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Niall Horan Talks Debut Solo Album

Mile Cyrus’ “Malibu” Departs From Pop

Everything We Know So Far About Katy Perry’s “Witness” Album

Niall HorenNiall Horan Talks Debut Solo Album

Billboard.com

One Direction fans just received the gift that is Harry Styles' solo album, but they can already get excited for another 1D member's solo project: Niall Horan revealed when fans should expect his debut LP.

“End of fall, start of winter, I guess,” Horan told Carson Daly of his anticipated release date during an interview on 97.1 AMP Radio Tuesday morning (May 16) -- similar to what he told Billboard backstage at KIIS FM's Wango Tango on Saturday night. “I’ve decided to ride it out, see what happens, and then kind of let people know when I’m ready to go.”

Horan seemingly won't make fans wait until the latter months of the year for more of his music, though, as he just released his sexy, bluesy "Slow Hands" on May 4. He also debuted another new track titled "On the Loose" at Wango Tango.

While Horan didn't elaborate on what fans can expect from the rest of the songs on his record, he expressed that he's excited about getting to do his own thing.

"There was a lot of 1D stuff I wrote that was along the lines of Fleetwood [Mac], stuff like that, and I hear myself in them songs now sometimes," Horan said while discussing his solo sound. "But this time it's just completely me, so I get to do what I want when I want, really."

Later in the chat, Horan also touched on the directions his bandmates are taking. "I know them all very well, and I know what music they're into, so when I hear what they're releasing, it's no shock to me," he suggested. "Me and Harry have similar taste, maybe his is a bit more rockier than mine, but it's great watching everyone do their own thing. It's brilliant."

Niall Horan delivered his second solo single, "Slow Hands," on Thursday (May 4), and it's already taking over the iTunes and Billboard + Twitter Trending Top 140 charts. Sure, this is largely due to him having been one-fourth of One Direction, but at least part of the instant success comes from the song being great -- so great, it's arguably even better than his debut single, "This Town."

With "This Town" being acoustic and "Slow Hands" focusing on a funkier guitar vibe, the songs sound different enough that it's barely fair to even compare the two. But with only two Niall songs to digest so far (and no album release date just yet), we couldn't help but make the comparison when considering what makes this song such a jam right out of the gate.

As the non-tattooed, blonde-haired, blue-eyed heartthrob in One Direction, Horan has always been the good boy of his bandmates. His bold hair color change (to brown) helped show that he's coming into his own in the post-1D days, but writing a song about a girl taking a guy home certainly serves as an indication that he's no longer as innocent as fans once knew him.

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Mile Cyrus’ “Malibu” Departs From Pop

Billboard.com

While New York City is certainly the most storied town in American lore, no state in the union has captured the American imagination like California. Popular music, in particular, has fixated on the Sunshine State, using it as a stand-in for everything from utopia (the Mamas & the Papas' "California Dreamin'") to purgatory (the Eagles' "Hotel California") over the years. The Beach Boys served as the state's unofficial spokespeople for decades, and in 2010, Katy Perry took over the cheerleading baton.

Now Miley Cyrus enters the foray in full force. After tentatively stepping off the plane at LAX as a teenager, Cyrus is 24 and in full California flag-waving mode on new single "Malibu." And while there's a long history of pop stars singing the state's praises, "Malibu" is far from familiar territory in the California pop canon.

Generally speaking, most California-fetishizing artists hail from the state: The Beach Boys, the Mamas and the Papas, Katy Perry, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Dr. Dre, Kendrick Lamar, etc. (sure, 2Pac was born in New York City, but he moved to Cali as a teen and spent his adult life there). Other artists who have specifically honed-in on Malibu -- Anderson .Paak, Hole -- also hail from the Golden State.

Miley Cyrus, as she pointed out while speaking to Billboard for a recent cover story, is Tennessee-born and still primarily identifies as a Southern gal. So when she sings about "Malibu" as a Shangri-La for her and fiancé Liam Hemsworth, it's a different type of utopia than Brian Wilson, Katy Perry or John & Michelle Phillips paint. For them, California is heaven, and the state's utopian qualities are presented as self-evident truths. Why are California gurls/girls "unforgettable" and "the cutest in the world"? In the world views of Perry and Wilson, they just are – and if you're questioning it, you probably just don't get it.

In Miley's "Malibu," however, California is a hard-won Eden. And from her lyrics and her slightly weary delivery, you can tell it's an unexpected reprieve from the world's troubles at that. "I never would've believed you / If three years ago you told me /I'd be here writing this song," she sings. "And I wanna thank you with all of my heart / It's a brand new start / a dream come true / In Malibu." It might not have the unabashed glee of so many pop songs about the state, but when Miley sings about being next to you while the sky is blue in Malibu, the ache in her voice helps the song transcend the simplistic rhyme scheme and cuts into your soul a little bit. The way Miley delivers her words on "Malibu," it's clear she doesn't take the blue skies and shimmering sunsets for granted -- she understands it's a unique paradise, and a fragile one at that.

With its ever-so-slightly exhausted view of California's beachy, clear-skied perfection, Miley's "Malibu" is a bit reminiscent of Lesley Gore's "California Nights," another moody pop hit about finding reprieve and romance on the Cali shores. And like Miley, Lesley was also an outsider looking in -- a Brooklyn-born pop star for who California was as theoretical and metaphorical as it was physical (equally important: "California Nights" was written by New York-born EGOT winner Marvin Hamlisch).

Like that No. 16 Billboard Hot 100 hit from 1967, "Malibu" sees CA in a way only an outsider can -- as a place of romance, rest and even redemption. But unlike so many California pop songs from Californians, America's man-made desert paradise isn't taken for granted by Miley -- she knows it's not the real world and that it won't necessarily last. There's some distance between her vision of Malibu and what she sees as 'the real world.' And that's what makes "Malibu" a more interesting, nuanced listen than it might seem after one spin.

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Everything We Know So Far About Katy Perry’s “Witness” Album

Billboard.com

We're all playing Witness to Katy Perry's purposeful pop era, as she's turned her followers into detectives for her upcoming release.

On Monday, the singer announced the name of her fifth studio LP and an accompanying tour. Here are all the details Rumblings about the album's title started to take place after attendees of Katy Perry's cherry pie hand-out in New York's Times Square last month noticed "Project Witness" on her food truck's license plate. The singer further ignited name rumors by "pulling a Macy Gray" on the red carpet of the 2017 Met Gala on May 1. Wearing a red Maison Margiela dress, Perry topped off the outfit with a headpiece reading "Witness" -- the "i" cleverly replaced by an illustrated eyeball. Fans started using "Witness" to refer to the unnamed project, as Perry used the eyeball emoji in her tweets and Instagram captions.

Over the weekend, a billboard of an eyeball that Perry used in her social media avatars appeared in Times Square hinting to a "May 15" announcement. Early Monday morning, the singer announced that the album's name was, indeed, Witness, and that its release date is June 9.

Partial Track List

It's expected for "Chained to the Rhythm" -- Witness' lead single, which peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 -- to make the track list, as well as "Bon Appétit." In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the singer revealed that she had recorded 40 songs before shaving it down to 15. She confirmed that there will be a "fun dance song" called "Swish Swish" and a response to Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential loss titled "Bigger Than Me."

Early in March, the singer teased a clip of a rallying cry she recorded; that ripped footage was removed due to copyright protection. It's yet to be seen if that specific audio will be used on Witness. On Monday, Perry included a snippet of a song presumed to also be titled "Witness" alongside her announcement of news coming the following day.

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