Roisin Murphy Assimilation Crooked Disco

This Is "Assimilation": Róisín Murphy Takes Us to the Afterparty

Over the past year, while many of us largely stayed holed up at home amid the pandemic, several of our most trusted titans of music supplied us with essential, escapist collections designed for the (hypothetical) dance floor.

Róisín Murphy, certainly, was one of our lockdown saviors, thanks to her sweaty, sexy and reliably bonkers Róisín Machine, released in October.

And now that those days of twirling and flirting at the club don't seem quite so far off anymore (thank God - get your vaccines if you can, everyone), there's no doubt that those records are going to be in heavy rotation to make up for lost time.

Of course, the ever-impatient Róisín has already moved on past last year's original project - she wants "Something More," remember? - with a new take on the tracks, in the form of Crooked Machine, out digitally on April 30, with a vinyl version to come as part of Record Store Day on June 11.

The reinterpretation of her 2020 record was crafted alongside producer Crooked Man, AKA DJ Parrot: "If Róisín Machine was the big night out…this is the afterparty where things get darker and more twisted," the press release declares.

The lead single from the reimagining - "Assimilation," a sultry makeover of "Simulation" - certainly fits the description, playing like the late night comedown version of the endlessly hypnotic, now decade-old (!) tune.

The album was inspired by albums such as the Gwen Guthrie’s Padlock, Imagination’s Night Dubbing and Love & Dancing by The Human League, and like the original album, is intended to be a continuous listening experience.

“Parrot doesn’t try to be ‘cool,' I reckon that’s the last thing on his mind. He makes music with a real sense of responsibility to the craft. He just cannot make rubbish music, he’d be too ashamed. So everything he is and everything he has learned, is put into everything he does. I think Crooked Machine is one of his greatest achievements so far. I left him and Fat Dave to their own devices on this and they have outdone themselves! I absolutely love it!! I think I prefer it to the original album, slightly less me and all the more ‘cool’ for it!" Róisín says of the release.

The album's tracklist is also a clever, playful remake of the original, with new mashed-up titles like "Kingdom of Machines," "We Are the Law" and "Crooked Madame."

It all sounds very promising, and will hopefully help to soundtrack a far less socially distanced summer.

Róisín Machine is available now as a double vinyl.

Crooked Machine tracklist

1. Kingdom Of Machines
2. Echo Returns
3. Capable Rhythm
4. Assimilation
5. Crooked Madame
6. Less Is More
7. Name Changer
8. We Are The Law
9. Hardcore Jealousy

Michelle Visage STEPS Heartbreak In This City Music Video

Michelle Visage Is a Pop Star Again, Thanks to STEPS

Michelle Visage is truly living the STEPS stan-tasy.

While most of us might know her best (or, at least, most frequently) as RuPaul's green-averse right-hand as a judge on RuPaul's Drag Race for the past decade, others will remember - certainly thanks to the roast episodes in particular - that Michelle was also briefly part of a girl group called Seduction in the late '80s-to-early '90s. (Watch this medley!) She also commands an entirely capable voice - her "Silent Night" rendition! - and can certainly hold her own in pop star mode.

That brings us to the present day (April 1): a collaboration with STEPS in the form of "Heartbreak in This City.". And no, it's no April Fool's Day joke.

Born after pitching the idea to work together after an Instagram Live interview to promote their latest album What the Future Holds last year, the collaboration also marks STEPS' first...ever, after over two decades strong in the game.

It's also now the official first taste of the group's What The Future Holds Pt. 2, an entirely new follow-up to STEPS' 2020 studio album, due out on September 10. (Shakira's Fijación Oral, Vol. 1 & 2 are shaking.)

After releasing the song in February, the troupe just dropped the accompanying music video on Thursday (April 1), along with the exciting album news. (More on that in a moment.)

Sadly, due to COVID restrictions, the legendary Lisa Scott-Lee was forced to shoot her parts closer to home in Dubai (a very Totally Scott-Lee kind of storyline), which resulted in Michelle stepping in to form a full fivesome at the video's main shoot at Heartbreak HQ in Manchester.

But distance can't hold a dance routine down: the general gist is that Special Agent Visage is sent by Special Agent Scott-Lee to Heartbreak HQ (passcode: 5, 6, 7, 8 - we love a REFERENCE!) in order to, uh, detect instances in heartbreaks in this city.

While I don't quite understand the exact science or nature of their work, I have to imagine the scene looked quite similar while the scientists ran clinical trials for the coronavirus vaccine. Or perhaps this is all part of the fourth phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. ScottLeeVision. Who can be sure?

It goes without saying that the agents operating in the headquarters - H, Lee, Faye and Claire - all look fantastic as ever in their Serious Researcher mode, providing Fifth Harmony-as-construction-workers levels of scientific competence.

As the guest star, Michelle certainly steals the show again and again, especially with her new, chic signature silver streak that's carried across several seasons of Drag Race at this point. She more than holds her own when it comes down to cranking out the choreography. She's also loving every moment of it: "Michelle From Steps has arrived!" she declared.

It's all very fun, fabulous and very much looking camp right in the eye.

And there's still so much more to come from the 11-track album, including a song called "Take Me For a Ride" from the co-writers of classics like "One for Sorrow" and "Deeper Shade of Blue," as well as "A Hundred Years of Winter," an "icy electronic anthem" from the legendary Darren Hayes. (!) Plus, a second CD of remixes and acoustic versions!

STEPS got us through the pandemic in 2020 with their unexpectedly timely, anxiety-riddled anthem - which means, according to my own calculations, they're also the only ones who can get us out.

Sofia Carson Fool's Gold

Sofia Carson Strikes (Fool's) Gold

Sofia Carson is on fire. Quite literally.

For those unfamiliar, the 27-year-old actress and singer is one of the newer generation's reigning Disney queens, having starred in the massively successful Descendants franchise and various Disney Original Movies. She was also in Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists, among other TV and film roles. (Check the IMDb - she's a booked and busy girl.)

But what is a Disney queen if not a multi-hyphenate superstar?

