‘Tis the season to be thankful, so let’s all count our blessings and remember what’s truly important: Pop music! This week’s roundup includes a “Vampire Diaries” actress-turned-chanteuse, an “Idol” legend, rising stars hailing from the U.K. and South Africa, and a mournful masterpiece by an indie darling.
1.) Nikki Williams, “Kill, F***, Marry”
You may not have heard the newly signed Island Def Jam songstress Nikki Williams just yet, but judging by her debut, you will soon. This month, the 24-year-old South African-born singer has just unleashed her first major-label effort, “Kill, F***, Marry,” co-penned by Stargate and nonstop pop hitmaker Sia, and it’s absolutely massive. The aching power ballad finds Nikki’s sanity hanging from a string (and a straightjacket) as she sheds light onto her not-so-healthy brand of twisted love: “Kill, f***, marry are the things I want to do to you/ Your love drives me crazy, but my bullets pass right through,” she quivers above eerily ambient electronica and a slow-striding drumbeat. Between the agonizing, powerhouse vocals and the jaw-dropping lyricism (“Passion feeds lust when the trust is questioned”), this is easily one of the most powerful, evocative songs of the year. Most anticipated act of 2013? You bet.
Listen to more Must-Hear Pop Songs after the jump.
2.) A*M*E – “Play The Game Boy”
If you took a twinkling Robyn classic, smoothed it over with some springy K-Pop production, and sent it skyrocketing back into an arcade in 1983, you’d have “Play The Game Boy,” the irresponsibly infectious single from rising London songstress A*M*E. “You can’t stop me now, or hold me down/ I’m calling you out,” the 17-year-old singer merrily taunts above glittery electronica and crunchy ’80s synth beats that evoke early Madonna, before launching into the song’s almighty chorus: “Play the game boy,” she monotones repeatedly above a deliciously crunchy 8-bit stomp. Good luck getting this one out of your head for the next 58 million years!
3.) Lana Del Rey, “Gods & Monsters”
Last week, the stunning Miss Lana Del Rey unveiled the long-awaited follow-up to the Born To Die saga, Paradise. Hidden amid the collection of melancholy, throwback gems is “Gods & Monsters,” one of the most stunning new additions to Lana’s discography yet. “Screwed up, scared/ doing anything that I needed,” Del Rey purrs on the dreamy, dreary ode to temptation and the not-so-glamorous end of fame, “shining like a fiery beacon.” Accompanied by dramatic strings and warbling twangs, the song is the perfect final touch to Del Rey’s masterpiece.
4.) Kat Graham, “Wanna Say (Fred Falke Remix)”
“Vampire Diaries” darling Kat Graham shook up our spray cans earlier this year with her tag-tastic clang-a-lang track “Put Your Graffiti On Me.” Now, she’s back with “Wanna Say,” the slick electro-ballad from her debut EP, Against The Wall. To celebrate the release, Kat’s collected a slew of killer remixes of her latest single, including one by French house remixer/producer extraordinaire Fred Falke. As with all of his remixes, Falke’s taken the track and smoothed it out into a lush, disco stomper, full of warm synthesizers and a driving pulse.
5.) Kelly Clarkson, “That I Would Be Good/Use Somebody”
Along with this week’s release of Greatest Hits: Chapter One, the original “Idol” Kelly Clarkson has provided a follow-up to her gorgeous Stronger acoustic EP with The Smoakstack Sessions Vol. 2. Included in the bunch of smoky, bluesy covers is a studio version of one of her live fan favorites: a cover of Alanis Morrissette‘s “That I Would Be Good” meshed with Kings of Leon‘s “Use Somebody.” And to no one’s surprise, it’s extraordinary — a massive showcase of Clarkson’s diva-size pipes, control, and soulful conviction. And by the time she starts roaring with all her might on the Kings of Leon classic — well, there’s a reason she’s still going strong a decade into her career. Kellegendary 4 Life!
Bradley Stern lives in New York City. In his spare time, he enjoys organizing his Britney Spears CD collection in reverse chronological order and plotting ways to marry into the Minogue family. But most of all, he spends his time tweeting and musing daily about pop music on his blog, MuuMuse.