Featuring Conan Gray's "Overdrive", the Return of the Power Ballad, and New Music To Look Forward to from Maisie Peters
Welcome to the first edition of the Music, Musings, and Me newsletter! Before we dive in, let me introduce myself. I’ve been a blogger for four years, a music blogger for two, and a YouTuber for a little over six months. I also happen to write songs. Before COVID, I was a devoted concert attendee, and if you name a pop song released from the year 2000s now, I could probably recite the lyrics back to you in full. I’m a pop music obsessive and a member of a number of fandoms.
I wanted to create a quick, easy way for people to dip into what’s happening in the pop world with weekly email that rounds up everything you need to know and maybe helps you find new artists! And, if you’re as invested in the music world as I am, I want this to be a fun place to fangirl together because I know what it’s like to not have anyone to discuss your favorite musicians with :(. I will happily be all of your fangirl friend.
Each week, in your inbox, I’ll the highlight a can’t miss new song and performance of the week, the most important story in music news, some wisdom from songwriters, and a song releasing in the next week to look forward to.
Of course, if the once a week music download isn’t enough, make sure you have Music, Musings, and Me bookmarked and that you’re subscribed to email notifications for new posts. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel where I react to new music, break down albums, vlog, and more every Monday and Friday. And if you want even more, I’m around on the internet @mslaurenbrice on Twitter and Instagram.
Can’t Miss Song of The Week
If you know me at all, even just vaguely on the internet, you know I’m a major fan of Conan Gray. His debut album, Kid Krow, that released nearly a year ago is a songwriting masterpiece. Now, he’s back with a brand new single “Overdrive”, an ‘80s synth lead pop track that’s a reaction to the morose reality of quarantine. The track proved to be a form of escapism for Conan, who called the track in an Instagram post, “Something to scream into the shower head and fantasize about secret lovers and alternate reckless lives we could’ve lived”. As someone who’s always wondering about my parallel-universe-self, that’s an inviting premise. Though he wasn’t directly referencing “Overdrive” at the time, he also recently told the Guardian, “Although I’m almost always writing about some terrible emotion that I can’t ignore, I think it’s foolish to discredit the joys of fantasy and escape. Sometimes life feels larger than reality.” This new sound and direction seems to showcase Conan exploring that to the fullest extent.
Even more exciting for fans, Conan chatted with NME about “Overdrive” and the status of his upcoming album. While there’s no date yet, the album is coming together. When talking about the songs’ general themes and directions, Conan mentioned, “I’ve also gotten very existential in quarantine, like, ‘Why do I exist? Is fate real? Is there somebody out there that I just haven’t seen yet that’s going to change my life forever?’ I keep having those types of thoughts, so I’ve been writing very existential songs. I’ve been very nostalgic.” It’s the nostalgia in his past tracks like “Little League” and “Idle Town” that initially drew me to his music, so more nostalgia is an inviting possibility. Hopefully the release of “Overdrive” is sign that new music is on the way soon.
Conan also released an adorable music video that truly brings his vision for the song to life as the we fall into his daydream about a life he could have with a stranger he spots across the train tracks. If you want my full thoughts on the video, you can check out my article. This is by far my favorite video he’s put out, even if it isn’t my favorite song of his. The video lives up to his description of the song even more than the song itself.
If you want to learn more about how the entire new era has taken shape leading up to “Overdrive”, be sure to check out my post documenting every clue along the way, Conan Gray’s CG 2 Era Is Starting: All The Clues So Far. Also, if you want my thoughts on “Overdrive” filmed on the night of the release, watch my “Overdrive” Reaction Video.
From Around The Music World
Benefits from the Music Modernization Act, passed in 2018, are finally starting to take effect for the many songwriters and music publishers who fought so passionately for it. If you want to learn more about the process of getting this legislation passed and the continued fight to win fair royalties for songwriters in the streaming age, Ross Golan’s podcast episode with David Israelite, President of the National Music Publishers Association, on And The Writer Is… is a must listen.
On February 16th, the Mechanical Licensing Collective reported that it had collected $424,384,787 of unmatched royalties from a multitude of digital service providers like Spotify and Apple Music. They are currently reviewing the bounty of data from these streaming companies to sort out how the money will be distributed to songwriters and publishing companies who are owed royalties. Luckily, MLC has been preparing for this moment for over a year and has many practical tools to allow songwriters to submit their information to get paid. While the details can get confusing, the main take-away here is that songwriters are finally succeeding on their quest to receive fair compensation for their work from streaming services who have used outdated copy right law to underpay artists and songwriters, making it hard to earn a living in the business.
