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  1. It's a new year in pop music, and already artists are gearing up for their 2017 releases. While we can never be 100% sure what's around the corner nowadays (we can thank Beyoncé and her surprise release strategy for that), we do already have some idea of how the next twelve months in music will play out if all goes according to plan - and from what we can tell, this year will be an even bigger year than the last when it comes to amazing new releases. Check out all you have to look forward to down below! Allie X - CollXtion II The release of Allie X's second EP, CollXtion II, has been a long and convoluted one thanks largely to an ill-advised plan to get fans involved in the creative process. Taking to Spotify, Allie announced her ɄNSOLVED initiative, in which she would post early demos and acoustic versions of her songs so that her fans to vote on which would make the ultimate album cut: we got singles 'Too Much To Dream', 'All The Rage', 'Casanova', 'Old Habits Die Hard' and 'That's So Us' that way. But fans preferred to be involved in other capacities, leaking dozens of songs that potentially have a place on the album in the radio silence that followed each single release. There's definitely enough material out there to make this EP an LP, but it remains to be seen if the project will ever be completed at all. Charli XCX - TBA Charli XCX had ambitious plans for 2016, hoping to release an EP, an album and a mixtape all in the same calendar year; although at the end of the day we only got the EP, the genre-defying Vroom Vroom project. The EP debuted a new sound XCX had masterminded with Tumblr It Girl and PC Music producer SOPHIE, a clash of 90s pop, J-Pop and trip-hop beats which was further showcased in her live performances for tracks like 'Girls Night Out', 'No Angel' and 'Bounce'. So far, though, the only sound we have of the album is the lead single 'After the Afterparty', which stepped away from the alternative sound she had been exploring for a pure bubblegum pop fantasy. Hopefully XCX will manage to tread the line between label desire and personal creativity successfully. Dua Lipa - Dua Lipa Since the release of her debut single ‘New Love’ back in August of last year and the blow up of her breakthrough track 'Be The One', Dua Lipa has captured the hearts of pop fans who prefer a little more substance from their tunes. Although she’s released six more singles and several collaborations since then, Dua’s album has been pushed back majorly from September of last year to February of this year as she focuses on breaking into the US market, so we’re still not sure if she has the chops to pull off a full-length album. Time will tell if she has what it takes! Fergie - Double Dutchess Fergie's second album has been a long time coming since the release of her first solo album, The Dutchess, back in 2006. We've had several false starts so far - from 2014's moderate R&B hit 'L.A. Love (La La)' to last year's hard-hitting hip-hop hit 'M.I.L.F. $' to the recently released reggae-inspired 'Life Goes On' - but from what we can tell Fergie has more than enough tracks for the album and photoshoots and music videos already handled, so a release seems imminent. Her first album was marked by it's variety, and we can expect more of the same here, with a range of collaborators from will.i.am to Mike Will Made It to Dr. Luke to Nicki Minaj all expected to contribute. Iggy Azalea - Digital Distortion Iggy Azalea may not be the most popular girl on the Internet these days, but if nothing else the girl knows how to write a fun tune. Her second album, the interestingly named Digital Distortion, was due for release last year but has been retuned since the commercial failure of the lead single ‘Team’, which only managed a position of #42 on the Billboard Hot 100. Despite that, other tracks (including the promo single 'Azillion' and leaked tracks 'Sexy' and 'Savior') have been confirmed for the album, along with registered titles such as 'Middle Man' and 'I Got That Boom Boom'. Since then, she's headed back into the studio to work with the likes of Zedd and Verse Simmonds on new tracks which are apparently inspired by her newfound sense of freedom and fun as a single woman. Hopefully she'll be able to recapture the magic of 'Fancy'. Katy Perry - TBA Katy Perry’s fourth studio album has been teased mercilessly, with multiple leaks of snippets, the stellar leaked song ‘Witness’ and stand-alone single ‘Rise’ all hinting at possible directions the project might take. If ‘Rise’ and her new nose ring are anything to go by, Katy might be aiming for a more dark-pop sound this time around; although with Max Martin, Savan Kotecha and Shellback all still in the mix for her recording sessions you can expect some more radio-friendly hits like ‘California Girls’ on the way as well. Kesha - TBA Kesha’s long-awaited third studio album was also on last years list of the most anticipated albums of the year, which should be some indication of how long fans have longed for this album. Back then, there was a single called 'Lover' released with Spookey Ruben, along with