Sunday, November 29, 2009

Marina & The Diamonds: Hollywood

So, after a few limited edition EPs and amazing blog-friendly videos, THIS is apparently the BIG FIRST SINGLE from Marina And The Diamonds. The make-or-break, will she / won't she, last roll of the dice, final spin of the wheel, russian roulette gamble. Here's how I reacted to the song...

First listen
This is weird. The melody's all over the place. My mum will not be buying this down at Tesco*.

Second listen
Oh, I kind of see what's going on now. The lyric about Shakira is cute. But no way is daytime radio going to touch anything this wilfully perverse in the tune department.

Third listen
I love this song. I want to hug it. I want to hug everyone. I want everyone to hug the song. And possibly some alone time for me and the song in a cupboard, fumbling about next to the spare light bulbs and the feather duster. Followed by a gin and a lie down and a panicked 3am phone call for an ambulance and a scary moment where they have consider using the defibrilator. It's that good.

Marina and the Diamonds - Hollywood

* Actually, my mum will buy it. She heard I Am Not A Robot and Mowgli's Road for the first time this weekend and asked: "If I go onto Amazon will I be able to buy her album?"

This is a good sign. My mum's track record of predicting hits is fearsome. In 1997, she insisted that Run DMC vs Jason Nevins were destined for number one. She bought James Blunt's Back To Bedlam in 2004, months before anyone had heard You're Beautiful on the radio. And, last year, she announced Lady GaGa was "definitely going to be a star" after having her nails done next to her in the Belfast branch of House Of Fraser (trufax). In fact, mum should probably be writing this blog instead of me.

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Friday, November 27, 2009

A cornucopia of distractions for Friday

:: This is a must-see - Neil Young performs the theme tune to Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air (okay, it's Jimmy Fallon pretending to be Neil Young, but see if you can tell the difference...)

:: The permanently underrated Kelis released a new song via her new website earlier this week. It's called Acapella, but its got instruments on it. Confusing. But Amazing. [link]

:: "I like girls. But now... it's about justice". The Top 50 Worst Moments of Video Game Dialogue [link]. See also: "Just before you die, I’m going to tell you a secret so you really don’t want to die!" - part of the ever-expanding catalogue of poor video game dialogue on the website Audio Atrocities. [link]

:: The Tao of Don Draper [via Gawker]

:: The 14 most awesome fake products from The Simpsons. [link]

:: This basketball mascot has gone above and beyond the call of duty with his half-time dance...

:: US public radio station NPR (think Radio 4 after a hostile takeover by Harvard University) ran its list of the Top 50 Most Important Recordings Of The Decade. Despite the pompous title, they have pretty funky taste - Kelly Clarkson rubs shoulders with Outkast and someone who's done a manic jazz cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit. The 1h20m podcast has music from all the winners and some hugely pretentious chit-chat. Essential listening. [link]

:: While we're looking at the end of the musical decade, you should also check out this excellent Spotify playlist from Drowned in Sound [link] and NME's Top 100 Tracks Of The Decade - correctly topped by Beyoncé's Crazy In Love. [link]

:: Lady GaGa put on an atypically understated performance of THE BIG BALLAD from her new album on Ellen De Generes' US chat show.

Lady GaGa - Speechless

:: Wikipedia quiz -- can you guess which wikipedia article is being quoted before time runs out? WARNING: This will eat up your entire afternoon. [link]

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Cheryl Cole's 3 Words video

The title track to Cheryl Cole's solo album is one of the oddest single choices this year. Sombre, atmospheric, understated - 3 Words pretty much anti-pop. Cheryl and are singing about a love affair, but they sound utterly miserable about it. Hopelessly, wretchedly sad. Maybe they've just discovered they're cousins?

When you add in the fact that this track is being released slap bang in the middle of the Christmas rush, 3 Words becomes the musical equivalent of the EastEnders' Christmas Day special - a black ocean of woe at a time when everyone else is parping on about peace and goodwill and how lucky they are to have won the X Factor.

