By BRUCE DENNILL
Track: No Sense To End
Thoughts: No Sense To End pulls off the neat trick of sounding like popular British indie chart hits (there are moments when it straddles the unlikely midline between Morrissey and Embrace) while also adding original twists and tweaks that, along with the emotion in Jay Plent’s vocals, give their storytelling memorable intensity.
Artist: Nic Jeffrey
Track: The End Of Time
Thoughts: A meditative ballad, The End Of Time is pleasing but a little cautious, with restrained phrasing – both in the vocals and the instrumental arrangement – meaning the mood stays pretty constant throughout; not a bad thing in itself, but not allowing for layered listener interaction.
Thoughts: Beginning with a sound like a contemporary hymn, Hemelruim soon becomes more robust, with pulsing electro-rock segments giving the duet a more mainstream pop feel. Aside from these dynamic switches, the writing is fairly conventional, though consistently effective.
Track: What Would You Do?
Thoughts: The positive encouragement of the lyrics – don’t wait to act when telling someone that you care for them – is supported by R&B-tinged pop with opulent, beautifully realised production, all made even more pleasing by the song’s video promo, in which self-deprecation is realised to an hilarious degree.
Artist: I Am They
Thoughts: Having made their name with beautifully written and performed Americana-tinged CCM, I Am They have shifted here to a possibly more mainstream but somewhat less interesting synth-heavy pop approach. Still, Promises is up-tempo and heavy on hooks.
Artist: Kyle September
Track: Analog Heart
Thoughts: The concept here – “I’ve got a digital mind but an analog heart” doesn’t quite translate, but Kyle September’s clean, clear singing and crisp guitar work (plus excellent production) support a friendly, catchy melody.
Artist: El Mukuka
Thoughts: A driving dance rhythm is accentuated by the percussive phrasing of Congolese singer Gaz Mawete, but the cyclical nature of the arrangement means that the track could easily become background music. Except, of course, as a dancefloor filler, which is its intended purpose.
Artist: Jasmine Thompson
Track: Already There
Thoughts: Carefully produced to make the most of the potential for dramatic atmospherics – guitar harmonics, Thompson’s breathy voice, rich cellos – Already There is, like many strong tunes, a fairly simple, effective idea given impressive power in the studio. Enjoyable.
Track: Hold Us Together (Hope Mix)
Thoughts: A huge-sounding mix combining two powerful vocals over a balladic melody, Hold Us Together has the air of a triumphant closing song at the end of a film that has seen a character make it from dark to light somehow. Slowly, sensitively anthemic.
Track: On My Mind
Thoughts: Lavishly produced, this slow-burn R&B from Cape Town singer-songwriter Hersh ticks all the technical boxes, but doesn’t do much to move the heart or soul. Good, but a stock sound.
Artist: Jeremy Loops
Thoughts: With a melody that’s a lot bouncier than it’s theme – the lyrics deal with the challenges of being strongly attracted to someone but incompatible with them – Postcards has levels that some listeners might miss. Strong writing, rhythm and production complete a catchy package.
Thoughts: A thin, auto-tuned vocal track doesn’t make for an inspiring introduction, but a great groove gives this uncomplicated statement of arrival – it’s a debut – considerably more weight and drive.
Artist: Leon Gropp
Thoughts: Good, solid pop songwriting is given strong support by dramatic production, with the addition of a dark, almost EDM pulse in the middle eight adding extra interest.
Artist: Matthew West
Track: What If
Thoughts: A clever, clipped lyric examines a life philosophy focused on avoiding regrets and some unusual arrangement elements add interest. The production is perhaps a touch heavy on layered synths, which fill up much of the available space, but there’s still plenty of appeal.
Track: Right Now
Thoughts: Expensively produced, and uniting two of contemporary R&B’s more zeitgeist-chomping stars to handy marketing effect, Right Now is technically strong but emotionally uninspiring. The Weeknd’s high-range vocals are effective, though.
Artist: Jacob Swann
Track: Two Blue Eyes
Thoughts: Beautifully restrained, but still overflowing with emotion, Two Blue Eyes could as easily be a way for a listener to process a complex relationship or moody late-night driving music. Understated, top-notch writing and performance.
Artist: Anny Whyte
Track: When He’s Gone
Thoughts: Dealing with an important theme – empowering women who may need encouragement to leave toxic relationships – When He’s Gone is edifying without being exhilarating. That said, the interesting dynamic build takes it from folk pop to a kind of gothic rock.
