The search for the ever-elusive “bop” is difficult. Playlists and streaming-service recommendations can only do so much. They often leave a lingering question: Are these songs really good, or are they just new?
Enter Bop Shop, a hand-picked selection of songs from the MTV News team. This weekly collection doesn’t discriminate by genre and can include anything — it’s a snapshot of what’s on our minds and what sounds good. We’ll keep it fresh with the latest music, but expect a few oldies (but goodies) every once in a while, too. Get ready: The Bop Shop is now open for business.
- Isaiah Rashad: “Why Worry”
It’s been almost four years since Tennessee rapper Isaiah Rashad dropped his debut LP, The Sun’s Tirade, so it was a welcome surprise when Top Dawg Entertainment released a brand new track of his for what the label is referring to as a “fan appreciation week.” As its title implies, “Why Worry” is a therapeutic call to arms, with Rashad demonstrating how to cast out the stressful elements of his life over producer Crooklin’s head-bobbing soulful beat. It’s a much-needed slice of summer in the midst of a spring spent indoors. —Bob Marshall
- Reyna: “Coachella”
Indie-pop sister duo Reyna have got “infectious chorus” down to a science, and their latest track “Coachella” is no exception. The bilingual bop relives a happier time for a relationship at Coachella, a sadness that feels more relatable now than ever. From the start, it’s a melancholic beat that takes you back to the better times of Aprils past. “We were so happy at Coachella / Life era una novela,” they sing over a hypnotizing chorus that takes on a Spanish twist. As Mexican American artists, it was important for the two to pay homage to their Latin heritage on the track, and the result is swelling daydream that feels as sunny as we could possibly get right now. —Carson Mlnarik
- Kahri 1K: “Fort Night”
Kahri 1K figures out how to turn one of the biggest video games in the world into the soundtrack to sinister activity on “Fort Night,” the latest release from the first artist signed to Pusha T’s new record label, Heir Wave Music. It’s not that far of a stretch since the very nature of Fortnite is attacking people, taking their weapons, and building houses. With a sinister and darkly suggestive beat that would sound at home in an evil chemist’s lab, Kahri puts on a mask and lays on thick lines marinated in a distinctly Virginian drawl. Another thing I love: There’s a nice Menace 2 Society reference that you’ll immediately catch once it cuts on. —Trey Alston
- Ric Wilson & Terrace Martin ft. BJ the Chicago Kid: “Chicago Bae”
I’ve only been to the Windy City a handful of times, but “Chicago Bae” makes me feel like I’m back there. Things begin seemingly in media res, with an indelible hook from BJ the Chicago Kid, quickly zooming into Wilson’s dizzying disco-rap cadence and Martin’s sparkling retro production. It adds up to a towering celebration of the city in three minutes flat. —Patrick Hosken
- Mz.007: “Important”
Mz.007 has something she wants to share, and you’d better listen when she does. She’s important. She’s coming through, bitch. She’s gorgeous. But she really doesn’t need to remind you, because you should already know. This club banger will pump your ego up to the point of no return until you start believing how important you are. Feeling low since you started staying home all the time? Let the St. Louis rapper’s confidence radiate through you and you’ll be strutting from your bedroom to the kitchen in no time. That Zoom call you’re about to jump on has no idea what’s about to hit it. —Brittany Vincent
- Zsela: “Undone”
Today marks the release of Ache of Victory, the highly anticipated debut EP from 25-year-old singer Zsela. The musician has become known within New York’s fine art and fashion circles for her haunting, a capella, mixed, and stripped renditions of Madonna and Nina Simone songs, performed live as soundtracks to runway shows and museum events. That same ethos — slow, otherworldly, yet without unnecessary embellishments — is infused within the single “Undone.” It’s a sparse track, comprised of layers of vocal loops singing together in harmony; the empty space brings the attention to Zsela’s low voice, which vibrates over a softly humming synth, building as if to the edge of an explosion. This must be the sound of a spell: transfixing, commanding. —Coco Romack
- Sam Smith and Demi Lovato: “I’m Ready”
SpongeBob SquarePants might be known for running around Bikini Bottom shouting “I’m ready!” but dare I say that Sam Smith and Demi Lovato do it better? The unexpected duo released their empowering anthem and corresponding Olympic-themed music video late last week, and although the 2020 Summer Olympics have sadly been postponed as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, this bop-and-a-half has me practicing my back handspring, diving (into a bag of potato chips), and training for the triathlon.
