Bree Runway ATM

Bree Runway's "ATM" Deserves to Be Her Breakthrough

Bree Runway Charlotte Rutherford ATM

It's about time for the general public to invest in Bree Runway.

Perhaps you've already heard of the genre-hopping 28-year-old Hackney-bred singer-songwriter-rapper after seeing her name appear on the highly coveted BBC Sound of... longlist for 2021. Or maybe you know her from her remix of Rina Sawayama's "XS" last year.

And then there's her already extensive output thus far, from tracks like "Big Racks" with Brooke Candy to "Apeshit" to the exceptional "Damn Daniel" with Yung Baby Tate to "Gucci" with Maliibu Miitch, plus the Kylie, Madonna and Britney-referencing "Little Nokia." Clearly from all those name drops alone, she is very much Our Kind of People.

That brings us to her most recent offering: 2000AND4EVA, her wonderfully eclectic and genuinely thrilling debut major label mixtape, which arrived back in November. (The real world's been a little, um...distracting the past few months to say the absolute least, so you're forgiven if the hot new music releases somehow didn't immediately show up on your radar.)

If all the critical praise and lists and general fanfare wasn't enough of an indication of her One To Watch™-ness, there's the collection's lead single: "ATM," which features none other than Missy Elliott, a partnership that evolved from a Twitter shout-out to a full-on collaboration. A Missy verse with no album out. How's that for a co-sign?

Co-crafted with LIOHN, Klahr and Fat Max Gsus, "ATM" has all the makings of a smash: an endlessly addictive hook, a deliciously cocky flow ("Said he wanna take me real higher, but I know he really only want my vagina"), and dance break-ready beats that should likely appeal to the TRL nostalgia crowd. And, of course, a little Missy goes a long way, as the industry vet delivers her best silly British accent and signature brand of hype.

On Monday (January 11), Bree dropped the Swarovski diamond-drenched music video for "ATM," which is a sort of Burlesque-meets-"Lady Marmalade" joyride of long nails, shimmying choreography and ATM-headed men, who mainly serve to sit there and cough up cash for Bree and company. (Truly, the only way to include a m*n in a music video.) Missy also appears virtually, much like her "Levitating" cameo for Dua Lipa, proving that she's one of quarantine's most reliable phone-a-legend. That final shot, though? That Grace Jones mouth stretch! This is a creative force to be reckoned with - during a pandemic, no less.

Although Bree's gotten a substantial amount of tastemaker praise and social media love over the years, she's yet to substantially dent the charts or make major mainstream moves - up until now, anyway. Her time to shine is overdue. And with any luck (and now a superstar endorsement), "ATM" ought to break the bank very, very soon.

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Photo credit: Lucero Glow / Charlotte Rutherford

Olivia Rodrigo Drivers License

Who Is Olivia Rodrigo & Why Is 'Drivers License' No. 1 on the Charts?

Olivia Rodrigo Drivers License

"I got my driver's license last week, just like we always talked about..."

Meet Olivia Rodrigo: she's currently got the No. 1 song on Spotify's Global Top 50 and iTunes, and Taylor Swift is proudly shouting her out on social media.

Wait, what? Who? Is this what it feels like to age out of pop culture? Maybe, yes! But it's fine, because it's time to get all caught up to license required. (Eh heh, sorry.)

The 17-year-old rising star - who was born in California, and is partly of Filipino descent - is one of the newer Disney teen queens on the scene, starring as Nina Salazar-Roberts in Disney+'s High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. (This becomes important in just a moment.)

She's also a singer-songwriter, and contributed several songs to the series soundtrack, including some tracks that even briefly charted: "All I Want," which you almost absolutely know if you used TikTok in recent months, and "Just For a Moment," a duet with co-star Joshua Bassett. (This becomes important in just a moment also.)

Fast forward to January 8, 2021: "drivers license" is Olivia's debut single.

She first teased the track back in July on her Instagram before heading into the studio with producer and co-writer Dan Nigro (a frequent Sky Ferreira collaborator, from "Lost in My Bedroom" to "You're Not the One") to polish off the production, and eventually inked a label deal with Geffen Records.

"And I know we weren't perfect, but I've never felt this way for no one..."

From the moment the young singer hops into her car for a slow, sad solo ride around the neighborhood, "drivers license" is instantly intriguing.

As she vulnerably starts across a soft piano melody, the production cleverly expands outward from the car's beep. The underlying beat gradually quickens from soft hand claps to a solid pulse, as she yelps out all the relatable emotion of a teenage love's demise in the front seat, coming to the same sobering conclusion over and over again: "You said forever, now I drive alone past your street."

It's drawn some lyrical comparisons to Taylor Swift, and even stronger comparisons to Lorde's "Green Light," which feels more spiritually and sonically accurate, especially as she hits that "red lights, stop signs"-filled bridge. It also packs one hell of a powerful punch for a debut - especially from one still associated with the Disney brand.

“When I came up with ‘drivers license,’ I was going through a heartbreak that was so confusing to me, so multifaceted. Putting all those feelings into a song made everything seem so much simpler and clearer—and at the end of the day, I think that’s really the whole purpose of songwriting. There’s nothing like sitting at the piano in my bedroom and writing a really sad song. It’s truly my favorite thing in the world," she says of the song.

But of course, all the online buzz couldn't just be about the music: the song comes packaged with a whole array of fan conspiracy theories - mainly, that the song is about her co-star, Joshua Bassett. (Gasp.)

The story (and subsequent fan theorizing, thanks E!) goes that Olivia and Joshua dated while filming High School Musical before calling it quits sometime last year. Joshua then moved on with none other than "Thumbs" Disney pop princess herself, Sabrina Carpenter (!), and the revised lyrics are apparently an indirect reference to her: "And you're probably with that blonde girl, who always made me doubt / She's so much older than me." (Sabrina is both blonde, and older, than Olivia - the original line was "that brunette.") Joshua also released some songs of his own last year - possibly about Olivia - which is why fans are also clinging to the line: "Guess you didn't mean what you wrote in that song about me."

