Discover more from Popjustice
Moss Kena's surprising pop banger! Brits! Etc!
Contains a terrible Wet Leg pun, apologies
Hello to you,
I suppose when you voted — by a landslide, I might add — for Popjustice as SUBSTACK OF THE MILLENNIUM, what you didn’t realise was that you’d receive roughly one email per millennium.
But here it is, back for some more discussion of pop music.
This week’s/fortnight’s is shorter than usual because I’ve been up to this and that, but actually reading through it now it’s probably the right sort of length for an email isn’t it? I looked at a couple of previous ones the other day and really, nobody’s got time for that have they? Maybe more frequent short ones is the way to go? Either way I think it would be good to establish some more regular ‘bitty’ sort of things that I can oh Christ this is boring
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New Music Friday
Last year’s Popjustice Twenty Quid Music Prize shortlist featured Moss Kena’s Italo-inspired Primadonna, which I think I assumed at the time would turn out to be a bit of an anomaly in the singer/songwriter’s discography. Turns out it was just the thin end of the wedge and he’s gone even more pop on this SUPER-Hi collaboration, Light It Up. (I caught up with him, as they say in interviewing circles, on Zoom this week to find out exactly what he’s playing at — see below for that.)
ALSO THIS WEEK:
Jessie Ware’s latest Stuart Price collaboration, Pearls, is a DISCO ROMP.
Aimée, whose previous stuff has been quite good, is really heading into Popstar Worth Bothering About territory with her new song Hurt Like Hell.
Rebecca Black’s album is pretty extraordinary for various reasons — standout from the new songs is Misery Loves Company, which I’ve selected for this week’s playlist.
LEMAR IS BACK with a quite nice, Radio 2-friendly, 80s-influenced and self-produced new song.
Tove Lo’s Borderline is quite brilliant. (As keen Tovewatchers will be well aware, this isn’t the first time one of pop’s two best Toves has released a song called Borderline.)
There’s a really straightforward, slightly Purple Disco Machiney cover of Kylie’s Spinning Around courtesy of Jolyon Petch.
SIIGHTS’ new one, as announced in a previous Popjustice newsletter, is released this week. It sounds like Christmas.
The Brits take/s place tomorrow evening. These things will definitely happen:
Last minute reinstatement of Outstanding Contribution award, given to Frankie off The Saturdays due to this
Someone makes a strong and impassioned speech about the unfairness of a category being entirely populated by artists of one gender but is booed off stage when it turns out they’re actually talking about the Rising Star category
Sam Ryder, omnipresent official/unofficial UK music mascot, wangles his way in there somewhere
Capaldi Chaos during which ITV is briefly taken off air
Harry Styles issues clarification that “people like me” refers to individuals owning more than forty pairs of trousers
Elton and Ed Sheeran’s Merry Christmas, the greatest Christmas song of the last 25 years, wins Song of the Year. Ensuing riot, sparked by George Ezra, results in Wet Leg getting wet legs, Loyle Carner lying low in a corner, Kid Harpoon being harpooned, and First Aid Kit proving to be entirely unfit for purpose
A quick interview: Moss Kena on dogs, addiction and being a popstar-in-denial
(The interview took place a few hours later than expected, for reasons discussed below.)
I gather from your manager that you’ve had quite a strange day so far, what happened?
I went for my morning run on my usual route, and out of nowhere this German Shepherd just ran up and bit my thigh. It was mad.
And just to be clear on this, this is not a shepherd from Germany, this is a dog.
Yes, this is a canine German Shepherd. The owner didn't seem to care. They had about six of these big German Shepherds. So I had to report it to the police and then I had to go to the hospital to get patched up and a tetanus shot. I mean I’m fine, but…
…I had to get a tetanus shot when I was about twelve because I stuck a hay fork through my foot while moving manure. Do they still do them in your bottom?
Well, I mean, I offered — I’m down for whatever — but they gave me one in the shoulder.
Your new song is incredible! Can you talk me through your ‘sonic evolution’?
I think in general the evolution of my music speaks to the evolution of me as a person. I have been through quite a transformative time in my life. I can't help but reflect that in my music. When I got my first record deal at 18, I honestly had no idea who I was. And through being in the industry and being with other creatives and people that massively inspired me like Purple Disco Machine, I found my voice and what I want to talk about. You know, I always wanted to be a popstar, but I think I was a popstar in denial for quite some time. I used to make quite left R&B, which I love, and that's what inspired me at the time. But I think there was an element of me trying to be too cool for school. Then I had the experience of being on tour with some big pop artists like Jess Glynne, Rita Ora, and Bastille and it opened my eyes to the beauty of well crafted pop music. So then the dilemma for me was: ‘How do I do that in a truthful way?’ And the conclusion I came to was just to tell my story. And that’s what I'm doing right now.
That’s beautifully phrased, have you given that answer before?
No! You're the first interview I've done!
It feels like there was a big ‘who am I?’ question at the heart of all that.
