Pop star Ariana Grande was involved in a marriage ceremony with her fiance Dalton Gomez in what they called “Tiny and Intimate” wedding celebration. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, less than 20 people were present and the ceremony took place at her place in California. The 27-year old American star finally tied the knot with estate agent after announcing her engagement in December.
Meanwhile, here’s are the latest music reviews on ListenOnRepeat from April 2021.
Addison Rae – Obsessed (Official Music Video)
The transition from Tiktok to pop star is a well-trodden path by this point – it has become a feeder system that we all understand and recognise. But beyond up-and-coming singers finding a new audience on Tiktok, the platform’s most successful creators have no trouble launching a pop career., just as Addison Rae has just done with “Obsessed.” Second perhaps only to the D’Amelio sisters in terms of Tiktok royalty, Addison Rae has decided she wants to be a popstar, and her debut single has made her exactly that.
It isn’t going to win any prizes for lyricism, production or songwriting, and she lip-synced her first performance of the track on the Jimmy Fallon show. Yet none of that really matters. Her character, stage presence and relationships to fans is what counts and in those departments, Rae is one of the world’s best. Influencers turning into musicians has almost become a cliché by this point, but whilst most take a few falls before they successfully transition, Rae seems to have pulled it off first time round.
“Obsessed” is a track about converting other people’s obsession of you into self-obsession, but in a healthy way … some fan comments summed up the general response: “Why does every tiktoker think they can sing and then become Ariana grande or something? But she does have a large fanbase so why not project it on music I see the grind.” Everyone knows what’s going on, but it works so why question it. After all, the track is pretty catchy: “This sounds like something H&M will play in 5 years.” Rae is on her way to a number one and it won’t be long before popstars have to have a Tiktok presence to get popular and not the other way around.
Tiësto – The Business (Official Music Video)
Jax – 90s Kids (Official Audio)
Ava Max – My Head & My Heart [Official Video]
Fame was a long time coming for Ava Max. As a child singer, she travelled across several regions of American looking for her big break but it wasn’t until adulthood, in 2016, that she finally signed a big record deal, with Atlantic. Another two years followed and her star exploded to new heights through the track “Sweet But Psycho,” which became her breakthrough single in 2018 after it achieved the number one spot on charts in twenty-two different countries.
Now, with around five million subs on Youtube and many more elsewhere, she is a bone fide pop star with a reactive fanbase who eat up any new release. “My Head & My Heart” is the latest, a pop/ dance track that might sound familiar to long-term fans. Indeed, it was written by Max, along with a team of writers including Madison Love, Aleksey Potekhin, Sergey Zhukov, Tia Scola, Earwulf and Cirkit, while the production was lead by Jonas Blue. The piece borrows heavily from the 2000 hit “Around the World (La La La La La) by ATC), which was first a cover of a 1998 track by Ruki Vverh!
Justin Bieber – I Can’t Be Myself ft. Jaden Smith
The song title “I Can’t Be Myself” is reminiscent of Justin Bieber’s last hit, “Lonely,” a searing and remarkably touching pop track about the perils of fame and the isolation that it brings. Yet, the track’s introspection relates to a relationship rather than Justin’s fame prison. Instead, it extols the virtues of a loving union between two people who are accepting of each other: “I can’t be myself when you’re not there (Oh)/ The sweetest dreams turn into nightmares/ I can’t be myself when you’re not there (Be myself).”
“I can’t be myself when Justin’s not playing in my ear” … one top commenter quipped, demonstrating just how closely his fans connect with his music. The track comes as part of a slew of new music Bieber has released on his number one album, Justice. For this cut he is joined by Jaden Smith, the son of Will Smith and featured artist on what makes for the latest in a sequence of collaborations between the two. It started with Karate Kid, and Bieber’s “Never Say Never” soundtrack for the film Smith starred in and continued in August 2020 with Jaden’s whimsical track, “Falling For You,” which featured Bieber.
“I Can’t Be Myself” is a catchy pop track built around atmospheric echos and synths, which all build into an ecstatic ode to true love, wherever it is to be found. Bieber’s vocal tone is always impressive, and the more he develops the more we realize just how good he has always been. Especially in the last few years – less has been more on Bieber’s best tracks, which had used space and feel to create the most impactful result, like all the best pop stars end up doing.