But wait, there's more! He's also got a song coming out of his own this month called "Lie Lie Lie," and he's in - wait for it - a car with a girl. Some fans are also going in deep with screenshot comparisons of the music videos and teasers, as fans do. And Sabrina Carpenter's ex posted it on social media, too! Oh, the tangled webs we weave.

And don't worry, the TikTok sleuths are already on it to illustrate the whole tale...

ugh i’m in my feels🥺 ##oliviarodrigo ##joshuatbassett ##hsmtmts
♬ Drivers License by Olivia Rodrigo - nickie j

With well over 18 million streams in just a few days, Olivia's off to one hell of a start. "Drivers License" is topping charts globally, and even getting Miss Swift's attention: "I say that's my baby and I'm really proud," she praised Olivia on social media.

She's now set to release her debut EP later this year, penned during quarantine, which promises to be a "piano-driven, alt-pop collection of songs [that] introduces Olivia’s unforgettably honest narrative voice, revealing her supreme talent for capturing complex emotions in immediately powerful music. Olivia has created a beautifully crafted and daringly original debut, channeling both truth and vulnerability in her insightful songwriting and magnetic vocals—and ultimately cementing her status as one of the most promising young artists to emerge in recent years." Okay, big promises!

Whether the love triangle (?) is even real, part of a vast PR stunt from the suits at Disney+ or somewhere in between, it's absolutely working to further fuel the already great track's momentum. And there you have it: the origin story of what is surely the year's first big pop hit.

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Photo credit: Erica Hernandez

How Studio Killers' "Jenny" Became a Queer TikTok Hit (Interview)

You just never know when your nearly decade-old Finnish summer smash could go viral again.

That's exactly what happened to Studio Killers, the Finnish-Danish-British animated virtual band who debuted on the scene with their fantastic self-titled record in 2013, including smashes like "Ode to the Bouncer," "Eros and Apollo" and "All Men Are Pigs." (Read the original MuuMuse review.)

The group - which consists of frontwoman and vocalist Cherry (more on her in just a moment), keytarist Goldie Foxx and Dyna Mink - was among the earlier pioneers of virtual pop superstardom, alongside acts like Gorillaz and J-pop Queen Hatsune Miku, which would pave a path for what is now steadily coming back into vogue with troupes like League of Legends' cross-cultural crew K/DA and K-pop's aespa.

Among the catchy cuts on the Studio Killers record is one particular standout: "Jenny," a LGBTQ-friendly synth-pop ode from group leader Cherry dedicated to her best friend Jenny about wanting something a bit...more.

"I wanna ruin our friendship, we should be lovers instead," she confesses across pulsating beats, an infectious accordion and a summery steel drum melody.

The song rightfully sailed up the charts in Finland - but that's not where the story ends, as it turns out.

Cut to the tail-end of 2020, and the song's since become the soundtrack of Gen Z text and Snapchat exchanges - and even a few IRL moments - as friends of all different orientations seized the moment to lean into the lyrics and reveal their true feelings on TikTok. But are the feelings mutual? Well, results may vary.

The song's since been used in a staggering 766,000 TikToks and counting - and that's not including any altered twists on the audio - resulting in millions and millions of streams, as the group soars to new Spotify Viral Chart heights. (The video also has over 76 million views and counting.)

With a revitalized interest in the group, Studio Killers inked a new label deal with Atlantic Records, which just recently re-released the single.

I caught up (virtually, of course) with the group about the smash hit success of "Jenny," and what it means for the group moving forward into 2021. Take my hand...

How did you find out that "Jenny" was going viral after years?

Studio Killers: A label from the U.S. approached us saying that we’re blowing up on TikTok. We’d heard rumours about "Jenny" getting love on the platform, but we had no idea how huge it was.

Cherry: Sparkle Punch told us something was happening, she’s a unicorn of social media. Then a label approached us.

Goldie Foxx: I was minding my own business on a bus and some school kids started playing it on their phone - as a TikTok video it turns out!

Was there a specific video that caused this TikTok moment that you can tell made the impact?

Studio Killers: Apparently it started from the anime circles, after which it started resonating in the LGBTQ+ communities on TikTok. #ruinourfriendship or #Iwannaruinourfriendship were the trending hashtags.

Cherry: Which is actually part of an earlier "Jenny" trend meme on YouTube that was happening in 2015/2016, where kids were posting their own anime characters idly dancing to the song.

Goldie Foxx: I was late to the party, but I love the videos of couples “ruining” their friendships in real time.
wait till the end hehehehe
♬ Jenny (I Wanna Ruin Our Friendship) - Studio Killers

IG: Juanes_2903 || 😳 @lucasl189 ##bromance ##ruinourfriendship ##loversinstead ##love
♬ Jenny (I Wanna Ruin Our Friendship) - Studio Killers

What do you think of people's interpretation of the track? Why do you think this one hit so hard?

Cherry: I think the lyrics have played a big part in the success on TikTok. It’s become an anthem for people coming out from various closets or revealing their love to their friends.

Dyna Mink & Goldie Foxx: The steel drums, harmonium and Juno seem to resonate as well...

How did the popularity of the song make you feel about recording new music?

Cherry: It was a huge motivation and we’re already working on new music.

Dyna Mink & Goldie Foxx: We have been beavering away on new songs and ideas for a while now, but all this attention and signing to Atlantic has thrown a cat amongst the pigeons.

What are your future plans following this massive spike in popularity?

Studio Killers: We have been working on an animated pilot for a Studio Killer series even before this spike, as well as a game. So, we’re now pushing them out as fast as we can and hugely excited that this spike has happened to us at this moment! It’s going to be amazing!

