Zayn’s Nobody Is Listening Has A Song For Every Mood

By Ashley Oken

Zayn’s eagerly awaited third album, Nobody’s Listening, is out today (January 15), and instead of the sprawling 90 minutes of 2018’s Icarus Falls or the pop maximalism of his 2016 debut, Mind of Mine, it scales back to focus on the singer’s deepest thoughts, including nostalgia, sexual desire, and heartbreak. It’s a tenacious yet delicate album full of stripped compositions and intimate lyrics, the kind that longtime fans need during a tumultuous time.

Teasing new music for months before the release, Zayn dropped the early singles “Better” in September and “Vibez” three months later. The former hit the Billboard Hot 100 in October, while the latter set the tone for the rest of the album to come with its neo-soul vibe. On January 12, Zayn even launched a phone line for fans to get a taste of the new collection, playing snippets of tracks for excited devotees. The finished product comprises 11 tracks that give fans a window into Zayn’s growth as an artist and a person, reflecting on the recent birth of his daughter and nostalgia on lead track “Calamity” while maintaining his mastery of sensuality on “Sweat.”

Within this entire album, there is a sense of maturity and clarity within the lyrical content and production style, signaling a step in a fresh direction for the former One Direction member. Urging us to slow down and take stock of what we have, this album is tender, honest, and full of passion — just as our lives should be. Below, we break it down, track by track and mood by mood.

  1. “Calamity”

    Listen to it when you’re feeling: nostalgic.

    Key lyric: “Can I resist the abyss? / Leave a mark on this with no start, just exist”

    One of the most vulnerable songs on the album is its opener. Zayn chooses to rap on the track, sedately reciting an introspective poem that gives fans a look into his life as the dad of a baby girl, his long-term relationship with Gigi Hadid, and an overview of the last 10 years of his life — though he doesn’t offer specifics. Listen to this the next time those 3 a.m. thoughts hit you in the middle of the night.

  2. “Better”

    Listen to it when you’re feeling: contemplative.

    Key lyric: “’Cause sometimes it’s better that way / Gotta let it go so your heart don’t break”

    Singing about giving an on-off relationship a second chance over a soft beat, Zayn shows that love for someone doesn’t die easily. This song will have you thinking “what if” when an ex-flame messages you on social media.

  3. “Outside”

    Listen to it when you’re feeling: apologetic.

    Key lyric: “I know I’m not so innocent / but the love I had for you was real”

    With its crooning and potent lyricism, Zayn sings about a turbulent relationship in which he’s devoted to his partner and hopes they’ll let him back in. This acoustic-anchored song will have you thinking over that early morning fight you had with your partner.

  4. “Vibez”

    Listen to it when you’re feeling: amorous.

    Key lyric: “I’ve been waiting all night to get closer / And you already know I got it for ya”

    Over its sultry, ’90s R&B-inspired beat, Zayn perfectly describes the crushing anticipation and tension that coats the room when you’re with your crush. Play this the next time you’re getting ready for a virtual date with your paramour.

  5. “When Love’s Around” (ft. Syd)

    Listen to it when you’re feeling: groovy.

    Key lyric: “Never feel that type of way / But I need you in my life”

    A team-up with singer-songwriter Syd, the song finds the duo softly singing about not feeling like love is possible until one person changes their view. Like the rest of the album, this succinct track is airy, propelled by a soft, danceable beat, and will make you think about the one person for whom you ditched the dating apps while dancing slowly around your apartment.

  6. “Connexion”

    Listen to it when you’re feeling: lustful.

    Key lyric: “And I don’t wanna miss out on another love / So I’m gonna dive in, go headfirst into the unknown”

    This simple tune finds Zayn brandishing an unbelievable falsetto and the kind of bedroom guitar strums he used to make a staple of his Instagram page. Singing about a love that’s passionate and spans both a digital and physical connection in the post-chorus, Zayn evokes all the emotions that accompany seeing someone you can’t get enough of. Play this the next time you think of the person you’re crushing on.

