Lady Gaga Rain On Me

'Rain on Me': Lady Gaga & Ariana Grande Twirl Through the Tears

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AoAm4om0wTs

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth.

And, if you translate the text of the Bible from the original Hebrew, you'll know that God then immediately created the disco stick, the meat dress, the Born This Way motorcycle, Jeff Koons and his blue balls, the Volantis flying dress, the "Electric Chapel" FarmVille premiere, 100 people in a room (whilst needing just one), an Academy Award, and a far-off land called Chromatica right after that - but it's just gotten lost in the translation of the text over the years.

Anyway, I digress.

Down here on Earth, in the midst of *vaguely gestures outward* this, we're suiting up for an escape mission on May 29, rocketing past the planet Venus to Chromatica - which might also be that newly discovered parallel universe that goes backwards in time or whatever - a magical, colorful world filled with still mostly unexplained Pokémon metallic symbols, H.R. Giger-meets-Ridley Scott Alien imagery and PlayStation-style packaging.

On Chromatica, no one thing makes more sense than another. Or something like that.

If "Stupid Love" was not enough of an early warning sign, Stefani Germanotta, an Italian Girl from New York City, our Stefani Gerrmato, known in some circles as Lady Gaga, is returning to her roots - not hair-wise so much, but sonically speaking. Yes, the girl is back to (just) dance, because pop music will what? Never be low brow. That's right.

In her second official serving from her sixth studio album, Gaga's joined forces with pop's premiere ponytailed princess and fellow Italian-American, Ariana Grande - a longtime admirer and first time caller - for a song called "Rain On Me," out on Friday (May 22), which has long been heralded by the Gays of Twitter as the song that will Save Pop™.

Did it? Well, hype is one hell of a drug! Let's maybe give it some time to marinate before we make any grand declarations.

"Rain on Me" was produced and written by longtime collaborators BloodPop and Tchami, as well as BURNS (he of Britney's "Make Me..." fame), and also co-written with Nija Charles (Cardi B) and Rami Yacoub, the same legend who co-produced under-the-radar bubblegum teen pop hit, "...Baby One More Time."

And the concept for the "Rain on Me" song is basically, you know, raining...on...me.

"I never asked for the rainfall / At least I showed up, you showed me nothing at all," Gaga declares in the opening of empowering, live-through-this anthem dedicated to moving through the sadness, holding onto sanity, and taking flight through all the tears, like a 2020 Reverse Warholian take on Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer's "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)" - a fellow tag-team of two titans which, funnily enough, kicks off a certain line: "It's raining, it's pouring..."

The songs aren't actually similar, although "Rain on Me" isn't completely far off from "No More Tears" co-producer Giorgio Moroder's more recent dance-pop outing, Déjà Vu. So...maybe some parallels, after all.

All the trappings of solid, gay ol' dance-pop catharsis are at hand: pounding beats, flourishes of strings and fierce declarations.

"Livin' in a world where no one's innocent / Oh, but at least we try / Gotta live my truth, not keep it bottled in / So I don't lose my mind, baby," Ari croons.

There are plenty of little details that appeal, including that Gaga rawr of "RRRAIN on me" peppered throughout the second half. It's also fun to hear her turn on that serious-faced "Dance In The Dark" speak-singing voice again in the bridge: "Hands up to the sky, I'll be your galaxy, I'm about to fly," all while Ari does her Ari thing in contrast - the sweetener (eh heh) to Gaga's militant delivery.

But the best part, of course, is the simple utterance of: "Rain...on...me," followed by a swift drop into pulsating bliss.

Between this and "Stupid Love," Gaga's clearly letting go and giving the people - well, the gays - what they need to get through this horrible period of time. It's arguably more fun and way more surprising to hear Ari, who has since settled comfortably into a more "yuh, yuh" downtempo musical realm in recent years, along for this sort of ride. This feels like a nod to her uptempo "Break Free" and "Into You" pop days, adding a little pep in her thigh-high booted step.

Do I wish this production was about two to three minutes longer for these pop superstars to come together and reign in the rain even longer? Certainly, yes. But time is of the essence, I suppose - or, at least, streaming replay value is. And in these Uncertain Times™, there's never been more of a need for a double pop diva-sized distraction to dance those socially distanced tears away.

Next stop, Chromatica.

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Photo Credit: Interscope Records


Leah Kate Bad Idea

Leah Kate Makes a 'Bad Idea' Sound Pretty Damn Good

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QHmvuBDrqZ4&feature=youtu.be

Another day, another stay.

While the world largely continues to keep things socially distanced (which some of you are better at than others, evidently), there is no shortage of new music that has us yearning for some communal singing, dancing and, in the case of LA-based One to Watch™ Leah Kate, some poor decision-making this summer.

