The Bias List is a K-pop blog that also covers a fair amount of J-pop. But along with most music fans, I enjoy tracks from all around the world. So, I thought I’d start a monthly round-up of some of the non-K-pop songs that have caught my ear. No ratings — just highlights!
2022 has been a lousy year for K-pop so far, so I’ve started casting my net wide again. I follow the melodies, wherever they may be. And, it just so happens that this month’s strongest pop tracks have come from other music markets. This is a particularly solid round-up, if I do say so myself!
Ava Max – Maybe You’re The Problem
This is pure, concentrated pop music executed well. With each passing single, I’ve become more impressed with Ava Max. The Motto has been on constant repeat all year. Maybe You’re The Problem’s sing-into-your-hairbrush hook has quickly joined it on the playlist.
Carly Rae Jepsen – Western Wind
I’ll always be partial to the bubblegum electro pop of Carly’s E.Mo.Tion era, but she got her start with a far more acoustic sound. Western Wind finds a nice middle ground. The production is lush and the melodies are gorgeous.
Darin – Superstar
I mean, Superstar is nothing new in our current music environment. But, you all know I’m a sucker for these upbeat funk pop numbers. Bonus points for the disco strings.
I Am Boleyn – Young Love
For me, synthpop is at its best when it embraces a palpable sense of nostalgia. Young Love’s propulsive chorus feels like memories regained, drenched in beautiful electronic tones.
KEiiNO – Mother Of The Night
This is just bonkers, campy pop music. I’ve been listening to KEiiNO’s debut album a lot (which is also bonkers, campy pop music), but it feels like they’ve pushed the envelope even further with this oddball standout.
Khalid – Skyline
I’m dangerously obsessed with this track. It’s the perfect, laidback summer groove. The sheer amount of texture he’s able to wring from his voice (and vocal effects!) makes this such an aural treat. The melody is a total earworm as well.
Loreen – Neon Lights
When you have a song as legendary as Euphoria under your belt, nothing else will quite compare. But after a lengthy absence, Loreen is back with her evocative dance sound. Neon Lights will work its way under your skin.
LUM!X – Halo (ft. Pia Maria)
I didn’t watch Eurovision this year, but I tried to keep up with as many entries as I could. Halo was a standout for me, taking today’s synth trends and ratcheting them up to eleven. The energy is wonderfully intense.
Måns Zelmerlöw – What You Were Made For
80’s pastiches are a dime a dozen these days, but few embrace the inherent cheese of the decade. What You Were Made For reminds me of a long-lost Kenny Loggins soundtrack song.
Rina Sawayama – This Hell
I’ll always be drawn to balls-to-the-walls, over-the-top pop music. This Hell is pitched as “Shania Twain meets Lady Gaga,” and that sounds pretty good to me. Rina’s such a star, and I dare say this may be one of the strongest pop songs of the year – campy concept and all. I eagerly await the music video.
Tove Lo – No One Dies From Love
Stop what you’re doing right now and watch this music video. It’s a stunner. Seriously, I can’t think of another recent video that impressed me so much. But even apart from the visual, No One Dies From Love is an excellent tears-on-the-dancefloor synthpop banger.
Love the collection of Swedes on the list hsjshs. Ava Max has been giving us some pretty bomb songs honestly.
This Hell is fantastic. The only song (so far) released this year to impress me, in and out of k-pop. September can’t come soon enough!
Although I can’t say I was satisfied with Eurovision this year (everything-wise: the production, the quality of the entries, the results, the amount of drama), it was a memorable edition which opened a lot of discussions about the contest that before were all on the back burner.
Halo is an amazing song, definitely unexpected from Austria and the duo, but my God did it fail live. Poor Pia Maria could barely sing with both lowered song key AND turned-up back vocals. I wonder what made them choose such an inexperienced artist for a song that is incredibly difficult to pull off in the first place. And, as expected, it did not qualify – which is certainly a waste of a banger!
My personal favourites this year have been Serbia and their avantgarde entry, which grew on me a lot since the first listen, and the United Kingdom – although sort of generic, it was executed very well and Sam is such a charismatic and energetic lad, absolute delight to watch him on stage. Spain, too – although with a genre that has been overdone, last year especially, Chanel is too hard to resist with that flawless choreo and vocals. Pleasant ladies from Portugal, The Netherlands and Lithuania as well – such class and all serving national language pride! Hoping the tendency would go on.
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I’m really curious to see where Carly Rae Jgoes with her new project. I heard her perform Western Wind during the Coachella live stream, and I liked it even though it was different from her Emotion and Dedicated work. I just wonder if she will deal with the complaints some artists get when they don’t continue to replicate previous work on a new album (like the fans who want a group like Red Velvet to release a Bad Boy or Psycho Part 2 every comeback).
I was waiting to see if you’d be talking about Maybe You’re the Problem… I knew you’d enjoy it!!!
