NOW That’s What I Call Music! 66 showcases five emerging artists…and Leona Lewis
The NOW compilation series made it to NOW That’s What I Call Music! 66, which once again delivers 16 hits and its NOW What’s Next section, which showcases emerging artists. NOW What’s Next has been a staple since 2010’s NOW That’s What I Call Music! 33 and while most NOW What’s Next artists remained in obscurity, some, like Walk The Moon and Capital Cities, have broken through. Speaking of Walk The Moon and Capital Cities, Pennsylvania’s Walkney is featured on NOW What’s Next 66 and his “Lucia Rose” attempts to capture the viral energy of “Shut Up + Dance” and “Safe And Sound.” Yet the pop landscape has changed even since those recent hits. Today, hip-hop and R&B sounds have taken over pop music, forcing Taylor Swift to pair up with Future and Maroon 5 to get together with SZA and Cardi B to make it to the Billboard top ten. Walkney may become a successful niche artist, but he needs that hip-hop connection to make it big.
Meet Walkney, working the @altoonadancetheatre
The NOW What’s Next series sometimes brings back artists that have not had a hit for a while, such as Aaron Carter and JoJo. You can add Leona Lewis to the list. The British diva became a household name after the international #1 “Bleeding Love,” which became Billboard’s #2 hit of 2008. Since then, @leonalewis released four studio albums, but never returned to the Billboard top ten. On NOW What’s Next 66 Lewis joins Calum Scott, a fellow British voice who had a #2 U.K. hit in 2016 with a delicate cover of Robyn‘s “Dancing On My Own.” Together, Lewis and Scott generate “You Are The Reason,” a good idea on paper that falls flat in execution, similar to the too-big-to-fail Mariah Carey / Whitney Houston duet “When You Believe” from 1998, which failed to make the Billboard top ten. Both @leonalewis and @calumscott overflow with talent, but their romantic ballad is out of step with the times.
Calum Scott is opening for Pentatonix and Jason DeRulo in 2018
Other new artists on NOW What’s Next 66 are closer to today’s music currents. The London-born and Sydney-raised Ruel takes on Adele and Sam Smith on “Don’t Tell Me.” The teen already got attention of Elton John and if he can deliver heartfelt ballads like “Don’t Tell Me,” he can cross over in a big way in America. Lebanese-American Mayssa Karaa is committed to music of inclusion, and while “Broken Lines” is not deliberately political, it brings a sense of urgency, requiring attention to be paid to Karaa. Although she is not connected to Britain, the song finds cosmopolitan space somewhere between Florence Welch and Dua Lipa. Partnering with a hot EDM DJ has also been a formula that has worked well and Britain’s Arlissa does that with the help of Jonas Blue on “Hearts Ain’t Gonna Lie.” The song has not the chart impact of, say, “The Middle” by Zedd ft. Maren Morris, which kicks off NOW 66, but it also serves as an antidote to the heavy-handed EDM that has dominated the charts. Check out the video for “Hearts Ain’t Gonna Lie” below and get some summer relaxation. After all, NOW 67 is on its way.