Listen Up with Spotify’s Shanon Cook

The trends expert fills us in on the latest music buzz

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Meet Shanon Cook, Spotify’s trends expert-slash-our new music insider. Tune in monthly for a series we’re calling Listen Up, in which Cook shares what’s all the rage in the world of music. Get your adrenaline flowing for 2014 with a crop of new artists and some workout jams.

Spotify Sessions: A Great Big World
The New York duo (pictured above) must be on top of the world at the moment. Their rousing song “Say Something” — a collaboration with Christina Aguilera — is one of Spotify’s most streamed tracks so far this year. The guys recently came to our NYC digs for an awesome live performance for our series. When it comes to introducing his friends to quality music, Ian Axel says he recommends “I Can Sing a Rainbow,” by The Dells, as well as The Jayhawks’s 2003 album, Rainy Day Music. Chad Vaccarino pimps Gavin DeGraw’s debut, Chariot. “That record is like a piece of art,” he says. “I want to share [it] with everyone.”

Pump It Up
Spotify listeners are a sweaty bunch; they’ve created more than 6.7 million workout playlists. Eminem’s “Monster” is the current favorite in the U.S. Britney Spears’s “Work B**ch” and Rihanna’s “We Found Love” are top booty movers. Research indicates women who exercise tend to move in time to the beat more than guys, which is perhaps why songs with regular rhythmic patterns (pop, dance) are popular in our workout playlists.

Dr. Costas Karageorghis, a London-based scholar and expert on the relationship between music and exercise, tells us a surefire way to increase the intensity of your workout is by listening to music that is one or two BPMs (beats per minute) above your comfort level. “This will increase your work rate with the added benefit that the difference in effort will be almost imperceptible,” Karageorghis says. Check out our Ultimate Workout playlist, co-curated by the doc, for warm-up songs, high-intensity jams, and cool-down tracks.

Sound Familiar?
Tune into Mø, a fresh-sounding artist from Denmark whose voice we first heard via Avicii’s “Dear Boy.” But it’s her dreamy track “Never Wanna Know” that makes you wanna know more. (Her name means “virgin” or “maiden” in Danish.) Hailing from Australia, singer Betty Who got our attention when her upbeat song “Somebody Loves You” was featured in that Home Depot flash-mob proposal that went viral last year.

On the Rise
London-based dancer-turned-singer FKA Twigs is giving trip-hop in the vein of Portishead a fresh twist; get hooked on her breathiness in “Water Me.” Hozier is an Irish dude with a voice so big it fills every space in the room (he was first spotted singing at a barbecue). We’re quite taken by his anthemic song “Take Me to Church,” which is enjoying solid play on our viral charts in the U.S. and abroad.

Stream the playlist on Spotify.

Photo: Per Kristiansen / Courtesy of Warner Bros. Records; Courtesy of Marc Lemoine Photography