rumours of a lead single called 'Child of the Moon' which had a "Stevie Nicks-witchy vibe"; although lately Kesha's been working with a country music band called Yeast Infection. Thanks to the lawsuit between her and her accused rapist Dr. Luke which has been dominating most of her life in recent years, the album has been continuously delayed; but Kesha has apparently submitted over twenty two songs to her label for consideration and Sony itself has issued a statement saying that they “hope to share exciting new music with Kesha’s fans soon”. Take that with a grain of salt. Major Lazer - Music Is the Weapon Aside from a few bops that were released in the form of singles, Major Lazer's last album Peace Is the Mission was a bit disappointing in terms of tracklisting, featuring only eight tracks of which about four of them were listenable. Thankfully, the supergroup seems to be taking their time for their sophomore release, and they've already lined up a veritable whos who of pop music for collaborators. The album is set to feature vocals from Justin Bieber, MØ, Ariana Grande, Sia, Nicki Minaj, PARTYNEXTDOOR, Gwen Stefani, Iggy Azalea, Konshens, Benny Blanco, Tinashe, The Weeknd, Travis $cott, Bonnie McKee and Camila Cabello, just to name the works that have already been announced. Do we sense the album of the year coming soon? Rihanna - TBA (#R9) Rihanna’s #R9, the unofficial title fans have already given her upcoming album, seems to have been in the works since at least when the Bajan popstar dashed fans hopes for an ANTI re-relase by confirming she was instead working on something new. Despite this, Rih’s gone uncharacteristically quiet about the release and her planned collaborators, which suggests it might be further away than we originally thought. With upcoming roles in Bates Motel and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, however, we know Rihanna will still manage to keep herself busy in 2017. Tove Lo - TBA (Lady Wood Part 2) Tove Lo’s latest album, the inventively titled Lady Wood, was released this year to positive reception - its lead single ‘Cool Girl’ made it to our list of the top ten best songs of 2016, and the album itself made the cut as well - so it’s no surprise that she’ll be moving forward with plans to release a sequel to the album, which according to her has already been finished. Lady Wood was split into two parts - ‘Fairy Dust’ and ‘Fire Fade’ - and we can expect more of the same with this one, which will apparently be split into 'Light Beams' and 'Pitch Black'. Our only concern is one of variety - Tove’s already covered the highs and lows of love and drug addiction with her last album, and we’re not really sure where she’s going to go with this one. Still, given how talented of a songwriter she is (Tove has written songs for stars like Hilary Duff, Ellie Goulding and Girls Aloud), we’re pretty positive she’ll make it work somehow. Nelly Furtado - The Ride Nelly Furtado's been almost completely absent from the popular charts since the release of 2007's groundbreaking Loose, the album which spawned singles such as 'Maneater' and 'Promiscuous' and which made her a household name. Despite that, she's still been quietly releasing songs which range from the Spanish-language 'Manos Al Aire' to the hip-hop inspired 'Big Hoops' to last years collaboration with Blood Orange, 'Hadron Collider'. She's set to make a comeback this March with her album The Ride, which seems to harness a new experimental sound thanks to a partnership with producer John Congleton. The lead single 'Pipe Dreams' is already out: check it out here for a sample of the project. Zara Larsson - TBA When she's not talking about how much she hates men, Zara Larsson can occasionally release some pretty good pop songs: and hard as it is to believe given her age, she's released plenty of them, with a debut album and several EPs already under her belt. She's set to make her international debut this year with her new album, which already has the hits 'Lush Life', 'Never Forget You' 'Ain't My Fault' and 'I Would Like' to back it up. Apparently there's only one more single to go before the albums released, so you can expect this one to pop up on our radars pretty soon. And there's more... Also coming this year are albums from Bonnie McKee (the project may or may not be connected to her recent 'Stars In Your Heart' single, which was recorded several years ago), Kanye West (Turbo Grafx 16, which was announced as soon as work on his last album wrapped up but which has been put on pause as he recovers from his well publicised mental breakdown last year), Kiiara (her first full length album, led by single 'Dopamine'), Melanie Martinez (her yet to be titled second album which has already been completed), Rita Ora (her long-awaited second album) and Terror Jr (their first, which may feature songs 'Trippin' and 'heartbreaks'. Plus, they may not have been officially confirmed yet, but we've been dropped hints by artists like Aly & AJ, Kylie Minogue, Lana Del Rey and Nicki Minaj that new music from them is imminent. Which album are you most looking forward to in 2017? Let us know your thoughts down below?
