-esque sense.

#28 – ALMA ‘Chasing Highs’

A Day-Glo, soulful-tropical house number propelled by one of the most distinct new voices in pop: ALMA. The Finnish star-in-ascendence presents herself an alternative next-gen pop heroin with an image that is distinctly her own and I want so bad for her to be a huge commercial success in the vein of Sia and Tove Lo.

#27 – SUNMI ‘Gashina’

Ex-Wonder Girls star SUNMI returns to the spotlight with an infectious and domineering modern banger. ‘Gashina’ hits all the trending sounds of the moment, blending dancehall and tropical house while giving you several moods. It is delicate yet aggressive at the same time, vulnerable yet utterly pissed off. ‘Gashina’ is a prima donna, she is me at work.

#26 – Iggy Azalea feat. Anitta ‘Switch’

Regardless of what you think of Iggy, this is a bop. A feel good, radio-ready summer jam that slots in with ‘Black Widow’, ‘Fancy’ and ‘Pretty Girls’. This is what Iggy does best. It’s glossy rap pop that doesn’t ask too much of its listeners, except maybe to jiggle one’s posterior or swing one’s hair while raising a glass of glittered Prosecco. This could have been us but somebody was playing too much. Also, I’d like to know who’s that shady fucker who filled in the chart positions on its Wiki page: #302 on the Russian Airplay Chart and #180 on the Aussie ARIA Singles Chart?

#25 – PRETTYMUCH ‘Would You Mind’

I wasn’t expecting for Syco‘s shiny, mega-hyped new boyband PRETTYMUCH to debut with a song that references so much of the late 90s/early 00s pop R&B. Yet here they are with airtight harmonies and grooves that rekindle the fire of New Kids on The Block and polish of N*Sync.

#24 – Louisa Johnson ‘Best Behaviour’

I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard this little Moombahton pop number the first time. I had to check that I had definitely hit ‘play’ on a Louisa Johnson record because this was not what I was expecting for Louisa Johnson to come out with. It felt fresh but pretty commercial at the same time. We’ve had so many people fucking with dancehall and tropical house, this was turning the different corner in the same postcode. Plus her vocals are so nauseatingly good. And you know it had to be in order to cut through all the bullshit screeching you lot are doing when she hits the key change.

#23 – 5 After Midnight ‘Up In Here’

I must’ve somehow missed this when it came out earlier in the year because it took for the release of “The Sauce” EP to jog my memory about 5 After Midnight. Gone are the days where I watched and blogged religiously about The X Factor. However, I was pleasantly taken aback by how sharp and immaculately produced ‘Up In Here’ was. It’s all furious pop-locking electro pop energy with carefully measured doses of rap and harmonies. A confident and fun debut that would have earned more than just a brief look in had it been released by a better positioned new act.

#22 – Uhm Jung Hwa ‘Ending Credit’

This was a very late addition to the list but ever since this song was brought to my attention four days ago, I have been utterly obsessed and I’m starting to feel like it’s not just a phase. K-Pop grand dame Uhm Jung Hwa‘s 80s synth pop ballad feels like a permanent mood. Adding to ‘Ending Credit”s charm is this fully choreographed and kitsch 80s-gazing music video, where a sentimental Jung Hwa reminisces on the old times in a theatre. Giving me San Junipero chills, chiiiiild. I aspire to be as fabulous as her at 48.

#21 – Sigrid ‘Strangers’

Norwegian singer-songwriter Sigrid have been hailed as one of pop’s new hopes and with plenty of good reason too. None of which I really took on board until ‘Strangers’. This is a trip. The deceptively calm and reflective opening verse is only there to serve as contrast to the agitated synths and punchy chorus to follow. If she continues to show this kind of range and raw energy, there’s no reason why Sigrid shouldn’t emerge as a true force in pop.

#20 – Tove Styrke ‘Say My Name’

It is quite criminal that this didn’t blossom to be the song of the summer. The potential was definitely there with Swedish pop sensation Tove Styrke striking out with her most colourful record yet. It might not immediately show itself to be but trust, ‘Say My Name’ is pure addiction with its ukulele noodling and shouty chorus. Both equal measures cool and inviting.

