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BBC - Chart blog

Radio 1's Chart Show blog, with gossip from Reggie, and daily reviews from Fraser McAlpine.

Last Build Date: Thu, 20 Jan 2011 09:46:22 +0000

Copyright: Copyright 2013

The ChartBlog Awards - Part 2

Thu, 20 Jan 2011 09:46:22 +0000

Get dressed! You're about to be blessed with the best of the a vest...etc... Most Controversial Review JLS - 'The Club Is Alive' Y'know, I still don't really get what all the fuss was about with liking this song. It's clearly better than 'One Shot' or the Children In Need one they did (which came with its own comment storm), and even though it suffers from excessive autotune the tune it actually autos is a rather good one. Naturally, just shrugging and saying "ah well, horses for courses" was never gonna wash with the ChartBlog massive. Key quote: "If the band are in the middle of doing what they do, and you, the audience, are concentrating on the words they're saying over, say, how they look, what muscles are flexing, which way up Aston is, the beat, the music, the clothes, the bagginess of Ortise's trousers, the hair, the teeth, the twinkly eyes, the voices, or what the song is saying even if the words are not, chances are you're not really JLS's core demographic." The weird thing is how long the reaction to this one opinion has continued to rumble on, really. I think the idea is that if you like something that someone else doesn't like, then this exposes your soft underbelly, ready for spearing. But if you fail to like something that someone does like, then you're cruel. How this theory has continued to thrive in an era of hateful YouTube comments and snarky Twitter feeds is beyond me, but there it is. Plus that "hey!", the one that pushed it from a 4-star to a 5-star review, is STILL brilliant. So ner. Bubbling Under: Paramore - 'Misery Business' HOO-BOY!================================ Most Successful Meeting of Minds A Very Entertaining Chat With The Hoosiers... If there's anything we can learn from this marvellous interview it's that it's always a good idea - should you be lucky enough to interview a pop band - to call the singer a dwarf within seconds of the interview starting. It won't work for everyone (waves to Kelly Jones), but the rewards are more than worth the price you have to pay to get them. Bubbling Under: Los Campesinos! - Their Favourite Interview EVER We Are Scientists - Bleeding-Heart Liberals, And Their Exploding Drum Carpet ================================ Mystic Meg Award For Predicting The Future Wild Beasts - Bewilderbeasts I don't ever really try and predict whether things will be big hits or not. It's not really for me to say, democracy being a strange beast that seems to explode in many different directions at once. And besides, just because one song sells more than another, it doesn't mean it'll make any more sense to you, the listener. That said, I was pleased when, having written a big confused rant about why I kept listening to this early song by Wild Beasts when there were other, more poppy things to be getting on with, they then went on, a couple of years (and albums) later, to be quite popular, and Mercury nominated. Quite why 'Atlas' by Battles wasn't at No.1 for 10 weeks straight remains a total mystery, however. Bubbling under: An Alternative Top 5 ================================ Best Remix Lost in Translation It's a simple premise. You take a song's lyrics, use an online translator to convert them into a foreign language, then use the same translator to bring them back. Something gets interfered with along the way, and all sense is lost. LOST! Bubbling Under: Important Moments In Pop History - The Saturdays Get Their Name ================================ Most Let Down By The Passage Of Time Ringtone From Hell Generator - Glamorous Remember polyphonic ringtones? Remember how they were a version of modern pop songs but always sounded awful and robotic, like Will.I.Am without the astonishing quality control? Well we made our own, and it was also awful. Trouble is, nobody has polyphonic ringtones any more. And quite right too! Bubbling under: Fun With Press Releases ================================ Best Joke A Peek Behind The Curtain... Me and Steve ChartBlog were having a conversation one day about 'All These Things That I've Done' by the Killers, and thinking of other [...]

