Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Hello Mr Sunshine!

A couple of days ago, I mentioned the frighteningly compelling "We Love Katamari" on the PS2. It's a game where, for no particular reason, you have to roll things up into a massive cluster which you release into the sky to make a star.

It is a creation of considerable genius, albeit the sort of genius that comes from eating one too many 'magic' rainbow pills, holding a quart of sherbet in your mouth and drinking four litres of fizzy pop. Every so often, you'll put down the controller and think "this is so weird" before going straight back to rolling up the Arc de Triomphe, or Mount Fuji, or a cow.

However, the best thing about Katamari isn't the game, but the sublime soundtrack. Ranging from Tom-Jones-alike swing bands to deranged a-capella techno, you'll find yourself humming the tunes long after the game has stopped causing violent primary-coloured spots in front of your eyes.

Japan tends to take it's in-game music a little bit more seriously than we do in the West, so (as far as I can gather) the tracks on We Love Katamari are by some relatively famous composers and musicians. To that end, a soundtrack is available - and I've just discovered a website which sells such japanese curios to the UK. It's called Game Melody, and it will keep me singing "Hello Mr Sunshine" long after We Love Katamari gets filed away in the cupboard with all my old console games.

To whet your apetite for this musical feast, I'm putting up a sample of the track "Katamari on the swing" - which should be available for the next 7 days or so. Enjoy!

  • Download 'Katamari On The Swing' (link fixed!)
  • Buy the soundtrack
  • Or the game itself, for that matter

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  • Monday, February 27, 2006

    Video of the week: No Scrubs

    I'm not a big fan of Hype Williams' work. His videos for the bad and bling of hip-hop (Busta Rhymes, Jay-Z) exemplify everything that's wrong with post-gangsta rap. They're gaudy, self-aggrandising exercises in style over substance - or money over taste, to be more accurate.

    This video, for TLC's "No Scrubs", stays true to the genre but manages to shake off the chains of formula and run, arms akimbo, for the door marked 'pop'. It does so for the same reason the song surpasses its nursery-rhyme melody: the irresistable force of the band's personality. The girls just don't take themselves seriously - rubbing their rumps, pulling faces and, finally, falling about in hysterics as the song fades out.

    Interestingly, the only other Hype video I've ever enjoyed pulls off the same trick. Will Smith's "Getting Jiggy With It" is jaw-droppingly good not because of the ridiculous amount of cash it must have cost, but because of Smith's big cheeky grin. And that bizarre dance, where he rubs two hamsters together in the hope of generating enough static electricity to stick them to a nearby wall.

    Perhaps we'll come back to that one another time...

  • Buy Hype Williams' video collection at Amazon
  • Buy TLC's Greatest Hits on CD+DVD at Amazon

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  • Sunday, February 26, 2006

    Yo, what's up? We used to shake it up

    Betty Boo. She used to do the do. And there was nothing (nothing) you could do.

    But one day, she ceased all the doing she was famed for doing, and went off to write songs for Hear'say instead. "For shame", we all cried.

    Great news, though, Betty Boo is back, back, BACK!!! from the dumper. She's stopped asking people to call her Alison Clarkson, cut her hair in a bob again, and made an album with Alex from out of Blur.

    They're called Wigwam and they doing the whole pop group thing properly, with a logo, a video shot on a rooftop, and everything. Super news.

    You can hear the single , also called Wigwam, on their Myspace site. And Top of the Pops (what's that?) is streaming the video.

    But amongst all the joy and celebration, I have to relate a cautionary tale. In the past, Betty has been sent home by a bandmate who said he was busy. He had a visit from his Aunt Lizzy. So, what they did was they postponed a dope beat session until she'd gone home. Betty thought she'd practice all by herself, but realised she'd left her lyrics right on the shelf. When she went back, you wouldn't believe what she found... It was the bandmate and Aunt Lizzy getting on down!

    Alex James should try, never lie, and not be more interested in a bit on the side. Or Betty Boo will be through. And there really will be nothing (nothing) he can do.

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    Friday, February 24, 2006

    I started something I couldn't finish

    morrisseyWho'd have thought that Morrissey and Victoria Beckham would share a taste in books? Even though what that boils down to is a mutual aversion to reading.

