Kanye West and frequent collaborator / former mentor Common have both released quirky, animation-led videos in the last week.
West's is a technicolour marvel, pieced together by postmodern commericial art wunderkind Takashi Murakami. Common's is almost monochrome, but no less eye-catching, with a grafitti-inspired comic strip feel from Hype Williams protege Lil' X.
Both are smashing, but Kanye's is more of a treat for anime geekboys, while Common's is full of eye candy for da ladeeeeez (it says here).
The question is, which is best? Watch and vote, my lovelies.
Beyoncé's little sis Solange, like so many pop siblings (Dannii Minogue, Daniel Bedingfield, the other Jonas Brother) is the victim of a huge cosmic joke, whereby she is given 80% of her sister's talent, looks and charisma, and then expected to try to live up to the reputation of her surname.
Her s last single, I Decided, stalled at an embarassing number 27 despite a terrific remix from The Freemasons. Her new one, Sandcastle Disco, isn't going to do any better.
Everything about it is almost brilliant. The FX-laden primary colour video is charming; the Motown-inspired beat is groovesome; the vocals shimmer like water playing on the mediterranean sea. But, ultimately, the melody is so flimsy it evaporates like an ice cube in a heatwave.
Luckily, we have found one use for the would-be soul diva - and it's a guaranteed way to make a living if you're an underperforming sibling (just ask LeToya Jackson) - The "naughty little sister" interview.
What kind of drunk are you? I am a Miss-Tina’s-in-the-back-of-my-head kind of drunk.
You mean, your mom. What is she saying? "Girl, you better have some panties on!" My mom’s so reserved — last year, for my 21st birthday, she was like, "You can have one glass of champagne, and that’s it." I said, "First of all, I haven’t lived last with you since I was 17. Second, I’m divorced. And third, I have a kid. I am drinking tonight."
As I have explained at length in the past, Cassie is a criminally bland R&B singer whose sole selling point is that she is, like, totally hot (and so is her best friend, if this youtube video is anything to go by).
But despite her distinct lack of, er, distinction, Cassie's debut album took up near-permananent residence on my iPod's most-played list two years ago thanks to a couple of demonically catchy robo-pop hooks on songs like Me and You, Ditto and Long Way 2 Go.
Now, the 22-year-old has returned with a bigger budget and a pair of expensive sunglasses with a comeback single, Official Girl. It's 100% by-numbers slick, modern R&B, with a beatboxed percussion loop, a guest rap from bad boy du jour L'il Wayne and a zeitgeist-tickling title. I can't see it being an all-conquering transatlantic smash á la Umbrella, but the chorus is firmly lodged in my brain already.
As this premiered in the US on Friday, it's already hit a lot of the Stateside blogs, who seem to be up in arms that Cassie isn't very good at the whole singing malarkey. Is this really an issue any more? Pop history is littered with terrible vocalists who triumphed over their better trained, less charismatic counterparts. Cassie could drone like a malfunctioning Dyson and still outsell Keri Hilson or Nicole Scherzingereeningeer, as long as the songs she's given don't stink of slurry. Is that so really hard to grasp? (Clue: it isn't).
I was thinking earlier this week about how few bands it's possible to hate these days. I don't mean that vaguely bored feeling you get when The Kaiser Chiefs turn up at another festival with their droning self-important "anthems", but that proper seething malice I felt towards UB40 and Dr Alban a decade ago.
Part of it is age. Most of the energy I used to expend on loathing a band, I now need for getting up from the sofa, or deciding between brands of margarine in Tescos.
But I think a larger part is that the charts and the airwaves are stuffed full of what's been christened "landfill indie" - The Fratellis, The Piegeon Detectives, The Wombats. They all use the definite article in their name, which is ironic because they all stand for nothing at all. But you can't hate them because they're too bland and inoffensive to matter.
So thank god for Oasis. Here is a band that genuinely make my blood boil. I hate them with a passion bordering on psychosis. If anyone so much as mentions their name in my presence I am actually compelled to spit out my dummy and launch into an expletive-filled invective, with pointing and everything.
