Let's not beat around the bush here: I fucking love Lissie's debut album, Catching A Tiger.
I am making this unequivocal statement because, last time I wrote about Lissie, I compared her to Sheryl Crow, which some people interpreted as being negative (it wasn't).
The Californian singer's new single Cuckoo is the song that cemented that comparison for me. With chords as wide as the open road, and a whisky-soured rites of passage lyric, the chorus features the line: "I fell in love with being defiant, in a pick up truck that roared like a lion" - which isn't a million miles away from Crow's: "I spent the best part of my losing streak in an Army Jeep, from what I can recall" (from Run, Baby, Run).
The video picks up the older-but-not-necessarily-wiser theme, starring a miniature version of the bespeckled Lissie learning the art of rebellion.
1) Kanye West has not filmed a new video. 2) His latest single is called Power, not Mama's Boyfriend. 3) The footage The Mirror's crack team of reporters refers to appeared on YouTube, not Facebook. 4) It was, however, filmed during an impromptu performance Facebook's headquarters in Palo Alto, California. On a mobile phone. 5) There is no boardroom in the Spice Girls' Wannabe video.
Being really good at your job must be a real pain in the backside. Not only would you be irritated by everyone else Constantly Doing It Wrong, but they'd ostracise you for making them look bad in front of the boss.
Mark "E" Everett has that problem. As the lynchpin of Eels, he's seen various band members come and go, all while churning out an endless stream of peerless indie-pop from his bedroom. The problem is, he's become almost too good at it.
Take, for example, his new song Spectacular Girl. If I had written this, I'd be over the moon. It's honest, heartwarming, catchy and tender - a perfect example of the suburban love song. But in the context of the Eels' past output - tracks like Susan's House or Your Lucky Day In Hell - it feels slight. Dashed off, even.
I suspect that the secrets of songwriting have, with years of practice, become second nature to E - to the extent that he can complete a song within hours of the initial idea popping into his head. Set up the drum machine, sketch out the verse, add a rise before the chorus, switch around the chord structure for the middle eight, double track the vocals, add strings for emphasis, tap it three times with the magic wand and, Izzy Wizzy Let's Get Busy, a finished single!
But if you come to rely too heavily on these tricks, you're in danger of stagnating. One of the most successful songwriters of the last 30 years, Jimmy Jam, says that he buys a new keyboard every time he starts working on a project. That way, he's forced onto the back foot. Learning new software and playing with new sounds leads to mistakes, which leads to discoveries, which leads to innovation.
(There's probably a lesson in there for any of us who've been stuck in the same job for too long...)
This is kinda sorta the message of the video for Spectacular Girl. It stars a secretary who is stifled by her job, and takes up night work that harnesses her hidden talents (one of those talents is the ability to change into skintight leather trousers during a 15-storey elevator ride, which is probably enough to get you your own reality show these days.)
The whole Hurts campaign has been a bit of a mystery to me. What is it with all the ballerinas? Why has Ingmar Bergman been exhumed to direct all of their videos? Why are they trying so desperately hard to look like the Pet Shop Boy Juniors?
Anyway, the grinding tedium of their self-important "image" aside, the band have some quite good songs. Wonderful Life is one of them. And, having received a limited release last year, it's coming out properly on 23 August.
This calls for a new video. It features a swimming pool, some architecture and - you guessed it - ballerinas.
The band sneakily allowed people to embed it earlier this week, then changed their minds, leading to lots of pop blogs with broken black boxes on their front page.
I'm not falling for that trick, so here's a picture of the artwork (caution: pretentious). If you click on it, you will be transported magically to the safe arms of YouTube to see the clip "in full".
21-year-old Will Wiesenfeld is creating a bit of a stir in the States, with his trippy, experimental pop music. It's got all the glitchy beats and fractured atmospherics of Bjork or Radiohead, married to the lilting croonery of D'Angelo.
Going under the pseudonym "Baths", the mutton-chopped multi-instrumentalist samples everything from pen clicks to the sound of running water but, crucially, his compositions hang together like proper songs. There's structure, melody and harmony amidst all that techno tomfoolery - and it's frequently beautiful.