#19 – Carly Rae Jepson ‘Cut To The Feeling’

If the charts were powered by Gay Twitter posts, this would’ve been #1 for 37 weeks. In a time where any popstar worth their salt on the streaming charts are chasing trends, Carly Rae has stood her ground with her signature, euphoric synth-driven pop. There is no real age or time stamp to her songs. ‘Cut To The Feeling’, ‘I Really Like You’, ‘This Kiss’, and ‘Run Away With Me’ – all exist in their own realm of 80s-inspired millennial pop. Like a modern day rendering of Stock Aitken and Waterman’s magic. You couldn’t necessarily hear what was going on in the pop charts at the time when you play these records, and that in itself is what keeps it fresh in its own way.

#18 – Jennifer Lopez feat. Wisin ‘Amor Amor Amor’

I think this might be the catchiest J.Lo single she has released in awhile – and it’s very upsetting that it’s getting slept on so much. If this had been one of those Spanglish remixes, it might’ve gotten on more people’s radars here. This stroblit reggaeton track sounds like the meeting points of all the different musical streams of J.Lo’s discography – urban, rhythmic, Latin pop, electronic-dance.

#17 – CNCO and Little Mix ‘Reggaetón Lento (Remix)’

‘Reggaetón Lento’ has to be my favourite of all the smash Latin pop collabs to emerge this year. What a genius synergy for both bands – not just from the evidently harmonious blending of earnest vocals by CNCO and sultry maturity in Little Mix, but for CNCO, a Latin American boyband formed on another of Simon Cowell’s star-making TV shows “La Banda” (and mentored by Ricky Martin – !!!), this is the perfect introduction to the European market. For Little Mix, the perfect sound of the moment without the pressure of concocting something all on their own in the middle of a major world tour for the re-release of “Glory Days”.

#16 – Jax Jones feat. Demi Lovato and Stefflon Don ‘Instruction’

“If you’re the Supreme then I’m Diana Ross” – sounds like a burn tossed across the room at a Real Housewives reunion episode. This bossy little reggaeton zinger, co-written by MNEK, hears our evergreen young diva Demi Lovato confidently trying something outside her usual pop style with Stefflon Don adding some spice to the mix. I’d be fucking disappointed if don’t see a drag performance to this soon.

#15 – Katy Perry feat. Nicki Minaj ‘Swish Swish’

Oh this is very im_gonna_give_the_gays_everything_they_want dot gif, isn’t it? And I’m obviously here for it. Vogueing house beats? Check. Lyrics that read you for filth? Check. Empowering female pop star and accompanying fierce, boss bitch rapper? Check. And we are all present. Wonder if Tinie Tempah and Zara Larsson have clocked the track’s similarities to ‘Girls Like’?

#14 – Dua Lipa ‘New Rules’

What a relief that this has become the devilishly quotable, meme-generating monster hit that it has for Dua Lipa. Dare I say, ‘New Rules’ was a bit of a dark horse – having already released a handful of singles and collabs ahead of the album’s long awaited summer drop. It was surprising that this elaborately produced trop-house hybrid turn girl code became the one to take Dua to #1 and become the most streamed female artist of 2017. ‘New Rules’ sounds like nothing she’d done before or anything else on the album. What’s remarkable is that it appears to have engineered its own success, by somehow tapping into and feeding the zeitgeist. We’d be hard pressed to find a great triumph this year for a new popstar.

#13 – Camila Cabello feat. Young Thug ‘Havana’

I haven’t been particularly impressed with any of Camila‘s solo records but ‘Havana’ felt like the eureka moment some people have been trying to get me to see. An insanely catchy bop of the highest order, it felt like the timing was suddenly right and it all clicked for Camila. This tribute to her Cuban roots stands in a lane of its own in the midst of other popular Latin pop records scorching up the charts. Her assured and soulful performance of ‘Havana’ feels well beyond her years, making it sound like something from another generation entirely.

#12 – Tayá feat. Yxng Bane ‘When You’re Sober’ (Thomas Rasmus Chill Mix

This is actually the second time Tayá has been on my year-end list. What we’re gonna do from here on out is keep a close eye her because she is going to be huge. ‘When You’re Sober’ is a stormy modern R&B ballad that manages to be both emotionally intense and delicately vibey at the same time, largely due to Tayá’s honeyed vocals.

