Lindsay Lohan Back to Me

Lindsay Lohan, 'Back to Me': A Spirit Returns in the Darkest of Times

Lindsay Lohan Back to Me

Lindsay Dee Lohan is known for many things...her timing not generally being one of them.

Granted, as we've seen for weeks, no one knows exactly how to launch a campaign mid-quarantine, at a time when bumping up a release makes exactly as much sense as pushing it back. But then, that thinking is generally reserved for established artists already in motion - not comebacks being staged after over a decade of near total absence from the music scene.

Nevertheless, the Queen of Throwing a Party in Mykonos, Bitch persisted.

It's been twelve years since the release of "Bossy," Lilo's last official solo single to date - a still fierce, niche-yet-No. 1 Billboard Dance Club Songs Ne-Yo penned hit that's enjoyed a degree of cult classic status among a certain circle of Gays - and Lindsay Lohan's Beach Club fans - for years.

For those less versed in the Oral History of Lohan, after two stellar, mostly pop-rock studio albums (Speak and A Little More Personal (Raw)), still riding high on the post-Mean Girls cultural movement, Lindsay planned to drop a third record at the end of 2008, rumored at the time to be titled Spirit in the Dark, which stalled.

A handful of leaks came thereafter ("Walka Not a Talka," for example, enjoyed a panicked moment of false hope at the end of 2016). Multiple selfies in recording studios cropped up on Instagram over the years. And, out of nowhere, an uncredited spoken word feature on Duran Duran's "Danceophobia" arrived in 2015.

But still, mostly nothing.

By 2019, ahead of a stint as a judge on The Masked Singer Australia, Lindsay reportedly renewed her record deal and teased what would eventually be "Back to Me" on her Instagram with a now-deleted snippet, as well as an Alice Deejay “Better Off Alone"-sampling, social anxiety-themed track called "Xanax." After much hype and headlines, and posting and deleting teasers for weeks, she all but leaked the entirety of the song on her own IGTV, followed by a vague promise to release upon the show's finale.

Then, more silence.

The year is now 2020, and society is on the brink of collapse amid pandemic - which means, of course, it's the perfect time for Lindsay Lohan to finally get a proper major label campaign together and get me.

Everything about Lilo's comeback is already so unwaveringly Lindsay: as the world couldn't be more distracted with bad news, she's surfaced out of nowhere (on April Fool's Day Eve, no less), with a short video teaser. Throwback TV appearances, red carpets, music videos and paparazzi footage appear amid the fuzz of a pile of old TV screens, as voices of reporters clammer overheard repeating her name. (Basically, Brooke Hogan's "Intro" from The Redemption.)

"I'm back," she declares in a deathly serious tone as a monitor shatters, like a Marvel superhero of the mid-aughts.

To be fair, given that the era of tabloid culture, trucker hats and Motorola Razrs is now enjoying something of a nostalgia renaissance courtesy of Gen Z (see also: acts like Slayyyter and Charli XCX), it arguably comes at just the right time, too. What is time now, anyway?

The credits on Lindsay's comeback song released on Friday (April 3), especially for an actress-turned-singer on a decade-long hiatus, are impressive: produced by Clean Bandit and Jax Jones collaborator Mark Ralph and co-written by Chiara Hunter (who co-wrote Cheryl's "Let You") and in-demand pop penner (and star in her own right) ALMA (of Miley's "Mother's Daughter," among many others), "Back to Me" is about "rediscovering and accepting oneself, shutting out the noise and moving forward and letting the past go. Living in the now," according to Lilo.

"I used to blame me when shit got crazy, I can't think too much about what they say," she announces in the song's opening seconds.

In a way, the song lyrically picks up right where the same girl behind cuts like "Rumors," "Confessions of a Broken Heart (Daughter to Father)," "My Innocence" and "Fastlane" left off: still tired of those rumors starting, still caught in the fame bubble, still introspective, still a little more personal (raw) - and, as of more recently, still down to dabble in a little EDM.

"My life is full of ripped up pages / I've been weak, contagious / But I'm coming back, I'm coming back to me," she pledges on the tropical house-tinged track, conjuring memories of mid-'10s dance hits.

"I'mma do it right and let it go / Everything I can't control / Shoulda done it long ago."

It's certainly the oddest time for Lindsay to be coming back (to me), but "Back to Me" is not exactly a bad way to return.

The song is not as much of a musical revelation as it is a modern-sounding (if somewhat dated, admittedly) reintroduction of a star with an endlessly tumultuous, deeply complicated relationship with celebrity, to say the absolute least. In thinking about everything Lindsay's gone through since childhood, and every controversy along the way, one can only hope that, as the shit's-rough-but-I'm-unpacking-it-all lyrics imply, she's moving into a healthier headspace these days.

Welcome back, Lindsay.

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Photo Credit: Republic Records

Little Mix Break Up Song

'Break Up Song': Little Mix Kick Off a Promising New Era

While some artists put their long-awaited efforts on hold (which is not shade, genuinely, no one knows the "right" way to work through a pandemic), others are just getting started with their campaigns.

Little Mix is one of the acts who have decided to go ahead with delivering new music in this most uncertain time.

The lovely ladies of the long-running troupe, who've been going strong together for nearly a full decade since being crowned the winners of X Factor UK in 2011, have just released the first taste of their forthcoming era: "Break Up Song," an uptempo synth-pop kiss-off that is easily on par with their very best offerings from over the years - and perfectly timed for some required social distancing.

Little Mix Break Up Song

The song was co-written by the group's Jade Thirlwall, Perrie Edwards and Leigh-Anne Pinnock (perhaps Queen Jesy Nelson was busy working on her award-winning documentary about online abuse) alongside "Think About Us" production duo Goldfingers ( Frank Nobel and Linus Nordstrem) and longtime collaborator (and, basically, unofficial fifth member at this point) Kamille, who's had a hand in "Nothing Feels Like You," "Boy," "Black Magic," "Love Me Like You" and "Shout Out to My Ex," among others - she's basically the Ina Wroldsen to LM's The Saturdays.