His latest single is called Lovely Bloodflow, and it sounds like this.
Or, to put it another way: I deliberately didn't listen to I Am Arrows because singer-songwriter Andy Burrows used to be the drummer in Razorlight, then I chanced across their debut single on the radio and thought "why haven't I heard this before?"
I have only my own prejudices and ignorance to blame. Don't make the same mistakes I did, son.
Here's the latest video from utterly brilliant / completely underrated hip-hop star Kid Sister. Filmed in and around her stomping grounds in downtown Chicago, "she makes it pop from the roller rink to the Superdawg" (it says here).
In blatant contravention of the Golden Rules Of Rap Videos, Kid Sister spends the entire three minutes with a smile on her face. Not once does she shower herself in money, disembark from a helicopter, crack open a bottle of champagne or drive slowly past a police car, giving the cops a disrespectful glare. What on earth is she thinking?
The song - Big N Bad - isn't my favourite track from her debut album, Ultraviolet, but it is the most obviously commercial. Structured around a hyperactive, replayed sample of Yazoo's Don't Go (note to Professor Green: This is how it's done properly) it will undoubtedly spark a fist-pumping three minutes of mayhem at a beach party near you this summer.
According to some, Nicki Minaj is one of the most thrilling new talents in US hip-hop. Over the last 12 months, she's stolen thunder from such experienced divas as Mariah and Christina in a string of filth-strewn cameos - and now she's heading for the mainstream in her own right.
Her new single, Your Love, is a bit of a curate's egg, however. While previous releases have been hard as her expertly manicured nails, this is built around Annie Lennox's icy ballad No More I Love You's.
The lyrics are below her usual standard, too. The chorus, in particular, suffers from a ridiculously tortured pun: "For your lovin' I would die hard like Bruce Willis". (It could have been worse, I suppose: "For you I was Bourne like Matt Damon".)
There's a reason for the mis-step - Your Love was never supposed to see the light of day.
"But then I heard it one day, somebody told me it was online and I was like, 'No way, no way in the world that song is out.' I went and listened to it and was really upset. It wasn't mixed, it wasn't finished, it wasn't anything — I wasn't gonna use it at all. But then radio started playing it."
The record went on to hit number one in the US Rap charts - the first time a woman had topped the countdown since Missy Elliot in 2002.
So, quality control issues aside, this looks like it'll be the launchpad for Minaj's career. Just don't say that it sounds like PM Dawn or she'll come round to your house and bite your face off.
"Ladies, let's get naughty,
Get drunk on this hypnotic,
If you want shag then we got it
Then let me wind up on it."
These are not, let's face it, the sort of lyrics you'd assosciate with Thom "I really am quite concerned about the state of the modern world" Yorke. There's a simple explanation, though: He didn't write them.
They're lines from a song called Jump Up, by Italian house duo Crookers, featuring Major Lazer (ie Switch and Diplo of producing-MIA-and-Robyn "fame").
Yorke's contribution is to have remixed the song for a Major Lazer EP, which came out yesterday. In the process, he transforms it from a big dumb party record into something altogether more intriguing.
Ping! A demo track by new recording artiste Talay Riley has just landed in my inbox. You might have seen him supporting N-Dubz on their recent UK tour, but don't hold that against him, everybody has to make a living somehow.
Anyway, young Mr Riley (he's just 19) has signed a deal with Jive Records, home of such stellar artists as Britney, JLS, Justin Timberlake and Outkast. Of course, Jive also has Apocalyptica, Raheem DeVaughn and Hot Chelle Rae on their roster, so it could go either way, but I reckon Talay is destined for big things. Here's why:
1) His sound, described by a PR as "really futuristic urban pop", is so achingly current that it's given me a migraine. 2) He has been working with Ryan Tedder (Bleeding Love) and Claude Kelly (My Life Would Suck Without You). 3) He is not exactly a minger.
If I was being cruel, I would point out that Talay is basically a slightly-less-irritating clone of Taio Cruz. But there is one crucial difference.
