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?

 

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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.

Limmy’s Hot Take: How I *Checked* Myself After Kanye’s Breakdown, and Top Tunes from Busted, MAMAMOO and Ronika

This week on Limmy’s Hot Take: Friends, it’s absolutely OK to call yourself out for making insensitive jokes about Kanye West‘s mental breakdown. What started as seemingly “standard Kanye” loose cannon behaviour on stage soon escalated to a point beyond lols when the 39-year old man was hospitalised for psychiatric emergency this week.

Alarm bells are ringing. We can’t make light of this struggle and repeat the inhumane cycle of scrutiny, mockery, and callous mistreatment that we’ve seen heaped on Britney, Mariah, Amanda Bynes and countless other celebrities who have gone through very public breakdowns. Definitely not when suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50.

I, for one, checked myself for dismissing Kanye’s rants as light entertainment last week because at the time I thought that was just him being his ‘eccentric’ ‘crazy’ self, but say if that were a friend or colleague behaving in that manner. Would I find it amusing or would I be able to discern and have enough care in my heart to look deeper beneath the surface and reach out to a vulnerable person in need? I sure as hell hope I am the latter.

There has been greater awareness about mental health issues in recent years. We’ve got ribbons, T-shirts, marathons, hashtags, full blown social media campaigns… you name it but, real talk, don’t put up lengthy posts on Facebook saying you’re here “if anyone needs to talk” then turn around and contribute to the cacophonous #KanyeWestIsOverParty mess.

This is not about being overly politically correct. This is about responsibility and recognising that our actions and our words carry weight. They matter. They cause an effect, and we need to look after each other more than you think. This definitely includes our online friends, which I’m sure some of us talk to more than we do our RL friends.

Oh also, if you happened to be called out on Twitter for insensitive and trash opinions? Please don’t delete the original tweet. Let the drag prosper.

 

In lighter news, I really do think The Veronicas have finally delivered the pop performance I’ve waited years for. Here they are looking deadly, coated in ruby red glitter, slaying The ARIA Awards this week with their banger ‘In My Blood’.

 

It would not be acceptable to bring up this year’s ARIAs without mentioning the strong showing of LGBT+ support – from Sia using her acceptance speech to promote marriage equality to Troye Sivan dedicating his award to LGBT kids in Australia, and Kylie and fiancé Joshua Sasse attending the ceremony in their “Say I Do Australia” campaign tees.

It’s time, Australia. And I could not be happier to see this movement gaining momentum in mainstream media every single day.

Top tunes of the week

Busted ‘Night Driver’

I really wasn’t expecting for Busted to come back after all this time with some neon-lit 80s pop. What on earth is going on here? Why is it so seriously good? Production-wise, ‘Night Driver’ sounds like something from the Off The Wall sessions. I haven’t made my way around their new album of the same name as yet but I’ve heard great things on Twitter.

 

MAMAMOO ‘Décalcomanie’

Can’t believe this is only the first time I’ve come across K-pop sirens MAMAMOO. They’ve been in the game for a good two years now, making a name for themselves with their candied mix of jazz and R&B.

‘Décalcomanie’ – taken from their fourth mini album MEMORY – is what I imagine Duffy exec producing a K-Pop girlband would sound like.

 

Ronika ‘Dissolve’

This feels like a new angle for Ronika. Coiled in a loop of stuttering synths before climaxing at a chorus with utterly heavenly vocals, ‘Dissolve’ feels like a cherry-tinted boudoir soundtrack in an 80s French arthouse science fiction film.

 

Emily Burns ‘Take It or Leave It’

File this under ‘Songs from The Friendzone’ – I know y’all can relate. This gentle, tinkling pop tune from emerging British singer-songwriter Emily Burns would definitely appeal to anyone who likes them a bit of Birdy.

 

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

You can find me tweeting about my latest Iceland meal-for-one at @feedlimmy.

Limmy’s Hot Take: Kanye and M.I.A. come for Beyoncé, and New Music by Bruno Mars, ZAE and Kate Miller-Heidke

This week on Limmy’s Hot Take: Kanye simply living his truth – hashtag no filter – continues to be one of the most entertaining things happening in music right now. It’s so rock and roll.

Yesterday he arrived at his Sacramento show reportedly an hour and a half late, only to scrap the whole thing after performing just two songs. But not before adding some real value to the evening with an epic rant aimed at pals Beyoncé and Jay Z.

As NME reports, he called out Bey over her alleged condition that she would only perform at the MTV Video Music Awards if she was awarded Video of The Year over rivals Kanye and Drake.