Coated in a nostalgic, '80s synth-pop sheen - yes, it fits in quite nicely between copious plays of Dua Lipa's fantastic new album, Future Nostalgia - the girls deliver their signature, skillful harmonizing and entirely dependable vocals across earworm melody after melody as they bid adieu to a former flame. It's an instant hit from the first play, and truly top-notch pop.

The song is also yet another solid entry into the ever-reliable Tears on the Dance Floor genre: "I'll find a way to dance without you / In the middle of the crowd, I'll forget all of the pain inside," Jesy croons.

Of course, there could be a deeper underlying meaning beyond just parting ways in a romantic relationship: the girls left Simon Cowell's Syco record label at the very end of 2018 amid creative differences, starting a new chapter by inking a deal with RCA for LM6 onward. "For all of the times they screwed us over..." - makes you think, no?

As a pop nostalgist frequently stuck in the past, I know that I largely focus my attention on my inactive and/or disbanded faves, especially my Almighty Girls Aloud. But, just in case there was lingering doubt regarding my allegiances: Little Mix remains the best active Western girl group out there today, and they're an absolutely wonderful example of how to do the girl group thing right. Period.

The girls also have plenty in the works, including a promising TV reality competition to find a new band called Little Mix: The Search, which has sadly been postponed, as well as a (likely also postponed) tour and festival performances later this summer.

Like the rest of us, Little Mix are making the best of a bad situation. The least we can do is turn it up and play it on and on and on...

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Photo Credit: Columbia Records

Dua Lipa Future Nostalgia

Dua Lipa, 'Future Nostalgia': A Dance Floor Escape in a Time of Isolation

Dua Lipa Future Nostalgia

"You wanna turn it up loud, Future Nostalgia is the name..."

The world looks drastically different than how it did just over four months ago when Dua Lipa dropped "Don't Start Now," the lead track off of her sophomore studio album.

It would have been impossible to predict then, while the 24-year-old singer was bouncing in between international awards show performances and near-weekly trips to gay bars in New York City, twirling around with friends and gleefully tipping dollars to drag queens, that we'd all be where we are now: stuck at home amid a pandemic, in isolation, alternating between waves of anxiety, existential dread, boredom and loneliness for an as-of-yet undetermined amount of time. (She had an all-too-prophetic point: "don't show up, don't come out" - if only we'd heeded those wise words sooner.)

While analysts might argue that releasing an album mid-apocalypse could be a grave financial decision (early figures already show that while TV and movie streams are up, music streaming and digital sales are down), she's done it anyway with Future Nostalgia, released one week early on Friday (March 27).

There were reasons to pull the trigger, of course: for one, the album leaked just shy of two weeks ahead of schedule. (Rude.) And for another, as she explained through tears on an Instagram Live stream, Dua hoped to supply some much-needed joy in these bleak times to make us smile, and to make us dance.

"I hope I make you proud," she sniffled.

Just before things took a turn, Dua was thriving.

From the day her fiercely empowering, Ian Kirkpatrick-produced disco-tinged kiss-off premiered at the beginning of November, every step along the way of Future Nostalgia campaign has ticked the boxes of a big, exciting Main Pop Girl event record - an all but unthinkable feat in 2020.

A smash from the (don't) start, "Don't Start Now" came to life days later at the 2019 MTV EMAs, as Dua stood on stage in a black cut-out leotard, hair slicked down, in front of a wall of yellow-clad dancers.

Having been mocked and meme-d ruthlessly by Stan Twitter in years past for her dance moves, Dua had every right to shy away from attempting choreography ever again. After all, she'd never even positioned herself as some masterful dancer in the first place. That rich, deep, distinctly Dua voice was always the main selling point, ever since "Be the One" first landed in 2015.

But she pushed through the Twitter trolls and doubled down on the pop star front, opting to go for it anyway - and the vast improvement was evident from that thrilling live debut onward.

As is usually the case with a hit in waiting, the general public slowly but surely came around: by March, "Don't Start Now" climbed its way up to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, her biggest hit in America to date. After a long period of downtempo domination at radio, it seemed as though the U.S. was ready to dance again, and Dua was helping to usher in that movement.

"Physical" came afterward, a truly phenomenal ("Don't you agree?") record tense with a sinister energy, '80s-style synth stabs and a riotous, chant-along chorus, all with a knowing lyrical nod to Olivia Newton-John.

The accompanying color-coated, gravity-defying music video was already a visual treat, but in true Future Nostalgia fashion, she one-upped herself again weeks later. As the memes came rolling in, syncing the song to workout scenes from movies and shows like American Horror Story: 1984, Dua dropped a sexy, silly VHS-style "Physical" workout video, which smartly doubled as an advertisement for her merchandise.

In every step along the way to the record's release - from the imagery, to the visuals, to the marketing to, most importantly, the music - Dua didn't miss.

Future Nostalgia, which she teased early on as "a dancercise class," is not literally Confessions on a Dua Floor as first assumed - but that's not far off of a description, either.

There are some similar musical elements, mixing the nostalgia of classic '70s disco strings and '80s synth-pop with future-forward production. And, thrillingly, there's also Stuart Price himself, the co-architect of Madonna's 2005 opus, as well as Kylie's mighty Aphrodite in 2010. His involvement on "Cool," "Levitating," "Love Again" and "Hallucinate" isn't just further evidence of his knack for songcraft, but a glowing co-sign of the singer herself from a truly revered name in pop world.

Speaking of "Cool," the whole record's a veritable Who's Who of cool, including the Queen of the Clouds herself, Tove Lo, who co-penned that bouncy '80s jam, which slickly glides along Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight"-esque drum fills and a Tegan & Sara circa Heartthrob flair.

"Got me losing all my cool, 'cause I'm burning up on you," Dua coo(l)s.

The co-writers and producers on Future Nostalgia are largely all modern pop heavyweights with reputations that precede themselves: Jeff Bhasker, Julia Michaels, Justin Tranter, Sarah Hudson, Ali Tamposi and Jason Evigan, just to name a few. It's a full house - but not overstuffed, resulting a big, glossy, rich-sounding record.

