Monday, December 31, 2007

"Important" information

I have just discovered that this humble website is the number three search result on Google for the phrase "pictures of ladybits". I am also ranked sixth on Virgin Media's search engine when you search for "Betty Boo bedroom curtains".

That is all.


Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Discopop top 10 singles of 2007

If you don't own these, you're probably a paedophile.

1) Amerie - Gotta Work

An updated, improved version of One Thing, Gotta Work stomps all over the dancefloor like a giant in hotpants. Using a sample of Isaac Haye's Hold On, I'm Coming, Amerie crafted a case study in melodic composition - there's not a single wasted note across three minutes and eleven seconds. Why this didn't get to number one, I'll never know.
:: Watch it on youtube


2) Robyn - With Every Heartbeat

"Still dying with every step I take, but I don't look back," sings Robyn as With Every Heartbeat opens. It's the most emotionally honest, bitterly painful song of the year - if not all time. The bit where the string quartet kicks in will break your heart a thousand times over. Her acoustic performance of the song on Radio One probably drove several teenagers to poetry or that weird sobbing where you make a noise like Hannibal Lecter when you breathe in. But you can dance to it, too, which must turn school discos into a dangerous playground of tears and snot. Brilliant.
:: Watch it on youtube


3) CSS - Let's Make Love and Listen To Death From Above

The best drunken come-on of the year, Let's Make Love sees Lovefoxxx making a stupid, Bridget Jones-style attempt to get a man into bed. The song doesn't record whether or not she was successful, but I definitely would.

According to Wikipedia, the hook "is probably a reference to the Canadian band Death From Above 1979, as evidenced in the song's video where band members are shown wearing elephant masks (a reference to the "elephant heads" on the cover of Death From Above 1979's album You're a Woman, I'm a Machine)." So now you know.
:: Watch it on youtube


4) Rihanna - Umbrella

In which 19-year-old Robyn Rihanna Fenty transformed from a vaguely-interesting Barbadian R&B lady into a globe-straddling pop behemoth before our very eyes. This despite the fact her singing voice is more nasal than an anteater, and that the opening rap from Jay-Z is the very definition of "phoned in". But this record is so amazingly catchy that it has changed the way we pronounce the word umbrella for the rest of all time.
:: Watch it on youtube


5) Girls Aloud - Call The Shots

If Rihanna mangled her pronunciation of umbrella, Cheryl Tweedycole put the word "now" through a primeval torture device in Call The Shots. Seriously, it ends up being seventeen syllables long or something. But I love this song, and anyone who says they don't love it too it is lying through their dirty mouth.
:: Watch it on youtube


6) Groove Armada - Song 4 Mutya

Despite the lyrics, Mutya almost certainly doesn't know all the words to Prince's Hot Thing, but this pop song, full of meaty synths and New Order guitar lines, sounds exactly like the sort of thing the little purple man would have written for one of his filthy protegés in the mid-80s. The video is a crock of shit, though.
:: Watch it on youtube (but it's probably best not to waste your time)


7) Beyoncé and Shakira - Beautiful Liar

Two of pop's shoutiest ladyfolk have a volume competition over a slinky, arabesque beat. The video contains several scenes of wiggling. It is altogether smashing.
:: Watch it on youtube


8) Girls Aloud - Sexy! No, No, No...

Nadine has a "d-d-dirty mind", she helpfully tells us in this hymn to sexual caution. Coincidentally, two years ago she used the lyrics of Biology to advertise her "dirty brain". We, the public, demand more information about this inner pervert.
:: Watch it on youtube


9) Siobhan Donaghy - Don't Give It Up

It is a terrible crime that, despite having released one of the most inventive albums of the year, Siobhan Donaghy is now dying from Aids (on stage in a crappy "reinvention" of Rent, fact-fans). This song, equal parts Kate Bush and Bjork, is absoulte nonsense - but very beautiful, stately nonsense with an ethereal vocal. No doubt it was deemed "too demanding" for the cretins that listen to Radio One. If only she had put "The" in front of her name, they might have paid attention.
:: Watch it on youtube


10) Nelly Furtado - Say It Right

One of those songs that sits unloved and overshadowed on its parent album before revealing its true glory as a single. A slinky little minor-key ballad, its one of Nelly's more atmospheric songs, although I've never really paid attention to what it's all about. According to the internet, however, the lyrics go: "From my hands I could give you something that I made / From my mouth I could sing you another brick that I laid". Nelly Furtado is nuts, isn't she?
:: Watch it on youtube


PS: As ever, the top 10 list is put together using my iTunes play counts and a bit of maths(!) to even out the bias towards songs that have been around all year.

