Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Shakira, Shakira! The definitive Top 5

I only publish this now because the lithe Colombian superstar has just nudged a new entry into the list of the Top 5 Shakira songs of all time with the World Cup promoting "Waka Waka". And it's about time I paid tribute to a star who after all:

- has consistently turned out great pop music for over a decade
- writes (or co-writes) her own songs
- is one of those rare artists who is commercial and pop without being samey (see Top 5!)
- is a sexy dancer without being an over-choreographed robot
- makes interesting videos (La Tortura is not in the Top 5 but is the most striking of all - part pop diva, part BP oil spill)
- has not gone NUTS. Why do most girl singers lose it after a couple of hits? Many seem to Britney and Maria their way down the path to self-destruction and become circus freaks. From what I have seen on chat shows and the like, Shaks has stayed pretty much the same - humorous and reasonably normal. Here's the top 5:

5. The One
Released from the first album and not a great hit for her but it is a simple and brilliantly sung ballad. Early indication of her willingness to be a bit different is to be found in the first line: "So I find a reason to shave my legs . . ."

4. Waka Waka
Will be remembered long after the vuvuzelas have fallen silent. Pushed "Illegal" out of the Top 5.

3. Hips Don't Lie
The worldwide smash-hit song that needs no introduction. Shakira's dance-moves in the video still have the power to hypnotise men the world over. The clip below is off Spanish TV and features even more such moves than the original.

2. Underneath Your Clothes
Another great ballad which shows our Colombian's diversity and emotional depth. Her peak to date in song-writing terms from the first line: "Your a song, written by the hands of God"


1. Whenever,wherever
Her first big splash on the world music scene and still the best thing she has done - great intro, wonderful panpipes (never thought I ' d say that) and impossible not to get drawn into the chorus. Perfect pop.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Brandon Flowers Crossfire - great intro, but . . .

"Crossfire" is the new single from The Killers' frontman Brandon Flowers. How often does a top band's lead singer pull off a solo project successfully? Often the results are underwhelming and they are soon back in the studio with their band mates. Listening to the first few seconds of Crossfire and you might think Brandon had pulled off a rare exception to the rule and was going to deliver a hit on the scale of Human, his band's biggest and one of the most popular songs of the last couple of years.

It's a fantastic start with atmospheric bell chimes, lush guitar chords, the start of the drum beat and finally a great bassline, all in the first 40 seconds. And the rest of the song is not short of things to admire, particularly Flowers' vocal performance which is full and intense as you would expect. At times he strongly reminds me of Don McLean with a voice that is muscular, heartfelt and quintessentially American.

Reading comments on the internet and other reviews, they have mostly been about whether it is much different to The Killers and the video (see below) which features him as the captive of some ninjas and rescued by Charlize Theron. I think the general consensus is that he has produced an average Killers song. I think that is unfair - his distinctive vocal meant it was always going to sound a bit like what has gone before but it something new. The Killers have always struck me as fairly gimicky and stagey, this is more stripped down and emotionally raw. And that intro is special.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

MMM, Whatever happened to Hanson?

MMM Bop was (rightly) one of the most loved songs of the 90s and the child stars that made the record were briefly bigger than the Beatles, or at least The Bay City Rollers, for a couple of years circa 1997. I just heard their latest single and it's become my favourite of the moment, mainly because of the brilliant intro, some gutsy vocals and a fun video that doesn't take itself too seriously. Reminds me of the Blues Brothers. The clip is below but having heard it I got to thinking why I hadn't heard of them for more than a decade. What had happened since Mmm Bop?

Before I began a little internet research I imagined that I would find they had gone the way of most child stars: the fall from the top of the charts, a couple of ill-judged comeback attempts or changes of direction followed by a long painful struggle to adapt to being normal again, just mild curiosities or nostalgia turns. Usually the last part is accompanied by some drugs, deviancy or weirdness as the former star tries to compensate for his or her loss of fame in other ways.

But this isn't the Hanson story. Pretty ordinary actually. The hits dried up sure, but they carried on as a band and released music all the way through to this point where they have a modest hit on their hands with "Something Other Than You" and a new album. There has been a record company dispute and a fair bit of charity work by the look of things but nothing to suggest a sordid and sorry decline.