"You want a timeless song, I wanna change the game / Like modern architecture, John Lautner coming your way," she declares in the funky first few seconds of the album's intro and namesake, laying out the mission statement from the jump while referring to herself as a "female alpha" - plus an insane architectural reference to boot.

There's an undeniable self-confidence that threads its way through Future Nostalgia, building on the energy of debut hits like "New Rules" and "IDGAF," from the title track through to closer "Boys Will Be Boys," which provides some rather unexpectedly savage social commentary, proving that the record isn't solely about escaping our planetary woes.

"[It’s] this kind of like false sense of confidence that sometimes I feel like I portray in my music, which is almost like a manifestation of how I want people to see it, or what I want people to feel when they hear a lyric," she's previously said.

But the confidence comes from doing the work: Future Nostalgia plays like a love letter to the greats before her that have instilled that attitude.

"We're all on the shoulders of massive musical giants who've been here before. All these strong, empowering women that have given me the opportunity to dream, and make me feel like I can be this strong person, and I can be outspoken, and be exactly who I want to be," she explained.

Aside from the aforementioned Madonna and Kylie, there are certainly many more musical influences abound, from Debbie Harry to Moloko (and, subsequently, Roisin Murphy) to No Doubt (and, subsequently, Gwen Stefani) to Sophie Ellis-Bextor.

At times, she channels the rowdy, early '00s British pop energy of Girls Aloud and Rachel Stevens. At others, she's thoroughly on-trend, as with the flirty "Pretty Please," a delightfully glitchy oddity which could have surely appeared on Selena Gomez's Rare, or possibly even Britney's post-Glory effort.

"Levitating," co-written with frequent collaborator Stephen Kozmeniuk (Koz), brings Daft Punk circa-Random Access Memories to mind, as Dua shimmies amid the stars in her spaceship...with some robot friends along for the ride, evidently.

"My love is like a rocket, watch it blast off / I'm feeling so electric, dance my ass off / And even if I wanted to, I can't stop / Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!" she cries out across a sick bass strut, robo-voices and disco strings in one big, intergalactic party.

"Hallucinate," surely an unsubtle poppers-on-the-dance-floor euphoria anthem for the gays ("I'll breathe you in until I hallucinate"), is the closest to all-out Confessions Dua gets on the record, and perhaps a hint of Kylie's Light Years and Kelis' electronic masterpiece, Flesh Tone. It's a pulsating ri-uh-i-uh-ide: the track feels spiritually connected to the propulsive pull of trance-pop Madge.

At times, Dua directly nods to the past with samples, including the INXS-sampling "Break My Heart." The video for the era's third official single, directed by frequent collaborator Henry Scholfield ("New Rules, "IDGAF") is a wonderfully psychedelic, reality-bending romp with trippy transitions aplenty, as Dua socially distances, dissociates and delivers shades of everything from Britney's "Toxic" to a final, Emma "Baby Spice" Bunton-esque bubblegum burst - the essence of pop perfection, really.

She samples again on the brilliant "Love Again," which borrows from 1997's "Your Woman" by White Town - and, goddamn, if it isn't a perfect fit.

"Never have I ever met somebody like you / Used to be afraid of love and what it might do / But goddamn, you got me in love again," she swoons before taking a leap of faith onto the dance floor, buoyed by warm strings and slick guitar riffs in one of the album's standout moments.

Future Nostalgia is bookended by its most eyebrow-raising lyrical contributions. Towards the end, Dua gets feisty - on a distinctly British kind of way. On "Good in Bed," she reconciles a relationship that only works well between the sheets, conjuring the sing-songiness of Lily Allen and late Queen Amy Winehouse's brand of snarling soul.

"We don't know how to talk...but damn, we know how to fuck," she concludes. Dua, the language!

"Boys Will Be Boys," meanwhile, summons the Lily Allen-slash-Marina energy even moreso, as Dua tackles double standards and toxic masculinity across misleadingly chipper strings, leading to a kind of rallying cry.

"It's second nature to walk home before the sun goes down / And put your keys between your knuckles when there's boys around / Isn't it funny how we laugh it off to hide our fear when there's nothing funny here?" she proclaims.

Musically, it's the most incongruous part of Future Nostalgia. But for an album from a self-described "female alpha," it's in perfect harmony with the overwhelmingly empowered record, capping off the experience with a little food for thought beyond solely floor-filling pop euphoria.

Dua Lipa Future Nostalgia

Future Nostalgia is an album that, impressively, delivers on its own promise. Following in the footsteps of icons before her, Dua's become the newest musical generation's leading torch-bearer of the dance-pop tradition.

That's not to start making over-the-top declarations to incite outrage from fanbases of long-established legends - she's only two albums deep, obviously - but it's fair to say she's executed one of the most start-to-finish solid pop eras in some time, resulting in what very well feels like the latest pop classic from an artist who has great promise to go the distance.

Of course, there are far more pressing issues in the world than a pop star and her near-flawless run being abruptly cut off by horrendous circumstances, but we can still acknowledge that it does suck for Dua. It's not fair that Future Nostalgia will be forever remembered as The Quarantine Album, but that's exactly what it is.

"I should've stayed at home, 'cause I was doing better alone," she laments on her latest single. It's perfect for the present moment - without even trying.

As a result, the album's title has gained new, if ironic meaning. While "nostalgia" is too warm and fuzzy of a term to describe a period of chaos and quarantine, it's undeniable that this record will forever be associated with a very specific moment in time for all of us. And, hopefully, as one that got us through it - alone, but together.

Because in the end, even as the world as we once knew it abruptly went left, Dua still did everything right.

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Spice Girls Melanie C Who I Am Geri Halliwell Union Jack Dress

Social Distancing With the Spice Girls

Spice Girls Melanie C Who I Am Geri Halliwell Union Jack Dress

People of the world: don't go outside.