PPS: Honourable mentions also go to The Klaxons - Golden Skans, White Stripes - You Don't Know What Love Is, Gossip - Standing In The Way Of Control, Take That - Shine, Mark Ronson - Stop Me, The Ting Tings - That's Not My Name, Kanye West - Stronger, Arcade Fire - Intervention, Timbaland ft Justin Timberlake and Nelly Furtado - Give It To Me, New Young Pony Club - The Bomb.

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

What did you get for Christmas?

Was it a holiday sweater? If so, then here's a song just for you.

The Holiday Sweater Song

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Strictly Christmas Stockings

Welcome back! Hope you all had a tasty Christmas.

As promised, we spent part of the break in prison - where my mother-in-law is a chaplain. As you can imagine, Christmas morning with 40 inmates makes for a particularly unique church service. Especially when your (gorgeous) wife is the first civilian woman the men have seen for months, if not years.

But the best moment was when the congregation launched into the Christmas carols. You've never heard Away In A Manger until you've heard it with a sinister undertone of violence.

Aside from prison, we spent most of the holiday with our nieces and their Wiiiii. No Christmas telly at all, which is most unusual for me.

Before we set off for the in-laws, however, we did catch the final of Strictly Come Dancing, which I've become strangely addicted to. This year, justice was done and former Mis-Teeq shouty lady Alesha Dixon took the crown after 12 weeks of knockout performances. Here is one of them:

Alesha Dixon - Argentine Tango

Those of you who have followed Alesha's career will know that, despite a lack of formal training, she had a bit of a head start when it came to the competition, having performed routines both for Mis-Teeq and as a featured performer in NERD's She Wants To Move video. Comme ça:

NERD - She Wants To Move

I was hoping Alesha would use Strictly Come Dancing as a way to revitalise her stalled pop career. Her solo singles last year weren't of the highest quality but they showed a lot of promise. Bruce Forsyth has obviously been paying attention, though. He told Alesha she could be "Britain's Beyoncé", which is a good call for an old duffer.

Of course, this being the UK, the first thing Alesha has done to celebrate her victory is to accept a large amount of dosh to remove her clothes - in this case FHM. In the interests of "research", here are the pics:

So, will Alesha stage the first pop comeback of 2008? Watch this space...

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Nota bene

This will be the first great single of 2008.

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Happy Flippin' Christmas

Dearest reader,

I am going away for Christmas now. At least part of it will be spent in prison*.

Normal service will be resumed next weekend, when I'll run-down the annual totally unbiased Discopop Directory Top 10 albums or singles of 2007 (I haven't decided which to do first).

In the meantime, here's a seasonally inappropriate clip from my favourite comedy discovery of the year, BBC Four's musical spoof show Flight Of The Conchords. In this scene, guitarist Brett is angry at being replaced in his band by a flash-in-the-pan bongos player, and works out his anger in the style of a 1980s Jerry Bruckheimer movie.

Happy Christmas to you and yours!

Brett's angry dance

PS: If you liked that, there's a DVD available here, and the band plan an album and tour in 2008. Yay!

*Not a joke: My mother-in-law is a prison chaplain, and we'll be "on the inside" for the Christmas Day service

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

New Janet Jackson artwork

What message is Janet trying to send here? Is it:
a) My new record label are spending a lot of money on this album.
b) I am Daft Punk, and anyone who says I'm not is lying.
c) Look everyone, I'm singing out of my twat!

