With AC/DC back with their first LP in six years “Power Up” is climbing up the U.K chart title and going to be the year’s fastest-selling album. Power Up is outselling the top 5 combined with 47,000 chart sales. The album is available and can be bought online from their official website.
Here is the latest weekly roundup of ListenOnRepeat new reviews from last week.
Christmas is in full swing already and we are only at the beginning of November. Indeed, it is a well-established tradition that as soon as the Christmas songs are playing in the shops, the holiday season has begun. However, there are no shops open right now in a lot of the world, and so the holiday spirit needs to come from people’s homes. We saw the Jonas Brothers release a Christmas song last week, and now it is the turn of Dan + Shay, the American country pop duo composed of Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney, who are proving that pop and country never have to be separate genres. They are conquering the mainstream with a blend of both.
As with all Christmas songs, a strong theme is needed to bind all of the seasonal iconographies together. Here, it is a plea from one lover to another, asking to be taken back to their home town, to be shown around and to meet their friends, this Christmas. It is quite a nice spin on the “coming home for Christmas” trope, as it relates to coming back with someone else, and thereby getting to know them better, instead of relating to the same old trip home. The track is delivered with a middling, soft tone, and a minimalist rock arrangement is adorned with warm jingle bells on the drum’s hi-hat.
It is clear that fans are getting in the mood, too, with one summing up the general feeling: “When it’s only November 5 but you’re ready for Christmas and ur gonna be jamming out to this song until then.” Dan + Shay have got in there early, and many fans are likely to use this as their run-up to December.
“Remember That Night?” is slowly climbing up iTunes downloads charts and it will come as a surprise for Sara Kays, who is popular (69K Youtube subscribers) but not as well-known as her peers in the charts right now (Dan + Shay, Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj). Indeed, this track is proving to be something of a booster for the young artist, a platform that will give her access to a large segment of new listeners. In the description, Kays said: “I literally just started writing this song 9 days ago & now it’s out lol. . hope u guys like it.” It has certainly been a productive fortnight then.
As with many modern pop acts, Kays tracks are released first on Tiktok, and therefore they already have an audience waiting for an official release. Originally from Indiana, Kays moved to Atlanta after high school and entered the music scene after having busked and played in clubs for many years. She got her first guitar when she was 13 and was, therefore, a late-starter. But it seems she has been able to find her voice very quickly, and at the age of 21, she is a singer with a huge audience on Tiktok and growing recognition in the wider music industry.
The lyrics of the song set the scene from the word go: “The day after you said goodbye
All I did was lay in bed and cry/ But after one month, I started to move on/ And after two, I felt alright.” The drama comes when the significant other gets back in touch and asks her if she remembers the night they spent together. A war between remembering and forgetting, that is what Kays’ track is about, and it’s a dreamy soundscape and lilting vocals are hitting the mark with fans.
This is perhaps the best version of “You’ll Never Walk Along” that you are likely to hear. Indeed, most people in the UK are familiar with the song in conjunction with Liverpool Football Club, for whom it acts as an anthem. But it is originally a show tune from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel and has been interpreted many times through the years by all manner of artists, from Gerry and the Pacemakers to Marcus Mumford. But the song’s history goes beyond, being associated with other football teams from all over the world, as well as political movements, even in relation to Nelson Mandela.
To say that this is the best version, therefore, is quite a statement. Brittany Howard is the lead singer of the Alabama Shakes and a force to be reckoned with in American music, whether in rock, soul or R&B. Here, she has partnered with Johnny Walker and the Keep Walking campaign, which aims to get a new generation of adults into whiskey. But there are few people thinking about that when they hear this performance.
With Brittany Howard on Guitar and Vocals, the great Nate Smith on Drums, Zac Cockrell on Bass, Lloyd Buchanan on Keyboards and Nick Bockrath on Guitar, this is a group of stellar talents. On Twitter Howard spoke about being honoured to reinterpret such an iconic song, and she put the performance in the context of recent events: “This year has been challenging for us all. But no matter what’s thrown at us, we can’t be discouraged or lose hope. Keep dreaming. Keep hoping.” Howard hasn’t just provided hope, she’s delivered a real masterpiece that will be watched again and again for a long time to come.
Tom MacDonald is being praised in comments sections for being ready to say what few others are brave enough to say. He is also being called the one rapper/ singer whose music seeks to help improve society rather than appeal to our worst impulses and habits. While this is clearly hyperbole, there is something to be said for the timing of MacDonald’s release of “No Lives Matter,” just after Trump has lost the election, and in the middle of a culture war that is raging online and, unfortunately, spilling out into the streets, too.
There are two main enemies to peace presented in this track: the media and extremists (on both sides). MacDonald’s appeal is for moderation, and he believes the power of brotherhood between all people to be stronger than a media who try to divide society into sections and the extremists who are intolerant to views they don’t share. Either you’re a white supremacist, MacDonald says, or you’re Antifa. Or that is how he feels, at any rate, suggesting that if we continue down this line, “blood will splatter,” and that would mean that “no lives matter.” It is certainly a strong statement.
It is definitely true that MacDonald skews right if you examine the lyrics close enough (and especially if you look at his back catalog), but as he says in the track multiple times, right or left are divisive ideas, and his ultimate message is one of unity. Whether listeners are outraged or comforted by the track, none would be able to deny that it is a bold, perhaps courageous, move to wade in on a fiercely-contested battleground. If cancel culture has meant that artists tend to talk less and less about politics, MacDonald is cutting through all the noise and speaking his truth regardless.
A love laced with shame – that is what Foo Fighters are singing about in their latest release. Tainted love, if you will, and a theme that this legendary rock band of the pop age has been exploring for around two decades. Indeed, any 90s kid knows the name Foo Fighters and Dave Grohl’s pedigree runs even further back, starting out as the drummer in Nirvana alongside Kurt Cobain.
“I’ll be the one, be the moon, be the sun (Shame, shame)/ Be the rain in your song, go put that record on (Shame, shame).” We can see that Grohl’s lyrics are not too experimental, conveying a simple and powerful message, with the word shame following standard declarations of love. Elsewhere the lyrics talk of the “tongue that will swallow you,” describing how it is that very love that will end up causing horrendous damage. The theme of “shame” is more ambiguous: is it the willingness to enter into a toxic romance that brings shame or just the resulting effects?
Foo Fighters occupy a very particular space in society. Though their brand of pop-rock isn’t considered the most popular music category in 2020, they are thought of as relics of recent history and have built up enough iconic energy that their releases are celebrated despite not really fitting into the current milieu. It would feel the same if an early 2000s boyband released new music, though Foo Fighters offer a lot more on the music side of things.
Here at SNL, the band performs for a receptive audience. It isn’t a song that is going to shake up the culture, but it is great to see for people with rock leanings and it has a nostalgic aspect for older fans.