    Posh admitted to a Spanish journalist last year, "I haven't read a book in my life." And in an interview with True to You this week, Moz claimed, "I don't read fiction. What's the point? The basic details of my own life are stranger than anything I ever come across in modern fiction."

    Mind you, if Morrissey's having trouble finishing books, he's got no-one to blame but himself. "With any book, I start at the final chapter and work my way to the first," he says. "This is probably a sickness."

    It might not be a bona-fide illness (unless being deliberately perverse is some kind of neurological affliction) but it's certainly not going to help you follow the plot, is it?

    In the end, though, you've got to admire a man who believes his own life story is stranger than the contents of an entire novel read in reverse order. Especially if that novel is Sophie's World.

  • True to you

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  • NME Awards: A brief conversation

    Madonna and her gussetAnt says:
    I have to say I'm disturbed. NME readers, yes that's NME readers, have voted Madonna as sexiest female! Obviously the adverage reader age is now 40+ or something has really gone wrong in the head of 20 something boys.

    Mrdiscopop says:

    Sexy? Have they seen her gusset?

    Ant says:
    It's like fancying your mum if you're an NME reader...

    Mrdiscopop says:
    Bad and wrong

    Ant says:
    As ben in our office would say 'it's captain wrong from the planet don't go there'

    Mrdiscopop says:
    Mind you - are there any sexy indie ladies at the moment?

    Ant says:
    Meg's quite sexy from the White Stripes, but that might be me

    Mrdiscopop says:
    Only when her hair covers her face

    Ant says:

    her out of the subwaysMrdiscopop says:
    What about her out of the Subways?

    Ant says:
    I think the girls are about to fight back in the indie world, there's a number of lady fronted bands on the way...

    Ant says:
    I don't know what she looks like, I'll have to see

    Mrdiscopop says:

    Mrdiscopop says:
    Lady-fronts are exactly what NME needs

    Ant says:

    Heidi SugababeMrdiscopop says:
    Heidi from the Sugababes - or are you not allowed to like them if you read the NME?

    Ant says:
    Well if Madonna gets a look in anyone does

    Mrdiscopop says:
    But I think indie-boys are allowed to like Madonna these days. There's a secret handshake or something.

    Ant says:
    Subways lady is okay... NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO Madonna not allowed EVER

    Mrdiscopop says:
    Not sexually, mind, just her cutting-edge dance concoctions.

    Ant says:
    What ABBA? Not cutting edge just ripping off

    Madonna and her gusset perma-displayMrdiscopop says:
    To be fair, that's only one song

    Ant says:
    One song is enough

    Mrdiscopop says:
    Don't some of the other songs make up for hung up? I'm thinking Ray of Light and Like a Prayer here...

    Ant says:
    Yes but that's in the past not now

    Mrdiscopop says:
    Which is kind of the point, I suppose. Past it commercially, creatively and most definitely sexually.

    Mrdiscopop says:
    Just ask Guy.

    Ant says:
    Which brings us around again to the start of this conversation, Madonna sexiest female, a million levels of wrong

    Mrdiscopop says:
    I thank you.

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    Wednesday, February 22, 2006

    Braff in brief

    When I was at university, you couldn't trust medical students to lift a forkful of beans to their mouth, never mind administering dangerous quantities of drugs via a honking great needle. In tellyland, however, all doctors end up being dashing, uber-confident demigods - blessed with the power over life and death, delivered through the cunning use of a pencil and a stethoscope.

    Except, that is, in Scrubs. Yes, the show's scripts are as weak as a dialysis pateint's piss, but the characters are flawed and human in a way that makes them more empathetic than their ER equivalents. That's if you can bear the programme's self-conciously zany plots and the fact that every scene ends with somebody gurning down the barrel of the camera like a hamster having an orgasm.

    So, it came of something as a surprise that lead actor Zach Braff made one of my favourite films of 2004. Garden State, an indie-romcom with Natalie Portman, was Braff's debut as writer and director. And he shows a natural talent for subtle comedic storytelling - making a movie that's easily a peer to Lost In Translation or The Station Agent.

