Saturday, May 29, 2010

Yeezy - By the power of Greyskull

We think two opposing but simple things about Mr Kanye West. One, he is a genius. Two, he is a massive dick.

His new song does nothing to disprove either theory. On the one hand, it is a King Crimson-sampling, filthy put-down to his critics. On the other hand, West raps about his "childlike creativity, purity and honesty" without any attempt at self-awareness, humility or not being a massive dick.

Interestingly, the song attacks the cast of Saturday Night Live for a sketch about his infamous MTV Awards outburst, but fails to address South Park calling him a gay fish. This leads me to believe that West's forthcoming album, Good Ass Job, will have a track called "I am totally not gay, and I am totally not a fish. To clarify further, I am not gay whether the setting is aquatic or not. I am also neither a straight fish nor a bi-curious mollusc." If it doesn't, then I am taking it as further proof that Kanye West is a massive dick.

Kanye West - Power

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Janet Jackson on American Idol

I met Janet Jackson last week. My 16-year-old self would have vomited cornflakes on his shoes at the very prospect. Now that I'm a seasoned, cynical journalist, that would never happen (I have Special K for breakfast these days) but it was truly a heart-in-the-mouth moment.

They say you shouldn't meet your heroes but she was absolutely lovely. Shy and quietly-spoken, as you'd expect, but with no diva trappings other than running an hour late. She raised the painful topic of Michael's death - even though I'd been warned to steer well clear of such things - and made plenty of eye contact as she described her issues with self-esteem and weight loss.

The interview was principally for her upcoming film Why Did I Get Married Too - so there wasn't much music talk, but she told me she was "taking calls" from major labels, and was really impressed by the dancers she recently auditioned for July's Essence Music Festival in New Orleans.

I can't really go into much more detail (except she looked stunning in a tan military-style jacket, with her newly cropped hairdo swept back like a California wave) - I just needed to write something down before the embargo on my interview lifts in SEPTEMBER!! That's so far away, I might even have washed my hands by then.

So, here's Janet doing Again on American Idol last night - followed by her soundalike new single Nothing, and a couple of minutes of Nasty. Much, much better than her X Factor performance last year, and proof that Ms Jackson still has it up the wazoo.

Janet - Again / Nothing / Nasty

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Vampire Weekend - the Blackadder years

Here's the video for Vampire Weekend's Holiday - one of the more peppy songs on their superb second album, Contra. The song's a diatribe about privileged oiks who don't quite understand the real world (EG: a girl who becomes a vegetarian to protest the Iraq war) so the band have put on their Lord Percy powder wigs and gone for a drive around LA.

Most entertaining, I'm sure you'll agree.

Vampire Weekend - Holiday

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Lost in Oslo

From this morning, I'll be in Norway covering the Eurovision Song Contest for the BBC News website. You can keep up with my exploits by clicking on this link.

It could be quite an interesting year... There's no clear favourite, so it'll be a proper scrap to get to the top of the heap. My personal favourite (so far) is Germany's Lena. Her song, Satellite, sounds like an original song by Berlin's premier Kate Nash cover band.

Yet somehow, in the aftermath of that musical car wreck, Lena has grown a fresh little pop cabbage. It's a miracle of twisted metaphors.

Lena - Satellite

See you on the other side!

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Whose muppet is it anyway?

This is great - Jim Henson and Frank Oz shooting test footage for The Muppet Movie in 1978. Love the improvised dialogue.

While we're on the subject, here's a short clip of Prince on The Muppets Tonight in 1997, complete with blatant product placement of his fatally flawed triple album, Emancipation.

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Get your free CDs here....

For the last six years, I've been taking part in an annual project called Summer Burn. The idea is that you register with the organisers at FunJunkie, make a mind-blowing compilation of songs, burn it onto 2 CDs, then await the first day of the summer. When the solstice comes around, you receive an email with 2 random addresses from the FunJunkie database, and you send your CDs to them. A couple of days later, you get 2 totally random mix CDs in the post yourself and, more often than not, an email filled with gushing gratitude for your top banana musical extravaganza.