Sofia also launched a solo career in music with Hollywood Records back in 2016 (and performed as part of that Radio Disney tribute to Britney, remember that?), and has slowly positioned herself as a bit of an EDM queen in the process, providing features on tracks with acts like R3HAB, Alan Walker, Galantis and Grey.

That brings us to now: on Friday (March 26), Sofia dropped a brand new single and music video called "Fool's Gold," and it packs a pop punch from the songwriting credits alone: legendary duo Stargate co-produced the track with Yakob, along with co-writing from RAYE (check out our recent interview) and Jeff Jones.

Kicking off with a very "Levitating" remix giggle, the strutting number introduces us to a breathy, self-assured beauty on the brink of love, assessing a potential new suitor having already been burnt before.

"I've been working overtime learning how to love myself / Used to trust too easy, but I learned that from someone else / Baby, you feel it, I got diamonds in my eyes, he said / Yes, my ego likes you, my intuition pulling back," she considers, in a very "my body's saying let's go, but my heart is saying no" kind of way that Christina Aguilera knows all too well.

"Down in my soul, I need to know / Are you for real or fool's gold? / You're pulling me close, but I need to know / Are you for real or fool's gold?" she debates across elegant strings, funky guitar and a sexy, seductive bass line. There's a bit of Madonna's "Fever" to the beat in the verses, also - which is fitting, considering all music video's fiery imagery and all.

The highly flammable accompanying visual, directed by the highly in-demand Hannah Lux Davis, supplies serious shades of Sophie Ellis-Bextor chic style, with a hint of Britney's "3" overhead pole dancing - with added flames, of course. She's a stunner, as is this song.

“This is the beginning of a story I’m sharing with the world. We meet a girl who’s at the cusp of falling heart-first into a love that feels too good to be true. Before she falls, she can’t seem to quiet that voice in her head that keeps singing ‘are you for real or Fool’s Gold?’” Sofia explains, hinting at more to come this year.

Sofia hasn't necessarily had any massive mainstream hits just yet. But with any luck, this undeniable bop will catch on - like wildfire, if you will. To quote a fellow Disney queen: burns in the sky, higher and, can you play with fire?

Upcoming Releases Record Vinyl Pre-Order April 2021

Top Picks for Upcoming Vinyl Releases (April 2021)

It's time for another edition of Put The Needle On It.

Inspired by last year's Record Store Day and the fragmented vinyl drop schedule amid the pandemic, I'm continuing to do round-ups of some of the upcoming vinyl releases and pre-orders that have caught my eye, which MuuMuse readers would more than likely enjoy getting their hands on, too. (No, Rachel Stevens' Come & Get It still hasn't been rereleased on vinyl. The fight continues.)

This month's round-up is full of yuh, a sprinkle of oh me oh my, and a whole lot of woo hoo...yee hoo.

Make sure to let me know which upcoming releases you're looking forward to grabbing for yourself in the comments. Happy hunting!


Ariana Grande Positions
Ariana Grande
Format: Spring green 12" vinyl
Release date: April 9, 2021
The sixth studio album from Ariana Grande, Positions is available exclusively at Urban Outfitters on spring green vinyl. The R&B-inflected pop album showcases the singer’s standout vocals with songs that assert her independence, power and sensuality, all on her own terms. 2021, Republic Records.


Yuh, yuh. Ari's horny-on-main 2020 studio album, which features her ode to being #vers ("Positions") and her 69-minded "34+35," gets a bright green vinyl makeover.

Dua Lipa Future Nostalgia Moonlight Edition
Dua Lipa
Future Nostalgia: The Moonlight Edition
Format: Black vinyl LP
Release date: May 14, 2021
The "Moonlight Edition" is a repackage of Dua Lipa's 2020 studio album, 'Future Nostalgia,' featuring all new songs.


Essential Peep: The Best Album of 2020 gets a re-release, this time with extra gems like "We're Good," "If It Ain't Me" and "That Kind of Woman."

Selena Gomez Revelacion Vinyl
Selena Gomez
Format: Black 12" vinyl
Release date: May 14, 2021
Selena Gomez's first Spanish-language album. Revelación translates to English as revelation, an act of revealing or communicating divine truth, similar to what Gomez is musically experiencing. The Texas native said she's exploring music in another language because she's "so, so proud of my heritage."


She's Spanish and a baby, and she's making her Spanish-language debut.

Chloe x Halle Ungodly Hour
Chloe x Halle
Ungodly Hour (Chrome Edition)
Format: Black vinyl with foil embossed standard jacket
Release date: July 9, 2021
Ungodly Hour (Chrome Edition) including two new songs titled ”80/20” and “Hazy."


The duo responsible for quarantine's best at-home performances deliver their early '00s-referencing R&B masterpiece in sleek chrome.

Slayyyter Troubled Paradise Vinyl
Troubled Paradise
Format: Transparent cloudy clear 12" vinyl
Release date: June 11, 2021
Pop sensation Slayyyter is taking control of 2021, releasing her debut album Troubled Paradise out via FADER Label. Featuring singles like "Self Destruct," "Throatzillaaa" and title track “Troubled Paradise,” Slayyyter spins dastardly lovers, boredom, and literal villains into bombastic, Y2K-influenced music on her first official LP. Her ferocious return signals the dawning of a new era for the self-made popstar, one who isn’t afraid to raise some hell.


Oh me, oh my: the rising Internet pop princess' debut full-length will have you floating in the clouds. (Check out her interview with MuuMuse.)

Dawn Richard Second Line Vinyl
Dawn Richard
Second Line
Format: White vinyl with bonus shaped gold 12"
Release date: April 30, 2021
Much like the New Orleans–born artist who created it, Second Line is an unapologetic genre bender that pushes boundaries, expands possibilities, and shatters expectations. It’s more than just an album: Second Line is a cohesive sensory experience that questions traditional ideas of sound, production, and visual aesthetics as they relate to music. Its interlocking parts tell an epic story about the quest for artistic expression, with Dawn describing her project as “a movement to bring pioneering Black women in electronic music to the forefront.”


