Roundup of ListenOnRepeat New Music Reviews (Feb. 2021)

Music Reviews Roundup

An era came to an end when Daft Punk, an electronic duo formed in 1993 called it quit after 28 years. Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter announced their retirement through a video titled “Epilogue”. The amazing tunes this group has given are a pure joy that that will be remembered forever.

Meanwhile, here is the roundup of ListenOnRepeat new music reviews for February 2021:

Tom MacDonald – “Fake Woke”

In a world where more and more pop stars are aligning themselves politically, Tom MacDonald stands out as a beacon of difference. Who would have thought that the popular music with the most progressive themes was coming from the right? Well, though that is what a lot of MacDonald’s fans might think, it isn’t truly the case. Firstly, because when it comes to identity politics and pop culture, right and left aren’t the most useful constructs. Secondly, though MacDonald’s lyrics sympathize with Trump supporters, they rail against a particular form of online wokeism that doesn’t by any means define the entire left wing of politics.

“Woke” is a term that has roots in the 1940s but came to be used widely between 2010 to 2014, coinciding with the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. In terms of its etymology, the internet describes it thusly: “a perceived awareness of issues that concern social justice and racial justice. It derives from the African-American Vernacular English expression stay woke, whose grammatical aspect refers to a continuing awareness of these issues.” Yet, like the words “progressive” and “liberal,” it is a term whose meaning has been stretched to encapsulate a whole litany of positions, and its left people like MacDonald feeling confused and annoyed.

In “Fake Woke” MacDonald revisits his style of rap with a rock edge. The video is similar to the one that came out for his track “No Lives Matter,” which pictures him in different locations, delivering intense lyrics about woke ideas. MacDonald, however, sees hypocrisy in much of the woke landscape and his words are laced with pain and venom in equal measure. One top comment summed up the audience response so far: “finally someone auctially raps about what is wrong with this earth.”

Watch Tom MacDonald – “Fake Woke”

Weezer – All My Favorite Songs (Official Video)

It’s early 2021 and there is a new release from Weezer. Who would have thought it? This is a group that has been active and popular since the early 2000s. They were putting on multiple t shirts and singing about pork and beans when most millennials were getting into Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake for the first time. Yet here we are. And they aren’t just releasing music to a dead audience – on the contrary, the half a million views this track has had in the last week and a bit are testament to their enduring appeal. The track is also topping iTunes downloads charts which puts the group in that very special position of still being able to monetize rock-pop-indie. Well done Weezer!

“All My Favorite Songs” is a track about the contradictions we all have in our personalities. Its opening lyrics set up a good premise: “All my favorite songs are slow and sad/ All my favorite people make me mad/ Everything that feels so good is bad.” This is a theme that continues throughout the track, talking about social events and the internal stress they bring, as well as how to interact with women. Essentially, the speaker of the song is a bit lost, and they have concluded that the fault lies within rather than without: “I don’t know what’s wrong with me (ooh, ooh, ooh).”

The whole nerd stress theme is about as Weezer as it gets and the fans are loving it. With rock lyrics, Beatles-like harmonies and a string melody lighting up the background space, “All My Favorite Things” is a great start to the year. Here’s a top comment summing up audience response: “I really like the direction OK Human [new album] is taking. I can’t believe it’s 2021 and we’re getting two awesome Weezer albums this year.”

Nathan Evans – Wellerman (TikTok Sea Shanty) | Official Audio

This is the best thing to happen to TikTok since its inception. The Sea Shanty viral streak is the perfect marriage of two very different worlds: workmen’s songs from the days when crews would row by hand and haul ships across the Earth’s rough seas, and the millions of content creators fishing for a viral explosion. There are teams of people in media companies whose job it is to identify winning content ideas. What is the bet that nobody saw this coming? Indeed, the idea seems so farfetched that it shouldn’t have taken off, but here we are.

