The Drop: Your Guide To New Music Friday Featuring Julia Jacklin & Dido
Fridays can be overwhelming for pop fans. Every week you’re bombarded with a glut of new music, which can lead to ear candy falling through the cracks. I’m hoping to avoid that tragic scenario with The Drop — a cheat sheet of sorts to get you through New Music Friday. By now, you have probably heard Dua Lipa’s soaring “Swan Song” and possibly sobbed along to Tori Kelly’s emotional “Change Your Mind.” If you’re an adventurous music fan, you might have even listened to Tiffany Young’s “Born Again.” But that’s still just the tip of the iceberg.
Let’s start with two stellar collaborations with Julia Michaels. The singer/songwriter dropped her Inner Monologue Part 1 EP this week and it’s an impeccable body of work. Every song is well worth your time, but the duets are particularly great. She joins forces with Selena Gomez on “Anxiety,” a deceptively catchy track that shines a light on mental illness. It’s raw and honest and needs to be a single. Julia’s collaboration with Niall Horan is less intense, but every bit as engaging. “What A Time” is a light and breezy love song with a sing-along chorus. It also sounds like a hit.
Next up is a pair of (relative) newcomers in the midst of a sonic overhaul. FLETCHER first popped up on my radar in 2016 with the still-great “War Paint.” Since then, she has edged away from the organic-pop sound of her debut EP in favor of moody synths. FLETCHER now returns to New Music Friday with “Undrunk,” a brutally honest breakup anthem that unfolds in painstaking detail over Malay’s hip-hop informed beats. Ruth B also reinvents herself on the D’Mile-produced “Slow Fade.” Known for her piano ballads, the 23-year-old moves deeper into R&B terrain on her latest understated gem.
Looking for a little synth-pop? Ashley Tisdale, the iconic Sharpay from High School Musical and the pop genius behind “He Said She Said,” returned to music late last year with “Voices In My Head.” It was a promising start, but she takes it to the next level on “Love Me & Let Me Go.” All of a sudden, I’m very ready for her third album. FRANKIE is another lady with a knack for perfect pop. She has really come into her own since parting ways with RCA and delivers her second best single with “Lost In Translation.” (“Ghost” remains my personal theme song).
If you prefer you pop mixed with a little (or a lot of) rock, I’ve got you covered too. Alt-icon Jenny Lewis makes a very welcome return to New Music Friday with the bleary-eyed and ballsy “Red Bull & Hennessy.” Her gravelly vocals have never sounded better and the lyrics cut to the heart of things like a warm knife through butter. Speaking of singer/songwriters with a mean pen, Florence + The Machine blessed us with a new track called “Moderation” and it’s a rough and rollicking throwback to the How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful era. To say I’m obsessed is something of an understatement.
While female artists dominated New Music Friday, a couple of fellas held their own (so to speak). LAUV teams up with Troye Sivan on the suitably emo “I’m So Tired.” And no, this isn’t an anthem about chronic fatigue. It turns out pop’s saddest boys are sick of love songs. Radio will gobble this up. With any luck, PRETTYMUCH’s “BLiND” will be similarly received. The rising boy band is yet to put a well-choreographed foot wrong and this is yet another bop. It’s only a matter of time before they land a breakthrough hit.
As usual, some of the week’s best pop comes from Scandinavia. Norway’s AURORA is one of the most original artists in music, bouncing from icy alpine-pop to demented, club-centric electronica with ease. Her latest lands somewhere in the middle. “Animal” is an oddball banger about the dark side of human nature with the kind of chorus that gets lodged in your brain from the first listen. Play it loud. The same goes from “Love Me Back.” A collaboration between Swedish pop star Tove Styrke and UK production trio RITUAL, this has endless crossover appeal.
Another region punching above its weight is Australia and New Zealand. Sydney’s Julia Jacklin has been drip-feeding us songs from Crushing (due February 22) and they have all been essential listening. “Pressure To Party,” an infinitely relatable tune about social anxiety and the terrors of moving on, is her best yet. Robinson is also going through it on “Karma.” The Kiwi singer/songwriter, who landed a viral hit with 2018’s “Nothing To Regret,” addresses a shitty ex on her catchy new single. It’s about time she dropped an EP.
How about a little Spanish-language pop? Luis Fonsi triggered the (second) Latin Wave currently dominating the charts with “Despacito” and then proceeded to land another global hit with “Échame La Culpa.” He returns to New Music Friday with “Sola,” the fifth single from his much-anticipated Vida LP. This is something a throwback to the crooner’s signature romantic sound. Spain’s Alvaro Soler had one of 2018’s biggest crossover hits with “La Cintura” and continued to delight with his Mar De Colores LP. Despite that album’s relatively recent arrival, he’s already back with new music. “Loca” is a percussion-filled anthem with a pleasantly retro feel. It could be big.
Let’s wind up with some chill tunes. Norway’s girl in red makes quiet bedroom-pop and the dreamy “watch you sleep.” is as good an introduction to her intoxicating sound as any. Keep an eye on her in 2019. Last but not least is the Queen of all things easy listening. Dido is currently rolling out songs from her much-anticipated fifth LP, Still On My Mind. They have all been good, but “Give You Up” is the pick of the bunch. Fall in love with the “White Flag” singer all over again in my playlist below.