Nova Miller Do It To Myself

'Do It To Myself': Sweden's Nova Miller Drives Herself Crazy

Nova Miller and I have an astonishing amount of things in common: we are both beautiful, blonde five octave range-commanding Swedish pop chanteuses, multi-instrumentalists and TikTok-famous teens, and we both know how to drive ourselves fucking crazy.

Well, okay, fine. Maybe just the latter in common.

In any case, I've been watching the singer-songwriter rise (rise up, lotus, rise) for a while now, which is wild. In fact, I was writing about her elsewhere when she was just 13 years old. At this point, an Introduucing... post on MuuMuse is long overdue.

Discovered by none other than Queen Lolene (if you know, you know - fake it 'til you make it, baby), the now 18-year-old Stockholm-born singer has already hustled for years with songs like "Supernova," "Singing in the Rain," "So Good" and "Not Your Number."

And with her latest single, "Do It To Myself," Nova's quite possibly made her best bid for superstardom to date.

Produced by The Monsters and the Strangerz, the same hit-making team behind Zedd's "The Middle" with Maren Morris, and the same duo who just did one of my favorite new songs, "Vulnerable" by Selena Gomez (album review here), the track takes the Zoomer (that's what we're calling Gen Z babes, right?) zoomin' all the way back to 1965 with an intoxicating guitar melody, soaring strings, throwback harmonies and an instantly recognizable sample of The Mamas & The Papas' "California Dreamin'."

"When it comes to love, I overthink everything too much / Start saying shit I don't even mean / So you don't need to drive me crazy...I'll do that to myself," Nova proudly declares on the wildly relatable, self-dragging, swinging retro-meets-modern pop bop.

The song was released back in October of 2019, but sometimes love takes time, and that's what seems to happening here. Nova's also gradually blown up on TikTok with over half a million followers (no laughing matter, especially when you look at all the songs charting after going viral on the platform), and so, it was time to unveil a glossy visual to accompany the '60s-referencing smash-to-be.

The music video finds Nova traveling back well before her time and finding, well, herself performing at the nightclub, serving up a series of vintage, with movement coaching by - hang on tight to your PCD workout DVD - founding Pussycat Doll member and dance industry legend herself, Carmit Bachar. Yes, for real. Legends only, truly.

"First thing I wanna say is HAIR. I was living my best hair life. I had my long silky Cher hair, the Brigitte Bardot bouffant happening, we had the cute vintage Nancy Sinatra flick and some Nova Miller real girl hair going on too," Nova says of the video. And it's true: there's a real hair journey going on throughout the video.

"It gave me space to have fun and showcase the different sides of myself. As people, we have layers and I got to give my layers characters. You won't see any emo Nova though, I'm all about keeping it positive."

Beyond just the song itself being good, Nova also demonstrated her raw talent with an acoustic take on the track in November, where you can really hear how absolutely fantastic her voice is without any production - those JoJo-esque runs, those effortless yelps! - not to mention her guitar skills.

"Some of the challenges I face as a new artist are: 'don't look too old, don't look too young, be different!' As a young girl I am discovering and realizing that I am different, I am enough, there is only one me and I'm super grateful to live my dream," she says of finding her own place in the music industry.

As long as she keeps putting those impressive vocal chops to good use and delivering quality bops like "Do It To Myself," she'll have no one else to blame but herself when she properly blows up in due time.

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Photo credit: Janelle Shirtcliff / 300 Entertainment

Julie Bergan Kiss Somebody

Julie Bergan, Norway's Rising Pop Queen, Just Wants to Kiss Somebody

Meet Julie Bergan: she'd love to make out with you.

The 25-year-old Norwegian singer-songwriter first gained recognition through her covers on YouTube in the early '10s performed alongside her music teacher father, which got the interest of local songwriters and producers.

Eventually, she went on to compete in Melodi Grand Prix 2013 to determine the pick for Norway's Eurovision entry that year, which ultimately went on to be Queen Margaret Berger's "I Feed You My Love." (Truly a #NorwegianLegendsOnly competition.)

Since inking a deal with Warner Music Norway that year, Julie's released a consistent string of hits, including a No. 1 record in Norway in 2016 with "Arigato," as well as "Ignite" in 2018 with Alan Walker - plus a Top 10 debut album that year with Turn On the Lights. She also released her first EP late last year called Hard Feelings: Ventricle 1, along with a favorite of mine: the brash, in-your-face "STFU," a Top 20 hit in Norway.

She's also won a bunch of awards, including Artist of the Year at the NRJ Awards Norway back in 2014, and Song of the Year for "STFU" last year. That is all to say: I might be Introduucing... her now, but she's far from brand new on the Norway, anyway.

Having also played shows alongside superstar acts like Justin Bieber ("If my 14-year-old self knew I was going to open for him, I would’ve died") and Dua Lipa, Julie is now setting her sights on territories beyond just her own home country.

“I can reach out to a broader audience, I can be a better performer and I can sell more tickets. There’s always room for improvement, and I’m hungry to get bigger and better," she says.

And that brings us to "Kiss Somebody," Julie's brand new single with Norwegian EDM duo SEEB, released on January 3 - an uptempo call to arms to, well, kiss somebody.

“‘Kiss Somebody’ is a positive message with a positive outlook on the future. Keep moving on, don’t take life too seriously and kiss whoever you want: kiss a guy, kiss a girl, just kiss somebody!” she explains.

The idea of the song came from a studio session with collaborators Skinny Days following a break-up, in which she said: “I don’t want a new boyfriend, I just want to kiss somebody.” SEEB heard an early version of the song in an adjacent studio, and thus, a song was born.

The bright bop is a euphoric, if all-too-brief burst of dance-pop, clocking in at just 2:18. (Soon, songs will only be the length of a TikTok, mark my words.) She's got a strong, urgent voice that's perfect for pop production, and that singalong-ready pre-chorus build really lets her yelp - right before the earworm of a vocoded beat drop. ("Make out with her, make out, make out with him, make out!")

And yes, there are guys making out in the music video. Gay rights!

Wasting no time at all, Julie's already performed "Kiss Somebody" live this year over the weekend at Idrettsgallaen, a Norwegian sports awards show. Mercifully, she kept the banana outfit and visor from the music video for the live performance. Vocals and energetic dancing - we love to see and hear it.

