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 week, our collection features artists who racked up nominations for or are performing at the 2020 VMAs, which airs this Sunday, August 30. Get ready: The Bop Shop is now open for business.
Taylor Swift: “Daylight”
The hype over Taylor Swift’s album Folklore is loud, and for good reason. Within a week of its surprise release, the record became the biggest hit of 2020 so far, but even a tear-jerker of a Bon Iver collab can’t detract from my love for Lover. The 2019 full-length felt like a bookend to the sometimes snarky, sometimes starry-eyed, always chart-topping pop sound that defined Taylor’s twenties. Nowhere is this closing of a chapter more evident than in “Daylight,” Lover’s concluding track. The song is as warm and soothing as its name suggests, and it’s littered with lyrical Easter eggs for Swifties who know Taylor’s catalog inside and out. When she sings, “It’s time to step into the daylight / And let it go / Just let it go,” we feel it. —Sam Manzella
The Weeknd: “Blinding Lights”
At this point, “Blinding Lights” isn’t just a perfect song, sparkling with madness and euphoric glee. It’s more than its star-redefining video and its status as a No. 1 smash, as well. “Blinding Lights” also marks a new career high for Abel Tesfaye, who once again packed Max Martin into a rocket and launched both of them into a new stratospheric plane, as soaring as his lilting voice and as without inhibition as the lyrics demand. You will lose yourself in the keyed-up rush. You will demand more. And The Weeknd will give it to you. —Patrick Hosken
Lady Gaga: “Free Woman”
Falling right after Video of the Year nominee “Rain on Me” in the tracklist for Lady Gaga’s Chromatica, “Free Woman” certainly had its work cut out for it. While the production is more reserved than its predecessor, its building verses and anthemic lyrics succeed in truly taking us higher. “I’m not nothing unless I know I can / I’m still something if I don’t got a man / I’m a free woman,” Gaga shouts in an earworm of a chorus before giving way to an absolutely bonkers, jump-up-and-down dance break. While the track is positively infectious, the “Stupid Love” singer told Paper in March that it was inspired by some of her hardest days. “I was like, ‘I’m going to die soon, so I better say something important,’” she told the outlet. “Now I listen to it and know that I’m going to live. Gaga uses the song to reassure not only herself, but us all, that we’re more than enough, even in our loneliest times. –Carson Mlnarik
Post Malone: “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle” (Nirvana cover)
In the 12 months since Post Malone dropped his insatiable slice of lo-fi pop rock “Circles,” he’s moved on to other ventures. His VMA-nominated April Nirvana livestream tribute, which opened with deep cut “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge” and didn’t feature “Smells Like Teen Spirit” at all, radiated with the kind of glowing reverence typically reserved for true fans. That he could adopt a grungy rasp to sing Kurt Cobain’s lyrics and really sell the song’s key line — “I miss the comfort in being sad” — was a marvel, once again proving Posty’s chameleonic genre prowess. Accordingly, I look forward to his inevitable dubstep revival album in 2025. —Patrick Hosken
Katy Perry: “Smile” (Giorgio Moroder Remix)
It’s tough to remember to smile with everything 2020 has been serving lately. Luckily, Katy Perry is here to help with the title track off her new album, Smile. The jubilant jam instantly transports you into a three-ring circus of fun, temporarily transforming us KatyCats into KatyClowns, attempting to dance through this year’s darkness. Latest news cycle got you down? This sparkly song will give you an extra dopamine dose thanks to Giorgio Moroder’s disco remix, guaranteed to turn any frown upside-down, even if just for three minutes. —Chris Rudolph
Roddy Ricch ft. Mustard: “High Fashion”
The reason for the seemingly overnight ascent of Roddy Ricch is laced throughout his debut album Please Excuse Me for Being Antisocial: His rap quality is only superseded by his wildly unpredictable vocal melodies. This is most recognizable on “High Fashion,” where Mustard’s easygoing, snap-happy beat allows him to constantly warp his voice: One moment his harmonies are sweetly subdued, showering affection over the apple of his eye (“Let me tell you, I like you a lot, babe,” he confesses meekly), and the next second he’s wailing with twisted grit (“Got her five in the morning, wiiiiildin, wiiiiildin!”). Part of Drake’s massive appeal is in knowing exactly how to make overt sex and sheepish crushing work on the very same song. Given his very good, very big year, consider Roddy Ricch next. —Terron Moore
Megan Thee Stallion: “Savage”
Every new Megan Thee Stallion song feels like an arrival, though her real debut into the mainstream was last year’s immediately star-making “Hot Girl Summer.” That almost feels quaint now, in light of how she’s since made 2020 all hers. Right now, it’s via “WAP,” but back in May, after a month of groundswell, “Savage” jumped up the Hot 100 chart to hit No. 1, thanks in part to an iconic Beyoncé remix. From the start, though, “Savage” was a born anthem, another declaration from Meg that, yes, she’s here, and she’s not going anywhere. Her three VMA nominations are proof. —Patrick Hosken
Blackpink ft. Selena Gomez: “Ice Cream”
Blackpink, VMA-nominated for Best Group, are serving us another mega pop-star collab, only this time, it’s sweet and screams, “Ice Cream.” Selena Gomez joins Lisa, Jennie, Jisoo, and Rosé in a pastel-saturated playground with a different flavor than other recent Blackpink tracks like “How You Like That” and “Kill This Love.” It’s a flirty, fun, and refreshing taste; Gomez and our leading ladies are addictive on this end-of-summer bop, so run, don’t walk, to their truck and help yourself to all of this delicious treat. And once you’re there, good luck getting “ice cream chillin’, chillin’ ice cream, chillin’” out of your head. Enjoy! —Daniel Head
The 2020 VMAs will air live at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Sunday, August 30 across MTV’s linear and digital platforms, as well as with several outdoor performances around New York City. Find everything you need to know at vma.mtv.com.