In other words, it's absolutely terriffic. Cheryl is doing exactly what a proper pop star ought to - bucking the trend, upsetting the apple cart, shaving off Father Christmas's beard, drinking all the sherry and falling asleep on top of the cat.

Top marks all around.

Cheryl Cole ft - 3 Words

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Mars attacks

There is nothing subtle or understated about the new record by 30 Seconds To Mars (henceforth to be referred to as 30STM, or simply "~"). It opens with the sound of a lone hawk. It ends with a choir of thousands, recorded in eight separate countries. It is so epically HUGE that "~" could rebrand themselves Mr Big if the name hadn't already been taken.

The lyrics are massively important, too. It's all about man's fall from grace and Jared Leto's hopes for spiritual redemption. This sort of blether is usually the preserve of Saint Bono, and "~" have cunningly hired U2 producers Steve Lilywhite and Flood to construct a grandiose windswept soundscape around their dopey clichés. Close your eyes and it could actually be U2. Open your eyes and it's a much more enticing prospect - They all have their own hair! No-one thinks they're Jesus! Jared Leto is easier on the eye than blinking!

If you're thinking "this sounds more self-important than Jeremy Clarkson, on a throne, in the middle of Picadilly Circus, reading his autobiography through a loudhailer to his own reflection", you'd be right. It's massively, ludicrously pompous. The video is nine minutes long, for heaven's sake. Yes, the director tries to temper this by using a pseudonym (Bartholomew Cubbins) that he's ripped out of a Dr Seuss book - but he spoils all that by having a credit sequence that lasts three enitre minutes.

Nonetheless, in a year that has been sadly bereft of big, stupid rock songs you can sing at the top of your voice in the car*, this is the track we've been waiting for.

30 Seconds To Mars - Kings And Queens

** My favourite musical genre

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"I see a little silhouetto of a clam"

Stop everything you are doing AT ONCE and watch this.

The Muppets - Bohemian Rhapsody

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What in the name of Jiminy is going on with Timbaland's face?

There comes a point in every pop star's career where they become so big - so unfeasibly, inexplicably popular - that no-one is prepared to second guess their artistic instinct. Because, when they're honest about it, the people that run the record labels are scared of the creative types. They can't quantify, dissect, calibrate, timetable, define or understand what artists do, but they are essential to the future of the business. So, if someone is on a roll, it's best just to assume that they are in complete control of their faculties, and let them get on with the job.

Timbaland is currently in such a position. Everything he touches turns to gold. Not metaphorical gold, but actual, literal, gold records. So, when he decided the perfect facial expression for his new video was "Jack Nicholson, with Bell's Palsy, trying to a force an undigested corn on the cob out of his bumhole", it would appear that nobody around him was capable of saying, "Em, perhaps that may not be the best idea, Timothy".

I stopped taking screen captures around the 3 minute mark. It was starting to become ridiculous.

But if someone wants to go through the whole thing and make an animated gif of the many faces of Timbaland, I would happily delete this enitre site and just put that up in its place, looping for infinity.

Timbaland ft SoShy - Morning After Dark

Come to think of it, the whole vampire storyline has a certain air of "whatever you think is best, Mr Timbaland", to it as well.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Janet says "Make Me" (a bit more like my brother)

The video for Janet Jackson's new single, Make Me, premiered at the weekend and it is unbelievably similar to the one she did with Michael for Scream. It's almost as if she's saying, "Hey, look you guys. I know you haven't really been into the whole 'buying my records' thing since that one time I got a little undressed at the Superbowl and you all freaked out, like, big time. But you've forgiven my dead brother for all that weird stuff he definitely didn't do, so it'd be totally awesome if you could spare some of that goodwill for me. Thx, Janet."