It's 2020, the dawning of a new decade, which means there's no better excuse to go out, find somebody and make out. New beginnings! New mistakes! Listen to Julie Bergan and kiss somebody!

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A big thank you to Muuser Calen James for the heads-up about the new tune.

Photo credit: Ida Bjørvik / Warner Music Norway

Masked Singer Nicola Roberts

Excuse Me, Nicola Roberts, I Know That's You on 'The Masked Singer UK'

Something kinda ooooh must be in the water, because legendary '00s-to-early-'10s British girl group members-turned-solo stars keep showing up on reality television competitions as of late.

Before we get into The Masked Singer, I need to get address this first: Alesha "Italians Do It Better" Dixon is, somehow, a judge on the upcoming season of America's Got Talent: Champions, which premieres this week. Alesha Dixon. In America. Yes, it sounds like PopJustice Forum fan-fiction. No, I have no idea how it happened either. But it is, miraculously, real.

She even did a little "Get To Know" video ahead of the premiere for the American audience, where she references Mis-Teeq (!), "Scandalous" (!!) and vaguely mentions embarking on a solo career with a platinum record (!!!). Like, I know that she's done Britain's Got Talent before, but America?! In this, the year 2020? Trust me: I am not complaining in the least.

In fact, I'm already applying my lipstick, breathing slow, counting from one to ten, and preparing to tune in to see Queen Dixon become America's New Sweetheart. Just imagine: upon being unimpressed by a male contestant, she shrugs and says, simply: "The boy does nothing." Gasp!

But of course, that's not the only dose of British pop perfection impacting our televisions - sorry, tellies - at the moment.

The Masked Singer, having now become a global sensation (thank you, South Korea), just premiered in the UK on Saturday night (January 4).

And, after approximately four seconds of the Queen Bee's premiere performance, there is little to no doubt who is behind that pale mask. Gird your Tangled Up loins and graffiti my soul: it's none other than Girls Aloud's resident Rude Ginger Bitch™ herself - Nicola Fucking Roberts.

She sang Sia's "Alive," which is ironic, considering she killed the entire competition with one performance. (LOL at Rita Ora and company pretending to have no idea with their guesses...)

See, the thing about The Masked Singer is that you just can't get away with having a distinct voice. Like, who was Miss Patti Labelle trying to fool last year? It's actually a compliment It means you're distinct! And that voice coming out of the Queen Bee's mask, my friends, is Nicola Robert's signature vibrato - the yelping, the warbling runs and all.

This is obviously a wonderful thing. Not only does she genuinely sound incredible, but Nicola's got a West End debut in the works as as Avril/Mallory in City of Angels alongside Queen Vanessa Williams in March 2020. Of course she's already warming up her chops for her theater run!

There was another dead giveaway that it's the "Beat of My Drum" Dainty Doll diva behind the mask, and that's an unexpected profile in The Guardian, published on Monday (January 6), which I recommend reading. It's way more serious subject matter - and actually quite horrifying compared to all this fluffier stuff, as she opens up about an ex-boyfriend stalking her for five years. Luckily, she's on the other end of it - but it's all further proof that you never really know the extent of what anyone in the public eye is dealing with behind-the-scenes.

Back to silliness: Queen Bee won her face-off and advanced in the competition, and with any luck, she should go all the way to the finale and snatch that crown. (Is it a crown? Mirror ball? I don't know.) Regardless, it will be so incredible to hear a bunch of different Nicola solo performances to kick off this year on the right foot. And if it means giving her the confidence and renewed public interest to release a Cinderella's Eyes follow-up, then we - or, like, whoever is eligible to vote in the UK, I don't know how it works exactly - need to get her to the very end of the competition.

Between this, Cheryl's turn on The Greatest Dancer and last year's RuPaul's Drag Race UK stint, and Queen Nuhdeen getting buddy-buddy with Caitlyn Jenner on I'm a Celeb, I feel my life force returning to me. Perhaps life isn't so cold anymore. Let the power of the Almighty Aloud's combined TV takeover efforts spark the Ten + Eight Years reunion we so desperately need to Save Pop once and for all.

You've won one of these shows once before. You've got this, Nicola!

Nina Nesbitt Gabrielle Aplin Miss You 2

Gabrielle Aplin & Nina Nesbitt's 'Miss You 2' Is the First Great New (Old) Pop Song of 2020

I'm Barbara Walters, and 2020.

This year is all about a fresh start, new beginnings and Classic Blue. So, what better way to kick off the New Year than by dusting off a four-year-old song and re-releasing it with a little makeover? (Look, it worked for Lizzo.)

Gabrielle Aplin is an English singer-songwriter who's popped up on my radar (on my ray-duh) more than a few times over the years, including a scattering of songs that have wound up on MuuTunes, including last year's "Like You Say You Do," a sturdy slice of solid upbeat pop. (Oh, you're not subscribed to my weekly playlist? What a perfect time to do so.)

Nina Nesbitt, similarly, is a Scottish singer-songwriter who's also caught my attention multiple times over the years, including last year's The Sun Will Come Up, the Seasons Will Change with songs like "Colder" and "Loyal to Me," which I described as the new "New Rules" fuckboy anthem at the time.

Much to the delight of their fans, and singer-songwriter crossover enthusiasts everywhere, the two have come together on "Miss You 2," a reworked 2020 version of Gabrielle's 2016 viral hit "Miss You," which admittedly I had initially...missed. (See what I did there?)

Other people did not miss it - including up-and-coming indie artist Taylor Swift, who added it to her "Songs Taylor Loves" playlist at the time.

The concept of "Miss You 2" is basically, you know, missing you. 

It's got all the makings of a pop hit (yes, even for a second time around): the dreamy electronic beats and piano pop chords, and if the instant earworm of those "nah-nah-naaah-nah"-s don't hook you, that chorus ("Oh God, I miss you too...") surely will.

It's a no-brainer, really.

“I’m so happy to have Nina on ‘Miss You 2.' I’ve known her for a long time, we came through as artists around the same time. We have been on both sides of an ever-changing industry and both decided to independently take control of our careers and success. The initial release of ‘Miss You’ feels like the start of that for me, and I’m thrilled that Nina has added her voice to a new version of one of my favourite songs of mine," Gabrielle says of their collaboration.

“I’m so excited to be featuring on Gabrielle’s new version of ‘Miss You 2’. We have known each other for a long time and one of my first ever gigs was supporting her at a show in 2011. I’ve always been a big fan of her work and I’m so happy we’ve finally had the chance to collaborate" added Nina.

The song's release comes just ahead of the release of Gabrielle's third studio album Dear Happy, out on January 17.

Here's to discovering much more great music to come in 2020 - even when it's not, like, actually all that new.

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Photo credit: Wilful Publicity

Kylie Minogue Album 2020

Kylie Minogue Says Her New Music Will Be 'Like Grown-Up Disco'

I've had a theory for a couple weeks now that Mariah Carey scoring her rightful No. 1 with "All I Want for Christmas Is You" would cosmically right the wrongs that have plagued pop (and also the world) for years, and that all things would fall into place in this dawning of a new decade.

And now, would you look at that? It's only Queen Kylie Minogue herself promising a return to the dance floor.

On Monday (December 22), while everyone was busy rushing around to buy last minute Christmas gifts, The Guardian published an interview between Kylie and Alan Carr ahead of her Secret Night special on Christmas Day. (Whatever it turns out to be, we're not worthy.)

Amid banter about Glastonbury and the upcoming special, Kylie dropped a most incredible nugget of information out of the blue - or, should I say, into the blue...

"This year, with Glastonbury, with this TV show, it’s marking this point in time, but what’s great is what’s happening next. I’m really jazzed about [the music] to come. I think it’s going to be getting back on the dancefloor, like grown-up disco; that’s where I want it to be. Shimmery."

"Dancefloor." "Grown-up disco." "Shimmery."

My heart.

Look: we're all very happy that Kylie got to feel her Dolly Parton fantasy for an album cycle with Golden. But now, it seems one thing's (got to be) certain: mama is coming back home.

She also confirmed that it'll be coming sooner rather than later: "A rest will definitely do me the world of good! After that I’ll mostly be writing and prepping for the next album. It’s been such an inspiring year and I think that both me and my audience are ready for some new music. Let’s see where the journey takes us next!" she told Channel 4 in an interview ahead of her Secret Night.

Consider 2020 officially Highly Anticipated. (And that applies to you too, Rihanna: drop R9 before that next Fenty Beauty highlighter set.)

Kylie, you already know what to do...

Your disco needs...YOU.

Photo credit: YouTube

Top 50 Songs of 2019

The Top 50 Songs of 2019

Me every year: Nope, fuck lists, I'm not doing it this year.
Also me every year: Here is my list.

Yes, there are several songs that I enjoyed in 2019. And like last year, I can't settle on ranking those songs - partly because I feel like everyone deserves equal shine, Mean Girls Spring Fling Queen crown distribution style, but mostly because a numerical ranking is too frustratingly arbitrary to me. I also genuinely have no gut feeling about any one song this year as I did with, say, Sky Ferreira's "Everything Is Embarrassing" in 2012.

So, these are in no particular order. Additional recommendations in the comments section are welcome. Complaints go unentertained. I hope you discover something new, and/or rediscover something old.

A new decade is upon us: here's to new beginnings in 2020.



Grimes, "So Heavy I Fell Through the Earth"

Leave it to the Canadian techno-punk-goth-pixie-singer-songwriter to bring this decade to an end, sitting passenger side in a Cybertruck next to a billionaire with Miss Anthropocene, early contender for Album of 2020, blaring from the speakers. "So Heavy I Fell Through the Earth" is six gloriously otherworldly minutes in limbo. It's basically what I imagine will play overheard in the waiting room while waiting to be sorted between Heaven and Hell. (Spoiler alert: it'll be Hell.) As Trinity "The Tuck" Taylor once said, I don't know what the fuck she's saying, but girl, I am living.

Grimes & i_o, "Violence"

Original review

If "Heavy" is too chill for your pop-oriented sensibilities, consider this fierce alternative: Grimes can do Main Pop Girl, too - and yes, she can out-dance the competition. (Granted, that's not difficult these days.) It's still the stuff of Grimes' signature ethereal oddity, but "Violence" feels like a warning shot: she could dominate the pop scene - if, you know, she wasn't busy crafting a concept album about artificial intelligence, futurism and climate change or whatever. Miss Anthropocene is coming!

Rosalía & J Balvin (feat. El Guincho), "Con Altura"

Original review

First of all: give Rosalía that Grammy next year. Second of all: "Con Altura," like "Violence," feels like a warning shot. Rosalía's pop potential is scary. She hasn't even really tried to give us a blatant Top 40 hit yet, remaining faithful to her flamenco-gone-modern experimental art, and the world since caught on to her effortless cool in 2019. But with the help of the Bop King himself, J. Balvin, she gave us a less-than-3-minute taste of what more accessibly radio-friendly reggaeton-pop Rosalía sounds like...and the song took off in a blaze of memes ("...LA ROSALÍA!") and instantly recognizable dance moves. Rosalía is the future. Tra, tra!

Paloma Mami, "Fingías"

Original review

Speaking of Spanish language smashes, I don't think a song stayed on eternal repeat for me quite like "Fingías": a perfectly moody, melancholy, melodic kiss-off with an air of icy cool that lets you know that you absolutely fucked up.

Allie X, "Regulars"

When it comes to pristine pop songwriting, I just think Allie X gets it. (I listen to CollXtion II relentlessly on repeat, still.) The songs from her upcoming album, Cape God, have a slightly more subdued tone in comparison to the high drama of her earlier work, but it's all just as great. "Regulars" is the outsider anthem for those treks back home to where you grew up, twirling 'round the mall and the supermarket, getting nice and local. Wave that freak flag high in front of all the Karens and Sharons giving you the side-eye in the frozen aisle.

Mandy Moore, "When I Wasn't Watching"

Original review

Against all odds, Mandy is back, on her own terms, over a decade later. She may never want to make a return to full-on bubbly "Candy" Mandy, but this song, as well as the equally wonderful "I'd Rather Lose," sets the stage for a gorgeously sunny, laidback California indie-pop record true to her taste that will probably make for a wonderful, inevitably underrated listen in 2020.

Lana Del Rey, "The greatest"

Original review

Lana Del Rey, once a symbol of American decadence and vintage glamour, navigates the demise of it all in Trump's America in a nostalgic ode to the end of the world as only she could provide. Few lyrics this year resonated quite like: "I guess that I'm burnt out, after all." (Don't worry, it's not forever: she's already got a spoken word album dropping at the top of January.)

