The search for the ever-elusive "bop" is difficult. Playlists and streaming-service recommendations can only do so much. They often leave a lingering question: Are these songs really good, or are they just new?
Enter Bop Shop, a hand-picked selection of songs from the MTV News team. This weekly collection doesn't discriminate by genre and can include anything — it's a snapshot of what's on our minds and what sounds good. We'll keep it fresh with the latest music, but expect a few oldies (but goodies) every once in a while, too. Get ready: The Bop Shop is now open for business.
Ari Lennox: "Chicago Boy"
What separates Ari Lennox from the bevy of modern female R&B singers is largely that her voice, which she's previously described as "imperfect," doesn't sacrifice sharpness to produce soul. There's raw, lusty power hiding within, which makes her odes to the different faces of romance feel more urban and realer than many of her peers. Her debut studio album, Shea Butter Baby, works because of its blue-faced soul, its tender embrace, and its rougher edge. And one of its highlights is album opener, "Chicago Boy."
Confidence is sexy. Here, as the song begins, a long, confident trumpet recedes for a smooth, Don Cornelius level of soul to wash over. Lennox finds the source – a man in a CVS whose essence she downs like moonshine. Lust in her eyes, she sings with urgency, desperate to make plans with him. As the tension heats up, the trumpet returns. But it's not actually an instrument: It's her voice. It cuts through the soft soul and turns the plea into an urgent request. Under the night sky, "Chicago Boy" hangs like fresh a fresh evening haze, a reminder of vivid attraction and hungry lust. It's steamy. It's sexy. And it sounds genuine. —Trey Alston
Shawn Mendes: "If I Can't Have You"
"If I Can't Have You" sounds like a B-side, like a song primed for remixing, like the kind of deep cut you rely on to wake you back up halfway through listening through an album. It's not really a single kind of song. It's staccato and abrupt, like the kind of song you'd yell along to rather than sing or hum, a perfect song for a summer night when you're with your friends and acting a little silly and trying to be as loud as you possibly can. But isn't that what summertime is for? The first release from Shawn Mendes's new era reminds me of infatuation, and feeling something so deeply you kind of just have to yell it out on the street, no matter who is listening. You want everyone to listen. It's a surprise and a declaration all in one, and a return to copping to feelings in a world that would rather we tamper them down.
It grows on you, too, with a build and falsetto play that mark a progression in Mendes's songwriting. He's never been a writer to take on chill topics — "Life of the Party" and "In My Blood" own up to anxiety, and "Lost in Japan" is a promise of impulse rather than logic. The obsession and commitment in "If I Can't Have You" is more of that same sensibility. He doesn't work in metaphor so much as he says what's on both his and the listener's mind. May summer 2019 inspire more of that same honesty from us all. —Ella Cerón
VINCINT: "Please Don't Fall in Love"
VINCINT’s latest heartbreak banger, "Please Don't Fall in Love," is a song to wail at full throttle — at the top of your lungs with the window down. It's a song about passion in which the signer pleads a past lover not to fall in love with someone new, and when I first heard the lines "But please don't, please don't" hit in the chorus, I began violently whipping my non-existent ponytail. VINCINT recently called "Please Don't Fall in Love" "probably the most selfish song I've ever written." It shows: The unabashed honesty in his lyrics is as refreshing as it is raw, as it lays bare the emotional struggle of a lost relationship. It instantly jolts me back to that moment at the end of a relationship where I find myself finally able to calm my overthinking by clinging to the idea that things will be OK as long as my former significant other doesn’t fall in love. I too convince myself that I will get through this as long as they stay single. VINCINT is proof that queer black excellence continues to thrive. The Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter has another single out this month and a full EP coming in June. —Daniel Head
Ariana Grande: "Honeymoon Avenue"
Ariana Grande brought me to the moon and back this week. I saw the Sweetener World Tour when it rolled through L.A. on Tuesday, and she “brought a whole-ass moon” (her words, not mine) to the show, singing under a massive lunar orb for an especially dreamy portion of the evening. Afterwards, my boyfriend and I ate french toast at a diner near the Staples Center while debating our top five Ariana songs. “Honeymoon Avenue” — the opening track of Ari’s 2013 debut album, Yours Truly — is a no-brainer for me. It packs a lot into its five-minute, 40-second run time: doo-wop vocals, R&B beats, cinematic strings, a woozy breakdown, and Ariana’s untouchable vocals, somehow breezy and world-weary at the same time. There’s always something new to catch your ear, which makes it a thrill to listen to, even six years and many moons later. —Madeline Roth
