Bop Shop: Songs From Little Simz, Mckenna Grace, Black Belt Eagle Scout, And More

A soundtrack for ugly crying, making resolutions, and declaring yourself

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.

Little Simz: “Broken”

Couldn’t begin turning over a new leaf this new year without tuning back to the spectacular album Little Simz dropped in December, No Thank You. After her already illustrious rise to fame, the London rapper continues to wow with her impassioned lyrics and powerful delivery. Her songs belong in my heart, in my mind, and on many of my playlists, though I’m boosting “Broken” because it has left me that way. Uplifting Black communities everywhere has always been a top priority for Simz, yet this song reveals how depression drains the energy that fuels everyone else’s. Instead of encouraging, Simz leans into relating to the emotional dysfunction stemming from our systems and within ourselves: “Man, this week has been tough, been saying that for a year / How do I disappear? Can I hide from my fears? / Sometimes a feather can feel like a stone / When your soul weak, you can feel that shit in your bones.” —Gwyn Cutler

Mckenna Grace: “Ugly Crier”

In the two years since Olivia Rodrigo’s “Drivers License” redefined what a gargantuan chart hit could sound like, its spirit of confessional pop via alternative angst has permeated far and wide. At the top of 2023, Ghostbusters: Afterlife actress and recording artist Mckenna Grace aims to capture a similar magic with “Ugly Crier,” a song that name-checks the modern queen of diaristic pop in its opening lines (“She’s such an ugly crier / She’ll never be Taylor Swift”). Like Grace’s previous singles, “Ugly Crier” opts for theatricality without bombast to tell her story. This particular tale also boasts power chords, shout-along self-deprecation, and a thrilling finale that cranks up both the drama and the volume. To borrow a line, it’s easy to mean “what you wrote in that song about me” when the song is about yourself. —Patrick Hosken

Cuco: “First of the Year”

Cuco has been on my radar since 2016, and his brand new dreamy waltz is a delicate dance into 2023. My favorite releases from him have always been his goofy bops and his soothing odes — both extremely charming. “First of the Year” represents the latter, showcasing his proclivity for fanciful nostalgia through an echoing, idyllic auditory experience. Every time we ring in another year, we discuss resolutions. However, Cuco is focusing on his present and how it’s filled with a love that feels right — we all deserve such a tender start. —Gwyn Cutler

Phum Viphurit: “Welcome Change”

With vibrating vocalizations and tranquil accordion and chimes, Phum Viphurit’s latest single is like taking an introspective hike straight out of Animal Crossing. The Thai artist has harnessed the wholesome vibes of revamping oneself. The most astonishing element is how the song evolves toward its end, with a transition similar to how we experience change: both the decision and the outcome of the efforts. Sonically, this is shown as the tempo increases and the meditative mood transforms into a funky version of its old self. Hearing this upbeat progression and seeing the whimsical visuals of dogs in sunglasses driving is Viphurit’s kooky indication that taking risks for better results is worthwhile. —Gwyn Cutler

Black Belt Eagle Scout: “Nobody”

“Nobody” sounds like lightness. As its beautiful short film of a music video reveals, the latest single from the Pacific Northwest’s Black Belt Eagle Scout is as intimate as a family gathering, even as it expands to be as sweeping as her latest LP title: The Land, The Water, The Sky. The song rests on a simple but evocative refrain: “Nobody sang it for me like I wanna sing it to you.” Katherine Paul, the artist behind Black Belt Eagle Scout, explains: “With Native representation in music and television slowly growing, I often ask myself where I stand within representation in music and how I want to be seen. This song is about the relationship I have with my own representation in music.” —Patrick Hosken

Romeo + Juliet: “Hooptie”

Now’s the time to get into Romeo + Juliet. No, not the Leonardo DiCaprio remake about star-crossed lovers, but the rising-star musician with the eclectic sound. Raging Bull, a fierce and fitting title for his first album, encompasses a wide range of emotive vibes diverging in subjects but cohesive in style. “Hooptie” depicts a summer romance spent steaming up the back seat, but it’s not as raunchy as you’d expect. It features a soft, sultry guitar that plucks along with entrancing vocal runs, all melting into each other against a reverberating bass that resonates in your chest. —Gwyn Cutler

First Day of Spring: “Moon Boy”

Listening to London’s First Day of Spring can feel like trying to grab a sunbeam with your fingers. The elusive music keeps changing, but everything comes as a pleasant surprise. On new single “Moon Boy,” it takes nearly two minutes for the song to fully reveal itself. Is it ambient? Chillwave? Vaguely emo? When the climax hits — partly courtesy of a squeaking violin — the answer is: kind of all three, but also a mysterious fourth option that puts the band in league with groups like The Wake and The Cranberries, as well as all the bands that those ones inspired. It’s enough to make your head swirl, or it would be if the sounds weren’t so luxuriously warm. (Further listening: the dreamy pastel “Days” and more pensive “Stupid.”) —Patrick Hosken

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