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Momentary amusement

A vaguely diverting "game" called Wikipedia Discography is doing the rounds on the internet at the moment. The rules are this: Go to the Wikipedia homepage and click on the 'Random article' button 12 times.

The first result is the name of your globe-straddling, axe-weilding, plank-spanking rock band. The second is the name of your international hit album, and the next ten are the track names.

Here's what I got:

WENO - Boileryard Clarke
1) Panagia, Cyprus
2) Valle De Hecho
3) Voxel
4) Fear Itself
5) Lil' Love
6) Shouchangoceratinae
7) Modern Day Zero
8) Fanny Alger
9) stdbool.h
10) Manhattan Roller Hockey League

I reckon it's a dodgy European P-Funk album, circa 1984.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Not Christmas Christmas song

I was out doing my last bout of Christmas shopping yesterday in London's Oxford Street (a man walked out of the tube at the same time as me, took one look at the crowds, announced "fuck" to no-one in particular, and went back inside).

Obviously, I was bombarded with festive tunes both good (anything by Phil Spector) and bad (anything by Macy Gray). But The Gap had a great CD on, with a peculiarly yule-some version of Blur's Tender.

After a bit of poking around on the internet, I discovered it was a remix by Japanese fader fiddler Cornelius. It's available on Blur's 10 Year Box Set, but I've stuck an MP3 below to get you in the festive spirit.

Note that this version is sadly lacking in the sleigh bells that The Gap sellotaped all over the song like a badly wrapped Christmas parcel.

Blur - Tender (Cornelius remix)

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Monday, December 17, 2007

M.I.A. has a strop

Underground rap superstar M.I.A. has posted a massive rant on her myspace page, complaining about how her new single, Paper Planes, has been "sabotaged" by MTV and the American establishment.

You see, the London / Sri Lankan singer performed the song on David Letterman's US chat show, but the gunshot percussion that punctuates the chorus was replaced by a cheap electronic snare drum.


If you watch the video of the performance, you can actually see M.I.A. look round in confusion the first time the replacement sound effect is played (youtube link).

And it does somewhat ruin the point of the song, the chorus of which runs: "All I want to do is *pow, pow, pow, pow* and take your money". M.I.A. has said the lyrics are a comment on how (some) people in the West view immigrants, and it's clear that "All I want to do is play a 1980s Casio keyboard and take your money" doesn't have the same impact.

Unfortunately, MTV have also chosen to censor the video in this way - raising the singer's ire even further. Here are some words she uses to describe this turn of events: DISAPPOINTED, BULLSHIT, FUCKED UP MESS.

I think she's angry, don't you?

M.I.A. continues to say that this is exactly the kind of thing that happens to people who have an "OUTSIDER MESSAGE", which is fair comment. But when your song contains the line "Some I murder, some I let go" perhaps you shouldn't expect mainstreams TV networks to fall at your feet praising your artistic integrity.

Anyway, this all clouds over the fact that Paper Planes is a brilliant song from one of the best albums on 2007. Here is the uncensored video, which the corporate whores at MTV can shove up their wazoo!

M.I.A. - Paper Planes

NB: This video is brought to you by Youtube, which is owned by Google, a company that makes almost $15bn per year and is part of the Nasdaq 100.

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Girls Aloud: St Trinian's Theme

Now we know why this isn't on the Girl's latest album.
Because it's rubbish.

Girls Aloud - St Trinian's theme

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Wonders will never cease

Against all expectations, Janet Jackson's new single has leaked and it is really, really good. Called Feedback, it's apparently produced by Rodney Jerkins (Destiny's Child, Brandy, Spice Girls).

MP3s are all over the internet already. There are some good quality ones at Kevipodmusic.

What to expect: A techno-tinged R&B dancefloor track, with beats big enough to slap a grown man off a bicycle. Nonetheless, it's a fairly safe, club/chart track - and very reminiscent of recent Britney singles. If the song started "It's Janet, bitch", no-one would be surprised.

What not to expect: Janet to be any less obsessed with her body, sex, or her body having sex.

