Because my car is not new or fancy enough to display song titles and artist names when I listen to the radio, I sometimes find myself Shazam-ing while driving. Most recently, while blaring my local Top 40 station, I encountered a minimalist electronic pop song accented with finger snaps, sighing background harmonies, occasional outbursts of trap hihat, whistling interludes, and an understated lead vocal about fire erupting in the sky and dreams about dying. It was like if Lorde tried to write apocalyptic hip-hop cabaret music — which is to say it was like Billie Eilish. Usually I turn to the app when I have no idea who the artist is. In this case, I was merely trying to figure out which Eilish song I was hearing.
Imagine my surprise when I found out “Trampoline” is actually by SHAED, a trio operating out of Washington, DC. The surprise evolved into shock when I learned SHAED released “Trampoline” in 2018, well before Eilish released her #1 debut album this spring, scored her first #1 single, and made the leap from an artist known by every young person to an artist known by every person, period. So not only is “Trampoline” not Eilish, it’s probably not an Eilish ripoff either. It’s just a well-made track that seems to be drafting off Eilish’s momentum — or, given its title, directly or indirectly using Eilish’s success as a springboard from alt-rock radio.
Yes, SHAED’s MELT EP, from which “Trampoline” sprang, is categorized as “alternative” on digital platforms. The song spent multiple weeks at #1 on Billboard’s Alternative Songs and Rock Airplay charts before crossing over to Top 40. And my, is it crossing over. SHAED recently spent two weeks atop the Emerging Artists chart, which, it says here, “ranks the most popular developing artists of the week, using the same formula as the all-encompassing Billboard Artist 100, which measures artist activity across multiple Billboard charts, including the Hot 100, Billboard 200, and the Social 50.” “Trampoline” is #11 at the Pop Songs chart, which measures Top 40 airplay, and #34 on the Hot 100.
Top 40 radio is certainly where “Trampoline” belongs. It is a pop song through and through, with no apparent vestiges of rock ‘n’ roll beyond the way singer Chelsea Lee raises her voice to a fiery wail on the chorus. SHAED’s song is the latest in a series of pop hits that began their rise at rock radio without actually rocking. Lots of artists who’ve been kicking around the industry for years have ridden that pipeline to crossover status, be it youngsters like Lorde and Eilish, established cult stars like Portugal. The Man, or careerist strivers like lovelytheband.
SHAED seem closest to the latter, in ethos if not sound. They’ve been around the major-label system for a good solid decade. Lee signed to Atlantic as a solo artist way back in 2009. Her boyfriend (now fiancé) Spencer Ernst and his twin brother Max had a pop band called Trust Fall and were in talks with Epic around the same time. When the deal fell through, they enrolled at Maryland and started the folk-rock band the Walking Sticks, which Lee eventually joined after leaving Atlantic. By 2016 they had gone electronic, changed their name to SHAED, and signed to Photo Finish, a New York-based indie label distributed by Universal whose roster almost entirely comprises microscopic-font corporate festival acts like Marian Hill, MisterWives, and Rozes.
That’s basically what SHAED are too. There are a lot of bands on alternative radio that sound like teeny-bopper rock, but they’re still recognizable as rock, or at least (in the increasingly common cases of category-averse genre-splices) a mutant outgrowth of rock. The MELT EP is not that. It’s mostly not even Chvrches-style synth-pop with a rock spirit, though the title track could pass for Phantogram in a pinch. Opener “You Got Me Like” is trap-infused R&B that could be on a late-career Mariah Carey or Alicia Keys album. Deep cuts “Keep Calling” and “Silver Knife” are basically Adele with synthesizers. And now they’ve released a “Trampoline” remix with Zayn that makes the song feel at least 75% more adult contemporary.
No SHAED shade is intended. Some of these songs are pretty good, the original “Trampoline” especially. The deftness with which they’ve welded a big bravura synth-pop chorus to those on-trend minimalist verses makes me want to fire off chef’s-kiss emojis like I’m Oprah tossing car keys to a studio audience. I just still find it remarkable that alternative radio is a hotbed for this sort of thing, and has been for years. And a part of me still can’t believe “Trampoline” is not the latest single off WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?
For the fourth week in a row, Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts” is the #1 song in America. According to Billboard, it thus surpasses Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow (Money Moves)” as the longest-running #1 hit by an unaccompanied female rapper. Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello’s “Señorita” is at #2, with Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy” up next at #3 and then, at a new #4 peak, Lewis Capaldi’s “Someone You Loved.”
