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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Why We Need Madonna Now More Than Ever, Carpool Karaoke Hot Take, and New Tunes by M.O, Raye and K.I.D

I’m not a hardcore Madonna fan. My admiration for her, at times, comes from a rather cerebral place. It’s a place of awe and reverence. And while I don’t necessarily know or love every record, I would always tune in to see what she’s got to offer. I will always make time for her performances and albums. If I’m at a house party and a complete stranger asks me what’s my favourite Madonna album, I would have a well-articulated and meaningful response ready. And depending on how drunk I am, I may or may not be prepared to accept your critique of it. (The answer is American Life, by the way. I knew you’d ask. And there’s probably a Buzzfeed quiz that analyses what kind of gay I am, based on my favourite Madonna album, which Attitude Magazine has probably probably shared. So make of it what you will…)

Madonna is an icon and trailblazer, and she continues to be an icon and trailblazer to this very day. Regardless of debates surrounding her relevancy, dress sense, behaviour, music style, and choices in young collaborators. She is still a multi-million yielding top touring musician. And she puts on a fucking big show, mate. You simply cannot fuck with those cold, hard facts. She is also incredibly switched on and is a force, in spite of the very many hurdles she faces as a woman in this industry, which I’m glad she continues to speak out about.

In her brutally honest acceptance speech at the Billboard Women in Music Awards, where she was honoured as Woman of The Year, she said, “I think the most controversial thing I have ever done is to stick around.”

She had this to say in her epic speech about what it’s like being a female entertainer in the music industry, and really, you should read the whole thing. She’s buying us all round after rounds of home truths and spilling scalding hot T left, right and centre for your nerve.

“If you’re a girl, you have to play the game. You’re allowed to be pretty and cute and sexy. But don’t act too smart. Don’t have an opinion that’s out of line with the status quo. You are allowed to be objectified by men and dress like a slut, but don’t own your sluttiness. And do not, I repeat do not, share your own sexual fantasies with the world. Be what men want you to be, but more importantly, be what women feel comfortable with you being around other men. And finally, do not age. Because to age is a sin. You will be criticized and vilified and definitely not played on the radio.”

I hate to bring up the age thing because all this ageist shit she’s had to endure is so boring, but it has become this thing that has shrouded her career, particularly in the past 10 years, and we can’t ignore it. Every time you feed into diatribe about how she should ‘dress for her age’ or when they stress the age difference between her and the men she’s reportedly with. It’s cringeworthy and demeaning.

How many female popstars of Madonna’s age do you see still releasing original pop music (not covers) and touring as successfully as she does? She is a trailblazer. Again, I’m not a massive Madonna stan or anything, but truth be told we fucking need Madonna more than ever, to remind us and urge us to not live our lives restricted by patriarchal norms that are perpetuated again and again by both men and women. Her success, resilience and longevity sets the bar. Madonna stands for something bigger than just Madonna and album sales, radio playlists or streaming stats combined. She is here using her celebrity and the power of entertainment as her platform to remind us to always question the media, and call out sexist, ageist, homophobic, racist and discriminatory behaviour.

Speaking of Madonna, I saw this wonderful and hilarious read on James Corden‘s excessively flogged Carpool Karaoke series passed around on Twitter. I think the dragging is warranted to a certain extent. The execution borders on grating at times but most of the time, at least for the first three minutes, I do get some joy out of it. I think the next turn (pardon the pun) Corden should take on this is to actually go around picking up band members of defunct pop groups, and trigger a completely ‘spontaneous’ and unplanned reunion, where grievances can be aired and ‘where are they now?’ type curiosities can be satiated… with it all ending, of course, in a big sing-a-long to some of their biggest hits. First stop, Mini Viva, who sound like they actually might need to air things out after a low-key flaming Twitter spat (much of which has been deleted but hey, screenshots, and some remnants remain).

Top Tunes of The Week

M.O ‘Not In Love’ featuring Kent Jones

I’m not trying to stir the pot or anything, so stop handing me the ladle. I’ve been rooting for M.O for ages now, but equally, I also have a lot of love for Mini Viva. They could’ve been the Mel & Kim of the streaming generation. Back to this song, I actually think this pop/R&B trio has hit another peak with ‘Not In Love’. Instantly infectious reggae rhythm that is flavoured to perfection with sweet melodies and sour lyrics. Throw on them big hoops and cue my Sassy & Seventeen playlist.

Jax Jones featuring Raye ‘You Don’t Know Me’

Charlie XCX-endorsed rising star Raye is on every ‘ones to watch’ list right about now (I actually stood next to her at the bar at MTV’s Brand New 2017 party on Thursday… cool story, right?) and while I didn’t really catch a feeling about her earlier, I now get the vibe. This delightfully feisty dance collabo is everything I imagine the term ‘really lit’ would sound like in 2017.