Alice Chater, "Tonight"

Original review

Speaking of the end of the world, Alice Chater, one of my favorite bubbling-under pop princesses on the scene, made the apocalypse sound positively exhilarating with "Tonight." I get early DIY Gaga-meets-Kylie vibes from this young Queen, at a time when this brand of Big Chorus, Big Choreography Euro-y Pop goes against the downtempo mainstream grain. Keep on dancing till the world ends, Alice.

Jax Jones, Martin Solveig & Madison Beer, "All Day and Night"

Madison Beer, who was part of K/DA's killer "Pop Stars" last year, found herself part of another rock solid collaboration, this time between Martin Solveig and Jax Jones. It's an all-out club banger. Is she the glue that holds together dance-pop excellence? All hail Godison...

Sam Smith, "How Do You Sleep?"

Each "" Each squawking beat break. Max Martin Da God strikes again. I think, like Usher's "Climax," this is one of those songs in time that people will file as "better than we realized at the time."

RAYE, "Please Don't Touch"

Original review

Coming in just under the wire before the New Year, RAYE supplies a gorgeous burst of synth-pop for fragile souls.

Charli XCX & Christine and the Queens, "Gone"

Charli's had quite a prolific year - when she's not graciously smiling through increasingly obscene photo requests at meet-and-greets - but "Gone" is unquestionably the best of her musical output this year, and a reminder that when she's not veering too far off the deep end into noisy experimental territory, Charli gets good pop. (Keep your douches up your asses in 2020, twinks.)

Saweetie, "My Type"

I believe it was Mahatma Gandhi who once said: "Eight inch, big oof, that's good pipe / Bad bitch, I'mma ride the dick all night." Honestly, this could be my song of 2019, if I'm being honest with my streaming behavior. What an absolute anthem. Not having the Cock Destroyers in the music video, obviously, was a missed opportunity.

Agnes, "I Trance"

Original review

Swedish dance-pop icon Agnes returned with a dreamy, hypnotic ode to the dance floor. We don't deserve her.

Madonna, "God Control"

Original review

Only the Queen of Pop would have the gall to tackle the subject of gun control with a solemn children's choir-meets-disco ecstasy moment of politically charged mania. Not every idea landed on Madame X, and "God Control" surely had its critics, but damn it if she isn't still eliciting a strong reaction - the true definition of art. Wake up, wake up, wake up...

Post Malone, "Circles"

Look, if you listen to the Legends Only podcast, you'd know that I've had a moment this song in 2019. I love a lot of Post's music - the vocal production alone is really crazy, as Grimes and Zane Lowe excitedly pointed out in an interview. He's truly a talented pop songwriter, and this song is a solid example of that. The melancholy guitar, that chugging beat - everything comes together as a beautiful break-up anthem. "You thought that it was special, but it was just the sex, though..." So, yeah, dude. I fuck with Posty.

Kim Petras, "Personal Hell"

A trailblazing trans pop icon on the rise, produced by pop's most problematic producer: "Personal Hell" couldn't be a more appropriate title. It's good. I'm sorry. I'm canceled. I know. (The way this could have been a brilliant Britney song...I can't get into it right now.)

Kim Petras, "Sweet Spot"

...Canceled again, I know. This one is Daft Punk-meets-Kylie Minogue heaven.

Jake Germain, "Over U"

Original review

Speaking of Daft Punk, Jake Germain's "Over U" has probably one of the year's most instant, endlessly replay-friendly choruses, a la "One More Time."

Dua Lipa, "Don't Start Now"

Dua's dua-ing it right with a dash of disco and a much-needed burst of uptempo energy from a Main Pop Girl in 2019, channeling shades of Sophie Ellis-Bextor and referencing Gloria Gaynor while doing so.

Robyn, "Ever Again - Single Mix"

Original review

Honey's sweet, sweet final offering got a little uumph with a new mix for its single release. Everything Robyn touches turns to gold - and her Prince fantasy of a music video, one of the year's best, just proves that a true superstar only needs a mic stand to entertain.

Madonna & Maluma, "Medellín"

Original review

One, two, cha-cha-cha. Madge pops a pill and winds up in Colombia with the Pretty Boy, Dirty Boy himself, Maluma in the year's most intriguing bilingual collaboration. The song is misleadingly vulnerable, but you wouldn't know it with all the horny riding crop spanking and toe-licking. For the line "slow down, papi" alone, we give thanks.

Daya, "Insomnia"

As a professional insomniac, I'm thrilled to align myself with this anthem for the sleepless. "Insomnia" will always remind me of 3 AM summer strolls to the deli on the corner for a protein bar and coconut water.

Zara Larsson, "All The Time"

Original review

In a more perfect world, this should have absolutely been an inescapable Song of Summer 2019. What an instant and obvious smash.

Ashley O, "On a Roll"

Like Gaga's Ally Maine, Miley's at her best in a long while as a fictional pop star. Go figure. Not only is this Nine Inch Nails rewrite undeniable, if misunderstood ("hey, I'm a ho" - gays), but Miss Ashley and her purple wig were one of the most recognizable pop looks of 2019.

Cheryl, "Let You"

Original review

One of the year's biggest pop injustices, no doubt: Queen Cheryl Tweedy Cole Fernandez-Versini Almost Payne Now Cheryl Just Cheryl deserved far better than a No. 57 placement for this perfectly fierce slice of '80s-meets-Robyn-esque synth-pop. But hey, if middling returns on the charts as a solo star speed up the inevitable Girls Aloud reunion, then so be it...

Tove Lo, "Glad He's Gone"

Tove significantly toned it down sonically with Sunshine Kitty as opposed to her more colossal choruses of the past, resulting in some more laidback, summer-y sounds. "Glad He's Gone" is not only a highlight from the record, but a Grammy Award-nominated visual experience.

Hatchie, "Stay With Me"

Original review

This year's best addition to the "Dancing On My Own" genre - and the whole album is a must, too.