In what is now her first release of 2020, following her debut EP Impulse released last year, the rising electro-pop singer-songwriter co-wrote "Bad Idea" with Hayley Gene Penner, who also collaborated with Lennon Stella (who released one of my favorite records this year, Three. Two. One.), as well as producer Louis Schoorl, who's worked with everyone from Girls' Generation ("My Oh My") to Australian Idol "Maze" icon Jessica Mauboy ("Gotcha").

The ode to a sure-to-be regrettable love affair is also highly relatable, especially in a time when it's a bad idea to be doing much of anything with anybody, period. Pandemic aside, we all make choices - whether that be walking out the door without an umbrella just before a downpour, or heading out to hook up with an anonymous shirtless torso who hit you up on the apps at 3 in the morning.

"We all have imperfections, and can have distorted thinking caused by love or desire, and that’s okay. This internal conflict is real, it is normal, and it is something we all find ourselves needing to address at some point. Sometimes doing something that seems like a bad idea can be exhilarating and fun, and it ultimately helps us to learn about ourselves and grow," Leah says of the song.

The track also suits the approaching summer season, equipped with a sheen of sunny synths, a hot strut of a beat (that actually sort of reminds me of Ciara's unbelievably good "Overdose") and funky flourishes that'll almost make you forget about that deep, deep sense of regret. The chorus is a no-brainer of an earworm, and that "You're such a...you're such a..." bridge? Flawless pop execution.

"What are we doing? I know, I know... / When you take my hand, forget about all my fear / But I know that you're a bad, bad, bad idea," she sings on the joyous anthem in celebration of questionable judgment.

"I want my listeners to feel a sense of comfort when they may be in a similar situation… to know that they're not alone, and can bring a little light to the situation. I am a big advocate of following your gut and listening to your heart. Whether someone is making a choice about what job to take, what to say to someone, if they should move to another city or not, or a romantic situation like mine - this internal conflict extends beyond making bad choices with just lovers. Look for the light and the lesson when making any choice, and lean in when your gut tells you to. Living and learning is fun!”

Look: just do what feels right for you in this life, and do your best not to hurt anyone in the process. In the meantime, adding this to your playlist? Now that's an objectively good idea.

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Photo Credit: Grant Spanier


Chloe x Halle Do It

Chloe x Halle 'Do It' With a Potential Song of Summer 2020

Chloe x Halle Do It

How far they've come from that heavenly cover of "Pretty Hurts."

Chloe x Halle have already had their share of headline-making cultural moments over the years: from their viral YouTube covers, which led to being signed by Beyoncé herself to her Parkwood Entertainment management company, to singing "America the Beautiful" at the 2019 Super Bowl, to iconically pissing off racists worldwide upon Halle's casting as Ariel in the upcoming live-action The Little Mermaid, due out next year.

And while they haven't quite been chart titans (yet), they've managed to garner significant, deserved critical acclaim for their music, from Grammy nominations to contributions to the soundtracks of major movies and TV shows, like Grown-ish and A Wrinkle in Time.

"Do It," however, feels like one of the sister duo's best bids for mainstream superstardom to date.

The confidence-oozing, replay-friendly R&B ode to a carefree, drama-free night of turning up with friends, produced by Scott Storch (!) - yes, of Paris fame - has all the makings of a summer hit, armed with an immediately catchy, featherlight chorus, layers of feel-good harmonies and a summery synth haze.

Granted, the summer of 2020 is going to look and feel a lot different for the world amid lockdown, but that doesn't mean we can't at least try for an aural escape in the meantime.

“During this time, music brings a lot of healing. We hope this song inspires someone to get up and dance, shake all the stress and anxiety away, and to 'Do It' as the song says," they said of their #GoodVibesOnly anthem in a statement.

While the girls have showcased their impressive vocal skills many times over, "Do It" allows them to ease up with something a little more laidback: "We are always very serious about the musicality of our songs and our musicianship, but the beauty of this song is that it shows a more carefree and fun vibe from us. We felt so good writing a song that will make people wanna bop to it and lift their spirits."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9HIaGcBocc&feature=youtu.be

The video only seals the deal further, as the gorgeous duo serves up a variety of fierce, early '00s-meets-modern looks, posing in front of mirrors, elaborate lighting set-ups and shirtless dancers, while delivering a cute and completely doable (eh heh) dance routine that feels like a TikTok craze in the making...and yes, they've already smartly started the #DOITchallenge.

Considering the girls were just children when they first entered the public's consciousness with their viral covers, "Do It" feels like the now 20 and 21-year-old young women are really coming into their own as adults and flourishing while doing so, which is always exciting to watch as the visuals and song themes inevitably get more mature. It's also a bolder move in Halle's case, pre-The Little Mermaid, considering the notoriously watchful eye of family-friendly Disney. There isn't anything particularly scandalous here (their last single, "Catch Up" with Swae Lee, is more adult-themed) - but still, as we know, The Mouse is surely watching closely.

