Hooks, Lines and Sinkers

Have You Heard? Sir Nolan

Once in a while I discover a new producer who excites me with his (sadly, it’s always his) fresh, distinctive sound and his mastery of the hooks, lines and sinkers of pop. (Of course, I don’t really discover him, and he’s never exactly new.) Sir Nolan, born Nolan Lambroza in 1990, doesn’t have the most extensive catalogue – in a recent interview, he says ‘I wake up every morning feeling like I’ve done nothing’ – but a quick scroll through his discography shows up a steady and increasingly impressive string of gems.

2013 Feel This Moment, Pitbull ft Christina Aguilera ⭐️⭐️⭐️½

To be honest, this song only became cool to me when the Elders of Temasek Poly used it at Super 24 😍. It’s a rave-y dance anthem with an Ah Beng catchiness supplied by the sample from A-ha’s Take on Me. Here’s a behind-the-song interview with Sir Nolan that breaks down the music and delves into his process. I wish there were more videos about songcraft like this.

2014 Jealous, Nick Jonas ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Nick Jonas’s self-titled album was a big surprise, a solid pop-R&B record with nary a weak track. Along with Max Schneider, he ushered in a wave of male pop generously infused with R&B swagger and the charm of a teen idol but not the cheese. Justin Timberlake? you might say, but no, this stuff was way better, in my blasphemous opinion. Sir Nolan’s contribution, Jealous, sets a spare beat against subtle synths and features a soaring earworm melody. Here’s a fun ‘Gospel Version’ where Nick somehow holds his own against an army of soul.

2015 Good for You, Selena Gomez ft A$AP Rocky ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Her celebrity power is of such a magnitude that it affords her the finest songmakers and their shiniest creations, yet Selena Gomez’s robotic vocals laid over them are always a dampener that dulls all sheen and sparkle. Her delivery packs neither soul nor punch, and the extent of autotuning suggests an inability to hit even the simplest notes. The rapper feature is also entirely gratuitous. Next.

2016 Body Say, Demi Lovato ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

On the other hand, when a first-rate production is touched by a proper voice, the outcome is sheer joy. Demi Lovato, a brilliant vocalist constantly starving for a worthy song finally finds one, and no its title isn’t Slow Hands. Never mind the skin-and-skank styling of recent years; if the gods of music would bless her with more tasteful collaborators, I’d happily close both eyes and be drunk with happiness. To experience the full genius of Sir Nolan’s production and arrangement, listen to the song stripped of vocals. Am I the only one who puts instrumental tracks on loop?!

2017 Flame, Tinashe ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

It’s worth noting that Simon Wilcox (a woman) appears as a songwriter on Sir Nolan’s best work – Jealous, Body Say and this year’s Flame. Never has Tinashe embraced melody or melodrama so enthusiastically, and never have I been so enraptured. While every section of the song is exquisitely crafted, the highlight must be its climactic torch chorus. Check out Tinashe’s appearance at Millennium Dance Complex, with choreographer Jojo Gomez on the left absolutely killing the musicality.

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