Bop Shop: Songs From Sampa the Great, Whitney, John Legend, And More

Bop Shop: Songs From Sampa the Great, Whitney, John Legend, And More


The search for the ever-elusive “bop” is difficult. Playlists and streaming-service recommendations can only do so much. They often leave a lingering question: Are these songs really good, or are they just new?

Enter Bop Shop, a hand-picked selection of songs from the MTV News team. This weekly collection doesn’t discriminate by genre and can include anything — it’s a snapshot of what’s on our minds and what sounds good. We’ll keep it fresh with the latest music, but expect a few oldies (but goodies) every once in a while, too. Get ready: The Bop Shop is now open for business.

Sampa the Great ft. Angélique Kidjo: “Let Me Be Great”

Another empowering anthem from Sampa the Great has arrived: the last and most emphatic track on her latest album As Above, So Below, which was entirely recorded in her birth country of Zambia. The choice of location and the inclusion of local artists has certainly created an undeniable, authentic feel surrounding the subjects of diaspora and home. Better yet, the collaboration with the five-time Grammy winner from Benin, Angélique Kidjo, contributes compelling vocals that lure you into the song’s revitalizing lyrics. The fact that Sampa hasn’t been featured on a Black Panther soundtrack is a damn shame. —Gwyn Cutler

Whitney: “Never Crossed My Mind”

Much has been made of Chicago gold-soundz radio duo Whitney’s latest batch of tunes — namely that they sought inspiration in contemporary pop rather than the mellow folk rock of decades past that’s defined their past work. “Never Crossed My Mind” sounds like the perfect midpoint of the two: an easy 2000s drum loop, twinkling keyboards, and an almost imperceptive level of twang. The soundz are still golden. They’re just a little glossier than usual. —Patrick Hosken

Indy: “Threads”

Lorde’s younger sister Indy has dropped her debut single, a passionate electro-pop track about her fear of letting a relationship consume her. As a result, she has been “entranced by other bodies / And the stories before / Cold conversations turn to flames / All tangled up on the floor.” Yet, being with others doesn’t fully suppress her romantic feelings for someone else: “But in the dark I think of us.” And that scares her. —Athena Serrano

Fletcher: “Birthday Girl”

Fletcher’s Girl of My Dreams has finally arrived, and it was more than worth the wait. The queer pop singer did not mince words in the rollout of her long-awaited debut album, dropping names on tracks like “Becky’s So Hot” and evoking the power of a T. Swift t-shirt on the ground in “Her Body is Bible.” Still, some of the record’s most impactful moments are its softest, like “Birthday Girl,” which finds Cari processing dating a girl with the same birthday as her – “It was weird, but kinda cute” – after they’ve split: “Now it’s weird, but fuckin’ sucks.” A subdued electric guitar and heavenly layers of Fletcher’s voice underscore raw confessions like “I don’t know myself without you and I want to / Just a little more than I want you,” and a desire to be thought of every March 18 – even if she doesn’t want to admit it. We celebrate our anniversaries on this earth every year with those we love, and as time moves by, that group changes. Whether or not you have the same birthday as an ex, this track will ring true for anyone who’s ever spent their big day thinking about someone else. —Carson Mlnarik

Yb.: “Sandra”

Yes, this song is titled after Sandra Oh, and no, it’s not about her consistent Emmy snubs.  Australian indie artist Yb. is speaking of the passion Oh portrays when she acts and how that feeling is incited by the one he’s infatuated with. A newbie when it comes to self-produced songs (“Sandra” is his first), Yb. still demonstrates musical finesse. The guitars have the melodic drone of ‘90s grunge, yet the inflection of the lyrics has a youthful affability. “It’s funny, I feel like Sandra Oh / And nobody can say I told you so / Well isn’t it good to know I love you? / Isn’t it good to know I care?” —Gwyn Cutler

Karol G, Maldy: “Gatúbela”