The genre-bending, shape-shifting Danity Kane solo star continues to make futuristic electronica waves. Bussifame!

evermore Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift
Format: Green double vinyl
Release date: May 28, 2021
Folklore's sister record. These songs were created with Aaron Dessner, Jack Antonoff, WB and Justin Vernon. The deluxe physical edition will include two bonus tracks.


An indie, under-the-radar singer-songwriter's second surprise album of 2020. Start searching the liner notes and inside jacket for clues for the next album, Swifties. She probably hid something in there.

Gwen Stefani The Sweet Escape Vinyl
Gwen Stefani
The Sweet Escape
Format: Metallic gold 12" vinyl
Release date: April 8, 2021
Gwen Stefani’s second solo album, The Sweet Escape, is available exclusively at Urban Outfitters, pressed to color vinyl for the first time in a gold hue you can't get anywhere else. The follow-up to 2004's multi-platinum Love. Angel. Music. Baby., it features a fresher sonic palette with electronic, dance-pop motifs. Featuring the singles, “Wind It Up” and “The Sweet Escape.” 2006, Interscope.


Fifteen years later, Gwenie, Gwen, Gwen's second studio album is still yummy head to toe - and mixed within all the fun, bizarre pop confections are some of her best ballads: "4 In the Morning" and "Early Winter."

Zara Larsson Poster Girl Vinyl
Zara Larsson
Poster Girl
Format: Black 12" vinyl
Release date: April 9, 2021
The third studio album from Zara Larsson, featuring "Love Me Land," "Wow," "Talk About Love" and "Look What You've Done."


The Swedish superstar doesn't know how to craft a bad pop song, quite frankly.

K D Lang Makeover Vinyl
k. d. lang
Format: Transparent turquoise 12" vinyl
Release date: May 28, 2021
In celebration of Pride Month, Nonesuch Records releases k.d. lang’s makeover, a new collection of classic dance remixes of some of her best-loved songs on May 28, 2021. The album brings these remixes, made between 1992 and 2000, together for the first time, and includes “Sexuality,” “Miss Chatelaine,” “Theme from the Valley of the Dolls,” “Summerfling,” and the #1 dance chart hits “Lifted By Love” and “If I Were You.” makeover’s cover art features a previously unseen 1995 portrait of lang by David LaChapelle. The album is available on transparent turquoise vinyl.


The prolific Canadian singer-songwriter gives the gays everything they want in time for Pride.

Miki Matsubara Stay With Me Vinyl TikTok Viral Song J-Pop
Miki Matsubara
"Mayonaka no Door / Stay With Me"
Format: 7" single vinyl
Release date: April 1, 2021
More than 40 years after being released, "Mayonaka no Door / Stay With Me" by Miki Matsubara spent 20 consecutive days at No. 1 in the world on the Spotify Global Viral Chart. The song first became popular again through North America and Asia on YouTube and TikTok, before its popularity got spread widely to the entire world, leading to a vinyl reissue.


This is one of those instances of the kids getting it right on TikTok: a Japanese city-pop 1979 hit goes incredibly viral among the youths, leading to a posthumous vinyl re-release. It's a gorgeous, instantly nostalgic tune, and you might recognize the chorus from your FYP.

Check out even more vinyl releases...

Lil Nas X Montero Call Me By Your Name Music Video

Lil Nas X Is Shoving His Gayness Down Our Throats (Thank God)

Lil Nas X has his thigh high heel on the industry's neck.

To be fair, he already did: his oft-remixed, endlessly meme-d "Old Town Road" is the longest-running hit in chart history, even beating the record set by the icon herself Mariah Carey with "One Sweet Day." He also caused the industry to ponder the confines of country music and reconsider the genre's sonic limitations in terms of chart and award eligibility. And his follow-up releases, including 7 with "Panini," a Top 5 hit, and "Rodeo" with Cardi B ensured that he wouldn't go down as a One Hit Wonder.

Despite only having a handful of tracks to his name, there's no doubt that Lil Nas X is already a superstar: Miley Cyrus is sending him flowers and fangirling in the comments, he's embroiled in DM scandals with 6ix9ine and dodging homophobia from Kevin Hart, and his own queen acknowledged his existence, Nicki Minaj. (Barb supremacy!)

But with "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)," the 22-year-old viral hit-maker is accomplishing something more noteworthy beyond the typical charts and sales number-crunching in the music industry: he's putting unabashedly queer representation in the mainstream's face.

Yes, he is shoving his lifestyle down your throat, Karen. Deal with it.

The accompanying music video for "Montero," released on Friday (March 26), is exactly what I'd imagine a newly out 20-something gay pop star with a massive budget would dream up in 2021. It's full of pop culture, sex and rebellion themes, and feels inspired by a number of things: video games like Final Fantasy, Hunger Games, Chromatica, FKA twigs' "Cellophane," the Bible.

It's a tale as old as time (well, Abrahamic religion): tasting the "forbidden fruit" of homosexuality (that stomach lick!), getting punished and cast straight to the pits of Hell.

Only here, Lil Nas X is grabbing hold of the stripper pole ride down to damnation and supplying devious glances and sexy gyrations. Far from shame, he's feeling quite comfortable in his Calvin Klein undies and leaning all the way into "sin" - or, rather, doing splits and advanced bottom-ography right on the lap of the Devil himself, before ultimately claiming the horns and reigning supreme over Hell. (Cue the Illuminati / New World Order / Hollywood baby-eating conspiracy theory panic.)

"Montero" is lyrically gay as hell too, which might be overshadowed by the understandably buzzed-about video: he's talking about grabbing ass, fucking and riding until he shoots his load. ("I wanna feel on your ass in Hawaii / I want that jet lag from fuckin' and flyin' / Shoot a child in your mouth while I'm ridin'.")

It's the dirty stuff plenty of gays talk about privately, but subject matter that's nowhere to be found on YouTube's top trending videos or Spotify Viral Charts. Sex talk in a hit song? It's almost inevitable. But gay sex talk? Revolutionary.

And the explicit sex stuff is the point. Popular culture might have made space for acts like Sam Smith, who sings sweetly of romance and heartbreak - no disrespect to their craft. But gay fucking? From a major label artist? It's still taboo - and so, incredibly refreshingly normal to hear from a horny gay guy.