  2. 2016 has been a great year for pop music, featuring defining releases from several bonafide legends (think Britney Spears, Beyoncé and Lady Gaga), a couple of albums from our more stable hitmakers (such as Tove Lo, Sia and Ariana Grande) and some groundbreaking debuts from total newcomers to the game (like Zayn, Aurora and Petite Meller). The sheer volume of impressive albums from our faves and flops this year has made deciding how to rank each one a difficult task; but after several weeks of consideration we've managed to whittle down our list from several dozen amazing LPs to just the absolute best of the best. Our list below features our top ten favourite albums of the year 2016, ranked from least favourite to most favourite. Check it out below and let us know who we've neglected and who we've misranked in the comments section! When Sia announced last year that she would be releasing an album comprised entirely of demos that she had failed to sell to other artists, fan reactions were a mixture of intrigue, excitement, and disappointment. They had long wanted for Sia's versions of her co-writes on tracks such as Rihanna's 'Diamonds', Britney Spears' 'Perfume' and Beyoncé's 'Pretty Hurts'; but there was concern from some that Sia including songs she'd written for others would create a sense of disassociation and detachment from her own music. The Australian-born singer has for a long time had a certain self-loathing towards the pop songs she writes for others, and when you compare the tracks she now writes such as the Jamaican dancefloor ready 'Cheap Thrills' or the Shakira reject 'Move Your Body' to the masterpieces of her early career such as 'Breathe Me' or 'I'm In Here', you can't help but feel as though she's simply going through the motions without putting any real effort into her latest subjects. Nevertheless, This Is Acting still provides a handful of club ready hooks, some spectacularly catchy choruses and, of course, her trademark husky vocal runs. It may not quite hit the level of amazement that we know Sia's capable of, but This Is Acting still makes for a solid pop album. Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction last year may have shocked fans, but the true shock came this year when he became the first of the boyband's members to release a solo single, the metaphor-drenched ode to sex that was 'Pillowtalk'. Lighting the charts ablaze internationally, the song was a total turning point for Zayn, who had previously complained about his inability to write his own songs, explore new sounds, talk about sex and, weirdly grow facial hair during his time in 1D. And 'Pillowtalk' was only the beginning, with Zayn going all in to release his debut album Mind of Mine several months later. Backed by a consistent slew of heavy R&B beats, a more accessible version of the trippy hazy production popularised by The Weeknd in recent years and some velvety vocals, the album manages to nail the halfway point between pop and personal, allowing an intimate look at the enigmatic singer through a collection of slinky R&B slow jams. The album does tire some during it's second half - after all, eighteen tracks is a lot to get through - but when it's at it's best, as it is with the aforementioned lead single, 'Befour', 'Like I Would' and a handful of others - Mind of Mine is the most promising debut we've had from a popstar in the past few years and a bold step forward for any former boyband member to take. Since blowing into the pop stratosphere back in 2013 with the Hippie Sabotage remix of her debut single 'Habits' (redubbed as 'Stay High' for the single release) Tove Lo has been a pop anomaly: she rarely makes headlines for her personal life, makes pseudo-experimental music and doesn't have any social media presence to speak of but her songs still do surprisingly well and she thus has a healthy relationship with her label. Like Gaga before her, Tove restrains herself from making songs which are too edgy in content by softening the blow with a catchy hook or two and some intricate production work, this time around handled largely by The Struts and Oscar Holter. The end product of her labours is Lady Wood, a loose concept album split into two parts which centre around the highs and lows of a drug hit (and a relationship) respectively. It's not a particularly complicated concept, but it's unique enough to intrigue; and the same can be said for the songs, with the closest we come to real vulnerability coming in the form of 'Flashes', a song which details the conflict between fame and relationships. Nevertheless, there's an honesty which pervades each drug-related confession Tove makes and a lack of repetition in the songs which makes Lady Wood a transformative and enjoyable listen; and it definitely helps that 'Cool Girl' can turn any nightclub into a dancefloor with just one verse. After a somewhat disappointing showing with Don't Look Down, Skylar Grey's 2013 debut release full of angst, trailer trash imagery, rent-a-rappers and white girl hip hop beats, expectations weren't particularly high for Natural Causes, her latest project released in September. But Grey surprised everyone with an understated, tender and vulnerable