The sad thing is, the song is good enough to be a hit without reminding you of Janet's impressive lineage / horrible tragedy. It's one of those Madonna-esque hymns to redemptive power of dance. A bit repetitive, a bit shallow, but utterly awesome in the moment. Lookee here:

Janet - Make Me

Much better is La Jackson's appearance on last night's American Music Awards. A seven-minute medley of all of her biggest hits, with all the original choreography, and the now-obligatory shot of Jermaine Jackson in the audience pulling that face that he thinks looks like pride, but actually looks like he's bitten his tongue and is trying not to scream. It (the performance) reminds you exactly why Janet can release a entire double album of number ones.

It's because she's a-frickin-mazing.

Janet - AMA performance

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Charlotte Gainsbourg video amazingness

Stop what you're doing right now and watch this video from French singer-songwriter Charlotte Gainsbourg. It features the following objects, which you will not see in any other music video this year:

:: A giant walnut
:: A man with half a beard
:: A monster in a bath
:: Spongebob Squarepants being wrestled to the ground
:: A skateboard resting on four stacks of burgers

What does it all mean? Probably nothing. During the shoot, director Keith Schofield told Anthem Magazine: "I’ve got a big folder full of about 800 pictures and whenever I get a music track, I just scroll through the images and see if any idea pops." On this occasion, he presumably pulled out several dozen of those pictures, cut them up, stuck them back together in a random order, and recreated the results on film, in slow motion, for a laugh.

The song, Heaven Can Wait, is a strangely beautiful duet with Beck*, who produced Gainsbourg's forthcoming album, IRM.

* Doesn't he look skinny?

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Big Pink topple their Dominos

The Big Pink don't know how to spell Dominoes, but they do put on a good show. As proof, here they are on Jools Holland making it look easy.

The Big Pink - Dominos (live)

I'm just a sucker for a lady drummer.

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A Saturdays video for you to watch

"Hey, what's that going on over there? It looks like a girl band making a video. We should stick around and watch - they might do some killer dance moves, or jump on a car, or fly on strings, or have a food fight, or put a squirrel on their boobs.

"Oh, wait, it's The Saturdays. Let's just go home and watch Bargain Hunt."

The Saturdays - Ego

Honestly, viewers, how do you make having superpowers look boring? Mollie (or is it Una?) can fly, but she just kind of flollops off the edge of a building like an upturned trifle. Frankie (or is it Rochelle?) has superhuman strength and can stop a car in its tracks by... er, leaning on it half-heartedly and pouting. And Vanessa (you get the point) can control a man like a puppet by waving her hands around a bit.

Actually, that last one's quite impressive.

Final scores:
8/10 for hair and makeup. 6/10 for the song. 3/10 for the band.

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Eels are away with the birds

It's, what, five months since Mark Oliver Everett released his last album, Hombre Loco, and now he's back with an entirely new batch of recordings, End Times.

"Prolific" musicians are usually just workaholics with no sense of quality control - but there is always something worth listening to on an Eels album. Everett has a simple philosophy about the importance of melody. "Show me a kid who innately doesn’t like the Beatles," he wrote in his autobiography, Things The Grandchildren Should Know, "and I’ll show you a bad seed".

The first single from the new album is called Little Bird, and it's a prime example of that mantra - a deceptively simple, hauntingly pretty lament from a man with a broken heart. It might be a bit Eels-o-matic but, for once, that is not a bad thing.

:: Eels Little Bird

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Alicia Keys has healing hands

In her last video, Alicia Keys made solid objects disappear with a blink of her eyes. In her new one, she raises a puppy from the dead just by touching it.

We get it, Alicia. You're a superhero. But that still doesn't excuse the purple catsuit.

Alicia Keys - Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart

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Gig review: Rihanna in Brixton

I'll be honest, I wasn't expecting much from Rihanna's album launch last night. That pinched, whiny noise she refers to as "singing" isn't really my cup of tea, and her eyes are so dead they may as well be marbles.