As a songwriter myself, I not only find new releases and music news fascinating, but I love hearing songwriters discuss their own craft and process. I want to use this section to shine a spotlight on the unsung heroes of the music industry. Increasing songwriter’s visibility and making the public aware of the importance of their work plays a major roll in legitimizing their needs to the government, as the prior story touched on. Also, songwriters are just amazing people and have plenty of important, insightful things to say.
This week, the Guardian released a fantastic article entitled, “Big feelings and nowhere to go: how Gen Z reinvented the power ballad”, that dissects the newest returning trend in music, and one I definitely co-sign. They interviewed a handful of my favorite Gen-Z artists and songwriters about the new trend rewarding musicians for showcasing their brokenness in their songs, clearly showcased by “Driver’s License”’s meteoric rise last month. They discuss the shift from bright, encouraging music to a darker tone that looks at small nuances of emotions.
The only person outside of Gen Z that was interviewed, Dan Nigro, wins his spot in the article because he’s the co-writer and producer behind Olivia Rodrigo’s “Driver’s License”. I was already familiar with Dan from his work with Conan Gray, and I see him becoming the next Jack Antonoff. He observed that, coinciding with my personal taste, lyricism is now king in songwriting, “Something that differs from pop music even a few years ago is that everything is so lyrically-driven and about the concept of the song. Before, you could get away with making a vibe and the lyrics could come later.” He attributes that trend, in part, to a generation of songwriters raised on Taylor Swift, who has always pushed songwriting to the forefront of her music. Both Conan and Olivia have cited Taylor as a major influence, and Dan has focused on nurturing that Swiftian impulse. The other side of this that I see is that Taylor has also raised a generation of listeners who look for strong stories, incredible bridges, and a heaping tablespoon of honesty as a litmus test for what makes their playlists.
Later in the article, Conan hits at exactly what I love about well-written songs, citing more of his own influences, “I don’t want to listen to an empty song trying to mimic a human emotion. I wanna know the dirty details – the names, the places, the exact times. I love that about Lorde, Taylor … they aren’t afraid to say things as they are, because the nitty-gritty, sometimes unglamorous details are what make life and music true.” If you’re a writer of any kind, paying attention to this advice will get you farther than any craft book on the shelves. The story exists in the details. The story becomes relatable because you shared that extremely specific, embarrassing anecdote you thought not a single other human would understand. Giving someone else a chance to realize they’re not alone is the fastest way to form an instant connection. It’s why I make art.
The full article is truly an incredible read and also delves into the demand for authenticity, artists that reflect their listeners from across racial, gender, and sexuality spectrums, and how streaming services have changed our perception of the artist’s role. I would write a point by point analysis of it if I had the time because the quotes and insight here all speak to exactly what the industry needs.
Missing Live Music?
My soul has been slowly withering over the last year without the nourishment of live music, and while videos are no replacement, they do ease the pain a little bit. I wanted to use this section to share my favorite live performance of the week or upcoming virtual concerts to check out.
This week I want all of you to watch Finneas’s Late Late Show performance of one of his singles from this past fall, “Can’t Wait to Be Dead”. If you’re not familiar with Finneas, you might have heard him mentioned in the context of Billie Eilish. Finneas is her brother and co-writer/producer. He’s also an artist in his own right with a totally different sound than Billie’s (and if I’m being honest, I prefer his music… but that can be our secret, right?). As a live performer, he brings an astounding amount of depth to each performance.
This version is fully acoustic, which quickly earned it points in my book. Talent glitters the most with just a guitar and a stool for accompaniment, and I honestly like this version more than the record. The song itself details a disenchantment with the world that we’re all too familiar with having lived through 2020. It’s a cathartic, reflective moment.
Keep An Eye Out Next Week
As any pop music lover will tell you, January was a slow month for new music, but it seems like Thursday night releases will be getting busier from here on out.
At the end of this week, Maisie Peters is releasing a song that’s been in the works for three years now, “John Hughes Movie”, along with dropping the music video. Maisie has been one of my favorite rising pop girls for a while now. If you love sad, wistful songs or Taylor Swift, you’re guaranteed to love Maisie. I also wrote about her last release, a duet with JP Saxe on the blog. Keep an eye out for this new song and remember to add it to your playlist when it drops!
To keep you busy until then, here’s one of my favorite Maisie songs:
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