album which trades in the harsh genre changes and lyrical inconsistencies of her first for an atmospheric concept album loosely (but not strictly) based around the wonders of the natural world. From the vibey introduction track, 'Wilderness', to the cold and sombre 'Come Up For Air' (which may surpass 'Coming Home' as the most beautiful song she's ever written), to the acoustic musings of the Radiohead-esque 'Moving Mountains', Grey continues to find new and unique ways to express herself without ever sounding scattered or confused as she did on her debut. More impressively, she's been able to carve out a new lane for herself and develop a new sound far distanced from the piano ballads she wrote for others, like Rihanna ('Love the Way You Lie') and Christina Aguilera ('Castle Walls'). With Natural Causes, Grey has finally found her unique voice and sound that work for her; now all she needs is for the public to find it as well. Kanye West's latest album went through a plethora of changes since its inception three years ago in 2013, when it still went under the working title So Help Me God. Back then, the album was intended to feature productions by Rick Rubin and Q-Tip and had a new soulful, acoustic sound showcased by the stand-alone singles 'Only One' and 'FourFiveSeconds', both of which featured Paul McCartney; but it wasn't long before SWISH was teased as a title and then WAVES, with each new project title bringing a harder, more classically hip-hop sound than the last. Even after the album was released on February 11th, updates continued to arrive in the form of altered tracklistings, updated productions and even entirely new tracks up until the albums final form in June. Listening to the final product of The Life of Pablo, it's easy to hear the multiple changes in direction that took place throughout the recording process; but rather than detracting from the project as a whole, these inconsistencies instead serve as our only doorway into one of the most creative and genius minds of our time. Whether he's spitting mean bars over the new wave instrumental on 'Feedback', harboring the combined talents of Sia, Frank Ocean and Vic Mensa on 'Wolves' or courting controversy with the Nina Simone sampling 'Famous', West makes sure to keep all the attention squarely on himself - a talent he's since extended to his personal life as well. The Life of Pablo hasn't had any new tracklist changes recently; but even without the monthly updates, the albums spirit of experimentation, recklessness and courage is bound to live on in West's future releases. Gwen Stefani's long-awaited third LP might have had a few false starts - even though 'Baby Don't Lie' goes off, we're still recovering from the misstep that was the Pharrell-assisted 'Spark The Fire' - but when she finally came through for her fans, Gwen gave them everything they'd been waiting for and more. Inspired by her breakup with longtime husband Gavin Rossdale, Gwen threw aside the co-penned tracks that had been written for her by the likes of Charli XCX and Ryn Weaver and instead headed back into the studio to record an entire albums worth of songs over several weeks - this time with each one written by herself and the current pop dream team of Justin Tranter and Julia Michaels. Ultimately, the albums designation as a "breakup album" turned out to be a little inaccurate - Stefani spends much of the time buoying from songs about dirty text messages ('Send Me A Picture') to singing about new love ('Make Me Like You'), and even when she allows a moment to mope, it's often backed by a strong beat and some classically Gwen vocal delivery ('Used To Love You'). But the sound is consistent, effortless and fresh, and most importantly it sounds like a true Gwen album that she, not her label, has helmed. Let's just hope we don't have to wait so long for the popstar to find her voice again for the next one. JoJo's third studio album may have taken over ten years to finally be released (although we did get several albums worth of unreleased songs to hold us over in between), but if Mad Love proved anything it was that she was definitely worth the wait. After a somewhat lukewarm reception to the three singles she released through her C-side Tringle project, JoJo retooled the album from the house-leaning project The Aftermath to the version we ended up with, a fusion of futuristic R&B, house beats and piano ballads; and while she might have originally been known for her cheesy 2000s R&B tracks and vocal-led ballads, JoJo proves here that she can hold her own with the up-tempo girls, bringing some dancefloor ready hooks on tracks like 'Vibe.' and the MNEK-produced fan favourite 'Good Thing.'