"Do It" will be featured on Chloe x Halle's forthcoming sophomore record Ungodly Hour, which (mercifully) drops on June 5 amidst all of this and will, with any luck, keep us distracted all summer long.

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Inna Sober

Inna, 'Sober': The Romanian Queen of Pop's Done It Again at Home

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jxxaEMCNAOI

Inna, Romanian Queen of Pop™, has done it again. But then, when hasn't Elena Alexandra Apostoleanu done exactly what she needed to do?

The 33-year-old Romanian superstar has remained a consistent, tried-and-true supplier of dance-pop anthems from the very beginning, starting with her worldwide global smash "Hot" in 2008. (You know it, even if you think you don't. You've heard it out somewhere.)

Part of the charm of Inna is her sheer prolificness. If you're not into the latest Inna single, don't worry: there's inevitably a new one around the corner in a matter of weeks.

And so, we have the Freedo-produced "Sober," the latest surefire smash, released on May 6. It comes one month after her last single, "Not My Baby," which was an obvious hit from first play. However, it didn't quite set the Romanian charts ablaze, stalling at No. 95. Shockingly, even Romania gets it wrong sometimes.

Not to worry, though! She's right back at it, still amid a pandemic no less, with an instantly infectious isolation anthem dedicated to dreaming of a sober encounter up close and personal with a special someone.

"Is it ever gonna stop? Will there ever be a chance our hearts will cross?" she ponders across the pre-chorus - an all-too-real sentiment at the moment.

The chorus is an instantly catchy chant: "I just wanna get to know you when we're sober / Call you over, get you closer / I just really wanna take this rollercoaster to the sofa / Baby, can I get to know you when we're sober?"

And that post-chorus beat break? Hypnotic.

While Inna's music is generally the stuff of late night escapist revelry, this one is slightly more, well...sobering, though still armed with an intoxicating four-on-the-floor beat - perfect for an introspective dance party at home.

And in fact, that's exactly what she's served up in the accompanying black-and-white "Home Edition" music video, which finds our lonely heroine writhing around in a chair, glass in hand, putting her YSL heels up against a wall. Such a fierce queen. (Speaking of fierce queens, when will we see the return of her Romanian super-group, G Girls?)

Thank you Inna for your continued dance floor service, even in these most socially distanced of times.

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Aly & AJ Joan of Arc on the Dance Floor

'Joan of Arc on the Dance Floor': Aly & AJ Are Ready for Battle

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w9P_b2e_01U

Joan of Arc was canonized as a saint for her pivotal role in leading France to victory in the Hundred Years' War. Aly & AJ released "Potential Breakup Song." Their respective accomplishments are nearly identical in cultural impact, so it was only a matter of time before these women all came together in song.

"Joan of Arc on the Dance Floor," the new single by the act formally known as Godly & SlayJ out on Friday (May 8), is not only an after-hours club banger that has absolutely no business being released mid-quarantine (rude of them, frankly), but proof that it is now time for the girls to hard pivot to dance. (Me, requesting more dance music? Bet you didn't see that one coming.)

While the Into the Rush sister act have proven time and time again to be unbelievably well-equipped to deliver wistful synth-pop since going it on their own post-Disney (get into Ten Years at once, if you haven't been following along for the ride), it's now clearly time for them to dig their heels - and swords - even deeper into the dance floor.

"Joan of Arc on the Dance Floor" is like a modern nod to freestyle, as if Shannon's "Let the Music Play" or Rockell's "In a Dream" got a moody 2020 makeover. Plus Game of Thrones. And maybe something we could have heard on Eurovision from, like...Bodies Without Organs? (Who remembers this most obscure reference?)

"We don’t stop / Until mascara’s on the dance floor! / We say no / Joan of Arc is on the dance floor," they righteously declare.

It's so good. It's so unexpected. It's so...camp.

I mean: "Knights in armor hide under eyeliner / Lights are low, the night will take us higher." This is borderline Lady Gaga The Fame-era lyrical hilarity - in the best way possible, obviously.

What's all that got to do with Ms. Of Arc, exactly?

“The song is an anthem for anyone who has been misunderstood or wrongly accused. It reminds us to fight for what we truly believe in, even if it comes at a cost or sacrifice," the girls - ever the LGBTQ allies - said in a statement.

It's time to dance. See you on the dance floor with Joan, Aly and AJ...erm, eventually, when it is safe to do so.

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Photo credit: @AlyAndAJ


Utada Hikaru Time

'Time': Hikaru Utada Wonders 'Bout Turning Back Time

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_DPvZWhXJ8

The State of Things? I've gotta be honest here: not great! But Hikaru Utada has graciously decided to stage a comeback amid a global health crisis, anyway. And for that, we are eternally (REFERENCE) grateful.