Then I might need a nice biscuit to help me calm down.
So, have you heard Oasis' new single? It's exactly what you'd expect. A droning guitar line, a sitar because The Beatles had one, some psuedo-philosophical bollocks parading as lyrics, and Liam's uninspired, nasal whine that everyone but me seems to think is the sound of dangerous rebellion.
It even uses the phrase "magical mystery". I mean, it's great to be inspired by the Beatles - they were a pretty good band - but couldn't the Gallaghers put an atom of an iota of an ounce of fucking effort into it?
Apparently, the answer to that question is "no".
But this isn't simply a rant about how Oasis went shit after What's The Story (Morning Glory). They were shit even then. Wonderwall, Noel's supposedly tender love note to Meg Matthews, is so leaden it could drown a whale. Who in their right mind wants to be told "after all, you're as great as a George Harrison solo LP"? Even coming from a Beatle-o-phile like Gallagher that's a barely-veiled insult.
I think I would be less offended if this lumbering relic of a band wasn't taken so seriously, but the current levels of airplay for The Shock Of The Lightning suggest that, once again, the new Oasis album will be treated with more respect and reverence than Alan Titchmarsh at a WI cakesale.
Still, I'm glad to have got that rant off my chest. Now, for a nice biscuit.
Estelle's is now onto the fourth single from her Mercury-nominated Shine album. This time round, it's the Cee-Lo-featuring Pretty Please, another one of those sunny barbeque joints she's proved so adept with.
The video is another attempt to convince Americans that Estelle one of them, and features cameos from the following stellar talents:
:: Aubrey O’Day out of Danity Kane! :: Taraji Henson who was in Boston Legal this one time!! :: Jackie Long, former beau of Serena Williams from tennis!!!! :: Malik Yoba, who was in Cool Runnings in 1993!!!!!!
Cee-Lo Green has confusingly chosen not to board this runaway train of talent.
Friendly Fires may have taken two years to record their debut album - but it turned out to be a good thing, as otherwise they'd have been branded with the cursed "Nu Rave" tag and sent straight to the dumper.
For while these St Alban's boys do bear a passing resemblance to the Klaxons' sirens-o-clock noisefest, they also bring to mind the noodly synth superness of Hot Chip and LCD Soundsystem. Singer Ed Gibson describes their style as "psychedelic, funky, groovy house". Thankfully it sounds nothing like that, either.
Their excellent new single Jump In The Pool is out on 1st September, and the band endured a day semi-drowned in a 20ft deep tank of water to make the video. Check it out:
Seattle band Natalie Portman's Shaved Head have the potential to be very, very irritating indeed. From the high irony of their band name to the achingly knowing lyrics, they have all the sincerity of Gary Glitter at a Unicef fundraiser.
But their new single, Sophisticated Side Pony Tail, is just short and aparky enough to overlook the studenty nonsense and cause a sugar rush for the dancefloor. Imagine the Ting Tings without the knockbacks, or Bis before the Powerpuff Girls theme song.
And, despite myself, I can't help but smile every time I hear the line about everyone's favourite Seaworld Whale, Shamu.
So, after all this faffing around, what does the band's eagerly anticipated new song sound like? Brilliantly, it's a carbon copy of everything they've ever done before.
Sometimes you have to travel all the way around the world to realise the place you left behind wasn't so bad.
Lucid Dreams (for that is it's name) is a typically idisyncratic hymn to falling asleep with the radio on - "I'm living in lucid dreams / living in shortwave streams tonight". As per usual, Alex Kapranos' lyrics paint him as a modern Cole Porter observing the 21st century through the cosy prism of Radio 4. In fact, he even references the broadcaster's archaic shipping forecast in the second verse.
Musically, the only addition to the band's usual palate of fitful drumming and chicken scratch guitars is what appears to be a sample from Panjabi MC's Mudian Te Bach Ke. To be fair that could be classed as "unexpected".
It's hard to say whether Lucid Dreams is representative of the band's new album (it's only going to appear the soundtrack to an American Football video game, apparently) but it's definitely good to have the Franzies back - even if they're not tickling our ears with an out-and-out pop assault like they promised. The rotters.