The ChartBlog Awards - Part 1

Wed, 19 Jan 2011 16:42:13 +0000

As promised, here's a brief stone-skip over some of the better moments of ChartBlog's four years of glory. Some of these have been nominated by ChartBlog readers on Twitter. Feel free to nominate your own in the usual place. ================================ Most Ridiculous Froth-On The Ting Tings - 'That's Not My Name' The best song to have been released in ChartBlog's lifetime. Yes it is. Yes it is. Key Quote: "Stop all the clocks. Everybody put your guitars, synths, drum machines and microphones down. There's no need to put any more music out in 2008, the race to have the Most Bestest Song Of The Year In The Whole World Ever has already been won, and if you continue to take part, you'll be lapped more times than a lone saucer of milk in Catland. " Bubbling Under: My Chemical Romance - 'Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)'================================ Best Soundtrack A hotly-contested award this one. So hot, in fact, that we've had to split it between two equally astonishing winners. First there was the cover version ChartBlog commissioned of the Klaxons song 'Gravity's Rainbow', as performed by the Central Band of the Royal British Legion. New Rave, Meet Old Dave Apparently the band themselves were so taken with it that they used it as introduction music for a couple of gigs, and the Central Band themselves ended up playing at an MTV party. All because of one daft idea (mine), executed brilliantly (by them). Smile, It's Radiohead! When Radiohead were doing their whole 'honesty box' thing, allowing people to pay what they wanted for their album 'In Rainbows', they also pioneered the concept of allowing assets from their songs to be released for remix purposes. They even set up a competition for people to remix the song 'Numb'. So that is what I did. Didn't win, of course. Their song is sad, my remix is NOT SAD. Bubbling Under: Delays and their ChartBlog song. ================================ Least Successful Meeting of Minds McFly interview - When Harrassed Met Harry Poor ChartBlog Hazel. So smitten was she with Harry McFly's startling beauty that she entirely lost her grip on what she was supposed to be doing, while she was supposed to be interviewing him about stuff. The ensuing interview, while it was not as bad as she claimed at the time, did betray a certain nervous charm, shall we say? See also: An interview with the lead singer of The Academy Is... about their song 'We've Got A Big Mess On Our Hands', in which he totally failed to see any connection between the song's title and actual hands and mess. And: Trying To Get An Interview With Beth Ditto Bubbling Under: Five Minutes with Justin Bieber ================================ Cuckoo Award For Extensive Nesting Jedward ft. Vanilla Ice - 'Under Pressure (Ice Ice Baby)' Behind every great blog, there's a great community of regular commenters. They read every post, laugh, high-five and generally support everything the bloggers ever say or d-hang on, that can't be right... Oh yes, what they do is pick the most preposterous place on the entire blog and build a new community there. It's like guerilla message boarding, or something. Then they talk to each other about up and coming pop songs, swap reviews, and tease one another, while claiming significant numbers as their own. Now that the parent blog is about to fly the nest, ChartBlog's own comment-cuckoos are seeking other places to settle, so don't be surprised if you hear strange noises coming from your attic in a week or two. PS: To the ChartBlog commenters - only kidding! Love you guys! Mwah! Bubbling Under: Alexander Rybak - 'Fairytale' ================================ Best Pretend Science Lyriscope - Katy Perry Ah remember the Lyriscope? What fun that was! Acting out the lyrics to hit songs, and seeing how close to reality they were, or are, or both. I might have to let you into a little secret though. Some of the things that are written about in Lyriscope reports did not really happen. You can probably guess which ones (and i[...]

End of a ChartBlog

Fri, 14 Jan 2011 14:51:32 +0000


Hello, I have some news.

Over the last four years, it has been my privilege to write daft stuff about songs; songs which have been in the charts, songs which should have been in the charts, and songs which happily fell short of going into the charts. It has been the most fun job I've ever had.

And, as is fitting for a blog about the charts, it's been a hit! We've not really talked about it before, possibly because it would've been vulgar to crowbar a bit of bragging into a review, but somewhere in the region of five thousand of you smashers have been coming here every day to have a read and a row about pop music. ChartBlog has constantly been in the Top 3 of BBC music blogs, and often in the Top 1. That's right, NUMBER ONE! WITH A BULLET!

Unfortunately, after all of this larking about, it's time for me to move on, pack up my idiosyncratic worldview, dismantle the old wry asides, saddle up the Lyriscope and ride off into pop pastures new.

By which I mean I will soon be leaving ChartBlog, to bang on about music for other people, and that means ChartBlog won't be updated, although it will continue to be archived.

There are some amazing plans for the chart on Radio 1, some really exciting new ideas are on their way, so don't fret, it's all going to be alright.

This isn't even the final ChartBlog post. Over the next few days I'm going to put together a compilation of our greatest hits - best reviews, best interviews, daftest rants - and generally wallow in a bit of nostalgia, partly because I'm a little sad to go*, but mainly as a way of saying thank you.

That's a thank you to everyone who has written things for the ChartBlog, everyone who has taken the time to roll up their sleeves and comment, and most of all, you. Yes you. You have always been the best.

Come and say hello on the internet if you haven't already. We can argue about pop music! Again!

You have all been FIVE STARS OUT OF FIVE.



*On the plus side, it does mean I don't have to review the new Aggro Santos single. *HIGHFIVE*

Everything Everything - 'Photoshop Handsome'