Despite the Olympic themes present in the video, the lyrics are actually about being ready for a relationship that, unlike the ones from your past, isn’t completely disappointing. “It’s so hard when you’re with someone / Your heart breaks and it ain’t no fun,” goes the pre-chorus. But just as an olympian risks it all for the gold, Smith and Lovato risk it all for true love. —Jordyn Tilchen
- Wale: “Sue Me”
Wale flips the American script with his new video for “Sue Me” that reimagines the country with its gaze forever fixated on the Black body. White people have become the discriminated-against minority, and over the course of the eight-minute video (which follows star Lucas Hedges), we see dark situations reimagined with the races flipped. Billboards that promote stop-and-frisk have black officers on them, and people minding their business in MoreBucks (a play on Starbucks) get kicked out for doing absolutely nothing wrong, which is based on a real-life situation that happened in 2018.
These moments, and more, are soundtracked by the gospel-influenced tune that finds Wale at his most honest and introspective, exploring everything from how his Nigerian parents have affected him to the reception to his projects that have incensed him in some way. Over the years, Wale has proven himself as one of rap’s top-tier lyricists, and here it shows that he’s stepping into the role with untouchable lyricism. This openness is refreshing and rare, contributing to the feel that listeners are listening to a confessional over a spiritual backing. —Trey Alston
- Tomorrow X Together: “Thank U, Next” (Ariana Grande cover)
Do you need a soothing balm for the quarantine blues? The five boy wonders of Tomorrow X Together got you. While preparing for their next album — confirmed to be dropping in May — the members took some time to record this special gift for patient fans: a soft cover of Ariana Grande’s smash single “Thank U, Next.” This isn’t the first pop cover the boys have posted to their Soundcloud; Soobin, Yeonjun, Beomgyu, Taehyun, and Huening Kai are also huge fans of Shawn Mendes. And, personally, they’ve never sounded better as a unit (those harmonies are impressive), but there’s something ultimately wistful about the track’s delicate piano melody and airy vocals (with an assist from Big Hit Entertainment producer Adora on the backing track).
If Ari’s empowering kiss-off was meant to be screamed at the top of your lungs, then this is for those moments of isolation — a sweet lullaby to drown out the quiet that can be so deafening. —Crystal Bell
- Bronze Avery: “Boys!”
“It’s something ‘bout boys,” Bronze Avery croons on his new track “Boys!” Yeah, there sure fucking is. I hate them but also, er, love them, too! It’s a struggle. “Something ‘bout the way they tell their lies / Makes you feel so special even when you know it’s / Something that I question every time.” Spot on.
Avery’s first single of 2020, “Boys!” is a welcome relief to this dreary, quarantine day in New York City, quickly transporting me back to warmer beach days on Fire Island. Its dreamy soft-pop pulse is as hypnotic as the moment you lock eyes with someone and all your “intuitions [are] under attack” and everything melts away. The accompanying video — another collaboration between Avery, Justin Gilbert, Joe Desantis, and Shawn Binder, saturated with the hazy glow of summer — captures the mood perfectly. Be careful when watching: You just might catch feelings for some “Boys!” —Daniel Head
- Westerman: “Kathy’s Song”
This week, British electronic-pop crooner Westerman dropped “Your Hero Is Not Dead,” a devastatingly beautiful piece built around a few piano chords and his gentle, deep well of a voice. But for about a year, another Westerman venture has refused to leave my head: his wiggly cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s folk ballad “Kathy’s Song.” He keeps the road-weary embrace of the original but adds an entire new dimension with buzzing, plinking electro energy. The result is a mini opus, a pocket symphony of inner conflict and inevitable acceptance. —Patrick Hosken
- DJ Critical Hype Blend’s J. Cole and the Neptunes: “Lights Please”
DJ Critical Hype has done it again. In 2015, he set the internet ablaze with his mashup of Chance the Rapper’s vocals with classic Kanye West beats. Nearly five years later, he’s recreated this magic thanks to the way that he’s mixed J. Cole’s raps over classic beats from Pharrell and The Neptunes. With such spacey and cosmic production, J. Cole’s voice has never sounded so crisp and alive. My personal favorite is J. Cole’s raps from “Lights Please” over the production for Common’s “Come Close.” It’s a nice touch: The former’s about the opposite of love, while the latter is a classic example of blossoming romance. There’s something here for everyone. —Trey Alston
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