In fact, she's got two songs for the Hikki Hive lined up: "Time," released on Friday (May 8), and "Dare ni mo Iwanai," her latest hydration anthem for Suntory Tennensui water, which is due out on May 29. The two songs will, inevitably, wind up on what will become her Hatsukoi follow-up, which will - with any luck - come sooner rather than later. But given the circumstances, it's hard to say just how much progress she's made thus far before the studios shut down. (Then again, she does seem to be building out a home studio.)

"Time" also marks the first time (REFERENCE) that Hikaru launched a song in real-time (REFERENCE) across the globe - look at Sony Japan catching up with most of the globe's music release standards! - so the song is available everywhere, on every streaming platform. The future is now.

And now, it's time to talk about "Time."

"Time" is an appropriate title for "Time" - because of the lyrics, yes, but also because it feels like we've just traveled back in time to listen to the song. ("Traaaaveling...") The R&B melodies are a throwback to the earliest days of her career, and the warm electronic vibe is totally reminiscent of 2008's Heart Station, as well as Fantome's "Tomodachi" with Nariaki Obukuro - who just happened to co-produce the song, and says it's one of his favorite songs he ever produced.

The "Tomodachi" similarities don't end at the beats, either: the track speaks to an unspoken love for a close friend, which is essentially the same subject matter as her 2016 ode to unrequited love, written from the perspective of a gay person lusting after their straight friend. That admission later led to the revelation that Utada might not be all that straight herself.

"Time" only continues the narrative of a forbidden love of sorts - be it bad timing, the romantic stars refusing to align, or perhaps...something more socially unacceptable.

Utada Hikaru Time

"Things I couldn't tell anyone / Not even my boyfriend or my family, I could always tell you / That's why I was able to bear any kind of loneliness, endure any fate / Who else can make me laugh as I stand weeping in never ending rain, but you?" she sings on the song. (English lyrics provided by Hikaru herself on her special "Time" mini-site.)

"For so long we've been too close / I couldn't say I love you / I keep in my heart a spell that can turn back time," she wistfully sings. "That one time we kissed, and even went a bit further / But the two of us can't be kept within the confines of romance."

It would be quite interesting to know just how...autobiographical this particular song might be. Hmm...

As we know, Hikaru's production style as of late has been more free-flowing than the more traditional verse-chorus, verse-chorus affair of radio-friendly pop classics past. Around the 3:30 mark, the song slips away across the bridge, fading off into outer space as she ethereally croons from afar. A wall of synths gradually fills the speakers, straight out of Heart Station. The track suddenly drops into banger mode, providing the most boppable ear candy to come out of her in years.

She cuts to the chase with a more blunt line later on: "So much so that I wish I could let the two of us back when we met know / We're so much hotter now."

English ad-libs that double as instant earworms perfectly fill out the tail-end of the track - "oh baby, oh baby, oh / If I turn back time...will you be mine?" - as if to mercilessly tease the hundreds of fans filling up her Instagram Live requests with unanswered questions about the future of her English-language music career.

The song now enters the great songbook of beloved divas wishing to make different life choices, from Cher's "Turn Back Time" to Lisa Scott-Lee's "Back in Time." (Truly, legends only.)

In all seriousness, it's so nice to hear a bit of an airy playfulness to Utada's production again. Following the darkness, grief and introspection that Fantome and Hatsukoi brought (understandably so), it would be wonderful to hear Hikaru veering into even lighter, brighter territory. The world certainly could use more of that right now.

Time...will...tell. Sorry, I really had to.

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Photo credit: Sony Japan


Jessie Ware Save A Kiss

'Save a Kiss': Jessie Ware Supplies the Disco Optimism We Need

Jessie Ware Save A Kiss

For just under a decade, Jessie Ware has proven she is physically incapable of leading us astray.

The English singer-songwriter's supplied sophisticated, succulent disco servings for the past few months from her forthcoming fourth studio album What’s Your Pleasure? pre and mid-quarantine, from "Adore" to "Mirage (Don't Stop)" to "Spotlight" to "Ooh La La" - which is sadly not a cover of Britney's time-honored Smurfs anthem, but close enough.

On Thursday (May 7), Jessie released her latest song from the album, "Save a Kiss," an unexpectedly well-timed IOU for the dance floor, produced by constant collaborator and friend James Ford of Simian Mobile Disco - and it is nothing short of majestic.

Layered in lush strings and propelled by a four-on-the-floor disco pulse, the song is an immediate favorite from the very first few seconds: "High anticipation, it's an emotional trap," she declares. And just like that, it's a done deal.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b4mcsokUXKc

“'Save A Kiss' has taken on a new meaning during these weird times and it seems like the right time to put it out. This track is an optimistic one for me, I hope it resonates with people wherever they are right now. It's an upbeat song to dance along to and have fun with. I know I’ve got plenty of kisses I’m saving up for everyone when this is all over," Jessie says of the song.