#11 – Raye feat. Mr Eazi ‘Decline’

100% here for the Ja Rule/Ashanti reworking, the Beyoncé and ‘Bug A Boo’ reference – I think if fashion is gonna keep snatching pieces from 2001 – 2005 then lyrically y’all might as well. In a perfect world, this would be the new ‘New Rules’ style success story. Feisty and made for throwing your hands. Everyone needs to get on board with this asap.

#10 – Rita Ora ‘Your Song’

Rise up, Rita. Rise up. This is the best fucking year to be Rita Ora since she debuted to be honest. After a few wilderness moments with some mouldy singles two years ago, it’s great to see that Atlantic is steering her to proper popstar terrain where she belongs. The beauty of ‘Your Song’ lies in its simplicity and Rita’s lightly raspy morning-after vocals. The seemingly unfussy production – where everything seems to adorn lightly around the main acoustic guitar frame and her vocals – that has done Rita favours. At a time where she’s still having a hard time convincing the masses she’s an artist not just a celebrity/presenter/social media boss, ‘Your Song’ couldn’t have been a better reintroduction.

#9 – DJ Khaled feat. Rihanna and Bryson Tiller ‘Wild Thoughts’

A real turning point for DJ Khaled who led a surprisingly classy and subdued show here with ‘Wild Thoughts’. There’s little doubt in my mind that the voodoo of this song is down in huge parts to Rihanna and the Santana ‘Maria Maria’ sample. Warm, playful and alluring – this feels like it was designed for humid summer nights out under a full moon in a town that doesn’t know your name.

#8 – Mamamoo ‘Décalcomanie’

OK I know this was released in November 2016 but I’m often so fucking late with all things K-pop I don’t pick up on things until several months and seasons pass. Mamamoo is unquestionably one of the top girl groups to watch for at the moment, bowling over everyone with their powerhouse vocals and brassy funk sound. ‘Décalcomanie’ is pure crack, served with all the subtlety of glitter cannon hauled around the room by a dozen Vegas showgirls on roller skates.

#7 – Steps ‘Scared of The Dark’

The pop comeback of the year. Full disclosure, I wasn’t bothered about Steps the first time around but this 20th anniversary renaissance presented not only a dose of nostalgia for the old times but new music that brought out the best in their style (they thankfully eschewed tropical house and reggaeton beats this time around). From the dramatic opening strings, ‘Scared of The Dark’ instantly assures us that we are in safe hands. This was to be a confetti-loaded, electro disco showstopper with a palpable emotional core. It recalls the Eurodance servings we would have lapped up again and again at G-A-Y between 2010 and 2012. So basically, what I still listen to every other day. Speaking of which, here’s my Crying At The Disco – Act I playlist – do join in.

#6 – Anne-Marie ‘Ciao Adios’

I properly rinsed through this all summer. A searing kiss-off to a two-timing ex in the shape of a dancehall banger via Essex. You know what, it just dawned on me literally as I was writing this that I was probably channelling all my disappointment from a fling that faded away this year every time I played this song. Men really are trash. End of.

#5 – Dagny ‘Wearing Nothing’

Norwegian electro pop babe Dagny low key delivered one of my favourite summer soundtracks this year with ‘Wearing Nothing’. With shimmering melodies that soar over a cloud of breathy synths and funk guitars, the composition complemented the intimate lyrics about wanting to be completely bare and intimate with someone.

#4 – BLACKPINK ‘As If It’s Your Last’

Officially the most watched K-Pop music video of 2017 (with over 202 million views in six months), trumping even the mighty BTS. If BLACKPINK only managed to release just one single this year, they’ve certainly made it count. ‘As If It’s Your Last’ is a giddy mix of pulsating house, hip hop, and moombahton styles, with a power pop chorus that torpedoes off to full effect. It is simultaneously too much and moreish, which might explain why this was my most streamed track of the year on Spotify.

#3 – Charli XCX ‘Boys’

Do not be fooled by its seemingly simple soundboard of bleeps, glitches and daydreamy melodies – there are layers to this cake. ‘Boys’ is easily one of the most instantly charming songs of the year for me. Everything from Charli‘s zero-fucks attitude, the straight-to-the-chase lyrics, and down to the expertly layered arrangement just floors me. Flipping from this to her recently endowed “Pop2”, it’s clear that ‘Boys’ marks the spot between where she wants to be hyper-creatively and where she could excel in commercially.