Obviously, the CDs vary wildly in quality. I've had exquisitely-sequenced mini-albums, where all the tracks have a connecting theme and the compiler has created their own artwork. Equally, I've received a CD with a printed screengrab of an iTunes playlist stuck to it, where 90% of the songs end abruptly because they were radio rips downloaded illegally from the internet.

But no matter the amount of effort that's gone into them, I always find a new artist or song to obssess over. A couple of years ago it was this track by French oddball Soko.

Soko - I'll Kill Her

On a more mainstream tip, I got a great Top Gear-style driving mix in 2008 from Linda Clarke, who introduced me to the prog-pop of Steely Dan.

Steely Dan - Do It Again

And in the same year, Chris Trew sent me a CD with this 1960s cult classic from the "Welsh Dylan" Meic Stevens.

Meic Stevens - Y Brawd Houdini

I couldn't imagine living without any of those songs now... But if they'd turned up in a skippable, transitory Spotify playlist, I might never have paid them any attention.

Registration for the 2010 Summer Burn has just opened. I urge you to head over to the FunJunkie site and put your name down. Who knows - you might even get a CD in the post from me, full of Janet Jackson remixes (not really*)

*Actually quite likely

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Goldfrapp make best video since Telephone

I could say something pithy or sarcastic here. I could talk about the way this video references everything from the Twilight movies to Top Of The Pops album covers. I could wax lyrical about how Goldfrapp have made a video as visually arresting as Lady Gaga's with 0.0001% of the budget and a Commodore Vic-20 for the special effects. I could point out that Alison Goldfrapp is as mad as a bed of chops. Or I could simply let you watch the bloody thing.

Goldfrapp - Alive

Pop stars, eh? When will they stop banging on about Satan?

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New video: Robyn - Dancing On My Own

Robyn's forté is pop music that makes you feel happy and sad all at the same time. Since her last album came out, some other people tried the same trick. I Gotta Feeling pulled it off, and Cheryl Cole's entire album was celebratory and mournful in equal measure. But no-one does it quite like Sweden's greatest pop export.

Here's the first proper single off her Body Talk Pt 1 album, Dancing On My Own. Raise a smile, shed a tear. Amazing.

Robyn - Dancing On My Own

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Amazingly exciting record alert

Hey there! You behind that keyboard! Do you want to hear a song that sounds like LCD Soundsystem have swallowed The Hives then vomited them back up into a swimming pool filled with rutting antelopes blowing pea-shooters at a bonfire of cowbells?

If you said "yes", then send this around your cochlea.

Funeral Party - NYC Moves To The Sound Of LA

That was quite invigorating, wasn't it?

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Awful marketing ploys of our time

Look, I get it. The music industry is on its knees. We need to come up with new ways of promoting, consuming and monetizing (urgh) the whole business. In that regard, I'm all for experimentation. But just because you have an idea, it doesn't mean you should follow it through. That's why you don't brush your teeth with corned beef "just to see what happens".

With that in mind, whoever is responsible for the following video needs to be sterilised. Using mainly spoons.

Dizzee Rascal - Dirtee Disco (Official video with commentary from Dizzee)

Several problems immediately arise here.

First, the concept is flawed. Dizzee is supposed to provide insight into the video's storyline - but the storyline is an unsophisticated, one-note joke. By the end of the VERY FIRST LINK, Dizzee has said everything useful there is to say, leaving him floundering with pearls of wisdom like "now we see some people doing different things".

Also, commentaries are supposed to happen out-of-sight, in voiceover. Dizzee, however, appears on camera, forcing the director to cut away from the music every 15 seconds.

Towards the end, the song is building to a rousing crescendo when everything suddenly grinds to a halt so the MC can inform us "this is the grand finale". No, Dizzee, it might have been the grand finale if you hadn't interrupted it like an arsehole. Now it is just a tedious 10 seconds of misery before you pop up again for your jovial pay-off. And by jovial I mean cretinous and shit.