Despite those setbacks, she's managed to make a decent clutch of hit singles over the last couple of years. You may have heard them. There's that one about the brolly, and the other one and the ballad. Top quality stuff.

The star's new album, which leaked on Bit Torrent just hours before the gig, is foreboding and sinister - but it works surprisingly well live. Rihanna kicked off the show with the scuzzy Wait Your Turn, emerging from below the stage in a black and silver studded leotard, fishnets, and a lace eyemask. Then, straddling a rotating armchair (?), she launched into Russian Roulette, which she finished by pretending to shoot herself in the head.

After all this drama, the segue into the older, bouncier material could have been awkward - but Don't Stop The Music, Disturbia and the rest had been suitably roughed up before the show. The visuals complimented the newly gritty Rihanna sound, with video backdrops full of disturbing post-apocalyptic images (assuming that throwing black paint at a tailor's dummy was meant to represent a planet devastated by a cataclysmic climatic event, and I think it was).

Rihanna's vocals were more mature and fulsome than I'd given her credit for, particularly on the slower tracks. And the 21-year-old was on fiesty form, clambering over the vintage TV screens that littered the set, and pausing to fondle a mannequin's private bits. The saucebucket.

For the grand finale, Jay-Z turned up for a perfunctory run-through of his bits on Run This Town and Umbrella - during which several members of the audience put up their umbrellas and waved them around in the air. Best moment of audience participation ever.

Then, with a brief "I love you all", Rihanna prowled off the stage and disappeared. I don't mind saying that she'd taken my preconceptions with her.

Rihanna - Russian Roulette

Madhouse (intro)
Wait Your Turn
Russian Roulette
Don’t Stop The Music
Take A Bow / Disturbia
Live Your Life
Run This Town

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Gig review: Beyoncé at the O2

It has been an astonishing 12 years since Beyoncé recorded her first album with Destiny's child, at the tender age of 16. Since then, she has been at the forefront of R&B, shaping and redfining the genre's sonic boundaries with every self-penned release.

But we know precious little about the woman herself. The only glimpses we've had behind the curtain came on Survivor - a triumphant two fingers to the girls who quit Destiny's Child - and the B'Day album, which strongly hinted that Jay-Z had cheated on his future wife.

The star's I Am... tour promises to reveal the megastar's true nature. It's not just about the Beyoncé / Sasha Fierce alter-egos of her recent double album (Sasha is essentially Beyoncé with up-tempo songs and more eyeliner) but all the different aspects of her personality. Here's what we learned on the night.

I Am... an incredibly talented singer
I Am... the best dancer in the business
I Am... promoting women by hiring an all-female band
I Am... immensely proud of singing at Obama's inaugural ball
I Am... wearing a frock shaped like a motorbike
I Am... having convulsions of grief over Michael Jackson
I Am... apologetic for the problems on the Jubilee line
I Am... in a wedding dress for no particular reason
I Am... quite unhinged

Seriously, Beyoncé was a twirling cyclone of demented energy. Pumping her arms, gyrating her hips, screaming nonsense at the crowd ("it's not your birthday!?!") and whipping the entire auditorium into a histrionic frenzy. I have never heard a crowd make so much noise. Girls were literally shaking with excitement, just like in archive footage of Beatles' concerts, and when Jay-Z and Kanye West made mini on-stage cameos, it was actually impossible to hear them over the explosion of oestrogen.

As mrsdiscopop said to me afterwards, it's not often you get to see an icon at the height of their powers - and it's even less often that you get to hear them.

When things died down, however, you realised what a precise and powerful vocalist Beyoncé is. Amid all the eye-popping choreography and Thierry Mugler costumes, the star's voice sparkled effortlessly. As she went round shaking the crowd's hands and kissing babies during Halo, it seemed like the falsetto trills were an absent-minded afterthought - just something she was doing as a background task while getting on with the real business of being a pop star.