For Nathan Evans, the main singer and musician behind “Wellerman,” it must have felt like a dream. He is now an artist with a number one single and all he has done is gather like-minded people to sing in harmony while on film before uploading the results to a social media platform fames for its bitesize, accessible content. They didn’t even set it to music! It is a-capella apart from a pounding bass note that keeps the time. Yet, you won’t find a more catchy song… “soon may the wellerman come, to bring us sugar and tea and rum!”

Sea Shanty songs have been sung humans used boats, but they pop up in the history books from the 1500s or so. This particular song is from New Zealand and dates to around 1860. If it weren’t for this craze, the piece would be subject to the study of academics looking into the histories of labour and cultural working class expression. It is fantastic therefore that this has gone mainstream, shining a light on an oft-ignored part of music history. Far from classical composition, the haulers chanted away in difficult, frothy waters … now everyone is doing it on their iphones.

Watch Nathan Evans – Wellerman (TikTok Sea Shanty) | Official Audio

Selena Gomez, Rauw Alejandro – Baila Conmigo (Letra/Lyrics)

Selena Gomez has a Spanish name but does she have Latin origins? Indeed, it sometimes seems like every female pop star has a bit of Latin in them: Jennifer Lopez, Cardi B, Kali Uchis, Becky G… And even if it isn’t the case, the Latin pop industry is so large and powerful that they should be forgiven for wanting a piece of it (just look at the Black Eyed Peas and their recent releases). But when it comes to Selena Gomez, she does have Mexican heritage on her father’s side, though she was never properly taught how to speak the language when growing up.

This now leaves her in an awkward position: Spanish speaking audiences see her as one of their own but she struggles to communicate well. “Baila Conmigo” may just be the perfect expression of this – it is a track about two lovers brought together out of pure instinct, regardless of the language barrier that exists between them. To deliver this track Gomez has partnered with Rauw Alejandro, the Puerto Rican rapper who can steer the ship when it comes to evoking place: the video seems to be set on the Caribbean island and Selena appears as a pop star performing on TV.

With an easy beat and a catchy chorus, “Baila Conmigo” is a not-quite dance floor track (even through its title means “dance with me”). It has already garnered considerable watch time and is sure to further endear Selena Gomez to the audience she might have been a part of in another life time. We can expect to see further Latin pop releases from her, both for the pull of the market and for the more personal aspect.

Watch Selena Gomez, Rauw Alejandro – Baila Conmigo (Letra/Lyrics)

Eric Church – Heart On Fire (Lyrics)

“Heart On Fire” is a well crafted and well written released by Eric Church. Its soul is youthful, its point of view is part nostalgia and part present moment, its got cheek, charm and an infectious, sunny disposition. There is also a sense of live performance in the recording, especially before the second chorus, where the rhythm ramps up and we can imagine Church on stage, smacking a wooden stage with his boot and singing into the microphone. Maybe one day soon he will be able to do just that once the restrictions we are facing begin to subside.

“Soakin’ my soul in gas and settin’ my heart on fire” … This track is about a love affair between a young man and his banged-up vehicle. Windows down, brown hair blowing in the wind, the radio blaring music you don’t know all the lyrics to (but when the chorus comes in you sing your heart out – “couldn’t make out any words but ‘take me to the levee'”), a face full of wild desire. It is an evocative image that Church conjures, one that paints a very Southern American picture of freedom and energy, when it’s just the open road and a world of possibilities ahead.

One top comment reads: “This is giving me some serious 90s country vibes and I can’t get enough of it.” Indeed, there is something about the track that reminds us of younger, wilder days and for his mostly-adult audience, the 90s would have been a formative period. It will be great for fans to see Church tour his new music when it is possible – he gives them a feeling of joy and abandon that has been sorely lacking in the last year or so.