Dyna Mink & Goldie Foxx : We’re dreaming of the live shows.

There are many virtual groups out right now, like K/DA, but you were among the first ones out there. How do you feel about the expanding virtual pop world?

Cherry: It always made sense from the audience point of view that we’d have a virtual pop world. It’s from the industry and business point of view where things get tricky ;). More virtual pop icons mean more peers pushing at those boundaries. There is always strength in numbers!

Goldie Foxx: All this talk of “virtual”...feels very real to me.

Did Jenny end up ruining the friendship?

Studio Killers: Yes, it’s all over, there’s no turning back:) Jenny and Cherry are forever.

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Nicole Scherzinger Killer Love

Her Name Is (Still) Nicole: Scherzy's 'Killer Love' Is Now Streaming

Nicole Scherzinger Killer Love

In our country's darkest hour, there could only be one Hawaii-born multihyphenate equipped for the unenviable task of convincing us to turn off the news, stop holding our breath, pack up our poison and get whisked away right there on a trip to Club Banger Nation to get a little wet (private island all tested negative multiple times wear a mask): it's Nicole Prescovia Elikolani Valiente Scherzinger, everyone. (But really, a little levity thanks to Scherzy is welcome during this years-long week.)

Our faithful, hot-as-a-stove Pussycat Dolls member and Lead (Sole) Singer - do you understand what I'm saying? - first embarked on a solo career back in the mid '00s with the criminally underappreciated "Whatever U Like" (which had a live debut at the 2007 MTV VMAs pre-show, overshadowed by a certain other performance that night), followed by chart-bottoming smashes like "Baby Love," "Supervillain" and "Puakenikeni." Nothing stuck with the general public, and those album sessions were ultimately scrapped, with some of the demos going on to live with the Pussycat Dolls.

That since-shelved, highly coveted collection was to be called Her Name Is Nicole - and, until very recent years, it was seemingly eternally available for pre-order on Amazon, much to Stan Twitter's delight.

But our stoic Scherzy soldiered on post-Doll Domination with her solo aspirations, teaming up with some of pop's heaviest hitters at the time, including RedOne, StarGate and The-Dream for what would become Killer Love, her actual debut studio album in early 2011 - which...was never actually officially released in America. Until now, sort of.

The Good People doing the Lord's work at Pop Music Activism did the noble deed of making the record available on streaming in America as of Thursday (January 7) - well, Spotify for now, at least.

"🚨🚨POP ACTIVISM ALERT!🚨🚨We’ve got Killer Love by @NicoleScherzy made available on streaming in the US! Thanks to @umusic for handling our request when we emailed them!" they announced.

In retrospect, the record - which peaked at a respectable No. 8 in the UK - is a perfect encapsulation of the sound of Top 40 radio pop in 2011: it's a heavily Lady Gaga Fame Monster-into-Born This Way era adjacent affair thanks to RedOne's unmistakable signature electro-pop production, including the blaring, villainous alarm call of a lead single "Poison." (Her pre-Violet Chachki-styled live debut of the song on X Factor is a must-see.)

Deeper inside are copious, uh, nods to contemporaries including Jennifer Lopez, who was on her own RedOne journey at the time with Love?, some Leona Lewis and Beyoncé circa I Am...Sasha Fierce and 4 in the slower moments, as well as the "Rude Boy" and "What's My Name?"-biting "Right There," penned by Rihanna's then-constant collaborator Ester Dean, plus the euphoric pro-streaking anthem "Wet," which plays like a drenched take on "Only Girl (In the World)" as Nicole gleefully rips her clothes off and goes crowd-surfing. We were extremely bold with our choices pre-pandemic, weren't we? Basically: "Wet" dripped so "WAP" could drop.

Fellow passengers on the Keri Ferry already know the still-perfect "Don't Hold Your Breath" well: the song had a wild journey of leaks, beginning with a Tapemasters Inc. mixtape featuring a Keri Hilson and Timbaland-led version leading all the way to Nicole's demo somewhere between 2010 and 2011, back when demo leaks were still a thing.

The track is legendary in its credits alone, co-penned by Billy Steinberg (of Madonna's "Like a Virgin" fame), Josh Alexander and "If I Were a Boy" writer Toby Gad, and contains of the best pop choruses of the '10s, easily. (Poppers enthusiast Scherzy knows a thing or two about holding her breath, as it turns out.)

The duets on the top-heavy album offer some different flavors than the largely sweaty affair, from the delicate, "Every Breath You Take"-style "Power's Out" with the legendary Sting, to the pulsing Rudi Wells remix of her Enrique Iglesias collaboration "Heartbeat," still an understated gem, which sounds closer to Britney's "Hold It Against Me" in remix form. Killer Love gets ballad-heavy towards the end. Results may vary.

The streaming version of the album mercifully also includes the re-release edition's absolutely wild Diane Warren-penned "Trust Me I Lie," (she'd keep the lying coming with her next album, 2014's Big Fat Lie), the bouncy Bonnie McKee co-penned "Tomorrow Never Dies," and the reissue's lead single, the NERVO co-written "Try With Me," which nearly cost her life after she was briefly held at gunpoint while on the way to film the music video in the jungle in Mexico. It managed to just break the Top 20 in the U.K. - perhaps not quite worth almost dying, but a good tune nonetheless.

There are also gems that deserved the single treatment inside, including the blissful banger "Say Yes," which deserved to be sandwiched in between Alexis Jordan's "Happiness" and Kelly Rowland's "When Love Takes Over" in a DJ set at the clubs in a parallel universe.

"Club Banger Nation," on a related note, is a triumph too - in a completely musically and lyrically deranged way, and sort of sounds exactly like what I imagine being ushered into the pits of Hell by Nicole Scherzinger and RedOne to sound like. Ice cream delicious but hot! Also: "Nicole!"

