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9 Songs From Pop’s ‘Middle Class’ That Deserve to Be Hits

Maybe one of my favorite pop choruses in years? Every time I hear it, I want to shout it off the top of the mountain like the guy from that Ricola commercial: “DESIIIIIIIIIIRE! I want to turn into you!” That lyric from “Welcome to My Island” also gives Polachek’s latest album — easily one of my most-played of 2023 — its charmingly ridiculous title. (Listen on YouTube)

“I’m cute and I’m rude with kind of rare attitude,” Charli XCX sings, summing up her own unruly musical personality on this highlight from her sleek 2022 album “Crash,” which lets a flighty would-be lover know exactly what they missed out on. (Listen on YouTube)

At her best, Ava Max sounds like Lady Gaga would if she were still making “Fame Monster” B-sides in 2023. I mean this as a compliment; in my opinion, most pop songs should sound like they could have been included on “The Fame Monster.” Ava Max’s biggest hit, “Sweet but Psycho” from 2019, certainly fits this description, but I’m also a fan of this driving 2022 single, which cleverly employs an interpolation of LeAnn Rimes’s 2000 “Coyote Ugly” smash “Can’t Fight the Moonlight.” (Listen on YouTube)

This wistful track, from the 2020 EP “In a Dream,” shows off the softer, sparser side of Sivan’s dreamy pop. It also would have worked as an entry on last month’s exclamatory playlist! (Listen on YouTube)

Man, I love this one. File it under “incredibly common life experiences that no one really writes pop songs about”; Sawayama’s wrenching “Bad Friend” chronicles, to the tune of a beautifully melancholy melody, the gradual erosion of a once-close friendship. “So don’t ask me where I’ve been, been avoiding everything,” Sawayama sings, before finding solace in a chorus of people confessing that they can relate: “Put your hands up if you’re not good at this stuff.” (Listen on YouTube)

Jepsen — bless her — has an unfortunate tendency to bury some of her best work, and it’s possible that has hampered her ability to achieve another pop radio smash. Consider that the single she released after “Call Me Maybe” was a painfully twee duet with the guy from Owl City (if you don’t remember Owl City, I’m jealous of your brain), or that she kicked off her “Emotion” era by releasing as a leadoff single that excellent album’s very worst song, “I Really Like You.” (At least she got Tom Hanks in the video.) “Cut to the Feeling,” from 2015, is an absolutely perfect, ecstatic, 10-out-of-10 pop song, and if you have never heard of it before that’s because it was released on the soundtrack of a Canadian-French animated film called “Ballerina.” At least you get to hear it now! (Listen on YouTube)

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