Anyone thinking that the little drummer kid with long hair would have gone wild by now and become a kind of Mid Western Amy Winehouse, will be disappointed to learn he - and the other two - are all happily married with kids and not a hint of scandal between the lot of them ( that I could find any way with a couple of Google searches). Enjoy the single. It is quality.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

I think I'll like the new Lady Gaga song

Regular readers will know that there was a time when I didn't appreciate the phenomenal talent that is Lady Gaga (I think I underestimated Lady Gaga). A lot of people still don't.

I think her songs need a couple of listens for one thing. You also have to learn to look beyond the hype and the publicity-hungry image to give her the credit she deserves for the amount of creativity and craft in her work. You are always interested to see what's coming next. And on that subject . . .

A new song has apparently "leaked" (or been planted as part of a manipulative media strategy more likely) and the internet has been abuzz with reaction. The song is Changing Skies and a lot of the comment boils down to whether it represents a change of direction or not. If you haven't been leaked on yourself yet you might want to take a listen.

She has trailed her new album (presumably this song is to be on it) as harder-edged than the debut, even describing the message as "bitter". To me it seems more of the same - nice, clean, energetic beat underpinning a very catchy song. It has the feel of a marching song and the lyric speaks of needing a bit of help getting through tough times, hardly bitter. Again I am not as yet bowled over but I am sure I will like it time like all the others.

Then again this is a supposedly unfinished leak - so it may end up sounding very different and there is no guarantee that it will end up as a single or even on the album. Just a clever way of filling column inches with Gaga talk even when she is not in the charts? It's a good song though so I'm not complaining, though not sure whether it will be Best Song of The Week; there's still time as I decide that every Tuesday.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Has Selena Gomez scored again with Round and Round?

I was a big fan of her last hit "Naturally" (see post Selena Gomez Naturally) which is still knocking around the Billboard charts and became a decent-sized hit in other places including Britain and Australia. So I was quite keen to hear the Disney starlet's new single "Round & Round" to see if it matched up.

Not quite, has to be the verdict. A bit bland and inoffensive I am afraid without the dancefloor-filling beat of the last hit and lacking some of the vocal tricks. The beginning of Naturally was one of my favourite intros of last year (it charted late having been around since last Autumn).

Even the lyric of the new song is a touch dull and unoriginal - it's hardly the first time a pop song has explored the idea of being sent dizzy by someone you have fallen for. I mean what about, er, "Dizzy" or "You Spin Me Round" and countless others.

Perhaps I am being too hard on the girl (or her producers). Who expects startling originality from big label pop acts these days? And besides I didn't like Naturally at first, come to think of it, apart from that fabulous intro. Anyway here's the new one:

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

World Cup Shock - a decent song!

The World Cup may be keenly anticipated for the skill, the stars, the drama and the spectacle but surely not for the music. Rarely does the 4 yearly global football feast yield much even passable musical fare.

Last time out, 2006 in Germany, the official song was called Campione which was awful and sounded like a lot of drunk football fans singing the night away. Ricky Martin was a big name in 1998 and a natural choice for the French tournament's musical star turn. Sadly his Cup of Life was awful - "Here we go, Ole Ole Ole, tonight's the night, we're gonna celebrate the Cup of Life". No thanks.

This time though they might be onto something. Wavin' Flag by Knaan is my Best Song of the Week and is excellent. Great to sing along to, suitably uplifting and reflective of the African venue. Finally a world cup theme to be thankful for.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Why is Mike Posner giving away the sound of the Summer?

I am not complaining but I was a bit surprised to be able to download Mike Posner's brilliant new single "Cooler than me" right off his website for free. It's a track that's been around for a while but is only now been given the big release complete with new radio edit and a video. It is working as the track is climbing up the Billboard Top 100 and is already top 10 on iTunes.

So why can you get it free at http://www.mikeposner.com/free-downloads ? I guess it won't be free for long. I don't really understand the marketing of music these days.

It is my Best Pop Song of the Week and may get to be one of those songs that defines a Summer or at least forms a pleasant aural backdrop. It's bright, breezy, catchy and cool with a great moment about 30 seconds in. I am sure a lot of listeners will be reminded of Justin Timberlake but he is a genuine talent this guy. He has another song knocking around which I think is even better than Cooler than Me, which is "Drug Dealer Girlfriend". It features the same breezy R&B light style and a witty authentic sounding lyric. If you haven't heard them yet, see what you think.

autonomo guide

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Elin Lanto - too sexy to convince?