Oh these are some nice recommendations! I already knew about This Hell (iconic) but some of these might end up getting on rotation. That Ava Max song is a banger.
the mv for no one dies from love reminds me a lot of the movie ex machina with its visuals and storyline, quite possibly one of the best mvs i’ve seen in a while
anyway, i want to talk about this masterpiece of a song called “angel” by berry good, which is quite possibly one of my favorite songs from a nugu girl group (seriously i cant believe it has less than a million views on youtube). i absolutely love how it combines an orchestral instrumental with a dance beat, along with how epic its chorus is. combine it with one of the greatest high notes and climaxes i’ve ever heard and you’ve got an absolute banger of a song. the fact berry good didn’t get any recognition from this song bewilders me, as its an absolute masterpiece
I am still crushing on Florence + Machine “Free” released late March. Its 80’s revival, and yet still very Florence like and very contemporary.
The persistent beat sounds like stuff off old Erasure, like “Blue Savannah”, one half of Erasure being Vince Clark ex Yazoo ex Depeche Mode, so its all good. Also the drum machine used sounds thiscloseto a drum machine I used to have as a kid in the actual 80’s.
As a bonus, the lyrics speak to me as an overscheduled working mom. Just about this time last week, amid everything else, I had to take sonny boy to the orthopedic outpatient for a broken arm.
“I’m always running from something
I push it back, but it keeps on coming
And being clever never got me very far
Because it’s all in my head
And “You’re too sensitive”, they said
I said, “Okay, but let’s discuss this at the hospital”
Was wondering if you’d talk about Loreen, Eurovision, or Tove! Great picks, I love all songs, especially when it comes to synth-pop.
Some other international songs I thought I might share:
me seeing badshah on this
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LMAO! That man has done irreversible damage to Desi music 😢
LOL, don’t blame you. Badshah can be tried for war crimes due to Genda Phool’s rip-off. I find Tabahi to surprisingly be decent, and synthwave, that is why I shared it. Unfortunately, his new collaboration shows that Retropanda was a one-off, even if it is not great.
Speaking of Badshah, this video is hilarious:
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Love the global roundups. These songs are fantastic and a breath of fresh air. Have you heard Martin Garrix’s ‘Sentio’ album by any chance? It’s meant to be a club album and I think it’s extremely strong, especially the first 7 songs.
So my album pick of the month goes to Static Dress – Rouge Carpet Disaster.
It’s just an album that perfectly encapsulates that early 2000s emo/post hardcore Underoath sound with the swagger of a Adam Lazzara.
My single of the month probably goes to Stray From The Path – III. Just a really good angry fuck cops song. Begins with my favourite line of 2022: “Part 3, cos fuck 1-2”. Amazing.
So I must be very European so anything with traditional folk elements really speak to me. I’ll just put the Spotify playlist cos trying to fetch all the YouTube links on phone will annoy me lmao: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/37i9dQZF1DWVCKO3xAlT1Q?si=jGkQcUCxRuizIG3X6Je92w&utm_source=copy-link
Zdob şi Zdub & Advahov Brothers – Trenulețul. My overall favourite of the whole comp. It’s SO catchy. I sang it for a full week at work. The violin makes me pop off. Also speculated to be a song about reconciliation between Moldova and Romania.
Subwoofer – Give That Wolf A Banana. It’s stupid, it’s fun, I love it.
Alvan & Avez – Fulenn. I love this for two reasons: 1) it reminds me of 2010 Boyz Noize/Erol Alkan with traditional twists. 2) it is sang in Breton, which is a bold move considering the rarity of the language. But it makes it feel all the more authentic to the performer.
Monika Liu – Sentimentai. So I actually watched the national selection she was a part of and she was by a landslide the best performer no question. She’s just so effortlessly cool. The song is actually really poetically sad and longing too.
Kalush Orchestra – Stefania. Folk + flute (can’t remember the exact name of the flute but it’s a specific one) + rap is a winning combination in my book. Also the song is a tribute to the mother of one of the members.
I liked more but these were my favourites.
I haven’t listened to anything new this past month, but I have been kind of obsessed with this song which came out a few months ago. Its really fun but also frustrating in the same way a lot of Kpop songs have been in the past few years. But regardless, its a song that I do enjoy despite all its flaws. It is a pepsi ad though so I guess I shouldn’t expect anything groundbreaking anyway 😂
Maybe You’re The Problem is one of my favorite songs of right now next to Lauv’s All 4 Nothing. When I heard Maybe You’re The Problem I immediately wanted to know Nick’s opinion but never thought I would hear it due to the nature of the blog being k-pop so I was very excited to see this blog post! It’s just such a catchy sing-a-long song and I love the 80s sounding synth? I don’t know much about music but the synth really reminds me of an updated 80s pop song which I love. Even though I was born near the end of the 90s I just always resonate with 80s sounding synth lines and modern interpretations of them (Like loved Blinding Lights and Take My Breath from The Weeknd). I love k-pop but have been kind of bored with the output recently so it’s nice to see some reviews of other music! Love to discover new music.
Totally am buying all Keiino’s songs now! Thank you for all the recommendations. I, too, am in a k-pop rut and have forgotten about the amazing music over in Europe. I remember following your old blog, you turned me into a Patrick Wolf lover, then to my first Kpop loves BigBang! I love your taste in music!
In May I loved Hold My Hand by Lady Gaga, Don’t Forget by Sky Ferreira, The Foundations of Decay by My Chemical Romance, Funeral Grey by Waterparks, and the album f.e.a.r by Stand Atlantic!