Musically speaking, which will go even more overlooked than the music video and lyrics: "Montero" is a hit! It's a quick and catchy bop for the TikTok attention span generation, sure, but we knew that already from the moment he played that catchy hook in the car nearly a full year ago. Fans have been clamoring to hear that instant earworm in full ever since, making the song seem almost mythological up until this point, which is genius marketing.

He really just knows how to work the Internet. He's so fucking Internet funny, especially when poking fun at his critics, which comes as no surprise as "a veteran of Barb Twitter," as JP Brammer once described him. He supplies good memes and funny videos daily in a way that makes me feel like the Harry Potter-loving, Buzzfeed quiz-taking lame millennial TikTok tells me I am. And I'm at peace with it! I'm in my 30s! He's so fresh, and so exciting - and he's genuinely thriving.

But for all the humor he provides, there was nothing funny about Lil Nas X's heartfelt open letter to his 14-year-old self upon the song's release.

The queer experience certainly isn't a universal one - it's different for everyone, largely affected by factors like race, socioeconomic status, nationality and religion - but what he wrote cuts deep for anyone who felt (or still feels) that all-too-familiar feeling of the need to stay closeted for safety, or eventually coming out and saying things like "my sexuality doesn't define me" or "I don't even get why there's Pride" to tell yourself that you aren't like those gays.

"I know we promised to never be 'that' type of gay person...but this will open doors for many other queer people to simply exist," he wrote.

It's an insight wise well beyond his years, because only with life experience does one eventually realize that being deemed "acceptable" to heteronormative society isn't the goal: equality and liberation for all queer people is. Sexuality exists on a spectrum. Things like masculinity and femininity are subjective. Promiscuity does not determine someone's inherent goodness. So long as no one is hurting anyone else, everyone has the right to exist exactly as they are - regardless of whether you choose to live your life the same way.

As anticipated, and even provoked - "i’m gonna be so pissed if i don’t get any illuminati conspiracy videos, i worked so hard for this," he tweeted - there are negative reactions coming out from conservative pundits and religious fanatics. It's the same song and dance about damnation and the erosion of society we've heard since the Original Sin. (Madonna's "Like a Prayer.") Lil Nas X is going to Hell? Oh, honey. Look around. We're already there. He might as well make himself at home.

While Lil Nas X is far from the first queer entertainer, he is undoubtedly one of this younger generation's biggest new stars. His coming out in 2019 mattered in a big way - and his decidedly Gay-with-a-capital-G output in 2021 now matters even more. The more he racks up those views and sales and awards while being unabashedly his gay self, the more likely it is that similarly loud-and-proud queer acts, who have already been at this for way longer, will get even bigger opportunities that might have been deemed "too risky" by record labels or companies, or whoever else gatekeeps mainstream visibility. "Just look at Lil Nas X!" Perhaps some queer music acts will be less shy about expressing their horny desires. And maybe it'll provide the encouragement for other stars to come out of the closet.

But maybe the biggest victory of all is what it'll mean to the teenagers who see themselves in that letter he wrote. It's all that I've been thinking about, really.

To see a genuinely cool pop star my age, living out his sexy weirdo fantasies, freely exploring and fluidly playing between masculine and feminine presentation, and expressing my same desires at that formative age? Thank God for all of my Queens of Pop who made me feel strong and empowered of course, but I can only imagine what it could have been like to watch that video - and maybe even aspire to be like him one day, too. Right now, all I feel is an immense sense of pride.

Just keep going and staying true to your experience, incredible sense of humor and wild imagination, Lil Nas X. You're never going to please everyone, or be everything to everybody. But for some, you actually are - and you are certainly helping to change the world for the better.

R3HAB Jolin Tsai Stars Align

Jolin Tsai Crafts a Dance Floor Banger With R3HAB

When it comes to all the international queens of pop, R3HAB evidently knows what's up.

The Dutch-Moroccan DJ's done official remixes for all the girls - from Rihanna to Katy Perry to Taylor Swift. And only a few months ago, he and Chung Ha served up the supremely fierce tag-team in the form of "Dream of You," as featured on her language barrier-blurring, boundary-breaking Querencia.

And now, he's set his sights on the Ugly Beauty Mandopop supreme herself, Jolin Tsai.

Evidently, the Queen of C-Pop found some time in between supplying life mantras and having intimate relations with dolphins to duck into the recording studio for a starry-eyed EDM endeavor.

"Stars Align" is an English-language dance floor moment for Jolin, released as part of PUBG MOBILE's third anniversary celebrations. I'm solely a League of Legends kind of gay (bronze trash!), but this game is actually huge, with over 50 million (!) daily active users. Our ladies are truly winning with all these video game tie-ins. The impact of Ava Max's Roblox concert!

The track is a catchy, if simple dance floor banger, equipped with a solid thump, a nonsense ATC / Eiffel 65-adjacent earworm of a chorus ("da, da, da-da-da-da, da") and hopeful wishes for an eventual reunion: "Can I go back to the days that I had you? / Back to one more night like we're used to," Jolin reminiscences. In the socially distanced time of a panorama, it fits all too well.

R3HAB also played an in-game set live on PUBG Mobile, premiering the track alongside acts like Alesso and Lost Frequencies. It's genuinely wild to see how much gaming has virtually incorporated music, especially amid the pandemic.

"I'm always looking to push boundaries and explore different genres. Jolin feels the same way and has been a pioneer in Mandopop. It's energizing for me to work with artists who know the sky's the limit, and 'Stars Align' is a nod to that shared vision. I'm a long-time player of PLAYERUNKNOWN'S BATTLEGROUNDS, so being able to share the song with this community is an honor. I hope this song is a lucky star for all the players, listeners, and fans enjoying it," R3HAB said of the collaboration.

Although Jolin's supplied more musically and lyrically advanced works in the past, sometimes less is more...which is to say she might just globally smash with this basic banger.

