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. And all February long, in honor of Black History Month, we shine the spotlight on Black musicians making art that feels vital to this moment. This week, to celebrate Valentine’s Day, we’ve added another lens: love songs.
Get ready: The Bop Shop is now open for business.
Brittany Howard: “Stay High”
Brittany Howard certainly isn’t the first singer-songwriter to compare new love to a good high, but she is one of the few to soundtrack that singular feeling so holistically. “I already feel like doing it again, honey,” she sings in “Stay High,” a standout single off 2019’s alt-rock masterpiece Jaime, “‘cause once you know, then you know.” Punctuated by a lilting xylophone, Howard’s soulful croon feels uncharacteristically wide-eyed, as if the all-consuming love she’s found disarms her, too. I’m not the only one captivated by the track, either: “Stay High” earned Howard two of her five total 2021 Grammy nominations, including a nod for Best Rock Song in a historic lineup of all-women nominees. —Sam Manzella
Pink Sweat$: “Heaven”
It’s relatively easy to pen a tune evoking the celestial heights that love can make you feel. But to imbue that song with the skyward falsetto that Pink Sweat$ flexes here? Nothing about that is easy. Yet the R&B maestro makes it sound so simple on “Heaven,” creating the kind of cozy mood inside which you’re fine spending the rest of eternity. —Patrick Hosken
Nasty C ft: Ari Lennox: “Black and White”
Communication is key, the time-worn saying goes, but coming from the South African artist Nasty C, it sounds smoother than ever. On “Black and White,” the rapper makes the case for openly and directly asking for what you need in a relationship: “Show me what you into / It could be so simple / Black and white,” the refrain goes. Joined by Ari Lennox, whose elastic vocals lend depth to the meandering production, the video renders a long-distance tête-à-tête, with lyrics like illicit whisperings between lovers when the world has turned away. —Coco Romack
Q: “Take Me Where Your Heart Is”
The magic of “Tell Me Where Your Heart Is” lies in the gently simmering ballad’s opening line. “I’m so into you,” singer Q Marsden confesses, “but I don’t know where I’ve been.” You almost forget this lyric in the wake of what follows: a swooning set of pretty one-liners about the beauty of love, and these sweetly submissive platitudes are indeed winning. But it’s still the admission of being lost for me, and not knowing how your past will impact your future. True, deep love doesn’t come without laying your flaws bare.—Terron Moore
Syd: “Missing Out”
You can’t celebrate Valentine’s Day without a few clever anti-love songs, so here’s a sumptuous new one from Syd. Anti-love might not be the right term — “Missing Out” is more of a reflection on something that simply didn’t work out, in this lifetime anyway. There might still be a flicker of hope yet. “And maybe in another life, you’d be mine,” Syd sings over a skeletal carnival backdrop. “But you’re missing out.” —Patrick Hosken
Mega: “Future Me”
Valentine’s Day can be tough for all the single people out there, but Mega’s “Future Me” is all about self-love despite our present-day worries. It follows Mega’s more percussive debut single “Chariot” with a dedicated showcase of her rich vocal talents. “I hope the things that hold me down will one day set you free,” she sings, “I hope the things that choke me up will one day let you breathe.” V-Day is not just about love stories; it’s also a day connected to the global activist movement to end violence against women and girls. “Future Me” is a great reminder for all the women out there that their future can be better. Don’t give up. —Margaret Sclafani
Chloe x Halle: “Tipsy”
R&B sister duo Chloe x Halle can make romance sound heavenly with honeyed harmonies on cuts like “Ungodly Hour” and “Don’t Make it Harder on Me,” but they can also make it sound deadly. “Tipsy,” a deliciously explicit standout track from Ungodly Hour, leans into the more intoxicating nuances of love: infatuation, jealousy, and revenge. “I might be a little tipsy on your love / Makes me a little crazy, so what,” the two sing in its dark but dreamy chorus, shrugging off threats they’ve made towards boys who dare break their hearts. While the breakdown in the bridge provides a moment of brevity – “We just havin’ fun,” they coo – it really shouldn’t be that hard, right? As the two say: “If you love your little life, then don’t fuck up.” —Carson Mlnarik
Brockhampton: “Something About Him”
This B-side from the internet’s favorite boy band’s 2018 album Iridescence might clock in at under two minutes, but what it lacks in length, it makes up for in earnestness. The implicitly queer love song waxes poetic about a boy who’s “attitude is like magic” despite his shortcomings. The track’s experimental production is as hypnotizing as its subject matter, lending itself to a romance pining from afar as much as it does a slow dance around the living room. —Carson Mlnarik
Janet Kay: “Silly Games”
One of the pivotal moments in Steve McQueen’s excellent Lovers Rock comes just as “Silly Games” finishes its run on the turntable. As the house-party guests embrace and sway to Kay’s fading 1979 melody (and high-note athletics), they pick up the thread themselves, raising a collective choir of voices that fills the room, the scene, and the entire film. Even as the sequence continues longer than another director would let it, every moment feels essential, like the drama of Kay’s tune itself. —Patrick Hosken