Also at a new peak is Lil Nas X’s “Panini,” which at #5 becomes his second top 10 hit. Because “Panini” interpolates Nirvana’s “In Bloom,” the late Kurt Cobain also gets his second writing credit on a top 10 hit this decade following Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake’s #4-peaking “Holy Grail,” which interpolated “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” (In case you’re wondering, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” itself peaked at #6 and was Nirvana’s highest-charting song.) The rest of the top 10: Lil Tecca’s “Ransom,” Chris Brown and Drake’s “No Guidance,” Post Malone and Young Thug’s “Goodbyes,” Post Malone’s “Circles,” and Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus’ “Old Town Road.”
Post Malone’s Hollywood’s Bleeding holds down the #1 spot on the Billboard 200 albums chart for the second straight week with 198,000 equivalent album units and 26,000 in sales. Debuting at #2 with 86,000 units/73,000 sales is the Lumineers’ III. All three of their albums have now debuted in the top two. Taylor Swift, Young Thug, Lil Tecca, Lizzo, and Billie Eilish are #3, #4, #5, #6, and #7 respectively. Korn’s The Nothing enters at #8 with 33,000 units/29,000 sales. Per Billboard, it’s their their 14th top 10 album. Chris Brown and Lil Nas X round out the top 10.
Maroon 5 – “Memories”
Given that “Memories” is one of the prettiest, least aggravating songs in Maroon 5’s catalog, I don’t even really mind that it rips off both “No Woman No Cry” and “Canon In D.” The lyrics are almost touching!
Bebe Rexha – “You Can’t Stop The Girl”
I am confused about the function this inspirational anthem fulfills in Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil. This doesn’t sound like a mistress of evil’s anthem. Can somebody explain the plot to me? Anyway, congrats to Bebe Rexha on her Mickey Mouse money moves.
Monsta X – “LOVE U”
Further confusion: I thought K-pop was supposed to be distinct from Western pop in, like, any way at all? I am disappointed to report that “LOVE U” could just as easily be Why Don’t We or PRETTYMUCH. On the plus side, it would be one of either group’s best songs, so maybe I am splitting hairs here.
Flume – “Rushing Back” (Feat. Vera Blue)
Boilerplate pop songs would be a lot less boilerplate if they had breakdowns that sounded like a glitch in the matrix.
Lindsay Lohan – “Xanax”
I want this to be so much better or worse than it is. Also, a song about hating the LA party scene you can’t quit feels a little on-the-nose in this instance, no? Write what you know, I guess.
NEWS IN BRIEF
- Lana Del Rey is dating a cop. [ET]
- Charlie Puth tweeted, and later deleted, “If 6ix9ine gets out and is able to make another record i’ll produce it for free.” [Twitter]
- Dixie Chicks’ first album in 14 years, producted by Jack Antonoff, is titled Gaslighter. [Saving Country Music]
- In an interview with The Guardian Louis Tomlinson addressed that animated sex scene between him and Harry Styles on HBO’s Euphoria: “Again, I get the cultural intention behind that. But I think … It just felt a little bit … No, I’m not going to lie, I was pissed off. It annoyed me that a big company would get behind it.” [The Guardian]
- A judge decided Britney Spears’ father Jamie will continue as conservator of her estate, despite the challenge from the pop star’s mother and a restraining order that prevents him from contacting Britney’s children. [TMZ]
- Ryan Tedder is reportedly going to work on the next U2 album. [AtU2]
- Kanye West settled his lawsuit with EMI Publishing. [The Blast]
- Renée Zellweger and Sam Smith released “Get Happy” from the Judy soundtrack. [Spotify]
- The first two unmasked celebs on The Masked Singer were Johnny Weir and Ninja. [Twitter]
- Zedd and Kehlani’s “Good Thing” is out tomorrow. [Instagram]
- Halsey announced some European tour dates. [Instagram]
- Lizzo released a “Truth Hurts” remix with K-Pop band AB6IX. [Spotify]
- Maluma and J Balvin’s “Que Pena” is out tomorrow. [Instagram]
- J Balvin also teased a collaboration with SpongeBob SquarePants. [Billboard]
- Here’s a clip of an old cut SNL sketch starring Justin Timberlake as Michael McDonald. [YouTube]
HOLD ON, WE’RE GOING HOME
Hey @lizzo, lemme be your accessory. I can be a purse… put a chain around me and I'll hold your stuff for you… just sayin.
— Frankie Muniz (@frankiemuniz) September 25, 2019