    But what's Braff been up to since? Well, according to his blog it's this:

    I am going to be Vesper Lind (the new Bond love interest). After the success of certain films this year, they have decided to "shake things up" this time around. And so Bond will be gay. I play Vesper Lind, a German spy who loves trip-hop and raves. I assassinate my victims by forcing them to drink the fluid inside of glow-sticks. James and I meet when our hands accidentally touch during a "Licensed to Kill" seminar in Dusseldorf. We were both reaching for an "Ain't Misbehavin" CD that kills an enemy after he/she listens to the Act One curtain closer. Not very effective as a means of assassination since the target would have to make it through some really mediocre numbers in the first act, and like I said, it only works on "he/she's" which aren't very common in the spy business outside of Thailand. Can't say much more it's all very hush-hush…

    In summary, then: Rent Garden State, read the blog, avoid Scrubs like the plague.

  • Zach Braff Blog
  • Buy Garden State on Amazon
  • Scrubs official site (see just how cringeworthy it really is)


  • Monday, February 20, 2006


    This is going to get me into trouble with mrsdiscopop, but...
    Exactly how hot does Nelly Furtdao look in these photos?
    The answer is this: mucho hot.

    Bad news, though: Nelly's decided not to release the excellent Maneater as the first single from her new album, Loose. Another Timbaland production, Promiscuous Girl, will now kick off the comeback campaign. To my ears, it lacks Maneater's sass and bite - but perhaps Nelly's "people" have decided the relaunch should be a slow burn, rather than a stellar explosion.

    Good luck to her either way. And that's not just because she's luscious.

    ...Well, not entirely.

  • All of this via the very excellent Arjan writes music blog.


  • Video of the week: Prince at the Brits

    A slight departure this week, as I've chosen a performance film for the soon-to-be-coveted video of the week page.

    And what a performance! At last week's Brits ceremony, Prince reunited with Wendy & Lisa (from the Revolution) and crazy drumming lady, Sheila E, for the first time in 20-odd years. Together they run through a 12-minute set that blew every other Brits act off the stage with the force of nineteen jet engines.

    Perhaps only two other live acts, Radiohead and U2, have ever given me actual goosebumps. Prince manages it every time. Even this audience of jaded music industry bozos and Mastercard bigwigs is eating out of his hand. It's not normal, I tell you.

    If this is the band for Prince's next tour, I'll be quitting the day-job and following them round in a big purple campervan. And that's a promise.

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    Thursday, February 16, 2006

    Don't know much about history

    As promised, here's a better quality version of the new Girls Aloud video: Whole Lotta History.

    Expect lots of requests for this one during the break-up hour on your local independent radio station.

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    Floating our boat

    Hmmm... The last couple of posts have been rather, well, grumpy. So in order to prove I'm not a complete misanthrope, here's some things that are making Discopop Towers bouncy and fun at the moment.

    1) Walk The Line
    Although it has exactly the same ingredients as Ray - childhood trauma, drug addiction, battles with record label, coming back, back, BACK from the dumper - this film is ten times better. The script, the acting, the direction - all are superb. I particularly liked the way the film's orchestral score incorporated snatches of Johnny Cash songs - especially Hurt. Did anyone stick around to the end of the credits to see if that song makes it onto the soundtrack?

    2) We Love Katamari
    "Katamari Damacy" was an odd little game on the PS2 that never got released outside Japan. But EA have gone all charitable and published its sequel around the world. The premise: you're given a sticky ball, and you have to roll up everything around you. First of all, you gather up pins, erasers, and acorns. But soon, you're running around like a megalomaniac rolling up people, cars and skyscapers. And its all set to a completely bonkers soundtrack (sample it on music for robots). Brilliant!

    3) Belle & Sebastian's The Life Pursuit.
    Their last album was a return to form, and this one's even better! The kind of record that makes you go back and listen to all the old ones.

    4) Girls Aloud's new video
    At last, someone's spent some money on the poor waifs! They even get to wear proper grown-ups clothes. Enjoy it while it lasts, as Louis Walsh is bound to have them back in Top Shop before the end of the week. (NB: the link above takes you to something called "megauploads.com" which is a load of rubbish. A pop-up ad, usually something seedy like 'meet women today', will invariably try to stop you from downloading the blasted video. I'll get a proper copy up here soon).

    5) Coldplay are "taking a break"
    Dear God, please let it be true.