Track: Why Won’t You Lie To Me
Thoughts: Andre Scheepers (SXEEPS) is an experienced producer, and his skills in that area are evident in the layered, Chainsmokers-esque synths and bass that bolster a lyric line that asks interesting, valid questions about whether lying can be a strategy for both negative and positive ends.
Track: Yes He Can
Thoughts: A family band featuring a brother and two sisters, CAIN offer fantastic close harmonies borne of musical understanding developed over a lifetime, and there’s a great country-pop melody to go with it, plus the joyous lift of a gospel choir.
Artist: Ava Max
Track: Every Time I Cry
Thoughts: A strong pop tune that moves from quietly introspective singing into dancefloor-friendly beats, this is the kind of thing that would be on high rotation on MTV if MTV still focused on, well, music. Catchy and innocuous.
Track: I Won
Thoughts: As with the Fast & Furious films – this is part of the soundtrack for F9 – what has worked before is not tampered with now, and I Won is, while good, a template bass-and-trap-beat hip hop tune, its hook repeated endlessly and its singer quota not really needed relative to the amount of work done. Fine, in context.
Track: Femme Fatale
Thoughts: With its big, dramatic production, Femme Fatale has the feel of a torch song but a lyrical line that encourages the listener not to get involved with its protagonist: “Never trust a woman like me”. Intriguing in that respect, but lyrically a little flat elsewhere.
Artist: Roddy Ricch
Track: Late At Night
Thoughts: Beautifully produced, this slow jam is otherwise pretty much par for the course in mainstream rap terms – sung-spoken autotuned vocals and lyrics about what a man expects from a woman when he “treats her right” (accompanied by visuals of heavy jewellery and Ferraris). Short on freshness.
Artist: Koryn Hawthorne
Track: How Great
Thoughts: In her lower range, Kory Hawthorne’s voice has the rich, slightly cracked resonance of so many of the great R&B singers. When she leaps up an octave and really goes for it, though, it’s an extraordinary instrument, easily soaring over a powerful gospel arrangement.
Track: Stranger Things
Thoughts: Big, roomy production and a strong hook right upfront make this relatively laid-back offering immediately easy to listen to. The Chaplin brothers’ distinctive octave-leaping vocals add good texture, too.
Track: Airplane Mode
Thoughts: A clean, elegant R&B arrangement supports an introspective lyric about wanting to be able to isolate from others when times are challenging. A chilled production.
Artist: Christian Heath
Track: Without You
Thoughts: Christian Heath is a capable songwriter, but here he interprets one of the mellower songs from Canadian outfit My Darkest Days (other singles include Porn Star Dancing and Casual Sex), with little in the way of frills and plenty of emotion in his performance.
Artist: Rhett Walker
Track: Gospel Song
Thoughts: What seems like an uninspired title is just the entry point to a buoyant, spirited celebration of both the genre and its subject matter. Choirs, harmonies and handclaps plus Third Day-ish rock arrangements take the listener to church, while a more personal lyrical thread reflects Walker’s own situation.
Artist: Tailor & Tramp
Track: Midnight Temptation
Thoughts: Well-made country rock with all the elements needed to get a friendly crowd swaying and singing along, Midnight Temptation is not as edgy as its subject, a temptress who’ll “break a little boy like you”. It’d be interesting to hear the same song with looser, more aggressive delivery.
Artist: Pieter Marcato
Track: Ek Onthou Jou
Thoughts: Marcato’s gravelly vocals are a standout feature of this heartbreak ballad, which sounds good but is perhaps held back a little by a relatively small dynamic range, which doesn’t allow its strongest parts to really shine individually.
Artist: Hanna Malan
Track: Alle Paaie
Thoughts: Sincere delivery and a robust rhythm power this Afrikaans love song, which both lyrically and melodically is clearly competent, though not compelling. Gentle pop with sweet intent.
Artist: Jordan Smith
Track: Great You Are
Thoughts: The production feel here echoes that espoused by the big TV talent platforms (Smith first made his name as a winner of The Voice), and it suits his powerful voice and wide wide vocal range, allowing him to confidently express plenty of emotion in his performance.
Artist: Vaughn Prangley
Track: Passing Seconds
Thoughts: A well-constructed pop-rock ballad, Passing Seconds has a hint of the Eighties about it – perhaps Rick Springfield or similarly guitar-and-vocal led musical storytelling. A strong offering from a young performer.
