Weekly Roundup of ListenOnRepeat New Music Reviews for Dec. 28– Jan. 10, 2021

New Music Reviews

Lil Nas X’s 2019 viral rap single “Old Town Road” has passed the 14x platinum and is now the most certified song in RIAA history. The song displaced “All of Me” by John Legend and “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, and Justin Bieber that were all certified for 13x Platinum to take the #1 spot.

Meanwhile, Below are the latest music reviews on ListenOnRepeat from past week. Take a look!

Bells, Bows, Gifts, Trees

Bells, Bows, Gifts, Trees

“Bells, Bows, Gifts, Trees” is perhaps the nastiest Christmas song released this year (in the best possible sense). Todrick Hall is an American singer and choreographer who shot to fame via the ninth season of the singing competition, American Idol. Since then he has gone from strength to strength, earning a place as a resident choreographer on the insanely popular Ru Paul’s Drag Race. He is also a role model and advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, and speaks regularly about his experience as a gay black man in the world of music. 2020 has seen him release an EP called Quarantine Queen and act as the international host for Global Pride.

The title of this new video follows from a theme in his titling of late, having released both “Nails, Hair, Hips, Heels,” and “Mask, Gloves, Soap, Scrubs” earlier in the year. But this time he is taking on the theme of Christmas, and it is a vision of sass and innuendo. One particular passage demonstrates how he has taken the iconography of the Holiday Season and made it his own: “Ooh girl, I don’t dance, I prance (Prance)/ I don’t sled, I slay (Slay)/
I don’t stop, I shop, shop, shop till Christmas Day (Okay)/ And then I trim the tree (Yep)/ It’s the three wise men for me (That’s right).”

The video is equally attention-grabbing and provocative, picturing, for the most part, Todrick front and center with a troupe of dancers behind him, all performing against a backdrop of a Christmas tree that glows in festive green. Fans are clearly reacting strongly, with one top commenter stating: “But … can we just talk about how he literally just made the best Christmas bop that’s ever graced us???!?!” It looks to be a merry December for Todrick Hall as his star rises ever higher.

Watch Bells, Bows, Gifts, Trees

Jon Batiste, Celeste – It’s All Right (Lyrics)

Jon Batiste, Celeste - It's All Right

Soul is a fantastic new animation from Disney/ Pixar that takes an existential look at human behavior through the prism of jazz music. It stars Joe (voiced by Jamie Foxx), a middle-class school teacher who can’t hold down a stable job because he is forever attached to the dream of being a celebrated jazzman in the NYC clubs. While that premise already feels very different to most things you’ll see coming out of children’s animation studios, it takes a whole new turn once the characters find themselves in “the great beyond,” space where heaven beckons … but is Joe ready to leave behind his worldly attachments, when he still hasn’t fulfilled his dream?

The answer is no and what follows is a marvelous meditation on how meaning is to be construed. A particularly interesting section relates to the idea of a spark – we are all meant to have one in us and that is what should dictate our goals, as well as our sacrifices. Yet the film questions that idea, or at least it does in Joe’s case, revealing that happiness and fulfillment can be found much closer to home.

There are few artists better placed to handle the soundtrack for such a film than Jon Batiste. He is a musician and bandleader who learned under the watchful eye of the great Wynton Marsalis. He is also the musical director for Stephen Colbert and a jazz educator, able to take people into the dim history of New Orleans in a way that is fun and accessible. “It’s All Right” is a cut from the soundtrack he came up with and makes for a rich, optimistic affirmation for Soul’s central character. He is joined by Celeste, the American-born, British soul, and R&B singer.

Watch Jon Batiste, Celeste – It’s All Right (Lyrics)

Austin Burke – Town Home (Official Audio)

Austin Burke - Town Home

Country music is at the top of the itunes downloads charts right now, and Austin Burke is the man performing. “Town Home” could be reversed as a title, as it refers to the place where Burke grew up, and the lingering attachment he still feels towards it. Burke is a native to Pheonix, and wherever he is now, the pull of his homely childhood comforts are very much present.