Scherzy's unrelenting thirst for solo superstardom (and that bad girl power she's got) is top of mind throughout Killer Love, coursing through the pounding beats and wild vocal theatrics, making for a fascinating, thoroughly fun listen almost exactly a decade later. Like Anastacia, she did her best work solo as an export, garnering legitimate chart overseas success even if her home country remained largely unaware.

While the album feels predominately like discards from the era's most popular acts, that doesn't mean it isn't a great product from the early '10s pop catalog. Call it a smorgasbord of other artist's sounds, or evidence of her chameleon-like shape-shifting ability to entertain.

And although Scherzy is an unquestionably talented singer, dancer, actress, TV talent judge and crossbow shooter (among her many talents), part of the appeal of Nicole Scherzinger is the "always the bridesmaid, never the bride" energy of her career: even to this day, Nicole's plans for global domination rudely came crashing down yet again amid the pandemic, just before PCD were set to hit the road for a reunion tour after fiercely igniting the dance floor for about one week with "React" until the world came to a complete standstill.

Until the world opens up once again, and the Dolls get to Dominate once more, we'll always have a home right here at Club Banger Nation.

Dua Lipa Dancing Meme

Dua Lipa Is Teaching You How to Dance

"You’ll never be as good a dancer as Dua Lipa, but as she says herself, that’s no excuse not to try."

Early into the Future Nostalgia campaign, Dua made it very clear in interviews that she's well aware of all the dancing memes and mockery about her debut dance moves on social media.

And now, to accompany her British Vogue cover story, she's showing you how to dance like Dua, too.

In a short for the fashion mag, Dua plays the role of an overconfident dance instructor - serving heavy shades of "I'm your freestyle dance teacher" - and deadpan advice aplenty as she cheekily pokes fun at the criticism of her dancing and stage presence.

"For as long as I can remember, people have said to me: Dua, you were born to move. Dua, you're such a natural performer. Dua, we'll never be able to dance as beautifully as you. And I want to say to you today: no, you're right, you almost certainly never will. But that's no reason not to try," she explains.

Dua Lipa Dancing Meme

In a flurry of absurd instructions, interpretive dance moves and over-the-top high fashion ensembles, La Lipa gives us some insight into her rigorous process. There's also a deliciously cheeky Victoria Beckham-style pop star self-awareness going on here, which is just fabulous.

"Your best bet would be that you get really famous, and then people will give you a little bit more time to pick it up," she offers.

As I've maintained on Legends Only, I've only more impressed by Dua's doubling down and pushing past the early mocking on social media in order to give us the full pop star fantasy. She doesn't have to dance, but she's Duaing it anyway - along with supplying the album experience of 2020. And she's absolutely improved in just a short time in the game, frankly. Good for her for having some sarcastic fun with the feedback.

And that is how you handle Stan Twitter meme-ification. Now, back to "Real Groove" with Kylie.

Future Nostalgia is available now on vinyl.

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Claudia Valentina

Claudia Valentina Is Your First Pop Act to Watch of 2021

Claudia Valentina

Meet Claudia Valentina, the first new artist to get excited about in 2021.

Granted, I'm just a few weeks late to the One to Watch™ party: the 20-year-old singer-songwriter actually dropped her self-titled 4-track debut EP back in November. In any case, it's time to play catch-up.

The story behind her single "4:15" should pique any pop nerd's interest: it was originally on hold for Selena Gomez until ultimately going unused, according to an interview with Claudia by Friend Of The Blog Michael Cragg for The Face.

Claudia - who was born in Guernsey, a small island off the coast of Normandy - moved to London at the age of 10 to star in a production of Billy Elliot on the West End. By the age of 12, she moved to LA with her mother to audition around town and pursue her music dreams. (As a wise woman once said: everybody comes to Hollywood...)

A year later, she decided to focus solely on the music and booked a session with Max Martin-adjacent "Dangerous Woman" co-penner Johan Carlsson, who told her to keep doing more writing sessions and warned her not to sign with any labels or managers until she was 18.

“He told me that I needed life experience at first, and I was like ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about!’, but he was so right. So I forgot about the ‘trying to make it’ thing, and just got super into making music instead," she says.

And so, Claudia followed his advice, flying in between LA and London to continue writing songs while finishing school. She did sign eventually to Republic Records, and her writing started making its way up - she supplied the hook of Wiley's smash "My One," for instance. But once her track "4:15" found itself in the Stars Dance chanteuse's camp, everything changed.

“[Gomez] had the song for a long time and we were all waiting for her to release it, and I was fine with that, but then she didn’t end up using it. So I listened to my version again and realized it could work for me, actually," she explained to The Face.

It's a good thing Selena passed, because Claudia now has a fantastic ode to the fuckboy on her own hands, and in her own words, as a result.

"'4:15' is really where it all began for me. As a songwriter this song opened so many doors to different opportunities and really changed my life. It was a defining moment in my career and really let people know who I was as an artist. It’s a bit of a fucked up love story about that one guy that you just can’t shake. No matter how many times you tell yourself not to go there, when that knock on your door comes, you can’t help yourself. It's an anthem for anyone familiar with those late night ‘u up’ texts. It’s such an important song to me and I’m beyond excited to share it with the world," she explains of the song.

Co-penned with Jessica Agombar and David Stewart, the same team who helped to helm the massive BTS smash, "Dynamite," the moody ode to begrudgingly giving in to a late night rendezvous again and again gradually reveals itself to be increasingly addictive with each passing hook, supplying a dark, swirling Swedish synth-pop energy similar to Ari's "Love Me Harder." It's an incredible track.