Don't get me wrong. I like Dizzee Rascal. His cartoonish persona and equally cartoonish vocals have done wonders for rap in the UK - finally allowing our home-grown hip-hop artists to step out of Amercia's shadow.

The problem here, I suspect, lies with the record company. You know how, when under pressure to impress an attractive girl, your brain approves of wildly irrational actions like pulling their hair, challenging their boyfriend to a fight, or pretending to like Sex And The City? Well, the record-buying public are that attractive girl, and the record companies are your brain.

Somewhere down the line, a meeting has been held where otherwise rational, civilised people decided that - less than a week before Dirtee Disco was released - it was a good idea to withhold the video from YouTube. I suspect they've done an exclusivity deal with an untraceable "media partner", trading exposure on a website that gets two billion hits a day for one that handed over £50 in a grubby envelope.

Realising this might have been a mistake, the label has worked out a way to get the video onto YouTube without breaking the terms of their contract. Only now they don't have time to do it professionally. That's why Dizzee has been filmed on a camera phone, without proper lighting or a microphone, by someone who has only a basic understanding of how to frame a shot. Then the phone ran out of batteries, and no-one had brought the right charger, so the first take had to do, even though Dizzee wasn't ready and made a few mistakes.

Et voila, a horrible bit of "content" to keep the fans happy on YouTube. Someone will get a raise because of this.

Obviously, all of the above is pure speculation, but it's better than the alternatives. Which are (a) they genuinely think this is acceptable, or (b) everyone involved in Dirtee Disco thinks it's a bit crap and is trying to divert our attention.

Mind you, they got me to write 600 words about it on an occasionally-read website, so the campaign hasn't been a complete disaster.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Volcano + ethereal music = "ooooh"

I spent a mildly tense day on Monday waiting to see if my flight from Belfast to London would be grounded because of the volcanic ash cloud. It wasn't, making this the worst anecdote in the history of the written word. But here's a stunning video of Eyjafjallajökull, set to the music of Jonsi, formerly of Sigur Ros. Flick on the HD button, maximise the video and go "waow-wee" for a minute or two.

Iceland, Eyjafjallajökull - May 1st and 2nd, 2010

Jonsi is, of course, from Iceland, home of the volcano. In essence, that makes the track above (Kolniður, from his album Go) the Icelandic equivalent of Waterloo Sunset or Parklife.

Suddenly, I feel like emigrating.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tinie Tempah - Frisky video

Tinie Tempah

Today, the good people at Parlophone bring you the video clip for Tinie Tempah's Frisky, in which everyone's favourite British rapper rocks the Q-Tip look, and someone shines a very bright light down a tunnel. Unless that's... it can't be, can it? Oh God, run for your lives. IT'S A TRAIN!


:: Watch Tinie Tempah - Frisky (embedding disabled by request).

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Scissor Sisters - Fire With Fire video

A week later, this is still a pretty epic song. The video is based around a group of people who turn up for New York's Thanksgiving Day parade 12 hours late.

Scissor Sisters - Fire With Fire

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Break out Adobe Aftereffects, it's Kylie Minogue and an "animated" background!

Could Parlophone have been any more lacklustre in their attempt to jazz up this YouTube video for Kylie's single premiere? (Hint: No).

Kylie Minogue - All The Lovers

The whole internet seems to have exploded in a confetti storm of Kylie love over All The Lovers - words like BEAUTIFUL and MAJESTIC have been typed in captial letters on forums and tweets and messageboards for the last 30 minutes. Personally, I have managed not to wet my knickers. There's not even a drop of moisture down there (but then, I use industrial strength talcum powder).

That said, the song improves massively on the third or fourth listen, transforming from a squiggly mid-80s Erasure rip-off into an understated pop monument to blissed-out dancefloor love.