“I’ve been feeling kind of homesick/ i’ve been feeling like I just don’t fit in” … herein lies the impetus for warm memories of home. And it is specific things that Burke leans towards: his mom’s lemonade, the heat, the blue sky. Yet this sense of homesickness is fleeting as one thing in Burke’s life has flipped the narrative.

Meeting a woman whose dress is as red as the heat he misses, whose sweetness is enough to quench the thirst of homemade lemonade – all this has made him feel that he is ready to settle down in a new place, with the woman who can be his mast when navigating life’s storms. This town they are in, wherever that might be, is now home (hence the title “Town Home.”

In many ways this is a coming of age song from the young artist, and all listeners will be able to remember feeling like they have one foot in the future and another lingering in the past on the road to adulthood. Commenters have been sharing their own experiences of similar feelings, ones that have been soothed by Burke’s words: “Working in the oilfield and this really hits hard. Just makes you wanna relax a little and realize everything is not too bad.”

Touted to be the next Morgan Wallen, “Town Home” is yet another track that got ticktok fame before going mainstream on all platforms.

Watch Austin Burke – Town Home (Official Audio)

Bryan Andrews – Liquor And Pills (Official Audio)

Bryan Andrews - Liquor And Pills

Bryan Andrews is a young up-and-comer who is breaking into the country music scene thanks to a live video he did of “Liquor And Pills,” a song that has gathered views much faster than his normal rate. His current place in the industry can be ascertained by his Facebook bio, which reads: ‘This is a page to help get my name out there! Oh, and to spread good music! Give it a listen and a like!” Yet, this new track is climbing up the itunes charts fast, and his fanbase is growing as a result. 

Andrews’ style is clean and relatable, and he sings about the drama of everyday life, as well as the coping mechanisms that we sometimes drift to. The liquor and pills take away the pain and they remove the memories of yesterday, as the lyrics tell us. But it goes deeper than that. There is a constancy to Andrew’s description of these drugs – they will never leave, they will never break his heart, and they will always be there to help even though he has found a new love. Andrews makes a stark admission towards the end of the chorus, saying he doesn’t care if the liquor and pills “tears his world apart.”

It is powerful stuff and fans have been reacting: “Dude you hit my feels so hard and wrote a song that i’ve needed for so long.” As Andrews explained on social media, the song holds a personal history. He left a note for listeners, saying: “An uncomfortable song for uncomfortable situations. I hope when you hear this you think of how far you’ve come, or how far you can go since your darkest days.” 

Watch Bryan Andrews – Liquor And Pills (Official Audio)

Black Eyed Peas, Shakira – GIRL LIKE ME (Lyrics/Letra)

Black Eyed Peas, Shakira - GIRL LIKE METhis is a collaboration that is going to hold interest for fans all over the world. Shakira is a star from Cuba to Rio to NY to Paris, and the Black Eyed Peas have spent a lot of energy breaking into the massive Latin Pop market in recent years, particularly through their 2019 album Translation, which featured all of the big names you’d expect it to for a transition project into a new market: J Balvin, Ozuna, Maluma, El Alfa and … Shakira. “Girl Like Me” is one of the tracks from the album, and it has just been given an official video, as well as several lyric videos to cater to the different languages used by a broad audience.

The positioning between the two language groups, and thus the two sets of fans, is clear to see in the lyrics: “I want a familia chica que sepa vivir y que viva la vida/ I need a bien bonita (wuh)/ Elegante señorita (wuh).” There are few who won’t be able to put together the meaning here, and most fans also feel that they are being addressed directly, as in the Nelson Mandela quote: “talk to a man in his own language, that goes to his heart.” There is even one moment in the track where a particular side is addressed, through the repetition of the word “Latinas.”