  7. “Sweat”

    Listen to it when you’re feeling: sexy.

    Key lyric: “Dripping down your body like gold / Slowly steamin’ up the windows”

    An ’80s-style power ballad rooted in dripping synth noises, Zayn gives us an addition to the Spotify sex playlist with lyrics that paint a picture of all the ways physical pleasure can make us hot. Play this the next time you want to get down with your partner.

  8. “Unfuckwitable”

    Listen to it when you’re feeling: like a boss.

    Key lyric: “They said I wouldn’t do shit / Now they all about my new shit”

    This downbeat, lightly funky, and flexing track draws parallels between Zayn’s life as a member of One Direction and everything that came after, calling forth his strength and ability to be “unfuckwitable” now that he’s in control of his image and success. Play this next time you ace that work or school project.

  9. “Windowsill” (ft. Devlin)

    Listen to it when you’re feeling: hot.

    Key lyric: “Cigarettes and fuckin’ on the window sill / Break the glass, go and show me how you really feel”

    Built like an emo-rap track, “Windowsill” hones in on Zayn’s desires — namely, his promises to pleasure his lover on the countertop and every surface imaginable. Over an electronic beat, British rapper Devlin adds his own devilish details, like, “And I’m sure she tempt Satan, if she ain’t the devil herself.” Play this the next time you need a soundtrack for some stay-at-home, uh, adventure.

  10. “Tightrope”

    Listen to it when you’re feeling: spiritually in love.

    Key lyric: “’Cause I’m already up here and I got my eyes closed / And I ain’t never fell from a love this tall”

    Interpolating the swoon-worthy 1960 single “Chaudhvin Ka Chand” by Indian singer Mohammed Rafi, Zayn includes the Urdu lyrics to this acoustic-based ditty to add to this song about spiritual love. Play this song when you feel like you need to know your strength to get through a difficult time.

  11. “River Road”

    Listen to it when you’re feeling: hopeful.

    Key lyric: “Breeze outside my window turned to color / Know that I will see the sun again”

    This jazzy pop ballad is a gentle and tender closer to the album, giving hope for better days although we can’t control the outcome of our current circumstances. Play this when you need to make sense of a strange, confusing time in your life, perhaps even now. “Here’s to a great year,” Zayn recently tweeted. “Hope [it’s] better than the last!”

Demi Lovato, Justin Timberlake, And More Will Perform At Biden’s Inauguration

On Wednesday, January 20, President-elect Joe Biden will celebrate his inauguration with a TV special called Celebrating America instead of with typical in-person ceremonies due to COVID-19 safety concerns, Politico reports. The 90-minute show will highlight and honor frontline workers who remain out there during the raging pandemic, and the whole thing will be hosted by Tom Hanks.

But because you can’t have an inauguration ceremony without music, Celebrating America will also feature performances from Demi Lovato, Justin Timberlake, Ant Clemons, and Jon Bon Jovi. On Instagram, Lovato wrote that she’s “SO honored” to join Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris for the event: “I was left speechless when I was asked to perform!”

Timberlake, meanwhile, shared how the song he’s planning to play, called “Better Days,” came together ahead of the special. Together with his collaborator Clemons, he penned the tune in late 2020 as a way to look ahead with optimism. “This past year brought a lot of frustration, grief, anger — and there were times when it was easy to feel powerless,” he wrote. “This song was our way of doing what little we could to encourage everyone to stay hopeful… and keep working towards a better, more equal future.” He also shared that he recorded his vocals for the tune on Election Night.

“We have a long way to go to fix, undo, and rebuild this country… but I hope now, despite the past four years, we are on our way.”

The Celebrating America special will air at 8:30 ET/PT on January 20 on ABC, CBS, and NBC, as well as on cable channels CNN and MSNBC.