This is a terrible piece of writing. I think we should stop here before anyone gets hurt.

For those of you who want full, exhaustive details of Kylie's new album, here you go:

APHRODITE - Released on Parlophone, 5th July 2010

Written by Jim Elliot & Mima Stilwell
Produced by Jim Eliot
Additional production and mix by Stuart Price

Written by Cutfather: Lucas Secon, Damon Sharpe, Peter Wallevik, Daniel Davidsen & Mitch Hansen
Produced by Cutfather, Peter Wallevik & Daniel Davidsen
Co-produced by Damon Sharpe, Lucas Secon & Stuart Price

Written by Fin Dow-Smith, The Nervo Girls
Produced by Starsmith. Co-produced by Stuart Price. Additional vocal production by Nervo.
Mixed by Starsmith and Stuart Price

Written by Stuart Price & Beatrice Hatherley
Produced & mixed by Stuart Price

Written by Fraser T Smith & Tim Rice-Oxley (“Keane”)
Produced and mixed by Fraser T Smith

Written & produced by Nerina Pallot & Andy Chatterley
Additional production and mix by Stuart Price

Written by Kylie Minogue & Stuart Price
Produced & mixed by Stuart Price

Written & produced by Nerina Pallot & Andy Chatterley
Additional production and mix by Stuart Price

Written by Kylie Minogue, Calvin Harris & Jake Shears
Produced and mixed by Calvin Harris.

Written by Sebastian Ingrosso (“Swedish House Mafia”), Magnus Lidehall, Nick Clow & Luciana Caporaso
Produced & mixed by Stuart Price & Sebastian Ingrosso & Magnus

Written by Kylie Minogue & Stuart Price
Produced & mixed by Stuart Price

Written by Hannah Robinson, Pascal Gabriel, Borge Fjordheim, Matt Prime & Richard X
Produced by Stuart Price, Pascal Gabriel & Borge Fjordheim.
Mixed by Stuart Price

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Kelis goes in for the kill

We went to see Kelis record a few tracks for Channel 4's Album Chart Show last night. It looked like this...

Kelis at the Album Chart Show

She did a couple of new tracks, followed by Acapella, Trick Me and a crowd-pleasing (but unfilmed) mash-up of Milkshake and Madonna's Holiday. People danced, the lasers beamed, her earrings fell out, we saw a lot of side boob, and then it was over.

I have no idea when the programme goes out, but the sound mix will undoubtedly be better on Jools Holland this Friday, so watch that instead.

In the meantime, here's an MP3 of the R&B cosmonaut landing on Fearne Cotton's show yesterday to perform La Roux's In For The Kill. Jolly splendid.

Kelis - In For The Kill (live lounge)

You can watch a full performance of In For The Kill, as well as one of Acapella, on the Radio One website right now.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Not going to write you a love song (again)

Sara BareillesSara Bareilles' Love Song was a pretty major radio hit. Back in summer 2008, it was played 1,000,000 times every hour on radio stations in the Oxfordshire area alone (FACT*). What's more, it sold in excess of 3m copies in the US (FACT**).

Now she's back with a brand new MOR pop ditty called King Of Anything. Not one to ditch a winning formula, Bareilles has penned a petulant kiss-off to someone who tried to give her unsolicited advice.

"Who cares if you disagree? You are not me. Who died and made you king of anything?" she pouts.

Last time round, the venom was directed towards her record label. On this song, the target is a bit more mysterious - but the song's just as catchy, in a "I wish Ben Folds was still this good" kind of way.

Sara Bareilles - King Of Anything

Sara's next single is going to be called "You can't tell me what to do, you're not my real dad.***"

* Not a fact
** Fact
*** Oh, work it out for yourself

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MIA, shortly after all of her leg bones dropped outLast month, MIA premiered her ginger genocide video for Born Free. At the time, we noted that the star was raising her middle finger to people who wanted her to follow up Paper Planes with something unabashedly commercial.