It's truly wild how much...everything has changed since the last time I wrote something for MuuMuse, which was, uh, ten days ago. I think everyone is still processing exactly what's going on, adjusting to life at home, and wondering how long life will be like this for the foreseeable future. (And just so we're clear, don't be an absolute fucking idiot: flatten that curve and stay at home.)

I'm going through waves, personally. At times, I'm fired up, much like The Saturdays, to do something creative or engage in a full-body workout routine on YouTube, then bogged down by the immense weight of uncertainty about What Life Is during a pandemic, then tense with anxiety, up all night calculating all of the potential outcomes. Mostly, it's just been a lot of little depression naps. (This post is also helpful for those of you batting an inner voice reminding you that you're Not Being Productive Enough every three seconds or so.)

Currently, I'm at home with family in Connecticut, having escaped New York City somewhere between when they announced the NBA and the NHL were shutting down, amid rumors of a city-wide shutdown. (Once straight men start getting panicky about their sports, that's my cue to get out of town.) I also know myself and my anxious mind enough to know that I would absolutely not survive a solo quarantine in an extremely tiny studio apartment with a mini-fridge.

My lease is nearly up. I have no idea whether I should even renew, or when I'll even return to see my apartment again. I'm sort of floating, I guess. Which is fine. I'm still very lucky in a lot of ways: I'm with family, for one thing. Despite the occasional tensions, to quote a certain Queen of Pop, I can't make it alone.

I've also already worked from home since 2017, and thus, life isn't actually too different for me. To that end, I feel extraordinarily lucky to remain employed throughout this crisis, should we need to rely on my income. If silly celebrity news and gossip helps to even slightly distract anyone from their own anxieties and fears (as seems to be the case, given how busy work's become), then I guess I feel as though I'm helping somewhat, sort of. I don't know. Anyway.

Everything feels excruciatingly vulnerable and minute-by-minute, so new music's fallen by the wayside for the most part. But I don't want to dwell anymore on what's going on, if only for my own sanity - and I have a feeling other people feel the same way too.

So, what better way to calm the nerves than to dive deep into a familiar feeling in the form of a double dose of nostalgia from one of pop's most iconic brands of all time? Yes, that's right: even in the darkest of times, we've still got somewhere to escape: Spice World.

Specifically, it's Melanie C's time to shine with her latest solo outing: "Who I Am," a powerful, introspective first taste of what's to become Mel's eighth solo studio album, due out later sometime in 2020. (Hopefully.)

The track was produced by UK house producer Ten Ven, and co-written with British singer-songwriter Bryn Christopher, as well as Ash Howes and the legendary Richard "Biff" Stannard of Biffco, the songwriting team responsible for countless iconic pop tunes, but most relevant to this conversation, the genius behind "Wannabe," "2 Become 1," "Spice Up Your Life" and a majority of the Spice Girls mega-smashes, as well as some of Mel's earlier solo work.

The synth-pop banger pulses with all the glitchy electricity of a Robyn-style serious-faced dance floor stormer, and finds our beloved Sporty feeling stronger and more empowered than ever, in what is surely one of her strongest singles in years.

"That's who I am! / No, I've got nothing left to hide / I'm comfortable with what’s inside / You think you've known me all this time / But the real me is mine," she boldly declares on the stomping chorus.

"When I look in the mirror, I finally like what I see / There's been so many changes / I accept they're a part of me," she sings. The song feels especially poignant following Melanie's latest stadium run with the girls (sans Victoria, ugh), as though she's only just now coming to terms with her legacy. She owns it, well over two decades deep into her career, once and for all.

The accompanying music video only hammers the point home, as Melanie puts the older versions of herself on display, museum/Madame Tussauds-style. Northern Star-era! Stages! Sporty Spice! It's actually very emotionally soothing to see Melanie gazing kindly on past versions of herself. Our beloved pop stars don't always love embracing their history, so it's nice to see that Mel's finally on the journey to self-acceptance - set to a pretty fantastic beat, no less.

And then, we need to talk about Geri (Horner, née Halliwell, forever Ginger).

As the resident Valerie Cherish of the group - if you haven't seen The Comeback, put that on your quarantine binge-list ASAP - Geri's always added a delightfully camp, desperate, dare I say...somewhat delusional flair to whatever she's promoted in the past decade. (Add There's Something About Geri to your watch list right after The Comeback. The similarities are truly glaring.)

This new Vogue video feature, in which she tells the history of her iconic 1997 BRITs Union Jack dress, is, of course, no exception. She looks positively regal, if too conservative - just like her disappointingly timid RuPaul's Drag Race UK appearance, a stark contrast to her rowdier Ginger days, as she regales us with the story of the Tea Towel and the Gucci dress. She also jokingly-but-not-jokingly-at-all suggests she's "always been like a secret fashion designer." Oh, Lady Ginger.

God Save the Queen, and also the Spice queens...and the rest of us while you're at it, please.

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Kiesza All of the Feelings

'All of the Feelings': Kiesza's Back With a Burst of '80s Pop Euphoria

Kiesza's back. One might even say she's no longer...hiding...away. No, sorry, awful.

But yes, it's true: six years after first exploding onto the scene with her chart-topping, House-y debut "Hideaway" (ooh, aah, aah, ooh...), the 31-year-old Canadian singer-songwriter is back in 2020 with "All of the Feelings." And, indeed, the song does cause many to arise.

Actually, she returned earlier in the year with a song called "When Boys Cry." She's a cute girl, too - but this "All of the Feelings" right here? Honey, she's got a point. She's an icon. She's a legend. And she is the moment. Now, come on now...

Specifically, Kiesza is cutting to a very particular feeling once supplied by a fellow Canuck crooner: Miss Carly Rae Jepsen and her decade-defining E•MO•TION.

The synth-y banger is all sorts of '80s pop euphoria - much in the same vein as the breathless, earnest perfection of the cuts like "Run Away With Me" provided by Queen Carly five years ago - providing a surge of electricity with one undeniably massive, goosebump-inducing chorus: "I'm getting all of the feelings back / You make me believe in love again!"