Frankly, it would be bliss to hear the Taiwanese superstar's voice blaring from the speakers at electronic festivals across the world throughout 2021. (And for festivals to exist in general.) Here's hoping.

Sarah Harding Wear It Like a Crown

Sarah Harding Wears It Like a Crown

Girls Aloud is among my favorite girl groups of all time.

But don't take my present word for it: just ask my 24-year-old self, who ventured abroad to London for the first time just to see their triumphant Ten Tour.

"My obsession with the group started around 2005 or so, when I was prowling one of the now defunct Britney forums and came across a thread celebrating the video for 'The Show' and touting them as the new Spice Girls. At first, I was unimpressed. 'No one beats Spice,' I thought to myself. But then I kept on watching.

I quickly fell in love with what’s become the signature Aloud sound, carefully constructed by their longtime collaborators, Xenomania: The endlessly catchy hooks, mile-a-minute rhythms, the cheeky, nonsensical references to bad behavio(u)r, disco dancing, deadlines, diets and hanging ’round the kitchen in one’s underwear...the group isn’t just one of the primary catalysts that forever sparked my love for British pop music, but the major reason for some of my best friendships with my similarly Brit pop-minded friends in America–including several people who journeyed overseas with me. Basically, if you know what Tangled Up is, you can sit with us."

That love affair never changed, even if Life Got Cold (REFERENCE) many years ago when the girl group slipped away in the form of a TwitLonger. (Too soon, still.)

Life's also changed significantly, as has each member's individual circumstances. And right now, our beloved Sarah Harding is going through an extraordinarily difficult battle.

At what should have been a joyous time for the group spent plotting a 20th anniversary reunion in 2022, instead, Sarah is fighting breast cancer, which has since spread to other parts of her body. And according to her newly released memoir, Hear Me Out, she's been dealt an incredibly bleak prognosis.

"In December my doctor told me that the upcoming Christmas would probably be my last," she wrote, adding that she's "trying to live and enjoy every second of my life, however long it might be...I'm at a stage now where I don't know how many months I have left. Who knows, maybe I'll surprise everyone, but that's how I'm looking at things."

There's no other way to put it: it's devastating.

But Sarah is still Sarah after all, and she remains a feisty fighter as ever - with a dark sense of humor, no less - at peace with whatever comes next.

“I keep thinking about funerals at the moment," she writes.

"It might sound morbid, but it’s hard not to at this stage — cemeteries, plots, burials, what kind of send-off I’d like and how it would all go. I’ve also thought about an epitaph for my grave. I’m thinking ‘FFS’ might be a good one. It’s probably been my most used phrase throughout this, with one crappy event following another. ‘For fuck’s sake!’"

Despite quite a few years spent apart, the members of the Almighty Aloud have all united to rally around Sarah on social media and promote her memoir alongside the fans, cheering her on and sending her love as her book, and the accompanying Girls Aloud song, "Hear Me Out," surged to the top of the charts.

Following the song's vault to No. 1 on the UK iTunes Chart, Xenomania collaborator Brian Higgins also provided some sweet, evocative insight into Sarah co-writing the 2004 What Will the Neighbours Say? song, an aspect that often gets overlooked in pop, especially when it comes to girl group contributions to the songwriting process.

"The songwriting talent of @SarahNHarding is being recognised, it is lovely to see 'Hear Me Out' by @GirlsAloudMedia sat at no.1 on iTunes. This was Sarah’s co-write on the 2nd album What Will The Neighbours Say. This is how it happened…they all came down to Kent on a really hot mid-summer day in 2004, to each write a song for the album. It was a classic English summers day, hot, the colour green and the colour blue everywhere with a warm light breeze. We took the whole day very seriously, we wanted each song to bring the very best out of each girl’s writing talents. The band knew before they arrived that this was very much their day, so, on arrival, The Old Vicarage was filled with this added layer of fantastic, excited energy. It was a great day to be at Xenomania - everybody wanted them to smash it! Lots of adrenaline and buzz to do great things and see what each girl had," he wrote.

"One by one, Miranda [Cooper] and I sat with the band as they came in to write their song against music they had chosen earlier- all the xeno team had prepared their musical ideas that they each thought would capture one or some of the girls’ attention. Gladly, each girl heard something they were confident in and felt was close to their own musical hearts. The lyric and top line writing took place in the yellow room at our first studio in Westerham. The sun was pouring into the room and it was about 4.30pm, so the light felt perfect. It was also hot in the room, but not oppressive - just right. Sarah was definitely very nervous and hyped before we started, big bolts of adrenaline rushing through her. The music started and BANG! The chorus roared out of her virtually finished! Miranda and I looked at each other with raised eyebrows, mouths falling open. WOW! I was not expecting that. In the one time she had heard the musical backing track when picking music earlier, she had been able to write the whole of the chorus. It's pretty amazing when things like that happen - when the first idea smashes it. And what a vocal performance!! It’s emotional, it’s earnest and it’s raw, but, the vocal melody is also skilled, intelligent and finds true and real emotions in the chords that the music offers. This is art - true, complete expression. This is why we do it - we pursue that moment, we pursue those feelings. To boot, it also has the feel of classic 80’s/90’s euro which makes it even more amazing! As a song, 'Hear Me Out' completely warrants its place on the album. It was talked about as a 4th single and just lost out to the pile driver that is 'Wake Me Up'. Sarah chose that moment to write the song of her life - a song that is completely true to who she is."

As it turns out, "Hear Me Out" isn't the only musical moment from Sarah that's getting attention.

"Hi everyone - hope you are all keeping well. It's been so lovely to hear that you guys have been enjoying Hear Me Out, both the book and the song! I can't believe you nutters got the song not only into the charts, but to NUMBER ONE! I love you all so much, you are the best people in the world," Sarah wrote on her Instagram on Thursday (March 25).

"So, while I was searching through my laptop for old photos to include in the book I actually came across a song I'd recorded about ten years ago. I've always really loved it, and it made me feel a bit sad that no one ever got to hear it. I mentioned this to my team and they said we could release it, and I thought 'why the hell not?' It's called 'Wear It Like A Crown' and it's out on iTunes and streaming... FROM TODAY. I've literally no idea how this all works anymore, but on the off chance it generates any profit, I'll give it all to the Christie NHS Foundation @christiecharity where I'm receiving my treatment. If you've read my book you'll know just how amazing the Doctors, Nurses and all the staff at The Christie are. They are actual angels."