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    Tuesday, February 14, 2006

    Our very own award ceremony

    Caution! Utter pish alert!

    The Naomi awards, which are to the Brits as the Raspberries are to the Oscars, have just been revealed. They give gongs to the year's worst music - and guess what? The thought police are in charge! With tiresome predictability, all the winners are easy targets like Westlife (shock!), Steve Brookstein (controversial!) and Lee Ryan (the horror!). What next? An award for Lisa Scott-Lee? Yes, apparently, for worst female artist. At least she's guaranteed to cry at the podium, I suppose.

    Now, I don't have a great deal to say in defence of the above artists, but isn;t this all a bit cheap and predictable? Why do Son of Dork get 'Worst attempt at Rock' when Noise Next Door exist? Why are Pussycat Dolls branded 'Worst International Breakthrough Artist' in the year that gave birth to Antony and the Johnsons (Hey, at least someone bought the PCD album).

    What the list really reveals is a massive snobbery against pop music. Granted, bad pop music isn't as easy to endure as some of the whiny guitar crap littering the charts. But why should a talentless gobshite like Pete Doherty be deified when co-talentless gobshite Lee Ryan gets crucified? Something tells us it's because one has a drug habit and the other one sings pop music.

    So, in that light, we're starting our own awards. In Pete's honour, they'll be called "The junkies", and here are the categories:

    - Worst whiny guitar 'song' of the year
    - Most useless poseur with a drug habit
    - Most overhyped band of 2005
    - Least convincing rockstar award
    - Genuinely wonderful rock music award
    - Best pop act that isn't James Blunt or KT Tunstall
    - Best single of 2005
    - Best album of 2005
    - Album you bought but realised you shouldn't have award
    - Cheapest video of 2005
    - Best sparkly award ceremony outfit of 2005
    - Outstanding achievement in tabloid coverage award

    Send your nominations to junkie@discopop.co.uk. Then we'll rig the winners and let you know next week. Just like the real thing.

  • BBC News: Westlife win worst music award

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  • Teeth! Hair! Spit!

    Over at Sugababes HQ, claws are out, teeth are bared, and saucers of milky drink have been spilled. But this time the girls aren't fighting with each other. No, they're pissed off with the Brits.

    "I'm surprised we've not been nominated," says Heidi Range about the Best Pop category, "I was shocked that McFly weren't in the category either and it's James Blunt and Katie Melua."

    Rather than launching a protest - maybe chucking Mutya's bloated corpse into the reception area, KLF style - Heidi is philosophical:

    "Maybe," she muses, "they've changed the way of doing things."

    However, there's still hope of a ruckus at tomorrow's ceremony - someone has riled Girls Aloud.

    Sarah Harding (the blonde one) told the Daily Mittor, "We aren't nominated for a Brit. It's a complete joke - we can't believe it."

    "It's the likes of Madonna, who isn't pop and isn't British. Kelly Clarkson isn't British either. It doesn't give British pop acts like us a chance."

    She's got a point - although it'd be nice if the girls had the confidence to say "actually, we're better than that Clarkson slag" instead of whining about her nationality.

    Can't wait to hear what they say when they discover they've been left off the Mercury list.

  • Virgin Music News: Girl groups in fury at Brits snub

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  • Monday, February 13, 2006

    Video of the week: Protection

    This week's selection is Massive Attack's "Protection" - one of the most evocative videos, and songs, of the 1990s.

    Under the direction of Michel Gondry (who more recently took the helm on "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"), the camera swims around an apartment block, diving into the rooms and discovering arguments, birthdays, moments of despair, and a man soldering a circuitboard. (Well, you can't have everything, can you?)

    The images and the music seem to be made to go together - and in a way, of course, they were. But, on closer inspection, the two are almost completely independent. The video, lyrical though it may be, pays scant attention to the actual song lyrics - which are about reaching out to someone in their hour of need. Mind you, having seen all the other Massive Attack videos - singing foetuses, et al - I get the feeling that almost any image would work alongside their melancholic shuffles.

    "Melancholic shuffles" would be a great name for a box of granny-chocolates, don't you think?

    Video below. Enjoy.

  • Like this? Why not pre-order Massive Attack's Greatest Hits CD / DVD?

