Bop Shop: Songs From Tove Lo, Bas, J.I.D, Jay Som, And More

All Doja Cat had to say was, “Bitch, I’m a cow,” in last year’s silly-but-sensual “Mooo!” and we were all ears. Born and raised in L.A., the singer has charisma and confidence to spare, with music that evokes elements of R&B, pop, and rap with a sickeningly sweet twist. Since her 2014 debut EP, she’s kept up her game touring with the likes of Lizzo and Theophilus London, and the recent deluxe release of her album Amala is a perfect opportunity to savor some of the bops you might have missed.

Enter “Go to Town” – a bouncy track that will have you hooked from its immediate high-voice refrain. Behind a beat that feels like a mix of club, schoolyard, and candy shop, Doja packs innuendos by the pound. She offers her man a one-chance-only invitation to “go to town” and show her what he’s got. She shows no signs of complacency, throwing in winks and jabs between bars, and she knows what she wants and will not stand for any emoji clownery (“He text me an eggplant, I text him a peanut”). With a chorus that won’t quit and a wide-eyed smirk you can hear, Doja Cat will have you grooving until you can’t help but bust it down and go to town – whatever that means to you. —Carson Mlnarik

BTS And Charli XCX Want You To Go After Your Dreams In New Collab

BTS and Charli XCX have linked up for a new, bedazzling song, “Dream Glow.” It’s every bit as shiny and bright as the name suggests and it’ll make you feel all fuzzy inside. The shimmering track appears on the Korean group’s upcoming mobile game BTS World, so prepare to hear it everywhere on June 25 when the game launches.

While we wait to get our fingers on the game, it’s time to immerse ourselves in this dreamy song.

Charli XCX kicks things off with a jolt before BTS’s Jin, Jimin, and Jungkook lead the listener through a shining land of rainbows and dream-chasing. It’s a smooth listen that builds the anticipation for BTS World’s imminent release. In the game, you’ll play as a manager with the goal of making the band into superstars. With an optimistic, and impossibly bright, tune like “Dream Glow,” it looks like that dream will be easy to turn into a reality.

BTS World is going to follow an alternate universe story where in 2012, you’re a BigHit Entertainment employee who’s been placed in charge of the group. The game’s going to have over 10,000 new photos, 100 never-before-seen clips of the group in action, and a new soundtrack, which “Dream Glow” comes from. For their most recent real life soundtrack, they released Map Of The Soul: Persona in April.

Listen to “Dream Glow” up above.

Madonna Brings The Legend Of Joan Of Arc To 2019 In ‘Dark Ballet’ Video

Madonna‘s new video for “Dark Ballet” is as bold and artistic as they come. It stars rapper Mykki Blanco as Joan of Arc, the French heroine who led soldiers to victory in numerous battles and was eventually burned by the English at the stake. The visual follows this path to her execution and shows the pain and resilience that made her into a martyr figure that’s been able to survive into modern pop culture. We’ve all heard about Joan of Arc’s achievements on the battlefield, but this intimate story deserves to be told as well.

Joan of Arc received her first divine vision from God at 13 years old; years later, she would be placed at the head of French forces and was thought to be directly responsible for winning multiple battles. Her bravery was applauded. She was later ambushed at a battle, imprisoned by English officials, and executed. Records show that she asked for a crucifix to be held in front of her while being burned. She wasn’t afraid.

Madonna’s video assumes that you know of her powerful achievements because it jumps straight to the road towards execution. Mykki Blanco’s Joan of Arc is powerful but afraid. As she frets about the pending execution, she’s shown to be in different mental spaces, hesitant to accept death, yet an unmovable force in the face of English intimidation. We’re shown the haunting burning from multiple angles, the last finding Blanco’s Joan smiling.

“Dark Ballet” is the fifth song released from Madonna’s forthcoming album Madame X following “Medellín” with Maluma, “I Rise,” “Crave” with Swae Lee, and “Future” with Quavo. Madame X will be out on June 14.

Watch the powerful video for “Dark Ballet” up above.

The Rise Of Denzel Curry In Five Songs

Curry let Ta13oo simmer for just shy of 11 months before returning to the fray with ZUU, his fourth studio album. If what he revealed to Fader is true — that the entire LP was freestyled — then first single “Ricky” is the work of a mastermind. It’s named after his father, to whom it pays tribute and is reflected in the cover art.