And all at once, we've got new (old) Harding on our hands.

Produced by Robert Habolin (Girls' Generation, Zara Larsson), and co-penned by Gavin Jones and the talented Swedish singer-songwriter and Pure Shores member Marlene (!), the early '10s kiss-off contains all the energy and attitude that one would expect to hear from Harding, as she casts out a creep and makes the best of a bitter ending, reigning supreme on the throne with a crown made out of misfortune.

"I'll turn your lies to gold and shining diamonds / And wear it like a crown," she declares.

And even if this was originally intended to be a break-up banger, the overall message of this "Crown" - of perseverance in the face of fuckery, and making the most of a bad situation - meets the moment rather appropriately.

This moment, of course, is about much more than just the song.

I want to send Sarah all my love, and my heartfelt appreciation for contributing to something that profoundly changed my life and informed so much of my career, my friendships and my passion for music. We are all with you and support you, and I hope you are seeing and feeling that every day. I'm sending you all the strength, positivity, love and peace in the world.

To support Sarah and the Christie NHS Foundation, click here to download and stream the song (and grab the book).

Nicole Scherzinger She's Bingo Luis Fonsi MC Blitzy

Nicole Scherzinger & Luis Fonsi Made an Absurd Bingo Game Bop

Nicole Prescovia Elikolani Valiente Scherzinger - Miss Scherzy, if you're nasty - is back. Kind of.

With the pandemilovato putting the Pussycat Dolls reunion tour on hold, our reliable Puakenikeni Princess decided to react (REFERENCE) accordingly by hopping into a recording studio with Luis Fonsi to supply a theme song for a mobile game that your aunt most likely sends you invitations to join on Facebook every week.

Billed as the world's "most popular free-to-play mobile bingo game," Bingo Blitz is played by over one million daily players. (Are there PopCrave-level bingo stans who can confirm this stat? Bingo Blitz outsold, wbk.)

Yes, that's right: Her Name Is Nicole (Killer Love now available on streaming!), she's hot as a stove, and "She's Bingo," a delightfully nonsensical title for a wildly over-the-top collaboration with MC Blitzy (?) and Israel-based digital entertainment company Playtika.

In keeping with the general disco-inspired takeover of pop music (no complaints here!), the track is a take on French pop duo Ottowan's "D.I.S.C.O.", a Euro smash and No. 2 UK hit when it was released back in 1979.

The accompanying music video, shot in Miami, supplies the full bouncing bingo ball fantasy, while simultaneously illustrating the Masked Singer multi-hyphenate's ongoing plans for world domination, as she sings and dances her way across various locales. Brazil, Morocco, London to Ibiza, straight to L.A., New York, Vegas to Africa...all around the world, "Pretty" girls!

“I’ve shot a lot of music videos in my time, and this is on another level. Fonsi has made the whole project easy and fun. When I think about Bingo, it makes me think about my family because I used to play it with my family growing up, and it's super fun," Scherzy said (and/or Big Fat Lied) about the making of "She's Bingo."

Suffice to say, "She's Bingo" is an unhinged, less-than-3-minute Latin-disco-pop experience: from Nicole going full Matadorzinger up against a pile of bingo balls in the shape of a bull, to the songwriter award-ready lyricism - "Holy moly, she’s my one and only / She’s my Bingo and she’s winning 'cause she’s dancing slowly" - there is no part of this that is not pure chaos. As a result, I love it.

Also, any opportunity to see Scherzy whipping up choreography with a crew of dancers is going to be an instant, emphatic "yes, please."

The TikTok promo posts from Nicole are a win for us all as well: in one, Scherzy feels her Paula Abdul "Opposites Attract" fantasy with a cartoon BFF. In another, she inexplicably poses on set to the sound of Daya's incredible new single, "Bad Girl." Taste!

This new song makes me want to go B-I-N-G-O! ##shesbingo @b_blitzy ##ad
♬ She's BINGO - MC Blitzy featuring. Luis Fonsi and Nicole Scherzinger

♬ Bad Girl - Daya

The music video's already got five million views and counting, and the song's got hundreds of thousands of streams. Is Scherzy about to out-chart "React" with a Big Fat Bingo Bop? Say it ain't S-O!

Until we all loosen up our buttons and get those vaccines for the PCD show to finally get on the road, Scherzinger's Reverse Crazy Frog Expedition is the next best thing.

Utada Hikaru Charts Sales

Hikaru Utada's "One Last Kiss" Is Already Doing Big Numbers

“One Last Kiss” is proving to be big. Is anyone surprised?

In the same week of the 22nd (!) anniversary of her debut studio album First Love, which remains the best-selling album in Japanese history (and is now the basis of an upcoming Netflix show), Hikaru Utada is yet again notching huge charts and sales and besting her personal records two decades deep into her career.

According to Sony Music, the music video for "One Last Kiss," which has already been watched over 4 million times, has outpaced her own prior Evangelion theme song “Sakura Nagashi" from 2012, which was streamed one million times in a day.

In Japan, the digital version of the EP, which was released before the physical editions, went straight to No. 1 among albums on 12 domestic digital music services, and "One Last Kiss" was No. 1 among songs on 16 domestic digital music services - 9 of which were double No. 1s on the song and album charts.

It's also debuted in 33 territories worldwide, including going No. 1 on the iTunes song and album charts in Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau, marking a new record for digital No. 1s globally for Hikki, according to the label.

In America, "One Last Kiss" went to No. 2 on the U.S. iTunes store, tying her own "Hikari - Ray of Hope MIX" personal best song chart position from 2017.

The vinyl is already sold out in many stores in Japan, prompting additional production. And, as previously announced, an international edition of the vinyl is now in the works, scheduled for a Summer 2021 release.

Not bad for someone whose social media promotional presence these days is almost exclusively dedicated to sharing photos of miscellaneous things she's found on the street.

