If you think there isn’t as much experimentation in pop music today as there used to or should be, you’re far from alone. A lot of critics – myself included – have spent the better part of the summer lamenting the rather safe choices a lot of big-name performers have been going with in their newest campaigns, but you won’t find the likes of Little Hurt among them. If anything, Little Hurt is issuing one of the rebellious listens of his genre this September with “Cooler If U Did,” a song that lives within a virtuosically expressive universe that seems to be rather difficult for a lot of artists both mainstream and indie the same to gain access to at the moment.

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There’s definitely a hint of Bruno Mars-style swagger in the chorus, and because of the prominence of the harmony at this stage of the track, it has an influence on how we interpret the bigger meaning in these lyrics. Using a melody to make your point is more or less the standard when it comes to creating original pop music, but to take a mood and make it as important to the audience as any cosmetic element in the material is takes just a bit more talent than what the average artist is able to post up whether they’re in the recording studio, on the stage, or anywhere else, for that matter. Little Hurt has that attribute under his belt, and he doesn’t let us forget it here.

The bulge of the bassline could have been dialed back just a bit while still making the same important presence felt on the bottom end of the mix, but I can also understand where it was necessary to highlight the sly nature of the vocal harmony, especially when we’re getting into the meat and potatoes of the song. “Cooler If U Did” is one of these special pop singles that doesn’t play by the rules of a structured, cathartic jam; it’s got its own way of getting us to embrace catharsis, which starts and ends with the symmetry of both the lyrics and the music. Most up-and-coming pop artists just don’t put in the detail that Little Hurt is, but this could be why we’re talking more about him than we are about any of his rivals at the moment.

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2022 really needed something more out of the fabled independent pop scene that once could be relied upon for producing some of the brightest and best sounds around, and while I don’t know whether or not Little Hurt can act as some sort of savior via the release of his new single exclusively, he’s undeniably doing his part to resurrect just a taste of excitement for those of us who live for a supremely lusty lead vocal. There hasn’t been a lot to be happy with over the past summer, but if we’re getting a sneak preview of what Little Hurt is going to bring forth on the regular in “Cooler If U Did,” you can sign me up for more right now.

Garth Thomas