Lil Nas X’s low-slung hook, Jack Harlow’s impressive bars, and the futuristically regal Take A Daytrip beat all combined into one of 2016’s finest songs.
1. Good 4 U
Olivia Rodrigo made waves with two hits off of High School Musical – Drivers License and Deja Vu. Now, the pop punk singer/actress is exploring pop punk to break heartbreak barriers.
Produced by Alexander 23 and Dan Nigro, “Good 4 U” showcases Rodrigo’s increasing musical range. Combining Riot Grrl-inspired lyrics with 2021 pop production techniques, the song feels tailored specifically for teenage heartbreak.
TikTok clubs will go wild when rockers hear this track with its lively bassline and electric guitars, not to mention its memorable falsetto harmonies that recall Avril Lavigne-esque sounds – it’s proof that rock music is slowly making a comeback to popular culture!
2. Bunny Is A Rider
Caroline Polachek, best known by Chairlift prior to making her solo debut last year, returned this summer with the infectiously catchy summer jam Bunny Is A Rider. A free-associative anti-surveillance anthem which celebrates individual freedom from physicality and the material world, this song speaks about freedom from oppressive authorities and being independent.
Produced by Danny L Harle (who also helped create Pang), this track features scorching bass and his daughter’s first vocal cameo, while Polachek’s soaring falsetto delivers an irrefutably captivating mix of defiance, powerlessness and self-deprecation.
On July 14th, an mesmerising music video for “Touch Me Again” by Polachek was unveiled, depicting her channelling Tomb Raider to navigate a maze of cardboard boxes within an illuminated forest of lights. Through its hyper-specific, hyper-strange images it demonstrates where pop music can take us – it takes us into startling new lands unseen before. Watch it here.
Stay is an empowering song which celebrates women’s strength and power, while at the same time cautioning against toxic relationships that compromise health over happiness.
The Kid Laroi, an up-and-coming Australian artist, began his career by uploading music to SoundCloud. On one song with Justin Bieber as collaborators – their collaboration being his debut chart-topping hit! – this track became his signature song.
Bieber’s appearance on this track only heightens its emotional resonance; together with The Kid Laroi they have created an unforgettable song which addresses heartache and pain that many experience daily in life.
Its success has demonstrated that pop music still resonates with a global audience and highlights the power of collaboration and authenticity in music production.
4. Sad Girlz Luv Money
Ghanaian-American artist Amaarae made waves last year with her remarkable debut project The Angel You Don’t Know and its accompanying COLOURS session and TikTok hits. Now, she has returned with an alluring remix of her song “SAD GIRLZ LUV MONEY,” featuring Colombian-American singer Kali Uchis’ bilingual lyrics and Latin pop elements that give it another dimension.
Exploring themes of love and wealth, greed and women’s desire for financial independence, this song resonates with listeners and provokes deep thoughts by its captivating melodic runs and thought-provoking lyrics. Watch below.
6. Bunny Is A Rider
Caroline Polachek follows up her 2019 album Pang with Desire, I Want To Turn Into You – an experimental pop album filled with brazen queer sexuality–with Desire I Want To Turn Into You as her follow up and the record’s focus on pop as an ideal destination, one we can reach with beautiful songs.
Bunny Is A Rider is a summer jam from Polachek that features scorching bass from producer Danny L Harle and baby daughter’s vocal debut; all combined into an exciting sci-fi track that gives a whole new meaning to “non-physical”.
Listening to this song is truly exciting, particularly when Polachek declares herself so nonphysical and tethered solely by her imagination. But more than anything else, its success stems from its meticulous sound design – with throat-quaking bass, record scratches and bird chirps creating an experience best experienced live. It demands to be experienced first-hand.
TikTok musical clips uploaded in 2021 that went viral became associated with PinkPantheress, a British student known as this name. Her compact early club tracks blended emotional lyrics with throwback U.K. garage beats, providing short looping structures which perfectly suit TikTok’s auto-looping interface.
PinkPantheress stands in stark contrast to Lil Nas X in that she does not embrace TikTok’s rapid meme-making capabilities, opting instead to compose music in a loose form that can endure online audiences’ short attention spans. She considers herself “rookie”, while her brazen philosophy of condensing big ideas to appeal to a distracted audience may put off traditionalists.
But that hasn’t felt like a compromise of artistic integrity: her new songs go beyond the sample-based bedroom pop that made her famous; with help from producers like Mura Masa and Count Baldor she’s now exploring bigger themes in shorter time frames.
8. Kacey Musgraves
Since her 2013 major-label debut Same Trailer Different Park, country star Kacey Musgraves has dramatically broadened her musical horizons to match an expansive lyrical approach. Her songs combine retro-pop influences with atmospheric modern electronics; furthermore she masterfully navigated her relationship drama culminating in 2018’s radiant Grammy-winning Golden Hour album.
On the title track of her album, for instance, she muses over the ever-shifting nature of romance over an easygoing disco beat. And on Breadwinner she blends an upbeat post-divorce anthem with subtle flickers of funk reminiscent of early Phoenix.
Though Musgraves may have toned down her lyrics compared to its predecessor, star-crossed still defies convention in her ability to convey complex emotions with clarity and authenticity. Even her most cliche lyrics like “he wants a breadwinner/he’ll keep you on his back like a horse/ until you’re dead” sound genuine and genuine.
9. Kali Uchis
Kali Uchis grew up between Colombia and the US. Her second full-length LP Red Moon in Venus showcases a new level of maturity as it charts love, lust, intimacy, and breakup cycles that mark adult life – from honeymoon phase to toxic relationship that results in separation before rebuilding self-worth afterwards – set against Uchis’ soothing alto voice and charming production.
Peso Pluma, Karol G and Rauw Alejandro as guest artists help her showcase a new range of styles on this album anchored by her signature hypnotizing vocals. While some aspects of music may tend towards gray realism, she dares to dream with songs like “Endlessly”, which promotes setting standards in love without accepting second best.
10. Bunny Is A Rider
Caroline Polachek’s experimental pop savant Caroline Polachek’s summer anthem “Bunny Is A Rider” provides the ideal antidote. Produced by her frequent collaborator Danny L Harle, this track captures a feeling of freedom and independence through whistles, whistles by Harle’s baby daughter making her first vocal appearance and an upbeat beat that celebrates self-care while distancing ourselves from society.
Watch Polachek channel Tomb Raider and Alice in Wonderland as she navigates a maze of boxes hypnotically in this mesmerizing video above, which captures the song itself perfectly. Don’t miss her at Pitchfork Music Festival 2021 on Sunday September 12 – click here for full lineup info or here for ticket purchase options.