In the song, Carol City isn’t hellishly depicted like Opa-Locka. Instead, it’s the setting where his guardians instill their life lessons in him. Curry’s dad tells him, “Trust no man but your brothers.” His mother says, “Trust no ho, use a rubber.” Throughout the tune, we leave his childhood cul-de-sac and find power in his past. After all, the tribulations he’s faced throughout his life have certainly strengthened his position in the rap space, as well as his comfort within himself.

Curry’s career continues to push further inward as he becomes more comfortable and familiar with personal experimentation. He continues to show that his next move will always be more calculated than his last — something that likely puts continued mainstream success in his sights.

Jonas Brothers’ Comeback Album Happiness Begins Is Here, And Fans Have No Chill

Let the happiness commence!

The Jonas Brothers‘ stellar comeback has culminated in the new album Happiness Begins, which arrived at the stroke of midnight on Friday (June 7). It marks the band’s fifth studio album and first in 10 years, following 2009’s Lines, Vines and Trying Times. And though it’s already given JB their first-ever No. 1 single, “Sucker,” there were sky-high expectations for Happiness Begins, namely from the legions of fans whose decade-long patience has finally paid off.

For what it’s worth, Kevin, Joe, and Nick are as happy as clams — in a new press release, the trio said, “For us this album is a culmination of the last ten years and our story as brothers. We are so excited this album is officially out! We can’t wait for you to finally hear it and to perform it in front of all our fans around the world!” They also cheekily added, “PS – We’ve been to the year 3000. Not much has changed but they live underwater.”

As for those aforementioned dedicated-as-hell fans? The early reviews are in, and the consensus seems to be that the boys are back and as fun as ever. Upon the album’s release, JB enthusiasts took their fervor to Twitter and shared hilarious and emotional reactions to the 14 new tracks (including the previously released singles “Sucker” and “Cool“). See the best below, and happy listening!

  1. “Sucker”

  2. “Cool”

  3. “Only Human”

  4. “I Believe”

  5. “Used to Be”

  6. “Every Single Time”

  7. “Don’t Throw It Away”

  8. “Love Her”

  9. “Happy When I’m Sad”

  10. “Trust”

  11. “Strangers”

  12. “Hesitate”

  13. “Rollercoaster”

  14. “Comeback”

Machine Gun Kelly Describes How Mac Miller And Chester Bennington Influenced His New Album

Anticipation for Machine Gun Kelly‘s fourth album, Hotel Diablo, reached a fever pitch on Thursday (June 6) with the release of the rapper’s latest single. On “I Think I’m OKAY” — yes, the last word is all-caps for dramatic effect — MGK joins forces with British rocker Yungblud, and the two make an intensely potent combination.

After trading verses in which they reflect on a vapid life fueled by booze and drugs, they come together for the brutally honest chorus: “Watch me, take a good thing and fuck it all up in one night / Catch me, I’m the one on the run away from the headlights,” they sing/scream. “No sleep, up all week wasting time with people I don’t like / I think that something’s fucking wrong with me.” Tying it all together is blink-182 drummer Travis Barker, who lends his thunderous skills to the genre-bending track, before Yungblud closes it out with an a cappella finale.

After “I Think I’m OKAY” premiered on Beats 1, MGK talked up Hotel Diablo, describing it to host Zane Lowe as “the album I always wanted to put out.” When Lowe asked if starring in the Mötley Crüe biopic The Dirt made MGK want to reconnect with his more rock-influenced sound, the rapper said, “I think that did, and I think [Linkin Park frontman] Chester [Bennington] passing did that for me, too.”

MGK also described the back-to-basics approach he’s taking for the new album, explaining, “I got rid of all the bells and whistles on this project. It’s all about being an artist more than a celebrity. … This time around, the music’s too good and I’m not doing anything but being myself. There’s no added chains, there’s no added statement jackets.

“You know who did a great job with this? Mac Miller,” he continued. “When I looked at Mac, I just saw a talented young man. I didn’t hate on the thing that he did. I was so impressed all the time, by his musicality, by his mental, by him as a friend. And that’s the ultimate goal for me, is to walk around and have that respect and to not have all this extra stuff follow me. Because extra stuff and drama and alpha male hate has followed me for a long, long time.”

Hotel Diablo — the follow-up to Machine Gun Kelly’s 2017 album, Bloom — doesn’t have a release date yet, but is expected sometime this year.

Avicii’s Posthumous Album Tim Is Finally Here

Avicii‘s third studio album, Tim, is finally out. The posthumous LP, named for the producer’s birth name, is the product of a community of close friends and collaborators coming together to finish what he started. Now that it’s arrived in all of its majestic splendor, we can see that the mission has been completed. The world has a final chapter in Avicii’s trilogy to consume.

Tim is twelve tracks long. It acts as a follow-up to his 2015 album, Stories. It finds Avicii at his most comfortable, working with frequent collaborators like Aloe Blacc and Vargas & Lagola. Imagine Dragons and others also appear on this electronic feast that punches a hole in the time continuum and creates its own everlasting space. You’ll find the previously released Blacc-collaboration “SOS” on it which arrived with a heartwarming visual featuring fans explaining what Avicii’s music did for them.

Avicii tragically took his life last April at 28 years old. A couple of months ago, his family and collaborators revealed in an interview with the New York Times that the LP was “75 to 85 percent” done and that it would incorporate elements of “psychedelia, Arabian music, sounds of the Carribean and more.”

Stream Avicii’s posthumous album, Tim, up above. 

See Jonas Brothers React To Halsey’s Surprisingly Soulful ‘Sucker’ Cover

There’s a reason “Sucker” became Jonas Brothersfirst-ever No. 1 hit: it’s a catchy, certified bop. But the band’s comeback smash warps into something much more intense in the capable hands of Halsey, who put her own spin on “Sucker” while visiting BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge on Thursday (June 6).

Halsey’s cover begins with a jazzy intro, complete with a saxophone solo and finger snapping. She sultrily strolls through the verses — even whistling along at one point — then amps up the drama with a growling, belting chorus. It’s a much more soulful version of “Sucker” than what you’ve heard before, and it’s an absolute must-hear.

After seeing Halsey’s cover, Kevin, Joe, and Nick posed a video message for their fellow New Jersey native on Twitter. “Oh my god! Halsey! That was amazing,” they gushed. “Thank you so much for covering ‘Sucker.’ It sounded incredible. You’re the best. We love you!” Along with some heart-eye emojis, she tweeted back, “I love you guys too!!!!! And I love this song! Thank you!!!!!!!!”

Halsey’s version of “Sucker” comes just a week after Jonas Brothers made their own Live Lounge appearance. During that visit, the group covered Lewis Capaldi’s U.K. hit “Someone You Loved,” and the singer-songwriter returned the favor on Thursday by putting yet another new spin on “Sucker.” So, yes, there were not one but two A-list covers of “Sucker” released today — try to keep up!

It’s also worth noting that Halsey didn’t just perform “Sucker” in the Live Lounge — she gave her raging new single “Nightmare” a stripped-back rendition that’s equally as beautiful. Check it out below.

Megan Thee Stallion Isn’t Sorry For A Damn Thing In New Freestyle

Kicking a freestyle for Sway Calloway on his radio show, Sway’s Universe, is something of a rite of passage and a definitive showcase of one’s skills as an emcee. Many a rapper has either been showered with praise or exposed as a lackluster on-the-spot lyricist based on what they piece together when the radio host throws on classic hip-hop beats. Earlier this week, it was rising rhyminatrix Megan Thee Stallion‘s turn to blaze the show with her powerful raps and she didn’t disappoint. It was short but it wasn’t sweet. It was vicious, poisonous, and dominating: three adjectives that describe Megan Thee Stallion’s brand of power-claiming music. She deserves all the praise that she’ll get following this one.

“This is the land of the wolves,” said Sway with a crimson glint in his eyes just before the freestyle kicked off. It was time for Megan to prove herself. Rising to the occasion, she smiled and asked for a piece of paper to spit her gum out. Then, over the course of around sixty seconds, she lashed out continuously with prickly raps and radioactive swagger. Tupac‘s “Hit Em Up” was streamed through her headphones and she began with a fierce statement: “First off, I ain’t sorry for a motherfucking thing.” She attacked the perception of her versus her reality in blunt ways to establish who she is and how she, truly, doesn’t care what you think. Sway was taken aback and reclined into his chair, his hands over his mouth as he stared at the champion in front of him. Megan chuckled. She can do this on any day.

Megan Thee Stallion released Fever last month. The mixtape, that includes the previously released tunes, “Realer” and “Sex Talk,” features guest appearances from Juicy J and DaBaby.

Check out the venomous freestyle up above.