The show had none of the circus-style distractions of recent shows by Beyoncé's closest rivals, Madonna and Britney. There were no pyrotechnics and no props - just singing, dancing and real, live music. The huge video screen backdrop would often fade to white, leaving the musicians in a Motown revue-style silhouette while Beyoncé simply got on with her performance. Not many performers would be so brave but, in this case, it paid off.

A few minor gripes - it would have been nice to hear more of the Destiny's Child material, which was largely dispensed with in a two-minute medley, and was it really necessary for every ballad to contain a dramatic "you really love me" pause just before the last line?

But it's hard to fault a show with so much heart and conviction. Beyoncé never gave the (sadly all-too-common) impression she was filling time until the encore. It genuinely seemed that, having fulfilled the dreams of the little girl we saw in Knowles family home videos between the songs, she never wanted to leave the stage.

And that was probably the most revealing thing of all*.

*Except the costumes.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Brendan Benson goes retro

People always focus on Jack White in The Raconteurs, but I've always had a soft spot for Brendan Benson - whose Byrdsian melodic tendencies drag the White Stripes mainstay closer to pop than he usually dares tread.

With Jack off (fnar) doing his Dead Weather thing, Benson has finally got round to releasing the album he recorded in between Broken Boy Soldiers and Consolers Of The Lonely. It's a cosy little guitar-pop gem, calling to mind the AM radio rock of ELO and Wings. In other words, it's music you can sing along to AND feel masculine about because of the massive penis axe slung round your shoulders.

The latest single is A Whole Lot Better, for which Mr Benson has dug out an old ATV video mixer and pressed all the buttons at once. Expect kaleidoscopes, strobing, ghostly dissolves, weird colour saturation and unnecessary split screen effects. Like the song, it's utterly charming.

PS: Is it just me, or does Brendan Benson look incredibly similar to Julian Rhind-Tutt out of Green Wing?

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Kid Sister - Right Hand Hi video

Right Hand Hi is quickly becoming one of my favourite rap tracks of the year. Perky and sassy and cheeky and funky, it's everything the Eminem's comeback and Wale's debut promised, but failed to deliver.

Speaking of which, I reckon the BRAND NEW video could have done with a dollop of Slim Shady's dayglo, knockabout energy. Kid Sister is clearly a charismatic performer but, for most of this clip, the director just leaves her flailing around like a pigeon trapped in a tumble dryer.

It's a big old hands-in-the-air party anthem, so why has she been left on her own, trying to find her way back home from the launderette with a broken heel and inadequate lighting?

At the very least, they could have stuck a kebab in her mush.

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Solange gets Dirty

Hey, has anyone heard of this cool new band from Brooklyn called Dirty Projectors? They make weird fluttery art-rock then genetically splice it with dreamy R&B melodies, to create a mutant musical hybrid that will MAKE YOUR BRAIN MELT LIKE AN ICE CREAM ON A CAR BONNET IN KAZAKHSTAN (but why would you leave your ice cream there? Why?!)

But wait... What's that you say? They've released five albums already? And their latest, Bitte Orca, is at the top of most critics lists for 2009? Oh, poo. I am rubbish at being trendy and ahead of the times.

Someone who is ahead of the curve, however, is Solange "don't call me Beyoncé's sister" Knowles. Despite parting ways with Interscope (ie being dropped) earlier this year, she's gone into the studio to record her own version of Dirty Projectors' supernaturally good single Stillness Is The Move.

Neither version should work. The melody is slippery, drifting in and out of focus next to a flickering guitar line. Conventional harmonies are completely discarded - but the exotic siren song that replaces them is dreamily beguiling. Slowly, the disparate elements crystallise into a delicate, shimmering snowflake of a song. It's beautiful, but you if you get too close, you're likely to destroy it.

Solange's version keeps the mystery of the original, but beefs up the Princely R&B elements, sampling Bumpy's Lament by Soul Mann & the Brothers, which was sampled by Dr. Dre on XXplosive and Erykah Badu on Bag Lady (it says here).