"Save a kiss for me tonight / Wait for me, no compromise," she wistfully coos on the anthemic chorus, backed by a soulful swell of voices.

The result is an unintentionally emotional, hopeful, endlessly gorgeous dance floor anthem for the (hopefully) near future - one that surely wouldn't produce the same goosebumps if lines like "promise you it won't be long" didn't hit so hard at the present moment.

What’s Your Pleasure?, out on June 19, is already shaping up to be a fierce and funky escape of at-home dance music, and this particular song might be the greatest evidence of its brilliance to date.

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Photo credit: Carlijn Jacobs


Tei Shi Die 4 Ur Love

'Die 4 Ur Love': Tei Shi Returns, Right in Time for the Apocalypse

Tei Shi Die 4 Ur Love

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome back to the stage...Miss Tei Shi.

Less than a year after the release of her 2019 studio album La Linda, including one of last year's personal obsessions, "A Kiss Goodbye," the LA-based, Colombian-Canadian-bred singer-songwriter returned on Thursday (May 7) with her first release since going independent - and a whole new sonic perspective.

These are Uncertain Times™, as any major corporation will lovingly tell you in their email blasts, which is why the timing couldn't be better for "Die 4 Ur Love," a suitably apocalyptic anthem. And, as opposed to the silky-smooth R&B sound of her last record, Tei Shi's gone straight-up synth-y electro-pop. No complaints here, obviously.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UCxsVLtC2hA

"'Die 4 Ur Love’ is a song about the end of the world as you know it. About losing someone or something you never knew you could lose, and then all of a sudden, your reality shifts. I wrote it right after the new year when I was feeling a sense of impending doom and darkness, which now feels surreal to see taking form in a real way around the world and in how the rest of 2020 has unfolded," she says of the song, which is also the first single from her upcoming summer EP, which is set to include more music with longtime collaborator, Blood Orange.

"If I can't have you, what's the point of all this? / I'm broken in two, apocalypse...and I die, die, die, die, die for your love now," she sings.

The track is closer in line to the stuff of electro-pop-adjacent acts killing it at the moment, including some of Lykke Li's earlier eras, Christine & The Queens, Empress Of and Caroline Polachek - all very good comparison company, really.

I'd call this a tears-at-the-disco anthem but, well...they're all closed at the moment.

Things might feel a bit bleak, and death might be a bit more top of mind than love, but you know what? This too shall eventually pass, and the (near) end of the world might be a perfect time to begin anew.

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Photo credit: Marcus Cooper


GRACEY

Girl Interrupted: GRACEY & the Delayed Debut of 2020

GRACEY

It's time to put some GRACEY in your face.

At the age of 22, the Brighton-bred GRACEY - it's an all-caps lock affair, stylistically speaking - has already accomplished what would have surely been a teenage dream of my own in her early years: toplining smashes within the hallowed halls of the Xenomania cottage, the premiere UK pop production house under the tutelage of Brian Higgins. (If you're new here, Xenomania's churned out countless catchy cuts for everyone from Girls Aloud to Rachel Stevens to Kylie Minogue - too much pop perfection to handle, basically.)

After getting an email from Brian after being discovered from demos uploaded to Soundcloud, GRACEY, then a 16-year-old student of the prestigious BRIT school (alums casually include Amy Winehouse and Adele), would shuttle back and forth between classes and the Xenomania cottage.

“I'd literally go from after school to the studio, do three hours of singing over tracks...honestly, I fucking loved it. I was like, 'This is the dream!'” she told The Line of Best Fit last year.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ontU9cOg354

Before getting into her own output, GRACEY inked a songwriting deal with Universal and had a run of actual hits, co-writing several dance-pop anthems including Rita Ora and Tiesto's "Ritual," Jonas Blue and Raye's "By Your Side" and TCTS and Maya B's "Not Ready for Love" - all of which genuinely go off. (Her real name is Grace Barker, should you like to take a rummage through the Discogs credits for yourself.)

Counting Sia as a major influence (seriously, she's a stan and calls "one of the best writers in the game"), as well as Lorde, GRACEY officially launched her solo career last year with "Different Things."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UgHrG5zuIwg

You can clearly hear the influence of the artists that inspired her in her own work: the track is a slow-burning confessional that pairs sparse, moody beats with emotional, jagged belting - with some Imogen Heap-esque vocoded flairs for good measure.

