Monday, May 22, 2017

Video: Lana Del Rey - Lust For Life

Take a look at this new video. Is that? Could it be? Surely it isn't?

Yes. Yes it is. Lana Del Rey is smiling.

And look. She's doing it again.

What next? Will Lana make an upbeat tropical house track? Will she escape the vintage VHS tape she's been trapped inside, like Reese Witherspoon in Pleasantville? Will there be a fierce internal battle between Happy Lana and Sad Lana? If Happy Lana wins, is her career effectively over? Do we, as fans, want to suppress Happy Lana in order to maintain our supply of gauzy, fatalistic doom-pop? What does that make us? Are we complicit in her unhappiness? Is all art exploitation?

While I pitch this idea to Woody Allen as a film script, you can watch the video. The song remains superb.

Update: As soon as I posted this video on Twitter, ace music writer person Jamie Milton replied with this video.

Harsh, but funny.

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Friday, May 19, 2017

Katy Perry, Liam Payne and Camilla Cabello: The best and worst of New Music Friday

A mixed bag this week. There's a lot of "third buzz track before the album" activity, with the drop in quality that implies. But some gems are hidden in the mix, so stick around.

Katy Perry ft Nicki Minaj - Swish Swish
Stoking the flames of the Katy Perry / Taylor Swift feud, this is a no-holds-barred diss track. Sample lyric: "Karma’s not a liar, she keeps receipts."

But like Bad Blood before it, the red mist has blinded Katy to her better pop instincts. This is a depressingly pedestrian house groove with neither the bark nor the bite promised by the premise.

It's left to Nicki Minaj to give us some perspective: "Silly rap beefs just give me more cheques".

Selena Gomez - Bad Liar
As previously discussed, this is perfect.

Muse - Dig Down
Which finally answers the question, "What if Muse sounded like Take That?" The answer, as it turns out, is bloody brilliant.

Liam Payne - Strip That Down
Just what we needed: A British Jason Derulo.

RAYE - The Line
I saw RAYE perform this acoustically the other day, and was really impressed. But the single is itchy and over-produced, which smothers the song. It's a strange treatment for a song that discusses the boredom of waiting in line for a club ("yeah, we look like sickness, barely moving inches").

Pumarosa - Lion's Den
A hugely ambitious, six-minute single from doom-laden indie quintent Pumarosa. Like a heavier version of Radiohead's Pyramid Song (which is a recommendation, in case you were wondering).

Danger Mouse ft Run The Jewels and Big Boi - Chase Me
Built around samples from the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's Bellbottoms and taken from Edgar "Hot Fuzz" Wright's new film Baby Driver, this explodes out of the speakers like a molotov cocktail of awesome.

Royal Blood - Hook, Line & Sinker
A retreat to safe ground after James Bondian thrills of Lights Out. It probably "works better live".

Cigarettes After Sex - Each Time You Fall In Love
This woozy, hazy ballad about doomed love in LA sounds like an unholy union between St Etienne and Lana Del Rey.

Camilla Cabello - Crying In The Club
Interpolates Genie In A Bottle but otherwise sounds like a composite of every pop trope of the last five years. Disappointing, given the buzz about the former Fifth Harmony singer's supposedly flawless pop instincts.

Plan B - In The Name Of Man
"All the soap in the world won't wash away the blood that's on your hands." A song about the religious certitude that sent the UK and US into Iraq 14 years ago. It's safe to say Plan B is not a fan of Tony Blair.

Bebe Rexha ft Lil' Wayne - The Way I Are
"I'll never sing like Whitney but I still want to dance with somebody."

The week's best lyric squandered on the week's worst song.

Oh Wonder - Heavy
A real treat, this. Oh Wonder really flex their vocal muscles, darting around mushrooming synth lines that mirror the heart-bursting love-struck lyrics: "I could hold you endlessly," they swoon. "Stop the world, it's only you." Beautiful.

Well, that's quite enough of that. See you next week!

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Selena Gomez may be a bad liar, but she's a great pop star

There is so much to love about Selena Gomez's new song, Bad Liar: The way the lyrics trip over themselves like a lovestruck teenager; the brazen lift of Talking Heads' Psycho Killer; the borderline ridiculousness of the lyric: "like the battle of Troy, there's nothing subtle here."

Oh, and the post-chorus hook "all my feelings on fire, guess I'm a bad liar," is an early contender for pop moment of 2017.

Selena has never been a big belter in the vocal department but, like Janet Jackson before her, she's turned that into an asset. This subtle, sultry groove has an whispered intimacy that, say, Adele could never hope to achieve.

It's great to have her back.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Plan B is back - but which Plan B?

When Radio 1 announced it's Big Weekend line-up last month, one name really stood out: Plan B, who had been given a headline slot five years after his last album, Ill Manors. Clearly, the station's head of music, Chris Price, had been played hear his new material; and walked away impressed. Very impressed.

Tonight, we got to hear why, when Ben Drew premiered a new song, In The Name Of Man on Mistajam's Radio 1 show. So which Plan B is it? The furious polemicist of Ill Manors, or the soul storyteller of Strickland Banks. In the end, it's a bit of both.

In The Name Of Man is a broiling, slow-motion scowl of a song; as the singer rails against fanatacism: "Hey man, what's the use? There's no talking to you when you think it's God's words that you preach," he sings. "Everything you love, you hurt."

"I wrote that a good few years ago, when we first invaded Iraq," he told Mistajam. "It was seeing the media footage of, sorry to take it really dark, but this song's about dead children. i don't see how we can ever excuse death or harm [to] long children. But we do. We say our armies are invading these countries for the greater good - but I don't think it's as black and white as that."

He promised the forthcoming video, which he directed himself, would also address the plight of immigrants, many of whom who die in their attempt to get to the shores of the UK. "I don't know when that is ever right, to allow that to happen to young people," he said.

So it's a sombre, excoriating comeback - but In The Name Of Man is pointedly not the first single.

"When I listen to this song, I don't necessarily think, Hey this is a radio hit'. I don't expect to get chart success with it. But it's not all about that Sometimes you've just got to come and say something to the world that sparks a conversation."

Either way, Plan B's voice is better than it's ever been, that beautiful Smokey Robinson tenor scarred with gravel and fury, while the music reminds me of Massive Attack's collaborations with Smokey Robinson.

Looks like Radio 1 made the right call.

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Miley Cyrus improves Malibu (but only slightly, because it was already pretty good)

On record, Miley Cyrus's new single, Malibu, is a cautious return to her country roots - but it's only the beat that stops it from going full Carrie Underwood, so this acoustic performance on US radio exposes the song's true nature.

And that is definitively not a negative comment. If anything, Miley's intimate declarations of contentedness sound even more genuine in this setting.

Isn't that nice? Even the moronic back announcement from the host can't spoil it.

On a side note, I was pleased to hear Miley had eschewed collaborators on her new album... especially after it was reported that hit singles now have an average of four and a half writers each.

Miley explained her decision to fly solo on another US radio show, 95.5 PLG LIVE.

"This is the first record I've written everything by myself, and that was important for me. I have a hard time co-creating because [other writers] don't really know what I've gone through. Don't know my life, don't know what it's taken to get here. I just feel I know myself the best."

Her argument is diluted slightly by the fact Malibu lists one other person on the credits - but it turns out Oren Yol is her producer, who just helped out here and there with the arrangement, so that's ok.

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Katy Perry - Bon Appetit (Muna Remix)

Not so much a remix as an entirely new Muna song with Katy Perry on vocals.

10/10 everyone.

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