The Best New Artists from Pop’s Promised Land: Detroit

With global warming, political unrest, and a cratered international economy serving as the shaky pillars of today’s world, we need pop music now more than ever. As hopeless headlines continue to paint dark horizons for us, pop is one of the few lights to shine through and inspire whimsy. Even the harshest skeptic has no choice but to relent and give into the genre. So we present Pop For Skeptics, a regular Flavorwire column committed to curating and commenting on the best ear candy from the US and around the world.

When I bade farewell to New York City, I was also saying hello to an old friend: the Greater Detroit area. Diving back into this part of the world, I found a hotbed of pop genius blooming in my own backyard. Of course, you can peruse any number of sloppy trend pieces about Detroit without finding journalists who are able to recognize signs of revitalization, but are rather obsessed with pushing the narrative of Detroit as a land of ruins. In fact, the national discourse about the city’s cultural revitalization seems stacked against its resurgence. But the joke is on the rest of the world, because when you look at the quality of pop that’s coming out this part of the world, you realize it’s Coachella-caliber chart-ready pop with a futurist edge.

What’s more brilliant is that the city’s pop landscape makes sense of a culture of versatility that has given the world such acts as Madonna, Eminem, The White Stripes, Aretha Franklin, ADULT., Motown, and all of DEMF culture. Unlike the music scenes in bigger markets like New York, L.A., and Austin, Detroit hasn’t lost its specificity to the homogeneity of major label appropriation. Whether it’s decrepit buildings, bustling all-American roads like Woodward Avenue, or the general sense of the region’s ability to synthesize everything from hip-hop to bubblegum pop to EDM, pop stars from Detroit tend to have a special ownership of their hometown that Lady Gaga, for example, can’t seem to match for New York. After the jump, we explore some of the best tracks by these exciting new acts.

Rai Knight — “Blurry”

Leading the charge for this new pack is Rai Knight, whose “New New” was a buoyant, bubbly breath of fresh air in 2010, when dance pop started trending towards pulsating yet soulless dubstep. It fizzed so much that Pepsi featured it in ads for their Refresh campaign. Boasting production by Chris Cowie, Knight’s latest single, “Blurry,” evokes the restrained melodrama of Robyn’s “With Every Heartbeat.” Most endearing is that Knight, like all proper pop stars, dreams big. She says, “What I like about Detroit is that I have so much room to find my own source of creativity. The well is so untapped. It’s all about enjoying what you have, working within your means, and making rocket ships out of tin-foil.”

Recommended if you like: Robyn, Lily Allen, Class Actress