Artist: Toya Delazy
Thoughts: Prominent bass, shrieked backing vocals and propulsive rhythms give this track a claustrophobic, ominous feel, supported by a music video that suggests what’s coming back might be coming to get you. Potent – and patent – energy.
Thoughts: It’s not clear if the prominent autotune used here is necessary vocal assistance or a stylistic choice, but there’s no doubting the strength of the song, which hovers somewhere between Taylor Swift and Sara Bareilles in terms of emotiveness and chart appeal.
Artist: Leanna Crawford
Track: Mean Girls
Thoughts: An uncomplicated examination of the pain caused by negative input from peers, Mean Girls is given epic scale by its production. Think Christina Perri with a slightly different perspective
Artist: Willem Van Der Ryst
Track: Nikkels En Die Wyn
Thoughts: An initial listen suggests an uneven dynamic between sensitive verses and enthusiastic choruses, but a catchy melody and easy Afrikaans country accessibility settle well after a couple of spins.
Track: The Moment
Thoughts: Smooth, mellow R&B has its major hook underpinned by cavernous bass, making it hard to miss. For the rest, nobody’s individual contribution is in the listener’s face – the blend is good, if relatively unassuming.
Track: Forever Never
Thoughts: A well-produced musical story about tragically missing out on what might have been is afforded few favours by having three vocalists who all sound very similar to each other and a gentle melody that generates little in the way of hooks.
Track: Our Song
Thoughts: Multiple hooks, the pulling power of two popular stars and high-end production do the business in a song that is both patently good the first time you listen to it and difficult to remember after the sixth or seventh…
Artist: Olivia Rodrigo
Track: Drivers License
Thoughts: A current chart darling, Olivia Rodrigo benefits from excellent production from Dan Nigro and substantially increases the appeal of good but fairly conventional song by pouring all the emotion she can muster into her vocals. The poignant result is more than the sum of its parts.
Artist: Elevation Rhythm
Thoughts: Though everything from the vocals to the synths is heavily processed – filters and effects everywhere – Quiet communicates its emotional core via sensitive use of space and volume, making it both moving and easy on the ear.
Artist: Matt Maher
Track: Run To The Father
Thoughts: The gargantuan choral opening is a bit of a red herring as to where this track is going dynamically, but Maher’s consistency as a great songwriter and a strong melody and ready hook make this another strong release.
Thoughts: An honest investigation of the thoughts and feelings of a character on the giving end of an unrequited love, Jy is arguably too … tidy in its expression of confusion and heartbreak. Competently put together and performed, though.
Artist: Janie Bay featuring Majozi and Early B
Track: My Lief
Thoughts: Smooth production and the variety provided by Bay’s Afrikaans lyrics, Majozi’s English verse and the rhythmic change of Early B’s rapping are the main attractions in an otherwise chilled, low-risk musing on relationships.
Artist: Casper Stone
Thoughts: Intended as a critique of the one-sided, obsessive nature of social-media stalking in the name of romance, Freak – with its appropriately dark tone – lacks enough lyrical balance to defend its stance strongly.
Artist: Casting Crowns
Track: Start Right Here
Thoughts: A no-punches pulled challenge to Christians who prioritise style over substance, Start Right Here has powerful pop production that helps drive home the message while keeping the song consistently engaging.
Artist: Imagine Dragons
Track: Follow You
Thoughts: A hugely cheesy track, it’s difficult to know if Follow You is intended for Imagine Dragons’ more sentimental fans or is the result of an in-joke that ran the distance. The amusing video is so tongue in cheek that it’s a wonder you can hear Dan Reynolds singing…
Artist: Twenty One Pilots
Thoughts: A pleasant enough paean to the weekend at the opportunities it provides (provided – is this still a thing during a pandemic?), Saturday has some Nile Rodgers-esque guitar strumming to help drive its dance-pop beat. May move the feet, but little else.
Artist: SEU Worship
Track: Fire In My Bones
Thoughts: Well produced and enthusiastically performed, Fire In My Bones suffers from being too trope-laden, with instrumental sounds and lyrical phrases that feel familiar on an initial spin, but because you’ve heard them all over pop and worship playlists many times.
Artist: Lana Del Rey
Track: Blue Bannisters
Thoughts: Gorgeously empty, soulful storytelling, almost devoid of hooks and yet still absorbing thanks to subtle key changes and the purity of Del Ray’s voice in the more emotive passages.
