Life Listens: New music from Jin, Arctic Monkeys, Priscilla Abby and Sobs

(Clockwise from top left) Jin from BTS, Arctic Monkeys, Priscilla Abby and trio Sobs. PHOTOS: BTS_BIGHIT/TWITTER, ZACKERY MICHAEL, PRISCILLA ABBY/FACEBOOK, SOBS/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE – In this weekly column, The Straits Times curates the most buzz-worthy music you need to know about now.

Must-see MV: Jin – The Astronaut

The music video for The Astronaut by BTS’ Jin is packed with Easter eggs. PHOTO: BTS_BIGHIT/TWITTER

A BTS music video is almost always packed with Easter eggs for fans to pore over, and the solo outing of the K-pop boy band’s oldest member is no different. The Astronaut is Jin’s collaboration with British rock band Coldplay, who co-wrote the song.

It is a pretty, atmospheric pop-rock number that takes its time to unfold and gels well with the MV’s cinematic landscape and story. In it, Jin portrays an alien who crash-lands on Earth. When a spaceship arrives to take him home, he rushes towards it, but at the final moment, decides to stay on Earth, having formed attachments and family on the planet.

And it is packed with details. Coldplay frontman Chris Martin makes a cheeky cameo appearance as a newscaster on television, and there are posters of Coldplay and BTS put up in Jin’s bedroom.

There are moments that will touch fans’ hearts as well. The song arrives shortly after Jin’s announcement that he will be preparing to enlist for mandatory military service in South Korea for two years, and is seen by many as a temporary farewell to fans.

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Observant ones have caught that the black boxes on a crossword Jin is doing in the video spells out “For Army” – the moniker given to BTS fans – in braille. He also sports a faux neck tattoo of the word “Army“, also in braille.

Given his heavy involvement in The Astronaut, this seems to be his message: After a short departure, he will return to his found family on this Earth, his fans and BTS. – Jan Lee

Chart Champ: Taylor Swift – Midnights

Midnights is Taylor Swift’s 10th album. PHOTO: REPUBLIC

Taylor Smith cements her dominance with a history-making achievement of having songs from her latest album Midnights take all the top 10 positions on the Billboard Hot 100 songs chart.

She beat the previous record set by Canadian rapper Drake, who logged nine songs in the same chart in 2021.

Swift’s big pop comeback, after a detour into indie folk for her last two albums, was a winning move. A master of building hype, she has also been teasing fans with nuggets of information about Midnights on social media in the lead-up to its release.

Midnights is also the No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 albums chart and Swift’s 11th to top the chart. She now ties with American music veteran Barbra Streisand for the female artiste with the most No. 1 albums on the US chart.

Last week, Midnights became the most streamed album in a single day on Spotify and Amazon Music, and the most streamed pop album on Apple Music when it dropped on Oct 21.

Its weekly record sales in the US – at 1,578,000 – are the highest since British singer Adele sold nearly 3.5 million copies of her album 25 in the same time frame in 2015. Unlike Midnights, 25 was not available on streaming services when it was first released, hence the bumper sales.

Midnights has also sold 575,000 copies on vinyl, a physical format beloved by music fans. In comparison, another tentpole pop album, Harry’s House – by Swift’s former beau and British singer Harry Styles – sold 182,000 vinyl copies when it was released in May. – Eddino Abdul Hadi

Ace Album: Arctic Monkeys – The Car

British band Arctic Monkeys return with a cinematic, orchestral sound on their seventh album The Car. PHOTOS: ZACKERY MICHAEL, DOMINO

British band Arctic Monkeys have strayed even further from their scrappy garage roots and rock leanings with seventh album The Car.

The quartet fronted by singer, songwriter and guitarist Alex Turner delves deeper into the lounge pop and jazzy streaks of 2018 album Tranquility Base Hotel And Casino, a release that famously alienated Arctic Monkeys fans used to the band’s early indie rock and post-punk sounds.

This time, the band’s repertoire is made even wider with ambitious orchestral flourishes and Turner’s expanded emotional spectrum.

It is a lavish record, one peppered with snatches of soulful funk (Hello You) and bossa nova (Mr Schwartz).

Unlike the sci-fi stylings of its predecessor, the lyrics on The Car are grounded and earnest. Tracks such as Jet Skis On The Moat and I Ain’t Quite Where I Think I Am seem to touch on disillusionment with a glamorous lifestyle, while Big Ideas is a meta take on the struggle of a musical savant. – Eddino Abdul Hadi

Stream This Song: Priscilla Abby – Never Ending Ballad

The lyrics of single Never Ending Ballad, by Malaysian singer Priscilla Abby, incorporates the song titles of many classic love songs. PHOTO: WARNER MUSIC TAIWAN

For better or worse, love ballads are the backbone of the Mandopop world, and Priscilla Abby cheekily plays with this idea in her single Never Ending Ballad.

The Malaysian singer-songwriter invited Taiwanese singer WeiBird to pen the track’s lyrics and he went all out, incorporating the song titles of many classic love tunes, such as Yoga Lin’s Mystery Guest (2008), Fish Leong’s Unfortunately Not You (2005) and Joker Xue’s Actor (2015).

For example, one line cleverly strings both Lin and Leong’s hits together: “There’s a mystery guest/unfortunately it’s not you/sigh.”

Malaysian singer Priscilla Abby’s single Never Ending Ballad presents a fun puzzle to any Mandopop lover to unpack. PHOTO: PRISCILLA ABBY/FACEBOOK

In a self-referential move, WeiBird also included his own mega-hit Red Scarf (2021). Never Ending Ballad thus presents a fun puzzle for any Mandopop lover to unpack. Grab some paper and write down all the song titles you can hear in the lyrics – I got 22.

The glorious 1990s-style synth adds to the nostalgia. Look out for Priscilla Abby’s performance of this brilliant track during her Nov 26 gig at Lion Studios Singapore, condensing decades of soul-stirring emotional hits into a few short minutes. – Benson Ang

Singapore Scene: Sobs – Air Guitar

Air Guitar is the sophomore album of Singapore indie rock band Sobs. PHOTO: SOBS

Home-grown trio Sobs return with sophomore album Air Guitar, a collection of perky yet bittersweet tunes that affirm their position in the higher echelon of the local indie rock scene.

Compared with their previous releases, 2017 EP Catflap and 2018 album Telltale Signs, the production shines with a newfound clarity, a marked jump from their bedroom-pop roots.

While still primarily guitar-driven, their musical palette has been expanded with shimmery synthesizers and, in the second half of Friday Night, a speedy drum and bass electronic music drop.

Frontwoman Celine Autumn’s canorous voice melds well with Jared Lim and Raphael Ong’s zippy guitars, coalescing into a riveting concoction of songs that take on the inconstancy of young adult life.

Sobs have toured South-east Asia in past years, but with Air Guitar being released by American label Topshelf Records, Japanese label Inpartmaint Inc and Indonesian label Kolibri Rekords, the trio seem set to take flight and expand their fan base even further. – Eddino Abdul Hadi

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