I still can't decide which I like best. What do you reckon?

Dirty Projectors - Stillness Is The Move

:: Solange - Stillness Is The Move

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Are musicians better off because of file-sharing?

That's the question being asked by the excellent, data crunching Times Labs Blog today - and, surprisingly, they conclude that recording artists make more money today than they did five years ago.

The figures show that, while record labels are suffering, concert promoters, songwriters, venues and musicians are all doing just fine, thanks. And maybe the labels would be better off themselves, if only they could stop haemorraging money on things like suing music fans, or booking a first class plane ticket for Bono's hat, or releasing records by Noah "and the Whale".

Anyway, the Times' analysis is worth a click if you're into that sort of thing.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Nelly Furtado stands around a bit

After yesterday's dynamic and spectacular Lady GaGa video, whatever we wrote about today was destined to seem a bit flat by comparison. Nonetheless, Nelly Furtado could have made a bit of an effort. Cue up the next three minutes, in which you will see the Candian singer

1) Standing in a kitchen looking mopey
2) Using Google Mail
3) Pretending to be asleep

Things pick up a bit at the end, when Nelly (she's, like, a bird) giving her boyfriend a big slap. But nothing here is going to help its criminally ignored Spanish-language album, Mi Plan, into the top 100 for the first time.


Nelly Furtado - Mas

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Lady GaGa is on fire

Quite literally...

Yes, the video for the starts-off-dodgy-but-ends-up-amazing Bad Romance has been unveiled after scenes of palpable apprehension on certain parts of the internet.

Lady GaGa's site even crashed last night as people tried to log on to watch the (stunning) clip, only to find it wasn't going up last night after all. Imagine the strain the website must be going through now as they try to dish out thousands of video streams every second. As we said, very wittily, on Twitter last night "Let's have some fun, this beat is sick, I'm looking for a good webhosting solution, preferably with Linux and dedicated servers."

Anyway, the point is, when was the last time we witnessed this sort of sweaty, sticky anticipation for a music video? Like A Prayer? Scream? Spice Up Your Life? Pure And Simple?

To be honest, it was probably the one for Britney's Gimme More, or but that turned out to be rubbish, so let's turn a blind eye to that and talk about how Lady GaGa's latest is HISTORIC and RECORD BREAKING and TEH BEST VIDEO EVUR because that sort of uncritical hyperbole is what blogs are for.

The video can only be experienced by visiting the official Lady GaGa website: AND HERE IS THE LINK.

A few things to ask yourself while you are watching:
1) What, if anything, has this video got to do with the song?
2) Has Lady GaGa really sold seven million albums?
3) Can I be bothered to Google her album sales to check?
4) I probably can't, can I?
5) Shall we just assume its true for now?
6) Still, seven million album sales in a year. Isn't the music industry supposed to be on its knees?
7) Where can I get me a pair of those heavily featured Lady GaGa headphones?
8) Did I just catch a glimpse of nipple?

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Sugababes Live Lounge pt 368

The new new new new Sugababes have scuttled off to Radio One to plug their new new single, About A Girl, with a live lounge performance.

I'll be honest here. I haven't written anything about the single before now because I think it's a rather feeble effort. The production is flaccid, the girls sound disinterested, and the chorus non-existent. It's almost as if there were other things going on in the background distracting people from the job in hand. I can't imagine what, though.

Imagine my surprise, then, when the live acoustic version (complete with harp and tabla) revealed a spritely little song with cute little flamenco touches on the hook. Well done, person who handles the arrangement, for pulling that out of the bag.

Today's performance was dubbed the "first time the new Sugababes line-up has sung together", which impressively suggests the trio didn't even bother to rehearse. Nonetheless, it would certainly explain the screechy discordance on their cover of Florence and The Machine's Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up).