Artist: Lydia Laird
Track: Hallelujah Even Here
Thoughts: A well-timed reminder to seek to find things to celebrate in the toughest times, this track could perhaps have benefitted from dropping the relentless keyboard patch, giving more space for Laird’s rich, relatively low-register vocal tone. Heartfelt and positive, though.
Artist: Holly Humberstone
Track: The Walls Are Way Too Thin
Thoughts: There’s an odd twist here as a song written to express a feeling of claustrophobia morphs, through the warmth of its melody and the empathy of the vocal performance, into something rather comforting – encouraging regular revisiting.
Track: Uthando Olunjani
Thoughts: Almost eight minutes long and never outstaying its welcome, this single was recorded live and reflects the extraordinary musicality of Durban singer-songwriter Nosihe MaZulu and her superb band. High-octane fuel on the fire of missing the authenticity of high-quality live performances.
Track: Too Bizarre
Thoughts: For a track with this title, performed by three artists for whom edginess is a major part of the brand, Too Bizarre is very … tame. Other than Siiickbrain’s brief yelled interludes, there’s not much dynamic range, and the melody is plain, without many memorable musical phrases. A slight diversion.
Artist: Tones And I
Track: Won’t Sleep
Thoughts: Recalling fellow Australian’s Sia’s ability to present relatable lyrical themes in unconventional ways, Tones and I talk-sings her way through this late-night theme park ride of a song with tongue-in-cheek brashness, giving her big hooks both a swagger and an air of harmless fun. Lively and well-crafted.
Track: Higher Power
Thoughts: Another example of Coldplay’s enviable ability to take what is a competently written and well-performed tune – with no real stand-out elements (which many of their hits do have, to be fair) – and make it an event. One of their weaker singles for some time but still, with its associated moves and colours, enjoyable work.
Track: There Was Jesus
Thoughts: What is a well-written and superbly recorded and performed combination of much that is good about about both CCM and country music leaps up to standard-setting excellence about 2:30 in when Dolly Parton ditches the studio voice and exposed her soul to the microphone.
Artist: Vertical Worship
Track: Faithful Now
Thoughts: Mid-tempo contemporary worship leaning heavily on a number of the genre’s well-used formulae, Faithful Now still manages to communicate both message and uplifting mood well. Sometimes, if it ain’t broke…
Artist: Jamie-Lee Sexton
Track: It’s True
Thoughts: Dance-pop with a pleasing line in simple, direct lyrical sultriness, It’s True has the feel of a Cher single, with higher register vocals but similar phrasing and mainstream effectiveness.
Thoughts: Catchy because of its cyclical structure, this gospel-pop track is dynamically flat, making it tough to be as invested at the end of the song as you are at the beginning. Pleasant, but not compelling.
Artist: Alec Benjamin
Track: The Way You Felt
Thoughts: Unexpectedly high vocals drive a melody that loops within a narrow range (the bulk of it is just three or four notes) and determined lyrical rhyming patterns. A simple idea padded with strong production.
Track: Girl From Rio
Thoughts: Built around the hook from The Girl From Ipanema, this track has a lyrical concept – that girls from Rio are down to earth and normal in every way – that’s immediately undermined by Anitta’s styled-to-the-nines image and beauty. Smooth and catchy, though.
Artist: Jamie Kimmett
Track: Since I Met You
Thoughts: Beginning with an attractive picked guitar lick, Since I Met You sheds some of its personality in a more predictable chorus, but its combination of melody, feel and energy is a winner.
Track: Empty Space
Thoughts: A slow start builds into a shuffling brush rhythm behind a catchy folk-pop chorus – a strong tune that’s completely on brand for Craig Hinds’ songwriting style. As such, a comfortable fit for radio and (when the pandemic allows) live shows alike.
Artist: Mzansi Youth Choir & PJ Powers
Track: Bayete Mzansi
Thoughts: Part of a social cohesion programme funded by a government department, this song, beautifully performed and produced, is lyrically not much more than a collection of unfeasibly optimistic cliches. Government – more leadership, less propaganda, please.
Artist: Ziggy Alberts
Thoughts: Australian singer-songwriter Ziggy Alberts builds a lyric about longing – specifically wanting more time with a loved one – around a gently looped strum pattern and a vocal line given character by an octave pop in the choruses. Simple and effective.
