Out of all of the emerging acts in pop in 2019, the one person we’ve been the most excited about this year has been UK pop songstress Mabel. Born with pop star heritage in her blood, Britain’s rising star finally graced the world this August with her debut studio album, titled High Expectations, and we’re happy to report that it’s a pop masterpiece from top to bottom.
The album is aptly-named for one of UK’s most talked-about rising pop acts, given her lineage and fast rise to stardom. Born Mabel McVey, the 23-year-old is the daughter of Swedish singer-songwriter Neneh Cherry, whose 1988 song “Buffalo Stance” was a #1 US dance hit and peaked in the top 5 of the UK singles chart and Billboard Hot 100. Her dad, Cameron McVey, was also an established producer and writer in the ’80s and ’90s – so, yeah… High expectations.
Those expectations haven’t seemed to bog down Mabel, though, as she’s been able to channel her talent into becoming one of the brightest pop acts to burst on to the scene in recent memory. Coming off of 2018’s summer hit “Ring Ring” with Jax Jones, Mabel kicked off 2019 with what’s now the UK’s #1 best-selling single this year, “Don’t Call Me Up,” and its mood set the tone for the entire album.
With her self-assured lyrics and dancehall-tinged, rhythmic beats, Mabel’s pop brand becomes extremely clear when you hear her debut album and its various pieces: she’s that exotic, badass girl who hits hard and knows she’s “got it.”
There are hits like “Mad Love,” and “Bad Behaviour,” which keep that rhythmic identity under Mabel’s sultry voice and even steamier lyrics which position her as the one in the driver’s seat of her relationships. Add the new-but-underrated jam “Selfish Love,” and “Put Your Name On It” interspersed throughout the 20-song deluxe album, and the entire LP feels like it has a cohesive identity and theme.
The album isn’t exclusively full of dancehall-inspired rhythmic hits, though – Mabel is a versatile pop star, as she showcases in the second half of the High Expectations. Following “Mad Love,” McVey breaks out her emotional side with “Trouble,” and “OK (Anxiety Anthem),” both airy, self-aware ballads that prove she’s not invincible all of the time:
Yeah, I came looking for trouble / Yeah, I came looking for you
‘Cause I can’t get you out my head / I know instead, I should’ve stayed at home
Yeah, I came looking for trouble / And I get everything I need, do as I please
Living dangerously, living dangerously
OK (ANXIETY ANTHEM)
There are days when the world gets heavy / Sleepless nights, I’ve had way too many
When it’s late and no one’s around, around / Alone in my room and the tears start pouring
Wishing the night was still the morning / But tonight, I’ma let them fall down, fall down
Cause it’s okay not to be okay
It’s okay if you feel the pain
Don’t gotta wipe your tears away
Tomorrow’s another day
Overall, for a debut full-length studio album, the body of work that McVey has put together is an extremely impressive debut. Between Mabel’s keen songwriting ability and production that grabs your attention at every turn, the album is one that can be listened through fluidly without much skipping.
Each song on High Expectations tells and important piece of her story, giving it that extra ability to connect with listeners on a relatable and personal level, which works in her favor over the long term. This album and its hits will help boost Mabel’s already significant fanbase, and sets her up to be at or near the very top of the pop food chain for the forseeable future. It’s Mabel’s world to take, and we’re lucky to be along for the ride.
Follow Mabel on Instagram: @mabel
If you’re lucky, you can catch Mabel on her short US & Canada tour this month, including tonight’s show at New York’s Bowery Ballroom. We’ll be at the show tonight, so check back on Friday for photos and a recap!
21-year old pop R&B superstar Khalid kicked off his first of two nights at Madison Square Garden on his Free Spirit Tour with plenty of energy, running on stage in front of 18,000+ fans with a full dance crew to help him through his first songs, “8TEEN”, “Twenty One” and “Hundred” to get the crowd moving.
Joining along with the choreography throughout the night, Khalid moved freely on stage and didn’t show any signs of nervousness – he truly is born to perform. His voice was as impressive live as any of his recordings, which speaks to its power and depth, and his excellent vocal control.
Despite having been alone on stage for more than half of that time, there was no lull in energy as Khalid’s voice and the overall visual production were compelling enough to command the entire arena’s attention for the show’s full hour and a half, never skipping a beat.
With a giant LED screen behind and an overhanging screen, visuals continued to switch up with the mood of each song, and injected even more life and color into Khalid’s songs and performance that truly made it feel “worth it” to be there the entire time. For his ballads, Khalid even took a seat on a lone stool positioned in the center of the enormous stage, set behind giant dangling ropes that created an added layer of visual appeal during those slower moments.