"Every time I say no, no, no / There's a knock on my door every quarter past four / And every time I say go, go, go / And every time I say go, go, go / You be at my front door every quarter past four," Claudia croons. (I choose to believe the "quarter past four" mention is an homage to Girls Aloud's "Watch Me Go.")

The music video is a stunner as well, directed by Barbara Farre from production company CANADA, the troupe responsible for the visuals for Dua Lipa's "Physical" and Rosalia's "Malamente," among other standouts. There's a strong "Malamente" vibe too with all the moto action, plus a bit of Mabel and Dua "New Rules" synchronized choreography. Above all, it's an important lesson: if he's already got your name permanently inked, there's probably going to be trouble in paradise soon enough.

Elsewhere on the EP, Claudia serves up an even more supremely cocky attitude, including the tripping "Obsessed," which kicks off with one hell of a line: "If I talk to God, she gon' listen." But it's not all about the overwhelming confidence: she supplies a far more vulnerable side in her lyricism on cuts like the soulful and blunt "If I'm Being Honest" and the tough-but-tortured piano-led "Seven," co-written with James Newman, which provides a hint of Adele in its simple, but powerful emotion.

"Now I'm feeling stupid / Don't know why I do this, fucking me around," she laments.

"I tend to write songs about being more of a bad bitch in the driver’s seat, but it’s important to be honest and realize that everyone gets let down a few times,” she reveals. (A bad bitch, indeed: one glance through social media, and you'll see she's quite the Instagram baddie.)

It's all really, really promising stuff so far from a singer that's truly only just getting started. Let's see where she go, go goes next.

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Grimes Miss Anthropocene Rave Edition

Grimes Kicks Off 2021 With 'Miss Anthropocene' Rave Edition

Happy New Year.

It is now the year 2021, which means we're another year closer to the inevitable reign of future supreme leader, Baby X Æ A-Xii. And, with any luck, this will be a better, kinder, healthier year for humanity. (Look, we can dream.)

To kick off the year, we're starting with something already familiar, now given fast and feverish new life: Grimes' Miss Anthropocene, one of 2020's Top 10 albums.

The record, which was released all the way back in February and includes songs like "So Heavy I Fell Through the Earth," "Delete Forever" and "Violence," has been remixed, reimagined and made still iconic with a special "Rave Edition," out Friday (January 1).

The repackage includes a bunch of intense remixes from the likes of everyone from Chromatica crafter BloodPop to Rezz to ANNA to Richie Hawtin to "Impact" star Channel Tres. Other songs appear in their original form, including the already delightfully frenzied "4ÆM" and "Before the Fever."

While some of the mixes get fairly heavy and hardcore (and somewhat vocal-free), others are a pleasantly light surprise, including the disco-y Things You Say mix of "you'll miss me when I'm not around." An anthropomorphic goddess of climate change's confessions on a dance floor? Sure, I'll take it.

The Rave Edition of Miss Anthropocene also comes just after Grimes just dropped a great DJ mix for the ill-fated Cyberpunk 2077 on Apple Music, featuring everyone from Rihanna to t.A.T.u. Clearly, she's feeling antsy after months of social distancing. Aren't we all?

Chances are you're probably keeping it lowkey this New Year's Day - unless you're a gay super-spreading at a circuit party at Puerto Vallarta, in which case: go fuck yourself. But assuming you're not, by all means, get lost in the music and enjoy an at-home solo dance party, workout or slay session set to the sound of Grimes and company.

Let's do this, 2021.

Miss Anthropocene is available now on vinyl.

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Top 100 Songs of 2020

The Top 100 Songs of 2020


Nothing like waiting until the very last moment in time, right? (Well, very last moment of 2020, anyway.)

The year was bad. The music was good. And now, with just mere minutes to go until we cautiously make our way into 2021, I present the top 100 songs of 2020.

These are vaguely in some order, but the songs move around greatly based on my mood and/or the position of the sun at any given moment in time. What constitutes a No. 86 song vs. a No. 67 song? I honestly could not tell you! The point is that there were so many fantastic tracks released in a year of otherwise unrelenting horrors, and for that, we salute the Pop Gods for providing a crucial sonic escape.

Oh, one thing's for sure: my song of the year is Dua Lipa's "Physical." (Check out the original review, as well as the Future Nostalgia review.)

And speaking of excellent records, here are the Top 10 albums of 2020.

Happy New Year, everybody.

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Kylie Minogue Studio 2054 Dua Lipa

Kylie Minogue & Dua Lipa Join Forces for "Real Groove" Studio 2054 Remix

I love Kylie. I love Dua Lipa. I love the Gay Agenda™ at work.

On this Thursday (December 31), in the final hours of this otherwise most wretched year, our Mighty Aphrodite and Disco darling herself has chosen to bless(ed Madonna) us with a grand finale moment before the clock strikes midnight: a remix of her latest single "Real Groove," featuring bits from her appearance on Dua's sensational Studio 2054 virtual spectacular last month.

"DUA💖DUA💖DUA! ... La Lipa joins me for a SUUUUPER SPECIAL #Studio2054 remix of #REALGROOVE 🚀💖🚀 @DUALIPA 4 EVA," Kylie announced upon the remix's release. ("La Lipa" is now canon and will be implemented in daily conversation moving forward, by the way.)

Of course, yes: I would have loved a proper remix with all new vocals, and a more pronounced appearance from La Lipa in general - as in getting her own verse, rather than just providing chorus background vocals plucked from the special.

But the remix itself is still very fun, and makes perfect sense with my Disco (Extended) fantasy in all of its disco string breakdown 4+ minute glory. The fact that two of my very favorite Top 10 Albums of 2020 got together for a little bonus spin 'round on the dance floor is Great Conjunction bliss. And just hearing the two say each other's names on record - "Dua's got that real groove!" "Ky-lee" - is skin-clearing, soul-reviving nourishment alone.