Best lyric: "I'm flyer than a pelican"

Most awful lyric of all time: "I'm heavy like a first day period" (I seriously hope I mis-heard this)

In summary: A definite return to form - but I think Janet can do better. Fingers crossed for the album (out next February).

PS: If the MP3 link doesn't work, the song is now streaming in full quality on Janet's website. Cool new logo, too...

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Winona Ryder ventriloquist dummy sex tape

Seriously, dude, WTF?

[via Hollywood Tuna]

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My life in your hands

Singer-songwriter Adele is tipped for the top in 2008. The 19-year-old Londoner has been getting "mad props" from Jo Whiley and Lame Lowe on Radio One and, earlier this week, she won a best newcomer award from the Brits.

Here she is performing her limited edition, vinyl-only single Hometown Glory on BBC's Sound (note the 'interesting' camera work):

Adele - Hometown Glory

The question: Is the rest of Adele's material as good as this, or is she "a bit Leona Lewis"? I'm too lazy to do any research today, so I'm leaving it up to you to tell me.

Use the voting panel below to tell me whether I should go to see her play at the Bloomsbury Theatre in January. I promise I will abide by whatever you decide when the poll closes on 15th December.

This is the sort of interactive and ground-breaking feature that wins awards at the interactive Baftas, don't you think?

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The iTunes top 25

The UK version of iTunes has just revealed it's top 25 best-selling singles of 2007. Here is what we learn:

No 1: iTunes still thinks Mika's name is spelt in capitals, like it's an acronym. Possible acronyms include: Mainly inert Koala army, Man injured (knee accident) and Mika is kwite awful.

No 2: Spending ten weeks at number one doesn't automatically make you the biggest-selling artist of the year, as Rihanna has learned to her shame.

No 4: Ruby, Ruby, RUBY! Ah-ah-agh-ah-ah-awwww. Genius.

No 12: Failure to grasp the most basic rules of English grammar has not stopped Timbaland from making millions. Skool suxxx kidz!

No 13: You don't seriously expect me to believe that Beautiful Liar came out in 2007, do you?

No 21: Hooray for Robyn!

No 23: If he lay there. If he just lay there. I would drive over him, then reverse just to make sure I'd finished the job off properly.

No 24: Apparently, the Great British public doesn't mind if you violently rape the memory of Ben E. King to score a hit record. Amazing.

The list "in full"
1. Mika - Grace Kelly
2. Rihanna - Umbrella
3. The Fray - How To Save A Life
4. The Kaiser Chiefs - Ruby
5. Plain White T's - Hey There Delilah
6. Kanye West - Stronger
7. Kate Nash - Foundations
8. Leona Lewis - Bleeding Love
9. Sugababes - About You Now
10. Take That - Shine
11. Gwen Stefani - The Sweet Escape
12. Timbaland - The Way I Are
13. Beyonce & Shakira - Beautiful Liar
14. Justin, Nelly and Timbaland - Give It To Me
15. Nelly Furtado - Say It Right
16. The Hoosiers - Worried About Ray
17. Avril Lavigne - Girlfriend
18. Starz In Their Eyes - Just Jack
19. Fergie - Big Girls Don't Cry
20. Gym Class Heroes - Cupid's Chokehold
21. Robyn - With Every Heartbeat
22. The Proclaimers - I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)
23. Snow Patrol - Chasing Cars
24. Sean Kingston - Beautiful Girls
25. Enrique Iglesias - Do You Know? (The Ping Pong song)


Lily Allen covers ELO

If Lily Allen really does plan to retire to raise chickens and pigs like she told the Sunday Times' Weekend magazine, it is generally agreed that it would be a "bad thing". This is because, by that stage, we expect her to be on I'm A Celebrity eating a crow's adrenal gland from a jug of rhino snot.

Luckily, Lily still has two and a bit years to go before she debases herself on live TV. In the meantime, she has popped into a recording studio to knock off a cover of ELO's Mr Blue Sky.