He tells the crowd: “Beyoncé, I was hurt! ‘Cause I heard that you said you wouldn’t perform unless you won Video of the Year over me, and over ‘Hotline Bling.’ In my opinion — now, don’t go tryin’ to diss Beyoncé, she is great. Taylor Swift is great. We are all great people, we are all equal. But sometimes, we be playing the politics too much and forgetting who we are — just to win. Fuck winning! Fuck looking cool! Fuck looking cool! Fuck being cool! Fuck all that!”

I mean I do see a few points here that aren’t at the end of a finger. But fuck that, everybody wants to win, everybody wants to be cool. I don’t think Beyoncé’s alleged request is that outrageous, do you? You’d almost expect it. I definitely would if I were her. I mean, you won’t see it come from me via email, text or DM but I’d definitely make sure someone in my team gets on the phone and takes care of that. Also, how you gon’ have Beyoncé bring the kind of elaborate performance she always does to your show and not honour her in some way?

I know she was up for 11 VMAs this year, which by the way is the most amount of nominations she’s ever gotten in a single year, but let’s face it Video of The Year is the one. Also, let’s be real, out of Adele’s ‘Hello’, Bieber’s ‘Sorry’, Kanye’s ‘Famous’ and Drake’s ‘Hotline Bling’, ‘Formation’ was surely hands down Video of The Goddamn Year, mate.

Ye’s rant trying to expose Beyoncé as a greedy, game-playing, scheming corporation is not exactly a new angle. And better yet, the reality of that is not something you can change by being mad about it either. There are tons of super talented musicians and entertainers that fall to the wayside. Talent is not enough. You need more to slay in the game. You need great business acumen (thank you Mathew Knowles), power and influence. This empire was not built in a day. And it sure as hell wasn’t built on unprofessionalism and cancelling shows 10 minutes into it. But you know what, they’re both different artists and Kanye has real moments of greatness that is undeniable. What he does have, in place of Video of The Year, is a real candid quality about him. For better or worst he is himself, and that is actually really entertaining and refreshing in a world of heavily media-trained and overly cautious stars.

In other news, M.I.A. has also called out Beyoncé (and other A-listers like Madonna  and Rihanna) for stealing from her. According to Idolator, here’s what the British rapper and producer told Q Magazine:

“I’m fine with Madonna or Beyoncé or Rihanna being ‘inspired’ by my work. But I would like them to then go, ‘Yeah, this immigrant who came out of nowhere influenced us, so maybe not all of them are fucking terrible’. They don’t even think like that. They go ‘Yeah, maybe me stealing the stuff says she’s all right. She should be thankful we’re stealing it’. But sometimes you just think, ‘Fuck, I have to pay some bills,’ you know? Beyoncé comes from the school of Michael Jackson-ness. Where the family built an entire world to support you. From when you were a child. I never had that luxury. If you’re working class, music doesn’t belong to you like it used to – it would be really hard for Oasis to happen now. I’m just fodder. A template for pop stars to create more content. We constantly feed the top of the pyramid.”

I’m dead curious to know which tracks she is specifically referring to now. But overall, this is giving me pains circa Kat Deluna when J.Lo hooked up with RedOne and started jacking her sound for the very lucrative, career CPR-ing ‘On The Floor’/Love? era.

We’ve seen this happen over and over again, and it isn’t fair. It must be hard for an artist who is, I suppose, ‘not mainstream’ by nature, with very brilliant and occasional commercial crossovers, to straddle those worlds. It must be soul-crushing to be in those circles and see the money and opportunity, and be on the radar where people are watching, listening and having their creative team pin your shit to Pinterest boards, and you are not getting any recognition for it. It is also shit when you’re repeatedly told you’re ‘underrated’. That shit can take a toll – case in action, aforementioned Kat Deluna and the artist formerly known as Wynter Gordon, now relaunched under her real name Diana Gordon, who I’m very happy is winning now (you should read her interview with Fader).

I know this won’t help pay the bills but I take comfort in knowing that the age of the internet has opened so many more doors for artists. Real talent always shines, and I believe when you’re creating something of great quality that is also truthful to you, there will be an audience there. In a time where genres are breaking down and listeners are more guided by recommendations and artists that sound similar to the ones they like, things like playlists and those ‘Related Artists’ steer our consumption a lot. Perhaps there might be something in fostering a network of like-minded artists on your level that respect your craft and complement your artistry and brand, and pull each other up together. Collaborate! Create cool shit together! Do promo together! Go on tour together! Unite your fanbase! People seem to only be out for themselves now, trying to be the next mononym star. But seriously, come together!