:: About A Girl

:: Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)

More interviews and assorted paraphernalia at the Radio One website.

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Friday, November 6, 2009

Snow Patrol cover Ray Of Light

No, wait... Come back. It's really good.

Snow Patrol - Ray Of Light

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

"This is wild, I swear"

So said Janet Jackson on her first ever hit single, What Have You Done For Me Lately - a song so good that people spread the rumour it had been written by Prince (this was 1986, when Prince could stir up a hit record with about as much effort as it takes the rest of us to stir up a cup of tea).

I love it when songs make reference to themselves at the best of times* but Janet's fleeting ad-lib - which is essentially the singer saying "this groove is so earth-shakingly brilliant, it has made me briefly forget whatever it is I'm supposed to be singing about" - could be cut-and-pasted onto just about any of her singles from the last 26 years.

Don't believe me? Well, take a look at this AMAZING trailer for her Number Ones collection (called "The Best" in the UK where, unbelievably, she's never had a chart-topper). From that first, funkatronic outing, through to the sizzling punchbag pop of Feedback from last year's underrated Discipline album, there isn't a stinker among them.

Except the duet with Nelly. That's a total disgrace.

Janet Jackson - Number Ones (long trailer)

PS: Watching this lovingly-created trailer, with its clever use of remixes and hard-to-find music videos, you have to wonder why there isn't a DVD to accompany the greatest hits album? Sort it out, Universal.

* See also: Carly Simon's You're So Vain, Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah, Nirvana's Verse, Chorus, Verse, Pulp's The Fear, Robbie Williams' Strong and any James Brown track where he "breaks it down", "takes it to the bridge" or "hits it and quits".

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Nadine Coyle catches a taxi

Oh, to have been a fly on the wall for this journey:

It gets better if you translate Nadine's tweet into her Derry accent: "Nayaxt time I'm in Nyaaashville, remind mae to gyet a druyhver with Jay Pay Ay-ess. My accent and his, oh bruther. We fianally mayade it tae the studio, so we did... Byeeee".

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Mini Viva: I Wish video

The success of Mini Viva's Left My Heart In Tokyo took a lot of people by surprise. It was by no means a bad song - but Radio 1's unwavering support was unexpected in a year when manufactured pop has been overshadowed by the home-crafted synth odysseys of Little Boots and La Roux.

It doesn't hurt that the duo are managed by Simon "OBEY MY COMMANDS" Fuller, nor that they're releasing Xenomania tracks during Girls Aloud's year off (although, according to Nicola, Left My Heart In Tokyo was an old hand-me-down from the sessions for What Will The Neighbours Say?)

But something about Mini Viva doesn't quite click for me. Like Miss Frank on The X Factor, they don't gel as a band. Take a look at their new video, I Wish (below). Frankee and Britt are in the same room, running through their lines and (largely) moving in the direction they've been told to - but it's like neither of them has noticed the other one is there. In that respect, it's a bit like watching two "actors" struggling through an episode of Hollyoaks.

Luckily, the song is pretty good, a hybrid of Call The Shots and a song that's not Call The Shots but still has that song's trademark melancholia, by a band who could be, but aren't necessarily, Bananarama or (at a push) The Sugababes. That's the first Sugababes, with the ginger one in, who are improbably maybe definitely possibly absolutely not reforming. Not the new Sugababes, who are still together despite general indifference and mental illness, although obviously an 11-piece band consisting of Girls Aloud and all the former and present Sugababes singing a song that mixed Call The Shots with a knock-off of Call The Shots would be pant-shatteringly amazing.

Mini Viva - I Wish

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Muse break out the keytars

The keytar is a mystery. Is it a guitar? Is it a keyboard? No-one knows for sure.

What is certain, however, is that the instrument carries a curse. Sling a keytar over your shoulder and you instantly transform into a grotesque, shaggy-permed wedding singer circa 1987. Or Jean Michelle Jarre.

