With a long weekend staring us down, there’s no time to waste inside on the Internet. Let’s get into this week’s picks.
QT — “Hey QT”
Frequent readers of this column may already be aware of my affinity for British producer SOPHIE, whose take on bubblegum chiptune is so abrasive, it feels like a commentary on the state of pop itself. Now SOPHIE has teamed with A.G. Cook, head of the experimental “abel (more like a collective) PC Music, for another, more explicitly parodying project, called QT. The XL-signed collaboration required one hell of an explanation from the duo:
“So what, or who, is QT? She’s a sparkling future pop sensation — albeit one who is set to warp and stretch the notion of what a pop star actually is. It’s a drink, or more precisely a brand new Energy Elixir (‘where organic and synthetic meet to stimulate an uplifting club sensation’). And it’s a song, a moment — ‘Hey QT’ — which sees these two producers pushing their sound to its very extreme and creating a future anthem in the process.”
To me, “Hey QT” represents a new form of trash and camp; it acknowledges the pop game and warps it to new extremes. Without the contextual wink towards experimentation, we’d be unsure if this is — screw “good” or “bad” — even interesting. But it also functions in a conventional, K-Pop-ish kind of way while you’re listening. QT and other SOPHIE-related projects are worth keeping an eye on.
Stevie Nicks — “Lady”
Stevie Nicks’ forthcoming album, 24 Karat Gold (out Oct. 7), had her mining the past and recording songs she wrote decades ago. Simple, stripped-down piano ballad “Lady” sounds more like Nicks’ pre-Fleetwood Mac days than her recent albums, which is exactly what it is; the song previously surfaced as a Buckingham Nicks demo called “Knocking on Doors.” Listening to “Lady” and “Knocking on Doors” back-to-back points out the ways in which Nicks’ voice has matured: both are beautiful, but when the husky-voiced Stevie circa 2014 wonders aloud “what is to become of me,” it feels like wisdom instead of childish pitying.
Ariana Grande — “Be My Baby”
Earlier this week, I had a lot of things to say about Ariana Grande’s sophomore album, My Everything, but the one thing I didn’t get to spend enough time on was her Cashmere Cat collab, “Be My Baby.” Neither naming a song “Be My Baby” nor nodding towards Ghost Town DJ’s’ “My Boo” is an original pop move, but there’s something special about the way Grande dresses up well-worn territory with fluttery vocals. An R&B-pop anthem that feels decidedly modern, which is to say that it’s more of a dissection of hook-up culture, and from pop’s most modest starlet at that.
Radiator Hospital — “Bedtime Story”
Radiator Hospital is so prolific in its output, it has some sort of side effect in the Philly band’s songs: Sam Cook-Parrott has a quality of rushing through to get to the next thing. Punk music is, of course, built on this expedited delivery speed, but Radiator Hospital is still quite pop in its sound. The pace seems to be more about getting emotions out without lingering on them.
Nick Hakim — “Lift Me Up”
Particularly compared to some of the pop tunes the precede it here, Nick Hakim’s “Light Me Up” seems awfully simple. But it wouldn’t be fair to call it a palate cleanser per se, as Hakim conjures a lot of soul with very few tools: his piano and his words about loss, both recorded in such a lo-fi way, you can hear the floor creaking. I like it better than way.
Bonus: Stream the new Sinkane album, Mean Love, a week early, because it will honestly make you feel goooood.