All of the artists perform in an official video that pops with color from the beginning. Shakira plays the object of desire and the BEP’s members rap their requests in different settings. Will.I.AM has left as message on the official video for fans:

“I love how simple and minimal it is … Futuristic and iconic … thank you Rich Lee … Rich Lee directed “imma be rocking that body” and “T.H.E” … Shakira looked iconic beautiful … and Her dance moves were super cool … the Hand choreography is NEXT LEVEL … apl and taboo look like super heroes … taboos jacket is ??? Apl’s outfit is futuristic … and I love that car …  I don’t want to comment about myself … so I leave it there …

Watch Black Eyed Peas, Shakira – GIRL LIKE ME (Lyrics/Letra)

RAIN(비) – “나로 바꾸자 Switch to me (duet with JYP)” MV

나로 바꾸자 Switch to me

The end of 2020 has given K-pop fans one of the most high profile collaborations of the year. With over a million views on the first day, “Switch To Me” features JYP (Park Jin-young), a veteran Korean singer and songwriter who has been on the scene for around three decades. he is also a talent show host and the owner of JYP Entertainment productions, one of the juggernauts that pulls the strings behind the K-pop scene. He’s managed the likes of Twice, Stray Kids, Itzy, Wondergirls, Got7 and Rain. The latter is the actor turned singer who became an international star through his 2004 album It’s Raining, which sold over a million copies in Asia alone.

While neither of them are part of the giants of K-pop in 2020, they are veritable living legends for that scene, and combined their talents are sure to create waves once again. The music video begins in a plush bar, with both sipping whiskey and fighting over a glamorous woman who comes in moments later. The rest of the song sees both serenade the woman and attempt to win her from the other. We flick through locations, from the beach to the club to the highway, and 80s-style synth-lead production sets the tone.

Fans have been commenting on just how different the two styles are, first musically: JYP really owns the Retro Sound. And rain always do a good job with the vocals and his presence is insane,” then in terms of appearance: “Rain may have the muscles and JYP got the flex. But it’s just a game over when the man who ride a horse around Gangnam showed up lol.” This last comment is a reference to PSY, another titan of K-pop whose 2012 music video took the world by storm (currently sitting on 4 billion views). Maybe the three of them will release something in 2021.

Watch RAIN(비) – “나로 바꾸자 Switch to me (duet with JYP)” MV

Dua Lipa: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert

Dua Lipa - Tiny Desk

NPR’s Tiny Desk concerts are the best way to rediscover very well-known artists with a newfound respect, whether you were already a fans of their’s or not. One of the reasons for this is the stripped-back production, which foregrounds superb basslines and removes some of the synth overwork that is used to create a ‘wall of sound’ effect in studio production for records. Another reason is that singer’s voices are put to the test, given a platform to impress where there is nowhere to hide. In this setting an artist’s true talent can be revealed and songs take on more soul. It is no coincidence that the tracks played on Tiny Desk often sound better than the official recordings.

The latest artist to get this treatment is the incredibly popular Dua Lipa. With the release of a new album that has more of a retro-funk angle, she is armed with tracks that have bounce and pop, catchy choruses and funky melodic hooks. The three backing singers for this concert are brilliant in drawing out these elements and they give texture to the vocal section while Dua Lipa is able to show the richness of her tone like never before. Another star is the bass guitarist who is tasked with weaving groove into each moment – he has perhaps never before got widespread recognition like this.

Fans are certainly appreciative of seeing Dua Lipa in this environment, which serves the audio as well as stylistic elements: they perform in an orange 60/70s-style room, with minimalist furniture and casual outfits. Most comments reflect the sound quality and the surprise at seeing the artist perform this well without the bells and whistles of stadium tours: “She should do more in this retro funk-disco style. I started strutting around the room…” and “Whoever did the musical arrangement deserves a trillion in raise.”

TWICE “CRY FOR ME” (Official Audio)

Twice Cry For Me

It is rare that official audio clips get millions of views in the first couple of weeks of their release. But such is the insane popularity of K-pop and groups like TWICE, which are managed by JYP Entertainment, a company owned by JYP, a veteran 50-year-old pop artist who was one of the first to make an international splash and to use talent shows as breeding grounds for fresh new talent. The girl group, made up of nine members (Nayeon, Jeongyeon, Momo, Sana, Jihyo, Mina, Dahyun, Chaeyoung, and Tzuyu) has been rivaling the likes of Blackpink and BTS in recent years and the only way is up in terms of views and engagement.