Wed, 12 Jan 2011 12:53:54 +0000

Look, let's not mess about. The choice is very clear. Do we want pop music to be thrilling and odd and devious and brainy and joyful and brilliant, or do we want it to be familiar and acceptable and formulaic and stupid and ignorable and...just...THERE as a kind of aural emulsion? Cos I think we all want the former, and if that's the case, there's a few things we need to get sorted. First, when astonishing pop songs come along, we need to make sure they are treated as the precious things they really are, shown a lot of love, bought, taken to the top table of the charts, and handed the keys to the executive bathroom. Secondly, putting up with things which only work on paper is no longer acceptable. To have a passionate relationship with something means you sometimes have to be let down. Why not admit it? Some songs offer to take you somewhere amazing, and then leave you on the pavement in the rain, throbbing with irk and wanting to hurt it like it has hurt you. I don't mean physically, of course, tripping up a pop star just because their third single isn't quite as good as their second is a little mad. But it's just as mad to pretend that a song is good just because it's a hit record. That implies that other songs, songs which are not hits, are not as good. We can't allow that idea to prosper, or Everything Everything, a troupe who really should be a global household name by now, might decide that they're not as wonderful as they clearly are, and give up in the face of continuing public support for *insert name of least favourite pop act here*. (Here's the video. It's surreally good.) 'Photoshop Handsome' is a song which has been released before. It did not make the band's fortune, but it did help turn a few heads, and rightly so. It manages the twin trick of being about something - excessive retouching of pictures so that people don't really look like people anymore - while being so choc-full of vim and fizz that you can't really say what is going on. Not without several listens and a chemistry set. I'm not even really sure that it IS about photoshop. I mean it appears to be, but when someone is squeaking and bashing and thrashing away in such an alarming fashion in front of you, interpreting their meaning can be a little tricky. And that goes double when the thing they're doing is this amazing, because suddenly I don't WANT to know what every cough and comma of the song are supposed to be about. I like my interpretation better in any case. They've taken the trouble to cram the song with so many brightly-coloured musical treats it has become the sonic equivalent of a full sweetie jar. A full sweetie jar at a jumble sale to raise money for victims of poor photoshopping. That's basically it. Being adventurous sorts, the band haven't spent the last year just sticking out old singles and petulantly demanding respect in any case. They've been re-scoring their entire debut album for a string and wind ensemble and using their own music to make their fans cry with joy. That's the level of thought they put into things, and it's only matched by their ability to make these ideas fly. So, come on, I'm not asking this for my sake, or the band's sake, but for the future of pop music as we know and love it. Let's make this song a hit, and maybe, just maybe, show *insert name of least favourite pop act here* that there is more to this music lark than turning up half-dressed and pouting suggestively in a photogenic fashion. Not MUCH more, obv, but still... Download: Out now Music page (Fraser McAlpine) There Goes The Fear says: "Wow, this sounds nothing - nothing - like anything I've heard before." The Sound Medium says: "An upbeat Modest Mousy tune with a pretty bizarre video."[...]

Adele - 'Rolling In The Deep'

Tue, 11 Jan 2011 13:26:53 +0000


For someone who is straightforwardly, transparently, a massive talent, Adele's records aren't half troublesome at times. Her earliest successes seemed to come coated in a thick layer of brushed-on egg-yolk production (or, more accurately in the case of 'Chasing Pavements', a thick layer of Eg White production), to the extent that the raw astonishment of her voice sometimes got buried underneath the swooping avalanche of immaculate perfection.

It was, at times, a bit like watching a tiger in the zoo. You're perfectly aware that there's a beast in your presence which is possessed of huge reserves of power and beauty, but something very human and restrictive keeps getting in the way.

The exception to this, obviously, is 'Make You Feel My Love': a song which, in its simplicity and power, doesn't so much free the beast as smash the zoo down; destroy the entire town around it, grow a rain forest, develop an eco-system, release the tiger; and then run for the hills.

The question is, does Adele's comeback single seek to re-capture that tiger, or send David Attenborough (or Steve Backshall, if you're more of a CBBC fan) with a camera crew, ready to watch it tear a deer to pieces?

(Bambi, you might want to stop reading around about now.)

(No video. She's laying something unspeakable bare.)

So, here's what's going on. Adele's looking back over the end of a relationship, and she wants to be perfectly clear that while it is a very sad thing that things have turned out the way they have, she's not gonna waste her time pining at home. Not when she can castigate her ex for letting everything fall apart. And when you're being castigated by someone who can sing like this, you STAY castigated.

Best of all, for once, the production is all behind her, emerging in a fan formation like a street gang, ready for a fight. The ghostly harmonies, the propulsive handclaps, the played-with-my-face's all there to support that remarkable voice in full flight. And it flies, like, really really high. The chorus alone could exfoliate an entire university, should any students be foolish enough to stick their faces too close.

And it's clearly the kind of huffy soul strop that matches her no-nonsense personality too. Rather than mimsying around town, wondering what to do with herself, she's got some poor soul by the knackers and has lifted him off the ground. Who knows, maybe she's about to dangle him off a bridge.

That's what you get if you mess with a tiger in the wild.

(image) Download: Out now
BBC Music page

PS: Adele! Live Lounge! Incoming!

(Fraser McAlpine)

The Beat Review says: "'Rolling In The Deep' is a sign that '21' might produce a more adult, contemporary and jazz incorporated with enough soul for our earbuds."

The Complex Media says: "I've been unable to stop playing and singing it (horribly) for days."