You can buy the Japanese edition of the "One Last Kiss" 12" vinyl and the CD now.

Aly & AJ Pretty Places

Aly & AJ Are About to Provide 2021's Ultimate Escape

"We could pack up this house, get out of town / Drive across country, one taillight out..."

Aly & AJ are making incredible music.

Let's not get it twisted, though: this is not new information. The sister act have achieved the damn near impossible, miraculously emerging from the Disney Machine and consistently delivering tune after dreamy indie-pop tune over the past few years.

Still, it's become abundantly clear that they're hitting their stride now more than ever.

Following the release of their gorgeously romantic, us-against-the-world anthem of a lead single "Slow Dancing" late last year and follow-up kiss-off "Listen!!!", as well as the long overdue explicit version of their "Potential Breakup Song," the duo returned Friday (March 5) with "Pretty Places," the latest offering off of their mouthful of a studio album, due out on May 7 - their first in 14 years, in fact - recorded with producer Yves Rothman at Sunset Sound. (More on that in a moment.)

"Pretty Places" is pretty perfect, driving-with-the-windows-down twangy-pop. It's lush and nostalgic and summery and dreamy with a vintage Americana appeal, inspiring a wanderlust that, vaccines willing, we'll all be able to explore for ourselves later this year, be it a cross-country drive with friends or a contemplative late night ride along the coast. ("Singing to the radio, don't worry, baby / With the windows down, I can feel it in the air tonight...")

That urgent bridge, especially, captures the present antsy mood following over a year and counting in various stages of quarantine: "I'll go anywhere / Let's go right now / Go anywhere / Doesn't matter how far..."

After teasing the album title to puzzled fans letter by letter over the past few weeks on social media, Aly & AJ finally revealed on Tuesday (March 9) that their new record is called - brace yourself - a touch of the beat gets you up on your feet gets you out and then into the sun.

Okay, Aly & AJ Apple! Eat your heart out, When the Pawn...

“There’s nothing more satisfying then sitting in a room asking the universe to humbly bring you the bones of a song. Especially when you have a creative genius as your producer constantly encouraging you to not jump ship, and to trust the process. We started conversations around making a full album together way back in early 2019, but it wasn’t until a writing trip in the fall that the record started to take shape. There were many discussions over the sound of this record, the overall tone, and what we wanted to accomplish. Yves made us feel free to be exactly who we were. That we needed to show people that we were two American girls who grew up in the Valley in LA that intend on putting out positive, inspirational, but also revealing and honest writing into the world," the duo said in a statement.

"We weirdly held an unnatural confidence over the recording & writing process this year (even when things would start and stop given all of the Covid shutdowns). It was like we were meant to make this music regardless of the world falling into the abyss because it was the record we were always born to make. That’s what music is all about though at the end of the day. The SONGS! The way it makes you feel, the memories you associate with it, the healing it brings, the celebration a chorus delivers you when your windows are rolled down and life feels perfect for that one fleeting moment. The feeling of getting back out into the sun.”

See that? It's present in the music, the lyrics, and in every explanation of the creation and intention behind these tracks: they just get it.

Based on what we've heard thus far, the new album's all about preserving and nurturing the good relationships, self-preservation in the face of bad ones, and relishing in the simple pleasures in life, as all we have is right now - which truly couldn't be better timed in the wake of massive priority reappraisal amid the pandemic.

May can't come soon enough.

Utada Hikaru One Last Kiss

Hikaru Utada Gives 'Evangelion' One Last Kiss

"I love you more than you'll ever know..."

If there's anyone who knows how to soundtrack a series, it's Hikaru Utada.

Aside from casually reigning as one of the top-selling Japanese artists of all time and laying the groundwork as one of the first major crossover acts in America, Hikaru's also established herself as a Theme Queen™. Go ahead and mention her name to a Kingdom Hearts nerd, and you'll likely reduce them to tears.

There's good reason for that: through her own lyrics and melodies, Utada consistently manages to tap into some of the most vivid imagery and memories of distant romances, simple pleasures and solemn goodbyes, leaving a lasting impression that genuinely sets her apart as a songwriter.

Regardless of whether the specific events that unfold in her songs have actually happened in your own life, the music still makes it all feel entirely real. Were you giving sad, tobacco-flavored last kisses at 15? Maybe. Does "First Love" make you feel like your teenage heart just got torn in half for the first time, every single time? Absolutely. In other words, she's a very good storyteller and emotion conductor - and that bodes well for providing sentimental songs for movies, video games and TV shows.

Nearly ten months after her last single "Darenimo Iwanai," Hikki returned on Tuesday (March 9) in Japan with the long awaited, long delayed "One Last Kiss," the theme song for the final Evangelion movie Evangelion:3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time, which, like most things in the past year, was pushed back for months amid the pandemic.

In a true "didn't see that one coming" moment that meets the chaotic vibe of the past year, the song's co-producer is none other than PC Music's own A.G. Cook, responsible for crafting edgy hyperpop cuts with everyone from Charli XCX to Caroline Polachek to the late, great SOPHIE.

That's right: Hikaru is officially part of the PC Music Cinematic Universe. Vroom, vroom.

A wave of electronica draws us into "One Last Kiss," which recalls the warmth of the Ultra Blue and Heart Station eras. Like last year's "Time," which turns into a full-on, hands-aloft party, the track treads into more joyful sonic territory. It feels like a continued emergence from the somber shadows of Fantome and, to an extent, Hatsukoi. A happier Hikki? We love to hear it.

"My first time to the Louvre / I didn’t think much of it / Because I had found my very own Mona Lisa," she swoons. (English translation via Lyrical Nonsense.)

It's a love song through and through, bolstered by a light and springy pulse, but in true Hikki fashion, there are bittersweet layers scattered deeper within: "The first time I laid eyes on you / The gears that started turning that day / I could feel an unavoidable loss would come."

As the song goes on, she paints a picture of a deep romance, and the couple's vulnerable first steps towards mutually letting their guard down.