“Cry For Me” is a song that describes an experience that most people will be able to relate to. A bad boy and a nice girl who form a couple that will inevitably end in heartbreak and, yes, tears. In the same vein, as Justin Timberlake’s 2000s hit, the injured party wants the perpetrator to feel the same pain that they did, which is why they ask them to cry, just like they have done. “Bad boy bad boy bad boy, you really make me mad girl, mad girl mad girl,” is just one of the lyrical hooks that make this song catchy by way of repetition.

Fans are certainly happy with the new release, with some suggesting that they stick to these themes and this established style: “They should make a whole album with songs like this and ‘Up No More.’ It would fit the dark vs light concept that they established in ICSM.” 2021 is sure to be another smash hit of a year for this group that shows no signs of slowing down. Fans eagerly await the official video’s release.

Infinity Song – HEY JUDE (The Beatles Cover)

Infinity Song - Hey Jude

Infinity Song is a band made up of brothers and sisters that was formed back in 2014 in NYC. They began performing acoustic versions of popular songs and have continued in that same vein, now having amassed an audience of thousands who await their new releases with eager anticipation. It is their winning harmonies and the subtlety with which they approach well-known songs that work, and each one of them has a voice worthy of a front-man/ woman, which doesn’t hurt either. They have just released their debut EP and it looks like 2021 is going to be the year where they really start riding the wave of the Youtube algorithm.

Pretty much every singer or group in pop-rock has attempted a version of “Hey Jude” at one point or another. But it is a deceptively difficult song to get right. The lyrics are incredibly powerful (including the nonsense line “the move you need is on your shoulder”), yet they need to be delivered in the right way to have any effect. This is especially true when it comes to the Na, na, na, na, na, na, naaa after the second chorus. Infinity Song are able to pull it off, and this might well become the favorite version of younger generations who give them a listen.

Sat in a group with two guitarists (bass and acoustic) upfront, they proceed to weave together tight harmonies in an arrangement that gives the melody room to really shine. It has hit an emotional nerve with commenters, who have left notes about what the song means to them: “My grandmother passed this last week. I’ve been looking at Hey Jude covers because she was the one who got me into the Beatles. Thanks for this.” That has got to be considered a big win.

Why Don’t We – Lotus Inn [Official Music Video]

Why Don't We - Lotus Inn [Official Music Video]The boyband Why Don’t We have entered the new year with a hit song already accomplished. It was back in early December that they decided to release the official music video for “Lotus Inn,” which has already chalked up millions of views.
Indeed, they are one of the most popular young groups in the Western World, one of the view who achieve numbers similar to their pop counterparts over in Korea. One of the reasons for this might be that fans tend to attach to them in a way often seen in K-pop, cherishing each member’s personality, feeling close to their individualities, and keeping a keen eye on any developments in their image. A top comment on the video demonstrates this: “I still can’t get over the fact that Corbyn is a brunette, daniel is blonde, jack doesn’t have noodles, jonah HAS noodles, and Zach is well…the same awesome person.”
“Lotus Inn” is a track title that refers to a club venue, one the boys are in at the end of 2020. Yonah is the central character and he spots a girl on the dancefloor. What follows is a series of embarrassing fails whereby he loses her interest: he falls over, orders the wrong drink, then attempts to toast 2020, a line that makes her eyes roll. The video sees him running back these events in his head, and wishing he could “turn back time” à la Click with Adam Sandler.
The video tries to be full of drunken debauchery but ends up being sufficiently PG for the group’s audience, flicking between a bedroom rock set and the club, with each band member adding their two cents. It is an end-of-the-year video about youth and romance, with a broad appeal that is making waves amongst fans.
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