Sophia Bel, Montreal’s Princess Of The Dead, Is In Control

By Yara El-Soueidi

The first notes of Sophia Bel’s songs evoke old memories of Razr phones, iPod Nanos, ultra-shiny bubblegum lip glosses, and heavily underlined eyes — a time when scene kids and preppy jocks shared high school hallways. The Montreal indie-pop singer explores unique sounds crafted from the music that influenced her when she was a teenager, the post-punk and pop offerings of the early 2000s. Her latest two EPs, both titled Princess of the Dead, refer back to the nickname her bullies gave her when she was a teen, an emo kid in suburbia. Her music and the EPs — including her more recent release, which dropped late last year — became a way for her to exorcise that experience.

“It’s always nice to take from our bad experiences and appreciate what it has taught us,” she tells MTV News. “It’s just nice and therapeutic to kind of take something that comes from so much trauma, and then flip it over to something positive and reappropriating the name because like, ‘Yeah, whatever. I’m emo. Who cares?’ It can still exist. We should validate ourselves. It’s important to process our trauma and stuff. But it’s also nice to kind of appreciate what it’s taught us and how it makes us stronger.”

Bel’s music captures that strength and showcases it in other ways. Her single “You’re Not Real, You’re Just a Ghost” is a powerful denunciation of a former flame who ghosted her, while “No More” is a hot and sexy retelling of a high-chemistry relationship with a toxic side. She explores these deeply personal subjects, in turn connecting with listeners through universal themes of love and heartache. Her own experience, meanwhile, has always been unique. Born in Michigan to a Québécois father and a Dutch-American mother, she grew up in a suburb of Québec City and moved to Montreal to gain independence. After a year of working in cafés and playing music, she decided to go to school and study jazz composition as a way to connect with other musicians.

This and all her other stories build her inspiration and creativity. That’s how you get the relatable kiss-off of “You’re Not Real, You’re Just a Ghost,” told over sugar-filled pop-rock that will inevitably make you dance before a room of imaginary specters. Bel says she wrote the song to communicate her feelings about the complicated and precarious positions of love. “It’s about being ghosted, ghosting, and the general difficulty communicating in relationships,” she says. “It’s really hard to be vulnerable sometimes. For me, it was really about that aspect of things that I’ve been through, like, many times with many different people.”

Keeping those stories close to her, Bel is personally involved in every aspect of the creation of her music. From co-producing her album, which blends pop melodies and downbeat trip-hop elements, to her involvement in the edgy and colorful aesthetic she puts forward, every aspect of her artistry is imagined by her with the help of local collaborators and producers. She loves the control. Before she started producing, she often felt lost in other people’s visions, which felt inauthentic to her voice and ideas.

Roxanne Selleck

“I wanted to be able to express my vision even more precisely,” Bel says. “It’s not about being completely self-sufficient and trying to do everything alone. I really like the craft. It’s just something that I enjoy doing. It makes [listeners] feel better when I can put more of myself into it.”

Reflective of all of this is also her edgy style. Passionate about fashion and taking her aesthetic to heart, she describes her whole look as “dark and playful,” adding that she doesn’t overthink it when it comes to clothing, going with what inspires her in the moment. Just as her music can evoke a blade-thin flip phone, her style takes inspiration from her youth, including spaghetti-strap, mesh tops, and bell-bottom pants. That’s also thanks to her Montreal-based glam squad, composed of stylist Laurence Morisset and hair and makeup artist Roxanne Selleck. “I have to mention them when talking about my style, because it’s really kind of like a really fun brainstorm all the time with those two,” Bel adds, giggling.

The conversation about friends, music, and style eventually drifts toward the pandemic and how she’s been dealing with its impact. She mentions having ups and downs in 2020, not feeling extremely inspired, but this static downtime was an opportunity to push herself to process her feelings, preoccupations, and face herself by learning to become more vulnerable.

“We have to face ourselves because we can’t distract ourselves as much as before,” she adds. “So, yeah, it’s still very introspective like everything that I do. It’s always kind of related to my youth, how I deal with things in the present and how it’s connected to everything.”

