February is a time of beautiful contradiction. While the cold slowly dwindles, hearts open up — pink and red candies line drug store aisles, handwritten notes experience a well-earned surge in popularity. This year, it has also been a time for delightfully complex music releases. Mitski’s Laurel Hell sees the artist reflecting on fame and loneliness through irresistible synth-pop; Caroline Polachek leans into the esoteric on her versatile single “Billions.” Even then, some standout releases may have slipped beneath your radar. That’s why music beats Ian Fredrickson and Lauren Harvey are here to guide you through some music highlights you may have missed!
Slut Pop, Kim Petras
Released Feb. 11, Kim Petras’ Slut Pop is a far cry from the singer’s bouncy, juvenile aura in her previous singles “Coconuts” and “Malibu.” An X-rated, Eurodance-inspired, seven-track LP, the work combines dark instrumentals with the undeniably Kim Petras ethos of hilarious lyricism and earwormy hooks.
If you’re on the gay side of TikTok, around half the track list will be immediately familiar to you on the first listen. The viral tracks “Treat Me Like A Slut” and “Throat Goat” pair harsh synths with intentionally vapid, unapologetically horny lyrics. The latter track kicks off with an uncanny sample of a bleating goat before jumping into an abrasive bassline. With witty lyrics “I just sucked my ex, no gag reflex/ I just had to flex, I’m the throat goat,” one might say Petras is a bit … cocky.
Although the aforementioned tracks are obvious highlights off the record, there isn’t a single skippable song within the album’s 16-minute playthrough. Ringing in a hyper-sexual, club-forward era of Petras’ musical catalog, Slut Pop is nothing short of a smart, energetic listen.
–– Ian Fredrickson
“Fast Times,” Sabrina Carpenter
As the name implies, Sabrina Carpenter’s “Fast Times” is delightfully fast-paced. The music video sees Carpenter assuming many different roles — a mysterious brunette in a leather jacket, a bombshell blonde in monochrome pink. Just as the viewer grasps on, the songstress slips away. The video culminates in a “Kill Bill”-esque fight sequence, and Carpenter secures a mysterious black briefcase, a knowing look in her eye.
In her latest singles, Carpenter has demonstrated a lyrical mastery that beautifully accompanies her casual delivery. In “Skinny Dipping,” released last September, she uses the sultry title as a vehicle for poetic reflections on lost love. In “Fast Times,” she does much of the same, though the jazz-infused instrumentation adds an element of mystery and evasiveness. She appears at once attached and distant, dizzying the listener and reflecting the whirlwind nature of life.
If “Fast Times” is any indication, Carpenter’s forthcoming album is sure to be a kaleidoscope of musical style and personal reflection — keeping listeners on their toes while inviting them to see the world through her eyes.
–– Lauren Harvey
“Celebrity Skin,” Doja Cat
Recorded to be a backing track in a Taco Bell commercial, the initial intent of Doja Cat’s cover of Hole’s “Celebrity Skin” may not have seemed like a recipe for the song’s success. However, the stark contrast between Doja’s previously pop-focused works and the single’s distorted, pop-punk production perked listeners’ ears –– and for good reason.
Doja’s vocals are put on full display while she sings the angsty lyrics “Wilted and faded somewhere in Hollywood/ I’m glad I came hеre with your pound of flesh,” as audiences are granted a glimpse into a different side of the artist. Paired with a shockingly enjoyable Super Bowl ad placement, Doja finds herself in a feverish clown lunchroom before following through with an extravagant escape –– alongside her clown posse –– on the hunt for the nearest Taco Bell.
The cover holds the potential to shift Doja into a genre that she has been suited to produce since the start of her career. Unafraid to push musical boundaries and change up her own celebrity image, the future of the Doja Cat enterprise is incredibly promising and “Celebrity Skin” may be just the start of her pop-punk evolution.
–– Ian Fredrickson
“Debbie Downer,” LØLØ and Maggie Lindemann
Pop punk is in its renaissance, and female artists are actively fanning the flames. In their collaboration “Debbie Downer,” rising artists LØLØ and Maggie Lindemann marry “Bring it On” with youthful grunge, producing a spectacle of Y2K appeal that embraces “all black everything sad and weird.”
Last year, Canadian artist LØLØ proved herself a force to be reckoned with, touring with New Found Glory and releasing the delectably emo EP Overkill. With songs such as “Death Wish” and “Hurt Less,” she leaned into her inner Avril Lavigne and felt all her feelings — even the not-so-pretty ones. On the tail of this release, a collaboration with Lindemann, who has opened for both The Vamps and Madison Beer, feels only natural.
“Brrr, it’s cold in here/ She suck the life out of your atmosphere,” LØLØ and Lindemann chant in their all-black cheer uniforms. Through witty and subversive pop culture references, they embrace those who feel like they don’t belong, pushing back against the idea that women need to always put on a happy face. Along with the likes of Olivia Rodrigo and WILLOW, they artfully sculpt out a new space for female artists, and they honor the “Debbie Downer” in each of us.
–– Lauren Harvey
Other notable releases: “All I Want,” Fraxiom; “MAYFLY,” Frost Children and Gary Wilson