Sunmi, "Noir"

Original review

Sunmi is, like, the Björk of K-Pop at this point, supplying a weirdness to her solo work that is more thought-provoking than your usual love song or cutesy burst of choreographed glee. "Noir" is a deliciously dark exploration of stunting on the 'Gram, armed with somewhat shocking, bleak imagery in the accompanying music video. Don't forget to like, comment, share and subscribe! :)

Lana Del Rey, "Doin' Time"

LDR does Sublime - and coos my first name in a song for the first time, a truly powerful feeling. A Song of Summer '19, for sure - and the Attack of the 50 Foot Woman-style video proves that just when you think you've got Lana's mood figured out, she's got a surprise waiting for you at the drive-thru theater. (Remember when she whipped out that bazooka in "High By the Beach"?) Just, you know, don't piss her off.

Halsey, "Nightmare"

Look, you can't just release a song inspired by t.A.T.u's "All the Things She Said" and expect me not to stan a little.

Lizzo (feat. Missy Elliott), "Tempo"

Somewhere between the rest of the world catching on to ancient Lizzo bangers (truly, between her and Mariah, this was a year of America playing chart catch-up), she managed to squeeze out a sick tribute to being thick alongside living legend herself, Missy Elliott.

Katy Perry, "Never Really Over"

There's something ironic about Katy calling a song "Never Really Over" at the exact moment her chart reign would no longer be a guarantee in this Brave New #NewMusicFriday streaming bop world. That mile-a-minute speak-sung chorus is fun, and at the very least, she does not rhyme "hula-hula" with "jeweler, jeweler" in this one. I'm eagerly awaiting the transition to a more Serious Katy - I know it must be coming.

Lolo Zaouï, "Ride"

Lolo made one of my favorite records this year in High Highs to Low Lows, and "Ride" is a highlight - and by far the horniest offering from the record. The panting alone really does it for me.

Tiësto, Jonas Blue & Rita Ora, "Ritual"

Hmm, what's that? Rita Ora selflessly saving pop yet again? Doing hair flips in jeans? An immense chorus? Big House-y piano chords? What do we say to Rita Ora, kids? Thank you, Rita Ora...

Chung Ha, "Gotta Go"

Original review

This song dropped just seconds after the ball did in 2019, and yet, it's endured as one of the best K-pop offerings of the year.

Normani, "Motivation"

Original review

Normani busts a move on her own with an Ariana Grande-ish breezy R&B-pop jam, complete with a video homage to the '00s Queens of Pop, from Bey to Britney, in her quest to become one of her own. Her "1996" outfit, and that basketball hip bump, will endure as iconography from the year 2019. Let's keep the momentum moving in 2020, yes?

Carly Rae Jepsen, "Too Much"

A highlight from Dedicated, and a gentle reminder that when it comes to all things CRJ, too much is never enough.

BLACKPINK, "Kill This Love"

Original review

BLACKPINK aren't in our area all that often, but when they are, they shake up K-pop culture and beyond, every damn time. No other girl group causes this kind of global panic.

Billie Eilish, "bad guy"

So good, it even got Britney to break out Banana the Snake's stuffed cousin. Duh...

ionnalee, "SOME BODY"

Original review

ionnalee, the face of iamamiwhoami (which, sadly, is still not Christina Aguilera in mud and sticks), provides a synth-pop slammer for the weirdos on the dance floor.

Tinashe, "Save Room For Us"

Original review

Tinashe finds her groove again - and all it took was years of creative differences, a termination of a major label record deal, and a trip to Japan. She's undoubtedly at her best when she doing it herself.

R. Tee & Anda, "What You Waiting For"

Original review

Somehow, this was my most-streamed song of 2019 according to Spotify. It's not my actual favorite song of the year, but it's an absolute banger, that's for sure. Originally intended for BLACKPINK, YG relaunched Anda's solo career with one of the fiercest K-Pop offerings of the year. The dance, the beat breaks - this one should even appeal to those afraid of dipping their toes into music not in their native tongue. What you waiting for?

LOONA, "Butterfly"

Original view

STAN LOONA. No, but really: "Butterfly" gave the world plenty of reason to do so - even if they kind of dropped off the planet relatively soon afterward. Their staging and dance formation for this song in particularly is mesmerizing (it must be exhausting to orchestrate twelve members at once), as is their culturally diverse music video. It never got old for me this year. Wings, wings...

Slayyyter, "Mine"

Original review

Oh me, oh was love at first snippet.

Mabel, "Don't Call Me Up"

Original review

No one knows her way around telephonic turmoil quite like Mabel (hello? you there?), and she kept the phone drama going all year long with the song that feels like a cousin to Dua Lipa's "New Rules."

Sam Smith & Normani, "Dancing With a Stranger"

One of the year's best mainstream pop collaborations, with more vocal chemistry between its participants than certain other ex-members of Fifth Harmony and their partners. I digress. This is a subtle, sublime duet.

Dido, "What Am I Doing Here"

The whole Dido album is fantastic (Still On My Mind), if you're in the market for warm, worldly, wistful electronica. This particular track, included on the re-release of the record at the end of 2019, is a gut-punch for anyone who has someone living far, far away, who they will likely end up marrying one day in the long run. It resonates. 'Nuff said.

Billie Eilish, "everything i wanted"

Original review

Honestly? It's her "Lucky."

MUNA, "It's Gonna Be Okay, Baby"

Someday, when you feel like you've truly fucked up, and you've made the worst decisions, repeatedly, never learning, and life just keeps happening at you, and you're at the end of your rope, you'll need reassurance - something that isn't a cheesy "live, love, laugh" platitude. Something real. Some reminder that we are all just relentlessly fucking up and moving on in spite of everything, anyway. Put this song on. Trust me. Repeat it like a mantra. It's gonna be okay, baby.



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Kali Uchis Solita Music Video

'Solita': Kali Uchis Keeps Dancing on Her Own

I haven't written about Kali Uchis on MuuMuse until now because, well, let's face it - I haven't written on MuuMuse much this past year(s), period. But I intend to change that in 2020, if only for my creative sanity and happiness. Why not start getting back into the routine before the New Year's resolutions even kick in?

All that is to say: I've known about Ms. Uchis for a while, and thanks to her latest single, it's time to get her properly Introduuced.

Born Karly-Marina Loaiza, the 25-year-old singer is from the States (Virginia, specifically), but her parents came over from Colombia - Madame X's favorite place to visit after taking a pill and having a dream, and the blessed birthplace of many of my faves, including Shakira, J Balvin and Maluma.

