Sia, Justin Timberlake, and Calvin Harris might be dominating the mainstream charts, but these singles from emerging artists deserve your attention, too.
Rebecca & Fiona, “Drugstore Lovin'”
Since dropping their debut album, I Love You Man, back in 2011, Swedish DJ duo Rebecca & Fiona have released quality electro banger (see: “Jane Doe”) after quality electro banger (also see: “Taken Over”) — and made it look easy in the process. As if you needed to be reminded why Sweden does pop music better, the pair’s latest offering, “Drugstore Lovin’,” buzzes along with a breezy, island-infused kick that’ll have you humming its addictive chorus all summer long.
Cruel Youth, “Mr. Watson”
After establishing herself as underground pop’s resident Princess of Sadness, Natalia Kills rebranded herself as Teddy Sinclair following a highly-publicized ousting from the judging panel of New Zealand’s version of The X Factor back in 2015. Under the new moniker, Sinclair began work on a new musical project, Cruel Youth, with her husband, recording artist Willy Moon.
On solo tracks like “Marlboro Lights” and “Saturday Night,” Sinclair proved she’s one of the most talented songwriters working today, whose skills were put to good use by Madonna (“Holy Water”) and Rihanna (“Kiss It Better”). While Cruel Youth’s melancholy “Mr. Watson” sees a sonic departure from what Sinclair’s fans are used to (think if Miley Cyrus’ Bangerz were to make sweet musical love with Troye Sivan’s Blue Neighborhood in the year 1954), it’s a welcome evolution nonetheless.
Mark Clennon, “Don’t Die”
If Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke hopped back in time to produce Milli Vanilli’s early discography, the result might sound a lot like Mark Clennon’s “Don’t Die,” a somber pop masterpiece with bumping bass, soaring synths, hand claps, and soulful piano riffs that flicker out over an icy spoken word outro.
Naomi Pilgrim, “Sink Like a Stone”
Having performed as a backup singer for acts like Lykke Li and Agnes Carlsson in the past, Naomi Pilgrim finally carves a lane for her powerhouse vocals to shine in their own light. Pilgrim channels inspiration from ’90s R&B to contemporary electropop on “Sink Like a Stone,” a rousing empowerment anthem touching on issues of inequality and criminal injustice.
You can’t go wrong with K-Pop — at least the kind TAEYEON is hawking. The 27-year old recently released her sophomore EP as a solo artist after making a name for herself as part of the Korean megagroup Girls’ Generation. Filled with breezy pop gems, the set’s standout is the bubbly earworm “Why,” coasting along on sun-tinged guitars until its bumping chorus explodes with slick, tropical energy.
Several years ago, Robyn showed us how to groove through the pain on songs like “Call Your Girlfriend” and “Dancing On My Own,” and Goldroom’s “Silhouette” proudly carries that torch into 2016. The track’s only lyrics, “Without you I’m a silhouette,” repeat over funky disco strings and contemporary electronics, adding to the track’s minimal (yet nonetheless powerful) impact.
Porsches, “Blood to a Shark”
As part of his musical side project, Porsches, Carl Fox has been putting that sky-high falsetto to good use, releasing some of the most underrated dance cuts of the past year, including “Horses” and “Karate.” Fox, with musical partner Jesse Sewell, returns with the shimmering “Blood to a Shark,” proving the duo is out for blood when it comes to crafting amazing pop music.
Cannons, “Mood Ring”
Breathy, lush, and easy on the ears, Cannons’ chilled-out “Mood Ring” is a smooth-as-glass lyrical journey through the vast range of emotions inspired by a potential lover. Ideal for poolside lounging or a post-club cool-down, the slinky “Mood Ring” deserves a spot in your midsummer music collection.
Denetia and Sene, “Olive”
Hop aboard the throwback express on Denetia & Sene’s groovy “Olive,” which comes alive through Nile Rodgers-inspired strings, subtle egg shakers, and energetic horns throughout the back half that’ll have you begging for dim lights and disco balls.
Take a break from Pokemon Go and pay attention: there’s more than one Abra worth catching. Infectious, synth-driven electro R&B production frames the Atlanta-based singers smooth, Tinashe-esque vocals on “Vegas,” which recalls hardcore 80s synthpop and Carly Rae Jepsen’s brilliant 2015 pop bible E•MO•TION. “Vegas” is a musical gamble that pays off.