#2 – Justin Bieber and BloodPop ‘Friends’

I don’t think I’ve ever been so strongly drawn to a Justin Bieber song before. It’s funny, the minute he steps back from the public eye and doesn’t want to court my attention, I come running to him. This collab with BloodPop is a steely, synth disco banger – not groundbreaking in anyway in a post ‘Dancing On My Own’ world. However, what the icy and mechanical sounds do bring to full effect is Justin’s breathy vocals and the distant feeling. I think I might be listening to this one for many years to come.

#1 – Jax Jones featuring Raye ‘You Don’t Know Me’

There is no denying this absolute beast of the record. When it dropped in December last year, I had a feeling it could (and definitely should) be everywhere but I had no idea how obsessed I’d become with it. In my pop mind, this was the sound of the underground. It was giving me the testosterone of Jamaican bashment crossed with the persistent and sleek, UK house beats. This just felt like a very natural meeting of two cultures. This is the sound of London and we got our it girl of the moment, Raye, delivering really cocky pure fire lyrics around the clock. It is a fist full of attitude but not too much that it overpowers the fun clubby vibe. Jax Jones has carved a new club classic that I sense we will be revisiting for many years to come in the way we do ‘Sing It Back’ and ‘Lola’s Theme’ now.

Check out the full Spotify playlist:

Reactions to My 2017 Predictions

I had completely forgotten that I had done a 2017 predictions in music post at the start of the year. A Raven Symoné-esque gaze into the future, it was not. Upon reflection, some of the themes I had expected to come true have, while others, just like my diminishing annual promise to get in shape, have not.

Let’s recap, shall we?

“Sombre vibes and alternative sounds to the front”

‘Pure pop is over’, I declared, with the blow of a whistle and precise waving of arms like a referee in a boxing ring. I had said that in light of a post-Brexit Britain and Trump-reigned America, music was going to reflect the harsher socio and political climate. This was clearly written before I learned about “woke”, a widespread sun-blotting ‘movement’, fortified through social media, and peaking at its glossiest, most marketable zenith when Katy Perry hopped out with ‘Chained to The Rhythm‘ and Kendal Jenner with a Pepsi commercial she’d rather forget.

Grime and hip hop have certainly charted healthily in 2017 – any broadsheet would tell you that. This year saw Stormzy become the first ever grime artist to score a #1 album to a chorus of critical acclaim and screaming fans at sold out shows. We’d all soon stan Stefflon Don if ‘Hurtin’ Me’ or her feature on Jax Jones and Demi Lovato‘s bossy ‘Instruction’ haven’t already put her on your radar.

In the same gaze where I had pointed out artists such as Ray BLK would prosper, this year saw heads turned by the likes of alt-R&B dreamcatchers like Kelela, SZA, Sampha and Kehlani.

To say that the heartbeat of pure pop dimmed this year would be a reach, even for someone as naturally over-dramatic as me. The party raged on. The blood cells of eager-to-please Western pop fused with the viral sensation of its infectious, rhythmic Spanish cousins and out came cross-polinations of artists growing in different nurseries of major label divisions across the world, spawning global hits such as ‘Despacito‘ (Puerto Ricans Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee with Canadian Justin Bieber), ‘Reggaeton Lento‘ (Miami-founded CNCO with Britain’s pride Little Mix), ‘Mi Gente’ (Colombian J Balvin and French Willy William with Texas’ most prolific hot sauce carrier, Beyoncé).

Stan Twitter gurgled over Dua LipaRita Ora and Camila Cabello in the same breath as Taylor Swift and Little Mix. And whether you were checking for it or not, we’ve had a record number of solo One Direction records flood the market. 2017 is to the solo 1D harvest what 1999 was for the Spice Girls. Marinade on that fact.