Watch Eric Church – Heart On Fire (Lyrics)

Teddy Swims – My Bad (Official Music Video)

Teddy Swims made a reputation for himself online through acoustic performance videos that centered his one prevailing asset: the voice. Indeed, he is an artist with a seemingly effortless golden tone, one that has drawn plaudits in comments sections for a good while now. And it has paid off. What begun as a Youtube sensation, as a series of viral covers of songs by Marvin Gaye, Billie Eilish and Shania Twain, has turned into a bone fide music career. Swims now has over a million followers on the platform and a reach that is better than many purely industry artists.

It is the strength of his community that makes a difference and his channel has acted as a place of refuge in recent months during this strange period. One top comment on his video for the “Let Me Love You” cover read: “where grown men come to cry when no one is watching.” Indeed, Swims recognizes this, recently commenting in an interview: “I wanted to be a place that we can all come together, and it just be positivity and love. I definitely wanted to be a safe space.” There is no doubt that his music partly offers comfort and that has given him a fanbase that is more connected than most.

“My Bad” is another hit, and uses a boxing/ wrestling metaphor to take a look at the ups and downs in life. Swims is dressed like an 80s pimp, as usual, and unspools that liquid vocal track in a lavish video that has already been a hit with fans, with one commenting the following: “When I’m dead, and floating my way up to heaven, I will hear Teddy Swim’s singing. Then me and God will fist bump and God will say, “that boy can SING.”

Watch Teddy Swims – My Bad (Official Music Video)

The Hollies “The Air That I Breathe”

Why has the 1964 hit “The Air That I Breathe,” by the band The Hollies, suddenly started climbing its way up itunes downloads charts again? Well, in 2021 it seems that there are only two real ways of that happening: tiktok and Netflix. With TV dead and the internet reigning supreme, young people might not have purchasing power but they have the ability to mobilize in numbers never seen before. Tiktok has been the source of pop hits throughout 2020 and there is no sign of that changing soon. While Netflix is less powerful for music promotion, a good series with a killer soundtrack is sure to boost the sales of the artists in question, even if the track was released over half a century ago.

This time, the series in question is Firefly Lane a show about two girls who live on the eponymous road and share a friendship that lasts for thirty years. There are ups and downs, secrets, betrayals and the twin triggers of love and pain that tie the story together. With the series having been up for enough time now for many watchers to have finished, “The Air That I Breathe” has emerged as an emblematic soundtrack to their experience. Without having seen Firefly Lane, we can assume that it marks the accompanying song to an emotional climax, or a cathartic resolution.

It is the track’s chorus that gives it power. The Hollies, a British group who looked like the Beatles but never quite sounded like them, were adept at ecstatic pop chorus that the whole family could get down to. Amazingly, they never disbanded and have remained active until today, much like the Rolling Stones. Comment sections are full of references to the series, of course, and it is great to see new generations engaging with music they might never have found otherwise.

Watch The Hollies “The Air That I Breathe”

Tom MacDonald – “Cancelled”

Tom MacDonald is quickly becoming the voice of pop counter-culture. Who would have thought that it would be a Conservative who would occupy that space? With a track that sounds, in some ways, like early Eminem on the versus, MacDonald has continued his battle against the woke brigade with a track called “Cancelled.” There are no surprises here – his themes center around the accusations levelled at him (racism, sexism, Donald Trump fanboyism) and his responses to each of them. His loyal fanbase is full of praise, with one top comment saying: “This is exactly what humanity has been crying out for. Truth.”

Of course, there is a huge segment of music lovers that are not fans of MacDonald’s work and that makes him part of the minority. It also gives him an underdog status that he works into the lyrics, repeating “I could have been famous” and suggesting that it is the mainstream culture that has turned him away. The theme of cancelling comes at the right time, with the country music star Morgan Wallen recently being dropped by his label and management for saying a racial slur while his neighbor filmed him from their window.

For MacDonald the song acts as a reminder to his perceived enemies: he is an independent artist who isn’t reliant on anybody who could drop him following a scandal or media storm. In his view, he cannot be cancelled and he is lording that fact over those who would wish it so. With cancel culture being a buzzword and all of MacDonald’s themes highly contentious, he is sure to gain traction with a release like this (and with all of his releases). There aren’t many voices like his that gain so much mainstream attention.

