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 — and this week, in honor of Pride Month, we're highlighting LGBTQ+ artists and allies.
Siena Liggins: "Flowerbomb (acoustic version)"
"Flowerbomb," the debut single from Detroit singer Siena Liggins, was one of summer 2018's brightest breakthroughs: a cool, confident earworm that she wrote "for girls who like girls... for girls like me." She's released a few other singles since then — like the body-positivity anthem "Naked" and the brooding "Laws of Attraction" — but with another sunny season approaching, she recently dusted off "Flowerbomb" for a fresh acoustic spin. The new version captures the same magic and swaggering energy as the original, complete with that flirty Britney Spears shout-out. She's warned you once, and she'll warn you again: "hide ur girlfriend." —Madeline Roth
Carly Rae Jepsen: "For Sure"
"I was thinking!!!! We were over!!!!" On "For Sure," Carly Rae Jepsen might be gleeful about a relationship in limbo, cheering over a preschool jungle of chanting and claps while tribal thumps and animal calls swing alongside. "Got to know for sure!!!!" she continues to proclaim. Is this... a break-up bop? A make-up anthem? Who even knows??!! Carly is at her most Carly when she is forcing a full spectrum of emotions — anger, sadness, loneliness, fear —through her glittery filter of breathy, carefree synth-pop. Like a real relationship, it's often confusing — but when it works, it hits all the right notes. –Terron Moore
Maddie Ross: "Liv Tyler"
As much as we may try to fight it, the media we grow up consuming largely defines our lives and dictates our perceptions as adults. While LGBTQ+ representation has finally made its way to the mainstream, it doesn't negate the fact that many gay teens in the late '90s and 2000s grew up without seeing themselves accurately reflected. Singer-songwriter Maddie Ross gives the community an idea of what such inclusivity would've looked like in the video for "Liv Tyler," which reimagines vintage MTV shows, commercials, and movies as totally gay.
"I want a cheerleader girlfriend / I want an English teacher boyfriend / I want Liv Tyler in a skirt / At the end of the world," she hums over a steady beat and building guitar that evoke a nostalgia for the bubblegum pop days she's singing about. The music video is a must-watch, recreating old Coca-Cola ads to highlight gay couples, staging a more modern and diverse iteration of Room Raiders (remember that?) and even recreating the end of She's All That to fit her own tastes. But at what point do we stop living our lives according to what we've seen on TV and march to our own beat? Ross explores the cyclical nature of comparison on a bridge that wants to explode, crooning, "My parents were right / MTV ruined my life / The TV was right / Parents ruined my life." Liv Tyler herself is shaking. –Carson Mlnarik
iLoveMakonnen: "Shoot Shoot"
When iLoveMakonnen breaks out of his straightjacket, he sprints to the studio and blacks out. His voice could have its own podcast for adrenaline-charged pre-teens; his songs could be turned into stop-motion zombie films animated by Laika for yearly releases. "Shoot Shoot" is his latest, spooky feast of skin-prickling hip-hop anti-clichés. He's rapping about going on a drive-by, but instead of injecting fear and apprehension to the freeing of bullets, he sucks the coldness out and introduces fog, howling wolves, and a seer's crystal ball. He whispers "shoot shoot" on the chorus like he's filming an ASMR video to send dopamine coursing through your body, all the while explaining the process of committing a drive-by ("Pull up, hop out, let the whole clip go"). The mystique of the song's atmosphere and whispering chants offsets the snarling vocals, which then juxtapose with the cartoonish show announcer voice that Makonnen pushes each word out with. They come together for a uniquely puzzling experience that you'll be drawn to, even if you can't quite understand why. –Trey Alston
Carlie Hanson: “Back in My Arms”
Pop-punk will never die, though as the spirit continues, its body mutates to fit the times. The Chainsmokers twist it into mopey EDM, Halsey grabs a genre MPV for an aching entry, and even Bad Bunny gets in on the action — not to mention the entirety of SoundCloud rap. Likewise, newcomer Carlie Hanson preserves the essence with a simple opening statement. "No, I can't control this, high on my emotions / You can make me feel brand new," she sings over tastefully distorted downstrokes to begin "Back in My Arms." You feel it, too, because it's familiar. As the 19-year-old Taylor Swift fave reveals on her EP Junk, she's not afraid to show off who she is. On this one, she's reveling in romance, even if it is "the kind of love they say is wrong." Forget that. Let all the teenage feelings reign. –Patrick Hosken
MUNA: "Number One Fan"
In a 2016 interview, Naomi McPherson, one-third of electro-pop trio MUNA, told V Magazine, "I am out and I feel safe being out because the three of us are a little army for one another. I don't feel afraid to be myself. That makes me proud to be queer. That's the whole point of why we do this. We want a safe haven."
Though "Number One Fan," the first single off of MUNA's forthcoming sophomore album, Saves the World, isn't explicitly a Pride Month anthem, it's as boldly and aggressively empowering as one. Over an upbeat synth, MUNA fight back against self-doubt. "It is a song about recognizing the negative voices in your head and learning to speak back to them," the band says. "It/s a joyful and surprising experience to recognize that, just as we can all be our own biggest haters, we can also decide to be our own biggest fans." I suppose we can decide to be MUNA's biggest fans, too. Saves the World is out September 6. –Bob Marshall
Holland: "I'm Not Afraid"
Korean artist Holland received widespread global attention for his debut single "Neverland" in 2018. Or, more accurately, for the song's music video, which featured a kiss between the openly gay independent singer and another man. In the world of K-pop, same-sex affection (physical or otherwise) is encouraged, but only ever as an extension of fan-service. After all, Korea is still deeply conservative, and that's a line artists can't publicly cross without scandal. Until Holland, "K-pop's first openly gay idol." But it wasn't until his second single — the shimmering EDM track "I'm Not Afraid" — that Holland's potential, both as a queer trailblazer in the industry and as a singular artist with a vision, came into focus.
"I'm not afraid anymore," he sings over a moody, house-infused beat that's somewhat reminiscent of Troye Sivan's celebratory "My My My!" The hook is repetitive, sure, but it's also a powerful affirmation. "I am saying that I am no longer afraid to reveal that I am gay," he said of the song's meaning upon its release last year. "I'm not afraid of standing in front of the public anymore." Truthfully, the 23-year-old singer's greatest strength is his willingness to open up about his own experiences as a young, queer man just living his life — completely unafraid of and unbothered by other people's opinions. —Crystal Bell
Bronze Avery: "Spilling Out"
I first came across Bronze Avery when Spotify featured his 2018 single "Want 2" on its Out Now playlist. That song slaps, btw, but this isn't about that gay playlist or that song. This is about our gay playlist and the artist's newest bop, "Spilling Out." It's one of those songs that can hit you wherever you're out with that guy who's tied up your heartstrings. It's a secret love you want to scream about from the rooftops, or as Bronze put it when I spoke with him, it's about "confirmation that you're both still in love after the honeymoon phase." As the song begs, "Tell me you love me / I need to hear it, baby!" you can feel the longing in his voice, and how those three little words would mean so much if they only knew!!! Like, come on, sweetheart!! This certified bop takes you on a wild journey of love, and Bronze Avery is yet another example of queer black excellence. Get him on your radar. —Daniel Head