It’s week two of the year, which means the artists are all getting in gear and fulfilling their new year’s resolutions to get back on it – which means 20 new songs to check out this week.
There are new tunes from some big names – Stormzy, Alicia Keys, Halsey, and a stack of songs from Selena Gomez’ new album – plus some names you might recognise – Sound of 2020 Celeste, Janet Devlin of X Factor ‘fame’, internet-famous Conan Gray – and a bunch of up-and-comers you probably haven’t heard of.
The first week of the year is always a slow start, but if you missed it, here are the songs from last week that you should have checked out. The new Justin Bieber is a crime against music and I love it, and that Hannah Grace song is (so far) my most listened to song of the year.
I’d also like to make one final plug for my year end wrap up content which can be found here:
- Top 50 Songs You May Have Missed in 2019
- Top 40 Songs of 2019 (that you probably heard)
- Songs of the Decade
Enough preamble – here are the songs you should hear this week!
Alicia Keys – Underdog
This is old school acoustic R&B storytelling ballad about being an Underdog and, unsurpringly, Alicia Keys’s delivery feels completely authentic to the subject. It’s a huge throwback sound, for which the melody and the rhythm are courtesy of co-writer Ed Sheeran – a guess I made before looking into it which Variety confirms – which is probably why it’s so immediately replayable. A catchy, satisfying tune.
For Fans of: Lauryn Hill, Salt N Pepa
Becky Hill – Better Off Without You (feat. Shift K3Y)
The shift from Becky Hill as guest feature on a DJ’s songs to DJ’s featuring on her tracks is exactly the kind of energy Becky Hill deserves in this new decade. She’s an EDM vocal-providing veteran at this point – can you believe her rise to fame on The Voice was eight years ago?! – and having her lead the credits here is deserved. Better Off Without You is a heartbreak-empowerment anthem with a vocally vulnerable chorus and a killer hook.
For Fans Of: Ella Eyre, Sigala
Celeste – Stop This Flame
Our Sound of 2020 – the stamp which helped propel the likes of Sigrid, Sam Smith and Years & Years to widespread fame in the past – has gifted us with a new song following her win. The jazzy, funk-tinged opening piano feels very Nina Simone, and her vocal sounds familiar but I can’t quite put my finger on who she sounds like. A nice, pacey introduction for those who are, like me, new to Celeste.
For Fans Of: Nina Simone, Emeli Sande
Conan Gray – The Story
I never quite got on the Troye Sivan train – social media personality slash pop star – and so Conan Gray feels like a second chance. I like a handful of his songs from his upcoming debut album (Maniac, Checkmate) and now this, The Story, the album’s closing note. It’s a really sweet acoustic ballad that talks about people chasing happy endings in difficult circumstances, with the hopeful note that “that’s not the end of the story”. The kind of song you’d expect to play over a coming of age movie at the moment when the lead protagonist is drifting apart from their childhood friends.
For Fans Of: Niall Horan, Billie Eilish
Elley Duhé – MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT
The guitar line here is fantastic. A horror-pop banger with a huge vocal.
For Fans Of: Ellie Goulding, Camila Cabello
Grouplove – Deleter
Indie-rock bands are ten a penny, which means there are so many potential anthemic soundtrack-ready songs for family-friendly movies. Deleter is the epitome of this subgenre that saw its heyday with In Too Deep by Sum 41, the kind of high energy song that fills in the gaps of your good-feeling playlist – which is right where I’ve stuck this.
For Fans Of: New Radicals, Walk The Moon
Halsey – You should be sad
Yet another acoustic ballad – what is happening this week? Are we seeing a guitar-led resurgence? This emo-pop tune is truly cutting – “I’m so glad I never had a baby with you”, “I’m just glad I made it out without breaking down/And then ran so fucking far”, “You can’t fill the hole inside of you with money, girls, and cars” – and its frighteningly catchy. My favourite Halsey song to date.
For Fans Of: Paramore, Noah Cyrus
Jac Ross – It’s OK To Be Black
Black empowerment songs are something I don’t feel personally equipped to talk about, but from a purely aural enjoyment standpoint – the soul in Jac Ross’ vocal is stunning.
For Fans Of: Aloe Blacc, John Legend
Jake Isaac – New York
A simple little acoustic ballad with a lovely vocal which really took me the first time I heard it. Beautiful.
For Fans Of: Labrinth, John Mayer
Janet Devlin – Honest Men
The heavy piano, the husky vocals, and the bizarre album artwork feel like something I would imagine soundtracking The Witcher or some other fantasy TV show. Janet Devlin found fame on X Factor in 2011, her warbling vocal was probably too played out to take after we’d just had Diana Vickers and were being fed Ellie Goulding at every turn, but sometimes perseverance is key. Honest Men is haunting and I’m down with it.
For Fans Of: Florence + The Machine, Skylar Grey
Leyla Blue – Peppa Pig (Prod. Y2K)
Ariana ran so that these rap-pop girls could walk. A song whose hook goes “Bitch, I feel like Peppa Pig/Cause I’m head to toe in pink” and also contains the lyrics “Oh if I’m Piglett, he’s Winnie” and is all about self-empowerment shouldn’t work, but it really just does.
For Fans Of: Griff, Emily Burns
Robin Schulz – In Your Eyes (feat. Alida)
Was convinced this was Cher Lloyd, but alas. Another EDM exercise-friendly banger from Robin Schulz. Wait for that drop.
For Fans Of: Cher Lloyd, Sia, Lost Frequencies
Sam Feldt + Sigma – 2 Hearts (feat. Gia Koka)
Do you like songs with lots of HORNS?! Then this horn-filled EDM track is for you!
For Fans Of: Sigala, Martin Jensen, Cheat Codes
Selena Gomez – Rare/Dance Again/Ring/Fun/Cut You Off
Selena Gomez, someone whose success I’ve always thought far exceeds her talents and who rarely drops out of the top 25 artists on Spotify in spite of her last full album dropping over four years ago, is here with a new album of of dance-pop lite tunes – so here are the five new songs I’ve hand picked after giving it a spin. Title track Rare is a catchy, typical Selena Gomez tune that I reckon will be on my playlist for months; track two on the album, Dance Again was co-penned by New Rules co-writer Caroline Furoyen is full of funky bass guitar and definitely feels more than a bit Dua-Lipa; Ring is jaunty, fun, and feels like it could have been on the soundtrack for Wizards of Waverly Place; Fun is a quintessential Julia Michaels co-write that is full of breathy vocals and melodically does what it says on the tin; and Cut You Off is the acoustic musical baby of Camila Cabello’s Never Be The Same and Taylor Swift’s ME!. A lot of good new material from Instagram’s fifth most followed account holder.
For Fans Of: Taylor Swift, Julia Michaels
Stormzy – Still Disappointed
I missed whatever happened between Wiley and Stormzy to ignite Still Disappointed but it must have been bad because this is truly savage. Never has an attack on someone’s mum been so brutal (“So she handles dick like I handle the war – whore!”) and musically satisfying.
For Fans Of: the genre of grime, people verbally attacking other people’s mums
Torine – Make U Cry
The first of what I’m sure will be many pop tunes that I am going to fall quietly in love with this year. Sad an perfect.
For Fans Of: Zara Larsson, Sigrid