My Chemical Romance - 'Sing'

Fri, 07 Jan 2011 14:36:11 +0000

Sometimes, when settling down to listen to a hot new waxing by a world-beating band or singer, it helps to forget that you already know and love songs they've done before, or that you have some idea of who they are and what they do. It's especially helpful to let go of what kind of genre field you assume that they operate within. In the case of My Chemical Romance, it's a good idea to put amazing bratty brilliance like 'Teenagers' and 'Na Na Na' to one side, so you don't wind up letting the momentum of your approval steamroller all over their new ideas. Nobody wants that, and your taste will always win out in the end anyway. A useful trick is to imagine listening to the song as if you're a visitor from an alien planet, attempting to make sense of the bangs and huffs and scrapes, and trying to work out what this human thing called 'pop' may or may not be. Incidentally, I said 'pop' and not 'rock' for a very good reason. As we are about to find out...(Here's the video. It's the same as the last video, but in cars.) See, while the band operate within the rock arena, using the outsider myth as a launchpad for who they are, 'Sing' is absolutely a pop song. It's not a pop song in the unhinged, cartoony way that 'Na Na Na' was a pop song, either. That's always been part of the MCR sonic arsenal. Take away the Mad Max video and everything you know about MCR as a band and it's not really that big a stretch to imagine this mid-tempo, stately anthem coming out of the gobs of grown-up insider pop acts like Maroon 5 or the Script, is it? OK, not a perfect comparison, but not that far off either. And hell, if Matt Cardle can cover Biffy Clyro and, without dramatically changing the structure of the song, still make it sound like The X Factor Winner's First Single, it's becoming clear that the boundaries between that which is pop and that which is rock are becoming riddled with more holes than a teabag's string vest. In fact, it's only Gerard Way's customary finger-pointing list of people he would like to pay attention to his song - "the deaf", "the blind", "the ones that'll hate your guts" etc - that mark this out as a particularly My Chemical Romance sort of a song. The rest of it, from the moody piano/funky drummer introduction to the swirling dark synth at the end, is pure Radio 2. I guess it's only a startling revelation because the chuntery guitars have been toned down for once, but still... That's why it's sometimes best to come at these things with a fresh mind, cos I'd be tempted to love it more, if the sonic evidence that this isn't really my sort of a thing wasn't quite so overwhelming. Download: Out now BBC Music page (Fraser McAlpine) The Quietus says: "What follows is the mother of all sing-along choruses and a bass line so cavernous you could hollow it around and take shelter in it." Filthypop says: "The chorus really is an empowering sound and is a sort of a sound that makes you want to rekindle your love with that special someone because the apocalypse is coming."[...]

Bruno Mars - 'Grenade'

Thu, 06 Jan 2011 12:51:58 +0000

Mashup fans, I've a job for you. Someone needs to put the "na na nah" refrain from Kylie Minogue's 'Can't Get You Out Of My Head' under the verses to this song. It would please me, it works musically (same chords, y'see), and best of all, it would actually give the lyrics a bit of balance. Here's Bruno tearing his heart out, dropping that cocky ladies-man thing which over-sweetened 'Just The Way You Are' and pleading with his girl not to dismiss the depth of his feelings. Of course, it's still the same basic message, isn't it? Both songs want to impress upon someone the desperate passion that Bruno feels towards them. And why not? People love to hear that stuff and Bruno's a very giving man. First he bestows upon his victim chosen one the gift of compliments. He thinks you're amazing, you shouldn't put yourself down so much, you're perfect just the way you are, just to be around you is to know that life can hold no greater thrill, and this is something he will always feel, even when you're old and saggy. After all, he'll be old and saggy too.(Here's the video. That is NO WAY to deliver a piano.) Sadly, over the course of the relationship, all of that positive energy, that giving, starts to curdle. A little voice at the back of his head is noticing that while he is very quick with the compliments, you tend to just beam, blush, and change the subject. Oh you always look happy to see him, that's very clear, but not quite as happy as he is to see you. Over time, this voice has gone from a disgruntled whisper to a full scream at the back of his mind. He's still very generous, still keen to let you know that he adores you, but somehow he has started to obsess over the fact that it's not really in your nature to say extravagent things back. Why can't you do it? Why can't you tell him that HE is amazing just the way he is? What's stopping you? Oh can't's because you don't love him as much as he loves you, isn't it? It turns out you have one tiny imperfection after all. Your heart is defective. It looks roomy enough, but there's not quite enough space to fit Bruno in, in the way that he has filled his heart with you. He knows it, you know it. It's bad news all round. Suddenly, the compliments are starting to become more barbed, more desperate. You're not perfect and amazing any more, you're the person he would catch a grenade for, and it is plain as the nose on your pretty face that YOU WOULD NOT DO LIKEWISE. If someone tossed a grenade towards Bruno, you would duck under a table. Never mind that a) this is perfectly rational behaviour and b) it might be a blessed relief to let him catch the grenade, what with all the shouting, the simple fact of the matter is that Bruno has given you everything, and all you can offer in return is your ridiculous claim to be amazing and perfect just the way you are. What rot. Whoever filled your head with such nonsense? HONESTLY! So you can see how it would be nice to have an answering female voice, within all of this bitter breast-beating and finger-pointing, especially one singing "na na nah, na nah nu-nah nah." Just seems fairer... Incidentally, I maintain that there's a mashup to be made of the original theme to the legendary kids' TV show Grange Hill and Rage Against The Machine's 'Killing In The Name Of'. And one day I shall bother to prove this. What a day that will be, eh? Download: Out now BBC Music page (Fraser McAlpine) Radiopopaction says: "One of the best songs i've heard in a very long time!" Planet Ill says: "Mars finds himself in an easy vocal range that allows him belt out his melancholy in a beautifully soulful way."[...]