Update: This thread by a songwriter, which came into my periphery after Guyliner retweeted it, is a good read.

 

Top tunes of the week

Bruno Mars’ entire 24K Magic album

I’m genuinely surprised I’ve chosen the new Bruno Mars album over Little Mix‘s. You know I love my pop girl bands. But to be honest, Bruno’s 24K Magic is everything. Nine tracks of hedonistic, solid 90s R&B and funk. I went through a phase of immersing myself in lots of New Jack Swing earlier this year so this couldn’t have come at a better time.

ZAE ‘Letting Go’

If you like Banks, chances are you’re gonna enjoy West London singer ZAE‘s ‘Letting Go’. She told The Line of Best Fit that the song was directly influenced by the singer and was in fact the very first song she wrote. Not a bad place to start, mate. Although that story is almost too good to be true. But what is good and certifiable true though is the intimate music video that comes with it, portraying a two young men in a volatile and emotionally-fraying stage of their relationship.

Kate Miller-Heidke ‘You’ve Underestimated Me, Dude’

I’ve always loved me some Kate Miller-Heidke. Unquestionably, the Professor Dumbledore of what she does, which is cleverly observant and sensitive lyrics and, every now and then when the mood calls for it, a theatrical performance like this one. ‘You’ve Underestimated Me, Dude’ is a nails down the back, bluesy rock clapback at misogyny.

Jhene Aiko ‘Maniac’

The camp-as-tinsel-on-Alan-Carr kid in me immediately thought of the Michael Sembello/Flashdance song but no this is something more of a sexier outing. ‘Maniac’ could have easily been mistaken for a Tinashe banger or a very slick Kelly Rowland comeback single (Sis, take notes!). It doesn’t sound like the Jhene Aiko I know but it’s definitely closer aligned to her joint album with Big Sean as Twenty88. “I’m a low-key freak you don’t know me yet”, she coolly sings over crystalline trap beats. That may be the case.

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

And finally…

Quite a few tweets this week reminiscing on the great pop songwriting output of Cathy Dennis, who of course, is responsible for Britney‘s ‘Toxic’, Kylie‘s ‘Can’t Get You Out of My Head’, Sugababes ‘About You Now’, and a couple of good Heidi Montag tracks you should not be ashamed to say you like (this is a safe space). So here’s a playlist of songs she has written for other artists and some performed by Cathy herself.

Tweet me your fave pop songwriters over at @feedlimmy.

Limmy’s Hot Take: What we can learn from Vanessa Amorosi’s comeback in a Trump PTSD week, Alicia Keys and Turning 30 with T-ARA

This week on Limmy’s Hot Take: I have been thinking a lot about fear over the past few days. I mean, where do we even begin with a week that left us with Donald Trump as the new President of the United States?

Fear is such a powerful feeling. Fear changes people; it cripples you and cuts you down. It eats away at your self-confidence. They are the words that put you back in your box and keep you in your place; from progressing, from changing, from becoming a better version of yourself, and from making moves that you know are ultimately right for you.

After awhile that fear becomes real comfortable and familiar. It might even start to sound like common sense to you. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” “Why would you leave all this behind and start over?” “You can’t stop now! If you do, your fans will forget about you.” “‘You know it’s true what they say, it’s better the devil you know!” Nope. Maybe that last one was Kylie.

One who has grabbed fear by the ball sack and given it a firm-but-threatening squeeze is Aussie popstar Vanessa Amorosi, who shortly after the height of her 2009 comeback decided to change direction and give up the comfort of Australia for a new life in Los Angeles.

Widely regarded, yet lately often forgotten, as one of Australia’s most powerful vocalists of this generation (even Mary J. Blige fucks with her), Vanessa reached national treasure status by the time she was 18. Mostly thanks to the ubiquitous banger ‘Absolutely Everybody’, which probably still haunts regional community centre aerobics classes frequented by about five retirees.

Even better yet, Vanessa came smashing back A DECADE after with a multi-platinum-selling #1 hit ‘This Is Who I Am’ and an equally popular album. That was her last album.