Talay: Arms up
Taio: Arms down
This critical, focus-grouped decision on limb elevation will undoubtedly help Talay stand out in a crowded market. His songs may also do the trick. Here is that demo I mentioned, called Heartbreaker.
Not bad at all.
Talay's first official single, Humanoid, comes out later this year. Until then, he's keeping busy by working on the new albums by JLS, Jamie Foxx and Tinie Tempah (it says here).
Robyn is one of those chameleon-like artists who records multiple versions of her songs. For example, With Every Heartbeat - one of the most amazing dance records in the history of recorded sound - was also interpreted as a haunting acoustic lament. Same goes for Be Mine. In essence, Robyn is very good at writing upbeat pop songs that coincidentally sound brilliant when sung by a person shedding tears onto a Steinway.
So, when I heard the stripped-back piano ballad Hang With Me on her new album, Body Talk Pt.1, my spider-senses started tingling (I got them when I was bitten by a radioactive spider with a PhD in pop). Sure enough, here is a gargantuan electro remix, ready to pounce on the charts like a hungry panther.
I spent a large part of the 1990s collecting the fabulous Blaxploitation compilation CDs. Subtitled "soul, jazz and funk from the inner city", they were a sublime introduction to the gritty, atmospheric soundtrack of 1970's ghetto America.
They're sadly out of print now* but among the highlights was Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes' Wake Up Everybody, a Philly soul companion piece to Marvin Gaye's What's Going On, sung with croaky indignation by Teddy Pendergrass.
The song got a long overdue airing at the World Cup when John Legend (remember him?) and The Roots played it at the closing ceremony. The good news is that they've recorded it properly, too, and it'll be the title track of a collaborative covers album later this year.
The studio version features some beautifully heartfelt vocals from Melanie Fiona and a soft-as-butter rap by Common, who calls the track "a song as sweet as the Psalms".
There's a strange thing happening in the music industry at the minute - bands are scrapping complete albums with the acquiesence of their record companies.
Off the top of my head the list includes The Scissor Sisters, Eminem, Massive Attack, Daisy Dares You and The Hoosiers. Both the Scissors and the Hoosiers have gone on the record as saying they abandoned the finished tracks with the full support of their label, who could have made a quick buck by releasing the existing material (and who would have to fund further studio sessions).
Nu-rave pioneers The Klaxons could claim to have started the trend, having taken three years to follow up their award-winning debut, Myths Of The Near Future. The fly in the ointment is that they were actually instructed to re-record the album after turning in a "dense, psychedelic" (ie rubbish) master tape.
This has all turned out for the best, as the band's new single Echoes is really rather good indeed. Built on the solid foundations of Golden Skans, it kicks off with 15 seconds of feedback before blasting into space with a kinetic, piano-driven riff.
The lyrics are the usual spooky rubbish about other worlds and "the ninth wave" - but The Klaxons also deploy the word "liminal", which the dictionary defines as a sensory threshold. I think this refers to the feeling of being desperate for the loo but having to hold back your wee.
There's a quite extraordinary interview with M.I.A.'s producer, Diplo, over on the Black Book website.
The US DJ, who has worked on all three of M.I.A.'s albums, says the star "didn’t care" about her new record, "didn’t write anything" in the studio, and has "a bunch of yes men around her". Ouch.
The interview comes in the wake of lukewarm reviews for /\/\/\Y/\, which was released on Monday. Several critics have bemoaned a lack of progression in the singer's culture-busting, genre-splicing soundclash style. But I suspect most of them are peeved because she refused to make an entire album of radio-friendly hits like Paper Planes.
My favourite critique came from the All Music Guide, who wrote: "There are moments during MAYA when it seems like M.I.A.'s next move might involve walking into a laundromat, filling the dryers with bricks and silverware, pulling the fire alarm, blaring a drop-forge beat from a tinny boombox, and recording the result."
It's true - but it was also true of her first two records, so why gripe?
Musically, I think the album is great. It scampers back and forth over the (very wide) line that divides sachharine pop melodies from a full-blown intercontinental nuclear assault on your ears.