A tale as old as time: hearing a song in an Uber and needing it in your life in perpetuity as soon as the wheels stop. As Karol G transforms into Catwoman for a new reggaeton banger with genre mainstay Maldy, the pulsating beats driving the rhythm are broken up by light string plucks. That contrasting dynamic means one thing — I added to a playlist before I even arrived at my destination. —Patrick Hosken

Happy Sunflower: “Life is a Flower”

Stumbling upon this undiscovered psychedelic hit was a happy accident. French artist Happy Sunflower is new to the music world, yet the only song displayed on his page is produced superbly. Lyrics like “pretending is not your thing” and “live like a bird above the boats, no wave of thoughts just clouds of love” add to the earthy and existential vibe, but what really entrances are the soothing guitar solos. It’s definitely the “turn on, tune in, drop out” kind of sound. If you’re a fan of Tame Impala, Animal Collective, or Babe Rainbow, this is probably right up your alley. —Gwyn Cutler

The Rose: “Childhood”

After a trying three-year hiatus, the members of K-rock band The Rose return to the scene with “Childhood,” a raw and revealing ballad describing the aches and pains of growing up. As the first single from their upcoming debut album, Heal, “Childhood” reminds listeners to honor their inner child by following their dreams and living in the present. Rather than using boisterous, electronic tracks as singles, The Rose follows a different formula: Going for a purely acoustic melody and lyrics that feel like therapy, the group invites us into their new world with a sense of emotional integrity, once again proving that they are, and have always been, all heart. It’s no secret that The Rose have been through their fair share of trials and tribulations. However, they’ve proved that their strength of character and passion for music can overcome all. “Childhood” is a prime example of both of those traits and more. —Sarina Bhutani

Scene Queen x Set It Off: “Barbie & Ken”

Newcomer Scene Queen (a.k.a. Hannah Collins) has been making serious waves on the internet this summer as the face of the Bimbocore movement, a hyper feminine fusion of metal and pop. From her larger-than-life stage presence and all-pink aesthetic to her edgy, misogynist-bashing lyrics, Collins is a fearless performer hellbent on disturbing the peace. That’s why her collab with the equally vibrant pop-rock trio Set It Off makes total sense. In “Barbie & Ken,” Scene Queen and singer Cody Carson theatrically reimagine the beloved Mattel couple as twisted, murderous psychopaths. Even as their characters duel to the death, their playfulness is a refreshing departure from the usually angsty, overserious alternative genre. All hail Scene Queen. P.S. We love your shirt, Cody. —Farah Zermane

John Legend: “Wonder Woman”

John Legend effortlessly finds new ways to write beautiful love songs time and time again, and it’s hopeful and refreshing. Directly from his new album, Legend, comes a new single he has graciously dedicated to his wife of nine years, Chrissy Teigen, called “Wonder Woman.” Throughout the smooth-sounding ballad, the singer recognizes the many ways in which Teigen has been there for him during hard times. “When I’m lost, when I’m low, how do you always know? / You’re right there to save me, at the end of my road,” he sings. “You’re the best at my worst, more than what I deserve / Always right there beside me, could have put yourself first.” He goes on to compare the love, care, and dedication put forth into their relationship to that of a superhero, with lyrics like, “You’re superhuman, and I’m just a man.” As a woman, and on behalf of all women, we’d like to claim this narrative and thank John Legend for highlighting the immense work that we do. About time and deservingly so — am I right, ladies? —Alissa Godwin

Blackpink: “Shut Down”

Blackpink pay homage to their past selves with “Shut Down,” a fiery, confrontational hip-hop track dedicated to their naysayers and antagonists around the world. As the third single from Born Pink, “Shut Down” features a unique, almost orchestral melody layered with bold, self-serving lyrics, such as “it’s not a comeback since we’ve never left,” and “Blackpink in your area, the area been shut down.” Accompanied by an edgy, classically Blackpink visual, which features the members recreating scenes from their past videos, “Shut Down” celebrates the group’s past as a way to push them towards their future. In case you forgot, Blackpink is, and has always been, the moment. With “Shut Down,” they made sure to say it loud and clear.  —Sarina Bhutani

Bop Shop