Watch Tom MacDonald – “Cancelled”

Dixie D’Amelio – Roommates (Official Video)

Immaculate production and a high quality video are the least that can be expected from a release by Dixie D’Amelio. Indeed, it wasn’t always the case. She shot to fame as the sister of Charli D’Amelio, Tiktok’s biggest success story (now sitting on over 100 million followers). Dixie followed suit and built her own massive community whereby the content was usually simple dance videos in front of an iphone camera or short comedy/ acting skits. How times have changed. With over seven million subscribers on her Youtube channel and the ability to make world-beating music videos, Dixie is now a bone fide pop star commanding a legion of fans that tops all but the world’s best.

But is there talent, beyond social media hype, to back it all up? The answer is yes, sure. Dixie is a good singer and she handles the song well, showing off personality and presence in front of the camera. She has gotten some flack for the themes of “Roommates,” which relate to depression, anxiety, lonliness and the voices inside her head. One of the lyrics on another of her songs, “sometimes I don’t want to be happy,” drew a similar response from critics who argued that she was so privileged and lucky that she shouldn’t be engaging in public self-pity. However, though Dixie’s music might not be the most artful portrait of personal struggle, fame and money don’t wipe away sadness, just look at Mac Miller.

“Roommates” was written by Demi Lovato, believe it or not, and her team of writers that include Mitch Allan, M-Phazes, Brett McLaughlin, Chloe Angelides, and Nick Lopez. Fans of Demi’s will recognize the song’s tone and wonder if Dixie feels the same way. In answer, the young singer and social media star released this statement: “some of you are going to hear it and complain that this is my third song attached to being sad or depressed … mental health is something I really struggle with everyday and music has become the best way for me to express this. I love working with music and sharing it and so I will continue to do what I love because I know there are many who can relate.”

Watch Dixie D’Amelio – Roommates (Official Video)

Dream ft. PmBata – Roadtrip (Official Lyric Video)

This is one of the biggest hits of 2021 so far according to viewcounts. Though the year is still very young, few tracks will have gone beyond four million views in the first week, especially for a lyric video. Indeed, songs like this hardly blow up at all … a mix of indie and synth pop, “Roadtrip” isn’t the kind of track we normally see in the charts amongst the hip hop, R&B and K-pop. It is almost as if Dream must have a large fanbase who are waiting on releases with bated breath, ready to jump onboard as soon as they are able to.

That is exactly the case. Dream is a Youtuber first and a musical artist second. The American has several very popular Youtube channels (one with over 12 million subscribers) that are built around the game playing community. He shot to internet stardom through videos that feature speed runs of games, particularly Minecraft, with commentary over the top. It is a part online entertainment that older generations are unlikely to understand, but that just shows the power of online communities and the fact that they can afford to be very niche-driven, without the need to be watered down and accessible entertainment for everybody.

While it isn’t a natural transition from Minecraft games to pop releases, Dream has managed to make the move pretty seamlessly and the end result isn’t bad at all. He has partnered with PmBata to create a track that has appealed to his fans as well as breaking into the mainstream charts. At only twenty one years old, Dream is well on his way. As one top comment suggests: “yo this man has everything, and doesn’t even have to show his face.”

Watch Dream ft. PmBata – Roadtrip (Official Lyric Video)

Love Story – Taylor Swift (Teen Awards Show)

It has been a marquee week for Taylor Swift. Her highly publicized copyright feud has been ranging in pop media for a good few years now, with arguments over who owns the rights to her music fuelling a standoff that got ugly on more than one occasion. It has thrown into question something that has always been an issue in music, namely: how much control does an artist have over his or her creations. The Beatles fought a similar feud over many years and Taylor has taken a step that they never could.

