This was an especially great week for full-length projects. El Paso R&B superstar Khalid dropped an EP, Danish pop queen MØ released her sophomore album, and one of the best songwriters out there in pop, Empress Of, finally released her second solo album (I’ll have more on that one later, though).
Of course, we’ve also got our lead singles, album hype singles, and The 1975, since they seem to be releasing a new single every week these days. (No complaints! Keep them coming, Matty.) You can dance to all of these — and cry to a couple as well, if the approach of Scorpio season is messing you up, too. Every Monday, Uproxx will round out the very best pop releases from the week. This is the best of the best.
Major Lazer, Feat. Tove Lo, “Blow That Smoke”
Major Lazer first announced their album Music Is The Weapon in 2015, but the project has been delayed. I don’t blame them — Diplo has been busy with other projects, producing music for Justin Bieber and planning a new project (and album) with Mark Ronson. Major Lazer released a compilation album ten years after they first formed, and while most of the album is made up of the classics, they also included the new, excellent “Blow That Smoke.” Swedish pop star Tove Lo lends her vocals on the dancehall inspired song. Music Is The Weapon is pushed back to 2019, but the compilation and new song will tide fans over while they wait for more new stuff.
Zara Larsson, “Ruin My Life”
Speaking of Swedish pop stars, Zara Larsson is releasing a new album soon. 2017’s So Good had several songs hit the top 10 in the UK, but she hasn’t blown up in the US yet. But “Ruin My Life” could be her breakout in the states. In the song, Larsson sings to an ex she misses. She doesn’t wish for the best times, the happiness and steadiness of intimacy. She misses the drama — she wants him to “bring it all on,” “ruin my life” and “f*ck up my nights.” Her lyrical honesty and confidence remind me of Lorde’s, and like Ella, Larsson knows how to craft a perfect pop beat. Listen to this one now before you hear it everywhere.
Another Major Lazer connection, Danish singer MØ is probably best known to US audiences for being featured on one of Major Lazer’s most popular tracks, “Lean On.” MØ has also collaborated with Justin Bieber and Charli XCX, and is also a prolific pop singer on her own. Her sophomore album Forever Neverland was released on Friday. The whole thing is worth a listen, but “Blur” is an album highlight. It’s a song about losing yourself in the bigness of a city where the constant activity makes you indulge your worst tendencies. MØ borrows the riff from the Pixies classic “Where Is My Mind” and gives it a killer bagpipes makeover. MØ has a singular, unique voice and crafts pop unlike anything else out there. I mean, “Where Is My Mind” and bagpipes!
The 1975, “It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)
It took me about a dozen listens of “It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You) for me to realize this is a love song about heroin. Matty Healy called this “the 1975-iest song” from the new album, and it’s easy to get distracted by the comforting guitar riffs and Healy’s signature fast, mumbled lyrics. I wrote a whole blog post about how it’s a great song about missing someone, somehow not taking in the “collapse my veins” lyrics or remembering that Healy has written songs about addiction before. Like “UGH!” from their previous album, Healy sings about the real stuff over a glittery, fun beat. The singles from A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships have been eclectic and excellent, and I can’t wait to hear whatever else Matty Healy is ready to surprise me with.
Zayn‘s music is great at nailing the intricacies of contradictory feelings. He’s pulling away but desperate to be close, he’s hurt but wants to be comforted by the person who hurt him in the first place. “Fingers” is sultry and longing, perfectly capturing the conflicting feeling of wanting to see someone but being too stubborn to reach out. Zayn’s been teasing a new full-length project all year, and judging from the singles, it’s gonna be great when he’s ready to let us hear it.
Even on his most uptempo songs, Khalid has a contemplative voice. He always sounds like he’s mulling things over, thinking about his past and analyzing what’s happening in the present. “Vertigo” is a song about exactly that. He compares the feeling of losing control, life events blurring at the edges, with the disorientation of falling from the sky. His voice sounds gorgeous on the chorus, singing “Are we alive? / Or are we dreaming? / After the ride / Are you living?” in an effortless falsetto that makes it easy to forget he’s only 20. He’s only 20! And he sounds like this!
Billie Eilish, “when the party’s over”
Billie Eilish is 16 years old, which means that she was only 10 when Lana Del Rey’s debut album came out, and I am approximately one thousand years old. “when the party’s over” is melancholy and spare, less of a sad song than one that is quietly raging. The lyrics are angrier than you might think just listening to the lonely piano melody — “But nothing is better sometimes / Once we’ve both said our goodbyes / Let’s just let it go / Let me let you go.” The self-assuredness she shows here reminds me a little of Del Rey — they’re dynamic and strong, so much more than the “sad girl” label that disengaged listeners might slap on them.
Troye Sivan, Feat. Jónsi, “Revelation”
Troye Sivan‘s voice is always vulnerable, but it’s especially so on “Revelation.” The song, written for the soundtrack of the upcoming movie Boy Erased, is inspired by a scene where the main character has his first encounter with another boy. Sivan’s voice is all discovery and unfolding beauty, and Sigur Rós’ Jónsi adds to the magic with grandiose instrumentals. It’s a beautiful song and would have sounded right at home on Bloom, but I can’t wait to hear Sivan’s music soundtrack queer desire and self-discovery in Boy Erased.
Dua Lipa, Feat. Blackpink, “Kiss And Make Up”
Dua Lipa’s self-titled album was the sleeper hit of last year. Single “New Rules” propelled Lipa to superstardom, and her album has supplied a handful of radio hits since then. Lipa re-released Dua Lipa (Complete Edition) on Friday, this time including previously released collaborations with Calvin Harris, Silk City, and more. One of the new songs is a collaboration with Blackpink, one of the biggest k-pop girl groups out there. “Kiss And Make Up” is a high energy anthem. I know Dua is killing it on her own, but in another world, she’d be a killer girl group member.