SuperM 슈퍼엠 ‘We DO’ MV
There is something distinctly Bruno Mars-esque about this new release from the K-pop group SuperM (슈퍼엠). It is the fast-twitch drums, the ecstatic, staccato horns, the groovy bass drive, the funky electric guitar … all this keeps the listener dancing, spurred on by whoops and cries of “let’s go” before the chorus slow-builds and releases its full power. It is reminiscent of “24K Magic” and “That’s What I Like,” apart from the manic synth that accompanies the chorus, placing the song within the pop realm despite its funk overtones.
But despite the high-octane delivery, there is a more serious message behind the track that fans have been quick to point out in comments sections: “This is a SOLIDARITY SONG: for the MENTAL HEALTH Awareness Campaign in ASIA. Give it some respect, this is an upbeat, fresh, funky, dance, positive, uplifting song to collab with mental health awareness, bring joy and strength!!! Like when they collabed with WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION with the Better Days Special Video.”
Indeed, the group have been providing an activist slant to go along with their music, and though ‘ignoring the haters’ takes center stage in their lyrics, what that translates to, over the course of the track, is a message of replacing negativity with positivity in our own lives. There are few K-pop acts that have made this kind of message part of their brand and it will serve SuperM well with both die hard fans and casuals alike.
SuperM was formed back in 2019 by SM Entertainment and Capitol, who brought together seven members from four different groups: Baekhyun and Kai from Exo, Ten and Lucas from WayV, Taemin from Shinee and Mark from the iconic 127 outfit. Since their start they have enjoyed reputation beyond Korean borders, with their debut EP reaching number one in the Billboard charts, something never before achieved by an Asian group.
Watch SuperM 슈퍼엠 ‘We DO’ MV
STAYC(스테이씨) – ASAP @인기가요 inkigayo 20210411
This performance, which comes from Inkigayo, the South Korean program that is broadcasted on SBS every Sunday, gives an opportunity for the huge K-pop audience to get to know the group better. The show is known for featuring the latest and most popular artists in the country and, in particular, from the Korean capital, Seoul. As many fans have pointed out, there is no hint of a novice group in their performance: “they don’t look like rookies at all! like they’re so so good, I can already feel that they are going to be the next big thing.”
HOSHI ‘Spider’ Official MV
“Spider” is a track that feels reminiscent of some of Billie Eilish’s music. It is the chilly beats, the piano note echoes, the minimalist chorus that is matched with a flat melody and sombre vocal layering … Yet, this sensation only really lasts for the first verse and chorus. Afterwards, the song morphs into something entirely new, sounding more like the colorful, high-production value pop that we have come to expect from the biggest acts in the K-pop world. Hoshi, there is no doubt, has reached that upper echelon of artists, something that the 6.5 million views gained on the video in just under a week will attest to.
“I can feel it I’m in danger/ I can’t run away/ Even a single drop of water/ Sparkles this dazzling place” … it seems Hoshi is stuck in some kind of metaphorical spider’s web and this central deceit informs the look and feel of the video. Fans in comments sections have sought to decode the imagery, something that happens with a lot of K-pop videos but perhaps never so eagerly as with Hoshi’s releases. His movements are precise, his presentation impeccable, and the whole thing fits together as a coherent set piece.
As one top commenter noted: In “Spider,” Hoshi likens the feelings of falling for the deadly and inescapable charms of an individual to the desperate movements of a prey caught in a spider’s web. HOSHI’s sentimental vocals are backed by dreamlike pluck sounds and a restrained bassline, further heightening the tension in this thrilling game of spider and prey.” It is very perceptive, as comments go, and the minimalist sense on the chorus provides a moment of hyper-tension that gives the track real character and a different edge. Another memorable and effective release from Hoshi.
Ryan Griffin – Salt, Lime & Tequila (Static Video)
You’ve heard of an official audio clip, you’ve heard of an official video, maybe you’ve even heard of a lyric video or a visualizer … but have you heard of a static video? Well that is exactly the format Ryan Griffin has chosen for his Youtube upload of the track “Salt, Lime & Tequila.” Yet, with the rapid success of this new song, fans hardly care what format they are watching in. Indeed, they began experiencing it on a platform with a much shorter and more piece-meal capacity: Tiktok.
