The Singer-Songwriter-Solo Stars of Pop: Bonnie McKee, Julia Michaels, Ina Wroldsen, Emily Warren & Sasha Sloan
Like Sia, perhaps the greatest modern example of an artist masterfully doing double duty as one of the industry’s most in-demand pop penners and a pop superstar in her own right, all of these women are not only supplying solid pop, but helping to evolve the idea of what a recording artist could and should be in 2017 and beyond.
Of course, being a pop star who can write a song isn’t a new concept. (Hi, Mariah! Hello, Stefani Germanotta!) But in this strange and uncharted streaming territory – a world of weekly single releases and increasing competition for prime Spotify playlist real estate – there’s good reason to stay versatile for additional exposure (and revenue): you can snag a writing credit on a superstar record, drop a solo track and hop on a dance floor feature all on the same #NewMusicFriday. In this culture of constant consumption, that’s hardly considered overkill: we all just want more (moah).
The below are just some of the latest goods by the girls who are giving us their all – as solo stars, songwriters and everything in between. (Of course, this is hardly all of them, and there are just as many dudes doing it too. This could be an ongoing series. Stay tuned…)
“Riding Shotgun” (with Kygo and Oliver Nelson)
Out: October 29
Responsible for: Britney‘s “Hold It Against Me,” Katy Perry‘s “Teenage Dream,” Cheryl‘s “I Don’t Care”
C’mon, every pop nerd knows Bonnie by now: she’s responsible for some of modern pop royalty’s most incredible Hot 100 smashes in the past decade. Now largely focusing on her solo offerings, Bonnie’s popped up several times in the past year, including her own track “Thorns” and a pitched-up uncredited appearance on Galantis‘ The Aviary highlight “Hey Alligator.” Evidently, she’s foraying further onto the dance floor swith “Riding Shotgun,” a lush team-up with Kygo and Oliver Nelson. Those inescapable Bonnie-level earworm hooks, paired with a thoroughly on-trend 2017 trop-pop vibe and stuttering beat breaks, make for an instant win from the very first listen.
Out: October 12
Responsible for: Dua Lipa‘s “New Rules,” Charli XCX‘s “Boys,” The Chainsmokers‘ “Don’t Let Me Down (feat. Daya)”
Emily Warren is one of the most in-demand writers of the moment – and her songwriting CV already speaks for itself: she’s exclusively provided the brightest highlights of nu-pop in the past few years. “Poking Holes” is Emily’s latest solo offering, which strides along like a more vulnerable, soulful take on Taylor Swift‘s “Blank Space” – and as one would anticipate, the songwriting cuts deep: “Don’t blame the liquor for the things you say that you don’t mean / The small things get bigger, you’re poking holes in you and me.”
“I Miss You” (with Clean Bandit)
Out: October 25
Responsible for: Justin Bieber‘s “Sorry,” Britney‘s “Slumber Party,” Selena Gomez, “Bad Liar”
Hey, the world is falling apart, but at least Julia’s having a stupendous year: “Issues” promptly took off, her debut solo EP Nervous System dropped, and acclaim has only poured in as she’s simultaneously served up even more smashes for stars and come into her own, fully feeling her singer-songwriter oats. “I Miss You” with Clean Bandit is an intriguing blend of Julia’s signature brand of fragility and the “Rather Be” troupe’s joyous electronica sound – and it’ll no doubt only supply the singer-songwriter-solo star with even more new fans.
Out: October 26
Responsible for: Kygo‘s “This Town,” Odesza‘s “Falls, King Henry‘s “I’ll Be There”
Sasha is the least experienced act in this round-up – for now, anyway. The 22-year-old singer-songwriter has been generating buzz behind-the-scenes (her name’s popped up several times on my radar among label friends in the past year), and there’s good reason why: she’s already been tapped to work with everyone from Troye Sivan to Camila Cabello to Tinashe. Now, she’s ready – err, “Ready Yet” – for her own debut. Her sparse solo track spotlights her vulnerable vocal delivery – captivatingly breathy and emotional, similar to Selena Gomez. And the lyrics are just one big ol’ open wound set across a downtempo beat: “I just want to be your friend again, but there’s some shit I can’t forget, I don’t think I’m ready yet…” If that one doesn’t seal the deal, her feature on King Henry’s more sleek, dance floor-friendly “I’ll Be There” surely will.
Out: October 26
Responsible for: The Saturdays‘ “Higher,” Britney, “He About To Lose Me,” Calvin Harris & Disciples, “How Deep Is Your Love?”
Unofficially known as the sixth member of The Saturdays (she’s responsible for literally dozens of songs in their catalog), and formerly one-half of duo Ask Embla (Northern Light remains brilliant), Ina’s going it on her own in 2017 after signing with Simon Cowell‘s Syco. (The massive success of “How Deep Is Your Love?” with Calvin, no doubt, was a factor.) “Strongest” undeniably sounds very familiar, but it’s the songwriting that sets the song far, far apart from anything else: she’s basically freestyling about her ain’t-shit ex above Sia’s “Cheap Thrills” beat (and/or Ed Sheeran‘s own derivation, “Shape of You.”) The lyrics are unbelievably, searingly, fiercely pointed: “How do I explain this shit to our son? / How’d you tell a toddler about a girlfriend? / Daddy’s gone.” Like, fuck. I’m already prepared for my future (first) divorce.