Roxanne Selleck

And in connection to everything, her French single, “Voyage Astral [Astral Trip],” approaches introspection and change through an ephemeral trip-hop beat, taking listeners on a journey through colorful clouds outside of space and time. That energy is reflected in its video, which was completely produced and self-shot through an old digital camera from the early 2000s. It has a quintessentially spiritual quality to it, an extension of the tarot and New Age practices she uses as therapeutic tools to spark conversations with friends.

“I feel like it always evokes whatever is going on in your life,” Bel says. “It is very much about how sometimes you see yourself in a new way that you’ve never seen yourself before, and then you question that and you evolve. So that’s why I like bringing kind of the ethereal side to it, because it’s kind of nice to just enjoy the ethereal sides of life.”

Maybe Bel will get more ethereal in 2021. She’s keen on being gentler and kinder to herself — which you can hear on the EP’s closing track, “Clover” — something she thinks everyone should do. A good place to start? Maybe someplace remote and unexpected, where creativity can flow.

“I want to go, when we’re allowed to, in a cabin in the woods,” Bel says. “I want to make an album in the woods.”

Lana Del Rey Explains Chemtrails Over The Country Club Artwork: ‘These Are My Friends, This Is My Life’

Lana Del Rey‘s highly celebrated Norman Fucking Rockwell album dropped in August 2019, and for just about as long, the artist has been teasing its follow-up, Chemtrails Over the Country Club. On January 10, LDR finally gave her most substantive update on the LP yet, sharing its tracklist and cover art in a series of posts on Instagram.

The album, her seventh, will feature 11 songs, including a title track and one called “Tulsa Jesus Freak.” According to her posts, it has no listed features. “There’s always turmoil and upheaval and in the midst of it- there’s always beautiful music too,” LDR wrote in the caption accompanying the cover. “Introducing my new album chemtrails over the country club.”

In addition to the photo, which finds the artist smiling surrounded by a group of women gathered around a table adorned with a country club-ready gingham tablecloth, LDR shared another pic of her and three others adorned with pearls and tiaras, teasing a new “music video out tomorrow,” meaning we could expect it at some point on Monday (January 11).

Also notable is the top comment Lana left on her post announcing the album cover, which seemed to address backlash she received last year after calling out critics and fellow artists in an impassioned note. In the new comment, she wrote:

I also want to say that with everything going on this year! And no this was not intended-these are my best friends, since you are asking today. And damn! As it happens when it comes to my amazing friends and this cover yes there are people of color on this records picture and that’s all I’ll say about that but thank you.

My beautiful friend Valerie from Del Rio Mexico, my dearest friend Alex and my gorgeous friend Dakota Rain as well as my sweetheart Tatiana. these are my friends this is my life. We are all a beautiful mix of everything- some more than others which is visible and celebrated in everything I do. In 11 years working I have always been extremely inclusive without even trying to. My best friends are rappers my boyfriends have been rappers. My dearest friends have been from all over the place, so before you make comments again about a WOC/POC issue, I’m not the one storming the capital, I’m literally changing the world by putting my life and thoughts and love out there on the table 24 seven. Respect it.

Chemtrails Over the Country Club is due out later in 2021. Find a teaser for the album here, and watch her perform the album cut “Let Me Love You Like a Woman” on The Tonight Show below.

Lil Nas X’s ‘Old Town Road’ Becomes Most-Certified Song In History

Since its official release in 2019, Lil Nas X‘s breakout hit “Old Town Road” has shattered chart records and industry conventions alike, earning the viral rapper his first Grammy wins for a track that sparked a wider cultural conversation about the hallmarks of country music itself. Galloping to even greater heights in 2021, the collaboration with Billy Ray Cyrus has become the most-certified song in RIAA history.

On Friday (January 9), Nas X shared the news that “Old Town Road” had gone 14x Platinum, supplanting John Legend’s “All of Me” and “Despacito” by Daddy Yankee, Luis Fonsi, and Justin Bieber, both certified 13x Platinum. “LETS GOOO!” Nas X wrote on Twitter, sharing a meme to celebrate the occasion. His collaborator Cyrus expressed gratitude via a post on the platform, writing: “I’m speechless. #OTR is now 14x platinum and the most certified song in music history. Thank YOU!”