 

In the seven years that passed, she could have remained in Australia where she would have been guaranteed work for a lifetime to keep her profile up as a minor celebrity. She could have appeared on Dancing With The Stars (Down Under’s version of Strictly), she could have been a judge on The Voice (imagine the tabloids jizzing over a rivalry between two of Australia’s greatest pop divas! ARE YOU TEAM DELTA OR TEAM VANESSA? *Cuts to cleverly edited side eyes and stony-faced hair flicks*). Vanessa Amorosi could have even gone into the jungle! Because we now have I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! in Oz too. But instead, she followed her gut and took a massive risk by moving to L.A. and disappearing from the limelight. In the entire time Vanessa Amorosi had been away from the public eye – Snapchat was launched, One Direction was created and disintegrated, “Tindering” had become a thing, and humans have now evolved to screen grab at lightning speed.

This week she emerged to announce a soul gospel album due for 2017, which she has worked on for the past five years with Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics (!!). By the sounds of things, it’s a labour of love she is very proud of. Will it be a massive success? Will she top the charts again and sell out arenas? Maybe! But that almost doesn’t matter. Perhaps, quite admirably, what we can take away from her story in this Trump PTSD week where many of us feel perhaps quite helpless and uncertain of the future, is that we need to have courage to rebuild. Change is inevitable, and life is too short to stay unhappy and comfortable in the fear of the unknown.

The Gospel according to Alicia Keys

I’ve been massively impressed with the new Alicia Keys album. Listened to it from start to finish and again yesterday. I said a couple of weeks ago, in relation to Tove Lo’s album, that there’s a wave of realism coming to mainstream music and that is what we are all connecting with right now, and it couldn’t be truer of HERE.

Alicia’s musical output has always remained very close to her Harlem roots but this particular album just feels more like home. It is almost quite documentary-like in its execution, in the way it invites you in and has you completely immersed in its world without leaving your seat. The beauty of which is brought to life visually in this mini-movie that accompanies the record. It won’t take up as much time as the Lemonade movie but it is just as important viewing.

 

Top Tunes of The Week

St. Beauty ‘Borders’

Is anyone else watching the Issa Rae HBO series Insecure? Solange has done an A+ job curating music for this because I swear I’ve got Shazam running every episode. One of the gems uncovered through the show this week was St. Beauty, an American soul duo signed to Janelle Monae‘s Wondaland Records. ‘Borders’ is one for the midnight drives.

 

Washington ‘Saint Lo’

Australian singer-songwriter Megan Washington is back with her first new material in two years, ‘Saint Lo’. The whispy electronic pop piece came about from her songwriting sessions in the States. This actually sounds like it could slot quite nicely between Tegan & Sara and Shura‘s latest albums!

 

 

Gabrielle Aplin ‘Miss You’

Okay, there’s definitely a theme emerging with this week’s Top Tunes. Gabrielle Aplin is not one I thought I’d be checking for but since the surprisingly good deep house remix of her 2013 single ‘Salvation’ that dropped earlier this year, it shouldn’t come as a shock that she’s headed in a dancier direction. ‘Miss You’ still bears the signature of her piano-based singer-songwriter brand but just every so lightly sprayed with a mist of bubblegum-flavoured, tropical house production.

 

047 feat. Linn Öberg ‘Wilderness’

Here come the Swedes, in their element with a frosty and folky electronic pop moment. Melancholy folk singer-songwriter Linn Öberg is giving us all a bit of raw, earnest vocals for the dance floor and I can’t even pretend that I haven’t already fantasised about figure skating to this. (I do not skate. I normally even hate the thought of skating. I avoid Winter Wonderlands all together because I know there are people ice skating.)

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

And finally…

To kinda cheer myself up this week, I’ve made a playlist of T-ARA bangers you never thought you needed. So if you are in need of a lift with high-fructose K-pop – I got you. This was partly prompted by this lite shade interview where the band was asked about turning the ripe old age of 30!

“We do not feel pressured about entering our 30s. It does not really strike us that we are near our 30s since we live in a group rather than living alone.” – Some comfort to the hundreds of 30 somethings flat-sharing in London, I guess.

 

Tweet me shady memes about Trump on @feedlimmy.

Limmy’s Hot Take: Christmas dread (already), Tinashe and delayed albums, and my new fave girlband BLACKPINK

This week on Limmy’s Hot Take: I’m operating on zero sleep and most definitely on zero chill after a stressful week. I come home to dead flowers and various receptacles spilling out with dirty laundry and empty wine bottles. Things are simultaneously winding down for the year as they are ramping up, and it’s really fucking with my calm.