Just instant. Huge.

Also, the line: "let's make two become one." Well, hello, a Spice Girls reference to boot? Let's celebrate that!

And if the CRJ evocation wasn't enough of a selling point as it is, she's bringing on the nostalgia even more with the accompanying music video - #ShotOniPhone (like all good Kindness Punks do), featuring performance artist Kirby Jenner and rapper Charle$ - providing all of the backseat disco fun of Madonna's "Music" video. (We love a REFERENCE 'round these parts, as you know.)

“It was shot on essentially no budget, on an iPhone 11 Pro and a limo we found on Craigslist. What you see is a car full of friends who love and look out for one another. I’m so proud of the people around me and grateful for their presence in my life. shooting on iPhone made the making of the video feel less intimidating. I felt like I was in a limo with my friends, like there wasn’t a camera there at all—and I was able to open up even more. I love that we were able to produce such a high quality, stylized video," she says of the accompanying clip.

The candor of her self-penned bio for this new era especially struck me:

"When I was suddenly shot out of a canon and into the public eye, and became a major label artist, the whole landscape changed. People would come and leave, barely remembering one another's names, let alone faces. Ideas were doubted before having a chance to evolve. Past each isolated project you may never see one another again. Bonds were hard to build and the unity I once felt, but for a few people, was replaced by a sense of extreme isolation. I detached from the art I had created. Days became repetitive and robotic. And I started to forget why I was doing what I was doing...when you're brand new, the world wants to 'discover' you, but when you're climbing back for the second time, it's up to you to prove yourself to the world. And this time I'm not flying out of canyon. Every step of the way back has been a battle through iron and steel, with true friends at my side. I believe in them as much as they believe in me."

It's really true! In the great, fucked up tradition of building 'em up just to tear them down, new artist discovery often leads to oversaturation, followed by fatigue, and then general disinterest and/or backlash immediately after their follow-up effort rolls around.

This whole pop star journey is no easy ride (to continue to reference the Queen herself), so it's nice to see Kiesza's powering through the self-doubt, a car crash and blackout recovery period (!), and whatever other hurdles have come since making such a comparatively massive first leap into the scene...especially when the music's sounding this good.

It's so good, in fact, who knows? You might even start believing in love again, too.

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Stupid Love Lady Gaga

'Stupid Love': Lady Gaga, The Pop Star, Is Back & Campier Than Ever

Take off that pink hat. Give Tony Bennett a goodbye kiss on the cheek (to cheek). Tell Jackson Maine you can’t go on tour with him this summer.

Our Lady Gaga - Stefani Germanotta, an Italian Girl from New York City, as Legends OnlyFans better know her as - is back.

We already know that one of Gaga’s Ga-greatest (and, at times, most trying) assets is her unpredictability: get you a girl who can croon a classy something in a Las Vegas jazz club, then come spider-shimmying down from a stadium ceiling dressed as a shattered disco ball to perform an electrifying set for the Super Bowl, then sing next to RuPaul dressed as a condom for a Thanksgiving TV special, then hop on a dimly lit stage in a (Bud Light-sponsored) dive bar in the wee hours of the morning to belt out some tunes at the piano.

Truly, she is a #vers queen.

But the Gaga that I begrudgingly, ironically, then genuinely fell in love with - the one that got me shopping at Michael’s Arts & Crafts in 2009 to glue together a disco stick and crystal glasses for Halloween, the Gaga that gargled nonsense syllables all over Top 40 radio, the Gaga before a Star was ever born, before there were ever a million reasons to give, and before the Great American Songbook got in the way - is still my favorite Gaga: Pop Star Gaga.

Rumor has it that “Stupid Love,” Lady Gaga’s first non-soundtrack single in about three years, might have been born premature one month early. (To be fair, LG6 has already long overstayed its welcome in the womb.)

Maybe I listened to the leak. Maybe I didn’t. Maybe it's already been playing at gay bars for weeks. Maybe it soundtracked at least one runway during New York Fashion Week. Maybe the song sounds...exactly the same as the leak. Who’s to say? I wouldn't know a thing about that.

Regardless, as of Friday (February 28), it's here. Officially.

"Stupid Love" was co-written by Gaga, French producer Tchami, Bloodpop, Ely Rise, and the Pop God himself, Max Martin, their first-ever collaboration in the studio.

Despite some new chefs in the kitchen, the song is less a departure into new sonic territory than it is a return-ish to form: specifically, to the year 2011. More specifically, Born This Way, a time where I was fiercely fighting against her homosexual agenda by nearly breaking up with my then-boyfriend in a parked car over the title track's importance to The Community.

The hammering beat is vibrant (chromatic, even) and joyous - something that wouldn't sound at all out of place sandwiched between cuts like "The Edge of Glory" and “Fashion of His Love” in its kaleidoscopic, pounding pop style. And certainly, there are shades of ARTPOP in the mix, conjuring memories of "Applause," "MANiCURE" and "Do What U Want," in its theatricality and, well, unhinged-ness. (The drama in the pronunciation of the word "door" alone...)

Her message is simple, if not one we've already heard before: "All I ever wanted was love." Yes, over a decade later, she's still pleading for your bad romance, and still down to play a LoveGame. Growth? Maybe not so much. But we (stupid) love to see it, anyway.

To be fair, Mademoiselle Meat Dress has done it all aesthetically speaking, from Kermit the Frog couture to beer chuggin', gee-tar playin' Middle America cosplay.

This time around, Gaga's landed somewhere between Brooke Candy in the Grimes video for "Genesis" (the most obvious, erm, inspiration), and a slew of Japanese pop culture influences (which is also pretty Grimes): throw in her gaming obsession Bayonetta, virtual J-Pop Queen Hatsune Miku, Final Fantasy, Power Rangers, Pokémon, Sailor Moon, plus some vintage female American comic book superheroes, like Wonder Woman and Barbarella. And maybe the Care Bears, too? Sorry, I mean the "Kindness Punks."

It's a candy-coated, rainbow-colored sugary-sweet smoothie served up at your local Claire's. The flavor...