. She asserts herself further with the sexy, sassy ode to independence 'High Heels.' as well as the drug-induced haze of 'Clovers.': although in truth the album's best moment is when she returns to her roots both musically and lyrically on the stunningly autobiographical opener 'Music.' Fingers crossed that the next album won't be another decade away; but even if JoJo never releases another album again, it's satisfying to know that she's released the album of her dreams, and probably the album of her career, with Mad Love. Following the release of 2014's collaborative album with jazz legend Tony Bennett Cheek To Cheek, and a collection of well-received tributes to Carole King, Stevie Wonder, Frank Sinatra, David Bowie and The Sound of Music, Lady Gaga was primed for success with LG5, her mysterious album which was billed as a comeback from 2013's perceived critical failure ARTPOP. Promises were made of collaborations with the likes of Giorgio Moroder and Nile Rodgers, as well as an Elton John feature; the third the duo has recorded that would ultimately go unreleased. But when 'Perfect Illusion', the adrenaline-pumping disco-rock anthem first single was released to little fanfare, all hopes for a dance record were thrown out the window and fans were forced to reevaluate their hopes for the long-awaited record. Ever the shock artist, Gaga threw off Little Monsters even further with the release of promo singles 'Million Reasons' and 'A-Yo', both of which explored a new country vibe, and which would go on to reflect the albums folky atmosphere more accurately. Joanne is not without fault - the short track times and lazy (and frankly nonsensical) songwriting on lines such as "It's like that I've stopped breathing but completely aware" is a turn off, and Gaga's new acting role as a southern belle isn't always completely convincing ('Sinners Prayer''s opening line of "I came down the mountain" is slightly cringeworthy if we're being honest). But at it's greatest moments, such as the heartbreaking chords of 'Angel Down' or during the female empowerment anthem 'Hey Girl' with Florence Welch, it provides us with some of Gaga's best and most unique moments to date. Joanne successfully continues Gaga's tradition as one of music's greatest shapeshifters; now all that remains to be seen is what form she'll take for the next album. A year in music wouldn't be complete without an album from the Princess of Pop herself, and Britney Spears came through in 2016 with one of the best albums of her career. Long gone are the days of the lifeless Autotuneney we heard in 2011's Femme Fatale and the Confuseney (or Confuseyah Marie) we had to sit through in 2013's mess of genres and sounds Britney Jean. For the first time since Blackout, Britney's vocals are at the forefront: she giggles, gasps, moans, screams and shouts all over each track, making for an album which features some of the most interesting vocal performances of the year. She evokes the cold, detached robot persona of Femme Fatale in tracks like the "artsy fartsy" 'Coupure Electrique' (which, in Brit's most experimental move to date, is sung entirely in French): the repressed sex kitten of 'I'm A Slave 4 U' in 'Do You Wanna Come Over?'; the 90s teeny bopper of '...Baby One More Time' in 'Hard To Forget Ya'; and the high-pitched trumpetting of Alvin and the Chipmunks 2: The Squeakquel in 'Private Show', a new sound for the reigning queen of Vegas. But the most impressive thing about Glory is Britney's own presence on the album. It's clear to fans that 2016 was the year that she came out of her shell - from swearing off relationships publicly to talking openly about her conservatorship and making more TV and festival appearances than she did for her last two albums combined - and her newfound independence is reflected all over this album. Glory might not be an album without missteps, but it's propelled forward through it's dullest moments by a quintessentially Britney energy: a tangible spark in the popstars eye which hasn't been harnessed since at least 2009's Circus. It might not have ignited the charts, but in the eyes of her fans, Glory has proved that Britney is officially back. We always knew that behind the sugar-coated R&B-pop veneer of perfection she displays in every strand of her ponytail, there was a rebel hiding inside Ariana Grande - and 2016 was the year she proved it. When she wasn't out licking donuts with her boyfriend or calling out Ryan Seacrest live on radio, Grande was promoting her latest effort, the aptly titled Dangerous Woman - and with three singles, six music videos and a plethora of live performances to consume, it's clear that this is the album that she, and her label, are most dedicated to. From the soulful and powerful belting in the title track to the chilled out hip-hop vibes of the Lil Wayne assisted 'Let Me Love You' to the reggae-styled beats of 'Side To Side', a song which is literally about being fucked so hard you can't walk straight, Ariana diversifies her sound here like never before, stepping away from the saccharine tones of her previous singles to explore a darker, more edgy sound. And even on the album's filler tracks, Ariana keeps the transformative tone consistent, making the inspired choice to work with R&B legend Macy Gray on 'Leave Me Lonely' before jumping into the realm of dark-pop with fan favourite 'Touch It'. The vocals and production may still be a little too pitch perfect to suggest any real rebellion, and the fake lashes may prevent us from seeing too deep into her eyes, but the tracks on Dangerous Woman mark a sorely needed step forward for Grande; and mark a solid, cohesive body of work from the most effortless popstar we've seen in years.