Now we have the first "proper" single from her third album, in which MIA pretends she was only extending her finger so she could scratch the side of her face, because she's got this dry patch of skin that's been bothering her for a couple of days, and maybe she should get a cream for it, but it's really hard to get a doctor's appointment at short notice and that's only going to get worse with the public sector cuts and by the way did I tell you my dad was a militant in Sri Lanka?

ANYWAY - The song is called XXXO. It has a chorus the size of Manhattan, paired up with a beat that will cause tremors in your trousers. It is among the best things she has done.

The lyrics, on the other hand, are fairly asinine - something about a boy "treating me like the tweeting bird on your iPhone"(???) but there's a great line about a famous film director in the third verse.


XXXO should be available any minute now at your preferred legal download store. MIA's as-yet-untitled third album follows in July.

Edit: The album has a name - the typographically hard-to-render /\/\ /\ Y /\. We'll probably just call it Maya, which is (a) MIA's real name and (b) easier on the eye.

This means MIA's first album was named after her father, Arul Pragasam; her second was titled Kala as a tribute to her mother; and now her third is self-titled. Fascinating.

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Monday, May 10, 2010

New music from JLS and Katy Perry

JLS and Katy Perry - together at last

Terrifyingly popular boyband JLS and fruity pop lady Katy Perry have both unveiled new tunes this morning. Both acts are beginning the push for their difficult second album, and both have to prove they weren't fluking it first time round. What's interesting is that this has pushed the two of them in completely different directions.

Perry is aiming directly at the heart of daytime radio with her track, California Gurls. A superlative piece of trash pop, it is direct, to the point, and utterly bulletproof. The chorus sticks in the brain the very first time you hear it, and the lyrics wisely play up to Perry's saucy persona.

Snoop Dogg is on there for the urban demographic, parodying his gangster credentials with a rap about the "west coast" - although, to be quite honest, it sounds like his encounter with Perry has left him dazed, bewildered and praying for a swift end to his pointless existence. I imagine she could have that effect on a man.

Here's a taster of what to expect (you can hear the full track on Katy Perry's official website)

Katy Perry - California Gurls (clip)

In contrast to Perry's play-it-safe comeback, JLS have gone a bit mental. They've nicked the chorus from The Hills Are Alive With The Sound Of Music, put some boyband-standard rave noises and vocoder effects over the top, and changed the lyrics to "The CLUB Is Alive With The Sound Of Music".

If you ask me, a club should be alive with the sound of music. That is, after all, the whole point of a club. Unless it's a strip club. Or a caveman's club. Actually, a caveman's club that comes alive with the sound of music would be pretty awesome. Who wouldn't want one of those?

Anyway, JLS's single is full of terrible production clichés and will sound massively dated in about, ooooh, three seconds. But AT THIS PRECISE MOMENT IN TIME, it's pretty audacious for a band who should be churning out winsome ballads and filming sepia-toned videos with chesty women in a French boudoir.

Sample it for yourself with this "play" button.

JLS - The Club Is Alive (clip)

Now, I don't know what the vagaries of pop hold for these two acts (and, in all honesty, I've given up trying to predict things in a world where Taio Cruz is considered a viable artist) but I'm glad to have them both back. For now.

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Friday, May 7, 2010

Marina tour dates

This is definitely a public service announcement about Marina And The Diamonds' autumn tour, and not a feeble excuse to post a yummy picture her PR just sent me.

Marina And The Diamonds

Ahem. So those tour dates "in full".