The Joy Formidable - 'Austere'

Tue, 04 Jan 2011 13:28:47 +0000


Ah, January; let the purging begin.

We've spent all of December cluttering up the house and mind with all sorts of stuff - hidden carrier bags of presents, shopping lists, wrapping paper, cards, decorations, Matt Bloody Cardle - all or some of which are lovely in their own way, but after a while, they just build up into a big mess.

Time to have a bit of a sort-out, a bit of a recycle, a bit of a decks-clear. It'll feel a bit brutal at first, stripping back the layers of shiny, ribbony stuff and exposing the cold, clear surfaces beneath, ready for use. But it's also kind of exciting. What kind of fresh wonder will fill this space? What joy will it bring? What day do the recycling men come around?

This applies just as much to music as it does to houses and the mind. Sometimes you just need to clear everything out, put valuable stuff away, and start again.

This is the aural equivalent of taking a massive shovel to everything festive and Christmassy, and dumping the lot in a skip, ready to face the year ahead with a clean slate, a new diary (and a massive shovel).

(Here's the video. It's all white.)

It starts, innocuously enough, with a high, wordless squeal, which repeats and repeats in a manner which is both piercing and unforgiving, like a woodpecker putting up a wall of CD shelves. This is then held aloft by some pleasant-but-unremarkable bass and drums action, a clockwork guitar, and a dour, asymmetrical verse which is neither joyful nor formidable in any great measure - the kind of thing you hear a lot of these days (apart from that squeal, which is hard to ignore).

Then there's a buzzcut guitar, a warning of something big and scary on the way, and suddenly a wall of noise smashes through everything. That squeal is still there, the calm voice continues to intone, but it's all lost in the whoosh. And there are other things, new things hiding in there too: squeaks and wails, sledgehammers through windows, a piano, the metal hull of an aircraft carrier being used as a backscratcher by a giant with a mountainous stony spine.

From here on in, it's not so much a song, more a punishing sonic head-kick in the form of a huge racket. It's also a useful tool for dislodging any lingering festive detritus, making it fall from your ears in a snowy pile of dandruff.

Then all you need to do is brush the past from your shoulders, much like Jay-Z does with dirt, and you're good to go. It probably works all year round too. Let's see, shall we?

(image) Download: Out now
BBC Music page

(Fraser McAlpine)

Curiosity Killed The Kat says: "Ritzy is a force to be reckoned with, and for a petite lady she's good with the vocal screams and smashing of guitars on stage."

This Is The Big Beat says: "The guitar burst over the last 45 seconds of the song sends chills up my spine."

2010: End of A Year(a)

Thu, 16 Dec 2010 10:37:53 +0000

Delicious ChartBloggerers, this will be the last time we speak in the year of our Lord 2010. You've got presents to buy, cards to write, best-of-year playlists to compile and friends to see, and so have I (apart from the presents, the cards and the friends, obv). But I haven't forgotten your insatiable need for musical treats to feast upon, so here's a quick roundup of notable things which are around and about over the next couple of weeks. Feel free to come back to this page again and again during the holiday period, cos if you don't pace yourself, you might find you wind up with the musical equivalent of heartburn. And they don't make a Gaviscon for that. The big question is: who will win the race for the coveted New Year No.1? Will it be Matt Cardle? Will it be someone else? Or Matt Cardle? Who can say? Week beginning December 20th Katy B ft. Ms Dynamite - 'Real Love' Utterly great: an ode to dancing even when the music is over, which also features some engaging shouting from Ms. D. If I were a DJ, I doubt that her words would convince me to play that extra song, but only because it would be hard to be sure what it is she really wants. The time? The police? A hug? Maybe a friendly wave, some mumbling and a blush, that oughtta do it. Here's the video - it's dotty.) ============================================ Arcade Fire - 'The Suburbs' This would be the title single from a quite well received album from fondly-thought of Canadian band with an enthusiastic fan-base who really do enjoy their work a lot. The eager-beavers among you might want to re-listen to Zane Lowe's Arcade Fire special (available for a limited time only), which features a new session and interviews with the band. (Here's a video of them on Later With Jools Holland. It's wholesome.) ============================================ Cee-Lo Green - 'It's OK' Heroically unrubbish soul retread, with amazing finger-clicks, from Professor Green's uncle*. Possibly won't do quite as well as his last song, but a wondrous thing, nonetheless. (No video. STILL swearing then, Mr Green?) ============================================ Pixie Lott - 'Can't Make This Over' This is taken from the revamped version of Pixie's debut album, 'Turn It Up (Louder)' and is co-written by Daniel Bedingfield. It's one of Pixie's more contemplative, thoughtful songs, and for some reason, listening to it made me sad for the weird way the Sugababes self-destructed. Pop is a strange place sometimes. (Here's the video. It's backwards.) ============================================ Week beginning December 27th Well, after the excitement around the Christmas No.1 and the New Year No.1, the race is on this week to see who will get the coveted first-new-No.1-of-the-year No.1. Will it be Matt Cardle? Pixie Lott? Or one of this lot? You'll just have to wait and see. Eliza Doolittle - 'Skinny Genes' Reissue of the whistly song that was nearly a Top 20 hit earlier this year. The whistly bit is code for the extremely rude things Eliza can't bring herself to say in song form, so she has found a clever way around the problem. A lesson she could possibly have taught to a certain Mr Green, thinking about it. (Here's the video. It's a clown party.) ============================================ Tinie Tempah ft. Kelly Rowland - 'Invincible' A song in which Tinie takes the time to consider where he has come from and what he has achieved, through the lens of a relationship, so that Kelly has something to sing about. It is this lens which separates this song from a LOT of other hip hop songs (how-far-I-have-come is second only to why-you-are-rubbish-and-I-am-great on the hip hop hot topic list). And to be fair, he really has come a long way in a very short time, so it's probably fair comment. His aunt's house must be FULL of clothes by now. (Here's the video. It's[...]

