Bop Shop: Songs From Darren Criss, Wendy, AJ Mitchell, And More

Red Velvet’s Wendy made her debut as a solo artist this week with “Like Water,” an ethereal acoustic ballad that compares the free-flowing nature of the liquid to healing, everlasting love. “My love is like water / Filling your sore spots,” she sings. “It covers the deep wounds and embraces you tightly / It makes you rise again.” Finding beauty in simplicity, the stripped-back tune allows Wendy’s soaring vocals to take center stage as she effortlessly flits from delicate humming to phenomenal high notes. Cool, clear, and cleansing, “Like Water” is a refreshing, thirst-quenching new start for the singer. —Emlyn Travis

Doja Cat and Sza Are Out Of This World In ‘Kiss Me More’ Video

Welcome to Planet Her. It’s a mysterious, flourishing world filled with glittering oases, calming zen gardens, pastel sunset skies, and blossoming cherry trees that is ruled by two larger-than-life queens: Doja Cat and Sza. This is the backdrop for the team’s newest music video for “Kiss Me More,” out Friday (April 9), and the first glimpse of Doja’s forthcoming album, Planet Her.

The Warren Fu-directed visual kicks off when a wayward astronaut, played by Alex Landi, crash-lands during a mission to explore the uncharted planet. As he voyages through sand and sea, alien versions of Doja and Sza provide soulful ambiance to his journey as they croon along to the sensuous, slow-grooving disco track. Doja is no stranger to serving out-of-this-world looks — last year, she became a pink creature for her performances of “Say So” and “Like That” at the 2020 Video Music Awards.

But it’s not all smooth sailing. After meeting Doja and Sza, the astronaut wakes up in a glass tube only to discover that he’s become the girls’ latest treasure among a collection of other men who have tried to scope out their home before him. The two enjoy a hilarious ending scene where they play a video game version of the astronaut’s adventure and poke fun at the pronunciation of Earth.

Chatting with Sza for V magazine last month, Doja Cat described how her musicality is slowly crystalizing into the singular sound heard on “Kiss Me More.” She said, “For me, I want to try all these things, but I’m starting to learn what I’m falling into is a lot of the house, disco, vintage-y essences—that’s where my heart kind of lies. But I still am doing shit that I don’t understand. It’s still really fun!”

Last September, she revealed on Instagram Live with the rapper Fat Joe that her forthcoming album was already finished. “It’s all ready. I hate that I’m holding onto it right now,” she said. “They are going to get an album that I 100 percent am ready to drop and I am overly excited to put that out.”

DMX, Prolific ‘Ruff Ryder’s’ Rapper, Has Died At 50

Earl Simmons, the prolific rapper who came up in the ’90s battle-rap scene and ruled early aughts hip-hop as Dark Man X, or DMX, died on Friday (April 9). He was 50 years old.

DMX died after suffering a heart attack, multiple sources have confirmed. It was triggered by an overdose, which TMZ first reported occurred around 11 p.m. on the evening of Friday, April 2. DMX was taken to a hospital in White Plains, New York, where he was in critical condition and on life support. His death was declared on Friday.

His team shared in a statement, per XXL: “We are deeply saddened to announce today that our loved one, DMX, birth name of Earl Simmons, passed away at 50-years-old at White Plains Hospital with his family by his side after being placed on life support for the past few days. Earl was a warrior who fought till the very end. He loved his family with all of his heart and we cherish the times we spent with him.”

DMX’s life and career marked a pivotal moment in hip-hop, and music at large, even in the face of adversities. Born in Mount Vernon, New York, on December 18, 1970, he was raised in Yonkers. He began rapping as a teen, and named himself DMX for his beatboxing skills, after the Overheim DMX drum machine. Even with his struggles of growing up in an abusive household, and dropping out of school in the fifth grade, his talents laid the foundation for his entrance into the music industry. In 1984, he began performing as a beatboxer with the rapper Ready Ron.