The success of Ryan Griffin has been astronomical recently. He doesn’t yet have ten thousand subs on his Youtube channel and yet “Salt, Lime & Tequila” is at the very top of the itunes downloads charts for new singles. The reason is that he has popped off on Tikok – something that is increasingly recognised as a viable point of entry to the market mainstream, especially in country music. As one fan suggested, Griffin’s audience is ready to follow him to all platforms to hear those sweet summer vibes: “I saw this on tik tok, fell in love with it as soon as I heard it! Absolutely my favorite song! Makes me ready for summer time! Wash my worries away.” Girffin actually replied to this comment, which shows his size as an artist, still hustling and building his fanbase at the micro level.
“Ain’t much worth stressin’ over/ Let it roll right off your shoulder/ Time flies and life is short/ So why not have one more.” Griffin’s new track comes just in time for the warmer weather and paints a picture of the beach livin’ most people will struggle to remember at this point, after such an extended period of travel restrictions, and therein lies its immediate and accessible power.
Kacey Musgraves On The Road Again | We’re Texas
The devastating Storm Uri affected huge amounts of families in Texas and, with restrictions and Covid still looming large, there weren’t many opportunities for communities to get together and show support. The answer came in the form of perhaps the most Texas guy ever, Matthew McConaughey. The actor and state ambassador organized the We’re Texas live streaming event on his newly created Youtube channel and invited artists ranging from Khalid to Post Malone to Willie Nelson to perform for the people and raise money in the process. It was a resounding success and just goes to increase the appeal of Texas as a community-driven part of the US, following the mass tech exodus from L.A. in 2020.
One artist who contributed was Kacey Musgraves, a country singer who shot to new heights in 2018 and 2019, when her album Golden Hour won numerous awards, topping the Pitchfork highlights of the year list and helping the nation wake up to the supreme talent of an artist who delivers country music with a quiet progressive edge and impeccable songwriting skills. It is her vocal tone, though, which first captures the listeners’ attention: pure and full of character, you know its Kacey Musgraves from the first few notes.
Here, she performs a cover of “On The Road Again,” the universal song made famous by Willie Nelson. It is a simple, stripped-back performance, which is perfect for allowing Musgraves’ voice to shine through. Fans have commented how they hear the one and only Dolly Parton in her voice, a comparison the singer has received over the years and something she leaned into, having formed an alliance with the legendary country star in duet performances and recordings.
Mason Horne – Take Me Back (Official Music Video)
Mason Horne is a young singer-songwriter who has been breaking through the itunes charts at a rapid pace. The 18 year old is here to stay and his Tiktok following, like all his other social media channels, is on the rise. The country music world is a crowded place and for a young buck to push through it takes something a but special. Mason’s vocal tone and broad appeal gives him the tools to engage with a wide fanbase and it seems to be working so far. “Take Me Back” is proving a success across social media and it has been making money on downloads too.
“But I’m on my knees tonight/ cause I wanna make this right/ I don’t know how many stories I gotta live/ I just gotta get this off my chest” … the young singer is in a bit of a fix when it comes to romance. He is on the brink of losing the love of his life and he needs to do something about it: “I know I said it before I ain’t wasting my breath/ i’m tired living with this regret/ I hope it ain’t too much to ask/ But I need a little take me back/ Take me back.” These words are blended with soft guitar and deep, swelling piano chords. Apart from the weeping country guitar on the chorus and the steady beat that comes in on the second verse, there isn’t much in the production to distract you from Horne’s tone, which is rightly put front and center.
Seen as the Justin Bieber of country music, rightly or wrongly, the Southern drawl and knack for phrasing means Horne has a lot of natural ability to work with. It will be interesting to see just how fast his star rises.
[MV]SEVENTEEN – ひとりじゃない
Watch [MV]SEVENTEEN – ひとりじゃない
[MV] Weeekly(위클리) _ After School
Weeekly are a new group on the K-pop scene. With a good deal of saturation and an ever expanding roster of groups, the genre is tough to break into. New acts need to make a splash and keep momentum, plus they normally require some kind of unique selling point to differentiate them from the crowd. Weeekly is one of the acts that has had early success. Formed in June, 2020 by Play M Entertainment, it consists of seven members: Zoa, Jihan, Soeun, Monday, Jaehee, Soojin and Jiyoon.
Following the success of their debut EP, We Are, they have been building a solid fanbase who appreciate their individual characters and the playful, musical theatre vibe their productions are built on. It is for these reasons, fans say, that Weeekly has been breaking through when others haven’t: “‘After school’ is the 2nd girl group song that debuted 2020-2021 to exceed more than 60K+ comments in a music video along with ‘Aespa.'” Indeed, with 33 million views in a month, the group has reached new highs with this release.
