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New Year's anthems

ADRIAN MA, HOST:

OK. OK. Wait a tick. Wait a tick. It is December 30, people. Let us officially press pause on the Christmas tunes that have been boring their way into our collective skulls for weeks now and get some fresh songs, OK? How about some music for the New Year's? Sounds pretty good, right? Except, you know, when I started to think about it this week, I realized that, compared to other winter holidays, there aren't that many New Year's-themed songs. I mean, of course, one comes to mind.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AULD LANG SYNE")

GUY LOMBARDO: (Singing) Should auld acquaintance be forgot and auld lang syne.

MA: That, of course, is "Auld Lang Syne." And, you know, I love a tradition as much as the next person. But I can't help but think that there have got to be other options for New Year's playlists besides, you know, a folk song from over two centuries ago. Luckily for us, we are now joined by Ann Powers, NPR music critic and correspondent. Ann brings us a few alternative musical choices to help ring in 2024. What's up, Ann?

ANN POWERS, BYLINE: Hey, Adrian. Let's party.

MA: Ann, I am ready. But I've been racking my brain the past few weeks trying to think of other New Year's anthems, you know. Of course, there is "Auld Lang Syne," but that song is like 200 years old and there are X number of interpretations of it. But are there other songs out there that I'm not thinking of that are actually New Year's jams?

POWERS: Well, Adrian, of course, pop music is all about cashing in on our sentiments and our special occasions. So there have been cases of pop groups writing songs specifically for New Year's. For example, the Swedish supergroup ABBA. They have a song called "Happy New Year."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HAPPY NEW YEAR")

ABBA: (Singing) Happy New Year. Happy New Year. May we all have a vision now and then.

POWERS: And then, on the other hand, there are songs that people have adapted to fit the holiday. Songs about countdowns really work well, for example. One I hear a lot at parties now is Beyonce's classic, "Countdown."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "COUNTDOWN")

BEYONCE: (Singing) My baby is a 10. We dressing to the nine. Make me feel so lucky, seven. He kiss me in his six. We be making love in five. Still the one I do this four.

MA: What else are you hearing out there for people who might want to kind of spice up their ball drop moment?

POWERS: I like Pink's classic 2010 party anthem "Raise Your Glass." It's an inclusive, positive and absolutely fun song to raise a glass to at midnight.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RAISE YOUR GLASS")

PINK: (Singing) So raise your glass if you are wrong in all the right ways, all my underdogs. We will never be, never be anything but loud and nitty-gritty...

MA: OK. This is really making me wish I had a glass here in the studio right now.

POWERS: I know. Definitely.

MA: And we are marching forward through time. Anything from this year that could be a New Year's anthem?

POWERS: Well, Adrian, I'm sitting here in my Christmas gift, which is a sweatshirt that says, I am Kenough. So you know where I'm going with this.

MA: (Laughter) I'm picking up the reference, yeah.

POWERS: This was the year of "Barbie."

(SOUNDBITE OF DUA LIPA'S "DANCE THE NIGHT")

POWERS: And Greta Gerwig's movie was such a feelgood hit that I think bringing some "Barbie" magic to the party makes sense. Dua Lipa's song "Dance The Night" has already been nominated for a Golden Globe. It's probably going to get nominated for an Oscar. And it's making a lot of New Year's Eve playlists.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DANCE THE NIGHT")

DUA LIPA: (Singing) See my heartbeat tonight. I can take the heat. Baby, best believe that's the moment I shine.

MA: These songs, you know, what I'm realizing, though, quite like explicit New Years anthems - right? - there's still - have a lot of those.

POWERS: Right. There's a new thing that's been happening for a while. It's called the New Year's Eve beat drop. Fans are timing their favorite songs so that a particular beat or a lyric will play exactly at midnight. For example, a popular one for the past couple of years is Kendrick Lamar's song "Alright." If you start the track at 11:59:41 at, you know, the last few seconds of 2023, if you start it exactly then, the phrase we're going to be all right will hit right at midnight.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALRIGHT")

KENDRICK LAMAR: (Singing) We gonna be all right.

PHARRELL WILLIAMS: (Singing) We gonna be all right. We gonna be all right. We gonna be all right. Do you hear me?

MA: One of the things I'm noticing is that all these songs are, like, pretty upbeat.

POWERS: Yeah.

MA: But, you know, what if you're not, like, a New Year's Eve party down kind of person? Like, I might count in that camp. Like, January 1 starts to creep up and you might start feeling a little - I don't know - anxious or reflective, maybe even emo. So do you have any musical prescriptions for that?

POWERS: I think the perfect New-Year's-Eve-to-New-Year's-Day song is one that combines that kind of like willful optimism and the reflectiveness or even skepticism we might have about how things are going to go in the new year. And, Adrian, let's be honest, it's - a lot of us are feeling a bit ambivalent about the future. So I'm turning to an appropriately kind of mixed-feeling song here.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE NEW YEAR")

DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE: (Singing) So this is the new year.

POWERS: It's from the band Death Cab for Cutie.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE NEW YEAR")

DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE: (Singing) I don't feel any different.

POWERS: And 2023 was the 20th anniversary of that band's classic album, "Transatlanticism." And it contains, to me, the perfect song for what we're talking about. The song is called "The New Year," and it goes from kind of like, I don't know how to feel about this, to, you know what? Let's just feel good. As hard as it is, let's try.

MA: That is NPR music critic and correspondent Ann Powers. Thank you, Ann.

POWERS: Thank you so much, Adrian. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ann Powers is NPR Music's critic and correspondent. She writes for NPR's music news blog, The Record, and she can be heard on NPR's newsmagazines and music programs.