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.
Once a mainstay within New York's downtown nightclub scene — whether staging harrowing performances with the roving queer Asian dance party Bubble_T, fronting the punk band Sacred Spiral, or transforming MoMA PS1 into an all-out rave for the Lunar New Year — the multidisciplinary artist ZAH has gone all but nomadic for the better half of a year. They traveled to Los Angeles, then Japan, where they gathered field recordings of insects and wildlife from an island off the coast of Kanagawa, which were later used as samples within sweltering electronic compositions. The result is "Lilith," an eerie kaleidoscope of rolling synths and operatic howls, as well as the title track off their debut album, which releases this spring. On it, ZAH compares the experience of being othered to a folkloric demoness: "I'm fully embracing my shadow self and everything that comes with it," they tell MTV News. —Coco Romack
If you've followed Katie Crutchfield's career, you know how much noise she can make. Guitar-driven songs like "Hear You" and "Under a Rock" have always defined her Waxahatchee project, but so have quieter moments of grace. "Fire" is one of the latter. It might be the first Waxahatchee song that grooves, an exciting development that emphasizes the warm crackle of meaning underneath. "If I can love myself unconditionally, then I can move through the world a little easier," Crutchfield said about the song's inspiration. Self-love is a tall ask. Loving this song is simple. (Waxahatchee's new album Saint Cloud is out March 27.) —Patrick Hosken
TOPS: "I Feel Alive"
As our great nation's vibe checks are revealing that 2020 has done nothing more than repeatedly shove us into an increasingly turbulent maelstrom of anxiety and panic, we need all the positive encouragement we can get. Montreal dream-pop band TOPS's new single "I Feel Alive" has arrived at just the right time, reminding us that love exists and, hey! Even though it can be complicated, that's overall a good thing! The title track of the band's upcoming fourth album, the song remains light on its feet while dealing with the trials of matters of the heart. Better those than impeachment trials, am I right? (Sorry.) I Feel Alive is out April 3. —Bob Marshall
AWOLNATION: "The Best"
Who hasn't yearned to be the best, above all else? AWOLNATION's mantra is an electric ode to aspire to be the best you possibly can, even if you know you're not going to personally be "the" best – which, as Aaron Bruno reminds us, is "impossible." I can't get enough of this gritty electronica that takes us back to the band's Megalithic Symphony era, back where I first fell in love with their music. What does it take to be the best? I can't say, but I know I'll always keep striving for it. —Brittany Vincent
Jhené Aiko: "P*ssy Fairy (OTW)"
I feel about Jhené Aiko how Helga Pataki felt about Arnold Shortman on Hey Arnold! — save for having a shrine of her in my closet or penning intricate prose penned in her honor. It's because of her knack for making perfect songs about the thin line between romance and lust that feel authentic, even when they're about breaking up and attempting not to go back to the cause of your pain. There's a narrative that exists across all of her music that I find so captivating: how sex ties us all together and strengthens some emotions while weakening others. It's addictive. "P*ssy Fairy (OTW)" is the latest chapter of this amorous story, finding the singer exploring why she has someone wrapped around her finger. She's great in bed, so good that she's issuing demands that her partner will follow with no questions asked: "Fuck all your free time / You don't need no me time / That's you and me time." Aiko's word choice is so particular and direct that you can't help but want to follow her every order. —Trey Alston
Wilma Archer ft. MF Doom: "Last Sniff"
Producer and songwriter Wilma Archer helped create both the subterranean pulse of Nilüfer Yanya's Miss Universe (one of MTV News's 2019 albums of the year) and the kinetic force of Sudan Archives's Athena. What'll really grab you on "Last Sniff," his new collaboration with MF Doom, is simply how good Doom sounds rapping over an analog beat. Each measure of Archer's designs finds a new instrumental surprise — bouncing strings, glowing guitars, smoky harmonies. It's chamber rap; step inside. —Patrick Hosken
North London duo Sorry's debut album is on its way, and its first single "More" is a scuzzy ode to excess and the toll it takes. Heavy drumming and fuzzed-out guitar juxtaposes singer Asha Lorenz's half-bored plea for "something to look at," finding a bouncy balance between elation and indifference. Is there anything more rock and roll than being unimpressed while wanting... well... needing it all? 925 is out March 27. —Bob Marshall
OTL Beezy: "Popstar"
I grew up listening to raps filled with soul samples that gave me chills, and over the years, it's extremely interesting to me how I've grown away from that. My relationship with nostalgia is all messed up; instead of actively wanting the past, I've grown away from it, looking to get into music that takes me in a different direction entirely. Maybe that's what's got me hooked on Louisiana rapper OTL Beezy's "Popstar," a barebones, sinister song built around the same four-note loop. Beezy murmurs his raps like Friday's Deebo coming down off of laughing gas, delivering some aggressive threats about a lifestyle that'd be rated NC-17 if it were a movie. It takes a few listens for its simplistic splendor to strike, but before the end of the day, you'll be humming those same damn notes again and again. —Trey Alston
Chelsea Cutler: "NJ"
Relationships end — sometimes before we're ready to let them go. Chelsea Cutler's "NJ" is all about the initial blow, when the wounds are so fresh and your ego has just taken the greatest hit of its life. Then the self-blame creeps in. "Tell you I’m sorry for the mistakes I've made,” she sings on the pre-chorus before offering forgiveness to her likely undeserving ex. And though she wants to fix things, she doesn't quite know where to begin. "I want to call but what the fuck would I say?" she asks desperately.
The chorus, however, is where we can really hear Cutler's grief. "Oh, NJ / Tell me that you're leaving so / One day / You'll be ready to come home," she sings in a digitized harmony. Here, she hopes that they only split up so that they could someday get back together. And while that might seem naïve, sometimes it's what we have to tell ourselves to reach the other side of heartbreak. —Jordyn Tilchen