Artist: Tenth Avenue North
Thoughts: A laid-back pop-rap tune, No Shame is cheesy (perhaps by design, given the title and theme) in the sense that it has the sort of rhythm that has white men throwing rapper shapes with their hands – which is confirmed in the video. The message is positive and uplifting, but the delivery lacks punch.
Track: More Life (feat. Q Tip)
Thoughts: Slow, thoughtful flow sees Maryland rapper Cordae looking back at what he left behind and how important it was that he did so. That’s more or less it, though – no fireworks, either lyrically or instrumentally.
Artist: Red Rocks Worship
Thoughts: Every full-band contemporary worship arrangement box is ticked here – this is music made for large auditoriums – but it has a major feel/minor chords combination that works well, with a strong, heartfelt vocal line that stands out over the layered synths and keys. Rousing stuff.
Artist: Lee Cole
Track: Honey, Let Me In
Thoughts: Operating along the Sam Smith – Charlie Puth continuum, Lee Cole has a rich voice, using stylised phrasing for extra effect. The knowing pop arrangement of this artfully yearning ballad are as structured as his designer stubble, but Cole also has a self-deprecating streak, showcased in the song’s appealingly cheesy video.
Artist: Ernie Smith
Track: Jesus I Need You
Thoughts: A smooth-as-silk jazz groove is the foundation for this simple statement of devotion from singer-songwriter and guitarist Ernie Smith. Those elements are, however, cycled and repeated to an extent that makes retaining focus on specific aspects of the song challenging.
Artist: Rita Li
Track: Kleur My In
Thoughts: A straightforward country-pop ballad, Kleur My In leaves plenty of space in its arrangement, allowing for rising, layered vocals in the chorus to add solid, satisfying dynamics.
Artist: Elle Limebear
Track: What Love Looks Like
Thoughts: Delirious? frontman Martin Smith’s daughter Elle Limebear has her father’s formidable pipes. Her approach here follows a mainstream pop formula: huge production with a soaring, synth-driven chorus that fits the expected chart sound rather than staking out new sonic space.
Thoughts: With it’s accompanying video, in which young Zimbabwean-English singer Donel Mangena never stops moving, this song has more heft. On its own, it’s light and airy, never giving its lyrics the punch they might otherwise have.
Thoughts: With a title translated as “You can’t just tell me”, this is a protest song that enthusiastically lists the frustrations of being dictated to by supposed leaders who have not earned the right to comment on our lives, over well-produced, bluesy backing.
Track: Right Thang
Thoughts: Driven by a foot-tapping beat, Right Thang is otherwise a pleasant but not striking autotuned vocal collaboration between New York-based Beninese singer-songwriter and South African singer Busiswa, whose rap break gives the piece an energy injection.
Artist: Twenty One Pilots
Track: Shy Away
Thoughts: A fairly straightforward pop tune, Shy Away sees Twenty One Pilots coming across like Savage Garden with a bit of an EDM edge. Catchy and likeable, but without some of the invention the duo’s displayed before.
Thoughts: As lyrically profound as a college hazing session, Woo! is nonetheless brilliantly produced, and Zimbabwean-born, Canada-based rapper Charmaine has fantastic, confident flow.
Artist: Ross Jack
Thoughts: Making an impression more with tone than with melody or lyrics, this is a bass-heavy piece where shoegaze mood meets rap delivery. Not wholly successful…
Artist: Justin Serrao
Track: Brand New Day
Thoughts: Adding to an expanding sonic palette, Justin Serrao delivers, in Brand New Day vibey Afro-pop (complete with violins and Bakithi Kumalo-esque basslines). Sophisticated party music.
Artist: Branan Murphy
Track: Coming Home
Thoughts: Heavily produced radio pop, Coming Home connects through great use of individual instruments in the mix – crisp guitar licks and drum breaks – that give it an irresistible groove.
Artist: Steve Umculo
Track: Your Eyes Through Mine
Thoughts: Crisply played and in a pleasingly jaunty major key, Your Eyes Through Mine nevertheless deals with pain, specifically the confusion and regret involved in a break-up. Intelligent, thoughtful pop-folk.
Thoughts: A cleverly packaged 50/50 collaboration between Singaporean (Li) and English (Anne-Marie) success stories, Bedroom is lush, filmic pop that flips the romantic balladry of its sound with caustic break-up lyrics. Soaring but acerbic.