After initially gaining popularity on TikTok, the song first entered the Billboard Hot 100 in March 2019, later breaking the record for most weeks at No. 1 on the chart before being dethroned by Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy.” At the 2020 Grammys, it earned Nas X and Cyrus three nominations and two wins for Best Pop/Duo Performance and Best Music Video. Nas X’s most recent release was the Christmastime single “Holiday.”

The 2021 Grammys Have Been Delayed Over COVID-19 Concerns

The 2021 Grammys show was set to air on January 31, but according to new reports, organizers have postponed the event due to COVID-19 safety concerns. Organizers confirmed the delay to both Rolling Stone and Variety on Tuesday (January 5).

No new date has been set for the broadcast, though organizers are reportedly looking to reschedule for sometime in March.

The awards show was to take place at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, currently one of the biggest hubs for the virus in the nation. Around 7,600 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 in Los Angeles County, and one person dies from COVID-19 every 15 minutes, the county’s public health director said this week.

Rolling Stone reports the show was to have no in-person audience and planned on only letting presenters and performers on site; winners were likely to have accepted their awards remotely.

This year’s Grammy-nominee field is led by Beyoncé with nine, followed by Dua Lipa, Taylor Swift, and Roddy Ricch with six each. 2021 also marks some category changes for the Grammys. Best Urban Contemporary Album has been renamed Best Progressive R&B Album, Best Rap/Sung Performance is now called Best Melodic Rap Performance, Best World Music Album is now known as Best Global Music Album, among others.

Rockstar Made: Playboi Carti’s Whole Lotta Red Hits No. 1

All the way back in May 2018, Playboi Carti dropped his beloved, star-studded debut album, Die Lit, which eventually hit No. 3 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. Nearly three years without an album can be a long time in the streaming economy — especially with peers like Taylor Swift releasing two in the span of five months — and as Carti kept busy popping up on features with Solange, Tyler, the Creator, and Drake (and dealing with persistent leaks), his second LP became extremely anticipated.

That likely explains the groundswell that’s caused Whole Lotta Red to hit No. 1 this week, knocking Swift’s Evermore from the top spot, as Billboard reports. It’s Carti’s first No. 1 and features guest appearances from Kanye West, Kid Cudi, and Future.

The rattling and booming Whole Lotta Red was first announced in 2018, shortly after the release of Die Lit, and was finally released on Christmas. It features 24 tracks across just over an hour — and in addition to being Carti’s first No. 1, it also marks his third charting release; his 2017 self-titled mixtape reached No. 12.

Before Whole Lotta Red‘s release, numerous Carti songs were leaked online, including some presumably meant for final inclusion on the album. Complex talked to a person who claimed responsibility for uploading them, via The Fader, who said, “It will keep happening because there are die-hard fans of the artists out here. It’s just the nature of things.”

Regardless of the backstory, Whole Lotta Red is here, and it’s connecting. Carti tweeted out his thanks to fans when the news of his latest milestone hit.

MF Doom, Prolific Masked Underground Rapper, Dead At 49

Daniel Dumile, the hip-hop artist who performed in a metallic mask under the moniker MF Doom for decades, has died, his family announced on Thursday (December 31). According to a note posted to his social media accounts, Doom died on October 31; no cause was given.

His wife, Jasmine, penned the statement that began, “Begin all things by giving thanks to THE ALL!” and was addressed to “Dumile.”

“The greatest husband, father, teacher, student, business partner, lover and friend I could ever ask for,” it reads. “Thank you for all the things you have shown, taught and given to me, our children and our family. Thank you for teaching me how to forgive beings and give another chance, not to be so quick to judge and write off. Thank you for showing how not to be afraid to love and be the best person I could ever be. My world will never be the same without you. Words will never express what you and Malachi mean to me, I love both and adore you always. May THE ALL continue to bless you, our family and the planet.”