They say you can't be too rich or too thin. What about too sexy? No one has ever accused me of being off-puttingly gorgeous and distractingly good-looking but I understand it can be a problem for the women and men who win the genetic lottery. The main complaint is they are not taken seriously.

Now I wonder if there is a similar phenomenon for pop singers. The whole point of a singer is that they can convey an emotion with their voice and convincingly tell the story of a song. The problem for the too-beautiful is that they are not terribly convincing when singing about their woes and how tough they have it, because you look at them and doubt whether they do anything but glide through life.

Take Swedish uber-babe Elin Lanto (pictured). Her latest song (Best Pop Song of the Week) is Funeral which is a case in point. This is a big, dramatic (and brilliant) number about a girl so hurt by a guy that she will dance all over his funeral. Standard bunny boiler behaviour if a little morbid, but take a look at the singer. Does she really convince as someone who's going to get mucked about by some guy so badly that she plans to ruin his wake?
Perhaps I'm being a bit naive about the lives of the outrageously sexy - maybe they are just as liable to be emotionally shredded as the rest of us and therefore have just as much right to warble about it. Whatever the truth I don't expect Elin's going to start singing about why she never has to pay for drinks or always seems to get out of traffic tickets, and I do like her music, so I had better learn to pretend her heartache is genuine.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Roll Deep's Good Times and other daft lyrics

Four weeks as the UK number 1 for the entertaining and catchy "Good Times" by Roll Deep. I didn't make it Best Pop Song of the Week (that honour went to Elin Lanto's "Funeral" this week - more of that later) but that was only because I didn't realise I liked it at first, and by the time I did it wasn't New any more.

It is good, especially the chorus sung by Jodie Connor. It's one of those songs about the working week being done and letting your hair down with some wild partying. But hang on a minute aren't the lyrics are slightly absurd? If you don't know the song have a listen to the YouTube clip below. Roll Deep's idea of good times involves:

champagne-popping! yes, OK. Sounds like fun.
west end clubbing! count me in, good times indeed.
keep it rockin, party aint stoppin! wild. I'm up for it
late night shopping! er, what did you say? Your idea of a good times, non stop partying, hedonistic, thrill-seeking, clubbing night out is to go shopping? I mean late night shopping can be a passable time to spend a Thursday night, maybe combine it with a KFC Party Bucket or something, but I don't think this is what the cosmopolitan party animals really go for is it? Licking Cristal off a supermodel's chest in the VIP section or restocking on basic Tees at Gap? Hard choice.

As for my other daft lyric of the moment, we have to thank Elin Lanto and her track Funeral. If you don't know it then have a listen. It is great, I love the song, but there is something a bit odd about the chorus isn't there?

"No matter if you end up in heaven or in hell,
I'll be dancing on your funeral"

Sure I get the idea - you hate me so much you'll be celebrating when I die but that second line doesn't quite make sense does it. You might dance at a funeral, either at the graveside (bit tactless) or at the wake afterwards (practically obligatory at most of the ones I have been to), but ON a funeral? Elin is Swedish and I think it's a bit of a misunderstanding. A native English-speaker would have said I'll be dancing at your funeral, not on. I think she took funeral to be like birthday or wedding day, because they are occasions when "on" would be appropriate. The little slip actually improves the song - makes it sound like she wants to dance all over your grave in front of the mourners. What kind of a bunny boiler is she anyway?

Any more daft lyrics around?

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Act your age Miley!

How do you like your 17 year old girls? Boasting about how many guys they go through, how hot they are and how good they are with a pole (the thin silvery kind you get tips for working not an Eastern European)? Probably not, unless you're a 17 year old boy who's not fussy.

I'm not remotely prudish and am perfectly comfortable with the way sex permeates pop music (and the selling of pop music). Always has, always will, even at the young end of the market. What I do find a bit grating is young girl singers who feel they have to be not only cute and sexy but also somehow sexually knowing and in charge well beyond their years. Perhaps this is why I don't like Miley Cyrus is acting like she's some out of control sex machine in her latest song and video "Can't Be Tamed". It's not the sexy outfits or dancing, it's the patronising assumption that we will accept a 17 year old kid who was singing about schoolgirl crushes last year, suddenly playing the wonton sex goddess who services half a football team before breakfast. From Mouseketeer to Mata Hari in the space of two pop videos?

