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 weekly collection doesn’t discriminate by genre and can include anything — it’s a snapshot of what’s on our minds and what sounds good. We’ll keep it fresh with the latest music, but expect a few oldies (but goodies) every once in a while, too. And this week, in honor of June’s intersection of Black Music and Pride Months, we shine the spotlight on Black, LGBTQ+ musicians making art that feels vital to this moment. Some tracks have just been released; some are old favorites we’re revisiting. But all of it matters.
Get ready: The Bop Shop is now open for business.
Serpentwithfeet: “A Comma”
A haunting mantra that nevertheless looks to self-improvement amid utter chaos, “A Comma” manifests its anxiety in spooky piano, incessant ticking, and minor-key melodies. But what makes the moment ultimately shine with hope is the radiant, acrobatic voice of Josiah Wise, a.k.a. Serpentwithfeet. When you hear Wise deliver a line like “life’s gotta get easier” in that magnetic tone, you have no choice but to believe it. —Patrick Hosken
Vibe check: The world is nuts right now. Queer hip-hop artist Jaewynn leans into that zeitgeist-y buzz in her aptly titled new single, flexing her rapping chops over an increasingly frenetic beat. Jaewynn says she struggled with the idea of releasing “Nutz” during Pride and the 51st anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, when everything — police brutality, systemic racism, anti-LGBTQ discrimination — still feels “so insufferable and terrible.” However, I think the confidence and ambition in her rhymes (“To be or to be / ‘Cause not to be isn’t even a relevant question”) are exactly what the LGBTQ+ community needs. —Sam Manzella
Dai Burger ft. Kidd Kenn: “Naomi Walk”
Queens rapper Dai Burger just gave us a Pride anthem fit for a queen — supermodel queen Naomi Campbell, to be exact. The title serves an homage to the fashion icon’s catwalk strut, inspiring the same kind of unapologetic confidence its namesake evokes. “We’ve got the moves / They just all talk,” Dai boasts over a pop-trap beat that can’t quit. Fellow rapper Kidd Kenn joins in with some speedy bars about knowing your worth and taking nothing less. Together, the two show us that the world is truly our runway, and Naomi would be proud. —Carson Mlnarik
Remember sex? I don’t, but if you do, this 2018 bop by British artist MNEK is a perfect addition to any playlist. Let lyrics like “I think I love you / I think you’re the one” transport you back to the pre-COVID-19 days, when you thought something special about that person on the other end of the dance floor after a couple cocktails. No? Just me? OK. Treat yourself to a listen, and watch the exquisite music video. *turns up the volume* —Zach O’Connor
Blood Orange: “Charcoal Baby”
Upon first listen, the most notable sound on Blood Orange’s “Charcoal Baby” is the off-key strain of the guitar in the background juxtaposed against the song’s silky chorus and funk beat. The lyrics have a dusted-over quality about them, taking a backseat to the track’s musicality, which aligns with the song’s theme of being outcast. In its simplest form, “Charcoal Baby” is a song about Blackness and the strength and endurance required to exist in richly hued skin.
“No one wants to be odd one out at times / No one wants to be the negro swan,” the chorus sings. Delve a little deeper, however, and you’ll realize it’s also about the difficulty of navigating individuality in a siloed experience and still having the desire to bloom — or break — without the burden of judgment. It’s a song filled with questions that holds a mirror up to the human experience and invites you to find the answers. —Virginia Lowman
Keiynan Lonsdale: “Gay Street Fighter”
“Gay Street Fighter” is aggressive. It’s an abrasive, outlandish celebration of the fact that LGBTQ+ people make the world go round. It is probably the only song in the world that can get away with the phrase “taste the bussy” — truly a thing I just typed. “We all just a little bit gay,” Lonsdale declares, and he’s not counting anyone out: Even God, which he yells out multiple times, is probably somewhere on the queer spectrum. Tea! —Terron Moore
Vincint: “Save Myself”
Nothing screams Pride quite as much as a song about love and resilience, so Vincint’s “Save Myself” makes the perfect anthem to celebrate this month. The song features a lively dance-pop beat superimposed with Vincint’s soulful, airy vocals, creating a song so decadently pop, yet sonically gorgeous. The personal lyrics encapsulate the feeling of finding independence within a relationship, defining boundaries, and wanting passion rather than needing help. It’s rare to find a love song that promotes such a healthy, fully realized state of mind. The single, released as part of Vincint’s debut EP, The Feeling, is accompanied by an adorable video, featuring fans singing and dancing to the song in their homes during quarantine. Since dancing in the streets won’t be possible this time around, dancing around your room is the next best thing. —Sarina Bhutani
Victoria Monét: “All You Need”
“All You Need” by Victoria Monét is just that: all you need. The artist famously known for co-writing most of your favorite Ariana Grande hits must also be recognized for her extensive catalog of R&B heartbreak tracks. “All You Need” is the mantra for things left unsaid, succinctly realizing all those feelings you want to tell your new love but are afraid won’t be reciprocated. You want to feel wanted, needed. The track is a great wind-down addition to your Pride playlist; more importantly, it’s a not-so-sneaky way to let Monét tell that cutie that you really want to be all he needs. —Daniel Head
Alex Newell: “Mama Told Me (David Penn Remix)”
Alex Newell has gone from the Broadway stage to NBC’s musical fantasy series Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. But if you look on Spotify, it’s more like Alex Newell’s Extraordinary Playlist, because the singer has been putting out a nonstop parade of disco bops since his 2016 track, “Kill the Lights.” In addition to Zoey’s, Newell also sashayed into the work room earlier this year on RuPaul’s Secret Celebrity Drag Race, where Mama Ru confessed that Newell was his favorite singer. Everybody say love! Newell’s latest single, “Mama Told Me,” is a love song to his mother, and the ’90s house-inspired David Penn remix will have you feeling your Frankie Knuckles fantasy this Pride weekend. —Chris Rudolph
Syd: “Getting Late”
Whether she’s performing as part of The Internet or on her own, every word that rolls off Syd’s lips is smooth. “Getting Late,” her contribution to Lena Waithe’s Queen & Slim soundtrack, is no exception. The hip-hop soul track is as tranquil as a morning cup of coffee, though its lyrics speak to disarming late-night hours when you can’t help but let your guard down. “You just fell in love with me again,” she begins, weaving a tale about friends who become lovers and a romance that peacefully keeps you up, going on to declare their future at the end: “You never know another lonely night.” —Carson Mlnarik
Frankie Knuckles: “The Whistle Song”
In the 1970s, Frankie Knuckles learned how to DJ in New York’s burgeoning disco underground. A decade later, Knuckles had filtered those experiences into an icy, stylish descendant called house, named for the Chicago club where he reigned as its godfather. Before French robots charged through the genre, Knuckles used it for some of the most transcendent dance music ever created. 1991’s “The Whistle Song,” namely, is a humid dream, all floating flutes and drum machines spinning toward eternity. Who could expect anything less from The Godfather? —Patrick Hosken