“Nostalgic re-issues of classic 90s albums on vinyl will be a thing”

According to the Official Charts Company’s October publishing of the 40 biggest selling vinyl albums of 2017 so far… this was not what I had in mind. I am seeing Ed Sheeran, Radiohead, Amy Winehouse, Beatles, David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, even Rag ‘N’ Bone Man. There’s a still lot of nostalgia, alright, but not the kind I’m here for. Dondé está Shania Twain “Come On Over”, Alanis Morissette “Jagged Little Pill”, Janet Jackson “The Velvet Rope”, Spice Girls “Spice”, Madonna “The Immaculate Collection” etc. etc.? If you are a hipster vinyl hound, find yourself a pop friend this Christmas and gift them a legendary 90s album of their liking this season. If you want to be a true friend – the kind of friend they sing about in the Golden Girls theme tune – I have seen Lisa Scott-Lee‘s ‘Lately’ and Nicole Scherzinger’s scrapped ‘Puakenikeni’ lying unclaimed in a bargain crate out in East London somewhere. You are welcome.

Speaking of pop nostalgia, take a huge fucking bow Team Steps and Bananarama for staging absolutely solid gold comebacks this year. Especially you, Steps. New music in 2017 that was on brand, on point and on the top of the bloody iTunes charts.

“Expect unexpected collaborations”

Well, that’s a fucking given. I was not exactly the Book of Revelations now, was I? This was a pointless prediction. A piece of recycled oxygen. Like the breath you just exhaled while you were diving deep into your car boot to fetch an oversized Ikea bag for your shopping.

I wasn’t completely off the mark here though. One certainly did not see the returned popularity of Spanglish pop. Not since Ricky Martin‘s hip-twisting World Cup anthem ‘The Cup of Life’ have we seen such unity of the two languages on a global spread – thanks to the aforementioned rather exciting and unexpected collaborations.

Where I was expecting more vibrant gumbos a la Cambridge classical-electronic band Clean Bandit meets Jamaican dancehall sire Sean Paul and karate-chopping Essex pop newbie Anne-Marie, it seems like what works is sticking with your peers. Calvin Harris grouped artists on the same eye-level of success for ‘Feels’ – Pharrell Williams, Katy Perry and Big Sean. Similarly, DJ Khaled drafted Justin Bieber and Rihanna for the respective hits. It just makes good commercial sense. So until there is a verifiable market for a Chainsmokers featuring Shirley BasseyLindsey Stirling and Mr Eazi collab, then I will just stay put.

At some point over the next couple of weeks I will be sharing my fave tracks of 2017 and my predictions for the state of pop in 2018. Now if that isn’t something to look forward to, I don’t know what is.

‘The Hits & Beyond’: A retrospective journey of my past selves

I just woke up in my own bed for the first time in three weeks after a nice holiday to my home countries Australia and Malaysia. Jet lag crept up behind me a few short hours after I marched into my flat, following the initial burst of energy that saw me whizz through a truckload of laundry and frantically unpack misshaped snacks I’d dragged with me on two long flights across the Earth.

While my body adjusts to the time difference, my brain and its inner monologue is recalibrating from Malaysian English to Australian/British English. I think we can call this a rather successful holiday by the sheer fact I was able to detach enough from my life to re-immerse – albeit temporarily – in another. Sure I was still checking Twitter, replying to the occasional work emails, and liking thirsty selfies on Instagram where wifi was available. But on the whole, the goal of this trip was to reconnect with family and my Malaysian-Chinese and Australian roots, and see it from where I am right now in my life… as a single man approaching 30, living in his third country.

In a sense, this trip for me was a retrospective look into my past selves. Like a brainstorm session for a ‘best-of’ compilation, the kind they used to issue in a haste to wrap up an increasingly unprofitable recording contract with a flagging popstar. There won’t be a photo shoot for this one, they’ll just pick the cutest publicity shot from the last album campaign.

My sense of self has undergone stages of reinventions over the years. Much like Kylie Minogue’s career. At 7, I learned about ethnicity and nationality, what it meant to be a child of Chinese heritage growing up in a Muslim country and educated in a Malay school while speaking English at home with parents and two different dialects with both sides of the family. At 12 in Australia, I became an immigrant for the first time – I wasn’t just ‘Malaysian’ anymore, I became just ‘Asian’. Even though I’d spoken English my whole life, for the first time, I was told it wasn’t good enough. I changed my accent for the first time.