It was the same with Britney Spears. She seemed to leap from schoolgirl to callgirl after a couple of years in the limelight. At least she has now been round the block a few times so when she sings If You Seek Amy you can kind of believe her.

It might be acceptable if Miley was a convincing slapper (Kesha pulls off the role quite convincingly and the Millionaires are alarmingly sluttish). I appreciate she's only acting out a role, but I can't see where committed Christian Miley has gained the experience to convince as an in your face sex symbol. Do you see Billy Ray letting the boys of Nashville get too close to young Miley during the Hannah Montana years? and in the last couple of years she's only been dating one of the intensely evangelical Jonas brothers and some kid out of Neighbours. So come on Miley act your age and sing about crushes and young love again. Leave the vampy stuff to singers more age appropriate like Cher and Madonna.

Here's the clip for those who haven't seen it and below that a current favourite of mine by Eliza Doolittle who does seem to be still presenting a sweet, wholesome image that suits her age.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Scissor Sisters: less of the tight butts please

The Scissor Sisters have decided to promote their new album "Night Work" with a black and white picture of a finely toned set of male buttocks, presumably being the album cover. Now I am not homophobic or insecure about my own rather less finely toned rear end but is this really necessary?

Say I am about to enjoy my lunchtime sandwich and decide to browse a few of my favorite popsites, do I deserve to have clenched buns thrust in my face? Maybe it's just me but that's quite an appetite suppressant.

The new album is called "Night Work" so could they not have used a picture of a (female) nurse for example doing a late shift or a night porter? Actually I just Googled night porter and the images I came up with are not helping: a half naked woman in a nazi uniform, I think it must be a German film or something. Perhaps Night Work (like Scissor Sisters) is one of those innocent sounding phrases that has some ghastly double meaning in the gay world, so I am being naive as well as prudish.

Any way the album is being promoted with lead single "Fire with Fire" and it is a half decent track actually. And just to show the Scissor Sisters I can fight fire with fire, I have headed this post with my very own black and white buttock picture; a remarkable image I pulled off the internet (well, you don't think I keep pictures of dodgy looking birds slapping their butts with spatulas on file just in case do you?)

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

If you like sad songs, download this

This song "Let Go" from the Swedish band JJ has really grown on me recently and I was delighted to discover a free download available (link below). It's not actually that amazingly sad but the line "take me away like I overdosed on heroin" gives you a flavour of the track. I love the pure and wistful quality of the vocals and the instrumental bits are given room to breathe. I find it very relaxing. There's a bit of Everything But the Girl and Enya about it all.

For my song of the week I 've gone for something a bit more mainstream - "What If I" by Ben's Brother which also has an 80s echo about the sound, reminding me anyway of Feargal Sharkey.

Free Download here:

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Fugative - where it's at

I made a sweetly old-fashioned power ballad called "It Did It for Love" by Swedish actress Jessica Andersson my selection for Week's Best Pop Song but if something more current is your thing then check out Fugative and his new song "Crush". It's not strikingly original or even that good - though with its catchy hook and bouncy rapping it is easy on the ear. But you are looking at that rare thing : an artist on the verge of pop stardom. It may not last very long or raise many ripples of interest outside Britain - he's from Essex - but he's definitely got something started.

He's had a couple of minor hits already - Jimmy Shoe, It's Summertime and Supafly - and they were before he turned 16. By a brief straw poll of YouTube and Blog comments he is widely believed to be a handsome young fellow (example comment: "hes da fittest boy singa eva" ).
He writes his own songs and apparently records them in his bedroom (surely not since he got a bit famous?). His light and bright commercial R&B sound seems like the surest route to pop success these days. See what it did for Jay Sean and Taio Cruz - US no 1s. On that subject he has already been taken under the wing of a big US music manager who is predicting big things for him. Well he wouldn't be doing his job if he didn't big up the lad would he? Actually, hold on a minute. Pop supremo signs up a handsome young white kid to sing black music to sell to young girls. Doesn't sound so modern and cutting edge when you put it like that but here's the single:

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Are The Villagers a new Simon & Garfunkel?

Well maybe, but there are some big differences - they are a 5 piece band from Ireland not a duo from Queens. But have a listen to their latest song "Becoming a Jackal" below and I think you'll agree there is an uncanny likeness in their sounds.

