It's Tuesday! Time for another round of "5 Must-Hear Pop Songs Of The Week"!
This week's roundup features some moody dark-pop from a Swedish superstar in the making, perky pop from one of K-Pop's most flaw-free girl groups, and a little bit of chilly relationship drama imported directly from New Zealand.
1.) XOV, "Lucifer"
The best part about the New Year is the promise of new pop acts to come, and XOV is certainly one of them.
Raised in a rough ghetto in Sweden, the dark-pop rapper-turned-singer channeled his struggle into song at an early age. And now, it's beginning to pay off; the rising star's currently working on his debut album alongside iconic producer Max Martin of "...Baby One More Time" fame -- along with a million other pop gems.
But until that LP arrives, XOV's dropped a free, semi-acoustic EP on SoundCloud called Boys Don't Cry. And "Lucifer," the EP's opening track, is a major standout.
Surrounded by dark, gloomy synthesizers, XOV croons his bloody, autobiographical tale along huge pop radio-friendly hooks: "Once upon a time, I was a fool/ Too cool for school, gangster cruel," he croons, recalling a cross between Lorde, Robyn, and The Weeknd.
Expect big things to come from XOV very soon.
+ Listen to XOV'S "LUCIFER."
2.) Girls' Generation, "Lips"
K-Pop kweens Girls' Generation have stayed slaying globally for years now. Just before Christmas, the nonuplets dropped their latest Japanese release, Love & Peace, a follow-up to their 2012 effort, Girls & Peace.
(I know -- basically the same title. Hey, if it ain't broke...)
The album is a super-solid set of futuristic electro-pop gems and bubbly ditties. "Lips" was produced by Danish production team Deekay (who have previously worked with acts that include Jordin Sparks and Ashley Tisdale), and it's one of the best tracks on the album.
It's a funky, fierce surge of electro-R&B energy that sounds like a distant cousin to Beyoncé's "Green Light." "Can't stop thinking about you/ This must be what crazy feels like!" the girls swoon. It's a major, hook-heavy treat.
+ Listen to GIRLS' GENERATION'S "LIPS."
3.) BROODS, "Never Gonna Change"
If the polar vortex has got you feeling frigid, this probably won't help much.
New Zealand brother-sister act BROODS first got the blogosphere shaking and crying with their gorgeously chilly debut, "Bridges," back in October. And now, they've returned with an equally lush offering.
Again produced by Lorde collaborator Joel Little, "Never Gonna Change" sees the gloomy duo pouring their woes out above hazy synthesizers and dreary, downtempo electronica."You escape me like it's nothing, like words I never should have said," lead singer Georgia Nott laments.
Another step in the right direction? Uh, duh.
+ Listen to BROODS, "NEVER GONNA CHANGE."
4.) Lorde, "Ribs (Ryan Hemsworth Remix)"
The thing about Lorde's debut album, Pure Heroine, is that it's thoroughly amazing. But you know what's also amazing? Amazing remixes of amazing songs, like Ryan Hemsworth’s "Let's Have A Sleepover" remix of "Ribs."
The dreamy re-rub of the track takes the soft thumping original and gives it a stutter-happy trip-hop makeover, complete with soft claps and hi-hats. It's a little less brooding and little #SomethingMoreUrban, taking Lorde a whole new level of cool.
+ Listen to LORDE, "RIBS (RYAN HEMSWORTH REMIX)."
5.) Neon Hitch, "Subtitles (feat. Kinetics)"
It's been a minute since we last heard from the fiery "F*** U Betta" songbird, Neon Hitch. And, as it turns out, that's because she's been hard at work in the studio, secretly recording an entire new debut album (!) after scrapping the original, long-delayed effort.
Titled 301 to Paradise, her brand-new mixtape -- or "audio-movie," as she's referring to it -- sees Hitch exploring new sonic territory.
"Subtitles," one of the standouts on the free, five-track set, is a romantic, slow-tripping ode to a love that words simply can't describe: "This time I've seen it all inside my crystal ball/ Yeah, we don't need no subtitles," Neon croons above a tripping hip-hop beat with mystical Eastern influences.
If this is the musical direction Neon's thinking of heading for the debut, I wouldn't complain one bit.
+ Listen to NEON HITCH'S "SUBTITLES (FEAT. KINETICS)."
Bradley Stern is a writer from New York. In his spare time, he enjoys organizing his Britney Spears CD collection in reverse chronological order and writing impassioned letters to Congress urging that Madonnalogy be taught in all public schools. But most of all, he spends his time tweeting and musing daily about pop music on his blog, MuuMuse.
Photo credit: Warner Bros. Records, XOV, Universal Music Group, Capitol Records, Republic Records, Last Gang Records