Alvvays: "Archie, Marry Me"
This week, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (a.k.a. Harry and Meghan) announced they'd named their firstborn son Archie (full name: Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor). People have their theories on why — They're secret Riverdale fans! They're subverting the history of regal-sounding names like "Archibald!" — but my theory is definitely the right one. It's simple, really: Harry and Meghan are huge Alvvays supporters. Everyone should be! In addition to being a perfect song, the Canadian band's 2014 introductory hit "Archie, Marry Me" is also the perfect starting point for their romantic indie-pop power. So far, the band hasn't weighed in publicly on the big news. In the meantime, I'll consider these luxurious three minutes their official comment. —Patrick Hosken
Boston-to-Brooklyn-based four-piece Crumb may not have released an album yet, but the top comment on every single one of their YouTube uploads is something along the lines of "I'm listening to this band in 2019 before they were HUGE!" In just a few years of existence, Crumb has built a wildly devoted fanbase with their consistently vibe-y brand of indie psych, and it's hard to not hear tracks like the newly released "Ghostride" and think, "Wow, they guys are gonna be the next Tame Impala." What sets Crumb apart is Lila Ramani's warm, jazz lounge-y vocals that will undoubtedly provide the perfect summer soundtrack once the band's debut full-length Jinx drops next month. —Bob Marshall
Denzel Curry: "Ricky"
Like David Blaine, Denzel Curry is a magician, but he's not peddling slightly elevated levitation techniques or coughing up cards as proof of the arcane arts. Curry instead immerses himself in rap's large playground, keeping a straightforward rap style while manipulating the physical composition of its surrounding story. Look no further than the juxtaposition between the retro-funk of last year's "Black Balloons" and his latest throat-punching tune, "Ricky."
"Ricky" sounds like Fight Club 2019 (maybe with Cole Sprouse as Brad Pitt's replacement), knucking and bucking with rowdy voices pushing for space in the background. It shakes the brain around like a ping pong ball with its angry bounce. If it sounds dated, that's intentional: "Ricky" is a fierce ode to Curry's childhood and pays homage to the lessons that his parents taught him. "Treat young girls like your mother," his father says, wagging his finger at him. "Trust no ho, use a rubber," his mother says, yanking at an exposed ear. The rapper's brashness is a product of his environment, and "Ricky" shows why this is a virtue. In a rough and tough world, it's OK to get rowdy. —Trey Alston
Dude York: "Falling"
For those who were stoked to find out that the Josie and the Pussycats soundtrack is finally streaming, may I direct your attention to Dude York. "Falling," the title track to the band's forthcoming third LP (out in July), is an ode both to the rush of falling in love and the anxiety that comes with the realization that it doesn't feel quite like the movies told you it would. Oh, and also eating takeout and watching The Bachelorette, which is something everyone can get behind. Propulsive power-pop for getting all up in your feels. —Bob Marshall
WayV: "Take Off"
Can I be honest? There's something special about WayV, the seven-member Chinese boy group from Korea's SM Entertainment and its China-exclusive label, Label V. Their latest single "Take Off" — and its sleek, stylish visual — is not only a fierce demonstration of the group's confident swagger and charismatic performance, but it's also a bit rebellious in the way that ties NCT and its various sub-units together. (WayV is NCT's China-based unit.) The styling is chic; the bass line is bumping. It's a wonderful anomaly: chill trap with heavy guitars. Rappers Lucas, Yangyang, and Hendery bring the attitude and heat to the verses, while the vocalists take off on the catchy, melodic hook. Xiaojun, in particular, shows off his soulful vocals, a richer tone among the group's crystalline tenors. But when it comes to WayV — a group with a defined aesthetic that can best be described as "rich" — the song is only part of the appeal. The corresponding visuals are striking. Dancer Ten is especially mesmerizing when he takes the center during the track's electric dance break, quirking his rhinestone-encrusted eyebrows as if to say, "There's more where that came from." And I, for one, can't wait. —Crystal Bell