Sure the lead singer has a harder-edged voice which doesn't have the sweetness and softness of Simon and Art, but otherwise there are a lot of echoes particularly in the phrasing, the echoey harmonies in the chorus and of course the folk-style guitar playing.

I don't know whether the similarity is intended or not but I don't remember hearing any other band sounding like Simon and Garfunkel before (and I listen for this sort of thing - see 5 songs that sound like Abba but aren't). The new band will be doing well to match their famous forebears but have made a good start with this song which is raw emotion but very tightly and melodically conveyed.

As for Simon & Garfunkel, I remember being wowed by the Central Park concert they gave when I was young and their famous songs are engraved on my musical consciousness. Go on Villagers, give us another Bridge over Troubled Water or Sound of Silence! As a footnote I just learnt from Wikipedia that Simon & Grafunkel's first band was called Tom and Jerry. Would make a good pub quiz question that.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Kate Nash, Puppets and the battle of the mocknies

This week Kate Nash was my pick as Best Song of the Week with "Do Wah Do". It took my a while to fall for this track even though it is just the kind of fun, witty and likeable fare I usually lap up and it's because of that "mockney" accent.

To non-Brits who don't know what that is, I'll have to explain. She sings like she's a working class Londoner (" a cockney" see left for genuine article) even though she sounds nothing like that in real life. Compare a few seconds of these two YouTube clips, the song and an interview:

You probably now get the idea. It's probably something that just irritates British people (particularly irritable ones like me).

I don't mind singing voice affectations in general just this specific one. After all most British singers from the 50s onwards have tried for an American accent, naturally enough as they are working in an American form. It's just accents which seem designed to give the singer a bit of street edge that seem so absurd and posed. Another example is the white British kids who talk or sing like they are Jamaican despite Ali G having completely called out this nonsense a decade ago.

Pearl and the Puppets - a new mockney low
Actually there is another even more absurd example which again ruins quite a good song. Pearl and the Puppets, a much touted new band for 2010, have a song out called "Because I do". It's a light little ditty which builds into a happy-making sing-a-long chorus (which is why it has already been used in Vodafone ads). But listen to the first lines and you have some classic mockney:

"I saw you the other day, you were dreaming that's O Kay" Acceptable if she's from London but she's from Scotland. I maybe wrong and maybe Scots speak like this but I don't think so. Here's an interview with Pearl (actually Katie) who speaks more like she should be making porridge or shortbread adverts.

On a final note, since I'm moaning, what about being accused of mocknification unjustly? Poor old Eliza Doolittle, a previous best song winner with "Skinny Genes", was roundly slagged off for being a mockney in the music press (and copying Kate Nash) but I can't see it myself. She sounds totally unmockney to me.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Millionaires and the rise of slut pop

If you thought Kesha's music was not exactly wholesome fare for the young girls it targets, wait until you meet The Millionaires. The Californian girl trio are making a big push for stardom this year and, judging by the lyrics of their trashy pop songs, Moms of impressionable teens might not like them.

They broke through last year with their GET F$CKED UP and Just got Paid, Let's Get Laid Tours last year. 2010 sees their first major single releases "Stay The Night" and "Prom Dress". The latter begins with the words:

listen up bitches
i'm your fucking M C
I've got my mind on your goodies
I can see your WEE WEE

and it doesn't get any more highbrow with every verse and chorus on the same theme - no commitment sex. Stay the Night is more or less the same with a some drinking and rough sex thrown in. Maybe it's some kind of post-modern ironic thing but I can't see many young girls listening to lines like this getting the joke:

so if you get me drunk
my uhhh will shut you up
we'll go down
on the ground
play around

Should parents and the rest of us be worried by the likes of Kesha and The Millionaires? I don't think so. Pop has always been about sex at some level (the one that started it all off "Shake Rattle & Roll" was the Millionaires song of 1954) and songs are the least of parents' worries in any case. The songs should be just judged on how good they are as entertainment. They are OK - bright and cheery enough 5/10 - but you do get the feeling that all the sex stuff is a cynical attempt to make bubble gum pop sound edgy and rebellious.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Why I like Glee

There seems to be no stopping the hit US TV show Glee which is about to air a second series in America after a wildly successful debut last year. News (or rumours masquerading as news) about the show seems to crop up almost hourly. The cast are going on Oprah (true); they are planning a Broadway version (not true, at least for now). The kids in the lead roles - like Michelle Lea - are now major stars. The show is scoring record ratings in the UK for its channel E4 and the cast versions of various songs have hit the charts, most notably Don't Stop Believing by Journey.