K.I.D ‘Taker’

It is quite rare to catch me openly admiring guitar-driven pop songs, unless we’re reminiscing on Ashlee Simpson‘s first album or Stacie Orrico‘s ‘Stuck, of course. But Toronto alt duo K.I.D‘s ‘Taker’ is definitely hitting the spot for me. Produced by Mike Crossey (Arctic Monkeys and The 1975), this spiky call-out of a narcissistic, selfish c-bomb, would probably go down a treat at a live show.

For more of my favourite tunes of the moment, check out my NEWEST playlist.

And finally… 

Are we all watching Mariah’s World? I downed the first episode and it totally wasn’t what I was expecting. I know she’s said this is an eight-part documentary but what I read and wanted to believe was that this was a high-camp Bravo kind of reality dramedy. I was wrong, Mimi was right. And it is quite surreal to think that she might just be the most low maintenance person on this show.

BBC Sound of 2017, Kylie’s Retro Hits Suddenly Appear on Spotify, and New Tunes by MUNA, Nicole Millar and Girls’ Generation’s Hyoyeon

It’s barely lukewarm let alone been a hot take, so I reckon let’s not jazz it up too much around here. For the past few weeks I’ve been getting my ass into the habit of blogging once a week (because I really miss doing it). I couldn’t think of a proper catchy way to package this whole weekly pop opinion piece/ round-up of things that caught my eye shebang, so my brain in a hungover state farted ‘Limmy’s Hot Take‘, which let’s face it… wasn’t all that great or accurate. So scratching that title. That title is cancelled. She is done.

A lot has changed in the pop blogging world since I started Feed Limmy in 2008 (I had another pop blog on Blogspot for like two or three years before that). Lots of people from when I started aren’t doing it anymore – real life happens, they end up getting very good jobs and you know, you get too busy to keep it up.

In the last 10 years I’ve met so many amazing people through doing this. I found my tribe on Twitter. People who were into this stuff as much as I was. Growing up in Melbourne suburbia, I didn’t come across very many people who were as passionate about pop music as I was. Pop was frowned upon as ‘guilty pleasure’ and somehow it was made even more unbearable for me to express my love for it when people started calling me ‘faggot’. I’d dread every single time Geri‘s ‘It’s Raining Men’ or Christina Aguilera and co.‘s ‘Lady Marmalade’ came on the radio after the lunch time bell. So after leaving high school and having my own little corner on the internet to write about all the great stuff I was listening to and being able to share it with like-minded Twitter friends was a real game changer for me.

Now that I guess I actually am part of this industry, I do see things a little differently and have to obviously, you know, gurl’s gotta eat and gurl’s got bills to pay so he’s gotta be careful of how he frames his opinions. I also now see hype and media coverage very differently. I appreciate it more, of course, knowing how much goes into it. I am more sympathetic to artists as well and I am also increasingly aware that the more I see the less I know. And I’m OK with that. It keeps me on my toes. This is such a rapidly evolving industry that it’s now more important than ever to question what is really important and relevant.

Everyone in the music industry is going crazy over ‘ones to watch’ type lists right now -i.e. the BBC’s Sound of 2017, Brits Critics’ Choice Award, MTV Brand New, VEVO dscvr, … *Shirley Caesar voice* YOU NAME IT! They are all huge targets for label marketing and music PR types because they are, of course, a really big stamp of approval for any emerging artist and it’s what separates them from other newcomers. It’s the difference between getting booked to play Wembley or a dive bar as the fourth support act, shopping at Selfridges vs. living on Lidl vouchers – you get the picture. The success story that gets wheeled out a lot: Adele. Her career started with a bang when she won the BBC’s Sound of 2008 and then her debut album 19 went on to win the Brits Critics’ Choice Award and then came a Grammy nomination and so on and so forth.

You also tend to notice the same names being hyped and thrown back and forth around this season. Sometimes people still talk about them after a year, sometimes they barely get a mention after three months. The hype can fade as quickly as it rose. As the years go by, however, it seems increasingly difficult to call who might actually their way to the top as the true rising star of the next 12 months.

BBC Sound of 2017: Could an urban artist win it – and actually dominate the year?

This week the BBC announced their Sound of 2017 longlist, informed by tips from 170 critics, DJs and music writers. You know, people in industry who really know their shit. While it’s obviously a practice of self-fulfilling prophecy, I do find it quite exciting to discover new artists this way and see who is tipped for big things.

These are the ones tastemakers are not only predicting will shape the sonic trend of 2017 but also represent what will be most commercially successful. It’s actually incredible that the list is dominated by urban music acts. MTV UK also released their shortlist of Brand New 2017 acts with the same handful of urban music rising stars AJ TraceyNadia RoseRay BLK and Stefflon Don.