"We want different things / I only wanted to love you, but you made it fucking hard to," she bitterly resigns on the raw, tearful post-split song, providing the kind of chills Marina, formerly And The Diamonds, did on her own vulnerable debut, "Obsessions."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NoPlihGm4yQ

She followed that up with the similarly soul-baring and moody "If You Loved Me," armed with even more major wailing as she delivers an obvious, painful truth on loop: "if you loved me, you would know if you loved me," leading to an extremely cathartic belted finale - plus a remix from "About Work the Dancefloor" queen Georgia.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9e8O_axK0k

The somewhat sinister "Easy for You" came next, conjuring elements of BANKS, Billie Eilish and Dua Lipa. ("I wish I paid attention to the way you treated your ex" is a hell of an opening line.) The tracks all came together, with "Fingers Crossed," on her Imposter Syndrome debut EP at the end of 2019.

"Usually, my songs will be fronted by someone so I can be outside of them. But when you're singing about yourself and the video is essentially you crying and being rained on by a watering can, it's pretty hard to then go, 'I'm not into you, literally I'm fine.' That’s what I always say," she told The Line of Best Fit of going solo - thus, that entirely fitting EP title.

Her initial set of songs, plus her back catalog of early hits, made critical waves. Live dates started lining up, including her first show in January of this year...all the makings of a proper debut for 2020. And then, well, life happened.

Or, well, it was already happening: earlier in 2019, GRACEY underwent surgery on her vocal cords for nodules, requiring three months of silence. Frustratingly, that silence has essentially extended due to a pandemic that's put a massive existential wrench in everyone's life plans, including plenty of rising pop stars, as Billboard explored in an April piece.

"In January I got a real taste that this is what I want to do and I was so excited...I felt like 2020 was what I was aiming for, with everything coming together," she told the publication of her first live gig and (now stalled) plans for the future.

For now, GRACEY's just been recording in a "makeshift studio" in her childhood home, which she's been staying in since mid-March while visiting for Mother's Day (they celebrate it in March across the pond), holding out hope for an as-of-yet undetermined relaunch later this year...just as long as she isn't forced to go live on Instagram.

"I don't want to be told I have to do [a livestream] -- because if I feel like I have to connect, I don't want to do it because I have to upload #content," she lamented.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PKZS894hWuU

Not everything is so bleak: prior to shutdown, GRACEY collaborated with 220Kid on a song called "Don't Need Love," a disillusioned-about-love dance floor banger that sounds like a smash from first play, which continues to rocket up on streaming, and is now her most played song to date.

"Swipe left, swipe right / Even people who ain't my type / It's just empty pleasure," she deadpans - surely an especially appropriate Zoom dating-at-home anthem for the times.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Ss3adhx9wQ

GRACEY also released her latest solo single "Alone In My Room (Gone)" back in February, a song about going out and raging before accepting the reality of a breakup when faced with the silence at home, written during her own period of silence.

"It was the recovery time that was hardest because I don't think I'd realized how much I use music to vent my thoughts," she'd said to TLOBF last year.

The video is a tried-and-true tears-on-the-dance-floor affair, and the dreary, electronic bounce of the track isn't entirely out of line with some of what Charli XCX's been serving up from Charli onward (including, well, "Gone"), once again equipped with some solid remixes. (The MJ Cole is an instant favorite, as well as Jacques Greene, who did that song "Painted Faces" with Tinashe years ago.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0VFr3YScJs&feature=youtu.be

More recently, pre-social distancing, GRACEY dropped a live session of the song, which really showcases that that her voice is no product of the studio. She really delivers a spot-on vocal, and it's captivating to watch. And if you require any further receipts about her abilities, look no further than the stripped version of "Different Things" on her debut EP - the three minute mark, especially, is pretty jaw-dropping.

GRACEY is far from alone in her current plight, obviously: she's got plenty of potential brewing as she prepares new material for those eventual live shows. She strongly reminds me of a Julia Michaels or Skylar Grey type - and yes, she's certainly reminiscent of her own queen, Sia - as a talented singer-songwriter who can balance providing huge Top 40 hits for other stars while supplying her soaring voice for dance floor bangers and sharing more vulnerable sides of herself in solo creative endeavors.

As we adapt to our new normal, not that anything feels normal yet, here's hoping the quarantine provide GRACEY with the inspiration (and patience) to prepare dozens of future hits to come when she eventually explodes on the scene in her own right.

Based on what she's released thus far, it's only a matter of time.

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Photo credit: Aidan Zamiri


Skylar Grey Dark Thoughts

'Dark Thoughts': Skylar Grey Reintroduces Herself With a Shadowy Strip Tease

You loved the way she lied. You found her a doctor. You welcomed her back with open arms when she was coming home. And now, Skylar Grey is having some rather spicy thoughts, and she'd like to let you know more about them.

Yes, Skylar Grey, the prolific singer-songwriter who's penned and voiced plenty of your favorite songs since the early '10s, is reintroducing herself in the form of a shadowy slice of moodiness, called "Dark Thoughts."