I confess to being something of a fan although I wouldn't classify myself as a "Gleek" as the more obsessive fans are known. For the uninitiated it's set in a High School and follows the fortunes of a Glee (singing and dancing) club with lots of musical numbers, subplots about cheerleaders and nerds vs the cool kids rivalries. If that sounds a bit duff it is actually quite addictive for these reasons:

- it's well made. The States churns out some TV crap but also the slickest and cleverest shows. This is one of the smart and funny ones, created by the man behind Nip/Tuck.
- the cast is very good. The best character is a half-in-closet gay pupil called Kurt played by an actor with no previous experience.
- the music is very varied, from hip hop to show tunes, and their take on the songs is always very original. They also fit the music around the plotlines cleverly.
- I love American High School films like those done in the 80s by John Hughes and this is very much in that genre.
- while it can be a bit sickly sweet at times it isn't overly so and it doesn't all work out tritely and happily all the time. In fact the kids seem to have a pretty up and down time and react like kids would which is possibly the real secret of its appeal.

Best song so far:

Funniest routine:

Sunday, 21 March 2010

3OH!3 - their three best

3OH!3 have come a long way in the last year and are well on the way to becoming one of the pop music's biggest acts. Quite surprising given their obscure and slightly whacky beginnings. Here's a catch-up for anyone just discovering them together with 3 of their best tracks.

They are an American duo who started off doing the kind of stuff that appealed to partying college kids, tapping into the spirit of Jackass. "Holler till you pass out" was typical.

Their breakthrough came in 2009 with "Don't Trust Me" which was a Top Ten US Hit and features the kind of funny video, anarchic style and killer pop hooks which underpin their popularity:

But they really broadened their popularity with two collaborations - StarStrukk with Katy Perry and Blah Blah Blah with Kesha. Although these are the hits that made them hot property I prefer these two songs: new single "Follow me Down" (from the Almost Alice CD released to accompany the Alice in Wonderland movie) is another great bit of pop music with an indie edge, typical of the songs that have got them this far.

Finally, just to show they are not just a latter day Beastie Boys, there is the ballad Still Around which shows they have the musical ability to back up their antics:

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Is this the cheesiest pop song in history?


As regular readers will know I like my pop music commercial and, well, poppie. But you can take a good thing too far and I think the latest song "Manboy" from Swedish Gareth Gates knock-off Eric Saade is a case on point. You have to listen to really appreciate just how cheesy this song is.

Whoever wrote and produced this song was really looking for the lowest common denominator, found it and then kept on digging. If I have ever heard a more basic track so lacking in even an inkling of sophistication, then I can't remember it. Even the lyric, such as it is, homes in on its pre-teen girl market with all the subtletly of a Cruise missile.

But who am I to diss the guy (who is apparently angling to represent Sweden at the Eurovisions - should fit in well). I listened to one other song by him called "Sleepless" and it is actually very enjoyable (if quite an obvious N Synch copy). It's similarly lacking in pretension but has just enough novelty (I love the intro) to make it listenable. There is a fine line between passably commercial pop and having more cheese than Dominos.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

My guilty 80s secret

I am surrounded by cool new music like the new Best New Popsong selection "Teenager" by Japayork which is excellent and you should listen if you haven't heard it yet:


But what am I actually listening to? Land of Make believe by Bucks Fizz. I stumbled across it the other day while researching my 5 songs that sound like Abba (but aren't) post. And I've been listening to it every second song ever since. I was no great fan when they were big in the early 80s although I do remember liking the skirt removing antics at the Eurovision Song Contest. But I can't get enough of Land of Makebelieve at the moment - it really is a great pop song. Anyone else got any guilty 80s secrets to share?

Spanish residency

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Single review: Knockout by Lil Wayne

I have to say I came to this song without any great hope that I would like it. Although rap has become a vibrant and wildly popular musical form, rap songs rarely make good pop music. This is a fantastic exception and I hope it delivers Lil Wayne's second US no 1 (after Lollipop) for his own account after collaborating so successfully with the likes of Eminem and Jay Sean.

