Chicago rapper WALE has been hovering around on the edge of my consciousness ever since 2007's excellent W.A.L.E.D.A.N.C.E, which did to Justice's DANCE what Kanye West's Stronger did to Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.
That came from a mixtape, 100 Miles & Running, which led to guest appearances on tracks by MIA, Kid Cudi, Daniel Merriweather and.... er, Duffy (his remix of Warwick Avenue is actually pretty awesome).
Anyway, a couple of mixtapes later, and he's finally ready to release an album Attention:Deficit, which is due sometime this summer. If the first single is anything to go by, it's going to be amazing. Chillin' comes in two flavours - with and without Lady GaGa. The former features a sample of Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye - sadly not the Bananarama version - and is clearly going to be the radio mix (who would pass on the oppotunity to have 2009's top underwear model all over their breakthrough single?)
But the GaGa version is vastly inferior to the original, which goes a little something like this:
Hello and welcome to Monday! There's a few things to get excited about today, so here they are in a time-saving handy list.
:: Kanye West + Santigold + Lykke Li have an amazing song called Gifted, which they recorded with uber-producers N.A.S.A. We mentioned it before. They've done a video now, but Kanye, Santi and Lykke must have been "in bed" when the director called, as they are completely absent. Result: Awful animated claptrap.
:: One of my favourite music magazines, Blender, has been shut down. The US publication always looked a bit like a jazz mag when it landed on my doorstep, but it always contained a good selection of new bands and waspish commentary alongside the semi-naked pop stars. A couple of the former writers have been lamenting its demise online. Read about it on idolator
:: Here is another Annie single to get excited about before it flops / is cancelled / sets the world on fire (delete as appropriate in eight weeks).
:: Kate Bush is possibly the last great eccentric British pop star. Need proof? Blogger Rich Juzwiak has gathered an astonishing collection of footage from her music videos and TV appearances - which eventually begs the question: "How on earth did social services allow her to escape into the community?". Click here for the lot, or just marvel at this one...
:: I did my first ever red carpet reporting shift at last night's Empire Awards. It was utterly terrifying - from the moment they pushed a completely unknown extra from RockNRolla into my face and expected me to have an intelligent question to ask ("who are you... er, ah, looking forward to meeting" was my best effort) to the end of the night when we were drawing straws to decide who would get to ask Guy Ritchie about Madonna's new baby (luckily, he bailed). Anyway, Empire Magazine were so impressed with my efforts that they put up a picture of me "interviewing" (staring at the magnificent cleavage of) Helena Bonham Carter.
:: Akon and Cassie have teamed up for a new song, Let's Go Crazy, produced by Red One - the team Lady GaGa references at the start of Just Dance. If there is a God, he will ensure a Freemasons remix of this.
The Noisettes are poised to be number one (or two) this weekend with their infectiously funky single Don't Upset The Rhythm. Earlier today, in an effort to scale the chart peak, they broke out the crampons and began to ascend Mount Killers-manjaro. [okay, let's leave that metaphor alone for now - Ed].
In other words, they did a cover of When You Were Young in Radio 1's Live Lounge. It was damned good 'n all.
Interesting fact: Because of the single's runaway success, the group's album, Wild Young Hearts, has had its release date moved forward from June to 30th April. Despite veering dangerously close to Morcheeba territory on occasion, it's a bit of a mini masterpiece. I'll discuss it more at a later date...
It's only 18 months since we first mentioned The Veronicas and their album Hook Me Up - and now there are only two months to wait before the record comes out in the UK. That's a streamlined marketing process and no mistake.
To launch their imminent assault on the UK charts, the Aussie twins played an industry showcase in London's trendy London last night. Showcases are the absolute worst way to see a band, as (a) they start at the not exactly rock'n'roll hour of 7pm and (b) they're full of journalists and music industry "people" who are to busy maintaining an air of professional detachment to actually do things like clap, sing along or uncross their arms.
Imagine going to a gig with your boss and you'll get the general idea.
Anyway, the Veronicas managed to rise above the cynicism with a short five-song set that turned their album's slightly over-produced electro goth pop into a full-on rock assault. Jessica, wearing an "I hate your band" t-shirt, strapped on a guitar for some vaguely erotic plank spanking, and Lisa wore a pair of fishnets which, I have subsequently learned, were directly inspired by the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
When it all finished, a producer from Blue Peter told me the band were a "bit too edgy" to feature on her show, what with their tattoos and attitude and tabloid-batiting bisexual banter.
So, for those youngsters who might miss out on the whole Veronica "scene" because of the BBC's draconian nanny state attitude, here's a video of them playing Take Me On The Floor on a breakfast TV show in Australia, where they have no such concerns for the impressionable young minds of the next generation.
If this trend has to continue, I would like to see Girls Aloud imprisoned inside (in order) a triangle, a rhombus, a parellogram, a trapezium and a dodecahedron. For their final single, they can be captured and forced to live inside a big grid of hexagons. Bob Holness will host. The dance routine has already been choreographed.
Note to younger readers: A 'cassette tape' was like an iPod in the olden days, except instead of holding 3,000 hours of mp3s you'd downloaded off the internet, it held exactly 90 minutes of music you'd taped off the radio. Cassettes were prone to things like "hiss" and "flutter", which meant that your songs often sounded like they were being played in a wind tunnel while your head was repeatedly dunked in a child's paddling pool. The only way to put a cassette on shuffle was to pull the tape apart, cut it to pieces with razor blades, and sellotape it back together in a different order.
Imagine a world where the people behind Hepburn and the people behind Natasha Bedingfield got together to create a new pop star. I know it's hard, but if you close your eyes really tightly and stick hot needles into your fleshy bits, you might just be able to imagine this parallel universe of crap.
To be assured of success, these ruthless pop svengalis would have to make several tough decisions.
Who should this new artist sound like: Duffy or Adele? Will she record her mid-tempo pop ballads at 100bpm or 98bpm? Should her official biog mention MySpace? Or has that been superceded by Twatter or Bookface or Bobo? It is all so terribly difficult.
Well, for right or wrong, those choices have all been made. The result is Pixie Lott, a blonde 18-year-old stage school graduate who sounds a bit like Duffy and Adele, whose songs are recorded at a variety of tempos in the range 98-100bpm, and whose official biog mentions MySpace and beseeches you to check out her updates on Twitter.
No stone has been left unturned, folks. The beach is a fucking mess.
Because true pop savants know that you can't go wrong with parentheses, her first single is called Mama Do (Uh Oh, Uh Oh). It's a tale of sneaking out of the house behind your parents back, although it's more Nancy Drew than Cyndi Lauper.
Here's the video for Not Fair, the second single off Lily Allen's latest album, It's Not You, It's Me. It features a slightly ho-hum 'satire' of those 1970s Perry Como country music TV variety shows. You can tell they've not really made any effort, because Lily doesn't have a voluminous Dolly Parton perm and looks a bit bored.
There's a moment in Nick Hornby's novel High Fidelity where music geek Rob Fleming lists his five dream jobs. His top choice is to have been a journalist for the NME during the punk era.
For some reason, I never remember that passage correctly (in fact, I just had to look it up on Wikipedia). What sticks in my mind is his number two choice: Being a house producer at Atlantic Records in the 1960s, working with Otis Redding, Booker T and Wilson Pickett.
Don't you think the order of that list is odd? Why would anyone choose writing about music over creating it?
I suppose Hornby is, by nature, a writer, which explains why he'd feel more at home working for the NME than being in a band. But if the rules of the game allow you to travel in time, surely it's okay to give yourself a Grade 8 in piano, too?
Maybe the real problem is that Hornby has a romanticised view of rock criticism. It's not like Almost Famous, where a junior reporter gets to travel with the band, take their drugs and fall in love with the groupies.
In the real world, you're lucky to get 10 minutes on a sofa with a D-grade pop star in an uncomfortably posh hotel room. These 10 minutes are usually scheduled for 9:30am and you will be allowed "access" a good two hours after you have missed lunch. When you enter the room, someone will have conveniently placed a half-eaten superstar's burger in your eyeline - just to drive home the fact that your quarry has been doing nothing while you were in the lobby, trying your best not to look like a terrorist with a Bic biro.
You do not hang out with musicians, and they certainly never become your friends. If they remember you at all, it's because you wrote something vaguely negative about them in 1997 and they still want to pull your legs off with eyebrow tweezers.
Don't get me wrong. I love writing about music, and I can't complain about the people I've met and interviewed (I'll never forget Keisha Sugababe kicking off her shoes and curling up on the sofa for a chat). But if the choice is between penning a review of Purple Rain or playing it in Madison Square Garden, what would you choose?
As I'm neither female nor braindead, I was one of the few people who instinctivley hated Mamma Mia! The Movie.
I know, I know, I know - it was "tongue-in-cheek" and "camp" and "hilarious" and "heartwarming". But that's just another way of saying that they took one of pop's great songbooks, ripped it up, burnt it, pissed on the embers, fed them to a cow, removed the bile from its third stomach, poured it into a glass and served it up as a cocktail.
In other words, I do not approve of this film.
Anyway, French and Saunders obviously share some of my concerns, as they tore the movie to pieces in a parody for Comic Relief last Friday night. It's the best thing they've done for years...
Regina Spektor is releasing a new album in June, on which she performs an "uncanny dolphin imitation". Based on this scant information, I confidently predict it will be my Record Of The Year. [More info on Pitchfork].
While I start counting down the days, here's a video of Regina performing Better at Lollipopaloozaawopbamboo in 2007. Top banana.
We have heard your dreary amazing ballad Daniel and we guess you need to sell it to the guys at MTV? Well, open your listening holes, because we have the perfect idea for a video.
First of all, we're going to film you lip-syncing to the song really quickly, so when we play it back at normal speed everything looks all floaty and dreamy. Clever, huh?
Then, because your track is a bit drippy (excuse us for being frank!) we're going to have all sorts of weird things happening in the background. For instance, we think you should be attacked by some men dressed in black leotards with tennis balls (also black) stuck to their faces. Don't ask us why - IT IS ART, OF COURSE.
We have also envisaged a sequence in a car where you have mascara running down your face. Do not worry, we will do this on a green screen so you will not have to pay any extra for a location shoot. We will also CGI in some crows. They're dead mysterious. Did you ever see that film about a guy avenges his girlfriend's murder by becoming a crow? Me neither, but the actor guy died - which gives everything added gravitas. Crows are awesome.
Anyway, the main objective is to obscure the fact that your song is all about your boyfriend dying in a fire. That shit just brings people down. We thought we could maybe hire some hunk from Hollyoaks and have you smooch him at the end?
We have previously done videos for Bjork, Feist and Snow Patrol, so you can be assured of our track record.
Thanks loads, Pete 'n' Zav c/o thecompletelymadeupvideocompany
1) There is a good reason why Nadine used to get all the main vocal lines... She's the only one that manages to sing in key during this performance. 2) Wondering why the song seems to end in the middle? Because it actually does - the radio edit is three minutes shorter than the album version. 3) Torvill and Deane: Stick to the Bolero.
PS: The Bimbo Jones mix of the song is officially quite good
With his cunning mixture of plaintive vocals and banging synths, Calvin has invented a whole new genre, but what shall we call it? Indie-rave? Ravindie? Vindarave? Vindaloocore? Corblimeycore? Nu-Faithless? I'm sure the NME will have come up with something more suitable by next Wednesday.
1) Fifteen minutes of Jacko grabbing his package and "hollering" 2) All the good, early stuff dispensed with in a medley 3) Heal The World in all its awful entirety
What we'd really like to see, of course, is The King Of Pop circa 1989, doing all the stuff from Thriller and Bad, dancing like a whirling dervish, performing magic tricks and appearing with a panther on the stage. But that will never happen again.
A quick update from the beautiful (rainy) Lake District... If you're in London this weekend, there is a thing called the Birds Eye View Film Festival, which is a celebration of the 72 amazing Captain Birdseye Fish Fingers advertisements which have been screened in the UK over the last 50 years [please check - Fact Ed]
Anyway, as a sideshow in this stellar event, a feature called Music Loves Video is taking place at the ICA. It offers you the chace to watch some Girls Aloud videos on a big screen and meet director Trudy Bellinger who does all of the band's "The" videos (The Promise, The Show, The Loving Kind).
Also taking part are King Burza (Katy Perry's I Kissed A Girl) and Ali Taylor (Emiliana Torrini's Heard It All Before). They'll be speaking to Miranda Sawyer, one of the few truly great music journalists in the UK.
Obviously, I can't make it... But if anyone wants to go and write a brief "thing" for the website, drop me a line. You can get more information and book tickets here.