As a result, she moved back and forth between Colombia and America growing up, eventually kicking off her music career with her 2012 debut mixtape, Drunken Babble - but she really floated into my orbit after being announced as the opening act for Lana Del Rey in 2017. (Naturally.)

Her star has only risen further since, including nominations at the 2017 Grammys (for "Get You" with Daniel Caesar) and the 2017 Latin Grammys (for "El Ratico" with Juanes), plus nominations at the UK Music Video Awards in 2018.

Earlier this month, Kali Uchis dropped her new single "Solita," and on Wednesday (December 18), she debuted the accompanying music video directed by Amber Grace Johnson, who worked with Rihanna on Rihanna x Savage imagery, among other major accomplishments.

The track, her first taste of new music since her debut studio album Isolation last year, was co-crafted with a talented crew: Rih's "Work" co-writer Sevn Thomas, Lana's "Summer Bummer" co-writer Jahaan Sweet and Tainy, who, most incredibly, co-produced the Luny Tunes remix of Paris Hilton's "Stars Are Blind" with Wisin & Yandel. And, yes, most of Balvin's Vibras, and a billion other things.

Aside from the impressive production credits, the track ticks several boxes in its not-quite-easily-definable nature: musically, it floats somewhere between the worlds of moody, downtempo, space-y, synth-y alt-R&B and reggaeton. Lyrically, it floats in between languages (Spanish and English), resulting in Kali Uchis' first bilingual single. Given her upbringing of bouncing between countries, the stylistic choice feels appropriate.

Like so many great songs before, this one can be filed under the winning, ever-expanding category of "Dancing On My Own": I'm in the corner, watching you kiss her, oh-oh-oh. The main difference being that instead of it being Swede-Pop night at the club, it's Latin night. (Latin night is kind of the only way you can even convince me to go out dancing these days, also.)

But as opposed to sulking in the shadows of the song, Kali Uchis is keeping her head up, as evidenced by the futuristic, empowering music video. Our heroine is reawakened, sensually shimmying with a snake (all Great Pop Girls do), and hitting the pole, Hustlers style, remaining in full control the entire time. Most stunning are the shots of her surrounded by oiled-up suitors offering their lighters and bowing down.

She might be alone, and she might still be heartbroken, but she's sure as hell still in high demand.

“I’d rather dance alone than with the devil. This song is about healing, freedom and embracing the mixed emotions that come with that. I hope my fans feel sexy when they listen to it. I’m so excited to share more," she says of the song in the press release.

"There’s a little bit of sexiness in it, but it’s also nostalgic...I think that just goes back to wanting to feel empowered about independence, rather than feel like, ‘Oh, poor me, I’m alone.’ It’s not really like that...I wrote the song a year ago. I was coming out of a breakup from a really long relationship. I think the song still resonates with me because I definitely look at relationships really differently," she went on to explain on Apple Music.

"The vibe was sad, yet horny." If that isn't my 2019 in a nutshell.

Now, let's dance through these remnants of our misery and kick off the next decade on the right stiletto.

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Photo credit: Guerrera PR / Universal Music

Raye Please Don't Touch

'Please Don't Touch': RAYE Makes a Pretty Vulnerable Pop Plea

So, here's the thing: only recently have I discovered that I am a RAYE stan, and have been for years.

A RAYEbot? A RAYEnbow? One of her RAYEs of light? Still workshopping. Will report back.

It snuck up on me quite suddenly: the 22-year-old British singer-songwriter has supplied vocals to some of my favorite, sassiest dance-pop offerings over the past few years. "You Don't Know Me" from Jax Jones? RAYE. "Stay (Don't Go Away)" from David Guetta? RAYE. "By Your Side" with Jonas Blue? RAYE. "Cigarette" with Mabel and Stefflon Don...and RAYE.

She's not just the voice on the tracks, either: she's pushed the pen behind everything from Charli XCX's Number 1 Angel banger "Dreamer" to Beyoncé's "Bigger" from her Lion King: The Gift soundtrack.

It's no fluke, there's one unifying force between all these tracks. And, you guessed it: it's RAYE, bitch.

On Friday (December 13), RAYE dropped a brand new solo track called "Please Don't Touch" - and, apart from the unintelligible new Grimes song, it's the only thing I've been listening to ever since.

The song was co-written by RAYE, Little Mix longtime collaborator Kamille and Fraser T. Smith, of Adele's "Set Fire to the Rain," but most importantly of Britney's "Scary" and "Trouble For Me" fame.

"I'm feeling vulnerable/ What if I let go? / You make me want to, though..."

The track's subject matter is, true to the title, quite fragile. The message is straightforward: she's been hurt before, so please don't get too close - unless you want RAYE to start catching feelings.

The song's space-y synth construction is a fittingly featherlight accompaniment to the earnest feelings laid flat across the track, and that pre-chorus is especially gorgeous and melancholy: "The thing about love, it ain't simple enough / The thing about trust is it takes two of us / So, if I let you in here tonight / Hundred degrees, know you want to..."

RAYE's delivery is so perfectly weary, but faintly hopeful that things will be different this time around. (Relatable. Am I right, ladies?)

"Please don't touch me if you don't mean it / The space between our skin saying more than enough / But once you lay a finger, it can't be undone / So, please don't touch me if you don't mean it..."

It's almost 2020, which means it's time to make some resolutions. Make one of them to live with intention, which means you should only cuddle up to RAYE if you really, really mean it. In the meantime, however, I'm sure she wouldn't mind if you streamed her new song to your heart's content while you sort out your shit in therapy.

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Photo credit: Chuffmedia

Now Now Lonely Christmas

'Lonely Christmas': Now, Now's Sad, Synth-y, Single Anthem for the Holidays

Christmas music isn't my thing, aside from "All I Want for Christmas Is You" - which we are absolutely streaming until we get Mariah Carey her No. 1 this year, darlings - Britney's "My Only Wish (This Year)" obviously and, of course, Hilary Duff's masterful debut, Santa Clause Lane. (Speaking of, have you heard the Legends Only track-by-track listening party yet?)

I just have a fairly low tolerance for merriment. A somber Christmas song, however? Now you're sobbing my language.

Now, Now is a group I learned about, uh, approximately now, now - but I'm glad to have arrived at the party. They're an indie-rock duo, formed in Minnesota between KC Dalager and Brad Hale. (Great name, Brad.) They've also been putting out music for at least a decade or longer. Again: late, but happy to be here.