“'I hate when people take my picture,' you say
But I don’t need any
For you’re already burned
Into the projector in my heart
I pretended that I wasn’t lonely
…well, we both did, didn’t we?
Desiring someone, in other words
Was the same as hurting myself."

"Oh oh oh oh oh… / The one I can never forget / Oh oh oh oh oh… / I love you more than you’ll ever know," she repeats over and over again. It's a simple, familiar, feel-good chorus - just like a longtime love would feel.

The bleep-bloops to be expected from an A.G. Cook collaboration are present - two-thirds into the track, most noticeably - as the track starts to sputter into metallic, twinkling noises and hypnotic vocal stutters, hitting a euphoric, club-ready stride that wouldn't sound at all out of place on a Charli or Caroline record.

That said, the production isn't nearly as jarring as some of PC Music's most experimental stuff. In fact, it feels more like a PC polish on what Utada already started. In other words, this is not "Bitch, I'm Utada" - although, I wouldn't be mad about that happening, either. (Also: is it me, or is that opening piano melody not strikingly similar to Dannii Minogue's Club Disco smash, "Feel Like I Do"? Anyone?)

There are some lovely moments later on, including "I know who it is now / Even at the end of the world / Even as I grow older / The one I can never forget," which recalls the eternal vows of another one of her more recent soundtrack songs, "Don't Think Twice / Chikai."

The song winds down beautifully from its ecstatic heights with a pretty, poetic finish: "A dazzling afternoon / Chasing after a wind blown past." That line is sort of the happy-sad embodiment of everything Hikaru Utada is about: finding joy in a fleeting moment, while still acknowledging that it, like all things, is impermanent.

Fittingly, the accompanying self-shot music video captures otherwise rare glimpses of Hikki enjoying herself in otherwise mundane circumstances, from a socially distanced park stroll, to a day at the seemingly empty arcade/amusement park, to twirling around in the kitchen. The intimate close-ups of the smiling superstar as she lounges on the floor and takes us around town also provides footage fit for a movie montage of a longtime romance. And although the self-shoot was almost surely a limited affair due to the pandemic, it's thoroughly Hikaru - the at-home DIY-style videos for "Hikari" and "Goodbye Happiness" come to mind.

"One Last Kiss" isn't even all that's new here: according to the initial round of movie-goers, not only is "One Last Kiss" featured at the end of the movie, but so is "Beautiful World (Da Capo Version)," Hikki's first-ever self-cover.

Originally released in 2007 as the theme for Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone, "Beautiful World" got the PlanitB remix treatment for 2009's Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance. Over a decade later, director Hideaki Anno requested a new version of the song to complete the ending sequence of the series, as "One Last Kiss" would likely not be long enough, according to a press release.

Hikaru responded to the request by creating a completely new version of "Beautiful World," resulting in a medley with "One Last Kiss." The end result feels like the definitive version of the track that manages to traverse all of the emotions, from an entirely haunting opening to the more familiar pulse of the original and beyond. She sounds incredible with each added ad-lib, and the weight of knowing she's got a "beautiful boy..." of her own since recording the original track makes for a much more emotionally loaded affair.

Speaking of loaded, the One Last Kiss EP is a pretty sweet deal: it's got all of the themes Utada's sung over the past 15 years - "Beautiful World," "Sakura Nagashi" and "One Last Kiss," her cover of "Fly Me to the Moon" and all the remixes in one place.

Another day, another satisfying conclusion to a beloved series as sung by our Hikaru.

But when one door closes, another opens: "Pink Blood" is coming. And the Netflix series based on her discography. And also that last? Hopefully? Oh baby, wait and see...

You can buy the "One Last Kiss" 12" vinyl and the CD now. An international edition is set to be released later this year.

Ylona Garcia All That

Ylona Garcia Packs a Quarantine-Pop Punch With "All That"

"So I left all that shit back in 2020 / I'm in my feels and I'm feeling legendary..."

Know what I don't need right now? Sad songs and somber reflections on the past year. I get it, fully. Trust! I am living this Hell, just like everyone else! Know what I could use instead? Any music that contains the mustard seed of hope that I might feel alive again.

Enter Ylona Garcia, 19-year-old Filipino-Australian singer-songwriter and actress - and former Pinoy Big Brother contestant (!) who rose to prominence as a runner-up on her series, followed by a string of popular appearances on shows like All-Star Sunday Afternoon Party (ASAP) and It's Showtime.

After making her music debut with her My Name Is Ylona Garcia EP at the young age of 16, appearing in more variety shows and reality TV competitions like We Love OPM: The Celebrity Sing-Offs, as well as a stint in a co-ed teen pop group called ASAP G! (who among us has not?), Ylona caught the attention of influential Asian-American label 88rising's radar, eventually signing to sister label Paradise Rising, which launched with Globe Telecom in the Philippines last year.

While she might just be getting started at establishing herself in some territories, she's a big deal in others, and has already racked up nearly 4 million followers on Instagram. And now, it's her time to shine even brighter all over the globe.

Fast forward to 2021, and Ylona is breaking out with a pop banger: "All That," an ode to the post-2020 landscape, and all the complex emotions that come with adjusting to The New Normal™.

Co-penned with Peter Hanna and Michael Fatkin, who also worked on labelmate Chung Ha's "Dream of You," the throbbing dance-pop track pulses in a way that fits nicely alongside acts like Dua Lipa, Ava Max and Rita Ora as she goes through the motions of lockdown.

The song's all about capturing the present moment: "Staring at my phone like everyone's got the perfect life / Found my prince but just to find that he's got the perfect wife / Where's reality? / I need therapy / All of the time." Too real.

The accompanying music video is pretty much a colorful quarantine fever dream: at-home workouts, toilet paper panic and Zoom sessions galore. Plus, some choreography to boot! But the mood isn't at all defeated, just realistic - and, ultimately, defiant. It's a real dancing-through-the-depression moment - very "Rain on Me," if you will.

"Slick my hair back and dance all night / Gucci shades when it gets too bright / 'Cause I'm on my way," Ylona confidently declares, fully feeling the fantasy of When This Is All Over™ that we all desperately need.

May we all leave that shit in 2020 and be on our way very soon.