The original song is still a great single choice for La Minogue as well. Plus, let's get real (groove) about the exposure in an age of streaming here: a Dua co-sign is #KyliePromo for the kids. We love to see it.

And just for the record, you've done the queer calculations correctly: in the same year, Dua Lipa collaborated with both Madonna and Kylie, among dozens of features. Absolutely massive Main Pop Girl™ energy.

One day in the far-off Future (Nostalgia), we'll look back and think to ourselves: that was fighting for gay rights. Happy New Year, everybody.

Disco is out now on vinyl. Future Nostalgia is also out now on vinyl.

This album is featured on the MuuTunes Spotify playlist. Subscribe!

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Aly & AJ Potential Breakup Song Explicit Version

Aly & AJ Give "Potential Breakup Song" the Explicit Version It Deserves

Aly & AJ, born Godly & SlayJ, are right at the very beginning of a campaign for their upcoming record, which they've already teased as the album they were born to make.

But just as 2020 officially comes to an end, the sister act dropped a belated Christmas gift on Wednesday (December 29) for the ones who've been along for the ride for years - and it's a delightfully radio unfriendly treat.

Following an unexpected explosion of streams and newfound fans thanks to lip-syncing moms on TikTok (and really, isn't TikTok the source of everything in pop culture these days?), the duo's Summer of '07 Billboard Top 20 smash "Potential Breakup Song" just got the explicit version it so desperately deserves.

At long last, we can finally say: it took too long for you to call back - and normally, we would just forget that - except for the fact it was our birthday...our fucking birthday.

Not only is the song now thoroughly, furiously filthy-mouthed just as God intended, but it's also a re-recording, listed under their Aly & AJ Music LLC on Spotify, meaning they've had a little JoJo / Taylor Swift moment to stake claim to the track they first popularized as teenagers with Disney's Hollywood Records years ago. Quite literally: "Do you get that? Let me repeat that: I want my shit back."

The song, which was reproduced with their Ten Years collaborator Ryan Spraker, doesn't stray too far from the rock-tinged synth-pop sparkle and sass of the original tune, but it does illustrate just how much their voices have matured over the years. It's also got more bite, obviously, now that they can snarl with some added adult language that the original was severely lacking: "Without me, you're gonna die / So you better think clearly, clearly / Before you nearly, nearly fuck up a situation that you're gonna miss really dearly, c'mon."

It's simply a win all around: for the girls, who get to reimagine the song to better suit their style more than a decade later, and for the fans who've grown up alongside the duo, and are now more than ready to toss that unworthy fucker out with some added grit. You're not living 'til you're listening to this version, baby.

And while you're at it, go listen to "Slow Dancing" and prepare for the Aly & AJ takeover in 2021.

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Photo credit: Aly & AJ/NBD PR

MuuMuse Top Albums of 2020

The Top 10 Albums of 2020

The year is now over.

I would say "thankfully," but we should probably learn by now not to pile all of our hopes and dreams into the New Year. Let's make like Mariah Carey and proceed with caution into 2021, instead. How about that?

What 2020 failed to provide in stability or sanity, it made up for in the music. Pop music thrived throughout the past twelve months, largely offering some of the most imaginative escapes and greatest, gayest dance-pop and disco records still due to be properly appreciated once the bars and clubs are open once again.

You already know the drill: these are my personal (raw) 10 picks for the year - the top albums that got me through it, for various reasons. There are dozens more incredible records that came out throughout 2020, as covered on MuuMuse. You also already know I hate lists like I hate awards shows (except for my own), but I must be some kind of Masochist, so here we are.

If you've followed along for the journey with me this year and beyond on MuuMuse and/or Legends Only, the album of the year - and all the rest of the picks, really - should come as no surprise.

Please let me know your own Top 10 album picks in the comments. Outrage is unwelcome and will be wholly ignored - it's just not that serious. Without any further ado, enjoy.

Honorable mentions

BoA, Better (Original review)
Twenty years deep into the game, Kwon Bo-ah made a case as to why she wears the crown and reigns as the Queen of K-Pop™.
Róisín Murphy, Róisín Machine (Original review)
The incomparable, delightfully odd art-pop pioneer blazes her path further with a sweaty, sultry continuous play of bright disco lights and an insatiable desire for more.
Tom Aspaul, Black Country Disco (Original review)
Heartbreak, heading home and finding happiness (and horniness) again: the British singer-songwriter pens a dance floor-ready ode to the queer experience.
Toni Braxton, Spell My Name (Original review)
T-O-N-I: the vocal powerhouse spells out her legend status once again, and dances the night away while doing so.
Annie, Dark Hearts (Original review)
Norway's "Chewing Gum" crooner and early '00s blog darling comes full circle after a decade, goes home and explores the ghosts of the past in a musical landscape perfectly suited for the soundtrack of an '80s movie.

10. Selena Gomez, Rare

Released: January 10, 2020
Original review
Buy it now on vinyl

Look at her now: somewhere along the way in the past decade, Selena Gomez became the premiere purveyor of good, weird pop. Just ask Britney which "Spanish and a baby" singer's album inspired her 2016 triumph, Glory. Rare is the sound of Selena leaning even further into the breathy bops and quirky, hiccuping productions as first established on 2015's Revival with Justin Tranter and Julia Michaels onward, staying vulnerable while doing so. (To that point: "Vulnerable" is one the year's chill-inducing standouts, easily.) Shaking off that on-again, off-again very public romance once and for all and triumphing over mental and physical health struggles? It still feels so, feels so good to dance again.