“After School” is a track aimed at kids, evoking the world of corridors, playgrounds and ringing bells. “We’re meeting there later, right?/ Be on time, if you’re late, that’s a foul/ I can’t stop looking at the clock/ I’m already in my gym.” Fans see it as the start of a momentum that will shoot the group into the stratosphere, and urge others to keep on following them: “Guys, to all the people who just joined with this comeback! I really hope u guys will stay and follow Weeekly till their next era, they could become as big as twice if we keep supporting them!”
[MV] Whee In(휘인) _ water color
SHINee 샤이니 ‘Atlantis’ MV
With fifteen million views in one week, “Atlantis” is another smash hit from the K-pop group SHINee, that was formed back in 2008 by SM Entertainment. In the subsequent decade and a half they have become one of the most successful groups in Korea and beyond and have been dubbed the “Princes of K-pop,” behind the kings and queens of BTS and Black Pink. Its four members are Onew, Key, Minho and Taemin, who were previously part of a five-piece with the vocalist Jonghyun, who passed away in late 2017.
Shinee are considered one of the best live groups in the whole of K-pop, a genre known for its choreography and set pieces but not necessarily for the vocal prowess on display. Their choreography is also highly respected for being synchronised and experimental. Indeed, they won the Best Dance performance Award at the Mnet Asian Music Awards three times in three years for their on-stage performances. In “Atlantis,” they present more of the same: coordinated chorus dances that dominate the chorus while vocal acrobatics are emphasized on the verses.
Shinee’s “Atlantis” is a track that uses the metaphor of the lost underwater city to describe just how deep their love runs. Fish and ocean paraphernalia fill the rooms while the group sing of the passion they feel. The mix of English and Korean lyrics, as well as the Western reference in the title, demonstrates Shinee’s international appeal. They are a huge group in both Korea, the US and, above all, Japan, where they have had several albums certified gold along with a marketing campaign over the last few years that has really made a stamp on the Japanese music industry.
Watch SHINee 샤이니 ‘Atlantis’ MV
[MV] OnlyOneOf (온리원오브) ‘libidO’
With only a million views in two weeks, OnlyOneOf are one of the smaller groups in K-pop. Of course, this is not a small amount of views for the standards of other genres, yet K-pop has been leading the hype train for a while now, both domestically and internationally. Their new track “libidO,” is an ode to lust and the hold it can have over us.
“libi libidO/ Stem tangled like ropes/ I’m attracted for no reason oh/ Leave it leave it libidO/ We are like roots sprouting up like veins/ Get mixed up with no rules at all yeah” … it is well-trodden ground to liken sexual desire with natural imagery, as something that is governed by the world’s rhythms and not by individual will. These translated lyrics form the same picture.
The official video is slightly moody, employing a filter that mutes colors and gives off a nostalgic feel. The focus is on flesh and self-expression, with intimacy being translated through sports, physical activity, fashion poses and, of course, nature. It is an intriguing watch and doesn’t feel like something designed for viral appeal.
As one top commenter pointed out: “To think they are not yet that popular but they still choose to break norms and take a risk exploring despite the fact it might affect their career is truly amazing and worth stanning.” Stanning – the insider term for supporting – is what the band are receiving more and more, and though they might not be the biggest in the genre, their fans love and support them with an intensity that few acts enjoy.
“libidO” is another step in the right direction for one of K-pop’s more interesting outfits.
Dua Lipa – We’re Good (Bass Cover)
The pantheon of female bass stars is a beautiful thing. You’ve got the famous bassface enthusiast, Este Haim, from HAIM, the jazz trailblazers Esperanza Spalding, Tal Wilkenfeld and Meshell Ndegeocello, the rockers like Carol Kaye and Tina Weymouth (from the Talking Heads) and Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, as well as legendary funk practitioners like Rhonda Smith and the young trailblazer Kinga Glyk. Yet it is on Youtube that the next generation of bassists seems to be emerging, regardless of their gender.
Julia, of the channel Juliaplaysgroove, is one such up and comer. She has a versatility and a touch that is immediately impressive, both for bass enthusiasts and professionals alike. Another thing that is refreshing about her is the varied repertoire that she performs. Songs by the likes of Mac Miller and Luther Vandross sit alongside covers of tracks by Billie Eilish and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. The full pop spectrum is set alight via funk riffs that really expose the importance of bass in implementing danceable rhythms.