Now Matt Bellamy of Muse has invited ridicule by slinging one over his shoulder.

Admittedly, Muse have always been on the nerdy side of cool - but Bellamy isn't even using the keytar to summon up awe-inspiring peals of thunder from outer space, he's making plinky-plonky pizzicato string sounds. That's right, the same ones Eternal used to have in all their songs in 1996.

Somehow, though, he pulls it off. I suspect black magic has been involved. How else do you explain the lack of shoulder pads, baggy pants and knowing "ironic" glances to the camera?

Muse - Undisclosed Desires

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Best ever edition of Later... with Jools?

Last night's Jools Holland show starred Jay-Z, Foo Fighters, Norah Jones and Sting. Live music doesn't get much better, does it?

Because I am jammier than a Jammy Dodger, I got to go to the recording. As usual, the best bits were the ones you don't see on camera. Such as Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins pulling silly faces at each other and collapsing with laughter, or Sting warming up by stretching his right foot over his head. The man could bite his own toenails if he wanted to - and it'd be properly tasty, because we suspect he's growing a nutritious selection of vegetables down there.

At the end of the show, the strict and efficient BBC Audience team couldn't enforce their usual levels of order and decorum, and the audience staged a pitch invasion. Jay-Z was mobbed, but graciously posed for photos for about 15 minutes, even cracking a crooked smile for one lucky fan.

For me, the musical highlights were Foo Fighters' Times Like These (ear-splitting) , Norah Jones' Chasing Pirates (slinky) and Jay-Z's Death Of Autotune (best drumming of all time). Tune in on Friday night to see the show in all its glory. In the meantime, here are some highlights from the 30-minute live show.

Jay-Z - Empire State Of Mind

Norah Jones - Chasing Pirates

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Marina speaks...

My four-months-in-the-making interview with Marina And The Diamonds has just gone up on the BBC website. It contains the phrase "wingo wango", But it does not contain Marina's video (due to a soon-to-be-corrected administrative error).

I suggest you click on this link to open the text piece in a new window, then watch Marina's three official videos, which I've pasted below. They've been on the blog before, but that hasn't stopped them from being astonishingly good.


Marina And The Diamonds - Mowgli's Road

Marina And The Diamonds - I Am Not A Robot

Marina And The Diamonds - Obsessions

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Shakira: Did It Again video

Three things Shakira's new video contains

1) Shakira in a sauna
2) Shakira in a skimpy nightdress
3) Shakira dancing on a bed with a "hunk"

Amazingly, number 3 is our favourite bit.

Shakira - Did It Again

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Monday, November 2, 2009

"Big lights will inspire you"

When is the best time to release your video?

Some would say a couple of weeks after the single hits the airwaves - allowing the song to work its way into peoples' brains first. Others would argue for a simultaneous release for maximum impact. Others still would say blogs are the most important tool in the marketing arsenal these days, so you should hoik the video onto YouTube before you even think about "servicing radio" (nb these people are badly, badly mistaken).

For the definitive answer, let's turn to former record company boss Jay-Z. He's such a prominent, well-respected music mogul that the New York Times wrote a profile of him in their business pages. And coincidentally, he has a new single, Empire State Of Mind, with Alicia Keys. What is Jay-Z's plan for promoting this single? When will the video drop, as they say?

"Yo," declares Jay-Z*. "The song went straight into the top 10 when my album hit last month. This Sunday, it dropped down to number 13. So now I'ma rock the video for y'all, just as you've lost all interest in ever hearing the song again."

See? That's the outside-the-box thinking of a visionary soothsayer. And people say the music industry doesn't know what it's doing any more.

Jay-Z - Empire State Of Mind Ft. Alicia Keys

Jay-Z | MySpace Video

PS: We found this Google Map page that goes through all the song's lyrics and shows you exactly where the Jiggaman is singing about. It is potentially better than the video itself.

* Not really, we made this bit up.

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