I was pleased to see that The Wanted recently reunited to release a compilation album of their biggest songs called Most Wanted: The Greatest Hits and perform some shows in England. That album includes their new single “Rule The World”, which is an enjoyable pop confection that shouldn’t be swept under the radar, so easily done when so many big things happen every week in the music industry. “Rule The World” could easily have been a hit for Max, Tom, Nathan, Siva, and Jay back in their 2012-13 heyday, co-written by Max, as well as Lauv and others. But having a great song these days doesn’t always seem to be enough, so that’s why I promote discovery through my blog as being quite important for songs that might miss out. While “Rule The World” has already been endeared to The Wanted’s many fans, pop music lovers in general will find the harmonies in addition to the fine songwriting to be a major treat.
“Never Going Back” is a song that oozes self-confidence and self-awareness when a relationship has completely ended, and it’s brought to life by singer/songwriter Alessandra Boldrini. With a dance/pop style that would appeal to fans of Dua Lipa, Katy Perry and Jess Glynne, the Italian-born, UK-based newcomer has a charming but assured vocal that leaves “Never Going Back” (below) stuck in your head. She’s currently juggling her music career with studies at the famed British and Irish Modern Music Institute, so she’s 100% in it to win it. I think Alessandra Boldrini will sound even better in a much more polished setting, and I’m excited to hear what she releases next.
“Is It Enough?” is super smooth British-style house music from UK/Canadian production duo Future Kings and Welsh singer/songwriter Laura Davie. “Enough” is a co-write between the artists, and is the kind of songs that DJ’s can slide in next to 90’s classics like Robin S’ “Show Me Love” and “Finally” by CeCe Peniston and still stand out with its infectious groove. Laura has sung alongside such major and diverse talent as Culture Club, Tom Jones, The Blessed Madonna and Jax Jones, while Future Kings have cemented their reputation as solid and reliable producers through their releases with MOYA this year, most recently “Peace”. “Is It Enough?” is a big step forward and a hot dance track that you should keep your ears on.
There’s no doubt that Karen Harding has had a great year. In addition to recently getting married and having a baby, Karen’s released some of the best music of her career with “Undo My Heart” (with Digital Farm Animals), “Let’s Get Together” (with Illyus & Barrientos), “Morning” (with Shift K3Y) and “Only One” (with Felix Cartal). Add “You & I (All I Need)” to that list, this time a completely solo Karen single, another beautifully touching house track with straight-forward lyrics that can only be written when your life is content. Such happiness is infectious and will certainly win fans on the dance club circuit. However I do think perhaps “You & I” is a particularly natural follow up to “Undo My Heart” for dance radio audiences.
UK/Irish duo Menrva are back following up “Locked In Your Love” with another fun deep house track, “Play It Cool”, featuring British singer of Caribbean heritage Island Banks. The punchy drum sound and quirky rhythm recall something we might hear from Aussie sensation Fisher. Island Banks’ engaging vocal reminds me a lot of Craig David, and some harmonies continue to add even more flavourful twists to the song. Despite the comparisons, Menrva have a left-of-centre original winner with “Play It Cool”, which will have no trouble at all coaxing even the most reluctant dancers out onto the club floor.
I want to get it right out of the way that “Show Me Love” is (thankfully) not yet another cover of the Robin S. classic or one of the Robin Schulz European smash of a few years ago. It brings back the compelling voice of UK-based US singer/songwriter MOYA in a much more restrained setting than her recent releases which I’ve written about, this time working with UK producer Ben Rainey. “Show Me Love” is top notch, smooth British house, and shows how MOYA can showcase the many sides of her vocal talents in an exceptional setting. “Show Me Love” is a fine release which should find favour with club DJ’s and on dance music radio around the world.
The glossy sheen of “Asteroid”, the latest single from British electronic pop duo of Indian heritage Laya Laya, hides a lovelorn vulnerability which has an out-of-norm appeal as one package. The duo, Freya Zai and Super Joshi, want you to think way outside the box and imagine the unattainability of love floating out there in space like an asteroid. It sounds so remote, that you want to reach out and grab it, and as Freya sings “I want you to myself”, which could be a subtitle for the song as the phrase resonates in the chorus. “Asteroid” is beautifully sung with delicate-sounding music leaving the lyrics to pack the punch, and has already received support from BBC Radio. Stylistically think of Frank Ocean and George Michael meet Dusty Springfield and Sophie B. Hawkins and go from there.
British duo Barbudo are making some pleasing inroads from when I first heard them last year with their new single “Sunshine”. Barbudo are brothers Ben and Harry Stanworth, who hail from the south of England. Although the production is fairly basic, sometimes more is less when it suits the moment and the song. Taking their cue from the pandemic and spinning that on its head, the lads came up with “Sunshine” as part of the musical antidotes we’re all hearing now as much of the world transitions out of the pandemic. It doesn’t say anything new, but the presentation is alternately chill and snappy, full of 80’s sounding British-European jazzy disco flavours that help turn it into a bit of a singalong. Although it’s too long for what it has to say, “Sunshine” is made up of all the right stuff to turn listeners’ heads.
“Invoke” is dance music for creative thinkers, as British producer Zen Dub pulls drum and bass melody and beats front and centre for the first time in a long while. Culled from his ambitious 10 track album Enigma, “Invoke” reminds me a bit of what Tritonal were trying to achieve with their Sanskrit mantra “Shivohum” last year. Zen Dub uses Asian influences to help make “Invoke” a unique experience, and the compelling vocal makes it more than just the average drum and bass electronic release. It’s as challenging as Disclosure’s recent releases, and the album title reminds me of the same-named 90’s project by German producer Michael Cretu which brought other styles and cultures to Top 40 radio with tracks like “Return To Innocence”. “Invoke” is a highly recommended step away from the big beats of today’s dance music and demonstrates enjoyable alternate flavours that are available for more progressive electronic music fans.
While he has continued to make and release music over the last few years, UK multi-talent Frankmusik had to take a few steps back not long ago to settle into a new life with spouse and child in L.A. His music is always intriguing. whether recording under a pseudonym (Stephanie Clothing) or giving us frequent tastes throughout 2021 of what undoubtedly will be a new album. “Satellite” is a beautiful, sparkling track that stands out because of its extremely catchy chorus which is sung in his high register. With a straight-forward song structure, “Satellite” also allows Frankmusik to embellish the production with splashy synths that really give the song a lift. High calibre songs such as “Satellite” will continue to allow us all to look forward to more from Frankmusik mach 2021.