“I used to beatbox, a long time ago, like right when I started writing. And the DMX is a beat machine,” he told MTV News in 1998. “So, when I started rhyming, though, I just kept the name.”

DMX was signed to Columbia Records’ subsidiary label Ruffhouse in 1992 and released his debut single “Born Loser.” His first major-label single “Get at Me Dog” came in February 1998 and was certified Gold. He released the album It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot later that year, debuting at No. 1 on Billboard 200 chart. His next four albums, including his bestselling … And Then There Was X in 1999, each debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, a record for rappers to this day. Across his discography, he received a total of five nods from the MTV Video Music Awards and three from the Grammys.

DMX’s star continued to rise as he graced the silver screen in movies like Romeo Must Die and Belly; he earned a MTV Movie Award nomination for his breakthrough performance in Exit Wounds and even landed his own BET reality series DMX: Soul of a Man. But in the background, DMX struggled with an addiction to crack cocaine that began as a teenager. In a 2013 interview, he said that, “It was something that drew me in, and trapped me, and just had a hold on me for a long, long time.” But the disease did not define him; he used his platform to speak out on the genre’s glorification of substance misuse.

In spite of that, DMX was primed to make his return to the stage. He began releasing music again in recent years, including the Swizz Beatz collaboration “Bain Iz Back.” In July 2020, he faced off against Snoop Dogg in a Verzuz battle. His return to Def Jam was announced in September 2019, and he had been hard at work on the follow-up to 2012’s Undisputed.

At times throughout his decades-long career, the spectacle around DMX’s struggles nearly clouded the work, but his constant battle toward overcoming those personal hardships is what gave his music its metal. It could be heard in the steely rawness of “Ruff Ryder’s Anthem” and the intuitive lyricism of “Dogs Out.” He told MTV News about the latter in 2021: “I always try to include a double-meaning. I know it’s poetry because the more you listen to it, the more you get out of it.”

The same could be said of DMX’s life, a story of hard-won success and real humanity that came to pervade and topple the 2000s airwaves. The title of his final album is apt — truly, DMX’s contributions to the industry and hip-hop history are impossible to dispute.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance misuse, get support at halfofus.com.

Japanese Breakfast Is A Grocery-Store Ghost In ‘Posing In Bondage’ Video

Although her third album Jubilee isn’t set to be released until June 4, Japanese Breakfast is certainly keeping her fans well-fed with fresh tunes. On Thursday (April 8), the 32-year-old singer-songwriter, born Michelle Zauner, unveiled a slew of brand new tour dates and an eerie, dreamlike music video for “Posing in Bondage,” the second single from her upcoming album.

The atmospheric, self-directed clip sees Zauner bloodied and chugging orange juice from a plastic jug as she rolls through a grocery store on a hoverboard in the early hours of the morning. While hosting a YouTube Live before the video’s premiere, the singer said she drew artistic inspiration for the project from Björk’s “All Is Full of Love” and Solange’s “Lovers in a Parking Lot” music videos, as well as the Netflix series Stranger Things.

“There was supposed to be a robot in this video,” she revealed. “It did not happen.”

When explaining the meaning behind the song, Zauner said in a statement, “‘Posing in Bondage’ is a ballad about loneliness and longing, a song about two people who want so badly to connect but are never quite able to do so. No place felt lonelier than an empty grocery at 1 a.m.” And speaking of grocery stores, her memoir, Crying in H Mart, named after the Korean-American supermarket chain, is out April 15 too.

Speaking later on YouTube Live, Zauner hinted that the music video for “Posing in Bondage” is an “epilogue” to a forthcoming single that is slated to be dropped on a to-be-announced date before the album’s June release. “I probably shouldn’t reveal too much, but this ended up being an epilogue that comes before another video,” she said. “There’s going to be one more single before the album releases on June 4 and I can’t wait for you to see it. It’s epic. I think it’s maybe our best video yet.”