This is actually more of a rock song with a lot of guitar (including a great intro) and Wayne's raucous, heavily auto-tune distorted vocal is the sort of thing you hear on Scuzz.

This song also has someone else involved - it features "Bedrock" rapper Nicki Minaj, who adds a sweet and melodious hook and a glorious expletive filled outburst in the middle.

My favorite part is the end where Wayne delivers the sort of finish that fills rock stadiums. I actually hated Lollipop so this cracking song was a welcome surprise.


Tuesday, 16 February 2010

5 songs that sound like Abba (but aren't)

I wouldn't say I'm the world's biggest Abba fan but like most people I recognise there is something special about those 70s and 80s classics. I came across a song by Music Go Music called "Light of Love" on the excellent This Must be Pop blog and saw it compared to Abba. I agreed and went on a mission to find the top 5 most Abbatastic songs not by Abba. Here they are, in no particular order:

"Light of Love" by Music Go Music

"Fantasy Island" by Tight Fit

"Angelo" by Brotherhood of Man

"One for Sorrow" by Steps

"Thankyou" by Alcazar

My latest articles: on the Gold price and Tax

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

5 beautiful new songs that will never hit the charts

As regular readers will know my music tastes veer towards commercial pop and my weekly selection as Song of the Week is normally something fun and upbeat that is great to sing along to. This week's selection "Hey Soul Sister" by Train is such a choice but I also like to listen to lots of new indie, experimental and frankly obscure songs that are highly unlikely ever to hit the charts. It is very rewarding to find a beautiful sound that isn't repeated endlessly on the radio and deviates from the normal commercial strictures. Here are a few of the best I have heard recently:

Efterklang "Modern Drift" Brilliant, relaxing, chillout from the Danish band who have a new album out in February. Some of these selections might take a couple of listens to appreciate but not this one - it hooks you and transports you from the sweet piano intro. MP3 download here:


Tinashe "MayDay" Haunting is an overused adjective by music reviewers but this guy's voice is definitely that and also very soulful as befits a young Zimbabwean-born singer on Island Records. I like this remix on YouTube:


Active Child "I'm In Your Church Tonight" My favourite out of this selection. Title is apt as the sound puts you in mind of religious monks chanting in cloisters. Don't let that put you off as it is a superb song; one to listen to and unwind and destress.


BT - "Suddenly" The most pop and upbeat of these 5 songs. A real blast of electro-synth dance music but with a captivating vocal. From the latest album of Brian Transeau, a highly successful producer of hits for others and movie soundtracks.


Laura Veirs - "July Flame" There is real poetry in this low key ode to Summer and thwarted romance but also more: a great chorus and the kind of guitar that you would want to hear sitting on the porch on a hot lazy afternoon.


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Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Hurts have delivered 2010's first classic

Being on loads of New Year "ones to watch" lists is a bit of a double-edged sword I think: flattering and lots of publicity but also ramps up the expectations and perhaps subliminally suggests to people that you are being hyped up beyond your worth. Hurts has certainly been heavily tipped recently on the back of 2009's excellent "Wonderful Life" (a previous Best New Pop Song selection - see review) . The BBC's Sound of 2010 placed Hurts in the top 5 and were no 2 on Breaking More Waves similar list. But BELIEVE THE HYPE! The first new material we have from the British duo is called "Blood, Tears and Gold" (not a single yet apparently but will be on a Spring debut album):


It is not only my current selection as the song of the week (and the first time one artist has been featured twice) it is the first one I have rated "instant classic". It is the kind of emotionally-charged atmospheric synth ballad that you want to really savour over and over, perhaps in the dark. With more mainstream, radio-friendly but obviously classy and distinctive songs like this they could well out-perform the hype and become a huge success in the UK and beyond.

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Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Gabriella Cilmi's driving me crazy!