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  • Friday, February 10, 2006

    The Grammys: In pictures

    I really have very little to say about the Grammys. I watched the 2-hour synopsis of the ceremony last night, and even that seemed like extended aural torture.

    U2 clearly had to restrain themselves from killing Mary J Blige as she systematically ruined their one decent song.

    There was general confusion, and the air of a ramshackle last-day-of-term show, for the the 'tribute' to Sly and the Family Stone. Sly himself looked particularly discombobulated, probably because of the industrial amounts of coke he's shoved up his nose over the last 35 years.

    Stevie Wonder did his joke about taking his glasses off, the better to see a pretty lady (again(. And Madonna displayed her gusset for the all world to see (again).

    As is par for the course at these ceremonies, mediocrity was heavily rewarded. Green Day's "Boulevard of Broken Dreams", for instance, was clearly not the record of 2005. Nor was U2's "Sometime You Can't Make It On Your Own" the song of the year. And what is the difference between those two awards, anyway?

    I could ramble on about this for days, but in the end the awards make little or no difference. Especially 'Best Polka Album'. What we're really here for are the frocks - so let's take a look:

    Stefani: Hollabump girl

    Kanye: Tells it like it is
    (In all seriousness, this man needs taken down a peg or two. We used to beat up the cocky kids like him at school. And we were the nerds.)

    Sting: "I'll fight you for that mushroom vol au vent"

    Madonna: GUSSET!

    Joss Stone: "Does anyone know how to get superglue off your chin?"

    Jamie Foxx: Pa-rum-pa-pum-pum

    Mariah: She's got the horn(s)

    Fergie: Face or fish? You decide.
    (Oh, alright, it is a fish. Sturgeon, I think.)

    Missy: Cool as ice-cream, and the only deserving award-winner of the night (best video for Lose Control)

    Beyoncé: Prom queen (again)

    Macca: "Help! I've dislocated my hip."

  • Grammy Nominees: Full list of winners

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  • Thursday, February 9, 2006

    Public service announcement

    Will someone please tell Madonna to stop wearing leotards?

  • Holy Moly has the new video (alert: old woman's gusset!)
  • Youtube has last night's Grammy performance with the Gorillaz
    (alert: old woman's gusset!)

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  • Wednesday, February 8, 2006

    New Power Generator

    Prince is back, back, BACK!!!

    His new album, 3121, hits the stores on March 21st - with a host of guest stars and a video directed by Salma Hayek.

    A single, "Beautiful", is also due out in the next couple of weeks, and it sees his royal badness (as they used to call him) getting all smoochy with a new soul singer called Tamar. Now, Prince is always at his best when he has a decent female foil, but the jury's out on whether Tamar is a muse (Rosie Gaines) or a menace (Cat). You can decide for yourself by watching their performance on last week's Saturday Night Live, below.

    Personally, I'm not overly impressed with the new material. The two songs performed here plough a similar stylistic furrow to 2003's "Musicology" album. That record launched the purple perv back into the mainstream, but to many fans it felt like Prince-lite: a diluted and blunted version of his postmodern musical genius. Yes, it was great to him get the recognition he deserves -- but is playing it safe on the follow-up the best way to retain those fans?

    Indeed, the highlights of Prince's career have always been the curveballs: ditching the power rock of Purple Rain for whimsical psychedlia on Around The World In A Day; sacking his band, the Revolution, at the height of their popularity in 1986; hiring a 10 piece soul band in the mid-90s while the rest of the world machine-gunned gangsta rap into the charts; having his sole UK number one (The Most Beautful Girl In The World), just as everyone was writing him off as a spent force…

    So, let's hope these audience-friendly tracks he performed on SNL are the exception -- a sweet candy to tempt us into his dungeon of rootsy perversion. Because we all know Prince is at his best when he's being a naughty boy.

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    Tuesday, February 7, 2006

    The final countdown

    In this current drought of original music television, one broadcaster is stepping up to the plate, bravely swimming against the tide, pushing the envelope, fighting for survival, breaking boundaries (that's quite enough - clichés ed).

    Channel Four, for it is they, have announced plans for a Top 20 album countdown show. But will it break the curse of CD:UK and TOTP? Let's see what it has to offer:

    1) It will be filmed in a nightclub - just like the Roxy and the Pepsi Chart Show!

