With a gun to my head, I’d probably say yes: Carly Rae Jepsen, “Let’s Be Friends” - I really enjoyed last year’s Dedicated, which felt like a necessary evolution in Jepsen’s confectionary pop sound. “Let’s Be Friends,” meanwhile, sounds like the singer has taken three steps back creatively, gilding itself with elements of 2012's Kiss. That is still my favorite Jepsen album, but this would probably be a b-side on that at best, a la the similarly twee “Guitar String/Wedding Ring.” Still, I will probably listen to this again and again, until it sounds less like something in a Super Bowl commercial and more like the Carly Rae Jepsen that has continued to be a pioneer in modern pop music. —Joan Summers
Y: Christine and the Queens, “People, I’ve been sad” - I might be limiting myself here, but is there anything better than a sparkly, bilingual pop song about feeling sad? This track gets right to it—leaving little to interpretation. Sometimes mystery undercuts message, and there’s no missing the melancholy here. —Maria Sherman
Sure: Låpsley, “Womxn” - I no longer need to be empowered, but if that is the avenue Låpsley was chosen to occupy in 2020, so be it! It’s not bad, by any means, but definitely exists in the vein of pop songs that feel like they were written solely to be licensed on a hit Netflix shows. There are greater crimes! —MS
It’s fun: Kesha, “High Road” - The original Kesha can come to the phone right now, but she’d rather talk it out in person. Why? ’Cause she’s taking the “High Road”! The title track from her fourth full-length LP is “Tik Tok” for those who’ve been tried—a spoke-sung song crafted with the sole purpose of eliciting joy. Funny, I forgot music can sometimes be fun solely for the sake of fun. —MS
Okay: Lil Nas X, “Rodeo,” feat. Nas (video) - My favorite Twitter-loving young king made his own little green-hued version of a “Thriller” that’s less than three minutes long and, you know what? It’s very Lil Nas X... I love his spiked Bowser top and the street-dancing, although I can’t help hearing “Old Town Road” in all of his music. Such is the burden of making an eternal earworm. —Clover Hope
Y: Bat for Lashes, “Boys of Summer (Live)” - Who knew we needed Natasha Khan singing a rather straightforward cover (over a stripped-down arrangement) of Don Henley’s 1984 hit. Not I, but I’m happy to be here, regardless. And while we’re at it, let’s take a small break to salute Bat for Lashes’s other recent wonderful live covers that didn’t make her new live EP. Here’s Roy Orbison’s “I Drove All Night”:
And here’s Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work.” This one is particularly poignant because of Bush’s obvious influence on Khan’s catalog, which she acknowledges in her intro. “This is by somebody who I can’t really explain what she means to me, but you’ll know it.” And they know it. The opening two chords is all it takes for a sizable percentage of the audience to start cheering.
Anyway, Bat for Lashes forever. —Rich Juzwiak