Like many of pop's top-tier songwriters, Skylar has found herself floating within all different sorts of genres: from those frequent chart-topping pairings with Eminem for nearly a decade, to co-writing Legend X's "Castle Walls" with T.I. (one of Christina's most underrated collaborations, honestly) and Zedd's "Clarity" with Foxes, to lending her own voice to EDM favorites like David Guetta ("Rise") and Kaskade ("Room for Happiness").

She's also managed to balance her superstar contributions with a handful of solo studio albums and EPs, resulting in creative space to do her own thing while sending hits shooting up the charts with other artists. Her last record, Natural Causes, was released back in 2016, and her latest independent set, Angel With Tattoos, dropped last year.

But based on her social media clean sweep, it appears as though she's beginning anew and going clean slate for what's to come in 2020.

Backed by atmospheric noise, ominous piano melodies, and tripping beats co-crafted with Jayson Dezuzio, Skylar slinks her way into a sexy-yet-sinister striptease with "Dark Thoughts" - basically, think Lindsay's pole dance in I Know Who Killed Me.

"I get off thinking 'bout you with someone else / Yeah, I go crazy / And just because I'm laughing / Don't mean that I ain't havin' these dark thoughts," she confesses. Honestly, anyone who's ever logged onto a sex app should be wholly unfazed by these depression and hormone-fueled fantasies - you're far from alone, Skylar.

Even if this is more laidback offering than some of her more straightforward pop hits, those melodic moans ("Oh-oh-OH, oh-oh-oh...") only prove she's pretty incapable of penning a non-earworm - this'll simmer in your brain.

The seductive song could exist beautifully within a downtempo playlist made up of the likes of BANKS, The Weeknd, Post Malone, Rihanna's ANTI and Lykke Li's trap-pop depression opus, so sad, so sexy - the stuff of a somber striptease and/or 3:30 a.m. night drive, basically.

The accompanying video looks how the song feels, as Skylar unabashedly twirls 'round entirely naked, casting Flashdance chair dance shadows and casually wielding weapons while doing so, including a knife and a rifle. Hey, we're all coping with self-isolation in different ways.

So go ahead: grab a chair, and start indulging in those dark thoughts of your own with Skylar.

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Sophie Ellis Bextor Kitchen Disco

Sophie Ellis-Bextor's 'Kitchen Disco' Is a Burst of Joy in Quarantine

The quarantine has made one thing abundantly clear: far too many attention-deprived, extroverted celebrities simply do not know what to do with themselves - and, more often than not, it's a bad look. 

From complaining about being bored in their massive mansions to musing in milk baths about the death of poor people, there's seemingly no end to self-cancelable activity while in self-isolation. 

Of course, some saviors have emerged within the pop world: to no one's surprise, well-intentioned angel Britney's unwaveringly earnest calls for positivity and gratitude through yoga poses, silly, unhinged dancing and sincere, vintage-filtered post-and-deleted video messages (also, a call for wealth redistribution - thanks, Comrade Britney) have earned her praise among The Masses, while Lady Gaga, Rihanna and more legends of the entertainment world have chipped in on a massive level, using their platform for good to save the planet. And of course, Dua Lipa came through for us by doing everything right with Future Nostalgia.

And then, there's Sophie Ellis-Bextor, who's emerged as perhaps one of more unlikely heroines of the quarantine.

It's been a minute since the disco-turned-folk-turned-orchestral diva delivered something directly for the donce floor, musically speaking. But she's dusted off the disco ball, the fog machines and Christmas lights with her family, and set up something truly spectacular: Kitchen Disco.

As a way of coping with being cooped up, Sophie (and her husband, The Feeling's Richard Jones, plus their numerous children) have been entertaining her Instagram Live followers with truly entertaining, twenty-or-so minute sets of high-energy disco numbers from her catalog - from "Groovejet (If This Ain't Love)" to "Murder on the Dance Floor" to "Bittersweet" to "If You Go," as well as some covers, like New Order's "True Faith" and her hit take on Cher's "Take Me Home."

The set-up is, as with all quarantine live sessions, right in her cozy-looking home - thus, Kitchen Disco. But the video and audio quality is surprisingly good, down to Sophie's reliable vocals and the soaring strings and disco bells and whistles. 

Armed with a microphone, a frilly and sparkly ensemble of some kind, and a delightfully dry sense of humor, Sophie twirls her way through the oft-hazardous commotion caused by the young children squirming at her feet. Sometimes the kids dance along. Sometimes they fight and cry. Somehow, she manages to break it up and soothe them all without missing too many of the lyrics.

"What happened?! You'll be fine, Jesse. Stay at home, stay at home...Jesse, it's government advised," she croons to one of her tantrum-throwing sons while singing "Take Me Home" early into the fourth edition of Kitchen Disco, who immediately snaps out of it. "Look, Jesse's made a full recovery," she notes seconds later.