Matt Cardle - 'When We Collide'

Mon, 13 Dec 2010 12:53:05 +0000

Nothing gets in the way of the X Factor. As a TV event that becomes a real-life EVENT event, the show continues to be an unstoppable force which will either squash or absorb everything in its path. It's like a jelly juggernaut with a blue whale on top, rolling down a steep hill in a paper town, with no brakes and a push at the top from Brian Blessed. Raise a hand in protest, it'll just roll over you. Try and ignore it, and you'll end up with flattened feet. Jump on board, and you become part of its rolling mass, making it faster and heavier than ever before. Oh sure, it leaves a trail of squashed and bewildered people in its wake. All of whom thought they knew what they were doing when they hitched a ride, and none of whom are quite sure what happened to make them lose their grip so quickly, but there are always more passengers to pick up, more customers to hoick in. Even the people who stand in direct opposition, the people who wish most to stop the thing, are also adding fuel to the engines by caring about it in the first place. So long as there is attention on this one TV show and the talented people it hopes to find, it will continue to run, and it will continue to do whatever it wants, in the name of satisfying public demand. What's confusing, especially to someone who can't watch it (I honestly find the mix of ambition, disappointment, ruined dreams, karaoke, deliberate selling-out of your own life history to gain votes, scathing critique, stupid critique, self-regard, smugness, cruelty and freak-show giggling so upsetting it keeps me awake nights) is quite what this Matt fellow has done to win so much public support. I'm assuming he's been very, very brilliant in the backstage bits, cos on the evidence of this song, he sure as hell can't sing.Never mind that this is a Biffy Clyro song, that it's about a curdled relationship with an obsessive edge, that it already exists in a pretty damn-near perfect form - sung by a man who knows how the tune goes - and that it already had a perfectly serviceable title in 'Many Of Horror'. To object to the idea of this cover without hearing it is as far removed from an appreciation of music as, well, the show itself. Watching Matt perform the song - the performance is here, on his website - is not a fun thing to do. Listen to him slide around all over the notes like a giraffe on a frozen pond. Marvel at his thin, reedy voice. Whoever came up with this probably should've run through it with him a few times first, surely? I mean I'm not sure how these things work, but I'd say that would be a good first step. The second step might be to check that the Westlife Key Change moment doesn't stretch the poor lad's voice even further, into sonic territory which could be described as 'just plain unpleasant', if it were even possible to listen to the whole thing without running out of the room. That last high note? The bit where he falls to his knees and really goes for the climactic BOOM? Yeah, that's horrible. Of course, it'd be tempting to run off a big rant about how much harm this is doing to real music, because the public are being conned into believing this is good music when it's not really good music even though the original song is good music but it's being turned into bad music by evil people who want to hurt good music because it doesn't make them any money. Some people really want to believe that this is the case, but it's probably not true. All you can really say is that this is a song from a TV show. A TV show which places a premium on telling a story, one that starts with many and ends with one. What that one person goes on to do afterwards isn't really part of the story. It's interesting, in the sense that Harry Potter fans might like to know what Book 8 would be like, but it's not really that important. The big stuff [...]

Alexandra Burke - 'The Silence'

Sun, 12 Dec 2010 10:08:05 +0000


It's OK, Alexandra, you can come out now. No point in skulking around the lower reaches of the charts for weeks on end, with your download sales and your softly-softly-catchee-monkey stealth attack on the Top 10, when you're effectively melting faces with that heat-blast of a throat.

We know you're there, we can hear you from Timbuktu to Tiverton, you're rattling the paint off the walls in any case, so you might as well come out and say hello to everyone.

What's that? You're a little too upset to be friendly right now? You're all caught up in emoting, and wailing, and attempting to dissolve your bad boyfriend using the erosive power of bellowing alone? Well, alrighty then, you go for it...

Ber-LIME-y, you ARE fed up, aren't you chicken? That man you're shouting at has left you in a serious funk, hasn't he? And you're clearly in a place where it's become necesarry to scream your aggravation to the uncaring clouds above, in order to take the lid off of quite a lot of pent-up frustration. And you've brought some friends along too, to form a choir. I'm guessing they will largely be women who have similar problems with their menfolk, if their rolling, boiling harmonies are anything to go by.