Decatur, Georgia isn’t exactly the place you’d expect to find a bubbling rock act, but four-piece outfit Hero The Band aren’t your average band. Made up of four brothers each born a year apart, – Justin Barnett aka Ocean [vocals, lead guitar], Jerramy Barnett aka Goku Love [vocals, bass], DJ Barnett aka BamBam [vocals, drums], and Nick Barnett aka Nicky Jupiter [guitar, keys] – the group have managed to piece together a singular sound that shines in their latest single “Back To Myself.”
Having grown up on rock ranging from Queen to Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, The Beatles, Rush, and even The Fray, “Back To Myself” showcases the influences of the brothers Barnett while presenting a fresh sound and alternative facets that makes it stand out among a lot of today’s rock.
If you haven’t heard chloe mk’s debut EP, 𝘍𝘢𝘯𝘵𝘢𝘴𝘺, you’re missing out on one of the coolest new projects in pop music. Channeling the best eras of Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, and Katy Perry but in a modern package. it’s a masterful introduction to a new pop powerhouse in the making.
Originally showcasing her powerful voice around Nashville’s bar scene, chloe mk eventually made her way into the public spotlight as the winner of NBC’s The Voice in 2017, and has been solidying her singular style since.
As a digital native, the New York-based singer/songwriter’s entire narrative is shaped by growing up in the internet-infatuated culture of today, a lifestyle and story that resonates on a personal level with her entire generation.
The entire EP is incredible, so give the project a listen from top to bottom – our favorites are “To Be Young,” “Ride,” and “Praying For Me.”
For the last year and a half, fans of Sam Feldt have been waiting for a new album project to drop from the prolific dutch DJ. After a 2018 that was largely filled with remixes, Feldt is back in 2019 with his brand new Magnets EP.
Just in time for summer and sunshine, the five-song EP consists of all new 2019 tracks and is more dance-forward than the overtly-chill tropical house vibes of his 2017 album.
The EP’s upbeat, festival-ready dance tracks, from “Magnets” to “Post Malone” create a building sense of urgency that hit their apex with drops that would make anyone want to scream out the chorus and dance in a sea full of people.
The title track, “Magnets” featuring Sophie Simmons (daughter of KISS’ Gene Simmons,) was the first single released in April, ahead of the EP, and signified how summer-party-ready the upcoming project would truly be. A shift away from projects of the past, the song colors the EP as one that pushes Feldt into a more active category of dance that’s both club-ready and fit for nearly any occasion.
Featuring Sam Martin’s iconic vocals, “Lose My Colours” further underscores the new attitude of the EP. It starts as a darker track that builds with an almost alternative-leaning topline that doesn’t hit its drop until nearly 1:30 into the track, which makes the brass-filled drop hit even harder, reminiscent of deeper UK-house style beats in the world of Sigala and Matoma.
“One Day,” featuring ROZES on vocals follows, and is probably the most traditional Sam Feldt track on the EP. With its easy-listening vibe that includes a subdued tropical house beat and whistling to complement ROZES’ voice, this one is closest to bringing fans back to Sam Feldt-circa-2017 with its familiar, chill nature.
The EP finishes off with Feldt’s most ambitious dance song yet, the instantly huge “Post Malone” featuring RANI. It’s pre-chorus fills the listener with anticipation of a big drop, and the song delivers. It’s drop is very much in the bouncy tropical-house style of early Cheat Codes a la “Adventure,” though “Post Malone” packs more dynamic range in its 2:54 of sunshine-filled greatness.
“Old Town Road” seems to be the gift that keeps on giving in 2019. First, the song became a global smash after its Red Dead Redemption-filled viral video blew up, sending it to the top of the charts. Then, we were graced with the original viral-man himself, Billy Ray Cyrus, on the official remix. Now, we’ve got the official MOVIE for the remix, and it capitalizes on the song’s natural virality and Lil Nas X’s cowboy-rapper identity in the perfect way.
More than a simple music video, the movie includes a who’s-who of celebrities, including comedians Chris Rock and HaHa Davis, Vince Staples, Rico Nasty, Diplo, and of course Lil Nas and Billy Ray themselves.
The video peppers in their appearances with the perfect amount of comedic draw combined with storytelling, as Chris Rock opens the story chasing Lil Nas, a bandit who’s run off with a pile of cash, set all the way back in 1889. Later, once Lil Nas X time-travels into present day, he races Vince Staples on his horse vs. Staples car – and of course, wins even more cash.
A freshly-outfitted Lil Nas X then heads to a community center with Billy Ray (who has also somehow arrived in the future) in Billy Ray’s Maserati, where you see a rainbow-haired Rico Nasty give the two cowboys a dirty look before Billy Ray performs his solo on stage, accompanied by cowboy Diplo (embodying his new country-project persona, Thomas Wesley) on a washing board.
The video is a laugh from start to finish, extremely well-done, and it’s clearly pushing the song further into the stratosphere – the movie has nearly 50 million views in its first three days, and if the song’s rise has been any indication, it’s not coming down any time soon.