Absolutely. But this whole thing is just a constant evolution and a constant discovery process. My label have asked me that question — ‘Who is Moss? Who is Moss?’ All of those existential questions. And my view is: it’s right to ask the question, but it’s wrong to expect answer.
The annoying thing about humans is that obviously it's good to know yourself, but also we have a habit of changing.
Yes! This place I've arrived at now is the result of not being in a good place and having been forced to go on a journey of self discovery. I've done counselling for about three years, I’m two years and eight months clean of drugs and alcohol... I've been through this extraordinary period in my life where I've had to really look at who I am, and it's honestly been amazing. I'm so glad I wasn't famous, because it would have been a nightmare. A nightmare! I feel so lucky to be at the place I'm at now. I'm grateful for everything, always, all the time. That's basically where I am now.
I wasn’t sure whether to ask about the addiction stuff because it’s in the press release, and it’s sort of in the song, but that doesn’t mean you’re up for banging on about it in an interview…
I'm completely open about it. And one of the biggest reasons I'm completely open about it is that people will hear it and identify, and realise that there is another way to live your life. And if that happens for one person, that is enough for me.
When you were going through it all, what did you need to hear?
What I needed to hear was: ‘It can be done differently, and the feelings you're experiencing are temporary.’ And the biggest thing I've learned is just to not stand in your own way. There was only one thing that was stopping me from achieving the things I wanted to achieve. And that was me. The most liberating thing for an addict is when you realise you're in control of this, there's not an easier softer way, you have to go through this and you have to want to be different. When you're in active addiction, nobody can tell you anything, you think you know everything — your pain is the worst pain, if everyone else lived your life they’d drink like you too, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. You're just in this constant cycle of believing your own rubbish. When you're in it, you think it's everything but the drink or the drugs. ‘It's what happened when I was a kid, it's this, it's that….’ But it's like, it's not that. It's because you're drinking or taking drugs.
In the press release for the single it says, and this is a quote from SUPER-Hi who you worked with on the song: “Moss is a triple threat — an amazing singer, a massively talented writer, and a lovely, genuine person.”
Now I’m not the Threat Police, but I didn't realise ‘lovely genuine person’ was an accepted threat in this context. Singer, dancer, musician, producer, actor, all these things are accepted threats. ‘Lovely genuine person’ — is that a proper threat?
I mean, I’ll take it, right? I’ll absolutely take it. If that's what they want to put on the table then, absolutely, I'll take that as a threat.
And what's this all leading up to?
There will be an EP and it’ll be great to have a body of work out this year that’s a new flag in the ground for this new era of music and me.
I strikes me — and I hope you will take this in the positive spirit that it’s intended — but when I heard this song I thought: ‘This would have been quite good as a Eurovision entry.’
Sure. Yeah, it would.
I mean it’s probably too late now for this year.
Yes. But it would be great, that would be an opportunity I… Wouldn’t turn down. For sure.
Hang on, you’re not the Eurovision entry, are you?
I’m not now, no. (Laughs) And maybe I never was!
Do you have anything you would like to add? Or promote? Or say to people who might think: ‘This has been an interesting chat, I might go and click on this link and listen to Moss Kena’s new song’?
Maybe one thing I’d like to talk about is that I have started a WhatsApp community with my fans so using my personal phone number there’s this WhatsApp group with some of my people that have followed me for a long time, who are regularly on my TikTok, and we talk every day. And it's for me to build a real connection with the people who put me where I am, you know? They give so much to me. We’ve talked about all sorts of things on there. I feel so supported, and I feel like they feel supported too.
I would love to have a WhatsApp group full of people where the only thing they have in common is that they all think I’m brilliant.
Maybe it's just really narcissistic. (Laughs) But I just love having that connection with people. And I want it to continue and I want it to grow.
Bye for now and watch out for dogs!
I will. Thanks for chatting!
The life of the modern popstar in one (organic) tweet
What’s Rihanna doing at the Super Bowl?
The halftime show — singing and that.
Any advance on that?
Well, she’s trying to encapsulate a career containing about thirty albums and eight million singles and has changed the setlist 39 times already. She’s got 13 minutes, so once you take off the 3:20 a full-length version of Breakin’ Dishes will consume, that gives her about nine and a half minutes. No time then, you’d hope, for any messing around with ballads.
Seen any good gigs this week?
Yes I went to see Strawbey in east London. In and out in 45 minutes — ideal live music experience. Also, I met someone who’s either written or co-written one of the songs that’ll be on next week’s New Music Friday playlist, so that was nice.
What’s the most epic song ever written?
This article makes a good argument for it being Total Eclipse Of The Heart.
This newsletter started off as a response to Twitter looking like it was going to shut down, and it hasn’t shut down, but what do you make of the latest proposed changes to Twitter?
I’m so happy to say: I don’t care!!
How many times have you listened to the new Lil Yachty album?
I don’t know but whatever the number is, it’s surprising.
Have you thought of a way to sign off your newsletters? Possibly something that is sort of the same but slightly different each week — like, you’ll have a format for the signoff, but each time there’s a slight variation?
I think the real question here is if anyone actually gets this far in the emails.