Play Button: Our mid-year playlist

In May, we got bombarded with creativity and talent that wore its unmistakable voice like giant flags. While it sure kept our fingers jamming the replay button, it kept our minds resilient, even as our ‘new normal’ shifted yet again.

Now that we are rushing headlong into the middle of the year, the sound remains relevant – visceral, bold, and unfiltered. No bells and whistles. Just sheer talent and content that will light your heart with passion and leave your ears very satisfied. 

Listen close.

Music

Love Race by Machine Gun Kelly feat. Kellin Quinn

This certainly is not MGK’s first appearance on our Play Button lists, and for very good reason. The rock singer-rapper has charmed the socks of fans both old and new with his devilish, playful approach to pop-punk. Just earlier this year, he released Downfalls High, a pop-punk musical about teenage rebellion. 

In the new music video for his single Love Race, we are treated to a catchy song layered with energy. It sees the singer in an emo teen slasher flick, with frequent collaborator and pop-punk legend Travis Barker. The song also features the vocals of Kellin Quinn, the lead vocalist of emo rock band Sleeping With Sirens. 

And even if you have never quite liked Sleeping With Sirens, the use of Quinn’s voice in this song is unique and worth catching on to, as he lends his trademark punch-packing feminine vocal tone to what is a dynamically constructed piece of music. 

You are going to want to keep your finger on the pulse of the moves that MGK makes with Travis Barker. If there is anything that will put us back in the good ol’ days of pop-punk having a place on the top charts, it is going to be the collaborative spirit, raw talent, and creative genius of these two, along with their buddies Mod Sun (current boyfriend of Avril Lavigne) and Yungblud

La Lllorona by Natalia Lafourcade

The world is no stranger to the name of Natalia Lafourcade. NPR music gave her the rich label of being ‘the 21st century’s guardian of cultural memory.’ And yet, the two-time Grammy winner is quite possibly one of the most underrated singers in the world. One of Latin America’s most influential singers, she has released a new cover of the Mexican folk song La Llorona, this time with the stirring voices of two other Mexican singers, Silvana Estrada, and Ely Guerra.

La Llorona, which means ‘the weeping woman’, is a Mexican folk song based on a legend of the same name. The ghost of a weeping woman is said to roam the Earth crying for her children. And while horror movies have more or less popularised a downright scary portrayal of La Llorona (re: The Curse of La Llorona from The Conjuring Universe), the legend is also a symbol of cultural resistance. 

This new interpretation of the La Llorona folk song is still, naked, and powerful in the gripping vocal prowess that it carries. And while you can very easily find direct translations for the lyrics of this song that have transcended Mexican culture far and wide, you will not need that much to feel the heavy, soulful heart that this story holds. 

Paralysed by Rockweller

Sometimes, the best singers or bands you come across are gems that you will stumble upon in a bar. Rockweller is a powerful rock band that you may have had the luck of catching in one of Singapore’s bars. Or… you know, when they opened for the legendary Scorpions and Whitesnake during Singapore Rockfest II just last year. And lucky for you, they have got plenty of original music that is worth following. 

Rockweller’s latest single “Paralysed” does not hold back in the slightest, and comes with a grungy video to boot. The band describes the song as their “ultimate F-You song”, in a sentence that best displays their musical personality. Rockweller is raw, hard-hitting, undeniably talented, and has a vigour that sucks you right into their potent passion. 

You will thank us for this one. And you will most definitely love the giant spider, BDSM-clad spider-people, the spider tamer, other spider things, and the band’s frontwoman Olga speaking to different versions of herself. After all, is it really even a rock and roll music video without the confusing metaphors?

Audiobooks

Yearbook by Seth Rogen


Oh, it is Seth Rogen. That guy who sounds high all the time, and is high all the time (Pineapple Express, anyone?). The candid actor-comedian is not everyone’s cup of tea, as is the case with many comedians. And for the most part, you either like Seth Rogen’s films, or you do not. 

But perhaps the opportunity to look inside the head of Seth Rogen is where there are gems for everybody to unearth. At 39, the now seasoned veteran continues to air his pain like dirty laundry for the sake of our amusement, in a non-linear format. Speaking of dirty laundry, he merely skims past the films that made his career, and instead focuses on his missteps, like The Green Hornet and The Interview.

Yearbook also features Seth’s loopy conversations that he had with Jerry Seinfeld, Nicolas Cage, and the man behind Star Wars, George Lucas.

Me: Elton John Official Autobiography

Rocketman was arguably one of the best films of 2019, and undoubtedly sits among the best music films of all time. The biographical musical fantasy drama featured the mindblowing, uncanny portrayal of Taron Egerton as musical legend Elton John.

And that is one of the biggest reasons why you need to listen to this audiobook, narrated by Taron Egerton. The audiobook is racy, and comes with scurrilous anecdotes from the life of the Rocketman. This is an honest account of a man who had personal excesses as immense as his undeniable talent. 

In all of its sharp-tongued ridiculosity (an Elton John trademark), Me is an unpretentious, honest memoir of the rockstar’s incredulous, fantabulous life. 

Podcasts

Welcome to Your Fantasy

If the name of this podcast does not suffice to stir your attention for as little as a second, its content sure will. While it might sound like a column in an issue of the Cosmopolitan magazine, Welcome to Your Fantasy is the furthest thing from. This podcast is, in fact, a history podcast framed through a true crime lens. 

Detailing the story of the male strip club franchise, Chippendales, Welcome to Your Fantasy unfolds like a murder mystery with laugh-out-loud stories. The playful-yet-sceptical tone of this podcast puts an interesting tonal frame around a masterful character study and the sexual revolution. 

Still Processing

Stop wasting your time with discursive podcasts that you finish listening only to have learnt nothing, or maybe feeling like you’re in a slump of mediocrity. Led by New York Times Magazine writers Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris, Still Processing is built on dissecting broad themes in pop-culture and news, and what they mean from more granular, cultural standpoints.

Somehow the podcast retains a soulful sense of warmth, while also maintaining a very refined use of opposing opinions between the two hosts. One struggles to understand how these two friends build a setting that’s both intellectual and intimate, while also being goofy and raw. And more importantly, how it’s okay to sometimes be still processing things. 

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