In re-recording her discography under her own control, she has taken back the power that she always felt should be hers. She has also defeated the bullying tactics of Scooter Braun, in her own words, that she has been suffering for so long. It begs the question: will her legions of fans support her by shunning the versions of her tracks that she doesn’t own? You would have thought so, seeing as she has one of the most loyal and ferocious fanbases out there.

“Love Story” is her most famous early song, and in re-recording the album Fearless she has presented a decidedly matured version of herself. It is a unique exercise, one whose circumstances we haven’t seen before in the career of an international pop star. To her nearly 150 million Instagram followers, she released the following statement: “This process has been more fulfilling and emotional than I could’ve imagined and has made me ever more determined to re-record all of my music.”

This is a mashup between her old version and her new version, a fan-made comparison that marks an ode to the passing of time. One top comment sums up the sensation: “It’s like she has a daughter and they’re singing along, omg.”

Watch Love Story – Taylor Swift (Teen Awards Show)

Brandi Carlile – Take Me Home, Country Roads (Official Lyric Video)

Brandi Carlile has taken on a beast and tamed it with this soft and lilting version of the famous track “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” First released by John Denver back in 1971, this is a track the whole of America is able to sing along to and that makes it a very daunting prospect for artists, especially ones who want to tinker with the rhythm and tone. Yet, Carlile has done more with this classic that the vast majority of covers that are out there and has safely beaten off the competition. The thirty-nine-year-old singer is confident and intriguing, adding depth to lyrics that weren’t there before.

The success of the track is also helped by the fact that it forms part of the soundtrack for an upcoming original series, Clarice, which will be broadcast by CBS on Thursday evenings. The trailer features this song and that is why it has been receiving so much love. But that takes nothing away from how good the performance is. Indeed, had this been a standalone release it would have caught the public’s attention. Carlile is so loved by fans, with one top commenter summing up the general response: “This woman is one of the greatest artists country music has ever had, and probably the best modern country music artist.”

While we all understand the sentiment behind Take Me Home, Country Roads, this version injects more than a touch of melancholy into a track that is jam-packed with pride. It is slightly haunting and more ambiguous, arguably changing the meaning of certain famous lyrics: “… to the place where I belong.” If great singers are able expand meaning within a song rather than mimic it, Carlile is right up there. The third verse totally changes the atmosphere and leaves you wanting to experience the shift over and over again.

Watch Brandi Carlile – Take Me Home, Country Roads (Official Lyric Video)

Falling In Reverse – “I’m Not A Vampire (Revamped)”

Rock is back in the charts! Who would have thought it? The group in question is Falling In Reverse,” with a song that they have ‘revamped.’ This turns out to be more of a pun than a song description, as the track is centered around being a vampire … or not being one? Indeed, it is a song focused on inner evil, the beliefs we hide behind, and the inner contradictions that define who we are on an ongoing bases.
“I’m insane/ Well, I can feel it in my bones/ Coursing through my veins/ When did I become so cold?” … the lyrics make for a dark diary that listeners will be able to relate to on some level. It is this exposing of inner pain and darkness that has always held the key to this strain of rock success: as listeners, we become acquainted to our shadow side and that recognition gives a sense of inner strength and stability. There is something self-righteous and comforting about accepting who we are from all angles.
The video is a perfect visual pairing to the song’s themes. We zoom up a dark hill, through the gates and into a crooked mansion where a self-reflective vampire looks gloomy and sings his darkness into the camera’s lens. But the lyrics are slightly more adventurous – you don’t just find vampire references: “And whiskey seems to be my holy water/ Mothers better lock your doors/ And hide your daughters.” Darkness comes in many forms for Falling In Reverse and though there has always been a sexual aspect to vampire mythology, it adds depth to the track for listeners.

Fans are there for it – the visuals, the themes, the performance, with one top comment reading: “This is a true emo. He has evolved into a real life vampire.”

