Queer skaters, pop princesses on the rise and homegrown talent - Conor Behan's pop culture picks

Our resident pop culture guru is here with top picks to get you through lockdown.

A young woman sits overlooking a city, her hood up, hair blowing from it

Life may be slowly returning to ‘normal’,  but if you’re still craving some culture to take your mind off things or readjust as we navigate the mile-long queue for well… everything, here are some pop culture gems that maybe the answer.

BETTY

HBO has mastered a kind of comedy-drama hybrid that’s sometimes light on laughs but uses the 30-minute running time to maximum effect. The latest in that genre is Betty – an ensemble piece about a bunch of female skaters in NYC. Based on the movie Skate Kitchen, it has a lived-in, vivid sense of place and a diverse, talented cast. Betty also offers refreshing depictions of queer characters, including queer black characters, that are handled with aplomb.

At first it seems a slight premise, with the plot as relaxed as the vibe at the skate parks the characters hang out in, but the way real life issues are subtly woven into the show is refreshing all while maintaining a sweetness sometimes missing from these kinds of hip, pop culture comedies. At just six short episodes, Betty is a warm, charming and moving binge watch.

CHLOE X HALLE – UNGODLY HOUR

Sister duo, Chloe X Halle, were signed to Beyoncé’s Parkwood Entertainment in 2015 after covering both Bey’s tunes and others to build a huge YouTube following. They’ve since opened for their mentor on tour, built up an impressive catalogue and moved into acting (The pair star together on comedy series Grown-ish and Halle will take the lead in the live action The Little Mermaid).

With growing buzz, their second full length project Ungodly Hour is the kind of star-making turn that will only see their fame rise even higher. A savvy blend of electronic music, R&B flourishes and interesting hooks, Ungodly Hour hones what makes Chloe X Halle such an interesting musical proposition. From the Disclosure produced title track to banging recent single ‘Do It’, there’s plenty of ear candy to be found here.

Ungodly Hour is a perfect entrypoint to get to know this talented duo and an album that could easily become one of the year’s best.

DENISE CHAILA – CHAILA

It is harder than ever for an artist to make their music stand out when our streaming platforms and social feeds are distracting us with something new every second. And yet in the most relaxed and confident way, Denise Chaila makes you take notice with her cracking new single ‘Chaila’.

A tongue-in-cheek track with serious intent, ‘Chaila’ talks you through how to say her name correctly by deliberately making you do the work while crafting an intoxicating flow with an ease many would be envious of. A recent performance of the track in the National Gallery for Other Voices is a must watch.

Chaila is a head-nodding summery bop but also a sharp and clever statement of intent. Good luck getting this one out of your head.

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