Track: River Blues
Thoughts: Adele Fouche’s voice adds grit and drive to a simple (where that description is a compliment – good writing choices are made and executed well) pop-rock song that is easy to relate to and to remember.
Track: Sword From The Stone
Thoughts: Passenger has always operated in the same part of the pop sphere as his compatriot James Blunt, and this song offers perhaps the closest parallels yet, but with a gentler approach in everything from the vocal tone to the lyrical emphases.
Artist: Silk Sonic
Track: Leave The Door Open
Thoughts: Early on, this tune feels overhyped, thanks to the involvement of Bruno Mars and its thick layer of Seventies nostalgia. But repeated listening underlines the sublime musicianship, including intriguing chord changes and fantastic performances (note Mars’ vocal in the section around 2:54 into the song).
Artist: Kayleigh Bell
Track: Better Days
Thoughts: Combining upbeat lyrics and a pulsing strum patterns with chord choices that make for a rather more subdued mood, Kayleigh Bell processes some tough times in folk-rock with a bit of an edge, recalling the quieter moments of artists like Florence Welch.
Artist: Luke de Agrela
Track: Sleep When I’m Dead
Thoughts: There are shades of early Justin Timberlake or similar early-millennium pop stars in this track, which mixes earnestly expressed lyrics with an R&B-infused arrangement and a subdued trap beat (plus a clever flat-line tone as the hook is delivered). Stylish stuff.
Thoughts: A well-produced dance track with a little two-string electric guitar motif as a particularly pleasing part of its layering, Body is gently catchy and quietly propulsive – rhythms that are easy to move to but which don’t otherwise intrude much.
Artist: Sarah McArthur
Track: Hard To Be Happy
Thoughts: An interesting combination of glass half-full lyrics with a sprightly, cheerful melody and arrangement, Hard To Be Happy features folk-pop collaborators Sarah McArthur and Jon Shaban trading anxious asides. It’s brief and effective – and perhaps worryingly relatable.
Track: Mystery & Jealousy
Thoughts: Unashamedly in thrall to Depeche Mode and other synth and New Wave titans, Von Zound do their influences proud from the opening notes of this debut single. The simplicity of a brooding arrangement is given power by superb production and a jazzy trumpet break adds light and movement.
Artist: Zach Williams
Thoughts: Every bit as country as he is Christian, Zach Williams provides something for both markets in this polished, sincere paean to not only getting through tough times, but doing so with reliable help. A great singing voice is also well used to convey strong emotion.
Artist: Wendy Oldfield
Thoughts: Rootsy and thoughtful, this song lyrically examines the notion of home – the reality of it being emotion and texture and time as well as place. Oldfield’s voice has a sultry, smoky edge to it over sprightly instrumental backing and a melody that slightly recalls Fairground Attraction.
Artist: Finding Faith
Track: Good Hands
Thoughts: Australian-Canadian duo Finding Faith cloak their belief-inspired lyrics (the hook is “the hands that hold it all are good hands) in layered, thoughtfully-constructed production, built on a foundation of keyboards and synths. The result is a chart-friendly pop sound that quickly gets under your skin.
Artist: Anna Wolf
Thoughts: Moody and dark, Gong recalls the less mainstream moments of artists like Tori Amos, a sinister fairytale lyric woven into changing time signatures that unsettle on a first listen. On repeated spins, though, the arrangement starts to feel more natural, and Wolf’s multi-octave vocals help uncover the emotional heart of the piece.
Artist: Cherry Pill
Track: Tears That Flow
Thoughts: Providing an interesting instrumental platform – violin plus nuanced guitar, here – Cherry Pill suggest a diversion from their folky style with quirky timing tweaks as this tune starts. But it settles into a more straightforward pattern – beautifully played, but more like MOR folk-pop than the slightly edgier feel of the opening passages.
Artist: Albert Frost
Thoughts: The sunny, choir-backed intro riff is a little misleading in terms of the tone of much of what is a relatively thoughtful tune for much of its running time (particularly in the verses), but that and the powerful lift into the chorus – plus the trademark solo – leave you feeling better at the end of the song than you did when it started.
Track: Hey Boy
Thoughts: The fantastic full-throttle vocal and funk strut of the first 30 seconds is up there with Sia’s considerable best. The rest of the song? More predictable, less thrilling (but still solid) pop, with Nigerian rapper Burna Boy adding vibes more than a standout individual contribution.