There are a few new songs that have been getting me excited, especially about the direction of Pop radio in 2020 but first I must share 2 new playlists that speak to the soul of music. The playlist “Music Has Not Lost Its Soul” is a great mix of music from the late 60’s until today. From Aretha, Diana and Gladys to H.E.R., St. Paul & the Broken Bones and Snoh Aalegra. There is some Funk, Motown, Soul Pop and House Music.
Its current counterpart “Soul Picks Jan/Feb 2020” includes many new songs that incorporate the styles of Soul and R&B that have been popular throughout the years. Both are easy going and easy to listen to playlists. I had the current Soul Picks playlist on while driving Uber yesterday and a rider loved it and asked if it was a radio station. I don’t know of a radio station currently that would play Lizzo, Lawrence, Cold War Kids, Yola, Alicia Keys, Deidre & The Dark, Black Pumas, Tuxedo and Usher in the same hour or in combo at all. And that is a shame.
Last year, with the debut of Lizzo, I started to see some fun creep back into Pop radio (a place that had seemed devoid of it in recent years). Even though I don’t listen I do follow the charts and am up on what they play. Panic At The Disco was also a welcome addition to the pop mix.
Also in 2019 Dua Lipa, who had a smash hit the year prior with “New Rules” (a song that did use some trapping of the current EDM sound, yet with its own twist), was part of a couple of songs that did not fit into that mold. “Electricity” with Silk City had a 90’s house vibe and “Swan Song” with a bit of an Afro-beat feel. They were left of the dance pop center and neither reached the top 10 although they both had runs in the top 40.
When the Jonas Brothers came back (after DNCE and Nick Jonas’ solo stuff) with “Sucker” and then “Cool” and “Only Human” I was encouraged as they too weren’t relying on EDM for exposure. Another sense of fun was permeating the airwaves and actually making the top 10. This is fully evident on the latest single “What A Man Gotta Do”. Hand clappy, winking and accompanied by a fun movie homage video it takes upbeat pop to the next level.
Hopefully , and it looks likely, it will join Dua Lipa’s current single “Don’t Start Now” into the top 10. Actually that song is now top 5. This one is steeped more in retro dance grooves than EDM, even a bit of disco. But it’s the song, and also the title of her upcoming album, “Future Nostalgia” that really makes it clear she has a path of her own. With lyrics like “You want a timeless song, I wanna change the game”, “You want the recipe but can’t handle my sound” and “I know you ain’t used to a female alpha (no way, no way)”, you know she has a plan. The fact that it is a great funk laden, electro-dance confection makes it irresistible and the best dance song I’ve heard in years. Unfortunately there is no plan to release this as a single to radio.
In the end though I am a pop rock kid at heart. It’s so much of what I grew up on. With that I have found the first song of 2020 that actually makes me giddy happy. “Little Things” by UK’s The Lottery Winners may remind you of something from the past but it’s the song I need to hear right now. This song is destined to go to #1 on my chart. If they would play this on Pop radio I would be soooooo happy. I thought the Struts would do it with “Body Talks’ when they released the remix with Kesha but that didn’t happen.
Right now the best chance of a little happy retro pop rock song making the Pop or Hot AC charts would be “Might Be Right” by White Reaper. Doubtful, but it has been steadily moving up the Alternative and AAA radio charts since its release last May and is currently top 5 on both. I’ve got my fingers crossed.
As far as the Grammys are concerned, the show had some great performances (Demi Lovato, Lizzo, H.E.R.-2 years in a row) and a nice grande finale (I Sing The Body Electric) but was of course too long and ridiculously one-sided (Billie Eilish). So glad Lizzo picked “Cuz I Love You” as the next single and opener. She arguably should have been the Best New Artist. She is a full package artist where I don’t see that with Billie Eilish. I won’t discount Eilish’s abilities as a songwriter (evidenced by this phenomenal cover of “Bad Guy” by The Interrupters) and her brother’s ability as a producer but her appeal is much more narrow (certainly not a determining factor for the Grammys). I would have loved to see a split with Lizzo taking new artist and song for “Truth Hurts” and Eilish taking Album (even though I would have picked Lizzo for this one as well) and Record of the Year (though arguments could be made for “Old Town Road’ and “Truth Hurts” also). I saw the writing on the wall when Finneas (her brother) took the producer award. Also check out “Jerome” for which Lizzo took the award for Traditional R&B perfomance. She also took Urban Contemporary album and Pop Vocal performance for “Truth Hurts”.