    2) The album chart is notoriously frenetic and exciting. Will James Blunt spend his thirteenth week at number one? Or will it be KT Tunstall!!!

    3) It's going out in the coveted 'Saturday afternoon on E4' slot, previously home to such sure-fire hits as Friends (repeat), the OC (repeat) and Smallville (repeat)!!!!11!

    4) Channel 4 has a brilliant history of 'mature' music programmes, like The White Room and Jo Whiley's stroky chin / vaseline on the camera programme!!!!!!!1!!!!

    5) Er, that's it.

    So, who wants to place a bet on the initial 20-week run being extended? Anyone?!

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    Sunday, February 5, 2006

    Video of the week: Common People

    The high point / breaking point of Pulp's career, Common People put Jarvis Cocker at the top of the list of people TV producers try to book when they're a bit stuck for a social commentator who isn't boring or Germaine Greer.

    You know the story - the lyrics are a semi-autobiographical account of Cocker's time at London's St Martin in the Fields' art college; it became the 'anthem of 1995' after Pulp stood in for the Stone Roses at Glastonbury; it sounds like it was written on a cheap charity-shop electric organ because it waswritten on a chep charity shop electric organ. ..

    The video was made by Britpop's unofficial director, Pedro Romhanyi, who also did Parklife and Animal Nitrate. The art direction is superb (all those primary colours!), and it triggered several Students Unions arguments, viz: Who's sexier with a shopping trolley - Sadie Frost in Common People, or Louise-out-of-Sleeper in Inbetweener?

    Watch the video below:

    Buy it!
  • Different Class: The album
  • Pulp video collection

    Further reading
  • Common People in a cartoon strip, by Jamie "Gorillaz" Hewlitt.

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  • Friday, February 3, 2006

    The end of pop?!

    What a depressing era for music this is turning out to be. Top Of The Pops has been shunted off to BBC2, CD:UK has been cancelled, James Blunt has sold ten squillion records, and now Smash Hits is closing.

    So, what's the problem? Has the UK lost all interest in music? Certainly, the tabloids have ditched all serious coverage of music. If it's not Kylie's Bum, Pete Doherty's hilarious antics with crack cocaine, or Cheryl Tweedy flashing her pants, it's not worth covering.

    My theory is that the deliberate fragmentation of the record market has dealt a fatal blow to pop music. Noawadays, most artists are marketed to a particular demographic. Norah Jones is innofensive mum music, Black Eyed Peas is rap for slightly timid white kids, Daniel Powter is for all of satan's minions here on earth.

    Our radio and TV stations reinforce this segregation. All of the national music radio stations take the view that rock is the only credible form of modern songcraft (although Radio One gives some breathing space to rap). Music television and in-store radio cater to the pop kids, and most local radio goes follow the easy-listening classics formula.

    Thus, if you want to make it big, you have to straddle these genres. To do that, you play it safe. That's why Coldplay are the biggest new band of the last 5 years - because there is nothing suprising, offensive, or vaguely original about their corporate bland-rock. Mums, Dads, kids and introspective teenagers can all tolerate Coldplay together, without ever having to make any kind of emotional connection to the music itself.

    Compare this to the 80s - the heyday of TOTP and Smash Hits. The crossover acts of the New Romantic era were Duran Duran, Soft Cell, The Human League, Dexy's Midnight Runners, etc. They were seedy, exciting, experimental bands, with a huge musical palette, and they managed to straddle the adult and teen market without diluting their style.

    Somewhere along the line, then, pop became a dirty word. If you read through the BBC's "Your tributes to Smash Hits" messageboard, you'll discover that the majority of the public blames Stock, Aitken and Waterman for this turn of events. I disagree. SAW's best songs did have a broad appeal. You Spin Me Round Like a Record, for example, is due its third Top 20 appearance this Sunday. And who doesn't get up and dance like a lunatic when a DJ plays "Love In The First Degree"?

    In my opinion, the real culprits here are New Kids On the Block. They were the first band to be precision-targetted at 13 year-olds. And their unqualified success is directly responsible for the likes of The Backstreet Boys, Take That and (shudder) Westlife.