Luckily there are men in your life you can rely on. That RedOne, for example. Look how supportive he has turned out to be. He's only gone and made you a sympathetic, synthetic, symphonic sonic comfort zone in which you can express these troubled feelings in total safety and without fear of mockery. He's furnished it with soft, peaceful colours, very tastefully done. Nothing too bright and intrusive, apart from one clod-hopping drum beat. That's a true friend, right there.

I wonder, though. If your man did suddenly turn around and say "oh, I'm sorry, I didn't realise you were this upset. I DO love you after all", well would that make everything alright? What kind of relationship do you have if you have to throw a tantrum quite this big in order to get some affection? A rubbish one, that's what.

OK? Feel better now? *hugs*

Right, off you pop then.

(image) Download: Out now
BBC Music page

(Fraser McAlpine)

Diva Devotee says: "Her voice certainly has matured, sounding stronger and richer than when she was a contestant on the show."

Music Reviews 10 says: "I expected a lot more from the video though. At least the song is good.."

Kat says: "aggrosantos"

The Drums - 'Me And The Moon'

Sat, 11 Dec 2010 09:35:55 +0000


I tell you what gets my goat about the Drums, right; nice tunes and all that, a decent, spirited attempt to re-create the murk and thrust of '80s indie; and '80s indie was always half-obsessed with '60s surf-pop anyway. The turn-ups and sneakers are also painstakingly accurate. They've really done their homework.

Buuut, as a group of young men, they so very clearly do not want anyone to make the mistake of believing that they like doing what they do, in case anyone then goes on to extrapolate that this puts them on a showbiz par with, say, Justin Bieber.

(Which is also something of an '80s indie hangover, sad to say.)

And worse, being serious hipsters, they do come across at times as if they're above the people who are foolish enough to be carried away by their music. I really, really hope that this is not the case, they do seem to go out of their way to provide evidence for the prosecution at every turn.

Warm and welcoming performers, they are not.


Look at that video. Does that look like fun? Could any three young men make the job of being the stars in their own promotional film about their own music look any more like a tiresome chore?

"Dude, what've we gotta do NOW? Like, lift this blanket? Oh whatever. I'm totally dropping it"

"Yeah, what's the deal with this miming the guitar? You can't MAKE me. I'm all like...NOT playing the guitar, and junk."

"You want me to what? Dance? Sing? Oh GOD! Can't someone ELSE do it? Right well I'm not gonna do it PROPERLY, people will think it was my idea."

And so on, and so on, and so on...

Their collective demeanour is that of a bunch of sulky teens who have been forced into being a lame-ass pop band by their dad, singing stupid trite nonsense about moons and girls, when they would all rather be in a metal band, singing about killing Orcs with a massive sword, and the righteous cleansing fire of rock.

And it's a real shame, because any fool can make music which is angry or dark or grunty, it's a LOT harder to make something light and fun and pretty, because you're always on the knife-edge between that and stupid/insipid/drippy.

Or, to put it like your gran would put it; if a job's worth doing, it's worth doing PROPERLY.

(image) Download: Out now
BBC Music page

(Fraser McAlpine)

Stereogum says: "Matthew Dear's remix is way more Matthew Dear like."

BlahBlahBlahScience says: "The Clock Opera kids flip this new Drums single, [which] comes to us as one in a series of four new remixes released to accompany the new 'Me & the Moon' release."

The Pretty Reckless - 'Just Tonight'

Fri, 10 Dec 2010 10:43:40 +0000


It might just be the festive season, it might be that goodwill to all men is seeping from every shop stereo system, and I'm getting a bit soft, but maybe there is something to this Pretty Reckless malarkey after all.

OK, so she's a bit of a copycat, and possibly should tone down the 'tude a bit until she's found her own voice - instead of using someone else's and pouring withering scorn on the pop world for being shallow and sensationalist - but is anyone else starting to really warm to Taylor Momsen and her band?

You can't really ignore the fact that she's only 17, that probably explains a lot in terms of the OTT gothic nonsense, and the describing yourself according to that which you are not. When you're still trying to work out who you are, using other people as a handrail is very helpful indeed.

(Here's the video. That's the worst case of conjunctivitis I've ever seen.)

And that voice is ageless anyway. It's deep and weary, even deeper and more weary in a thoughtful, hurt sort of a song like this than it was in 'Miss Nothing', cos that song was a provocative poke in the chest for The Haterz, and this is a far more vulnerable sort of a thing.

You can still see where things have been squished into a mould though. The moody verses which really should have a cello sawing away in the background DO have a cello sawing away in the background. The chorus which should hit like a brick wall of huge sonic mass hits like a brick wall. Everything is present and correct, following a formula laid down in fragments by everyone from the Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana to Evanescence and Paramore.

But where other Pretty Reckless songs tend to play with the idea of shallow celebrity and identity in a manner which can be rather annoying, coming from a bratty LA actress, this plays straight - from the heart to the heart - and is all the better for it.

(image) Download: Out now
BBC Music page

(Fraser McAlpine)


Hive says: "I personally give Taylor credit for her antics and not caring what the press think of her, good on her to be so bold."

