It’s an undisputed fact that BTS rules pop every week, but BTS especially ruled pop this week. The Korean boy band dropped their new EP Map Of The Soul: Persona, and it’s seven songs of brilliantly crafted rap-pop. Get acquainted with the EP now, because you’ll be hearing every single one of these songs everywhere this spring. Apart from BTS, we also had some other great new releases. Anderson .Paak dropped the breezy summer soundtrack Ventura. Mark Ronson announced a new album coming in a few months, and released a new “sad banger” featuring the queen of sad bangers herself, miss Lykke Li. It’s Ellie Goulding season, and she dropped “Sixteen,” her best new single so far this year.
Every week, Uproxx will round out the best new pop releases of the last seven days. Listen up.
Khalid, Feat. Megan Thee Stallion And Yo Gotti, “Talk (Remix)”
As our own Aaron Williams so brilliantly put it, the thing that makes Khalid‘s music so great (and so popular) is his flexibility playing with genre. The young singer-songwriter effortlessly blends pop, EDM, hip-hop, R&B, and country on his new album Free Spirit, resulting in a record that’s even stronger for its lack of cohesiveness. Standout single “Talk” got a remix this week featuring industry vet Yo Gotti and superstar newcomer Megan Thee Stallion. “Talk,” produced by EDM gods Disclosure, is definitely one of the poppier songs on the record, but the remix proves how endlessly malleable these songs are. Also, Megan’s verse is crazy good.
“Boy With Luv” may feature Halsey and have a killer video, but “Mikrokosmos” is my favorite song off Persona. “Mikrokosmos” is the Greek word for “microcosms,” the idea of exploring smaller units. The title definitely fits with the self-discovery narrative of Persona, and the song itself is a lovely spotlight for the individuality of each band member’s talents. The song is romantic and sweet, calling to mind those nights where the sky seems to be shining with the bright lights of you and your friends, and the stars are irrelevant. My friend said it sounds like a mix of One Direction’s “Stockholm Syndrome” and “Walking In The Wind,” a great comparison and incredibly high compliment.
Ellie Goulding, “Sixteen”
Ellie Goulding‘s last record, Delirium, was released back in 2015, but the English pop singer is gearing up to release another one. Her third single in the last few months, “Sixteen” is a beautiful and nostalgic song with vividly rendered memories of Goulding’s youth. Goulding reminisces on teenage love, sleepy small towns, and big dreams, acknowledging how much she has grown up but missing the sense of thrill and potential of being that young. It’s a gorgeous song, though, and if these pre-released singles are any indication, Goulding’s new record is going to be something special.
Mark Ronson, Feat. Lykke Li, “Late Night Feelings”
Mark Ronson is following up his hit collab with Miley Cyrus with a new record full of moody, disco-tinged pop. Late Night Feelings is set to arrive in June, and will feature “Nothing Breaks Like A Heart” along with a bunch of new collabs with everyone from Angel Olsen to King Princess. The album’s title track, which features Lykke Li, sounds a little bit like an outtake from her record So Sad, So Sexy. Ronson’s contemplative production lets Li’s voice shine in its yearning. Listen close for incongruous, brilliant little touches of instrumentation (and that hot bass line).
Anderson .Paak, Feat. Brandy, “Jet Black”
Anderson .Paak usually hedges a little more toward the hip-hop side of genre categorization, but as Khalid taught us, genre is best considered loosely and playfully. Loose and playful is something .Paak excels at. The California rapper/musician/producer just released his second album in five months, speedier than even Ariana Grande. Ventura is delightful from top to bottom, but since this is the pop column, I have to take a minute to spotlight the Brandy feature. Although best known to many for her Monique collab “The Boy Is Mine,” Brandy has been keeping busy since then, recording steadily and appearing on Broadway and in television starring roles. Every word Brandy sings sounds infatuated, so she’s a perfect fit for the romantic, groovy “Jet Black.”
Anna Of The North, “Used To Be”
On the nostalgic, pining “Used To Be,” Norwegian singer-songwriter Anna Of The North (real name Anna Lotterud) reminisces on simpler times. “When did sh*t become so complicated?,” Lotterud wonders over spare electronic instrumentals. Apart from being thematically matched to the song, the minimalist production also allows her airy, evocative vocals to shine.
Jessie Reyez, Feat. 6lack, “Imported”
If “Imported” sounds familiar, that’s because we’ve technically heard it before. A different version of the song appeared on Jessie Reyez‘ 2018 EP Being Here In Public. The song was solid then, but a killer feature from 6lack reinvents into a powerful, slow-burning breakup anthem. “Imported” is equal parts sexy and melancholy, as Reyez and 6lack trade verses about knowing the other is “in love with somebody else” but willing to be a warm body to keep company. Reyez’ debut album is expected sometime this year.
Avicii, Feat. Aloe Blacc, “SOS”
Avicii‘s previous collaboration with Aloe Blacc, 2013’s “Wake Me Up,” was perhaps the most inescapable country-EDM banger of the decade so far. (Not a lot of competition, but regardless, the song was a massive hit.) Following Avicii’s tragic death last year, the producer-DJ’s family, friends, and collaborators have decided to release the music he was working on before he passed as a collection called Tim. The album’s lead single “SOS” is another superstar collaboration with Blacc, a joyous call to the dance floor. Avicii was one of EDM’s brightest stars, and “SOS” keeps his light shining on.