Watch Falling In Reverse – “I’m Not A Vampire (Revamped)”

Leah Nobel – Beginning Middle End (Lyrics) (From To All The Boys: Always and Forever)

Leah Nobel is a recording artist from Nashville who has just released a song as part of the soundtrack to a Netflix smash hit series. It is surely a marquee moment in her career and the lyric video to her track “Beginning Middle End” has already racked up over half a million views.

The Netflix movie in question is To All the Boys: Always and Forever, a romantic teen comedy based in the US that hit the computer screens in early 2021. But there was already a large audience for the film, due to the previous two that have proven a success with international audiences. Directed by Michael Fimognari and staring Lana Condor and Noah Centineo, the story is based on a novel by Jenny Han from 2017: Always and Forever, Lara Jean. This book has been made into a trilogy of films, with To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before making the initial splash and 2020s To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You continuing the theme.

The narrative is interesting, and it follows from a greater diversity in mainstream culture, having been written by a Korean American about their experiences as a young multicultural girl from an immigrant family. At its core it is a high school boy meets girl story that is plagued by all the normal insecurities that teenagers feel. Music has always had a huge emotional role to play in the modern tellings of these narratives and “Beginning Middle End” is hit the right spot with audiences.

There is something extremely romantic and beautiful about the reaction young audiences feel to these stories, and the song as a large part to play. One viewer left their thoughts in the comments section: “I just watched the movie it’s the best thing I’ve ever watched. I myself have never experienced these feelings before but I wish to have them one day, just that one person that I would love always and forever and make it through our beginning middle and end for the rest of our lives.”

Watch Leah Nobel – Beginning Middle End (Lyrics) (From To All The Boys: Always and Forever)

Alexandra Kay – We Wouldn’t Be Us (Official Audio Video)

“We Wouldn’t Be Us” is a track that describes a volatile, yet highly romantic, relationship. There are fights, there are make ups “on the kitchen floor,” there are cars breaking down on the interstate, but there is also “pulling over just to dance every time we get the chance.” It is the kind of relationship many wish for but few really need and an injection of romantic thrill in the country music love story. Alexandra Kay is the artist and despite her modest platform, the song is shooting its way up the downloads charts and threatening to boost her career like nothing she’s seen before.

Fans are noticing the jump in views, with one commenter addressing Kay directly: “believe in yourself beautiful, you’ll get to top five maybe even number one. you have such a beautiful voice and I love it very much. I discovered you on tik tok and have been obsessed since.” Indeed, Tiktok has become one of the sure-fire ways to get a song heard beyond your usual audience thanks to the insane reach it can provide. Any up-and-coming artist not making use of it will feel like they’ve missed out when the dust settles and the user-to-content saturation levels balance out.

Addressing her die hard fans and all the newcomers, Kay described the song as follows: “the story of first dates, living flat broke, and first fights make this single a message that makes you reminisce on the beginning of your relationships.” The message in this track is clear – every hiccup is meant to happen on the course of true love and the wrongs are what give a couple its character. As the title suggests, without all the ups and downs we wouldn’t be us.

Watch Alexandra Kay – We Wouldn’t Be Us (Official Audio Video)

SHINee 샤이니 ‘Don’t Call Me’ MV

Shinee are one of the institutions in K-pop. The group is older than most, forming back in 2008 under SM Entertainment. They are known as the “Princes of K-pop” and form a band made up of four members: Onew, Key, Minho and Taemin. The tragic death of Jonghyun in 2017 took them down from a five-piece to a four-piece. “Don’t Call Me” is the new release by Shinee and it has racked up over fifteen million views in just three days at the time of writing.

It is a shame they are unable to tour this new music right now, as Shinee is considered one of the best live vocal groups in the entire genre. They have also won numerous awards for their dance routines, which are choreographed to the tee and highly complex. Their dance performances for “Sherlock,” “Dream Girl” and “View” have garnered particular praise and earned them Mnet Asian Music Awards prizes.

“Don’t Call Me” works the same blend of EDM and pop that we are used to from the group, with hip hop elements sprinkled on top for good measure. The chorus to the track is noteworthy for its build up, which is staccato and somber, with the main body bringing us into a crescendo that would be as ecstatic as most K-pop tracks where it not for the chilly, rattle snake beat that plays in the background.