The artist Julie has had the most success covering is perhaps Dua Lipa, with several videos of her songs going viral and helping the channel to grow. Now, sitting at nearly half a million subscribers, her “We’re Good” interpretation can comfortably garner one hundred thousand views in just a couple of days, with some of her pieces reaching the ten million mark over time.
Dan + Shay – Glad You Exist (Lyric Video)
“Here’s to all the late night drunk phone calls that you picked up/ Here’s to all the bad decisions that you didn’t judge/ All the love yous and the hate yous and the secrets that you told me/ Here’s to everyone but mostly us” … this new track by Dan + Shay is an ode to soulmates. In the song, that means pure connection – the fact that two souls can unite at a point in space and time and nothing outside of that room, or that space, seems to matter. The best memories are created in these moments that can be life-defining as well as life-affirming. Dan and Shay form a pop duo whose soft tones and astute songwriting make them very well placed to cover these grand romantic themes.
For fans, their music represents something a lot more than material for dancing or singing. Instead, it is an antidote to everyday suffering, as one top commenter suggested: “Don’t know if you’ll see this, but God is will continue to guide you guys and continue to bless you with success. You’re music is amazing and has got me through a lot of tough times.” During global lockdown they have been especially important, with releases like “I Should Probably Go To Bed,” dealing with the same duality between love (often lost love) and its psychological reverberations.
Here, though, it is nothing but smiles and adoration. It’s about the moments that fill you up rather than the ones that empty you out. The chorus lyrics are a case in point, describing a warm and hugely romantic ideal: “There’s a couple billion people in the world/ And a million other places we could be, but you’re here with me.”
esperanza spalding – formwela 1 (Official Music Video)
Esperanza Spalding is a jazz double-bassist, vocalist and composer who has helped to popularize improvised music in the African-American tradition. Her Grammy-winning 2018 album, 12 Little Spells, confirmed her place as one of the world’s foremost music craftswomen, following on from her modern standard “I Know You Know,” which announced her on the international scene.
Now, she is back with new music that is attached to an interesting initiative: The Songwrights Apothecary Lab. Described as half songwriting workshop, half guided research practice, this is a place that draws together different musicians and practitioners of disciples, spanning music therapy, neuroscience, Black American music, Sufism, Carnatic music, all in the “spirit of radical healing.”
Her new album is entitled: AVAILABLE AT SONGWRIGHTSAPOTHECARYLAB.COM, demonstrating just how keen she is to send people to this new digital healing center. On the project, she stated: “It grew out of a few years of just reading, learning, and reckoning with how much trauma was going unaddressed in my life, in my community, and in my family … I was reflecting on so many slow-burning crises and acute crises that I [believe] erupted because we didn’t have a paradigm for responding to trauma and the woundings of the psyche and the spirit.”
The official video for “formwela 1” was released in April, and is described as music “for memorizing, then hearing internally (via audiation) as an aide to self-soothe during an acute moment of stress in the home.” Fans have been responding well, commenting on the stillness and calm that the track brings. The lyrics speak of our “heavy-minded palace,” which pulls us down until “suddenly the air goes miraculously clear un-cupping your brim of the never-ending chalice in rushes love’s atmosphere.”
Spalding continues her path as one of music’s most adventurous and unpredictable voices.
Tana Rose – I Can Feel The Rush (Official Lyric Video)
Tana Rose’s artist bio reads like this: “Tana Rose is a lady with a love for all things music. In addition to a powerful voice, she possesses creative and imaginative writing skills, having written over 150 compositions.”
Indeed, she is attempting to carve out a space in pop and dance music that is relatively new – a classically-trained, independent voice taking her first steps into the mainstream, slowly but surely via, you’ve guessed it, Tiktok. The social media platform has given creators the chance to shine through super optimized algorithms that provide insane reach: on Tiktok there are too many viewers for the amount of creators, the opposite to Instagram.
“I know that you want me/ You know how I’m feeling/ Danger is now/ We over think the meaning” … With dark lyrics matching an equally dark visual (a neon vortex that zooms forward), Rose is making dance music with a different aesthetic and it is attracting her community’s attention. “My love/ I just can’t get enough/ Of all of your time and such/ So let’s not slow down the rush/ Can you feel the love?” Over an acidic dance beat, she sings of love and pain.