The dramatic epic of a music video that was teased over the past 24 hours, as it turns out, is more like if the next installment of Marvel's Avengers was to be performed via interpretive dance by an overeager middle school drama troupe, shot on a teacher's iPhone. (And, in fact, it was #ShotOniPhone.)

Despite the immense cheesiness and cheapness of it all, the amount of choreography is unexpected - especially because it's essentially all dancing (and flailing as dancing), sans a brief telepathic interference during an unexplained fight sequence.

An Academy Award-worthy performance, however, this is not.

Is "Stupid Love" a grand musical revelation? The song to Save Pop™? Perhaps not, no. But more than the track, or the low-budget Power Rangers home workout DVD of a music video, the most striking part of the whole shebang is that Gaga's having fun with her music again. Like, finally. Some silliness and brightness, for once. (We’re all gonna have FUN!)

And while I may forever get my kicks pok(er face)ing fun at her over-the-top theatrics and occasionally questionable career choices (Enigma, maybe this music video), that doesn’t mean I’m not genuinely thrilled that she’s returned to make us dance and sing again while doing the absolute most.

Still, there's a polarizing, Artpop-esque energy emanating from this era already: she's either going to dance her way back into the hearts of the public, or she'll be dragged to the depths, and this "Stupid" reverse Warholian expedition will be considered a grave misfire. And, perhaps, even a little bit too stupid in execution to be beloved.

We'll see. LG6 is only in the beginning stages of birth, after all. Let's give this baby some time to breathe. (And just remember to T.H.I.N.K. before you tweet, kiddos...)

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Mabel Boyfriend

Pick Up the Phone: Mabel Wants a 'Boyfriend'

You know what? A girl's allowed to change her mind.

Sure, Mabel might have spent the bulk of 2018 pissed at us for letting the phone ring ring while we were out partying, only to tell us not to call her up for a full year afterward, but her priorities have shifted after some time to herself - and she's ready for romance again.

Of course, she doesn't need a man. She just, you know...wouldn't mind one.

"Boyfriend" is the first taste of new Mabel in 2020, although it's been tacked onto her 2019 debut High Expectations on the streaming services, which is to say: that campaign isn't over just yet apparently, after all.

The song was co-penned by Mabel with Camille Purcell and Steve Mac, the same songwriting team behind her previous hits, "Don't Call Me Up" and "Mad Love" - because if it ain't broken, don't call anyone else up. Got it?

Accordingly, "Boyfriend" sounds vaguely similar to those pre-existing hits, but with a slightly different bounce. It's got a familiar beat. It's...Britney and Iggy's intergalactic 2015 bop "Pretty Girls"?! Astoundingly yes, that's what comes to mind most, even down to the lyrics: "All my girls 'round the world..." The enduring impact of the song formed over caesar salads.

The message of the song is similarly self-empowering: Mabel wants that D, but by no means is it a necessity - and she makes that very clear.

"'Cause everything I got, you know it's all me / Even though a man ain't something I need / I wanna boyfriend, so put it on me / I'm looking for a man who can take that heat," she demands.

The accompanying video, directed by Isaac Rentz, finds the 24-year-old rising Main Pop Girl and her fellow baddies serving throwback looks ("all my 90s Aaliyah dreams come true ✨✨✨," as she noted on Instagram) as they left-swipe their way through some kind of futuristic Sims-meets-Tinder digital program to generate various well-oiled IRL muscle men. Inevitably, Mabel's only let down by the dudes and all their various shortcomings because,

"Boyfriend" is probably Mabel's most confident, most believably Pop Star serving in video form to date - from the dancing, to the looks, to the general 'tude - she's really coming into her own at this point. And while the song itself may not be entirely revolutionary - she does seem to have a sort of Mabel formula down at this point - it's still a solid addition to her growing catalog of easy, breezy earworm pop bops.

So go ahead, grab your phone and give it your best shot, boys: she might actually pick up this time around.

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Grimes Delete Forever

'Delete Forever': Grimes Grieves the Friends She's Lost to Drugs

God, everything from Miss Anthropocene looks and sounds so right.

Grimes is due to arrive soon (and, soon enough, so is The Child) with her latest body of work, which promises to be more than worth the wait since 2015's Art Angels, a top album of that year.

Having already supplied several incredible songs from the record - loosely inspired by "the anthropomorphic goddess of climate change," lest we forget - including "So Heavy I Fell Through the Earth," "Violence," "My Name Is Dark" and "4ÆM," the 31-year-old (and/or eternal) singer-songwriter-pixie-goth-fairy-punk-robot-forest-sprite-mage returned on Wednesday (February 12) with perhaps her most shocking move of this whole campaign to date: something more acoustic, called "Delete Forever."

“I mean, the song is's a pretty bummer song," she explained to Zane Lowe. (Click here for the full interview.)

"I guess it's kind of about the opioid epidemic, and that kinda thing. I've had quite a few friends actually pass away. In particular one friend, when I was like 18, passed away from complications related to opioid addiction. Artists keep dying and stuff so, I wrote this song on the night Lil Peep died 'cause I just got super triggered by that.”

"It’s about losing friends to the opioid crisis and the self-hatred that arises when the grieving process mimics the behaviors that cost your friends their lives," the press release further clarifies.

The song is indeed a "pretty bummer" song, emphasis on "pretty." Grimes depressingly resigns to a grim fate across a sad guitar strum and a chugging beat: "Always down, I'm not up / Guess it's just my rotten luck / To fill my time with permanent gloom / But I can't see above it / Guess I fucking love it / But oh, I didn't mean to," she sings.

“I think when you’re meant to perform pain for other people’s benefit, that’s when shit starts getting really tricky. People expect you to be this level 10 chaos all the time. It’s really hard to maintain level 10 chaos for people. I think it’s why a lot of artists spiral out of control," she told Zane.

"Lil Peep and Juice WRLD were both artists I really liked. The artists it's happening to specifically feels…a little too on the nose...people who, in my opinion, were best expressing issues of mental health. So to have them die specifically just feels like a weird hopelessness."