"I mean, it's just so wonderful. The joys of isolation with the family. Never gets boring," she deadpans as two of them break out into another fight during "Groovejet (If This Ain't Love)."

It's joyful, it's absurd - and it's a totally candid capture of a pop star mommy at home.

Luckily, Sophie's gone and uploaded each Kitchen Disco set on her YouTube thus far, and they've really been racking up the views. Evidently, more than a few people have been enjoying her brief familial forays into disco bliss. 

Until we find ourselves out on a dance floor, making memories and/or messes of ourselves once again, Sophie Ellis-Bextor's made social distancing a little easier to bear. Thank you for your service, Sophie and family.


Kelly Rowland Coffee

'Coffee': Kelly Rowland Is Back With an Ode to Morning Sex

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJZZ6dPPawM&feature=emb_title

Many moons ago - a decade of moons ago, to be exact - a certain vocal powerhouse of our generation sung of the joys of "Sex For Breakfast" on the now scientifically-proven-to-be-ahead-of-its-time advanced listen of an album, Bionic.

Leave it to Kelly Rowland, the "Kisses Down Low" enthusiast herself (remember my PowerPoint presentation about "Kisses Down Low"?), to carry Legendtina Maria Nina Desnudate Goduilera's vision into this Brave New Socially Distant World with her new single - and right after National Horny Day, no less. (An admittedly made up holiday found on UrbanDictionary as of a year ago, but we're going with it.)

Yes, Miss Kelly is back to save us from our hourly quarantine existential crises, not a millisecond too soon. And while she might not have the vaccine for us (yet), she does have a freaky deaky distraction in the form of her first single of 2020 called "Coffee," produced by Kosine of Da Internz and co-written by Syd of The Internet, Kelly and Nick Green.

Spoiler alert: it's not actually about coffee. Well, not really.

Clocking in at just over two minutes because everyone's attention span in quarantine lasts no longer than the duration of a TikTok, the song is, to no one's surprise, a banger. Vocally, Kelly layers on that lower register lovin' in her silky-smoothest early mornin' voice. And lyrically, it's stuffed with to-the-point demands that would make the Cock Destroyers proud.

"Coffee and sex in the mornin' / Breakfast in bed got me moanin' / Before you go to work, I need you to go to work," she demands. A double entendre? Well, yes, but it goes even deeper: this is no doubt a direct REFERENCE to her 2008 employment anthem, "Work." (Put it in!)

There is copious dirty talk throughout "COFFEE," as our Child of Destiny makes it absolutely clear: from here on out, she'll be your commander...of your morning wood.

"Breakfast isn't over / I see the way you rose up," she declares.

"They say morning wood do a body good, babe / Clearly you agree, don't be tryin' to leave."

And then there's this: "We can vacay in the sheets / Let you parlay in the 'pink pink.'"

"Let you parlay in the pink pink"? If there was a better lyric uttered in 2020, it has yet to be brought to my attention.

Kelly Rowland Coffee Horse

The accompanying music video is fitting, considering it'll leave one feeling thirsty, and in dire need a beverage, like...uh, coffee. But beyond just being sexy for the sake of being sexy, Kelly had an even deeper message in mind.

“I want to celebrate the women in video—every shade, every coffee color, every curve, every essence and what they gave me. My intention I set for the video was to take the light in yourself and your sexuality [and put it in] a God perspective, in a way where you don’t have to get any approval from anybody else," she explained of the Steven Gomillion-directed video to Essence.

“Sometimes when women stand in our own sexuality, without approval from any external source, I think that there comes a different perspective, a different outlook, a different feeling, and usually we don’t even realize we’re doing it, but I think society has kind of made it that way, especially with the Black woman," she continued.

“I just wanted the video to come across like, ‘Here we are standing in all of our beauty, in all of our coffee colored shades, in all of our greatness and you going to take this in.’ And that’s what I wanted and that’s what I want every woman to feel like. So that was my intention, and to be honest, I was hungry for too much of that video.”

Kelly Rowland Coffee

While I absolutely love every shot in the accompanying visual, as well as Kelly's intention, I think it's also important that we also acknowledge her co-star, Coffee Horse - objectively the Sexiest Horse in a video since the dearly departed Radar Horse. Give it up for him, wasn't he aneighzing?

This might not be a colossal Top 40 pop record to dominate by any means like, say, "When Love Takes Over," (can you even say "morning wood" on the radio?), but the truth is that, after all these years, I always have time for whatever Kelly is supplying - and she certainly has a knack for bedroom activities, from "Motivation" to "Freak" to "Coffee."

Kelly Rowland is hot. "Coffee" is hot. And that, my fellow Rowland Stones, is simply...the tea. (I'm so sorry.)

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