At 18, I came out as a gay man and started to understand what it means to not only to live as another type of minority, but as a gay Asian in a Western LGBT community. While I wasn’t particularly bothered by the lack of attention from girls at school, I craved attention and validation that I was attractive to other gay men. By this stage, I had already been through years of seeing mostly white men only in the media depicted as desirable, from James Van Der Beek to Jesse McCartney, Ben Affleck to Zac Efron etc. I’d go on to experiment with going blonde – to varying levels of failures – and even frequently wore coloured contact lenses to disguise my dark brown eyes. At 21, I became a presenter on Australia’s only gay and lesbian radio station. The attention wasn’t enough and the dates weren’t pouring in.

At 23, I hit my ‘Indie Kylie’ phase. Clever girl... I was no longer a student and I was trying different things. I was tired of working at call centres and telling myself ‘this job isn’t forever’. I had spent so much time figuring out my self in one aspect and going through that awkward phase you were only meant to have once during your teens that I had neglected to steer my career. What the fuck was I to do with my life? I tried to figure it out when 26 came along and I became an Australian living in London. Here my ethnicity and sexuality wasn’t as big a deal, whenever I speak, I was just another Aussie passing through this heaving and wonderfully multicultural city of 8 million people. As Taylor Swift would say, everybody here was someone else before. Now at 29, to people back home, it would seem I’ve arrived at my Light Years era. Independent, living overseas, exciting career in showbiz.

As I sat in near-empty carriages chugging past Melburnian stations I used to be familiar with – not missing the peak hour mayhem of Liverpool Street Station – I started to wonder what my train journey would be like I still lived here. As I hugged my cousins who have grown taller and become adults since I last saw them in Malaysia and overindulged in lavish Chinese banquets over the Lunar New Year with the family, I wondered what kind of job I might have, what my friends might look like, and what my taste in music would be (maybe I’d be really into Mandopop!) if I’d stayed.

‘What ifs’ are cute for a visit but not for a stay. There’s a real danger swimming in nostalgia because our memory is unreliable and filtered, much like our Instagram posts. But what I can take with me from looking back is this joy of being part of so many cultures and communities, and how it has enriched me and made me adaptable. I realised that through my growing pains and different stages of reinvention, I haven’t necessarily left anything behind… I have always carried traces of my culture with me. Eastern, Western, traditional, modern, liberal, conservative. It’s in my values, it’s in my philosophy, you hear it my accent, you see it in my personality, it’s in the way I relate to people. I think after years of trying to fit in with different groups and situations, I’m starting to figure out who I am and what works for me. I haven’t got a five-year plan, although I often tell myself I should probably have one. But I’m hoping this richer appreciation for what I’ve been through and refreshed perspective would give me the self-confidence I’ve been searching for to take on the next chapter. Bring on the Fever era.

I’ll be back with pop music musings next week. In the meantime, you’ll probably catch me tweeting about the state of Mariah Carey’s career here

Some Predictions for The State of Pop in 2017

It’s that one time of the year where I trawl Chinese horoscope and astrology sites to see what my fate and fortune holds for the year – and then invariably forget about them by lunchtime.

It’s no different in the music world with predictions flowing in from industry types now on the impact of streaming and how it’s changing the whole music business, and hot-takes from tastemakers about what the top trends and ‘sounds’ of 2017 will be. Now that streaming is king and the consumer’s attention span is getting shorter and shorter, how will this affect the way hitmakers create songs? It’s a good time for jingle writers… that’s all I can say!

The music industry is a fascinating beast because at the heart of it, music is such a huge part of our personal life and our culture, but at the same time the business itself is constantly bending and adapting to challenges posed by tech and consumers’ changing behaviours. It’s amazing to observe and be a part of.

Here’s basically how I see it for us in 2017.

Sound of the underground: sombre vibes and alternative sounds to the front

Pure pop is over – or at least, it’s taking a backseat. I was listening to my RedOne playlist on the way home from work this week and it really hit me that the optimistic and hopeful days under Obama’s ruling, which saw RedOne, Dr Luke and will.i.am‘s party rocking pop to flourish has well and truly passed.

As I highlighted last year in reference to Tove Lo and Alicia Keys‘ new albums, in this time of great divide and political unrest triggered by Brexit and Trump’s America, people are looking for something real to connect with. So for me, 2017 is going to see the re-emergence of ‘realer’, more left-field sounding music and harder-edged sounds. Hip hop, grime, neo-soul, indie and icy, moody electro-pop will make a deep impact. Pop as always will evolve to adopt these genres’ qualities. When Evanescence and Linkin Park were really huge… so was rock-tinged pop in the shape of Avril, Kelly Clarkson and P!nk.

