The Drop: Your Guide To New Music Friday Featuring Oliver Tree & Mabel
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 Madonna’s wildly experimental “Dark Ballet” and possibly checked out Avicii’s excellent posthumous LP, TIM. But that’s still just the tip of the iceberg.
Let’s start with a couple of (alt-) pop’s most consistent artists. K.Flay has been on her grind for a while now, but it still feels like she’s gathering momentum. The “Bad Vibes” singer joins the New Music Friday lineup with “Sister” and it’s a rollicking anthem about family — both genetic and self-made. Solutions (due July 12) is shaping up to be something special. The same goes for Kiiara’s debut LP, which is expected to drop later this year. She returns with a stone-cold bop called “Open My Mouth.” This is distinctly more mainstream than any of her previous offerings, however it’s done in a way (and conveys a message) that is quintessentially Kiiara.
Next up is Carlie Hanson. The rising pop star dropped her debut EP, Junk, today and the content is anything but. The 19-year-old doesn’t put a foot wrong on the five-song set, but “Hazel” stands out due to its highly relatable subject matter (concern for a friend who is going through it) and irresistible chorus. This needs to be a single. Another rising star in the New Music Friday mix is Sabrina Carpenter. She rolls out “In My Bed” as the third cut from Singular: Act II (out July 19), and it’s a flirty electro-pop gem.
As usual, some of the week’s best new pop comes from Europe. Mabel ranks as one of 2019’s breakout stars thanks to the worldwide success of “Don’t Call Me Up.” The Brit follows it up with a Steve Mac-produced banger called “Mad Love” and it sounds like a smash. Keep an eye out for her debut album, High Expectations, which drops on August 2. However, you can check out AURORA’s new album immediately. A Different Kind of Human (Step 2) dropped today and it’s distinctly more upbeat than Step 1. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I keep going back to disarmingly lovely and typically quirky “Daydreamer.”
AURORA’s Swedish neighbors are also well-represented in this week’s New Music Friday lineup. SHY Martin cut her teeth writing pop songs for artists including Astrid S, Bebe Rexha and Ellie Goulding, before casually releasing one of 2018’s best EPs. She follows up Overthinking with a strikingly self-aware breakup anthem called “Same Old.” Rebecca Bergcrantz, who releases music under the moniker Raindear, has a fuzzier, alt-sensibility. However, she’s also something of a wizard with catchy hooks and melodies. As the very, very good “Grace” proves.
How about a couple of duets? “Stargazing” vocalist Justin Jesso joins forces with Nina Nesbitt for a loved-up, mid-tempo ballad called “Let It Be Me.” This gem nicely showcases their vocal prowess and has just enough electronic touches to keep the production interesting. Sonny Santos and Billie Marten take a very different approach on “swear 2 g-d.” This ballad is stripped-back to the point of austerity, but it lends the ditty a haunting intimacy. If this is any indication, Sonny’s debut LP, Hotel de Londres, is going to be essential listening.
While female artists left their mark on New Music Friday, a couple of fellas held their own. Something that Oliver Tree is probably quite used to. The artist/producer landed a viral hit with “Hurt” (40 million+ cumulative streams) and should land another with “Miracle Man.” In fact, it might be an even better introduction to the breakout star’s genre-defying sound that falls somewhere between alt-rock and indie-pop. Bring on Ugly Is Beautiful! Speaking of viral hits, Dennis Lloyd’s “Nevermind” ranked as one of last year’s biggest. He followed it up earlier this year with the equally catchy “Never Go Back,” which now boasts a summery Robin Schulz remix.
If you’re looking for a little synth-cradled rock (and who isn’t), Bastille’s new single demands your full attention. “Those Nights” is the latest cut from the UK band’s upcoming Doom Days LP and it’s easily my favorite. The tone isn’t as dark as usual, but it’s still shadowy and melancholy in its own dreamy way. Another British band in the New Music Friday mix is Keane. They return after a lengthy hiatus (their last album dropped in 2012) with an ’80s-referencing synth-anthem that falls somewhere between Bruce Springsteen and Simple Minds. Which is obviously a very, very good thing.
Given the dominance of country music and the way it’s gradually spilling over into the pop world, it would be remiss of me not to include a couple of tunes. Ryan Hurd is one of the genre’s rising stars. After penning hits for Blake Shelton, Lady Antebellum and Luke Bryan, the 32-year-old decided to release his own music. 2018’s “To a T” is still climbing the charts, but “Her Name Was Summer” could be even bigger. Beoga isn’t a country act per se (rather, they’re a traditional Irish folk band) but they team up with one on “Let You Go.” The Anderson East-assisted single is an explosion of fiddles, plucked guitars and emotion. I need more.
Let’s wind up with a couple of international collaborations. BTS and Charli XCX are currently sitting at number two on US iTunes with their bilingual bop, “Dream Glow.” The title is apt. This electro-pop anthem is a fever dream of sorts that shouldn’t work in theory, but comes together seamlessly. Happily, fellow K-Pop stars NCT DREAM enjoy similar success with “Don’t Need Your Love.” They join forces with UK pop star HRVY for a silky smooth banger that would sound perfect on pop radio. Check it out in my playlist below.