"Lonely Christmas" is the name of the duo's new single, following the release of their critically acclaimed 2018 record, Saved. And if you too are in the market, knowingly or otherwise, for vaguely '80, nostalgic, wistful, Christmas-themed MUNA-slash-HAIM-slash Carly Rae Jepsen synth-pop, you're in luck.

“This song came about because I always get really lonely and bummed out during the holidays. I try every year to overcome that, so writing this song is another attempt to reclaim the magic of the season," KC explained of the song.

“I had the initial concept idea for this song two years ago while sitting in my car by myself listening to the Christmas station on the radio. The world around me was sparkling and cheerful but I couldn’t feel it. So I wanted us to capture that feeling and write a song for anyone else out there who may also be experiencing that. I always loved the freedom in Christmas music. Nothing is too much. Nothing is too far. Nothing is too joyous. Nothing is too desperate. I can openly plead with someone to not break my heart in the name of Christmas.”

And really, what's more festive than sitting alone in a parked car in your hometown during the holidays doing some deep breathing and silently reflecting on the State of Things to the sound of jingling bells and saxophone flourishes in the background? A relatable holiday anthem, if I've ever heard one.

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Tinashe Save Room For Us

'Save Room For Us': Tinashe Sparks Joy in Japan

Tinashe is truly living her best life.

From the moody mixtape days of the early '10s (can you believe that's a thing we can say as we enter into 2020?), to the major label era of Aquarius onward, to a return to her DIY roots, the 26-year-old entertainer's come full circle with her career - and she looks like she's fully in her groove again.

While her time at RCA wasn't all bad (Nightride forever, still), if Songs For You is an indication of anything, it's that Tinashe operates best when she's fully got the reigns in hand as an independent artist. In terms of actual artistry, she's smooth sailing again after hitting some speed bumps along her joyride.

Among the varied tracks on her new LP, the warm, pulsating "Save Room For Us" with MAKJ was an obvious standout from the start. Like "Dancing On My Own," and so many classics of the Crying at the Discotheque genre before, you really can't go wrong with a little jealousy (and wishful thinking) on the dance floor.

Smartly, Tinashe's catered to her base - the track is the most streamed song from the album - with a "thank you" in the form of a music video shot in Japan.

The Stephen Garnett-directed visual appropriately feels just as free as the artist herself does these days, as she serves up some carefree moves and stunts in some stylish looks in the streets and subways of Tokyo. There's not much to it, plot-wise: it's just Tinashe and company (REFERENCE) having some fun bopping around the city. (Very jealous of the idea of getting to explore around Tokyo, by the way.)

Why Japan for this song? Unclear. Tokyo always makes for a gorgeous music video backdrop. Or, perhaps she binged Tidying Up With Marie Kondo earlier in the year, which compelled her to KonMari method her own music career, discarding what no longer serves her to make room for that which still sparks joy.

In any case, it's working, and seeing Tinashe do it her way again is as much of a treat as it was years ago.

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Pabllo Vittar Amor De Que

'Amor de Que': Everybody Wants a Piece of Pabllo Vittar

Aside from soybeans, crude oil and iron ores, there are few hotter exports to come out of Brazil than Pabllo Vittar.

She's so hot, in fact, that every boy in town wants a piece of Pabllo.

The 25-year-old Brazilian baddie-turned-international drag icon - arguably the most globally renowned drag queen since RuPaul (Vittar's Drag Race needs to happen at some point, by the way) - has had an incredible past few years: from bumping bundas with Anitta and Diplo in the desert, to striking a pose for the cameras with every 20-something popper-sniffing, douche-carrying gay's Queen Charli XCX, to becoming the first drag queen to ever receive an award at the MTV EMAs.

She's big.

Now, Pabllo is expanding the Vittar Cinematic Universe with a flirty new visual for the sultry, horn-y "Amor de Que," featured on her 111 1 EP, which was released at the end of October. (It's called 111 1 because it's a part of a trilogy, as she prepares her trilingual third album in Portuguese, Spanish and English. Her mind/mente!)

As it stands now, "Amor de Que" is floating around as Brazil's third most played song (!), already racking up over 2 million views just hours after the music video's premiere on Wednesday (December 4).

The music video, filmed by longtime friend and collaborator João Monteiro inside of São Paulo’s Mogi das Cruzes, is described as a representation of "the freedom to love freely in any form." In other words: mama is getting around town. And why shouldn't she? Who could possibly resist the charms of Vittar?

Director João said collaborating with Pabllo, their tenth time working together, “has always allowed me to innovate and create new worlds. This time, after two hits marked by studio videoclips with American pop language, we decided to bring Pabllo back to this very Brazilian atmosphere. With a clever camera game, the guys who interact with her are exchanged, which reinforces the idea of a diverse and free love."

"We wanted to use her looks to portray exactly the profile of that Brazilian woman who is free, empowered and who sees no problem in relating to those whoever she wants. We also rescued that girl from the interior of northeast, which brought Brazilian elements, such as tiny shorts, high heels, crochet top and jeans look," added stylist João França Ribeiro.

“I loved recording this video, it has a different atmosphere from my last jobs. I hope the fans enjoy it as much as I do. This song is very special to me," Pabllo says of the clip.

Far from the sillier, tongue-in-cheek offerings from so many drag stars - which, no shade, everyone's got their own artistry and style - Pabllo really indulges in an unabashed Main Pop Girl fantasy in her music videos, especially with "Amor de Que": she looks stunning, commanding the attention of every guy in the room while serving looks, seductive moves and generous amounts of butt shots. There's a real superstar wattage and power to her femininity and flirtatiousness - however fleeting one's personal time with Pabllo might be.

"It's just that there are so many handsome men in the city / And I'm in the prime of my life," she cautions in the (English translated version of the) song.

"I don't want you to get attached To my love - a whore love." Hey, don't say Pabllo didn't warn you.

Get in that one-on-one time while you still can before she fully takes over in 2020.

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Photo credit: Ernna Cost

The Pussycat Dolls Are Back

If you or a loved one are experiencing frequent, inexplicable urges to loosen up your buttons, or if you suddenly find your legs lifting upward at random intervals, or if you feel an overwhelming assurance that you are hotter, freakier, rawer and more fun than the girlfriends of those around you, fear not. There's a perfectly logical scientific explanation: The Pussycat Dolls are back.