It is very squiggly - much like a wriggly worm playing a Roland TB-303 in a glass of tequila - and Lily thoughtfully adds a boogie-woogie piano solo. There isn't a song in the world that wouldn't be improved by a boogie-woogie piano solo

Note to Jools Holland: That was sarcasm.

A Chilean fan website has an MP3 of this track, which is being used in the following French TV commercial:

Lily Allen - SFR moile advert

Ha ha. Isn't foreign telly rubbish?

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Monday, December 10, 2007

A losing game

Given all that Amy Winehouse has been through over the past six months, the poignancy of Love Is A Losing Game (a song written after she split up with Blake Fielder-Civil) has taken on a whole new dimension.

Somehow, the cobbled-together slow motion video make that tale of woe even more heart-rending. The only question is whether it's a fantastic piece of film, or another horrible chapter in the exploitation of a very deeply troubled woman.

Amy Winehouse - Love Is A Losing Game

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Friday, December 7, 2007

Is this for real (Or is it just another dream)?

Hold on to your muffins, for Cathy Dennis is coming back as the nation’s premier ginger pop star.

You may remember Cathy Dennis for such 90s hits as Touch Me (All Night Long) and Too Many Walls - a song about an aborted building project in her kitchen.

But you’re more likely to know her work as a writer – she’s responsible for Kylie’s Can’t Get You Out Of My Head and Britney’s Toxic. Dennis also had something to do with the S Club Juniors, but she prefers not to talk about that.

Anyway, according to Music Week she’s recording an album and preparing to tour next year. Only she’s too shy to use her name, so she’s pretending to be something called Sexcassettes – which is the best pop group name since Captain Monty Trousers and the Hullaballoo Baboon Orchestra.

The record has been, er… recorded with Dr Luke (Kelly Clarkson’s Since U Been Gone), Greg Kurstin (Sophie Ellis Bextor’s Catch You) and Mark Ronson (Amy Winehouse, Lily Allen). This is a good sign.

Her manager, Spice Girls svengali Simon Fuller, adds that the album has “a real contemporary guitar feeling” - which is less encouraging.

Even worse is this recent shot of Dennis at an awards ceremony.

Nothing says “I’m madder than a mad march hare in a madhouse painting a picture of Michael Madsen on national ‘I’m mad’ day” than wearing your nightdress in public and topping it off with a bow tie. Or maybe two bow ties. It’s hard to tell.

Hopefully come the launch of Sexcassettes, Cathy will stop acting completely cuckoo, get a stylist and squeeze back into a catsuit – just like what she did on this TV programme back in “the day”. Yum.

Cathy Dennis – Touch Me (All Night Long)

PS I interviewed the painfully shy, but wonderfully sweet Ms Dennis in 2005. Read all about it here

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Thursday, December 6, 2007

Better late than never

I'm about a week behind the times with this, but pop pixellette Robyn has premiered the video for her new single, Be Mine!

Directed by Mat Vitali, it features the Swedish singer writhing around in a furry coat, looking sad in a cafe and wearing a Who's That Girl T-shirt (a reference to one of her album tracks, not the Madonna film, fact fans).

But! Robyn has already got a video for Be Mine, from when it was released in Sweden two years ago. In it, Robyn has no hair, wears a succession of wigs, and looks sad in a bathroom. These two videos are literally worlds apart.

So which one is best? You decide.

Robyn - Be Mine! (version 2007)

Robyn - Be Mine (version 2005)

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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Gig Review: Take That

I knew the audience for a Take That concert would be predominantly female, but I had no idea just how overwhelmingly the O2 arena would be filled with oestrogen. Put it this way: All but one of the men's toilets had been transformed into ladies loos for the night.

This all spelt trouble for opening act Sophie Ellis Bextor, whose posh leggy disco was given short shrift as the impatient hordes gathered, glowsticks in one hand and Bacardi Breezers in the other.

The That arrived shortly after, making like politicians as they belted out Reach Out from behind TT-branded lecterns. Then - (shock horror!) their podiums opened to reveal strippers who entertained the boys with a lapdance during It Only Takes A Minute.