How Blackpink, Red Velvet, And More Are Redefining Womanhood In K-pop

By T.K. Park and Youngdae Kim

When you think of K-pop, the seven young men of BTS most likely come to mind, but the women artists are enjoying a heyday of their own. Red Velvet recently hit seven cities on their first North American tour, while Blackpink took Coachella by storm, mingling backstage with their fans Ariana Grande and Will Smith. Wonder Girls’ Sunmi and Girls’ Generation’s Tiffany have broken free from the girl groups that made them and are now headlining their own U.S. tours. And these women are doing it with confidence, strength, and flair, completely unconcerned with the male gaze — or with anyone else’s gaze for that matter.

The English-language discourse about K-pop idols, and in particular female idols, is still shaped in large part by the 2012 New Yorker article by John Seabrook titled “Factory Girls.” Published in the same year that “Gangnam Style” became a global phenomenon, Seabrook’s article painted a picture of women K-pop idols as carefully-crafted objects, using Girls’ Generation — the most successful K-pop girl group until that point — as the primary focus. It was a familiar story to anyone who had been following K-pop. The artists are recruited in their adolescence, put through a rigorous training regimen, and undergo plastic surgery so that they can execute the vision of their producer: an image of beautiful yet demure Korean women, in contrast to the male idols who more freely deviate from the conventional gender norms.

Getty Images

Girls’ Generation perform at the KBS Korea-China Music Festival in August 2012

This caricature won a great deal of purchase, in part because it contained a modicum of truth, and also because it fit female K-pop stars into the prevailing U.S. preconception about Asians and women: Asians are supposed to be mechanical, women are meant to be objectified, and therefore it made sense that Asian women pop stars were mechanically objectified.

But even in 2012, this description was not entirely on the mark. It is true enough to say a persistent strain in K-pop’s girl groups involves turning women into an object of male desire — as is the case with female pop artists anywhere. But it is a mistake to think the women of K-pop solely traffick in marketing themselves as manufactured objects of that desire. In truth, even the most “manufactured” K-pop girl groups display a great deal of agency, and their profile evolves as their careers progress.

1990s-2000s: The Dueling Sides of Femininity

Fin.K.L’s “To My Boyfriend,” released in 1998

Objectification and agency formed the current and countercurrent as long as girl groups have existed in the modern K-pop idol scene. For the first generation of K-pop girl groups of the late 1990s, this was partly a function of their reference materials: The girl groups that emulated U.S. artists leaned more toward displaying confidence and independence, while groups that emulated Japanese acts hewed closer to the conventional image of demure Asian women. The latter was the mainstream at first. Influenced by Japanese groups like SPEED, the leading first generation K-pop girl groups, such as S.E.S. and Fin.K.L, established the course that many came to regard as the standard K-pop path for women as an object of male desire: a gaggle of cute girls growing into adorable young women over time. Meanwhile, groups like Baby V.O.X. and Diva, which emulated the hip-hop-based music and images of TLC, formed the countercurrent of women artists with confident and spunky aesthetics.

Girls’ Generation’s “Gee,” released in 2009

The first generation K-pop girl groups’ popularity entered a fallow period around 2003, when idol groups overall lost ground to R&B acts. Then in  2007 Wonder Girls, Kara, and Girls’ Generation debuted, forming the second generation of K-pop girl groups. It was also this generation that perfected the strategy of turning female artists into a carefully-curated product, cultivating what came to be known as “uncle fans” — middle-aged men with disposable income and dubious motives. These are the “factory girls” that Seabrook encountered, as the second-generation girl groups were the first ones that enjoyed meaningful popularity in the U.S. market by appearing on Billboard charts, performing on late night talk shows, and going on nationwide tours.

But not even Girls’ Generation, the archetype of a female K-pop idol group, was content only to project an image of demure young women. From the beginning, Girls’ Generation had a streak of strength and independence that was overshadowed during the peak of their careers but re-discovered later. For example, the lyrics of 2007’s “Into the New World,” the group’s first hit single, showed unflinching resolve: “Don’t wait for any special miracle / The rough road ahead of us is / The unknown future and a wall / We won’t change, we won’t give up.” These words re-emerged as a slogan for the 2016-17 Candlelight Protests that led to the impeachment and removal of then-president Park Geun-hye.