St. Vincent Performs In A Crystal Ball In Dreamy ‘The Melting Of The Sun’ Music Video

When St. Vincent debuted her newest track, “The Melting of the Sun,” on Saturday Night Live on April 3, she sat the portrait of a ‘70s superstar in a heavy fur coat and a glittering white and pink dress with her electric guitar in hand. Though it was visually gorgeous, there was a tender, haunting quality to the performance that lay simmering just beneath its surface. A mix of beauty and tragedy simultaneously.

That contradiction takes center stage in song’s accompanying music video, which was released on Wednesday (April 7). Part of the 38-year-old singer/songwriter’s upcoming album Daddy’s Home, which will be released on May 14, the clip instantly fits in well with the album’s already clear aesthetic; it’s a boldly colored, ‘70s-inspired happy-go-lucky dreamscape  … or so it first appears.

Co-directed by St. Vincent and Bill Benz, the music video feels instantly reminiscent of Schoolhouse Rock! as it blends old-school animation, with its brightly-hued backgrounds and cute character design, and live performance together. Though it might initially bring back waves of childhood nostalgia, the video’s storyline slowly unveils a much darker side of life that’s never been seen before in any beloved old cartoons.

Instead, it tells the story of the group of heroines referenced in the song — including Marilyn Monroe, Nina Simone, and Joni Mitchell — and compares the stories of gifted female artists and the underlying pain they experienced in the heyday of their entertainment careers to the end of the world.

“It’s just the melting of the sun / I wanna watch you watch it burn,” she sings. “We always knew this day would come / it’s just the melting of the sun.”

In March, St. Vincent told Rolling Stone that the single was her ‘love letter’ to the female artists, especially the ones mentioned. “People tried to quiet them when they were saying something that was righteous or true or hard to hear,” she said. “[That song] in particular is a love letter to strong, brilliant female artists. Each of them survived in an environment that was in a lot of ways hostile to them.”

Taylor Swift Drops ‘From The Vault’ Breakup Bop ‘Mr. Perfectly Fine’

At this point, it’s safe to say Taylor Swift has mastered the element of surprise. Her last two albums — 2020’s Folklore and Evermore — were both released either on the same day or within the week were announced online. Then, in February, she broke the internet with the announcement she was re-recording her 2008 album Fearless. Now, on Wednesday (April 7), Swift gave the world “Mr. Perfectly Fine,” a previously unreleased single that will appear on the new version of the album.

Though Swift is preparing to release the re-recording of Fearless on April 9, titled Fearless (Taylor’s Version), that doesn’t mean she still doesn’t have a few more tricks up her sleeve. She took to Twitter this morning to share the new song, and we all have our inner goblin voices to thank for it. “Me in 2020: life is chill, writing songs based in fiction to avoid drama, feeling pretty grown up,” she wrote. “My 2008 music from the vault, in a goblin voice: ‘REELEEEEEEASE MR PERFECTLY FIIIIIIINE!’”

“Mr. Perfectly Fine” is one of six unreleased tracks “from the vault” that will be included on Fearless (Taylor’s Version). The dreamy country-tinged pop single takes aim at a man who seemed too good to be true while they were dating but ends up “perfectly fine” with someone new after the brutal breakup. “Hello Mr. Perfectly fine / How’s your heart after breaking mine?” Swift questions in the lyrics. “Hello Mr. Casually cruel / Mr. Everything revolves around you / I’ve been Miss Misery since your goodbye.”

Though the song is rumored to be about Joe Jonas, that hasn’t stopped his wife and actress Sophie Turner from enjoying it. She posted an image of the song on her Instagram story and wrote: “it’s not NOT a bop.” Taylor replied in kind, sharing Turner’s story on Instagram and writing: “forever bending the knee for the [queen] of the north.”

This isn’t the first song Swift’s unveiled from Fearless (Taylor’s Version) ahead of its release; she released the poignant, banjo-twanging country heartbreak anthem “You All Over Me,” featuring Maren Morris, on March 26. Last week, she shared the official tracklist for the album which includes a total of 27 songs and new collaborations with artists like Colbie Caillat and Keith Urban.