Yes, that's right: PCD managed to stage a reunion before the release of Her Name Is Nicole, now available for pre-order on Amazon.

Granted, it's not quite all of the Dolls.

Leading up to the announcement of their return, a verified Pussycat Dolls account popped up on social media, which was following seven people: founder and professional girl group wrangler Robin "Ringleader" Antin, Ashley "Butterfly Effect" Roberts, Nicole "Hot as a Stove" Scherzinger, Jessica "Show Me" Sutta, Kimberly "High Kick" Wyatt, Melody "Even if I'm not featured..." Thornton, and the American-Israeli legend herself, Carmit "Don't Call It a Carmback" Bachar.

Upon a reveal of the original PCD logo art, the girls all switched their profile photos to match the new account - except, of course, for Melody who, in 2009 The Circus: Starring Britney Spears fashion, kept hers the same, keeping that same "even if I'm not featured..." energy a decade later.

Hours later, the (pussy)cat was out of the bag: PCD is back, and heading out on a UK reunion tour in April 2020. (Yes, of course I'm going, but more on that later.)

The group will, however, only be reuniting as a quintet: Melody opted out, with the girls vaguely citing "prior commitments" and music obligations as the reason. Her disinterest in participating in a reunion is perhaps not a surprise to a majority of pop fans who even had a passing interest in PCD.

Melody famously chose to voice her disdain for the group's configuration, which was effectively Nicole and her back-up dancers, by...sometimes going rogue on the mic.

And in keeping on the subject of girl groups, good ol' Chezza shared some incredible thoughts about the Dolls...and Nicole...and the time.

PCD was a unique scenario: Nicole was unsubtly positioned as "the Beyoncé" of the group, but more than being the lead vocalist, she was almost exclusively the only vocalist on most of their songs, and certainly during their live performances. (Well, minus the Melody outbursts.)

They also did better than you might even remember: in a four year span, the Pussycat Dolls sold over 54 million records, making them one of the best-selling girl groups of all time.

But by the time Nicole's chart-evading solo non-hits of 2007 came and went (#JusticeForWhateverULike), as well as "Jai Ho!" and "Hush, Hush" in 2009 - infamously billed as The Pussycat Dolls Feat. Nicole Scherzinger at the time - Melody, and later, the majority of the Dolls, had basically had it.

They've all since gone on to do various things on their own, with most finding success overseas releasing solo songs and doing variety and competition shows - standard fare for post-peak girl group members. But despite all of the emphasis on Nicole throughout the girl group's existence, and despite her perfectly solid solo pop - "Don't Hold Your Breath" alone, hello - she never managed to break through in America...not without the Dolls by her side, anyway. (I also reserve a theory that at least part of the reason is that her last name was deemed too difficult to pronounce/memorize.)

As it turns out, a decade mends a lot of does the promise of cashing in on nostalgia. And speaking of throwbacks: let's talk about the return of Carmit Bachar - or, as she was born, Carmimmaculate Bachalmighty.

For those of you less versed in all things Pussy(cat): Carmit is one of the founding Dolls, dating all the way back to the group's 1995 origins as a fledgling burlesque group in Las Vegas. She's danced for, like, everyone - from Aaliyah to Jennifer Lopez, and even in Janet Jackson's infamous Super Bowl 2004 halftime performance.

Her return is welcome, to say the least: she is a PCDeity.

With the announcement of their reunion came a string of promotional interviews, in which they mostly elaborated on how much time has passed - they've got husbands and babies now! - and cited the Spice Girls reunion as inspiration for their own. (At one point, Nicole iconically points out that they outsold Little Mix in the UK.)

Now, I'm no body language expert, nor am I trying to instigate doll-on-doll drama - as I genuinely want this comeback to stick(witu)- but Nicole Scherzinger's facial journey throughout some of these interviews is fascinating. She did stress the fact that she was working on three shows across three continents at the time, and rehearsing for their upcoming performance. But is she just...tired? Serving Grand Dame regality? Bored of the same questions over and over? Or coming to terms with the fact that she's been stuck back in a girl group once again?

No matter, because their comeback performance on the X Factor: Celebrity finale on Saturday (November 30) made one thing very clear: the Dolls are coming back strong.

This is how you stage a genuinely fantastic comeback performance after a decade.

The drama of each girl rising to the stage. The oh-so-Britney-esque purr of "Are you ready?" That hype mix of "Buttons."

Yes, Dolls. Yes!

Pussycat Dolls X Factor Celebrity

Serving "Pretty Girls" 2015 Billboard Awards looks, the ladies looked as fit and fabulous as they did a decade ago - better, even.

The hair flips! The stage dive! The windmill arms! The #SomethingMoreUrban mix of "When I Grow Up"! The pyrotechnics! The absolute audacity of Nicole Scherzinger declaring "I'm a hot topic" in the year 2019! The YELP note!

Points deducted for skipping the iconic dance break - but then points immediately won back for the revival of the Juicy Couture-biting peak mid-'00s aesthetic glittery PCD hoodie for "Don't Cha."

And then, just when they've got us edged properly with a million man dance break, the big reveal: a new song.

They tricked us! New material from PCD already?! The song's called "React" - and it sounds GOOD - especially when accompanied by a Flashdance water drop and a fierce-as-fuck final pose. The signature Kimberly leg lift is back!

Pussycat Dolls X Factor Celebrity

I'm overcome by all of this, truly.

Sure, the other girls still didn't sing, nor were they featured. They weren't singing or featured on those old records and performances in the first place! Of course it's still The Nicole Show! Get with the program!

But really: whether the non-Scherzy members of PCD even want to be featured more prominently on the vocals remains unclear. One would assume that if they’ve gone through the trouble of reuniting, they’re all in agreement about how the band works.

What we actually need is a Red Table Talk conversation with all the members sharing their candid thoughts about their past and present formation.

As for the comeback performance itself: this is pop! Girl group glory! Dancing! Hair flips! Choreography! Hello! In the year 2019, when everyone's mumbling and fumbling their way around the stage! We don't deserve it, but the Dolls came through for us in our time of need, anyway.

Now go bid on a PCD hoodie on eBay, start stretching out those legs, and I'll see you all at the Pussycat Dolls Tour in 2020.

Oh, and ladies? Drop "React." Now.