SINGAPORE – In this weekly column, Eddino Abdul Hadi curates the most buzz-worthy music you need to know about now.
Ace Album: Taylor Swift – Midnights
Love her or hate her, there is no denying the fact that Taylor Swift is one of the most impactful stars in the current pop landscape.
Each album release is a major event and Midnights is no different, smashing streaming records upon its release on Friday. With this 10th album, the American singer’s discography counts more than 200 songs, a significant output for an artiste who is only 32.
Midnights is a refreshing return to synthesizer-led pop after the downbeat, pastoral vibes of her last two indie-folk albums, Folklore and Evermore, both released in 2020.
While not as glittery as 2019’s Lover, the melodies are generally buoyant, even though the subject matter is not. Unlike the made-up tales of Folklore and Evermore, this latest line-up sees Swift go back to what she does best: autobiographical songwriting.
The lyrics on Anti-Hero generally sum up the anxieties and feelings of insecurity that have been keeping her up all night (“I have this thing where I get older, but just never wiser/Midnights become my afternoons/When my depression works the graveyard shift, all of the people/I’ve ghosted stand there in the room”).
Swift’s vocal delivery is strong, with emphasis on differing tones instead of flashy belting. Perhaps all the time she has been spending in the studio, not just recording new songs but re-recording past albums, has given her newfound mastery over her singing.
As if the 13 tracks on the main album were not enough, Swift also surprised fans with a deluxe version of Midnights. Dubbed the 3am Edition, it was released three hours after the initial drop with seven extra tracks.
Must-See MV: The 1975 – Live on Vevo
With beautiful cinematography and choreographed moves, one might think that British pop-rockers The 1975 were just lip-syncing and pretending to play to pre-recorded tracks on their latest batch of music videos.
But the performances – a collaboration with video hosting service Vevo on YouTube – were all recorded live.
The three songs are from their recently released fifth album, Being Funny In A Foreign Language, and are prime examples of the band’s musical versatility. Each track features the band, dancers and additional musicians performing at different sets.
Oh Caroline, a radiant, funk-lite bop, plays with moody shadows as the camera weaves between charismatic singer Matty Healy and his bandmates. Upbeat synth-pop track Looking For Somebody To Love sees Healy break out in moves with a posse of dancers while singing and playing his guitar. Orchestral-rock track Part Of The Band features a desert-like setting and impeccable vocal harmonies.
All were filmed in one take without any edits, giving the videos a sense of immediacy akin to watching The 1975 at a physical show.
Stream This Song: d4vd – Romantic Homicide
As with many pop hits in recent times, Romantic Homicide by 17-year-old American newcomer d4vd (pronounced “David”) owes its mainstream breakthrough to TikTok.
Clips from the song – a noir-tinged break-up ballad – have spawned close to 400,000 videos on the social media platform since he released it in July.
Its lo-fi production, shimmery guitars and bedroom-pop feel enhance its intimacy, and you cannot help but sympathise with the forlorn teen singer-songwriter.
Its genre-blending qualities are also a sign of the times. Like many of his peers, the artiste refuses to conform to rigid musical rules, and you can hear snatches of R&B and indie rock within the song.
Romantic Homicide has also charted worldwide – a notable achievement for someone who started making original music barely a year ago. Thanks to its success, d4vd has also been signed to Darkroom/Interscope Records, the same label as American pop star Billie Eilish, so expect to hear more from this youngster.
Chart Champ: Glass Animals – Heat Waves
Last week, British indie band Glass Animals beat other artistes far more popular than them by setting a new record on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Their single Heat Waves – from their third album Dreamland (2020) – became the longest-charting tune in the chart’s 64-year history, beating the record previously held by Canadian singer The Weeknd’s Blinding Lights (2019).
Heat Waves is a pleasant indie-pop tune with a snazzy beat, although the lyrics by frontman Dave Bayley about missing a loved one are a little formulaic.
Released in June 2020, it has now been on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 91 weeks – one more than Blinding Lights.
In early 2022, Heat Waves even spent five weeks at No. 1, and is Glass Animals’ only song to chart in both the United States and Britain.
Singapore Scene: brb. – heart shaped hickey
Singaporean R&B trio brb. may not be a household name. But in terms of streaming numbers, these guys are in a league of their own.
On Spotify alone, their songs draw an average of 1.58 million listeners a month, far more than many of their peers.
After releasing a slew of collaborative singles with acts such as Japanese music producer-guitarist Shin Sakiura, brb. return with their own single, heart shaped hickey.
It is quite the departure from the slick and smooth electronic-R&B jams from their previous discography. Featuring heavily distorted guitars and catchy, yearning vocals, it leans more towards rock and pop-punk.
It is a welcome detour, though, and an indication that the trio of Auzaie Zie, Marc Lian and Clarence Liew can potentially commandeer a mosh pit as well as they can rock the dance floor.
The band recently headlined a solo show at the Esplanade Annexe Studio and will head to Bangkok on Nov 25 to perform at Very Festival 2022, alongside Scottish band Franz Ferdinand and American singer Lauv.