Christmas-themed foods have started creeping into our shelves (Yesterday, I discovered “Christmas sarnies”. What a time to be alive), I’m beginning to wonder (no Dannii) if my plan to AT THE VERY LEAST stop at one bottle a week is looking the slightest bit possible. People are starting to gasp things like, ‘Where has the year gone?’, and with it inevitably comes the much-dreaded cue for reflection. WHERE HAS THE YEAR GONE, SIS? WHAT HAS IT LEFT US WITH? With the US Election looming, I pray it’s not another bad news for us all.

Reflecting on what’s been both a super and crappy year is one of our faves Tinashe. The R&B singer’s much-delayed sophomore album Joyride continues to be much-delayed. Sis was forced to axe her tour dates in the UK and Australia, and there’s still no sign of when they might be rescheduled. Now it seems all this pent up frustration and murkiness with her own album plan has led to a brilliant new creative output in the shape of a 15-track mixtape called Nightride.

It’s raw, it’s dreamscapey. It’s ambient yet really present at the same time. And also, quite nicely features a track called ‘Ghetto Boy’, co-written with the critics’ fave Girls Aloud, Nicola Roberts, and Dev Hynes, who also produced the track. She’s got her fingers in all the right pies. Joyride or no Joyride, Tinashe is not about to disappear, I swear. Maybe we need to address fans pestering artists for an album? CC: Zara Larsson.

Top Tunes of the Week

BLACKPINK ‘Playing With Fire’

I keep yo-yoing between slightly bored to comatose right now with the current output from Little Mix and 5H, so I genuinely couldn’t be more excited to come across this new girlband. From the creators of 2NE1, comes a new generation of K-Pop girlband in the shape of BLACKPINK. These four girls have very quickly become quite a massive deal in South Korea since their debut in August. Sonically, they’re a bit of a dog’s breakfast at the moment. While their style is definitely a winning fusion of big pop melodies and rap, each of the four singles thus far have taken on completely different personalities and genres, which I actually don’t hate.

There’s also something rather international about BLACKPINK’s make up that perhaps gives them a bit of an edge? One of their members, Lisa (the one with the bangs), is Thai and is the first non-Korean artist signed to YG Entertainment after she was discovered at their audition in Thailand five years ago. Another member, Rosé, hails from Melbourne, Australia, and Jennie was raised in New Zealand.

Check out the videos for their newest offerings ‘Playing With Fire’ and ‘Stay’.

Tom Aspaul ‘Messy’

If you have ever woken up still-fully clothed and stained in cheap red wine from the night before, desperately trying to locate your phone and wallet, and struggling to recall what the fuck you said to whom at the pub after the fourth round, then first of all, welcome to my world, and second – this song is you. ‘Messy’ is one of four soulful, electropop gems on the brilliant Tom Aspaul‘s new EP Left. Rightfully heaped praise for its shiny melodies and production aside, I have to say I’m more drawn to that hint of emotional truthfulness and humanity in each of these songs.

Tayá ‘Deeper’

She first caught my eye with the gorgeously honeyed R&B tones of ‘Sweet Waste of Time’ now Liverpudlian singer Tayá is back with ‘Deeper’ – a soulful jam with crystalline electronic beats. There’s not really too much out there about this Atlantic Records UK signee as yet but I sense it will all change in 2017.

Kiiara feat. Ashley All Day ‘dopemang’

Another one we’re all keeping a firm eye on for 2017 is Kiiara, who was one of the shining breakout artists of Q1/Q2 this year with ‘Gold’ and her debut EP low kii savage. Here she is, dropping a totally badass new track to remind us all of her potential, just as bloggers start to prep their ‘ones to watch’ lists.

Avelino ‘Late Nights in The 15’

One of the many great pleasures I get from working on the MOBO Awards every year (for the past three years) is discovering new artists. The Best Newcomer category is one I always check for and this year’s nominees were exceptionally strong, including a certain hotly-tipped London-born rapper called Avelino.

Known for his collaboration with Wretch 32 and praised by key tastemakers from Noisey to Annie Mac and Charlie Sloth, I reckon it won’t be long before Avelino achieves mainstream recognition. Don’t worry, pop fans, I’m not trying to bring you a bit of grime or anything like that. Give his F.Y.O. (Fuck Your Opinion) album a spin.

This is ‘Late Nights in The 15’, which dropped a couple of months ago.

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

And finally…

We need to talk about how next level Tina Knowles Lawson is as a proud mama. .

This is my rendition of Solange❤️

A post shared by Tina Knowles (@mstinalawson) on

This is my rendition of Beyonce'

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Don’t @ me re: my love for M&S’s Prosecco and Winterberries crisps. Show me love instead @feedlimmy.