The Sound Alarm says: "Momsen prides herself on not being like every other sixteen year old"


Hurts - 'All I Want For Christmas Is New Year's Day'

Thu, 09 Dec 2010 10:20:40 +0000


Poise and mystique are wonderful: more useful to a pop star's life than towels and hot honey drinks.

Sometimes Hurts appear to have struck a deal in which they exchange everything other acts rely on - colour photography, songs about clubs, amazing choruses - for extra helpings of statuesque and aloof. It's not a bad deal, but it does set a high bar for their music to leap over. Unfortunately, as far as these flappy ears can work out, their output thus far has struggled to do much more than knock the thing onto the crashmat with its face, and then, before anyone can giggle, blusteringly pretend that this is what was supposed to happen all along.

There has, however, been something of a penny-drop happening around this song. I'm starting to get what some of the fuss around Hurts might be about.

Apart from the poise and mystique stuff, obv. That was always great from the get-go.

(Here's the video. It's a swan wake.)

It's partly that this really does have an amazing chorus, and on a Christmas single to boot. Great Christmas singles need to have amazing choruses, if only because so many of the poorer ones seem to come from a decision to make a festive hit at any cost, not from a good idea for a song.

It's also partly because there is no better time to put out a mournful, dignified song about feeling slightly left out of a party, than right now. You get to throw in the tubular bells, the sleighbells, the twinkling piano and the booming drums, and all of that mournful huffing, and it sounds both magical and deep.

And if you know your Christmas pop, that piano is the key to things. It is repetitive and insistent, driving and fizzy, not unlike the piano in Bruce Springsteen's astonishing version of 'Santa Claus is Coming To Town'. Which means it tips the nod towards one of the best Christmas songs ever ever ever.

To have all that joy as a backdrop, and then set off on a long lonesome journey through the happiest and most sociable time of the year, and then to arrive under the banner of a funny title...well that's the glitter on the ribbon on the wrapping paper on the expensive present, right there.

(image) Download: Out now
BBC Music page

(Fraser McAlpine)

Buzzin Pop Music says: "Happy yet dark and with a nostalgic Christmas feel"

Popjustice says: "Massive chorus, job done"

Shakira ft. Dizzee Rascal - 'Loca'

Wed, 08 Dec 2010 12:23:33 +0000

A confession: I'm not sure if I would recognise a bad Shakira song if it came along and introduced itself, wearing a name-badge and announced that it was following me on Twitter, user name @badshakirasong. I could offer a thought about whether I like it or not, I could have a go at pointing out the bits which do not quite work (like the "awoo" in 'She Wolf'), but I get the sense that the success (or otherwise) of her best and worst work is based on a series of criteria which are very different to those used to judge other music, some of which I'm only dimly aware of. Or, to put it another way, when she's good, it is sometimes by doing things which would be considered bad coming from other pop stars. I mean listen to that chorus. The "loca loca loww-ca" bit - or "loba loba", depending on translation - which she delivers with the same deep and trembly seriousness as the "waka waka" in her world cup song. I mean, c'mon, let's face it...that's a bit mad, isn't it? A little too crackers? But at the same time, it's kind of great. Or is it? I can't tell. (Here's the video. It's wheely, wheely good.) I mean yes, it's the kind of slightly unhinged, but massively sugary thing that only Shakira seems to be able to get away with. Lady Gaga and Cheryl Cole might have their own glassy-eyed chants, but they're delivered with high gothic camp - drama and comedy rolled together in a self-aware, tongue-in-cheek way. Shakira's chants are different because they're warmer, nicer. She really means it. And that's basically fine when you're in Shakiraworld, which is a lot like Hogwarts or Narnia. Stuff happens there which does not make sense in our reality. But it's a beguiling spectacle nonetheless, and it's a version of reality which we would LIKE to exist, it's lovely to have a little wallow in it. The trick is to avoid getting so smitten with it, you find yourself donning wizard's robes and heading out into the back garden to play a game of Quidditch. Enter Dizzee Rascal. The voice of reality; the pin to Shakey's balloon. His guest verse begins with "that girl is a nutter", because that is what the song is about. But it's also what listening to Shakira is like. OK, so he then goes on to ramble a verse out in which he seeks to step through the back of the wardrobe and join in the fun. It's all good, he's up for a bit of crazy in his life, it's an honour to be asked (he doesn't really say that, but that's what he means). He may as well be shouting "whee! Look at me! I'm on a broomstick!" for all the good it does. Meanwhile Shakira, who has possibly never met Dizzee Rascal, just dances off into the sunset, surrounded by a cloud of dancing pixie-wolves in tutus and galoshes. Download: Out now BBC Music page (Fraser McAlpine) PS: Someone needs to do a 'Newport State Of Mind'-style parody of this, and call it 'Local'... Club Fonogramma says: "We all know her English-language are as meaningful as a hipster's scarf" Accidental Sexiness says: "Who knew that when you combine salsa beats and lyrics by British rapper Dizzee Rascal you would get a masterpiece?"[...]