It would be great to have a real and raw British R&B star like Ray BLK reaching Adele and Sam Smith level of mainstream dominance. Hailing from a working class background in South London and proudly embracing her roots (‘My Hood’ is basically her ‘Hometown Glory’ but less vanilla and tea cakey), I so want to believe the UK is ready to really big up an artist like her instead of another prosaic guitar noodling substitute for Ed Sheeran, but from what history has informed us that is rarely the case. It’s been years since we’ve seen a super real and distinctly British R&B act embraced by the mainstream. Seriously, please name me one. Whoever it is that ends up taking home the Sound of 2017, I hope we don’t see a repeat of what happened with this year’s lot.

Jack Garratt, who won Sound of 2016 was literally everywhere at the start of the year. After being announced as the Sound of 2016, he went onto collect the Brits Critics’ Choice Award and then wasted no time in releasing his debut album in February, which entered the charts and peaked at #3. It only stayed in the Top 20 for two weeks and then he sort of vanished. By summer, the name seems like a vague memory. Runner-up Alessia Cara, a soulful teen Youtube sensation from Canada, didn’t manage better either. While the brilliant breakthrough hit ‘Here’ flexed for a really bloody long time, her album only managed to peak at #14 and subsequent singles missed the Top 50 altogether. She was nominated for New Artist of The Year at the American Music Awards but lost to ZAYN. I only remembered I had bought her album when I saw her pop up as a feature creature on a Troye Sivan single a few months ago.

Maybe part of why Garratt’s hype wasn’t sustained was because there are literally hundreds of artists doing the type of electronic-R&B fusion with scratchy soulful, folk singer vocals. The market was already saturated by the time he came into primetime attention. But perhaps maybe why it didn’t work was because the tunes just weren’t memorable at all. They go to great lengths to stress he is a multi-instrumentalist, which you know, instills a level of authenticity, and his work is very immaculately produced but where are the tunes? Where is the song that makes people feel something?

Sometimes I think people in our industry forget that all these accolades and lists don’t really matter to the vast majority of the record buying public. Most people don’t care. People will buy records they connect to. People will support artists people they like.

Every single one Kylie’s retro hits are now on Spotify

On Friday, without formal warning, all of Kylie‘s Stock Aitken and Waterman era releases (her first four albums, which were all bloody huge) suddenly appeared on Spotify. I am talking not just all the albums but all the remixes, the B-sides, you name it. I am literally gagging.

This is sort of a nice reminder of one of the many highs in Kylie’s long pop career. While the Christmas stuff she’s doing now is a very clever and savvy business decision, I can’t stress how much I need for her to return to making brilliant pop for the other 11 months of the year.

Check out my 30 favourite ‘retro’ Kylie tunes:

Top tunes of the week

MUNA ‘I Know A Place’

L.A. girl band MUNA has delivered a shimmery, feel good song for the LGBT community. According to Time, ‘I Know A Place’ is “meant to be a rallying cry and a reminder that safe spaces can exist”. If you’re into HAIM, you need to get into this.

Nicole Millar ‘No Bad Vibes’

Smoky-voiced Australian singer Nicole Millar definitely should be on everyone’s pop radar. ‘No Bad Vibes’, taken from her new EP Communication, is a calypso pop treat with trap beats about blocking out negativity.

Decco featuring Mapei ‘Shooting Stars’

It’s good to hear from Swedish-American soul pop singer Mapei. Can’t believe ‘Don’t Wait’ came out three friggin’ years ago. This twinkly radio-ready club pop tune is possibly the most commercial sounding record she’s done and I’m here for it. Part of me wishes Alexis Jordan would come back with something like this right about now.

Hyoyeon (from Girls’ Generation) ‘Mystery’

I’m still shook from Tiffany‘s “I Just Wanna Dance” earlier this year so it’s great to see that K-pop’s longest running girl band Girls’ Generation has yielded yet another solo star. Hyoyeon‘s debut solo single ‘Mystery’ (“Miss Terry” if you’re nasty and singing along) is much more rhythmic, giving you Bhangra beats that nod to Selena Gomez‘s ‘Come and Get It’ but much spicier.

And finally…

On this day 10 years ago, Emma Bunton released her last solo album Life in Mono. I’d be quite happy if she banged out another Free Me, which I guess was what Life in Mono was meant to be but not quite on the same breadth of excellence. Although I still enjoy the title track, ‘Wasn’t Looking (When I Found Love)’, ‘All I Need to Know’ and ‘Take Me To Another Town’.

The album features her cover of ‘Downtown’, as you might remember. It was the BBC’s Children in Need charity single that year and reached a peak of #3 on the UK charts.