The video is similarly muted compared to most in the genre – the colors are dark and joy is replaced by attitude at every stage. It is clearly working, both in Korea and abroad, as one fan pointed out: “SHINee has become the Korean band to have entered the American music charts most times. And this is all without promotion in America – SHINee throughout 13 years they did not collaborate with a foreign artist, sing any English song. This did not prevent them from sweeping all of America’s ITunes.”

Watch SHINee 샤이니 ‘Don’t Call Me’ MV

HyunA – ‘I’m Not Cool’ MV

You’d have to say that K-pop videos are the best in the world when it comes to grabbing and sustaining viewers attention. “I’m Not Cool” is a track that assaults the senses from the first moment, with various themes combining over a relentless rhythm and bounding bass. The video is even more lively – with a camera that shakes from start to finish, we see HyunA change scenes, costumes, expressions and vocal tones in a sequence that is always slightly faster than our ability to capture it. As a result, we are left to experience the journey like we would a roller coaster, with all kinds of stimulus rushing past and the thrill being what remains afterward.

As many fans have pointed out in comments sections, the track’s title is misleading. While HyunA might claim she isn’t cool, the reality is the total opposite: “Why i feel like she is saying “i’m not cool” to mean she is actually opposite that… she is hot hahah” Indeed. There is a certain goofiness to her character, which she ramps up in the performance as if to suggest that coolness comes from blending in. In actual fact, her confidence is what shines through and it leaves audiences wishing they were more like her.

HunyA is a rapper, model and singer-songwriter who began her career as part of the group Wonder Girls in 2007. She then left the entertainment company and joined 4Minute, a group managed by Cube Entertainment. 4Minute was a giant of K-pop and it gave HunyA a platform to go solo, which she did and by 2011 had gained huge popularity following her debut EP Bubble Pop! She is not signed with the legendary Psy’s P-Nation and “I’m Not Cool” is about as good a start to 2021 as she could have imagined.

Watch HyunA – ‘I’m Not Cool’ MV

Cooper Alan – Tough Ones (Official Audio)

Cooper Alan is experiencing a rise like never before. The artist’s Twitter account has less than 1000 followers and yet his new track, “Tough Ones,” is making its way to the top of downloads charts and has already racked up over 50,000 listens on Youtube. It is a turning point for the country singer form Nashville, one that he has been working towards for a number of years. The trigger, as is often the case with breakthrough artists nowadays, was Tik Tok – there really is no better place to reach a wider audience right now and Alan, along with many others, is reaping the rewards.

“Tough Ones” is a track about fighting for love. There are ups and downs and the choice to leave is always there. In many ways, the choice to stay is harder and, when all the chips are down, it is the ones who really want it that make it through to greener pastures. “Love ain’t supposed to be a walk in the park/ if it was then we’d all have it.” The couple that Alan sings about are the “tough ones,” because they stick it out and it is proving to be inspiring for fans in the comments, with one listener relating it to their personal situation:

“Me and my boyfriend are on the edge of falling apart. It’s one of those moments where you don’t know what to do because you love them but just want to give up. This song is part of what is holding us together. I mean I heard it on tik tok. But this song is giving me hope to keep holding on and not give up on him just because times are rough.”

Alan is on an upward curve and he has accessed a large community that want to hear more from him.

Watch Cooper Alan – Tough Ones (Official Audio)

NCT 127 ‘gimme gimme’ MV

Number 15 on trending at the time of writing, “Gimme Gimme” has already garnered millions of views (and likes) and is at the top of downloads charts for K-pop. The group in question is NCT 127 (엔시티 127), a second sub-unit of the group NCT, which is managed by the giant group SM Entertainment. The structure of these groups and subgroups is a mystery to the uninitiated, but they make total sense to the millions of loyal followers who await all releases with anticipation.