Even in this “peak objectification” period, there were plenty of female K-pop idols that emphasized confidence and agency. 2NE1, debuting in 2009, is a notable example. 2NE1 inherited the spunky image of Baby V.O.X. and Diva, and blended the contemporary hip-hop aesthetics favored by their production company YG Entertainment. The result is a group that consciously rejected the conventional cute-sexy axis in favor of being swag-based alpha girls. Further, the female idols of the first generation would evolve toward being more dominant and in-charge as their careers progressed. Lee Hyo-ri, who began her solo career in 2003 after a successful run in Fin.K.L, did more than merely project an image. By actively participating in the creation of her own music, she was claiming true agency over every aspect of her artistry. This pattern would repeat with other female idols who advanced their careers, like BoA, Tiffany, and Sunmi.

Gain’s “Bloom,” released in 2012

The later part of this period was also characterized by an aggressive marketing of sexuality. Three notable examples — HyunA, Gain, and IU — demonstrate three distinct ways in which women of K-pop sublimated their sexuality into artistry. Provocateur HyunA is the grown-up version of her former group Wonder Girls, maintaining the bright and cheerful atmospherics but with more skin and suggestive dance moves. Gain, on the other hand, does not suggest — she affirmatively expresses her sexuality, making her presentation not about the gaze that she would attract, but about the desire she feels. This is especially evident in the music video of her 2012 single “Bloom” with its jaw-dropping depiction of self-pleasure, making Gain more popular among women than men. IU is arguably the most cerebral of the three, as she relishes the subversive force created by the knowing look behind her girlish face. Like Madonna, IU leverages her feminine charm as a means of control. IU’s seemingly more traditional sexuality is in fact a highly-cultivated device, inducing submission from men to whom she appears to be submissive.

2010s-Present: Redefining Womanhood

The women of K-pop face a unique challenge compared to their male counterparts. Unlike K-pop boy bands whose fandom is mostly women, K-pop girl groups are beloved by men and women alike, with each artist having a different mixture of male and female fans. In the past few years, the women of K-pop became more attuned than ever to the complex gender dynamics of their fans, who are living in the age of #MeToo-era feminism and fluid gender identity. Of course, the more “conventional” K-pop girl groups, such as Twice or IZ*One, continue to remain hugely popular. Yet equally popular are groups like MAMAMOO, who flaunt their sexuality and do it on their own terms, not to meet anyone else’s expectations.

Blackpink’s “DDU-DU DDU-DU,” released in 2018

Blackpink arguably is the leader of the latter group. Fresh from their Coachella debut, Blackpink is this generation’s 2NE1, combining their predecessor’s alpha-girl swag with model-like looks. With more flash, more glam, and more swag, the four women of Blackpink — Jisoo, Jennie, Rosé, and Lisa — dominate the stage like four Beyoncés, totally devoid of any aegyo (cute expressions) that has long characterized K-pop girl groups.

Red Velvet, on the other hand, continues SM Entertainment’s girl-group tradition of cute girls growing into cheery young women. Yet like their predecessor Girls’ Generation, Red Velvet maintains a streak of independence that rejects being mere objects of desire (for example in “Bad Boy,” in which they view the men who refuse to bow to them as a challenge worth conquering.) Further, Red Velvet wears its feminism proudly: The group’s leader Irene recently made waves by saying at a fan meeting that she read Kim Ji-young, Born 1982, Cho Nam-ju’s best-selling feminist novel. Irene’s statement was met with howls of sexist outrage. But Irene and Red Velvet persisted, never apologizing for her belief in gender equality.

LOONA’s “Butterfly,” released in 2019

LOONA presents still another possibility, attracting LGBT fandom with gender fluidity. With its “girl of the month” concept — introducing a new member every month for a calendar year — LOONA initially appeared to be on a similar track as Red Velvet. Yet with songs and music videos that appealed to the aesthetics of same-sex attraction, intricate choreography that puts them on-par with their male counterparts, and an inclusive concept that allows them to represent every girl, LOONA is cultivating an entirely new kind of diverse fanbase.

Where will the female K-pop idols go next? Of course, the previous generation will continue the process of maturing into their own artistry. Taeyeon of Girls’ Generation, for example, is rapidly emerging as a major figure in her own right. But the latest development is suggesting that the women of K-pop are on their way to overcoming the final frontier of idol music: gaining agency over the presentation of their looks, image, and music. With new girl groups such as (G)I-dle featuring women artists who are producing their own music and narrative, that reality doesn’t seem so unlikely. Far from being “factory girls,” the women of K-pop are increasingly charting their own course with greater independence than ever.