Swift is currently in the process of re-recording all of her albums that were released prior to 2019’s Lover in an effort to gain ownership of her own music after her master recordings were purchased and later re-sold by former management. Her first re-recording of her beloved 2008 single “Love Story” was released in February.

Tierra Whack Climbs Aboard A Lego Spaceship In Dreamy ‘Link’ Music Video

Tierra Whack has all the building blocks she needs in the dreamy, intergalactic music video for her latest single “Link,” out Tuesday (April 6).

Released as part of Lego’s “Rebuild the World” campaign, which aims to inspire everyone to “see the world through through children’s eyes,” the video’s storyline was created by Whack and a group of children after they spent the day playing together with the colorful bricks. The rapper admitted she initially had “no previous vision” for the visuals prior to meeting the kids. “I was so excited. I knew the kids would give me good content,” she said in a video about the experience. “I feel so good today. I want to work with kids every day.”

The music video was directed by Cat Solen, who previously worked with Whack on the corresponding clip for 2019 single “Unemployed,” and features the 25-year-old musician and visual artist living on a desert planet with adorable alien friends who all share their Legos. Together, they build a colorful spaceship, which somehow resembles both a kangaroo and a chameleon, and Whack heads for outer space. Once she leaves her friends behind, however, she quickly makes the decision to reverse course and return home.

In addition to the music video, Lego also shared a heartwarming behind-the-scenes video that features the kids’ reaction to the music video. It’s all quite wholesome: There’s looks of sheer delight and surprise, and, most importantly, they were all very excited to see their artistic vision realized.

Speaking later in the same video about her own artistic vision — Whack’s past visuals have ranged from hybrid stuffed animals and graveyard puppets in “Whack World” to sentient potatoes in “Unemployed” — Whack shared that each music video is another chance for her to change the “perspective” of the story she’s telling.

“When I finally get to make a visual for my songs, it’s just another shot to think of a perspective of how I could describe the same thing,” she said. “That’s my whole thing just telling my truth. Whether I’m sad, whether I’m happy, whatever emotion I’m feeling — this is coming from me. This is my authentic self.”

BTS Continue To Smash Chart Records with Feel-Good Summer Single ‘Dynamite’

Since the release of BTS’s feel-good, disco-infused summer single “Dynamite” last August, the group has made it an almost weekly habit of setting new records on the Billboard charts. The track became the group’s first-ever No. 1 single on the Hot 100 chart (and the boys promptly threw a party to celebrate), but the subsequent accolades it’s garnered since its release — including hitting the top of both the Billboard Global 200 and Billboard Global Excl. U.S charts — have solidified BTS’s place among the highest echelons of pop culture.

And, as life goes on, the Bangtan Boys stay winning. On Monday (April 5), “Dynamite” once again added two new impressive titles to BTS’s ever-growing list of achievements: they became not only the longest-charting Korean artist on the Hot 100, but also broke the record for longest number one single in Digital Song Sales chart history too.

After 32 weeks on the Hot 100 chart, the group has officially become the longest-charting Korean artist in the chart’s history with “Dynamite.” Up until this week, the previous record of 31 weeks on the Hot 100 had been held by Psy’s iconic single “Gangnam Style,” which cinched the record in 2013 and held it for the last seven years.

On the same day, it was revealed that “Dynamite” had also hit 18 weeks at No. 1 on the Digital Song Sales chart and became the longest-held No. 1 in that chart’s history, too. The song surpasses Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s 2017 hit “Despacito” featuring Justin Bieber, which previously held the title for 17 weeks.

Earlier this week, BTS shared their excitement alongside Justin Bieber and Demi Lovato after it was announced that their entertainment company, HYBE (previously known as Big Hit Entertainment), would purchase Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings. “We’re so happy to see so many artists that we cherish and love become a part of this family,” leader RM said. “It feels like the world is getting more connected and even smaller.”

