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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, January 3, 2020

IndieLondon gleefully checks out the cream of the week’s singles

Bombay Bicycle Club, Everything Else Has Gone Wrong

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: BOMBAY BICYCLE CLUB – I CAN HARDLY SPEAK: The Bombay Bicycle Club rennaissance continues apace with the release of this superb new single, I Can Hardly Speak, taken from the forthcoming LP Everything Else Has Gone Wrong (out on January 17). Built around an emphatic back-beat and some funky sounding electronics, this is a grand, epic, vibrant offering that belies some of the more uncertain elements found in the lyrics. The band themselves state that the song is “about struggling to express yourself in words,” while pulling together all the unusual sounds, textures and metronomic loops that are almost signature to Bombay Bicycle Club records right now. Hence, while that may hint at a signature sound, Bombay Bicycle Club always know how to keep this element of their sound fresh and exciting. I Can Hardly Speak therefore embraces the struggle it depicts and turns it into something wondrous and empowering. It’s a song to relate to, rejoice in and shout loudly about. It’s another example of why their new album already rates among 2020’s most anticipated.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Justin Bieber, Yummy

JUSTIN BIEBERYUMMY: Justin Bieber’s first solo single for five years is a Craig David R’n‘B wannabe that largely disappoints. A first taster of what to expect from his forthcoming fifth album, which Bieber suggests finds him in a healthier and more creatively fulfilling place, the track is also born from the personal sense of happiness the singer now finds himself in with new wife, Hailey Baldwin. But while Yummy may have Bieber sounding content, declaring “you’ve got that yummy”, the track itself is a limp offering. It lacks edge, sex appeal, any really lively melodic hook and sounds like a Craig David track from yesteryear. Bieber fared better with past comeback offerings such as Sorry and What Do You Mean?. Here, he lacks any conviction, even when singing cheesy lines like “you’ve got that yum, yum”. The accompanying video is just as head-scratching, finding the singer crashing a dinner gathering in a pink top, with all-new pink hairdo. It’s designed to get him noticed… but not so much for the right reasons.
Rating: 2 out of 5

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Lauv, Changes

LAUVCHANGES: Platinum certified rising pop superstar Lauv kickstarts a busy 2020 with the release of new single Changes, taken from his forthcoming debut album, How I’m Feeling, on March 6. A rumination on how life repeatedly delivers changes, this finds the singer determining to turn over a new leaf and embrace the changing landscape. The lyrics include lines like: “I think I’m gonna cut my hair cause these days I don’t feel like me” and “I think I’m gonna take a break from alcohol, probably won’t last that long”, while declaring over the chorus, “Changes, they might drive you half insane, but it’s killing you to stay the same but it’s all going to work out, it’s all going to work out someday”. And it’s this air of positivity that ultimately makes this an empowering, if low-key electro-pop track that should easily appeal to fans of acts like Maroon 5 and The Chainsmokers. Commenting on the song himself, Lauv said: “I wrote Changes about being at a point in my life where it just wasn’t working for me anymore. I wasn’t happy with myself, with the way I was living, and I felt like I needed to grow and evolve. It’s one of my most personal songs, and a massive favourite from the album.”
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Hailee Steinfeld

HAILEE STEINFELDWRONG DIRECTION: Actress and singer Hailee Steinfeld delivers a sombre start to her 2020 with new single Wrong Direction, which reflects on the pain of breaking up and infidelity. Speculation abounds that the song is aimed at one ex in particular [former One Direction member Niall Horan], especially in light of the play on words that the song’s title could represent. But it’s a song that resonates emotionally for anyone who has experienced similar hurt. Lyrics include: “Looking back I probably should have known, but I just wanted to believe that you were out sleeping alone” and “guess I was crazy to give you my body, my mind, don’t know what I was thinking”. And such moments tap into the depth of despair and hurt that Steinfeld experienced. What helps those lyrics to stand out is the minimalist instrumental backing, which extends to sombre piano arrangements and atmospheric strings. It’s a heart on sleeve offering that rates as a very powerful ballad.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Oh Wonder

OH WONDERHAPPY: Oh Wonder drop Happy as the fourth offering from their forthcoming LP, No One Else Can Wear Your Crown – and it’s a bittersweet pop song reminiscent of classic Chainsmokers during its chorus. The song declares “I never thought I’d be happy to see you with somebody new” over its chorus, before adding “spent all my weekends pretending I was fine, just to get you out my mind for an evening”. And yet, while the sense of loss is palpable in lines such as those, there’s also a sense of relief and growth as the chorus repeats itself, as if the singers have moved on from the hurt and found their own happiness. The boy-girl vocals work nicely enough, while the electro-pop backdrop is shot through with easy-going, radio friendly melodies. But it’s this accessibility that opens it up to easy comparisons with the aforementioned artists… not a bad thing, per se, but just depriving the single of any real ability to stand out from the masses. It’s a fun, disposable listen with a worthwhile message behind it. Happy was actually inspired by Anthony’s ex girlfriend… and it’s delivered in such a way that she, too, may be happy to hear it.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Ava Max, On Somebody

AVA MAX – ON SOMEBODY: “Heartbreak is a motherf**ker”… so sings Ava Max in typically frank fashion on appealing new single On Somebody. As with Hailee Steinfeld’s offering, and Oh Wonder’s, this confronts the heartbreak and loss of self-worth that accompanies a split, with a chorus that declares “you never know how much you’re on somebody until they’re on somebody else”. It later declares “I wish my heart would lie and tell my body I’ll be fine”. But unlike Steinfeld’s sombre offering, this takes the form of an upbeat pop song, with lively pop beats, slick synth arrangements and a chorus that’s shot through with upbeat melodicism. Hence, it’s a break-up song that somehow feels like you could get up and dance to it. As such, it also serves as a nice contrast to the ballad approach, delivered in an almost feisty kind of way that explains the F-bomb start. It’s a highly engaging listen that puts a bounce in your step even when having something serious to say.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Gabrielle Aplin, Miss U 2

GABRIELLE APLIN & NINA NESBITTMISS U 2: Gabrielle Aplin and Nina Nesbitt have united to release a new version of Aplin’s 2016 hit Miss You – and it works a treat in giving the song a fresh lease of life. Where the original track became a viral hit and thrived on the power of Aplin’s distinct vocals, this makes the most of both singer’s hypnotic voices, offsetting them with some lush electronics and snappy beats to give an otherwise sad song a more empowering, upbeat vibe. The song is about missing someone and resolving not to let go again, but while certainly bittersweet, there’s a pop sheen that’s utterly addictive. The vocals, meanwhile, are heart-meltingly delicious. Commenting on the collaboration with Nesbitt, Aplin said: “I’m so happy to have Nina on Miss You 2. I’ve known her for a long time, we came through as artists around the same time. We have been on both sides of an ever-changing industry and both decided to independently take control of our careers and success. The initial release of Miss You feels like the start of that for me, and I’m thrilled that Nina has added her voice to a new version of one of my favourite songs of mine.” Nesbitt added: “I’m so excited to be featuring on Gabrielle’s new version of Miss You 2. We have known each other for a long time and one of my first ever gigs was supporting her at a show in 2011. I’ve always been a big fan of her work and I’m so happy we’ve finally had the chance to collaborate.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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