    NKTOB's dubious achievement was to make music so mind-numbingly, nursery-rhyme simple that it could only be tolerated by pre-teens on a candy cane sugar rush. Whereas parents had been able to appreciate the New Kids' forebears (The Osmonds, Jackson 5, New Edition), this music was so lacking in sophistication that pop suddenly seemed like alien territory. A bit like Jordan Knight's forehead.

    This is partly what killed Smash Hits. Before the New Kids, the magazine could interview The Cure and The Flying Lizards. Afterwards, they were constantly chasing a market more interested in the free gel-pens on the cover than the music inside the magazine.

    TOTP, paradoxically, has gone down the dumper because it tried to be all-inclusive. When they put Green Day side by side with DJ Casper, they ensure that everybody has a reason to turn off in the first five minutes. (Tim 'what's my line' Kash was of no great help here, either).

    So, what's the answer? Well, as we alluded to earlier this week, acts like Arctic Monkeys don't seem to be afraid of dirtying their hands in the murky waters of pop. The Kaiser Chiefs and Franz Ferdinand seem to enjoy a bit of froth, too. All we need now is for our pop acts to raise their game in return. Surely there's room for more than one Sugababes?

    And perhaps the greatest reason for hope is found in US radio. After years of strict formatting, station programmers have come to the shocking realisation that most people like more than one genre of music. This slapping-of-hands-onto-foreheads piece of insight is all down to the ipod. Noticing that the most-loved feature of the digital music player is it's shuffle function, all-rock or all-R&B playlists are being ditched in favour of a format they call "Jack" or, intriguingly, "Bob".

    Turning on Bob radio, you might find U2, Michael Jackson, Whitney, the B52s, Scissor Sisters, Beyoncé or The Strokes... anything goes, as long as it's a hit. The success of these stations is mannah to marketing managers, who can suddenly advertise to several demographics at once. You should expect it to start appearing in the UK very soon.

    If, over the next couple of years, we can make pop music relevant again, it would be an amazing turnaround. After all, music should be enjoyed universally - in the same way as film and literature - not squeezed into an increasingly small series of sub-genres.

    Perhaps then we'll see the likes of Smash Hits and CD:UK again. Perhaps bands will be less afraid to push the envelope. Perhaps kids will once again gain some idea of our musical heritage. And, best of all, perhaps we can finally tell Coldplay to go away and stop bothering us.

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    Wednesday, February 1, 2006

    Oscar nominations: All you need to know

    Venn diagrams never lie, so it seems Philip Seymour Hoffman is due an Oscar come March.

    But what of the best actress? In that category, nobody quite manages to straddle the famous/gay intersection (stop laughing at the back, please). Therefore, the decision is sure to be based on the likelihood of tears at the podium. So it won't be Reese Witherspoon: her jaw is too square for a wobbly chin moment. Nor Keira Knightley: if she was to let any more water out of her body she'd shrivel up and die. So my money is on Felicity Huffman, who managed to convey a suitable amount of teary dignity at the Golden Globes without ever smudging her mascara. Very classy for a pre-operative transexual.

    But, what of the music category? Only three songs are nominated this year. Three! And you will be able to recall none of them.
    Best music (song)
    In the Deep - Crash
    It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp - Hustle and Flow
    Travelin' Thru - Transamerica

    See what I mean?

    The strange thing is, there was a great deal of good music in last year's films. The Life Aquatic, to pick my favourite example, had a whole raft of David Bowie songs covered by Seu Jorge. I'm not sure if the award rules allow cover versions - but these acoustic reworkings (sung in Portugese) are sublime, putting a whole new twist on old classics. Surely they were original enough to be considered?

    Elsewhere, Alanis Morisette delivered one of her most listenable records of recent years for the closing credits of the Narnia film. And how about Team America: World Police? "Montage" or "I'm So Ronery" would have been worth a nod (moreso than South Park's Blame Canada, which was Oscar nominated a couple of years ago). And, after last year's decision to make Beyoncé sing all of the nominated songs in a selection of increasingly awful frocks, we'd pay good money to see Mariah Carey's version of "Everyone has Aids".

    Still, kudos to the Academy for roundly ignoring 50 Cent's ' film'.

  • Venn diagram via Hanasiana
  • Full list of nominees

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