Skip to Content

Are you still singing the lyrics to Sabrina Carpenter’s “Espresso”? Are you still dancing to Tyla’s “Water” like it just came out? Maybe you’ve been working while listening to the Challengers soundtrack or moodily blogging to the latest Billie Eilish. It sounds like you need to gear up for a Pop Girl Summer. The heat is on and the ladies are out making every kind of jam like it’s a 1999 episode of TRL. This only seems to have ramped up the last two weeks, with exceptional records from artists like Charli XCX, Tems, and Normani (no disrespect to any Tove Lo fans out there).

Charli’s Brat is especially fun, a hypnotic dance record full of character, packed into a tight runtime. Songs like “360,” “Talk Talk,” and “Von Dutch” feel like immediate sirens to the nearest dance floor. A personal favorite track, though, is “Everything Is Romantic,” which goes from sweet and elegiac to an industrial pounder and all the way back again. What I’ve always liked about Charli is how fully realized her music is, more layered and intricate than a casual listen betrays but still totally fun and playful. Her accent bounces well off the skittering drums and glitchy pianos. Charli's output has been consistent but it can hit very differently depending upon the world's prevailing vibes. Now that we seem to be ready to party again, Brat arrives just in time. 

Where Charli is a pop girl lifer, Tems is still fine-tuning her persona. But debut album Born In The Wild is self-assured afropop, full of ambition. Tems's voice alone is an instrument, an oft-kilter, enunciated wail that can be an acquired taste, but that’s what makes it great: It is absolutely, undoubtedly her own. While Born In The Wild is more meditative and ethereal than some of the other records of Pop Girl Summer, it's got enough youthful energy to earn a role in any proper sweaty night out. Songs like “Wickedest” and “Love Me JeJe” are bouncy enough for the dance floor, and the more groovy tracks are a post-party soundtrack, music for the ride to a diner at sunrise after the club. Tems is threaded the needle between afrobeat, pop, and sleazy post-modern R&B like few else, so it’s no big surprise she’s become a star by the drop of her first LP. 

Like Tems, Normani has also seemingly crossed into stardom without the requisite solo material. But Normani made her name as part of the girl group Fifth Harmony. Her debut solo album, Dopamine, has been anticipated for what feels like forever, with setbacks and delays and the like; the lead single and one of the best tracks on Dopamine, the Cardi B–assisted “Wild Side,” came out three years ago. But just as the critic and writer Mark Fisher once pontificated, culture has all but stopped moving in any real direction—the difference between three years ago and now is next to nothing. With over five years of anticipation there’s no way Dopamine could live up its expectations, and as it stands it is a strong debut, but it has all the hallmarks of a first time out. Something like a B-tier SZA record, but even that has a lot going for it. When the album soars, like on “Big Boy,” “All Yours,” or “Tantrum,” it’s as fun as anything else you'll hear this summer. A glossy, sexy, feel-good record—just what the people need. The ladies are bringing the noise to make this a Summer of Bangers.

If you liked this blog, please share it! Your referrals help Defector reach new readers, and those new readers always get a few free blogs before encountering our paywall.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter