POP: What’s Hot + What’s Not

Editorial Foreword: We got in touch with our long time friend and certified pop guru Louis Senes to review 9 of pop’s latest chart toppers. Go ahead, get some culture in ya.

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Physical’ by Dula Peep Dua Lipa.

The second single from Dua Lipa’s forthcoming sophomore album, Future Nostalgia, has finally arrived and it offers up a saucy, high energy, nostalgic yet current take on pop. New single ‘Physical’ comes after the release of the lead buzz single, ‘Don’t Start Now’. Whilst ‘Don’t Start Now’ explored more disco elements on the production, ‘Physical’ goes balls deep into a heavier 80’s sound. The instrumental reminds me of a Eurythmics-esque beat with its heavy synths and dark atmosphere surrounding the verses, not to mention when the explosive chorus comes through with “Let’s get physical!”—an honourable nod to 80’s classic ‘Physical’ by Olivia Newton-John. Lyrically, the song isn’t too deep, but that adds to the fun of being able to shout it out and sing along anytime you hear it being played.

I rate this 7 Gay Club Anthems out of 10.

So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings’ by Caroline Polachek.

Although this song was released in September 2019, there is literally NO bad time to talk about it. Polachek is most known for her indie pop band Chairlift active from 2008 to 2016 (RIP) as well as her song writing for other artists like Charli XCX (‘Tears’) , Danny L Harle (‘Ashes of Love’) and Beyoncé (‘No Angel’). Polachek recently debuted her own solo album Pang, which gained mass critical acclaim for its simplistic yet intriguing production from herself, Danny L Harle, A.G Cook, and others, as well as her penmanship on the lyrics. The stand-out single from the album comes in the formidable form of a title too good to be true; ‘So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings’. The mid-tempo track speaks to the loneliness Polacheck felt during a long-distance relationship, emphasised by only being able to see her partner through her phone screen. 

The lyrical flow on the pre-chorus is completely unmatched in my opinion. Her vocals are smooth and soft, but never feel quiet or drown into the background. The use of autotune in the bridge to alter her voice so that it almost parodies an electric guitar solo is beautiful and genius, and not quite something just any artist can pull off. You can dance to it or sit in a corner and cry about your feelings; either way, this is pop perfection.

I rate this 9 Show Me Your Banana’s out of 10.

People, I’ve Been Sad’ by Christine and the Queens.

Christine’s first single since her joint effort on mammoth anthem ‘Gone’ with Charli XCX does NOT disappoint whatsoever. They could have easily taken a more generic pop sound to appease the masses after the exposure of ‘Gone’. Instead, Christine stays true to form and delivers a beautiful alt-pop ballad. Though the melodies are simple, when mixed with such a commanding voice and interesting vocal production they fresh and engaging. I froth for Christine singing in both English and French. It’s the small details like that that let us know she is an authentic artist who doesn’t feel the need to change themselves to fit into what may be popular or make them more widely accessible. The gorgeous vocals and heartbreaking lyrics come together beautifully to create one of my favourite tracks of the year (already!) and are genuinely getting me excited for the release of a new album that is hopefully on the way. 

I rate this 8 Queens out of 10.

Experiment On Me’ by Halsey.

Before I write about a song I like to listen to it 3 or 4 times so I can wrap my head around all aspects; from vocals, to production, to mixing. This was difficult in the case of ‘Experiment On Me’. The song is taken from the Birds of Prey soundtrack, and that’s exactly what this song feels like to me—something that was quickly jushed together to fit the feel of the movie and threw in a popular singer to gain views and traction. Although Halsey has dabbled with a grungier sound before in tracks like ‘Nightmare’, which is a mix of grunge and pop/trap influences, this just feels loud and unsettling. 

One of the other tracks taken from the soundtrack, ‘Boss Bitch’ by Doja Cat, is just as demanding and abrasive, but there is still room for personality and it stays true to Doja Cat’s sound, it’s just elevated. 

The hodgepodge blend of grunge/rock/electronic music on this track with Halsey’s in-your-face vocals competing right at the forefront makes for quite an unpleasant listen to say the least. It’s really just not much more than that to me. 

I rate this 3 Exploding Larynx’s out of 10.

Kinky’ feat Ke$ha by Kesha.

After sitting on Kesha’s third studio album Rainbow for almost 3 years now, I’ve grown into her country/acoustic sound, and although she’s been a fave of mine since 2009—winning me over with her brash, party girl aesthetic—I do must confess I do enjoy “yeehaw” Kesha slightly more. So when the track list for her recent album High Road was released, I—along with a global network of gays and converted country fans—was excited and curious to see a feature from past life Ke$ha, dollar sign intact. Was this going to be a return to form? A drunk party girl anthem? Were we ditching the country sound? Or was Ke$ha about to jump on an acoustic track? We were clueless.