20 - Norwich, UEA
21 - Eastbourne, Winter Garden
23 - Birmingham, Town Hall
24 - Oxford, Regal
25 - Bristol, Anson Rooms
27 - Dublin, Vicar Street
31 - Manchester, Ritz

01 - Glasgow, Fruit Market
02 - Edinburgh, Picture House
04 - Newcastle, Northumbria University
05 - Leeds, Leeds University
07 - Nottingham, Nottingham Trent University
08 - London, Roundhouse
12 - Cardiff, Coal Exchange
14 - Bath, Pavilion
15 - Brighton, Corn Exchange

Tickets are on sale from today via Marina's site, Ticketmaster or the venues themselves. And I can guarantee you it's worth going... Here's my review from her mini-tour in January, and a similarly effusive write-up on the itspop blog, after her French debut last week ("first class travel on Pop Heaven Airlines").

So there.

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Snipped up Scissor Sisters

Scissor Sisters - Fire With Fire artworkThe new Scissor Sisters single, Fire With Fire, is basically incredible.

It's a slow-building, piano-led pop anthem that - like the recently previewed Invisible Light - demonstrates the Sisters have finally recaptured their mojo. Presumably using a spandex tiger net.

Chris Moyles premiered the record this morning on Radio 1, and (surprisingly) got it 100% right by saying the song owed a huge debt to David Bowie's Starman.

For complicated copyright reasons, I cannot post the track here - but here are the three best bits.

Dramatic, scene-setting opening line.

The chorus pokes it's head around the door and says, "hello, I am amazing".

The final, euphoric chorus explodes out of a satsuma and kisses your face off.

You can hear a much longer, better quality clip on the official Scissor Sisters website. Or track down the full radio premiere on the BBC iPlayer - it starts about 1hr 46mins into the show.

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A Jack Johnson confidence trick

Rolling Stone magazine recently described this Jack Johnson single as a "rowdy" and "surprisingly non-strummy, George Harrison style rocker".

The bastards convinced me to listen to it. It's nothing of the sort.

Jack Johnson - You And Your Heart

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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Mystery pop star picture competition

Take a look at this still from a brand new pop video, and see if you can guess who the singer is...


If you said Lemar - you are wrong
If you said Idris Elba - you are wrong
If you said Cheryl Cole - you are very wrong
If you said Justin Bieber - you are wrong and 13 years old
If you said whassisname out of Bloc Party - you are right! Have a sandwich.

Here is the video, for Kele's not-at-all-bad debut single Tenderoni.

Kele Okereke - Tenderoni

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New video: NYPC - We Want To

Tahita Bulmer of New Young Pony ClubThe recent New Young Pony Club album, The Optimist, is very listenable. It's not going to change the world or anything, but it has a clutch of brilliant melodies and an art-school vibe that'll make "real music" snobs feel better about listening to a record where the average tempo exceeds 100 BPM.

The band have just sent out their new video, We Want To, accompanied by a handful of press quotes written by those self-same music snobs. Look at how they trip over themselves trying to imbue a cheery 80s pop song with importance and meaning.

"We Want To opens as a chipper ESG/Delta 5 stomper before efflorescing into aching and injured pop brilliance" (NME)

"A bouncy juggernaut" (Time Out)

"A pulsing, metric disco chant-a-long" (Artrocker*)

A quick scan of reviews for The Optimist, reveals that NYPC are custom-designed to elicit pretentious bollocks from anyone with a pen. Thank goodness for The Independent, who managed to pin down the album with the simple phrase "like The XX learning to dance".

Like the reviews, the band's new video isn't half as clever as it thinks it is - but don't let that distract you from a very, very good song.

New Young Pony Club - We Want To

* Yes, there is really a magazine called Artrocker. The mind boggles.

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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Lustin' Timberlake

I am ignoring everything else that has happened in pop music over the last four days (including the leak of Britney Spears' version of Telephone) because, frankly, none of it lives up to the quality of this: Two grown men, playing a medley of Justin Timberlake hits on miniature instruments and a laptop bag.

Brett Domino - Justin Timberlake Medley

Fact 1) Brett Domino are the sometime-house band on ITV2 "ratings hit" Britain's Got More Talent

Fact 2) We need more Justin Timberlake. When's he going to stop dicking around with Esmee Denters and get back to the day job of being an amazing pop star?

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