Happy Friday, February 19, 2021! This week we have brand new tunes from indie pop band AJR, pop artist Conan Gray, electronic artist Alan Walker and rising singer-songwriter Salem Ilese, English artists Ella Henderson and Tom Grennan & last but not least Brit DJ Paul Woolford with American singer-songwriter, Amber Mark. All that and more in this week’s edition of New Music Friday!
“Way Less Sad” by AJR
Indie pop band AJR released their first single for 2021 to much fanfare on Wednesday. “Way Less Sad” is the fourth single to drop from their upcoming fourth studio album, OK Orchestra (releasing March 26th.) They’ve enlisted their friend Edoardo Ranaboldo again (see “Bummerland”) to direct the music video. The video features a lot of cool camera tricks and nifty VFX (thanks to Caleb Natale). Shoutout to TWA Hotel for letting them film there. Major props to their team for also shooting scenes on location like on a carousel in Central Park, by the beach and on the various sets like the escalator and bedroom scenes.
Lyrically speaking, the brothers said that this is a song about lowering your standards. You don’t have to be so hard on yourself in life. From my interpretation, the song’s verses speaks to those who were once sad and depressed for a long period of time but now can see some joy in their surroundings and in their overall mental state by taking a more relaxed approach to things in life. Even though you won’t feel happy 100% of the time, you’re at least “way less sad.” You wrestle with that idea of pure bliss and pure sadness. So its like a middle ground where sometimes you’re beaming, but sometimes you’re a bit bummed. Hopefully this feel-good song will make you feel way less sad for real! Don’t be too hard on yourselves!
I’m guessing the band didn’t want to make an artwork for this single because the OK Orchestra artwork illustrates this song well with the two mood ranges (Ryan looking optimistic and Adam looking pessimistic) plus Jack in the middle ground neutral area.
Some references in this song/video that I noticed:
-Jack wearing the iconic “The Band Name Here” shirt which is a nod to the Neotheater song “Don’t Throw Out My Legos.”
-The alarm clock is set to 3:30 which is a nod to their song from The Click, “Three-Thirty.” They sure love the number 3! I don’t think they’ll reveal the reason why though.
-The lyrics “half past three” also refers to “Three-Thirty” and may also be a reference to their upcoming unreleased song, “3 O’Clock Things.”
-In the beach scene when they all stared and sang face forward to the camera, that felt like the Bang! music video. They’re also wearing the same outfits seen on the album art!
-In the outro, we have once again a cool instrumental transition going on much like “Bummerland” has. This could be a recurring thing with the other unreleased tracks on OK Orchestra too. Thoughts?
Sonically speaking, I love the up tempo catchy vibes, the production values keep impressing me with each new song they produce. At first I was questioning their decision with the AutoTune part in the bridge but it has now grown on me the more I listen to it. I can’t wait for OKO to drop next month!
According to their recent live stream session, this song was 9 years in the making! They sampled Simon & Garfunkel’s 1975 song, “My Little Town.” The horn sections that you hear in this song were originally going to be sold away to Kygo and Cardi B in different iterations but they were turned down by their respective teams. Thankfully, AJR kept it for themselves after all these years and have used it for “WLS.”
Overall, I thought it was a solid song that incorporated that AJR aesthetic/magic that we’ve all come to love through the years. I give props to Jack for braving the upside down stunt where he pours wine out and drops apples among other objects in the video. I predict this song will be their next radio hit in a slow rise up the charts that “Bang!” achieved over this past year.
For more BTS scenes, please check out director Ranaboldo’s IG post, here. I hope Ryan will post a “How We Made” video for this song later down the line. I always enjoy those vids!
“Overdrive” by Conan Gray
22-year-old singer-songwriter Conan Gray returns to the music scene with a brand new single called “Overdrive.” It follows his 2020 collaboration with fellow pop artist, Lauv in “Fake.” This new song is about falling in love with somebody really quick and all you want to do next is expedite the relationship. It’s risky, yeah, and you may get rejected down the line, but who cares as Gray uses driving/vehicular analogies to describe how he wants to take things in overdrive. He doesn’t want to see the red light, and he wants to burn down the street without turning left or right repeatedly meaning he wants that whirlwind of love and amazing epic fun times consistently.
