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Life Listens: New music from Olivia Rodrigo, The Rolling Stones, Doja Cat, Hwasa, Charlie Lim and Linying

In this weekly column, The Straits Times curates the most buzz-worthy music you need to know about now.

Ace Album: Olivia Rodrigo – Guts

Second albums are always dicey, a litmus test of whether an artiste’s early success is a fluke or the result of inherent artistry.

American singer Olivia Rodrigo successfully overcomes the dreaded sophomore slump with Guts, the successor to her commercially and critically successful debut album Sour (2021).

Guts’ 12 tracks – emotive piano ballads and fun pop-punk sing-alongs that dip into various pop and rock sub-genres from the past few decades – are enjoyable listening from start to finish.

They capture the spirit of what it feels like to be a member of Gen Z navigating his or her late teens. Rodrigo, who turned 20 in February, wrote the songs when she was 19.

There is a lot of drama about falling in and out of love. Tracks such as chart-topping lead single Vampire, ​​Love Is Embarrassing and Logical narrate the vagaries of young romance, the regrets that come with falling for the wrong guy and the confusion that follows a break-up.

Songs like ​All-American B****, Lacy and ​Ballad Of A Homeschooled Girl grapple with societal and peer pressure, while Making The Bed is an astute rumination on how early success is not all it is cracked up to be for a teenager.

Brimming with lyrical wit and musical maturity, Guts cements Rodrigo’s status as one of pop’s most precocious young stars. – Eddino Abdul Hadi

Must-see MV: The Rolling Stones – Angry

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British rock ’n’ roll elders The Rolling Stones have always tapped youthful zest for their work. And the music video for Angry – the lead single from Hackney Diamonds, their first album of original material in 18 years – is no different.

It stars American actress and Gen Z star Sydney Sweeney, best known for her roles in shows such as drama series Euphoria (2019 to present) and the first season of comedy-drama series The White Lotus (2021).

Dressed in a black leather Versace corset, the 26-year-old Emmy nominee gyrates on an open-top car as it cruises around Hollywood.

The band do not appear in person, but videos of singer Mick Jagger and guitarists Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood, and even late drummer Charlie Watts, from past performances are played on the billboards lining the roads.

Clever editing makes it seem like a young Jagger, from archival footage, is singing the lyrics of Angry.

Driven by Richards’ and Wood’s sparkling guitar riffs and Jagger’s spirited vocals, this sprightly track proves that the 61-year-old band still have plenty of fire in them. – Eddino Abdul Hadi

Chart Champ: Doja Cat – Paint The Town Red

American rapper-singer Doja Cat made a pounce for the big leagues with her new single Paint The Town Red.

It is No. 1 on the American Billboard charts, the first rap song to top Billboard since August 2022 – the longest absence of a hip-hop track in first place since 2001.

Paint The Town Red is also the artiste’s first to top the British charts, and it went to No. 1 in Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

The track is Doja Cat’s second to hit pole position on the American song charts. She first achieved this with the 2020 hit Say So, which featured fellow American rapper Nicki Minaj.

On Spotify, Paint The Town Red made history as the first solo female rap song to top the platform’s American charts.

Asserting dominance through braggadocio lyrics and her trademark sass, she samples American soul veteran Dionne Warwick’s 1964 R&B classic Walk On By, penned by legendary songwriting duo Burt Bacharach and Hal David.

Paint The Town Red is an early single from Doja Cat’s upcoming fourth album Scarlet, one of the most anticipated hip-hop releases of 2023. – Eddino Abdul Hadi

Singapore Scene: Charlie Lim, Linying & Katz – Definitely

Definitely is a three-way collaboration between home-grown singers-songwriters Charlie Lim and Linying, and Australian producer and electronic artist Katz.

Lim first worked on the tune with Katz, his old friend and regular collaborator, while visiting his family in Australia.

Linying, who is based in Los Angeles, wrote what would become the verse and chorus after seeing Lim and Katz jamming to an early version of the song on Instagram.

She says in a statement: “It was instinctive, immediate and so enjoyable.”

It is not the first time Lim, who is now based in London, and Linying have worked together, but he describes this particular collaboration as being exceptional.

“We all knew we were sitting on something really special after she sent her first take over,” he says in a press release.

A melancholic, multifaceted tune, the piano-driven ballad is elevated by Lim and Linying’s stunning vocal harmonies, and memorable melodies that linger long after the song ends. – Eddino Abdul Hadi

Stream This Song: Hwasa – I Love My Body

Hwasa, a member of K-pop group Mamamoo, is back with I Love My Body, an exuberant tune about loving one’s unique body – tummy and all – that is similar in spirit to American singer Meghan Trainor’s 2014 hit All About That Bass.

It is a fitting song for 28-year-old Hwasa, who has a darker complexion and curvier figure than the average female K-pop idol – traits which have attracted mean comments from netizens in the past.

This is her first solo release since signing with South Korean singer-producer Psy’s record label P Nation in July.

The track’s release also comes amid a wave of controversy for Hwasa, who is known for her sexy image.

She was called in for questioning by the police after being accused of staging an obscene performance at a music festival at Seoul’s Sungkyunkwan University in May.

Her provocative dance moves were reported by the Student Parent’s Rights Protection Union, a civic group in South Korea, for being indecent.

In a recent online talk-show appearance, the singer admitted to being extremely affected by the incident and the deluge of hate she received.

She recalled having a breakdown after Mamamoo’s New York concert in May, and was feeling lost about her future when Psy sent her a demo of I Love My Body, which lifted her mood with its body-positive message. – Jan Lee

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