You can hear the song in full on the band's official website for a limited time.
Aussie teen star Gabriella Cilmi has been opening her pipes in Radio One's Live Lounge. She did her Anastacia-esque single Save The Lies (Good To Me) and a twinkly cover of Ne-Yo's Closer. All very nice if you like that sort of thing.
It's called Girls, it's out on 6th October, and here is an excerpt from the press release:
"Never scared to take risks with new sounds and producers, SUGABABES have teamed up with relatively unknown producers Si Hulbert and Melvin Kuiters for Traxstarz to bring you their new single GIRLS which is based around a sample of Ernie K Doe's classic soul-funk anthem Here Come The Girls."
Or, in translation:
"Having employed the services of hitmakers like Dallas Austin, Cathy Dennis and Xenomania in the past, Sugababes have inexplicably teamed up with the people behind Booty Luv to bring you their new single Girls, which is a rip-off of a song you heard on a Boots advert a year ago, when the band were still relatively credible."
Madonna's Sticky and Sweet tour kicks off next week in global music epicentre Cardiff. There are plenty of leaked set lists banging around on the internet [1, 2, 3] but I'm not looking... Let's just say I'm hoping she'll give us more Fizzy Pop than Hard Candy.
However, I'm perfectly happy to take a sneaky peak at these stunning costume design sketches, which have been released by Givenchy designer Riccardo Tisci. Note that one of them has a cross on it. The Vatican is presumably on red alert already.
Says Tisci: "I feel incredibly fortunate to have been given the opportunity to offer the world of Givenchy Haute Couture to Madonna the Icon, the Artist, the Woman for whom I have so much respect and admiration."
Blah, blah, blah.
click on the images to enlarge
Meanwhile, here is a snippet from this week's Now magazine which makes the most fantastic leap of logic in order to justify a further story about Esther's marriage.
The pressure of her troubled relationship is clearly getting to Madonna, who was spotted looking gaunt and frail last week. Her husband Guy Ritchie isn't helping. Just when she's hoping he'd play the low-key obedient husband, he's made the sort of public outburst that clearly shows how much he's come to dislike his wife.
"In an interview last week, Guy, 39, who's busy promoting his latest film RocknRolla, due out in September, blasted: 'Sugar kills. Think of the calories in sugar. Fat kills more people than anything else. Sugar is responsible for a lot of deaths, arguably more than crack cocaine'.
"His outburst had many people scratching their heads, but was he making a veiled attack on his wife? Madonna's latest album and tour, which begins in three weeks time, is called Hard Candy. The connection between sugar and candy hasn't gone unnoticed."
Credit where credit is due, that's an absolutely heroic attempt to wrangle controversy out of air so thin it wouldn't even be fit for the peak of Everest. In particular, I like how Guy's "outburst" "clearly shows how much he's come to dislike" Madonna and yet is so confusing that it leaves people "scratching their heads". Genius.
If you wish to pass your congratulations on to the author, he has helpfully published his email address - and here it is: email@example.com
Kylie is poised to release her fourth and last single from the so-so X album, and it is called The One. Apparently, you will only be able to download it as the record label have denied it a "physical release".
At school, I was always told that denying physical release was better known as the rhythm method, but I suppose times have changed.
Peter Robinson out of Popjustice reckons the song is one which "eight months ago, many fans instantly identified as one of the best on X, a somehow mournfully elegant disco belter which screams 'hit' in the first two seconds".
Furthermore, he argued in Attitude magazine, this is the song that should have been Kylie's big comeback single, instead of the "impossible to dance to" 2 Hearts which "flopped in at number 4".
Maybe I'm not the right sort of fan, but The One had completely passed me over 'til now. And I certainly prefer the stompy glam-pop of 2 Hearts to its bland Kylie-by-numbers electro nonsense. Even an arms-aloft Freemasons remix can't raise it above "slightly better than Red Blooded Woman" on our patented minogue-o-meter.
However, it has to be said, the video is magnificent. There are two main reasons for this: 1) A selection of wigs 2) A lack of robots.
It's Myspace o'clock at Ladytron's house, with a spanking new video for their moody electro-goth masterpiece Runaway going up on as an "exclusive" on the social networking site. It's properly good and everything.
Pink's new record, So What, is spreading over the internet like margarine. To save you some time, I have listened to it and can exclusively report that it sounds just like every other single Pink has ever released - a bit angry, a bit pop, a bit pretending-to-be-fierce.
I can't really understand why she persists with this angry young lady schtick when the majority of her audience must have grown out of their angsty teenage phase years ago.
True, this time she's banging on about her divorce from Carey Hart, which is an unquestionably adult theme, but the lyrics are tediously childish - she calls Hart a "tool" and blows raspberries at him. The censors will be apoplectic.
The video isn't much better - Pink brandishes a chainsaw, then rides down Sunset Boulevard on the back of a lawnmower swigging vodka.
She's not driving the lawnmower, of course. That would be irresponsible.
The thing is, Pink clearly isn't the punky bundle of terror she'd have us believe. Look at this handwritten letter she put on myspace after the song leaked. It's all smiley faces and love hearts. "Glad you likeys," she gushes to her fans. "And don't worry, Carey likeys too. We are insane!"
After finishing the letter, Pink wrote on her desk "Girls are the best. If destroyed, still true*."
Here she is, big Welsh barnet and all, Duffy in another black and white sobfest video (can't they afford the colour processing?)
Two things you'll notice here: 1) Having so much hair is really inconvenient for everyday activities like putting on clothes or sitting down on a chaise longue. 2) Duffy's mascara no longer runs, because she has signed a contract with Nivea. Product placement ahoy!
I still think Distant Dreamer would have made a better single, especially if they'd made a simple, 60s-style, one camera tracking-shot video that slowly closed in on Aimee Ann as the song reached its climax. But they haven't. So this Glasto clip will have to do instead.
It's from Sarah Harding, and it's (bleurgh) a cover of (double bleurgh) Iggy Pop's Real Wild Child. The song is the title track of teen romcom Wild Child and you can hear a clip towards the end of this trailer:
Here five things that the new Keane single, Spiralling, remind me of:
1) I Won't Let The Sun Go Down On Me by Nik Kershaw 2) Emilio Estevez dancing in The Breakfast Club 3) The "work" of Tears For Fears 4) That talky bit Bono does in Bullet The Blue Sky 5) The 1980s in general
In other words, it is genuinely very good. If you're not convinced, let me remind you that it's produced by Stuart "Confessions on a Dancefloor" Price and direct you to the Keane website, where you can download it for free until 11th August.
This "song" is so unutterably awful that it's almost comic in its epic badness.
The recording artists, as stylish and subtle as naked wrestling night at Jordan and Peter's house, are called The Blackout Crew. They are the sort of acne-ridden tower block teens you'd more often expect to see hanging around garage forecourts, reading Nuts magazine and committing knife crime. And their song is basically No Limits without the sophisticated production.
For those of you confused by the lyrical content, here is an enlightening analysus by GeorgeNCL from the Youtube (youtube) comments page: "Donk is a beat, the off beat to be precise that sounds like "donk" is pretty much onematapia. DONK DONK DONK, so when they say but a donk on it, they mean, get a piece of music i.e that guitar melody, put a donk on it and make it better."
In summary, then, donk. It is good to have that cleared up.
Embarassingly, I didn't realise Vampire Weekend were from New York until I brought their name up in a heated debate about who should be nominated for the Mercury Prize. Not my finest hour, I admit, but I put it down to the lyrics about campus universities and obscure rules of punctuation.
The band's brand of coffee house indie-african-pop is a beguiling one, no matter what their heritage, and their album has been slowly growing on me all summer. Now they're releasing Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa (the one that references Peter Gabriel and, coincidentally, one of my favourites) as a single.
The accompanying video is a cheeky little nod to John Hughes' 1980s teen romcoms. It is also the second video of the week to feature a monster transformation. What is going on with that?