This song is for those listeners out there who can relate to finding their match out of the whim and can confidently say that they know where it will lead them — a committed long-term relationship! I feel as he matures more as an artist, more fans will come flocking to his fanbase. His popularity is only going to go higher. If you’re already a hardcore fan of his, you’ll definitely enjoy this latest track. It’s expected that this song will appear on his upcoming second album. It’ll be interesting to see how his sound evolves in future singles.
The lyric video seen above was nicely made. I love the overall aesthetic and the graphics showing a race as the laps click by. Doesn’t this song make you want to take a cruise down the road/highway with the windows wide open with no stress and no worries?!? Perhaps in a post-pandemic world, many will feel inspire to do so. Of course, do drive safely and responsibly.
“Fake A Smile” by Alan Walker x salem ilese
EDM hitmaker, Alan Walker teamed up with TikTok star/singer-songwriter, Salem Ilese in “Fake A Smile.” If you’re feeling down and have to make an effort to smile or fake smile in and out of your household then this song is for you. Hopefully, it actually makes you smile upon listening to it. I also hope you felt seen by the lyrics.
Walker added a short letter in the description of the above music video, saying:
“We’ve landed, Walkers. Welcome back to the World of Walker. I’m so excited to finally share my latest single with you all alongside the super talented @salem ilese. Our journey may have been paused at moments last year, but you’ve all shown that not even the worst can break this community. Thank you for being there for me and more importantly for each other. While we wait for the day to be together in person again, I hope this song resonates with you. You are not alone.”
Said music video is very cinematic, almost like an actual video game in my opinion. I appreciated the crisp production values and the added SFX. I’m not sure what their budget was for this video but I predict they had a bigger budget to create their unique vision for their fans to see. See the names of the talented people behind the scenes and on camera listed in the above video’s description.
I thought Ilese had lovely vocals on this track. I also thought the bridge was a cool enhancement to the emotional verses and encapsulated the overall upbeat essence. Thoughts?
If you want some cool merch based on this latest song collaboration, click here. They have hoodies, tees, pins, stickers and much more!
“Let’s Go Home Together” by Ella Henderson & Tom Grennan
25-year-old English musicians, Ella Henderson and Tom Grennan brought a cool duet/collaboration to the table this week. Previously, there was a version of this song with fellow English artist, James Arthur (he also co-wrote it). Watch a throwback performance from 2017, here. Arthur approved of this new version by the way.
This song deals with two people whom are madly in love with each other, flaws and all! No matter how imperfect each of them are, there’s still something that attracts one another. The lyrics video’s design shows coasters and beer stains to emphasize a fun night out hanging with each other at a bar or restaurant.
Both Henderson and Grennan’s vocal performances complement each other and I applaud them for joining forces in this iteration of the song. I thought the guitar/piano melodies were aurally pleasing to the ears. The chorus is oh so catchy and will be stuck in your head the more you listen to it!
This track is slated to appear on her upcoming second studio album.
“Heat” by Paul Woolford & Amber Mark
Capping off this week’s picks is yet another epic collaboration! 27-year-old singer-songwriter, Amber Mark provides the vocals on this hot dance track from British DJ/music producer, Paul Woolford.
From my interpretation, this song deals with one-sided love. If you really love somebody but the sentiments from the other person isn’t the same towards you, then this song is for you. It’s a shame that this person doesn’t see the amazing qualities about you, the ones where you can boldly flaunt out in public a.k.a. that H-E-A-T!
By the way, the post-chorus where Mark spells the word, “heat” out like that was very catchy. Kudos to Woolford for working with her amazing vocals and embellishing them with his signature fiery beats.
Add this to your playlists now and save it for later in the year because it’s going to be perfect for parties, dances and clubs in a post-pandemic world.
That does it for this week’s post! Thank you all for reading another edition of New Music Friday here at Philip’s Music Corner. If you liked what you read, kindly click on the follow button down below. Also if you like, please support my work by donating to my Paypal. I truly appreciate the support!
Feel free to share your thoughts and feelings about any of these picks in the comments box down below! Cast your vote on the songs featured this week by giving them a thumbs up or a thumbs down. As always, stay safe and happy listening!
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