Compared to the usual ethereal, semi-unintelligible vocals and everything-and-the-intergalactic-kitchen-sink sound of her usual productions, this is shockingly sparse. There's even a banjo in the mix. (Then again, we should know better than to expect any sort of sound from Grimes, period.)

"It's funny 'cause the finished product is actually basically almost the demo. This was definitely a situation where I took the song...spent like months trying to make the it needs at least one other guitar, you know...and then like right when we were mixing, I was just like literally, went to the 800 files and just like delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, just killing stems," she explained of the song's creation.

"When I was making this song I was trying to be more like, I think I was like, oh, I'm like Patsy Cline or something, like I was trying to be like country or something. But I feel like it ends up having this sort of 'Wonderwall' kind of vibe or something. I feel like there's a reason that song is so popular. Like, that song does rule."

The accompanying video, created with her brother Mac Boucher and frequent video collaborator Neil Hansen, matches the all-conquering vibe of Miss Anthropocene - "a tyrant’s lament as her empire crumbles," as the press release describes the visual. The set-up is simple, but effective: Grimes is sat at her throne, sadly surveying the scorched remains of her kingdom.

"I did everything, I did everything..."

As much as she might feel the fantasy of being a shape-shifting, otherworldly fairy-slash-futuristic cyborg or whatever (which don't get me wrong, I love), there's something quite captivating about this track; a gentle, melancholy, stripped-down reminder that Grimes is devastatingly human like the rest of us - as is everyone around her, often tragically so.

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Hilary Duff Never Let You Go RAC Matthew Koma

'Never Let You Go': Hilary Duff & Matthew Koma Cover Third Eye Blind

This week has already been unpredictable in the best of ways (come through, Parasite), and also full of very oddly specific, early-to-mid '00s nostalgia that ought to have fellow millennials yearning to update their AIM away messages: Kelly Clarkson singing Avril Lavigne ballads. Mandy Moore singing about So Real on her new album. Jessica Simpson making headlines about her life and serving Legally Blonde looks. The Pussycat Dolls popping up on MTV and Times Square billboards. Hilary Duff covering Third Eye Blind.

Wait, sorry. What?! Yes! Sure. But why? Well, there's every good reason.

For one thing, Hilary is a known rock pioneer, from Santa Clause Lane onward. It comes as no surprise that the future "Mr. James Dean" Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee would opt to pay tribute to one of her fellow rock contemporaries from around the time of her own debut.

Along with her husband Matthew Koma (who, if you don't know, also produced several songs on Breathe In, Breathe Out), Hilary teamed up with producer RAC for a 2020 version of the American rock band's No. 14 2000 hit.

I can recall the song being inescapable at the time, although I didn't actively listen to it on my Zune - far too straight for me, despite my closet case status at the time. However, it's widely speculated (at least, some parts of the Internet) that the song is about Charlize Theron, which makes it much more queer. And now it's even gayer, thanks to Hilary!

As for the song? Well, it's the same song. But the cute new version basically replaces much of those pesky guitar noises with some far more palatable, breezy, synth-pop beats, as the musical lovebirds and gorgeous newlyweds trade off on the track, which also comes just in time for Valentine's Day. Much better!

The song is also the first taste of new vocals from Hilary since her "Little Lies" cover in 2016 for Younger. And she sounds sweet!

Is this proof that Hilary Duff is making musical moves to save us? Of course, it must be. She'll never let us go.

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Photo Credit: Instagram

Mandy Moore Fifteen Video

'Fifteen': Mandy Moore Reflects on Her 'Candy' Pop Star Days

2020 is already quite a year for early '00s pop princess retrospectives: Britney's being honored with a walk-through career retrospective in the form of In The Zone experience in LA (erm, mixed feelings), and Jessica Simpson is currently appearing on every major news network to talk about her music, Newlyweds, and everything in between while promoting her memoir, Open Book.

So, what better time for Mandy Moore to show up and tell her side of the story?

"Fifteen" is an intimate offering from Mandy's upcoming record Silver Landings due out in March, written with Jason Boesel, longtime collaborator Mike Viola and her husband, Taylor Goldsmith.

And yes: it's all about being fifteen, and kicking off her pop star career during those bubblegum "Candy" days.

"Young girl, up early / Wasn’t old enough to drive / Took a trip from Seminole county with her mother side / Next stop, New York City / World was falling at her feet / She thought she was making music, but she was only filling seats," she sings across the gently gliding guitar strings.

It's taken Mandy quite a while to get to this place: an outspoken hater of her own back catalog, she bad-mouthed and apologized for her early pop career for years after taking a sharp left turn with her music into more folksy, singer-songwriter territory with Wild Hope and beyond.

After a few more years, she's gained a different perspective.

"It’s been a full circle journey to embrace who I was as a teenager starting off in this industry and forgive my past self for judging her so harshly. For years, I apologized for the creative output of that time but in the making of this new collection of music, I was able to process so much and have come to have great affection for that young girl, that part of me, because she’s the reason I’m here today," Mandy acknowledged on her Instagram. You know what that is? Growth.

The song itself is lovely, but it's all about the lyricism, as Mandy reflects on how naive she was at the time - and all the life she missed out on while being a teenage pop star locked into the promotional machine.

"Glow sticks, pink cotton candy / A touch a glitter on her lips / Operate for the radio station so they’ll play her biggest hits / Missed prom, missed graduation, no college in the fall / On the road with the boy bands singing for the people in the mall."

There's even a REFERENCE to her debut album thrown in, which ought to send the diehards spiraling: "Somewhere between the demo and the lonely public eye / So real / Real famous, without even knowing why."

Mandy should be proud of herself - for "Fifteen," a great song - but also for pushing through. Regardless of how anyone else feels about her career, or how much we stan "Walk Me Home," "I Wanna Be With You" and "In My Pocket," she's the one who has to reconcile her own feelings about launching to superstardom as a teenager.