Exciting alternative duos are hard to come by these days. Outside of The Black Keys and Twenty One Pilots, there hasn’t been an act in the space to really break through in years with a new and intriguing approach. Moby Rich may have just thrown down the gauntlet though, with their sophomore single “Sabotage.” The music video, released today, further introduces the world to Maxwell Joseph and Connor Pledger, whose newest single follows up their successful fall debut and breakout single “Yoko Ono.”
Filled with self-aware angst, “Sabotage” is a hands-aloft ode to fucking up royally; a cathartic anthem for a generation faced with obstacles. It’s dark and brooding identity instantly stands out among a sea of today’s same-sounding alternative music, as its pulsating, bassline and catchy hook create an earworm of an anthem that’s as captivating musically as it is relatable.
The duo, who met over open-mic nights in Connor’s hometown Atlanta, instantly connected and found synergies in their sound and approach, ultimately deciding to move to LA to pursue a joint project. The two budding stars sing every song in unison, a sort of whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-parts attitude.
“Sabotage” sets the stage for Moby Rich’s upcoming project to be released this summer.
At just 21 years old, it’s amazing that Zara Larsson has been a well-known and successful recording artist for the last seven years. She had her first commercial success in 2012 across the Atlantic with her chart-topping single “Uncover,” put out a full four years after becoming the youngest person to ever win Sweden’s Talang, the country’s version of “Got Talent.”
Now on her first ever US-tour as a headliner, Larsson brought a fully-developed sound and show to NYC’s Irving Plaza on May 9th. The show was electric from the very beginning, as Zara began perched atop a tiered stage setup while her live band began playing “Symphony,” perhaps her most well-known pop hit to date. She didn’t hold anything back throughout the set, which was complete with her choreographed dancing alongside two backup dancers. There were deliberate and made-for-live dance breakdowns tacked on to the end of a handful of Larsson’s songs, which made for exciting moments as fans were able to truly see Zara’s pop-star-power on display.
Her fun songs, excellent setlist, dancing and great energy from the crowd all made for what I can say was the best show I’ve seen in 2019 – and I’ve been to 45 concerts this year. If you get the chance to see her in your city, make sure you buy a ticket and get there early – because Larsson’s not the only reason the show was great – fans effectively got two headline sets in one.
Larsson’s set was excellent, and so was her opener, Astrid S. By the look and sound of it, you would have thought the fans came for the now 22-year-old Astrid in her own right; the crowd at Irving Plaza was already at-capacity fifteen minutes before Astrid took the stage at 8PM.
Picking a setlist of her most popular songs, Astrid rocked the mic like a veteran on stage, belting and smiling as she traversed the front of the stage like a veteran. She commanded the crowd, who listened to her every queue, from phone-lighters to jumping, and getting their hands in the air whenever Astrid said so. Fans knew every word to her set, even her newest single “Someone New” (featured on our Early Bird Radio playlist) and Astrid’s music and her live show continue to grow at every turn, and everything she does should be considered can’t-miss at this point.
Check out photo and video highlights from the each set below:
As the weather starts to warm up in time for summer, Martin Garrix has given fans a fresh new track featuring two of the most familiar voices in pop. His newest single, “Summer Days” pairs up your mom’s favorite rapper Macklemore with Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy.
While pairing up a rockstar with a rapper isn’t exactly a brand new idea either (Benny Blanco paired up Juice WRLD with Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco for “Roses” last December,) Garrix is able to move outside of the box to give a bold new take on the intersection of EDM and pop, making it all at once a club-ready track and one that’ll make a run at the Billboard charts with its all-star musical cast.
“Summer Days” is far more alternative and pop-leaning than Garrix’s typical festival-sized EDM hits, channeling a sonic identity similar to The Chemical Brothers and Daft Punk, thrown in with a funky old-school bass line for a song that’s at once new but feels totally familiar.
Jax Jones unveiled a brand new song during his live show at Elsewhere in Brooklyn on Saturday night. Featuring RAYE, who also sings his hit single “You Don’t Know Me,” the new song, “Tequila” is bound to be just as huge.
The song’s catchy pre-chorus begs fans to chant along “One shot / two shot / three shot / four shot / I think that you need some more shots” then leads into the drop with “Take it to the motherfucking dance floor!” before a characteristically bass-heavy, uptempo Jax Jones drop. The song’s energy is infectious, and RAYE’s voice and attitude perfectly matches the production.
Remember Greyson Chance? Yeah, the 14 year-old kid who sang Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi” on Ellen that went viral is back in 2019 with a brand new album, portraits, which includes his hit lead single “shut up.” Recently Greyson performed the song for Vevo at their studios in a stripped down version using just a guitar, and the song is outstanding – check out the video below.
Listen to Greyson’s new album portraits: