Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Two videos,

One more Glastonbury moment

Regina Spektor was quite good. Not that you'd have noticed, with her entire set hidden away on the BBC's red button service while they showed Lily Allen on a loop on "real" telly.

If you missed it, the video is available on the BBC website for an indeterminate amount of time.

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Very late Glastonbury sofa update

So, after a 13-hour shift on Thursday, I went out for a quick drink -- and was almost instantly called back into work to co-ordinate the BBC's Michael Jackson coverage. This included, frighteningly, having to decide at what point the Beeb would declare the King Of Pop dead (11:52pm, if you're interested - not until we'd received verification from three separate, reliable sources).

I also had to write an appreciatiion of his music at four in the morning. It may be the most pretentious, least lucid thing I've ever committed to print. And, thankfully, a sentence about a snare drum "cracking like the whip that Michael was, presumably, flagellating himself with" was removed by the sub-editors.

After that all-night extravaganza, I had to go to Wimbledon, where I promptly fell asleep during an otherwise thrilling Hass / Cilic five-set epic. And then I spent the weekend recovering on the sofa, to the soundtrack of the BBC's Glastonbury coverage.

Highlights included:
  • Karen O's headdress (pictured)
  • Little Boots and her quite posh teeth
  • The crowd deserting the Pyramid Stage when Dizzee Rascal finished, leaving Crosby, Stills and Nash playing to precisely nine people
  • Blur being ever-so-slightly giddy with emotion
  • Also, Blur's general amazingness - in complete contradiction to my memory of them live
  • Although Tender was a bit ropey until they brought the choir out
  • Friendly Fires bringing a Brazilian carnival atmosphere to Somerset
  • Lisa Hanningan looking coy and beautiful
  • The audience not knowing any words to Born To Run except the "woah" bit
  • Bruce Springsteen actually emitting steam (pictured). If only he'd been singing I'm On Fire.
  • Jason Mraz being such a perfect fit for a sunny Glastonbury that his limp, anaemic music miraculously sounded warm and joyous.
  • I heart Sausages
  • Jack White playing the drums
  • The Specials being... well, Special

    There's no point in going into the bad bits because (a) the whole point of Glastonbury is that it caters to thousands of different, diverging tastes, and (b)
    something that works brilliantly live can come across completely flat on TV. I suspect Florence and the Machine's set fell into this category.

    But, my overall highlight was little Emiliana Torrini playing an acoustic set in the BBC encampment. I could watch this again, and again, and again, and again. And you should, too.

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  • Saturday, June 27, 2009

    The music will never die...

    ...It even survives this:


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    Friday, June 26, 2009

    Don't it make you want to scream?


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    Thursday, June 25, 2009

    Seven levels of awesome

    Oh. My. God. This. Video. Is. Amazing.

    Marina and the Diamonds - I Am Not A Robot

    I know what you're thinking -- are there any women left in England who don't make quirky electro new wave pop music? Of course not. It's on the national curriculum. But, all the same, Marina and the Diamonds (actually just Welsh-born, Greek-named Marina Diamandis) seems rather special in a "Bjork and Kate Bush go shopping for shoulder pads" kind of way.

    Those of you concerned for Marina's health after being coated in all that glitter for the video needn't worry - apparently the story about Goldfinger actress Shirley Eaton dying of pore asphyxiation is a myth.

    The single is out now [iTunes link]. And, er, that's it.

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    Wednesday, June 24, 2009

    "Shake that thing like a donkey"

    We're not sure what Ciara is referring to in this lyric, but we hope it's not related to those spam emails we keep getting.

    Anyway, here is her new video - which is all a bit Benny Benassi, but features some of the spectacular dance moves that made her support slot with Britney Spears more watchable than the main show. We're particularly enamoured by the eye-popping hyper-real colour palette - which comes courtesy of Beyoncé's go-to video director, Melina Matsoukas.

    You can fast forward the bits with Missy Elliot.

    Ciara - Work

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    Tuesday, June 23, 2009

    From Russia With Love: Regina Spektor interview

    When I interviewed Regina Spektor last month, I promised to put the full transcript on the blog...

    Well, the concise, polished version went up on the BBC website earlier today - so here is our full discussion, complete with awkward pauses, stupid jokes and tortured baby metaphors.

    We join the chat just after the pleasantries of saying hello, talking about the album (it's great) and the video for Laughing With (Regina gets to take her head off).

    Sorry about the length of this post - but I think it's an interesting discussion with one of the industry's more intelligent and thoughtful singer-songwriters. To break the tedium, I've thrown in a couple of videos with songs from her new album, which is called Far, and available now from your local record store.

    So many of your songs aren’t released. How come?
    I don’t get to make enough records to stick them all on to. This record came three years after the last one.

    Was that on purpose?
    No! It was just I was touring so much and working so much that it just kinda happened and then I woke up and I was like “ahhh, shit, it’s been three years.”

    How big is the backlog of material?
    Wel, I might not have enough songs to keep filling records 'til I'm 80… but maybe, like, 'til I'm 50!

    It must be interesting to go back to those songs five or six years later and seeing how they’ve changed.
    It is. It’s really fun to work on, plus I always feel like some sort of relief – like after I do one of the older songs onto a record because I’m like “oh, you’ve been patiently waiting your turn”. Like, on this record, Blue Lips, Genius Next Door, Wallet – there’s a bunch that just had to be on a record someday.

    So it’s not all new material.
    Yeah, I don’t think I’ve ever made a record that was strictly all new material.

    Once they’re on tape, is that the final, finished version? Or is it more like giving birth and watching them grow up and mature and flee the nest? Oh dear – that was a bit of a tortured baby metaphor. Sorry!
    [Laughs] That was a tortured baby metaphor! I don’t know… I guess that if an old song ends up on a record, I know where it is and it stays where it’s at. But if I just wrote a song and I put it on a record right away, it has to go through that arc and things will change here and there.

    Regina Spektor - Eet

    The new album has loads of big name producers – what you attracted you to each of them?
    First of all, I didn’t really know at the time how big they were. And I didn’t really know what they’d done. Ssome of them had reached out to us and some of them we were suggested to reach out to. And then Jeff Lynne – I memorised his name off a Tom Petty record that I really like called Highway Companion because I just loved how it sounded and I was like 'I'm gonna remember this producer’s name'. Because I never remember producer’s names. When people ask me “so who would you like to work with” I have nothing to say.

    So he was the one that I came up with because of how great that record sounded. And later I found out he’d done all this other stuff – and how much of his music I had heard, but I didn’t know it was him.

    The mark of a good producer is they adapt to the artist. How much did that happen on this album?
    That’s what happened with all these producers – Guy and Mike and Jack, And then David Khan worked on Begin To Hope with me, so with him it was like “old hat!”. But it was really cool. They weren’t so different – I’m not trying to say they were all the same but I think that their approach was that they really care about music and they cared about my songs and they listened to me and didn’t try to force me in any way. They all care about their families and friends.

    Do you get absorbed into people’s families when you’re working with them?

    Well, it depends on whether we’re working near their families. With Garrett, he was working with me in London but he lives outside London, so I only got to see a lot of pictures of his kids and his wife and their dogs on his laptop – and they were all really, really cute. And, um, but with Jeff, his studio was in his house and so I had lots of dinners with him and his family and his friends, and I had Thanksgiving at his house which was really fun. And with Mike, he had just had a new little baby and part of the work that we did was in New York, but another part was at his studio which is in the same place as his home – and so I got to hang out with his kids and his wife… and his dog [laughs nervously].

    You make it sound like the dog was the most important!
    I love dogs! I’ve always wanted to have a puppy – but that would just be terrible and cruel because I’m never home.

    And then… with David it’s just like he’s an old friend at this point. With him it’s home in New York and we get to hang out.

    They’re all men. Was that on purpose?
    No! Not at all! I don’t know any lady producers. Because I’ve not had an organised search, it didn’t even enter my mind to make it a point to look for a female producer and make it a point to see what that’s like. It’s funny. How did that never enter my mind?

    Are there any working female producers?

    Linda Perry is the obvious one.
    Yeah, but she co-writes with her artists. I want someone who produces people who write their own music.

    Maybe there are so few female producers because the job taps into that geeky boy thing of wanting to press buttons and play with cables.
    But a lot of producers don’t know how to work the desk. They just let the engineers do it. As a matter of fact on this record all of the producers except David had engineers. He can just do anything. He’s techie and artsy!

    But yeah, I don’t know. There’s also not a lot of female grips and roadies. There are some. I’ve seen some. But I’ve not even seen names of producers.

    It should be sorted out – let’s start a campaign.
    Yes! Let’s put out a call and say "where are you??"

    Or set up a place where women can learn the trade?
    But how do you even learn? Who has studied production? It’s one of those things you fall into. I don’t know… I’ve actually thought many times that I would love to produce a musician or an act. Maybe I could be the first female producer.

    What would you bring to the table?
    I love arranging! I just love writing parts for songs and just writing a bass part here, and a synth part here. Just playing around. But I wouldn’t be very techie. I’d have to have an engineer.

    Funnily enough, we spoke to Harry Gregson-Williams about the work you did on the Prince Caspian soundtrack and he was very complimentary about your arranging skills.
    Actually, it’s funny being here in London because I was just thinking about him and that experience at Abbey Road and Narnia and how amazing he was. I got here and I didn’t know what to expect. Walking into Abbey Road was like boom, boom, boom – giant, giant, giant. Harry was recording a 90-person choir, so I was just sitting there quietly but he was just so warm and welcoming, “come into the room, you can sit here”. And he’s so talented, it’s great. To do that – to conduct and write scores. It’s really, really cool.

    Regina Spektor - Laughing With (live)

    How does that compare to the little studio you go into with David in New York?
    It’s completely different. But I think that one is not better than the other. Like everything, there’s always a trade-off. Something happens in the legendary room and something happens in the little room. And there’s always plusses and minuses. But I have to say, if there is the most perfect studio on the planet, it’s Abbey Road. Because no place sounds or feels like that. Especially that Studio2 where the Beatles recorded most of their things. It has that sound.

    We were recording strings, and this amazing thing that happened. Thirty-six string players were in there, but you could tune in and hear just one instrument, or zoom out and you could hear everything blended. And I think that’s why The Beatles sounded so good – I mean, they had great ears, but I think that that kind of room makes you see yourself really clearly, so you can’t get away with anything semi-crappy. It has to be perfect.

    There’s an atmosphere in recording studios that I always liken to walking into a church. Do you feel that?
    It’s got the hard work in its walls. You can feel it. People have really given of themselves, and really cared about music here. I think any place where people try really hard – like schools – you get good feelings from those places.

    Did you enjoy school?
    Yes! All of them. I mean, I’ve been to a lot.

    Did you ever get up on stage and perform for your classmates?
    Talent shows? Yes! I played my little classical piano – just whatever I was studying at the time with my piano teacher.

    In my school, people would always be asked to play The Entertainer in front of the school when they passed an exam.
    That is hard! I actually tried to play ragtime when I was studying and the dexterity of it was really hard – to do two things at the same time with just the left hand. The stride is really hard to do.

    What would your piano teacher say about the way you play now?
    She’s heard me and she was really nice about it. She liked it. But I remember when I was younger she always used to tell me off for over-using the pedal. It masks a lot of mistakes!

    The two songs on your new single - Laughing With and Blue Lips – are a bit more downbeat. Is that indicative of the album?
    It’s still got a lot of songs that are fast… I think every album is a mix. I don’t think I’ve ever had one that is more subdued or happy. It’s sort of diverse. It represents every aspect of life. And to me that feels more natural. It would feel really weird to have just one side of me represented on the record – like to have all the songs slower.

    When Begin To Hope came out, some fans were a bit annoyed it was so polished. What will they make of this album?
    Well, I don’t know. I think a few things happen, and I assume it happens to everybody because it happens to me.

    First of all, music sometimes has to grow on us. So maybe some of the people that had that experience and they started to understand it. And then there’s the people who it didn’t grow on. And of those people, some were just like “it’s okay, I don’t like this record but I might like the next, and I might like the live shows” and so they’re open to not liking every record. And then there’s a small part of people who, let’s say they don’t like the record, and they get kind of mad. They’re like "this has all been ruined" and they go out into the world and look for their new obsession.

    It's certain people's jobs to be purists. They champion new music and, when the rocket takes off, they're like the booster stage that naturally falls off - because its their job to help the next musician who comes along.
    It's a bittersweet thing, but there are always people who are coming along with you and some who are dropping away.

    Regina Spektor - Blue Lips (live)

    Begin To Hope was deliberately a slow-burning, word-of-mouth success, but it’s sold a million copies now... Are you ready for those million people all buying the new record?

    First of all, it shouldn’t be taken for granted that all those people will do that – because I just don’t think that that’s how it works. But music should not be shoved down people’s throats and I really work hard to present myself in the way that I want to new listeners. I believe in hard work and things that take time. I don’t want to have some random song that gets overplayed and people get bombarded with and never want to hear again. It’s much better when you feel like you’ve worked your way towards something real. And the people that come to the shows aren’t random people who heard just one song and it’s been sold to them and so they’re just listening to it that week.

    The worst thing is when people turn up for that one song and talk through the rest of the show.
    That would be a nightmare. I’ve had really good luck – just because my show is quite quiet. If people are being really loud they get shushed.

    Have you ever had to tell people off?
    Oh yeah. Plenty of times! Yeah. I kind of enjoy it a little bit more than I should, actually. It’s a way to get my New York, “you talkin’ to me”, anger out. Ever-so slightly.

    I get mad on behalf of the other people. They’ve come all this way and they’ve paid money so you’d better shut up so they can listen.

    When you’re in the audience, it can be quite intimidating to tell someone off for talking. You feel like you’re taking your life into your hands.
    It is kind of dangerous. And it shouldn’t be the responsibility of the audience. That’s why like I always think I have to do it.

    Finally, can you do your dolphin impression?
    Wait a minute… It goes… Kind of… No, I’m too jetlagged. So no dolphins!

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    Monday, June 22, 2009

    Lily Allen in varying degrees of quality

    Here's the new Lily Allen single: Video inspired by the iPhone, song inspired by The Carpenters' Close To You.

    Lily Allen - F*ck You

    It's a shame that such a clever video has been wasted on a song which is little more than a nursery rhyme - both musically and lyrically.

    Much better is this mash-up of Lily's last single, Not Fair, with the theme tune to top-notch 1980s kids show The Littlest Hobo. Not only does it improve the song tenfold, but raises the prospect of Lily being stuck in an unsatisfactory relationship with a dog. Ewww.

    The Lilyest Hobo

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    Friday, June 19, 2009

    Very interesting post about Jenny Lewis

    We have just heard Jenny Lewis's new single and decided that we like it.

    A word of caution, however: It would only take the liberal application of tape slap echo to turn it into Lenny Kravitz's Stand By Your Woman.

    Jenny Lewis - Black Sand

    That is all.

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    Thursday, June 18, 2009

    The Gossip need new producers

    Beth Ditto and the other two have their new single out this week. It's called Heavy Cross and it's such a close cousin of Standing In The Way Of Control that, if we were the parents, we'd make sure the two songs were kept v e r  y   f a r   a p a r t, so as to prevent the arrival of a freakish mutant offspring with three ears and a club for a hand.

    It's a shame, because Heavy Cross is actually very good. There's a marvellously frenetic guitar riff and a stunning, impassioned howl of a vocal from everyone's favourite 16 stone lesbian torch singer. The problem is in the arrangement, which is essentially a photocopy of the band's biggest known hit.

    For this, we blame producer Rick Rubin - who oversaw the band's signing to Sony. Maybe he was so annoyed at missing the opportunity to work on their last album that he kidnapped them, held a gun to their heads and forced them to record it again, like Kathy Bates in Misery.

    Gossip - Heavy Cross

    Luckily, Captain Pop has come to the rescue with a jaw-droppingly awesome remix, which is also out this week. It's by French DJ Fred Falke, who kicks the song into orbit, where it twinkles and shimmers like a comet. Or something.

    Gossip - Heavy Cross (Fred Falke Mix)

    Wouldn't it be great if Falke had produced the whole album? The answer is yes.

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    Video: Girls Can't Catch - Keep Your Head Up

    We were quite impressed with Girls Can't Catch when they supported Girls Aloud on their Out Of Control tour. Daizy, Jess and Phoebe-out-of-X-Factor were strong of voice, coiffeured of hair and catchy of tune.

    The only lingering question was: Do we really need another Saturdays? Did we even need the first, when it comes down to it?

    But whether you like the idea of another girl group from the label that brought you Girls Aloud, or do not like the idea of another girl group from the label that brought you Girls Aloud, contracts have been signed, songs recorded and nails furiously manicured. The ball is quite literally rolling.

    And here is the band's not bad attempt at a first single, Keep Your Head Up.

    Girls Can't Catch - Keep Your Head Up

    Our immediate thought on watching this was: "Come on, girls, this is your first single. Try to look just a little enthusiastic."

    Mind you, if you'd spent all your money hiring Kinga Burza (director of Katy Perry's I Kissed A Girl and Kate Nash's Foundations) and all she could come up with was a couple of moody shots in a rubbish tip and a croquet match with three Hollyoaks rejects, you might be a bit pissed off, too.

    To witness a behind-the-scenes exposé of this "amazing" (uninspired) video shoot, let's go over to Blue Peter, which has apparently stopped making Father's Day gifts out of old hairbrushes and morphed into T4.

    PS: Here's an official link to video, in case the Youtube (youtube) version is pulled down.

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    Lenka in the Live Lounge

    Good news! Lenka's delightfully jaunty single The Show went into the chart at 33 last week, and it looks set to climb higher on Sunday.

    The Aussie singer-songwriter has been in the UK this week helping the single along, and she turned up at Radio One yesterday for a bit glockenspiel-tastic Live Lounge action - performing both The Show and a cover of Friendly Fires' Jump In The Pool.

    The whole set is up on the R1 website, or if you'd prefer a copy you can keep, try the following:

    :: Lenka - The Show (acoustic) [yousendit link]
    :: Lenka - The Show (acoustic) [sharebee link]
    :: Lenka - Jump In The Pool (acoustic) [yousendit link]
    :: Lenka - Jump In The Pool (acoustic) [sharebee link]

    If you found that unbelievably twee, like a fairy sprinkling glitter over a Hello Kitty poster in marshmallow land, then don't worry - Lenka's album is a bit more ballsy than the acoustic session would suggest. If by ballsy you mean "can peel a banana unaided", rather than "would rip your face off with its teeth".

    I don't mean this as a criticism, by the way. As saccharine la-di-da pop princesses go, Lenka is at the top of the list. Lend your ear to this fabulous NPR session to see why.

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    Wednesday, June 17, 2009

    Shakira and Nelly Furtado's teaser trailers

    Two artists who are non-euphemistically "big in Latin America" are preparing new material for the summer, and trying out new ways of sparking our interest.

    Shakira 'Shakira' Ripoll is hoping to build on the success of her Wyclef and Beyonce collaborations and score her first UK hit in 3 years with a single, She-Wolf, followed by an as-yet-untitled album in the autumn. For some reason, this is being promoted with a viral video of the hip-shaking Grammy winner eating people's faces.

    There's no clip of the song - but Popjustice has heard it , and vouches for its quite good-ness.

    Meanwhile, Nelly 'I owe it all to Timbaland' Furtado is about to unleash her first Spanish-language record (trans: about to have a flop album in the UK, where people who speak a second language are viewed with the same degree of suspicion as mothers who eat their own babies).

    Here is her, rather less expensive, Youtube video:

    While Shakira is trying something clever (it's an attempt to establish a narrative theme for her lycanthropic project) Furtado's trailer exists in a whole other dimension of crap. It's literally a 30-second music clip set to a cheap animation - sort of like an over-ambitious iTunes preview.

    If this is how singles are being promoted now, what can we expect to see next? An exclusive first look at the typeface for Vampire Weekend's new record sleeve? A preview of the autotune settings Mr Hudson is using on his next album? Maybe Madonna could release her new single one note at a time, accompanied by a collectable magazine that builds up, week-by-week, into an exclusive partwork.

    Actually. I'm copyrighting that last idea at the Post Office tomorrow.

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    For no good reason...

    ...other than it made me smile this morning, here's a video of Rosemary Clooney and her mangos. Yum Yum.

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    Monday, June 15, 2009

    Soul-sapping Kelly Rowland email

    Ping! An email has just popped into my inbox (this is hardly an irregular occurence, but I'm trying to add some action to this introduction). The sender wants to inform me of a technological breakthrough that will ruin live music for the rest of time.

    The fact that Kelly Rowland is involved somehow seems inevitable.

    I don't know about you, but when an artist puts on a terrible show, I want to be able to throw a bottle of my own urine at them. It is no fun if the bottle just passes through a 3D hologram and lands, plonk, at the back of the stage.

    I realise that this new technology will be of great benefit to people like Michael Jackson who want to put on concerts (a) from the comfort of their house and (b) without being soaked in piss - but surely it raises the prospect of gigs being little more than fancy-pants TV shows. How would we even know they are live anyway? Most artists script their interactions with the audience as it is...

    And what happens when the signal breaks down? Does Kelly Rowland flicker in and out of vision like on a Star Trek Holodeck? Does she turn into static like a detuned television? Or could the broadcast accidentally get switched to porn, like at the Superbowl? (This is my preferred option, by the way).

    Of course, the holographic technology has already been used during CNN's election coverage for a really stilted and weird conversation with Will.i.am. If this is as good as it gets, I'll stick to Youtube.

    Kelly Rowland - When Love Takes Over (live)

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    Friday, June 12, 2009

    Who's ready for a New Jill Swing revival?

    No-one, that's who.

    So God know why Amerie has decided the time is right to become an SWV tribute act. Her new single, Why R U, even thieves the drum loop off Right Here. Disappointing.

    Amerie - Why R U

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    Thursday, June 11, 2009

    Video: Jordin Sparks - Battlefield

    There hasn't been much of a fanfare to announce that Jordin "not Jordan" Sparks's amazing new single, Battlefield, is out this week. But it is. And it's amazing... If by amazing you mean "sounds like an 80s power ballad with the saxophone solo edited out".

    As part of the underwhelming "will-this-do" marketing campaign, the video was only officially released on Tuesday. It scores an early point by putting Jordin in an actual field (do you see?). But it completely misses the opportunity to include: A battle; Jordin dressed in armour; Men and women running at each other with spears; Harrier jump jets flying overhead; a full-scale recreation of the Normandy landings; a voice-over by Laurence Olivier; a nuclear "event"; that scene from the end of Blackadder Goes Forth; a Pat Benatar cameo.

    Watch it if you must.

    Jordin Sparks - Battlefield

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    Wednesday, June 10, 2009

    Gig review: Katy Perry in London

    Who wants to see a Katy Perry concert? Well, nobody I know, which is why I had to endure the embarassment of going to the show alone. I seriously considered writing "not a pervert" across my face in permanent marker (that, or rubbing my legs vigorously and keeping a tiny corner of the Shepherd's Bush Empire to myself...)

    Anyway, it turns out that the Californian 24-year-old has quite a diverse fanbase - from six-year-old girls and their parents to city boys dancing with bottled beers, not to mention the two bus pass-holding pensioners beside me who know every word to I Kissed A Girl.

    They're here for the hits and, on all four of them, Perry delivers the goods. She preens, prances, poses and belts out those chunky melodies with all the power her lungs can muster. Hot N' Cold generates the biggest amateur singalong I've seen since Mamma Mia! And Perry rounds the song off by fly-kicking a guitar out of her guitarist's hands. Amazing.

    That karate moment comes three songs into the set and, sadly, its all downhill from there. Perry's album tracks are weak and her voice too-often veers towards the "screeching brakes" side of shrill. Pointless cabaret cover versions of Please Mr Postman and Build Me Up Buttercup do nothing to raise the quality threshhold.

    Weirdly, some of the best bits come in between the songs, as the singer exhibits her cheerily deranged personality. She goes off on weird tangents about ex-boyfriends and Beyonce, who she saw at the O2 on Monday. "I had no respect for Beyonce until last night," she blurts out. "I mean, I respected her... But I didn't know how much I respected her until I saw the show." Then she bats her eyelashes and sighs, "I'm a horrible public speaker".

    The most inpspired comedic moment comes at the end of Ur So Gay, when the star breaks down the music and apologises to the children in the audience. "I realise a lot of you have come here with your parents, and now you're sitting next to them, so this moment is going to be awkward and uncomfortable. But we're at the last word of the song and I have to sing it... All together now: 'PENIS!'"

    After sitting through charisma black hole that was Britney's show last week, Perry was a breath of fresh pop air. Plus, she had plugged her microphone in (although there was an obvious 'guide vocal' running through I Kissed A Girl). And she played guitar. And her costumes were better.

    Now all she has to do is work on the songs.

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    Tuesday, June 9, 2009

    New video: Basement Jaxx - Raindrops

    To paraphrase John Milton, "Copy from one, it's plagiarism; copy from twenty, it's Basement Jaxx". The London duo have spent 15 years throwing their record collection into a giant dance cement mixer* and seeing what comes out.

    In the past, the results have been jaw-droppingly fantastic - from the technicolour pyrotechnics of Red Alert to the Brixton bhangra of Lucky Star. On 2006's Flamenco-flavoured album Crazy Itch Radio, however, the formula faltered. The majority of the album was as weak and uninspired as the fake radio station interludes that linked the tracks.

    It's hard to decide whether the group's new single, Raindrops, is a return to form. It has the melodic strength of their biggest hits - Good Luck and Rendez Vu - and a great, androgynous vocal from Felix Buxton. But, for the first time, the cut'n'paste asthetic seems a little tired, especially when compared to the discordant genius of MIA and the straightforward aural assault of Calvin Harris.

    The album - Scars - could be interesting, though. Confirmed guests include Yoko Ono, Santigold, Lightspeed Champion and Yo! Majesty, and there's rumours of a Grace Jones cameo, too. We won't get to hear it 'til September, though.

    So, in the meantime, here's the video for Raindrops:

    Basement Jaxx - Raindrops

    * Note to Basement Jaxx: We would like to see this prop on your next tour.

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    Extra-curricular activities

    If the blog has seemed slightly neglected over the last few weeks, here's why: A series of "high profile" (slightly desperate) and "expertly crafted" (cobbled together) features on the BBC News website. Links and bonus content as follows:

    The Veronicas interview
  • What were they like? Hungover, flirty, hilarious
  • Most useless quote: "My favourite thing to do, aside from singing, is laugh" (Lisa)
  • Best bit that didn't make it: On whether they were pissed off that Katy Perry had nicked the "kissed a girl" line from Take Me On The Floor:
    Jessica: "It's true! She totally stole our thunder!"
    Lisa: "We're friends with Katy, so it’s cool. Her song is very different from ours. Apart from the kissing girls bit."

    Pixie Lott interview
  • What was she like? Amazingly, for a stage school graduate, really interested in music. Made me give her my copy of Daniel Merriweather's album.
  • Most useless quote: "When I was younger I'd always sing the Whitney classics and the Mariah classics".
  • Best bit that didn't make it: "There's a song on the album called Jack, which was written by a girl band called M2M seven years ago. One of them used to go out with Zac from Hanson, and when they broke up she was really upset and wrote a song about it. But she didn’t want to make it obvious it was about him, so she called it Jack. I'm singing their break-up song, which means that, technically, I've dated Zac Hanson."

    Black Eyed Peas interview
  • What were they like? Jetlagged, but polite. Interestingly, Taboo, Fergie and apl defer to will.i.am on all matters, on and off-camera.
  • Most useless quote: "This record is just more focused on dance sounds. It’s like the dance knob is at 200, instead of 75, 50, the way it used to be." (will.i.am)
  • Best bit that didn't make it: Will.i.am on the new wave of hip-hop: "Here we are in 2009 and there’s Boom Boom Pow and there’s Kid Cudi and there’s Kanye West experimenting with electro. It’s back to the early 90s when Technotronic did 'pump up the jam, pump it up, yo pump it'."

    Britney Spears concert review
  • What was she like? A high-quality drag act.
  • Most useless quote: "What's Up London? Awesome!"
  • Best bit that didn't make it: Britney's voicebox.

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  • Saturday, June 6, 2009

    New Video: Black Eyed Peas - I Gotta Feelin'

    I Gotta Feelin' is the second single from the BEP's new album, THE END, and it's much more representative of the record's electro-hop party vibe than Boom Boom Pow. Produced by French DJ David Guetta it's a big, demented pop song about a rather raucous summer barbeque.

    "I got my money
    Let’s spend it up
    Go out and smash it
    Like Oh My God
    Jump off that sofa
    Let’s get get off!"

    Although the single mix never quite achieves the arms-in-the-air crescendo you'd expect, the various remixes will take care of that. Meanwhile, the video has a few inexplicable faux-bisexual soft porn elements. Do the Black Eyed Peas really believe they can become the hip-hop Scissor Sisters?

    Black Eyed Peas - I Gotta Feelin'

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    New video: WALE & GaGa - Chillin'

    We mentioned this one a couple of months back when it leaked, and we stick by what we said then: The album version is much better than the Lady GaGa remix... Miss Germano is many things, but a Jamaican rapper is not one of them.

    Anyway, here's the video. It leaves no hip-hop cliché unfilmed, until the director daringly breaks with convention and shrinks Lady GaGa to the size of a Barbie doll (around 3:17).

    I bet he's not the first one to have that idea.

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    Friday, June 5, 2009

    MPHO has made a video

    Remember last year when we said Santo/i-gold was basically MIA with all the rough edges smoothed off to make her more chart friendly? Well, guess what? Someone has bought a Black and Decker belt sander and run it all over Santo/i-gold and created a sort of fine grain pop bannister.

    She is called MPHO. We don't know how that's pronounced, but we hope you get to start with a low buzzing noise like a train approaching, followed by a terrifically loud laser gun noise - sort of like this: "mmmmmmmmmmMMMMMMMM-PEOWWWWWW!"

    Her debut single samples Martha and the Muffins' Echo Beach. It is better than Gabriella Cilmi's cover version of Echo Beach, but nowhere near as good as Martha and the Muffins' version of Echo Beach.

    Here she is performing it on a video.

    MPHO - Box'N'Locks

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    "If there's a limit to computerised electronic music, he hasn't found it yet"

    As posted on Twitter by pop overlords Biffco (Kylie, Spice Girls, The Saturdays), here is a video of synth legend Giorgio Moroder in the studio. Excellent.

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    Thursday, June 4, 2009


    Did you know that? It's not on Wednesday, like it has been every other week. It's on Sunday. Something to do with football. Fucking football.

    If you have missed the last six series and need to catch up before the final, here's a quick summary (nb: don't play this on speakers at work or you, too, will be fired).

    [via Cassetteboy]

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    Wednesday, June 3, 2009

    New Kings Of Leon video: Notion

    Is it just me, or is Caleb Followill slowly turning into Bryan Adams?

    Kings Of Leon -Notion

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    Tuesday, June 2, 2009

    Toy Story 3 trailer

    It's not out til June 2010 - but I can't wait!!

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    Conan O'Brien takes over The Tonight Show

    On my infrequent trips to the US, I used to enjoy Conan O'Brien's ridiculously silly late night chat show. In many ways, it was more of a sketch show vehicle for the former Simpsons writer, with guest interviews crammed in to keep down the costs.

    We even went to see a taping of the show in 2007, and were very impressed at how tight it all was. Unlike most TV shows, where they record double the material they need and edit out the rubbishy bits, this was recorded as-live - even including pauses for the ad breaks.

    Last night, he made the move to an earlier, higher-profile time slot, taking over from Jay Leno on the Tonight Show. From what I've seen so far, he's had to tone down the edgier comedy of his previous series (no masturbating bear here) but the broader material might just suit him. Check out the opening sketch for his first show below. A simple concept, tightly written, and with a great payoff. Nice work.

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    Lady GaGa's very good new video

    Here's another one I missed last week - Lady GaGa's ultra-stylised video for Paparazzi.

    Directed by Jonas Akerlund (Ray Of Light, Beautiful Day, My Favourite Game) it was described by GaGa's PR thusly: "It’s amazing! Sex, violence, sexual violence, dancing in wheelchairs, on crutches… the works."

    You will also see:
    * GaGa in a Mickey Mouse outfit
    * Murder most horrid
    * Tedious "arty" intro (skip forward three minutes, you're not missing anything)

    Best video in ages. Official.

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    Monday, June 1, 2009

    New video: Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Heads Will Roll

    Back from Denmark where, to my eternal disappointment, they don't eat much bacon. There were plenty of other pork derivatives, from frankfurters to spam, but I didn't see a single rasher all week. Booo!

    On the plus side, we discovered sweets called Guff Mix and Scum Banana.

    Anyway, back to the real world now, and catching up on the music news from the last week. It ranges from the sadly predictable - Amy Winehouse cancelling a gig - to the fantastically bizarre - Status Quo to play Glastonbury.

    Video-wise, the pick of the new releases is from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, whose album It's Blitz! is my favourite of the year so far. The new single is the Marie Antoinette-tastic Heads Will Roll.

    It wouldn't necessarily have been my choice as the follow-up to Zero (Dull Life is by far the best track on the album) but it's a scorcher nonetheless.

    Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Heads Will Roll

    PS: That mini synth with the keys that light up?? WANT.

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