No, not in that way! Although the 18 year old Ozzie pop siren does look sexy enough I suppose in her new video "On a Mission" which I am making my Best New Pop Song of the Week although they've gone a bit overboard with the "Chicks in their underwear" theme on this one. It's easy to see why a commercial, mainstream pop fan like me would like this song: high energy dance beat, electro pop but with plenty of guitars, belted out chorus . . . what's not to like? So what's driving me crazy? The first five seconds, that's what. What does that intro remind me of? There are plenty of 70s and 80s echoes throughout the song (including a whiff of Jump by the Pointer Sisters at the beginning and a bit of the Streisand/Summer disco epic Enough is Enough later on). As for the reedy unconvincing rap in the middle, I don't know who that reminds me of - Lady Sovereign? Toni Basil? But that first 5 seconds - what song does that come from. Go on, listen now and put me out my misery:


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Sunday, 17 January 2010

Selena Gomez "Naturally" - Free MP3 download

I really like the song "Naturally" by Selena Gomez. If you haven't heard it, it's a bit more mature and cool than you'd expect from a Disney child star. The song hits the ground running with a great intro and beat and the energy never flags on this enjoyable dance track. Her voice has more depth and strength than you would expect. The song has been around for a while which is perhaps why they put out a free MP3 download out here:


I think it's just for this week only but well worth adding to your collection if you like bright and cheery pop music with a good beat.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Riverside: music and the F word

The UK's no.2 record this week is Riverside by Sidney Samson. A bit too annoying to be my pick this week as best pop song, it is notable for its catchy but soon to be rather irritating riff (think what Crazy Frog might have sounded if it'd been from Holland and a House DJ like Samson). The other salient point about the song - which you won't hear on the radio - is that it's only lyric is "Riverside - MotherF***er". It works quite well and I am sure the profanity is part of its appeal to the thousands who have downloaded it. It got me thinking about other songs that use the F word.

Oddly enough my favorite song of the last few weeks also features F***ers: Boys Who Rape (Should all be destroyed) by The Raveonettes [see blog post] and again very effectively. I originally fell for the track listening to an American radio edit (i.e. minus the expletives) and was quite shocked when I heard to version of YouTube which contains the lyric "Those F***ers stay in your head". Again it's quite effective and my preferred version. Listen - it is brilliant:


Others that spring to mind are "The Modern World" by The Jam which is an angry but brilliant rant sung by someone alienated from everything they see around them including the final line "I don't give two f**s about your review". I remember this song as a kid and it seemed very brave at the time and again the swearing fits the spirit of the song well. More recently we had F U Right Back (again rather shorn of it's power in the radio edit) and of course If Your Seek Amy by Britney (you subversive thing you). The F word first into the upperreaches of the UK charts in 1995 when Smokie re-released their 70s classic "Living Next Door to Alice" with the lyric "Alice, Who the F*** is Alice?" added in to the chorus. Anything for a comeback eh?

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Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Leave Eliza Doolittle alone!

What's poor little Eliza Doolittle done to deserve the barage of abuse she's getting from the critics. I don't mean the fictional character from My Fair Lady of course but the young London singer who's currently got a great new single out called "Skinny Genes":


With it's addictively catchy intro, jaunty whistle and vocal stylings reminiscent of Corrinne Bailey Rae you'd think she'd be showered with praise but no, some of the snobs in the music press have got their knives out.

Guardian Music damned her with faint praise, said she wouldn't last long and intimated that she was a cynical record company project to fill the vacant ground left open by Lilly Allen's "retirement". Another critic managed to pack "annoying", "highpitched", "raspy", "predictable", "flimsy", "horribly laboured" and countless other brickbats into his scathingly dismissive review.

To be fair I've seen some more positive reviews but in general it looks like a case of cynical old-timers refusing to give bright and breezy pure commercial pop the time of day. The public are a better judge and I can see this song being a big hit and making these reviews look a bit "predictable", "flimsy" and "laboured" themselves.

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Hot Chip will fry up the charts with this song

Did I really just kick off 2010 with that awful pun? You may not have heard of the British indie pop group Hot Chip (I hadn't until recently) but their new single "One Life Stand" is fantastic and my selection as best pop song of the week (the video and my review are on the site - This Week's Best New Pop Song). They are not exactly a new band having notched up 4 albums over the last 10 years and notching up several UK hits. When I heard One Life Stand I was immediately taken by the 80s style electro-synth sound, thumping bassline and most of all by the vocal which starts off quite monotone but really hits the spot by the chorus. Perhaps it will score big for them. I thought I would check out their previous successes to see why they haven't registered with me before. The first single from the current album (this is the second) is called Take It In and I thought it was dull. Of the back catalogue the pick is "Ready for the Floor" but this new single is their best to date.

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