9. Chloe x Halle, Ungodly Hour

Released: June 12, 2020

While the fate of girl groups in the West remains bleaker than ever, one wildly talented sister duo arrived to do it for the girls all around the world, mentored by one of the best to ever do it: Beyoncé. Ungodly Hour is a tight set of modern R&B filled with heaven-sent harmonies and chill, tripping beats that finds the girls all grown(-ish) up from their YouTube cover days, supplying a thoroughly cool, sleek, early '00s energy musically and visually - think Aaliyah meets The Matrix. The endlessly replay-friendly "Do It," as well as the thumping, Disclosure-produced title track could and should have been Songs of Summer '20 in a sunnier parallel universe. And when it came to pandemic performances and photo shoots at home, quite frankly, no one did it better - armed with one extremely versatile tennis court.

8. Rina Sawayama, Sawayama

Released: April 17, 2020
Buy it now on vinyl

Oh me, oh my! After bubbling under for years, Rina Sawayama made her long-awaited debut in 2020 - which also happens to be the year's best debut in pop. From the confident strut of the ode to the queens "Comme des Garçons (Like the Boys)" to the arena rock-style "Who's Gonna Save U Now?" the maximalist set plays like a frenzied, frothy blast of sticky, Max Martin-style power pop chords and early '00s J-pop recalling the emotional melodies of Utada Hikaru (her idol!) and crunchy guitar edge of Ayumi Hamasaki, resulting in a cross-cultural blend of queer rage against the "XS" machine that feels both familiar and excitingly fresh.

7. Miley Cyrus, Plastic Hearts

Released: November 27, 2020
Original review
Buy it now on vinyl

Call it Destiny: Miley Cyrus was born to channel her inner rock goddess, and Plastic Hearts is the best demonstration of that yet. Harnessing her decade-long "Can't Be Tamed" rebel energy, she slices and dices through ex-flames and the fakes of Hollywood across searing guitars and crashing drums while preserving the pop hooks that made her the superstar she is today. After a summer full of fantastic classic rock covers, one of the year's best singles ("Midnight Sky"), and endorsements from the likes of multiple legends - from Stevie Nicks to Joan Jett to Billy Idol - the shape-shifting (and wig-changing) Disney alum finally found her lane, and made good on her promise to be America's next punk-pop sweetheart.

6. Taylor Swift, folklore + evermore

Released: June 26, 2020
Original review

A Swiftie I am not, although this year did sort of formally turn me into one. Taylor took ten steps away from "Me!" territory (thank God) and slipped away into the woods at the start of the pandemic, carving out not one, but two stellar exercises in stripped-down songcraft and storytelling. (They're sister albums, but I'm counting the family as a surprise package deal.) The tracks intentionally centered fictional characters, rather than providing tabloid fodder with her own relationship narratives. Of course, it wouldn't be Taylor without a billion and one subtle personal references along the way, but taken at face value, these are great songs in their own right, conjuring rose-colored memories of simpler summer days and spooky winter nights. With the Swift (folk)lore and easter eggs added in (there's a whole love triangle), it's an exponentially more rich listening experience. The slow lurch of "This Is Me Trying" alone embodied the general mood of this year like no other song. "At least I'm trying..."

5. Grimes, Miss Anthropocene

Released: February 21, 2020
Original review
Buy it now on vinyl

Before birthing our future supreme leader X Æ A-Xii, Grimes delivered a most beautiful and heavy creature in the form of Miss Anthropocene, a grim and dooming concept album loosely based on the "anthropomorphic goddess of climate change," plus some mid-pregnancy introspection. Filled with the Canadian Art Angel's signature ethereal coos, the futuristic set alternates between chill soundscapes, including "hard Enya" opener "So Heavy I Fell Through the Earth," and heartrate-spiking jolts like the Bollywood movie-inspired "4ÆM," as well as some gorgeous synth-pop throbber moments, including "Violence." The most chilling standout of the bunch however is "Delete Forever," a surprisingly simple, mournful ode to the opioid epidemic and all the losses she's personally felt. One thing's for sure: Grimes doesn't ever do dull.

4. Lady Gaga, Chromatica

Released: May 29, 2020
Buy it now on vinyl

Our Stefani Gerrmato. The Italian girl from New York City returned to her dance-pop roots in 2020 for the most unabashed fun she's had on record in years. She wasn't exactly having fun tonight, though: Gaga was candid from the start while recording with BloodPop that she was depressed (suicidal, even), and Chromatica was the labor needed to feel the (stupid) love again for her persona and all the pop star trappings that come with the gig. The record is a frantic, don't-bore-us-get-to-the-chorus whirlwind of early '90s-inspired club beats, dramatic vocals from our favorite theater nerd, and s-s-sour candy delights aplenty. While she's arguably promoted her makeup line more than her music in 2020, Gaga still supplied an accidental meme of the year ("Chromatica II"-into-"911") and a fitting grit-and-bear-it pandemic gay anthem (grab your Chromatica jockstrap!) with Ariana Grande ("Rain On Me"), all while doing some full-circle introspection about how the Fame Monster ate her heart, years later. When Earth felt all but uninhabitable this year, Gaga's imaginative interplanetary musical escape made life a lot more fun at home.

3. Kylie Minogue, Disco

Released: November 6, 2020
Original review
Buy it now on vinyl

Our Disco has always needed Kylie, and the Dance Floor Darling came twirling to our rescue on her "Magic" stick once she saw the disco ball-shaped bat signal in the sky. Only two years after taking a detour to Nashville, Kylie quickly and unexpectedly heard the alarm sounded early into quarantine, ditched the twangy tunes, and went scrambling to learn Logic Pro and craft an at-home studio of pillows and duvet covers to put together a classic Kylie no-skips dance record that sonically sits somewhere between Light Years and Fever. With fun, on-the-nose nods to past disco hits and a sense of earnest optimism and loving energy that only our Mighty Aphrodite can conjure, Disco is the essence of the joy of Kylie. Her Infinite Disco remains one of the year's best virtual concert experiences, and "Say Something" stands out among accidental quarantine anthems as the most sincere, lump-in-throat-inducing dream of a brighter tomorrow. We are so lucky, lucky, lucky.