  3. 2016 may have been marked by some as a year of loss, with notable celebrity deaths including David Bowie, Prince, George Michael, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds tarnishing the seasons for many; but at least in pop music it was a year of great success and activity, with major releases from some of our consistently brilliant pop girls (Britney Spears, Lady Gaga and Rihanna) and some unexpectedly stellar debuts from newer artists who weren't even a blip on our radar last year (Terror Jr, Kiiara and Dua Lipa) keeping us going through the tragedies that dotted the months. With so many great singles topping the charts this year, and even more coming to our attention through the blogospheres and Spotify, it was hard to cut down our list to just ten, an action which necessitated losing several well-loved bops from our ranking (although a part of me is glad I don't have to admit how many Justin Bieber songs I genuinely enjoyed this year). But after much careful consideration and weeks of rearranging, we've finally come up with our definite list of the best singles of 2016. It might be a little too late to play these at your New Years Eve celebrations, but they should still be good to tide you over until the wave of new releases hits us in February. Don't forget to let us know your own opinions regarding the years best tracks in the comments section below! 10. Tove Lo - Cool Girl One of pop music's biggest dark horses, Tove Lo's unexpected breakthrough with 'Habits' seems to have instilled a possibly ill-advised sense of trust into the singer from her label. With one hit under her belt, Lo has managed to not only release a received and provocative sophomore album with Lady Wood, but also a short film which includes every song from the album and a slew of hit singles; all while Lady Gaga struggles to get funding for even one decent music video. But there's little to complain about when each of Lo's songs seem to be so meticulously planned and executed, as we noted once again with this years lead single 'Cool Girl'. An advancement from the sombre, moody beats of 'Habits', 'Cool Girl' aims for a snappy, sexy techno vibe with biting lyrics of "I'm a cool girl/Ice cold, I roll my eyes at you" to match. We're not quite sure how she manages to keep breaking into the mainstream with her unique, wacky brand of personalised pop and arthouse visuals, but if Tove Lo has more tracks like 'Cool Girl' in store for us then we're definitely in for the long haul. 9. Ariana Grande - Into You Often referred to as 2016's most perfect pop single, Ariana Grande's 'Into You' owes much to it's cast of co-writers which includes the legendary Max Martin, Savan Kotecha, Ilya, Alex Kronlund and, of course, Grande herself, who seem to have crafted the song as a composite based off the best parts of other successful tracks. Beginning with a moody thump of beats before rising into a crescendo perfectly designed to show off Grande's pitch perfect vocals, 'Into You' is somewhat let down by a chorus which doesn't quit match the expectations set by it's verses, but all is saved with a climactic bridge and some meticulous ad-libs from the singer. Riding the dance-pop train that first started with Lady Gaga's 'Just Dance' back in 2008, 'Into You' hardly adds anything new to the pop genre like some of the other tracks on Grande's Dangerous Woman release, and the lyrics are as generic as can be. But like the guilty pleasures of Carly Rae Jepsen and Alexandra Stan before it, the song accomplishes everything it sets out to do and earns its place as a near-flawless single, a title aided by its raunchy music video and several high-profile performances. We're just surprised it didn't make it higher on the charts. 8. Skylar Grey - Come Up For Air From the outside, it seems as though Skylar Grey has always fancied herself a rebel without a cause - an image she tried and failed to cultivate with her mess of hip-hop beats and trailer trash glam lyrics back in 2013s Don't Look Down. But what we didn't know is that when she stops trying so hard, as she did in this years single 'Come Up For Air'. there was an abundance of vulnerability and beauty to her on the inside which we had never before seen. Backed only by a sparse R&B beat produced by frequent collaborator Eminem, Skylar plays the role of a long-suffering lover who waits for her partner to "come up for air" from the scary seas of their depression. And her voice, when she doesn't strain it with belts or hide it behind the tones of their collaborators, conveys a beautiful vulnerability that's rarely found in pop music. Time will tell if Skylar's ever able to blow up on the charts as a solo artist, but if she continues the winning formula of ballads she's captured with 'Come Up For Air' and 'Coming Home', she's bound to find her niche no matter what. 7. Bonnie McKee - I Want It All The incredibly talented Bonnie McKee has been searching for a hit ever since her debut album, Trouble, failed to make any impact on the charts back in 2004. Since then, the self-proclaimed "popstar in training" has done more than her fair share of self-education, penning hits for the likes of Britney Spears, Katy Perry and Kesha; but even with the commercially-minded bangers 'American Girl' and 'Sleepwalker', she's failed to nab the elusive #1 record she so desperately seeks. Yet even with her previous bops taken into consideration, Bonnie hasn't ever come closer to an iconic song than she did with this year's 'I Want It All', the third single from 2015's Bombastic EP. From the opening stomps of the 808 to the guitar riff which sounds like something right out of Michael Jackson's Thriller, 'I Want It All' trades the bubblegum pop of McKee's major label efforts for a 80s glamrock anthem which takes more than a few liberties with her tried and true pop formula. Unheard of in a McKee song, the track takes over a minute