Pop in 2017 will feel more urban yet minimalist. Gone are the ostentatious big bubblegum melodies, thrashing synths and excessive productions of ‘Till The World Ends’, and in comes something a bit more sombre, stripped back and bootleg – it’ll be most noticeable in dance music. Vocals and songwriting with earthy qualities of soul and indie-folk music will be highly sought after. Simplistic, effortlessly chic styling and 90s streetwear influences will become your main popstar looks. It’ll be less about the glamour and flashiness in pop, but more about ‘what have you got to say for yourself’, ‘what is your message?‘ and ‘what do you stand for?’. More so than ever the empowered and free-thinking popstar with attitude is needed, so look at the likes of Zara Larsson, Anne-Marie etc.

I’m also throwing all my love to South London R&B/hip  singer Ray BLK (pictured above), who I first came across when I worked on the MOBO Awards last year. Her seven-track debut Durt is incredible, I will say it again. This week we found out she won the BBC’s prestigious Sound of 2017 so I’m totally looking forward to all the great things she’ll be doing and – hopefully – prolonged industry support she will also receive this year.

Check out her incredible freestyle track ‘Patience’:

 

Nostalgic re-issues of classic, 90s albums on vinyl will be a thing.

News broke this week that in 2016 vinyl sales were at a 25-year high, which is pretty incredible but also very telling looking at the top vinyl sellers itself. It’s dripping with nostalgia and a haven for legendary musicians – dead or alive – with die-hard fans.

I’m not surprised that in 2017 – as my generation gets a bit older, more nostalgic for our teens and perhaps even start getting into serious record collecting – we will see re-issues of massive pop albums by our childhood faves like George Michael, Spice Girls, Backstreet Boys, Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston, Shania Twain, Alanis Morrisette, Destiny’s Child etc.

We’ve seen Kylie‘s Stock Aitken and Waterman back catalogue re-issued with great finesse, featuring comprehensive biogs and thorough assembly of recorded material. Why can’t the same be done with the aforementioned artists? I’d imagine they’d be snapped up pretty quickly by sentimental fans, which is all of us. Imagine if Britney did the same with unreleased tracks, demos, rare b-sides and unseen photos and videos?!

Expect unexpected collaborations

Start the year as you intend to go on… and topping the UK singles chart (for the ninth consecutive week) is Clean Bandit featuring Anne-Marie and Sean Paul‘s ‘Rockabye’, an infuriatingly infectious hybrid of dance music with pop and reggae, created by a classical crossover band, a rising popstar with plenty of Essex swagger and charm, and a Jamaican rapper. Brilliant!

In 2017 we’ll see genres continuing to erode and meeting of vibes will be king. We’ve already seen pop songwriter and bonafide British girlband royalty Nicola Roberts co-writing songs for alt-R&B siren Tinashe (that’s Tinasha, if you’re Britney) and K-pop siren TIFFANY from Girls’ Generation (pictured above) last year. Sam Hunt, an American country singer with the classic Abercrombie college jock looks, who is sings and rap and is probably closer related sonically to Drake than Keith Urban. It probably won’t be long until grime weaves its way into K-pop too. I’m seeing all these grime artists already touring internationally to places like Australia where I really didn’t think it would be a thing.

Albums I’m looking forward to in 2017? 

Zara Larsson, MNEK, Rita OraDua LipaChristina Aguilera, FergieBritneyLorde. I was gonna say Mutya Keisha Siobhan/Sugababes for the third year running or something but then I thought, best leave this open wound to heal, yeah?

ICYMI – here are my 40 Favourite Songs of 2016. Why don’t you tell me about your favourite moments in Mariah’s World here at @feedlimmy?

 

Feed Limmy’s 40 Songs of 2016

In keeping with this annual tradition that stretches back to a land before Snapchat and Gigi Hadid, I am here to present you Feed Limmy’s Songs of The Year.

Over the years it has become more of a documentation of songs released in the past 12 months that I have really enjoyed or have soundtracked a special memory. I think for that reason, these lists of the more intimate nature perhaps carry a bit more meaning and weight, as they’re not critically-inclined but are measured by the standard of one’s enjoyment and personal connection. Which after all, is what music is all about.

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