Just this week, original meme queen Rebecca Black wrote a heartfelt note to 13-year-old self this week on the 9 year anniversary of "Friday," which was met with an incredible outpouring of love. You never know the extent of how much someone's own fame can haunt and hurt them, for whatever reason, for years and years after the fact.

"Fifteen" is the sound of a very human performer doing the work of pushing past harsh self-judgment for a moment in her life forever sealed into pop culture history.

No regrets, with a few exceptions.

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Janet Jackson Black Diamond Tour Album

'Black Diamond': Janet Jackson Is Releasing a New Album & Going on Tour

As if we needed further evidence that our Queens of Pop are coming back strong in 2020, Janet Jackson is officially hitting the road - and she's bringing an entire new body of work along for the ride.

The "What Have You Done For Me Lately?" icon announced on Monday (February 10) that she's releasing a brand new album this year, called Black Diamond.

"Hey U Guys! I’ve heard all your wishes and now from my lips to your ears. I’m working on my new album and going on a brand new World Tour this summer! Both titled ✨ “Black Diamond”. ✨Black Diamonds are the toughest of all the diamonds, the hardest to cut. I see that as the hardest to hurt or destroy. There is a lot that I have endured. I see myself as a Black Diamond in its purest form. I’m a rock, I have ruff edges but I keep moving forward. I want to show you my strength as well as give you strength. I love u guys so much and I’m #SoExcited to share this new era with you. See u soon! #BlackDiamond 🖤💎😘," she wrote on her Instagram.

We love an album concept. ♦️ (Also, can we take a moment to appreciate that she intentionally made a "So Excited" REFERENCE?)

The tour kicks off in Miami this June, and promises to be "an all-new production featuring new music from her highly anticipated, forthcoming album Black Diamond, set for release this year. Performing songs from her 12 multi-platinum albums including a special performance of Rhythm Nation 1814, which recently marked its 30th anniversary." (I have no idea what that last part means, but start practicing the "Rhythm Nation" routine, regardless.) And don't worry, Europe and the rest of the world: more dates will be announced "soon," according to the press release. Click here for all the ticket info.

This news is, of course, incredibly exciting - and somewhat surprising. Her wise, worldly and introspective 2015 studio album Unbreakable felt a bit like the sound of closure. And then, after 2018's joyous, world music-inspired "Made For Now," the promise of a new Janet record suddenly reignited, only to slowly start to fizzle out again. It's nice to know that it's all just been coming together slowly in the background, resulting in a rare and shiny final product at last.

What to expect? Who knows! More Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, hopefully/presumably. The only thing that comes to mind after this announcement is, of course, her No. 5 1987 hit "Diamonds" with Herb Alpert, Jam & Lewis, and Lisa Keith, which is basically peak Control-era brilliance, despite it not actually being on her album.

I'll catch you all out on the road with Janet - sorry, Miss Jackson, if-ya-nasty - this summer. Shine bright like a (black) diamond...

Dua Lipa Physical

‘Physical’: Dua Lipa Is Putting the Pulse Back in Pop

Introspection and somber reflection regarding the State of Things Today are important elements of modern pop. But in the current climate, which often feels heavy with personal confessionals, anxiety and depression-themed anthems and worldweary political commentary (and, well, that general underlying sense of global tension), finding music that inspires us to get up, get out, and briefly escape our own worlds is every bit as vital, too.

In short: your disco needs you.

Enter Dua Lipa, who's bringing big, bright, euphoric dance floor bangers back into the mainstream in 2020 - and not a millisecond too soon.

As has become abundantly clear, Dua is doing this whole Main Pop Girl thing right. If “Don’t Start Now” wasn’t enough of a disco ball-refracted light sparkling at the end of the largely gloom and doom-filled tunnel that was 2019, the 24-year-old Albanian stunner is back to supply even more unnnff with “Physical,” out Thursday (January 30) - a love-at-first-listen, '80s-leaning synth-y stormer with just a hint of an ominous energy.

“Physical” ticks all the right boxes for a banger from start to finish, kicking off with an instant, eye-raising synth flare that just vaguely recalls Madonna’s “Hung Up" - an already winning move. Dua cooly comes gliding in above the kicking beat, sultry and satisfied with her special someone.

Common love isn't for us. We created something phenomenal. Don't you agree?” she purrs. (Honestly, I have to say I do.)

The song was co-written by Clarence Coffee Jr. of The Monsters and the Strangerz, the same songwriting and production team who just hit it out of the park with Selena Gomez's "Vulnerable," the extremely cool Sarah Hudson, responsible for everything from Jeffree Star's "Beauty Killer" (!) to Katy Perry's "Swish Swish," Koz (who also did a bunch for Dua in the past, including "IDGAF" and "Hotter Than Hell"), as well as the unstoppable Jason Evigan, most crucially of Britney's "Man on the Moon" fame.

Add in a bit of speak-singing before the chorus for good measure: “Who needs to go to sleep when I got you next to me?

The shout-along chorus is nothing short of a rush (do what you will with the poppers twinks, just don't bring them to the meet and greet), providing a brief lyrical nod to Olivia Newton-John’s classic (“Let’s get physical!”) - and maybe even some slight '00s UK dance-pop energy, a la Rachel Stevens' Come & Get It.

A random, favorite line in the second verse: “I don’t wanna live another life, ‘cause this one’s pretty nice.

There's even one hell of a bridge, another rarity in pop these days: “Come on! Hold on! Tell me if you’re ready, come on! Baby, keep on dancing!” It’s the perfect scream-sung, hand clap-happy encouragement to keep you planted on the floor with your friends at 2:53 AM for that one last song.

In a world of moody, mumbly midtempos, we should be grateful that Dua's opted to push the pedal and veer into the fast lane with a much-needed BPM bump.

“Physical,” like "Don't Start Now," exemplifies a concept like Future Nostalgia; joyous escapism, rich with references to the past, that ought to provide the soundtrack for some fond memory-making many years from now. She's getting everything right - and seriously, that album artwork is a complete win.

The whole era's really shaping up to be something phenomenal. Don’t you agree?

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