to finally hit on a hook worth humming too; but the slow burn is more than worth the payoff when the head-banging, fist-pumping chorus finally kicks in. And the 'Billie Jean' inspired music video, in which a pink haired Bonnie struts down a dark alley in a leather jacket and crotch pumps the leader of a gang, just makes the whole thing even better. After giving her ideas away to other popstars for so long, McKee's bravely reclaimed the sound she created; let's just hope it's not too late for her to make it big. 6. The Weeknd - Starboy (Feat. Daft Punk) The Weeknd's lead single 'Starboy' from the album of the same name promised a revolution from the opening frames of its video. Set in an archetypal Hollywood Hills mansion adorned with posters and placades of the singer himself, the clip begins with a masked figure sitting across from The Weeknd, silhouetted by his trademark chicken hair; before the man in the mask abruptly strangles him and takes off his balaclava, revealing himself as a newer, better haired version of the man himself, who then goes on to smash up the rest of the mansion with a pink neon cross. It's an obvious metaphor but an effective one: and anything that replaces his chicken hair with a buzz cut and his slow R&B beats with some heavy 80s synths courtesy of Daft Punk is fine by us. 'Starboy' trades The Weeknd's usual cooing for a dark, urgent lament of LA materalism before slowing down for a sparse, eerie refrain of "Look what you've done/I’m a motherfuckin' starboy", implicating the audience in his own success and, by association, his sadness. It might not be the feel good song of the summer, but 'Starboy' was instrumental in pushing The Weeknd's sound forward from the now popular slow-pop genre he helped to develop which has infilitrated the mainstream in the last year, and remains one of the most interesting songs of the year. 5. Fifth Harmony - Work From Home (Feat. Ty Dolla $ign) While they first hit the big time with their breakout single 'Worth It', Fifth Harmony (or H4RMONY as they're now unnofficially referred to by fans) really only came into their own this year with 'Work From Home'. Riding the wave of construction themed songs they started with 'Sledgehammer' which was continued by Miley's 'Wrecking Ball', the girls utilise their subject matter to its full shameless potential, working in lyrically genius lines such as "I know you're always on the night shift but I can't stand these nights alone". But it's not until that ridiculously catchy chorus, in which the girls chant "You don't gotta go to work/Let me body do the work/We can work from home" that the song makes its mark as a dancefloor banger. A moderately inoffensive verse from Ty Dolla $ign and a high-dance, high-budget music video in which the girls seductively stroke hammers and pour cement are just the cherries on top of this dessert. With 'Work From Home', Fifth Harmony have finally shed the good girl image they cultivated on The X Factor, and we can't wait to see what happens next. 4. David Bowie - Lazarus The world was shaken this January when it was announced that David Bowie, one of the most iconic popstars of all time, had been found dead in his home of liver cancer: an event made even more shocking given the fact that the notoriously private Bowie had not even disclosed news of an illness to the public. And as with all celebrity deaths, Bowie's passing forced a reevaluation of his previous works, most notably his last recorded album Blackstar (which was released two days before his death on his 69th birthday) and his New York musical Lazarus (whose opening night was the last public event Bowie would attend in his lifetime). On the one hand, the fact that Bowie's recent work was getting the recognition it deserved was a godsend given that it was some of the best of his career: but on the other, it was a shame that it took his death for the public to appreciate his latest efforts. 'Lazarus', the third song on the album and the title track of the musical, is one of his best: written in the months leading up to Bowie's passing with longtime producer Tony Visconti, the song acts as a self-epitath for the funeral he never had which foreshadowed his impending death. "By the time I got to New York/I was living like a king," he reflects, a possible reference to the days of partying which caused his terminal illness: before promising that soon "You know I'll be free/Just like that bluebird". Powerful, spiritual and enigmatic to the end, Bowie's swan song is a rare glimpse into the life of someone who is so close to death they can taste it: the final character in the singers revolving door of alter-egos. 3. Rihanna - Work (Feat. Drake) Given the unprecedented four year wait between her last album, Unapologetic, and her current project, ANTI (Rih typically releases an album every year on the dot), expectations were high for the Bajan popstars lead single from #R8. Smartly, she avoided any hugely dramatic rollout for the single in exchange for what amounted to a surprise release, announcing the existence of 'Work' only hours before we first heard it; and the lack of spectacle extended to the songs sound as well, which avoided the huge EDM choruses of leads like 'Only Girl (In The World)' and 'We Found Love' for an altogether slower, more laidback vibe. Avoiding the temptation to continue one upping herself yet another dancefloor hit, Rih instead opted for a twist on her dancehall roots, launching off the back of her previous reggae and Drake-assisted songs like 'What's My Name' to craft a new sound for herself unlike anything else on radio. And thanks to some catchy wordplay that matches the nonsensical catchiness of her breakout 'Umbrella' and those trademark husky vocals, the song still remains quintessentially Rihanna. Despite some concern from critics, 'Work' provided the comeback that the popstar needed after her hiatus: it's just a shame that once she had us hooked with the lead single, she let us down with a B-grade video and an absolute mess of an album campaign. 