Listen at the audio link to Ann Powers' conversation with NPR's Rachel Martin about the pair of singles that jump-started the fall 2013 pop season.
How do you know autumn is on its way? Turning leaves? Previews of Oscar contenders at the movie theater? The announcement of a new J.J. Abrams project? Pop music fans know the season's turning because the music of the stars begins to leak.
That sounds poetic, but it's really just business. Major artists releasing albums in the fall quarter need to jump ahead of the pack. They stake their claims with singles that drop suddenly — whether by alleged accident or design — and get people talking ("Talking," kids, is an old-fashioned term for what we all do on Twitter.) These attention getters not only quickly claim their places on the charts: they help set the tone for what's to come in the months following.
We're hearing the first sounds of this year's blockbuster season right now — in the past week, we've had new singles from two titanic female forces; a stakes-raising track from a rock veteran; a buzzy new act's debut album announcement (and a new song) and a game-changing verse from rap's shiniest light. As each new song dropped on the heels of the last, this midsummer week quite unexpectedly became the beginning of a new hit cycle. What can we learn about pop's near future from these events? Here's a playlist and some quick prognostication on the back-to-school season of 2013.