‘Kinky’ opens with a recording of a phone call with her mum (and co-writer) where she pretends to be the Spice Girls, referring to herself as “Kinky Spice”. Honest opinion? This intro takes up too much time on the track without contributing much at all. As the song starts we are transported back to 2010 with a sing/talk/rap verse about an open relationship Kesha is in. We get thrown into the chorus with a completely new sound from Kesha; a fun, upbeat 80’s moment where she continues describing the couple’s non-monogamous relationship, and how she wants to keep it “kinky”. The third verse hits hard with the Ke$ha feature. A rap verse that sounds like its straight out of one of her old demos from 2010. It’s incredibly fun and nostalgic, but way too short. Although it isn’t the best High Road has to offer, it’s nowhere near the bottom of the pile. Fun, energetic, and cheeky, just kind of everything you’d want or expect from a Kesha (or Ke$ha? I’m getting whiplash) song.   

I rate this 6 Hoe Housewives out of 10.

Let’s Be Friends’ by Carly Rae Jepsen.

The queen of pop has returned after the release of her 2019 album ‘Dedicated’ with a new Valentine’s Day single, ‘Let’s be Friends’. First listen: this is maybe the most fun I’ve ever had listening to a breakup song. Lyrically, the song is about deciding you don’t want to be with someone anymore and deciding to become “friends” that “never speak again” (relatable). It almost reminds me of ‘Store’ from her iconic Emotion Side B EP where she sings about ghosting someone by just up and leaving to ‘the store’. In a Q&A CRJ revealed she left him to go to Target. Queen.

The vocal styling on this song is new territory for a typically Canadian Sweetheart Jepsen. It’s so sassy and borderline bratty at times. It adds so much personality that you almost feel like you aren’t listing to a pop song, but rather a musical number. With production from frequent collaborator Ben Romans it’s got that signature CRJ sound we’ve come to love on Emotion and Dedicated, but it still feels new and exciting. Oh, and this is the first time she’s ever cursed on a song. We stan.

I rate this 8 Queen of Saying Dicks out of 10.

React’ by the Pussycat Dolls.

The hype for this was quite enormous, considering it’s the first time the group’s been together in the same room in 10 years. Performing for the first time together in a decade on The X Factor in December, fans were gagged when the Dolls performed a snippet of a new song called ‘React’. The performance had everything; chairography, a fake rain sequence, latex, and even original choreography that the girls were performing back in 2005. All of this brewed up quite a lot of hype for the new single and and new music from the Dolls. 

But be careful what you wish for ‘cause you just might get it, and it just might be a bit of a letdown.

There’s nothing special in the final version that we didn’t see or hear in the live snippet. In true Pussycat Doll fashion, the entire song is sung by front woman Nicole Scherzinger with nada from anyone else. Usually we’d get a cute run or belt from Melody, but alas, she is nowhere to be seen in the reunion. 

It’s repetitive, the beat is meh, and no amount of flashy choreography can save a dreary song like this. 

I rate this 5 Give Me a Couple Drinks and Watch Me Change My Mind’s out of 10.

So What’ by Loona.

As popular as they are internationally, Loona are still a fairly unrecognised girl group in their homeland, Korea. They gained popularity for not having a typical K-pop sound and instead branching out with a smorgasbord of different genres, from French pop to future bass, r&b and electronica to jazz. With their latest comeback Loona take on a girl crush concept that feels a lot heavier and more abrasive than what we are used to from them, but the lyrics stick to the self-empowerment theme that runs through most of the girls’ songs. It’s uplifting without leaning into cheesy. What really makes this comeback a success is the music video. Staying with the production team Digipedi, it feels like you’re watching a movie rather than another music video. The choreography, styling and locations are all perfect and elevate the song to a whole new level.

I rate this 8 Justice for Vivi’s out of 10.

S***** L***’ by Lady Gaga.

Now onto a song that no one has heard.

Now because I 1000% have NOT heard this song, I shall be “speculating” as to how I feel it will sound like…

When producer SOPHIE came out with the news she was working with Gaga, gay twitter exploded in a frenzy, wondering what the new Gaga sound would be. Whether we would be getting an energetic pop bop like ‘Immaterial’ or something wild and futuristic like ‘Ponyboy‘ or ‘Faceshopping‘. Our brains were having a field day with the possibilities of a Gaga/SOPHIE collab. So when the supposed lead single mysteriously made its way onto Twitter, we were a little confused as to what we were hearing. With no producer credits attched, we were quick to assume this song hadn’t even been touched or graced by SOPHIE. Instead of a hard-hitting electronic masterpiece, we were given a demo of an 80’s throwback pop tune that sounds perfect as a radio cut. Don’t get me wrong, I threw down to it, but it was so unexpected. Gaga had said that this new era is going back to her pop roots and will be a sound she’s known better for. Hopefully the finished version we will be receiving shortly hits a little harder, feels cleaner, and also isn’t this song. 

I rate this 4 I Just Clicked On a Random Twitter Link and This Came up. I Defs Wasn’t Searching For It’s out of 10.

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Louis Senes is a twenty-something visual merchandiser from Brisbane and Loona’s 13th girl of the month (if you know, you know). Follow him at @lv_senes.

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