The name NCT comes from the acronym Neo Culture Technology, which derives from the status given to the parent band, which has unlimited members. Each sub group is given a different personality and NCT 127 are localised to Seoul, which has a longitude coordinate of 127, hence the number’s presence in the name. They first hit the screen in 2016 with a line up of seven members (Taeil, Taeyong (leader), Yuta, Jaehyun, Winwin, Mark, and Haechan). This formation won several awards including best new group and they have since been joined by new members Doyoung and Johnny with Jungwoo being the most recent addition in late 2018. They are now a ten member powerhouse to be reckoned with.

The visuals for “Gimme Gimme” contain everything you’d expect from a high-budget K-pop release – several locations, high-end costumes, dynamic choreography and specific sections for different members of the group to show their various personalities. The lyrics are sung in both Korean and English and appeal to a massive international audience. As for the song itself, this is a high-voltage pop tune that emphasises attitude and movement above all else. In some ways it is a standard release for the K-pop milieu, but that takes nothing away from the effect it has on audiences.

Watch NCT 127 ‘gimme gimme’ MV

In A Heartache (Official Music Video)

Todd Tilghman only has a few thousand subscribers on his Youtube channel. He is a 43 year old who has lived a normal life before turning to music, proof that it is never too late to make the big time. But he is not quite there yet. “In A Heartache” looks to be the song that marks a shift in the tide for the country singer as it shoots up the downloads charts in the company of music by the likes of Taylor Swift. Originally from Meridian, Mississippi, Todd worked as a pastor for many years, but his golden voice couldn’t be denied for long and he entered the 18th season of the American version of The Voice with nothing to lose.

He won the series. Yet often that kind of reality competition victory isn’t tantamount to immediate fame. Indeed, artists gain something of a platform, but it is up to them and their team to break into the mainstream market. He was the first performer of the season on The Voice and he was selected by all of the judges, so impressive was his tone. But is this a star in the making? Or just a normal guy with a great voice that was never meant to fill stadiums, however unfortunate that reality might be.

Fans are convinced of the former. “In A Heartache” is a track about the process of heart break and about accepting the situation before moving on. It will come as no surprise that his fanbase is largely Christian right now, given his past occupation. One fan highlighted a concern that many must feel: “Catchy … it will be a number 1 hit in no time at all with a voice like yours. Please never forget God and don’t trade him in for fame and fortune, because I see that happen time and time again, and it never seems to end well … God bless you.”

Watch In A Heartache (Official Music Video)

CHUNG HA 청하 ‘Bicycle’ MV

Kim Chung-ha (김청하) is better known mononymously as Chungha, a South Korean singer-songwriter, dancer, rapper and choreographer who is breaking into the upper echelons of the K-pop scene with her full-throttle set pieces. She first shot to fame as part of the survival reality show Produce 101, one of many competition shows in Korea that seeks to identify and sign new talents for their ever-increasing music industry. She finished fourth in the show in question, which was focused on girl groups and became a member of the group I.O.I, which found early success before disbanding in 2017. CHUNG HA’s solo career began not long after and she has built a solid fanbase in the last couple of years, kicked off by her extended play, Hands On Me.

“Bicycle” is a track that uses a central metaphor as the forward thrust of its message. Sexuality is emboldened and that spills over into every aspect of life. When CHUNG HA says “get out of my way,” she is asserting her personality and this confidence matches a sexual side that also fits into the bike metaphor. It is a duality that she uses in many of her songs, particularly the smash hit “Dream Of You” that came out at the end of 2020.

Fans are clearly impressed with this new release, with recurring comments following similar lines to this one: “Not trying to be dramatic but this was kind of a masterpiece.” Choreography is also a central part of the performance, with constant movement and a lavish color pallet that feels similar to some of Cardi B’s music videos: gold, sensuality and aggressive dance moves mixed with softer accents. “Bicycle” is threatening to be CHUNG HA’s most successful release to date.


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