2. Jessie Ware, What's Your Pleasure?

Released: June 26, 2020
Original review
Buy it now on vinyl

Disco that's done the homework. Jessie Ware returned in 2020 with a studied and sophisticated homage to the legends that have come before with a modern flair, serving up nods to everyone from Earth, Wind & Fire ("Remember Where You Are") to Fern Kinney ("Save a Kiss") to Kylie Minogue ("What's Your Pleasure?") - and God willing, a destined collaboration with the latter will come by this time next year. A result is a start-to-finish rich sonic experience, filled with Jessie's signature vocal tenderness drizzled over warm, pulsating beats, easily making it her best outing to date, from the cheeky, "Pull Up to the Bumper"-esque wink-wink of "Ooh La La" to the midnight drama of the Royksöpp-style "The Kill." What's Your Pleasure? is not as much a four-to-the-floor sweaty dance floor set as it is best served as the pulsing soundtrack to a poolside party or rooftop soiree sometime off in the (hopefully) not-so-socially distanced future. Disco was certainly top of mind in 2020, and Jessie thoroughly embodied the spirit. A pleasure, indeed. Thoroughly.

1. Dua Lipa, Future Nostalgia

Released: March 27, 2020
Original review
Buy it now on vinyl

Future Nostalgia is an ambitious title for an album, implying that its contents will be impactful enough to conjure some sentimental memory in the far-off distance. And while the memories of 2020 won't be quite as warm as the 25-year-old singer likely had in mind while crafting her retro-meets-modern sophomore record, Dua still managed to nail the assignment with a record that lives up to its name.

Future Nostalgia was among the first major pop albums to kick off a most uncertain New Normal (if not the first?), as the music world debated how to proceed while live entertainment came to an abrupt, indefinite end.

And in spite of dropping during peak panic, the rich dance-pop record proved to be just the right at-home musical medicine, providing us with some of the year's biggest hits, including last year's still-perfect disco-pop masterpiece "Don't Start Now," which has since lived a year's long life on the charts, and is now a certifiable modern classic.

The hits are fast and frequent, including "Break Your Heart," "Levitating," the Confessions on a Dance Floor-adjacent "Hallucinate" and almighty chant-along bout of sexercize "Physical," my favorite song of 2020. Deeper cuts are still as worthy of single status, including "Pretty Please," "Love Again" and closer "Boys Will Be Boys," which found an appropriate forum for its double standard-denouncing message at the 2020 Billboard Women in Music event at the end of the year.

Beyond good songs, Dua proved that the album experience doesn't have to live and die on a single New Music Friday, and quality music can and should have a shelf life, despite our exponentially shrinking attention spans in a streaming world.

She constantly found new ways to breathe new life into the record - endless live performances, collaborations aplenty, a remix album full of A-list samples and features, a massive year-end virtual spectacle in the form of Studio 2054 - resulting in one of the most long-lasting and thoroughly enjoyable Main Pop Girl™ eras in years. If there's any album from this year that will genuinely provoke any sort of nostalgia in the future for me, it's this one.

"I hope it makes you dance and I hope I make you proud," she tearfully offered on a live stream days after the world largely shut down. Don't worry, Dua: you did.

These albums are all featured on the MuuTunes Spotify playlist. Subscribe!

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Anitta Pabllo Vittar Luisa Sonza Modo Turbo

"Modo Turbo": Luísa Sonza, Anitta & Pabllo Vittar Feel Their Gamer Fantasy

"Foguete do tipo Nasa saindo da atmosfera..."

2020 has been almost exclusively bad, except for the music.

And one of the best parts of this year in pop? The ample tag-team moments from our Queens of Pop, from "Rain on Me" with Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande, to "WAP" with Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion to "Prisoner" with Miley Cyrus and Dua Lipa. But what would a year of femme-tastic collaborations be without a trio of Brazilian superstar bombshells to top it all off?

That's right: mere days before Santa Claus comes sliding down our chimneys (in a mask, after quarantining for two weeks with Mrs. Claus, the elves and reindeer and everyone testing negative, obviously), and perfectly timed with The Great Conjunction, we're being blessed with a big ol' early present that'll pair perfectly with the brand new PlayStation 5 he's bringing: Luísa Sonza. Anitta. Pabllo Vittar.

Not since 2017's "Sua Cara" have Anitta and Pabllo Vittar come together to bare their bundas and break the Internet, but if there were ever a time for a miraculous reunion moment between the two divas, it's right about now.

"Modo Turbo," which arrived on Monday (December 21), is Luísa's first single from her forthcoming follow-up to 2019's Pandora. And while the fierce and assertive banger is hot enough to work up a sweat in its own right as a song, this one's really all about the accompanying music video, which is a gaymer's paradise.

Inspired by RPGs like Final Fantasy and action series like Power Rangers, the Alaska-directed visual is basically heaven for nerds: it's anime. It's League of Legends. It's Avengers. It's K/DA. It's Garena Free Fire, according to Anitta, which is what she's playing lately. It's Cardcaptor Sakura, according to Pabllo during a press conference.

But even if you aren't a total geek foaming at the mouth at the various references in their outfits, the girls still deliver a good, gay ol' time as part of the major CGI-pop spectacle. After happening upon an abandoned arcade, the three plug into a game of MODO TURBO and get really, really into the game - quite literally.

Once inside, they do everything they can to unite and take down the big boss: from Luísa's throwing stars, to Pabllo's magical wand energy, to the mighty, unmatched power of Anitta's unstoppable ass. In the end, that sorta-cute, sorta-ugly giant monster is quite simply no match for Brazilian pop royalty. (It's also kind of their very own Pepsi commercial moment.)

They won. GGEZ.

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