A new year means a new chance for artists to break out and show the world what they’ve been working on. It’s a competitive industry out there, and it takes having something special to be able to stand out.
With Nashville being the musical epicenter that it is, (and that’s all music) it’s worth taking a closer look at the city that attracts talent from all over the world to come and live out their childhood dreams of releasing music. This month saw a host of fresh songs released, ripe to add to our playlists and turn up on these winter nights.
And pop music is a generally safe, light-hearted genre for many to turn to that allows for an escape through infectious melodies and empathetic lyrics.
With all of that in mind, here are five of the standout local-to-Nashville pop songs from this year.
5. Darby- “Be There in Ten”
A Nashville native with a variety of influences from Elton John to Tori Kelly, Darby is an 18-year-old with a story to tell and a mature voice to deliver it. “Be There in Ten” is her latest single: a happy-go-lucky, romantic tale that fits in line with her cheerful (and often pink) aesthetic. Harmony-filled, keys and percussion driven, this song is sure to get stuck in your head.
4. Nikita Karmen- “Own Roses”
“Own Roses” is the groovy, empowering final track off of Nikita Karmen’s debut album The Garden. A writer from Sydney, Australia, who actualized her dream of moving to Nashville full-time, thanks to deals with publisher Black River Entertainment and label EMPIRE Records, Karmen is flexing her chops through these nine original songs. “Own Roses” stood out because of the important message within: that in those discouraging times post-breakup, we can still take back control of our lives despite the obstacles presented, and without being dependent on someone else.
3. Ian McConnell– “Boyfriend”
Ian McConnell is sharing the awkward, frustrating, borderline back-handed compliment of looking like your partner’s ex in “Boyfriend.” With a sassy rock-flavored instrumental and the slight southern twang in his voice, the single is a genre hodgepodge one might not expect from a ginger-haired, freckle-faced young man such as himself. “Boyfriend” displays McConnell’s goofy but honest nature that comes out not just in his songs, but social media and self-descriptions. His self-deprecating humor has included bashing how “really bad” the songs were that he wrote when he was 12—but Ian, aren’t everyone’s at that age?
2. Liv Nicholson- “Done”
Energetic and catchy, “Done” is just the kind of upbeat sing-along we all needed to kick off the New Year. Liv Nicholson is both a former Music Mecca contributor and Belmont University songwriting alum, and her experience as a writer is clear through her relatable, timely lyrics about the struggle between wanting to date casually versus committing yourself to someone in your prime years. “Done” almost didn’t make the cut because it was such a sensitive topic to write about, but she decided that “the only kind of songs that are worth writing are the ones that are the hardest to say,” as she told Thread in an interview.
1. Karl Michael– “Missing Us”
Simply a piano and Karl Michael’s emotive vocals, plus a touch of dramatic strings for the build, “Missing Us” doesn’t need anything more to be a beautiful, moving ballad. The fact that it is so stripped-back gives it a similar feel to an intimate live performance, only strengthening the personal nature of the song. Michael, who is from England, has had a few deals fall through, but is hoping the third time’s the charm with his new label, Riser House, who’s partnership has allowed him to become a permanent Nashville resident. The single follows merely two weeks behind his debut, cover-filled EP Monster / I Fall Apart, so there are plenty more of his raw vocals where “Missing Us” came from.