Born in London and raised in New York after his family relocated to New York, Doom spent his early years in music as Zev Love X in the rap group KMD with his brother, DJ Subroc, in the early 1990s. One of his earliest appearances was on 3rd Bass’s “The Gas Face” in 1989. After his brother’s death, Doom reemerged as a formidable underground hip-hop presence, donning what became his signature mask similar to that of Marvel Comics villain Doctor Doom. “A visual always brings a first impression,” he told The New Yorker in 2009. “But if there’s going to be a first impression I might as well use it to control the story. So why not do something like throw a mask on?”

In the annals of music history, Doom is perhaps best known for 2004’s Madvillainy, one of the most celebrated hip-hop albums of all time. A collaboration with DJ and producer Madlib, the duo called themselves Madvillain, and their debut album showcased a panoply of subterranean sounds that, along with fellow visionary J Dilla, helped solidify a moody sonic vocabulary for the genre rooted in unexpected samples and hazy beats. They released a remix album in 2008.

An incredibly prolific artist, his discography went well beyond Madvillainy. He released six solo albums under various aliases, in addition to other collaborations with folks like Danger Mouse, Westside Gunn, Czarface, Jneiro Jarel, and Bishop Nehru, and a series of instrumental albums. A producer as well as an MC, Doom made music for other artists like Ghostface Killah and Joey Badass as well.

Along with Danny Brown, he featured on The Avalanches’s peppy hit “Frankie Sinatra” in 2016. Earlier in December, he released a slightly psychedelic new collaboration with BadBadNotGood entitled “The Chocolate Conquistadors.”

Fellow artists and fans are sharing their love for Doom on social media.

Miley, Taylor, Dua, And More Proved 2020’s Pop Nostalgia Machine Is Potent As Ever

By Katiee McKinstry

With the release of her latest album, Plastic Hearts, in late November, Miley Cyrus completely reinvented herself as a glam-rock icon, diving into the past as she cleared a path forward in the pop-rock sphere. Expertly wielding the collective power of nostalgia to appeal to even the most casual of listeners — its final tracks include a reworked version of standout single “Midnight Sky” featuring Stevie Nicks and covers of the classics “Zombie” and “Heart of Glass” — Cyrus also mined key moments from her own career to generative new results. And this year, she was not alone.

Prior to the drop of Plastic Hearts, Cyrus announced the launch of MileySpace, essentially an updated version of what her MySpace page would look like in 2020, hosted on her own website. Cyrus relaunched her website to draw attention to the drop of Plastic Hearts, in a MySpace format featuring album art, links to music videos, and album related merch. But ardent fans of the pop star may recognize that MileySpace is more than a savvy marketing ploy; rather, it’s a clever easter egg harkening back to a fans-only experience Cyrus culminated at the end of the 2000s.

In 2009, at the height of her Hannah Montana stardom, Cyrus was beginning to break out as a solo artist, as well, with “7 Things.” During her Wonder World Tour, she unveiled her official fan club, MileyWorld. For $30 a year, fans had full access to behind-the-scenes content and exclusive (and heavily moderated) chat rooms where Cyrus would pop in from time to time to say hello. Every club member would receive an ID card, which featured a toothy headshot of Cyrus as a kid, one of numerous elements from MileyWorld Cyrus evoked in the leadup to the launch of Plastic Hearts. There was also the slogan of the MileySpace relaunch, “a place for Miley’s friends,” referencing how MileyWorld once was. Likewise, Cyrus played on the nostalgia of old school MySpace, changing the mouse image when users scroll, adding music to her “profile,” and loading her “friends list” with collaborators on Plastic Hearts. Well played.

Just as MileyWorld functioned as a promotional avenue for album releases and tours with an quintessentially insider feel — fans would get behind the scenes content from Cyrus’s life, be the first to hear about new album drops and concert promos, one of those cute MileyWorld ID cards, and an overall intimate feel of being Cyrus’s BFF — so, too, is MileySpace. As a Cyrus fan back in the early 2000s, it was so fun to be able to connect with her in a more intimate way through MileyWorld. To see her resurface elements from our childhood brings back warm memories: the glow of the computer screen, for example, as Cyrus responded in a chat room to my question, “What is it like to be a blonde?” (It was “definitely a different experience,” she wrote.)