With HYBE’s newest global acquisition and interest in BTS spreading even further internationally — especially after their stellar performance at the 2021 Grammys last month — the group continues to light up music charts across the globe with a passion, style, and “a little funk and soul.”

Lil Nas X Has A Message For Haters As ‘Montero (Call Me By Your Name)’ Gallops To No. 1

In addition to calling him by your name, you can also call Lil Nas X a two-time Billboard No. 1 artist. The 21-year-old’s latest single, “Montero (Call Me By Your Name),” reached the top spot of the Billboard Hot 100 charts on April 5. In response, he’s rightfully taken to social media to revel in the achievement and, of course, share a few SpongeBob memes along the way.

“Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” is Lil Nas X’s second single to hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts after his record-pulverizing hitOld Town Road” back in 2019. Now, with a fresh record under his belt, he’s taking a stand against haters who have tried to undermine him throughout his meteoric rise to stardom.

“Y’all told a 19-year-old who had just escaped the lowest point of his life that he would never have a hit again,” he tweeted. “You told him to stop while he’s ahead. He could’ve given up. But four multi-platinum songs and two #1’s later, he’s still here.”

Lil Nas X’s latest single is his most personal yet, so much so that he even penned a letter to his 14-year-old self about his decision to release it. Its visually stunning music video, which sees him spiral down a stripper pole to hell and seducing the devil, has garnered over 96 million views at the time of this writing and, of course, a flurry of reactions online due to its religious imagery.

In true Lil Nas X fashion though, he has effortlessly shut down anyone who’s tried to come at him online with both quick wit and honesty. “I hope my haters are sad. I hope they are crying,” he wrote. “I want your tears to fill my Grammy cup.”

Lil Nas X then shared a clip that had been filmed back in June 2020 to congratulate his future self on all of his success. “Hello Lil Nas X in the future. The last video I recorded was super sad and the sound quality was shit, so I took it as a sign. Now I’m making this new video and I want to say I’m proud of you!” he says in the clip. “Congratulations! You deserve all of the good shit that’s happening to you right now. You deserve all that shit on God. I’m proud of you — you pushed through.”

And to all of his supporters, he had one final message: “All jokes aside, we get to control our own destiny. Never let the world decide it for you. No matter how dark it may look, keep fucking going!”

Enhypen Make A Magical Introduction To Forthcoming Album Border: Carnival

Enhypen understands the power of a great story. Whether it’s the group’s transformation into vampires captured in the track “Given-Taken” or using squares as portals in follow-up single “20 Cube (Let Me In),” the K-pop septet from Belift Lab’s music videos are not only aesthetically gorgeous, but also ripe with supernatural imagery, allusions, and symbolism. Now, as the group gears up to release their second mini-album, Border: Carnival, on April 26, they’re breaking new ground with a lyric video that toes the line between spooky and psychedelic.

The visuals, released on Monday (April 5), invite viewers into a dark world full of castles, bats, masquerade masks, and the ominous sounds of children singing before it explodes into a kaleidoscope of color and bouncy, psychedelic rock that envelops the senses. As the world drips and spins around the video’s protagonist, an underlying eeriness lingers within the vivid dreamscape as a blood-red moon and flames all flash briefly across the screen.

Border: Carnival not only marks Enhypen’s return, but it is also a continuation of their “Border” series that began last November with their debut LP, Border: Day One. The song which plays throughout, “Intro: Invitation,” is the first track on the upcoming album, allowing member Jake to set the tone with a magical, mysterious speech performed entirely in English.

“Purchasing pleasures in selling hours of dross here in the land of rebel powers. Gloriously decorated, an invitation calls to us from the carnival of the dazzling night,” he says. “So we beat on the door of this flipped world, brought here by fate, whether the harvest feast of light or a festival of blood. Time harmonizes laughs and screams.” He continues. “A dizzying flicker. A light that blinds and deceives. And from the great beyond that voice rings out again: ‘Here, come inside the castle. Take everything.’”