"Is this a commentary on political sleaze," inquired mrsdiscopop. It was either that or a tribute to Police Academy's Commadent Eric Lassard.

It Only Takes A Minute was, sadly, one of the few up-tempo numbers in a concert based around the ballad-filled Beautiful World album. Even Could It Be Magic was re-tooled as a downtempo show stopper - complete with ballerinas throwing confetti on the performers from above.

While it made a lot of sense to update the cheesy plastic production of the band's early hits, the show suffered badly from a lack of pace. The tempo only picked up in the last 20 minutes, with Sure, Pray and Shine among the only numbers to make full use of the vast stage.

The end of the show, Never Forget, was particularly stunning, with the boys appearing to walk in and out of the video screen - thanks to the clever use of a moving walkway. It was one of the few moments that equalled the staging of the band's last tour, where Back For Good was performed amidst rain storm and a hologram of Robbie Williams sang the intro to Could It Be Magic.

But the crowd didn't seem to mind, lapping up every syllable of the boy's cheeky banter, and singing the first verse and chorus of A Million Love Songs acapella. They even cheered happily when Mark Owen said: "Aren't these Marks and Spencer suits wonderful? You should buy one for your husbands for Christmas". What a corporate whore, eh readers?

Still, the brand synergy is perfect. Just like Marks and Spencer, the Take That of 2007 offer a high quality, family-friendly British product precision targetted at middle-aged suburban mums.

Reach Out
It Only Takes A Minute
Beautiful World
Hold On
I'd Wait For Life
Relight My Fire / Crazy*
Rule The World
Could It Be Magic
Audience participation medley
- Do What You Like
- Promises
- Take That and Party
- A Million Love Songs
Back For Good
Everything Changes
Wooden Boat
Give Good Feeling
Never Forget

*There is now a law that all concerts must include a cover version of Crazy

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Monday, December 3, 2007

Listen up!

Here's someone I hadn't heard of 'til literally five minutes ago - Ingrid Michaelson. In fact, I started writing this post half-way through watching her video, The Way I Am, on the youtubes.

It is simply scrummy - like Regina Spektor might sound in the final few moments before she drifts off to sleep. You will like it if you're a fan of Fiona Apple, Siobhan Donaghy or Imogen Heap.

You will also find yourself wondering: Whatever happened to Lisa Loeb, anyway?

Ingrid Michaelson - The Way I Am

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Geri = Amazing

On the opening night of the Spice Girls world tour, Geri Halliwell sang during Wannabe: "If you really bug me then I'll say goodbye. And I did!".

Sheer class.

Shockingly bad mobile phone video of the Spice Girls in Vancouver

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Dogg in heat

Fourteen years after the Sun's "Kick This Evil Bastard Out" headline, Canine-featured rapper Snoop Dogg has become one of hip-hop's most dependable and (say it quietly) safe artists.

Yes, he still gets arrested at airports for carrying drugs and collapsible batons in his hand luggage, but maybe he was just "looking after the dope for a friend" while on his way to perform as a majorette.

His music has certainly become more accessible and radio-friendly since his murder-obsessed Death Row days. Justin Timberlake duet Signs was a proper chart smash and the iracsible Snoop was even invited to play at Live 8. Okay, so he swore like a trooper throughout the performance and the BBC had to apologise but what's a motherfucker between friends, eh?

His new record Sensual Seduction is, rather unbelievably, a ballad. Vocoded to within an inch of his mustache, it sees the "Dee-oh-double-gee" waxing lyrical about his prowess in the underdrawers department.

The video is retro genius. Snoop is in full-on Huggy Bear mode, while the picture has been treated to look like a 1980s video recording. It even features spot-on parodies of the videos for When Doves Cry and Rock With You, amongst others.

Sadly, the song doesn't pull off its 80s pastiche quite as successfully, sounding more like a cheap BlackStreet smoocher than a fabulous Rick James seductathon.

Six out of ten. Unless Snoop is reading this, in which case it's a triumphant 9/10 and would you please put the gun away, now.

Snoop Dogg - Sensual Seduction

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