Similarly, numerous other pop artists plunged into their own archives in 2020 for some artistic archeology. Taylor Swift, Gwen Stefani, Aly & AJ, and Dua Lipa have all dipped into the past (both their personal histories and the shared recollections of pop culture) in their recent respective works, using elements that tug on fans’ heart strings and reward their patience and devotion.

Taylor Swift, in particular, is known for laying out fan-centric clues and Easter eggs throughout her musical and visual work. Her summer surprise album, July’s Folklore and its December sister record Evermore, were littered with self-referential nods. Folklore played on nostalgic elements in its presentation, featuring a stripped-down folk sound harkening back to her earliest country hits, but throughout each song on the album, Swift examines her career in a new light. She finally delves into her relationships and how she used those relationships to shape her music career.

Thus, Swift goes backwards and inwards with Folklore, making fans jump right in as their nostalgia runs high. By releasing Evermore, Swift further utilizes the nostalgia marketing, continuing the introspective look at her career and relationships her fans so closely have followed over the years.

Fans of a certain age probably danced around their bedrooms screaming lyrics from No Doubt’s “Just a Girl” or “Don’t Speak” as teens. In December, Gwen Stefani released her new single, “Let Me Reintroduce Myself,” which plays heavily on themes from her previous records solo and with the band. She adds callback elements of ska as well as a line about “bananas” throughout the song, referencing her 2004 smash “Hollaback Girl.”

Speaking of reintroducing yourself, pop sister duo Aly & AJ have done the same, re-releasing their most popular hit, “Potential Breakup Song,” with a twist. In 2007, the single by the then-teens was a huge pop-rock call-out, but its anger was kept kid-friendly. With this new release, Aly & AJ have reinvented the song, making it explicit with f-bombs and contemporary production, capitalizing on its potency after the song saw a resurgence this year thanks to TikTok.

Nostalgia as a marketing tool is not a new concept, and in fact, Dua Lipa wove it into the very fabric of her latest album itself.  This year’s Future Nostalgia found the pop star immersed in ‘80s dance vibes glossed with a more modern feel. “I wanted to make sure that every song touched on both the future aspects and the nostalgic aspects, to somehow bring something fresh and new to the table, but also something that reminds you of a time,” Lipa told Variety. “In terms of the future, it really is a production, and the lyrics about what’s currently going on in my life. But some of the sonics behind it have that nostalgic reminiscence.”

For fans, this powerful sense of nostalgia lets you revisit your favorite parts of your childhood: younger and simpler times. But for artists, perhaps it is more innately tied to reinvention. Plastic Hearts, while not thematically tied into Cyrus’s past in MileyWorld, is about Cyrus stepping into her power as a rock icon. The past is ever present, and therefore so is MileyWorld — via MileySpace. Now, you can revisit 2009 Cyrus online as you meet 2020 Cyrus via her music. In a year that has forced many people to pause and reflect on their lives, these artists are taking the time to delve into what made them so successful in the first place.

14 Albums You Might’ve Missed In 2020

Here’s what we know about Sault, the mysterious British music collective with millions of streams on their nocturnal, rhythmic, and bewitching assortment of tunes. On Juneteenth, the group — purportedly based around U.K. producer Inflo — released its first untitled album, (Black Is), via a name-your-price model, with proceeds going to charity, and with a clear message: “We present our first ‘Untitled’ album to mark a moment in time where we as Black People, and of Black Origin are fighting for our lives.” Musically moving between funk, soul, subterranean R&B, and more, the 20 tracks comprise a powerful statement — one Sault followed up three months later with yet another untitled album, (Rise). Taken together, the pair of recordings mark a crucial year characterized by protests against racial injustice and frank, long-overdue conversations about equity. “Maybe you’re uncomfortable / With the fact we’re waking up,” goes the haunting “Uncomfortable.” “Why do you keep shooting us? / How do you turn hate to love?” —Patrick Hosken