2. Kiiara - Gold From the very opening trip-hop strains of Kiiara's breakthrough single 'Gold', we knew we'd found the song we'd be obsessed with for the rest of the year. What we didn't realise was how it would light up the charts, or how long such a process would take: the single was actually first released in October 2015, but promo really only began in after all the unofficial online buzz in May, and the track peaked on the charts in October of this year. Hit or not, the songs ridiculously catchy and nonsensical hook assured its presence on hundreds of Spotify summer BBQ playlists, and introduced Kiiara's name and trademark style of breathy digitized vocal delivery to the masses. Little seperates Kiiara from her younger cousins over at Terror Jr, with the acts sharing sound, producers and fame - but where Terror Jr cultivates an ambibuous identity, Kiiara puts her trailer trash aesthetic beginnings out there for the world to see, something she's been doing a lot more of since promo for her EP officially began. Now all we're waiting to see is if she can sustain her fame with follow up singles 'Feels' and 'Hang Up Tha Phone'. 1. Terror Jr - 3 Strikes We may still not definitively know who the elusive 'Lisa' behind Terror Jr's hits might be - is it Lisa Vitale? Kylie Jenner? Or a complete unknown? - but one things for sure: the band, comprised of an enigmatic female singer, The Cataracs' David "Campa" Singer-Vine and Felix Snow has yet to make a wrong move, an impressive feat given their association with the Kardashians and an entire EP rollout. They kicked things off with '3 Strikes', an edgy and provocative track which first rose to prominence with a placement in a Kylie Jenner lip gloss ad but which has since stuck on Snapchat stories and Spotify playlists for months. Utilising 2016's favourite vocal stutter technique and some deliciously ridiculous lyrics - "You were like 95 on the interstate/Looking for a dinnerplate" - '3 Strikes' excels at quirky, catchy pop with a difference, and it does so exceptionally well. Where other artists struggle without a label and a big budget, Terror Jr has utilised their lack of resources in a viral, interesting way - and the fact that they hit #1 on our list without an official single release or music video says a lot about the state of pop music in 2016. Regardless of what does or doesn't happen for the band in the new year, we're sure that their particular brand of promotion - where artists forsake big label opportunities to create meaningful and intimate connections with the fans who have "discovered" them - will continue for years to come.
  4. Lead Single from Tove Lo's new album
  5. With 2016 upon us, it's time to finally start thinking about the new year in music. There's bound to be a lot of great albums coming in the New Year, so lets take a look at some of the ones I'm most excited for! Allie X - CollXtion II Just a little over a year after CollXtion I was released, Allie has plans to release another EP. Except, she doesn't really call them EPs, she calls them CollXtions, duh. She recently revealed the theme for the upcoming record is "longing and being lost". Some titles confirmed by her are 'Alexandra' and 'Weak Jaw'. In November, she dropped a new single 'Never Enough', taken off the re-release of the Catch single to hold fans over until she drops her next compilation. There's no official date, but she promised it will be coming out in 2016, so patiently we'll wait. Lady Gaga - LG5 The hype started right after ARTPOP was released and hasn't stopped since! Gaga began working on the album in spring, and so far no release date or even title has been announced. However, it has been confirmed she worked with writer and producer Nile Rodgers, RedOne and Mark Ronson, who she had a 12 hour recording session with; and the album will most likely include other long-time collaborators like DJ White Shadow and Zedd. This is for sure one of the albums I'm most excited to hear in 2016. I'm just worried because she's staying really quiet this time around. Surprise release or an ANTi situation? Tove Lo - TBA After Habits found its way on to the charts last year and she released her debut album, Tove Lo fans were waiting for any word on a new release. But vocal chord surgery left her scared she wouldn't be able to sing again. Thankfully after healing, she got back into the studio and surprised fans with a Christmas present - a demo from her upcoming album, titled titled 'Influence', getting everyone hyped for her next release. Tove said the album is "still going to be personal and emotional", and that she is experimenting with deep house beats. It's been over a year since she dropped her debut album, so fans are for sure ready! Sia - This Is Acting I'm personally a very casual Sia fan, but the singles she has put out for this album so far have been phenomenal. The concept of the whole record being rejected songs she wrote for other artists is really cool to me, and I can't wait to hear the whole album. I have a feeling it's gonna put me into full stan mode. Kesha - TBA Well, sadly there's actually no word on an an album release this year since the battle with her ex-producer is still going, but I could totally see her pulling a Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz. What albums are you excited to see drop this year? Tell us in the comments!

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Since our start as a blog called #PopHatesFags in 2012, PHF has consistently provided you with the latest pop culture news and hottest new releases. Join us as we analyse everything pop culture, build new friendships, and discuss the latest news and tracks exclusive to #PopHatesFlops!

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