XXXO, It Takes A Muscle and Teqkilla are shocking, exhilirating and experimental, but they all have tunes your milkman could whistle. Or, to be more precise, tunes your milkman could scream through a loudhailer if he had tourettes.
My problem, therefore, is with the lyrics.
M.I.A. peddles a constant stream of post-millennial paranoia so myopic and blinkered it would make 9/11 conspiracy theorists a little uneasy in their tin foil hats. If we take her word for it, everything bad in the world is a result of Government Control and Corrupt Politicians. At one point, she deliberately mis-pronounces Obama as "a bomber". Ooooh, controversial.
It's not hard to guess the root of her neurosis. M.I.A. grew up in the middle of Sri Lanka's bitter, ongoing civil war. The conflict has been bloody and the tactics morally murky (on both sides). Suspicion is ingrained into her psyche.
But I also grew up in the middle of a conflict - in Northern Ireland - and I learnt a very different lesson: People with strong, immutable opinions are either (a) clowns or (b) clowns exploiting extremism to further their own goals.
So it might be a defence mechanism, but when I heard M.I.A. intoning: "Arm bone connects to the handbone, hand bone connects to the internet, connected to the Google, connected to THE GOVERNMENT" in a voice laden with portent and drama, I laughed so hard I got a hernia.
Anyway, if you put the words to one side (and to be honest, most of the time they're so muddled and processed you can't make them out anyway) you're left with a great album.
Let's just take one more listen to Born Free, as performed with an army of clones on a mainstream US television show:
Good old Dolby. It used to exist for the sole purpose of suppressing the "hiss" on cassette tapes. In the 1980s, audiophiles spent huge amounts of money on Dolby processing units like this one, but pressing the "Double D" button on my dad's stereo just made everything sound like it was coming from inside a cardboard box. So, like a pantomime villain, I endured the hisses... until 10 years of drumming masked it with the high-pitched whine of tinnitus.
These days, Dolby Laboratories mostly concentrate on surround sound systems in cinemas and home theatres. They've also just developed a "virtual surround" technology for mobile phones.
We've been here before: Q Sound promised quadrophonic stereo from two regular speakers in the 1990s (the technique was used on Madonna's Immaculate Collection album). Essentially, Q Sound added funny echoes and delays to the music to fool your ears into thinking it was coming from all around you.
The problem was: Our ears are quite sophisticated at pinpointing where sound is coming from. Evolution tends to weed out people whose response to a tiger's roar is to run straight towards the tiger. And so Q Sound sloped away quietly, shortly after Kevin Costner endorsed it for the Robin Hood soundtrack.
I can't see the Dolby system faring any better, but they've produced a mildly diverting video to show off how well it works. Turn up your speakers and have a listen.
JLS's new single The Club Is Alive prompted one user on the Teentoday site to comment: "My ears have acquired Aids as a result of listening to this".
I think that's a bit harsh. As I pointed out two months ago, it's a pretty audacious song for a boyband at this stage in their career. The fact that some people hate it means it's doing the right job. Teeny pop groups should divide the nation. If your mum liked them, they'd be Westlife - and look where that got us.
Anyway, I got to interview the JLS "crew" for my regular job on the BBC News Website. They are just like you'd expect - well-mannered, engaged, polite. But they are also not what you'd expect - intelligent, poised, self-aware.
As usual, there were plenty of tasty morsels that I couldn't squeeze into the BBC write-up, so here are some JLS off-cuts for you to feast upon.
So, you've been recording the second album. Can you tell me what any of the songs are called, or what they sound like? Aston: Ah, so you want to know all the secrets! Do you know what? Basically, it’s a very mixed album, like the first one. We worked with a lot of the same producers over here and – because of the success of the last album - it opened doors for us to work with other producers and writers in the States as well. People who have written some monster hits for Beyonce, Ne-Yo and Rihanna – across the board they’ve written some amazing songs.
We think we’ve done an amazing job. It’s very JLS. When people do hear the album, they’re going to be very surprised that we’ve written everything but The Club Is Alive. We put our heart, blood, sweat and tears into this album. Poured our souls out.
You've never released a ballad as a single. Why is that? Oritse: All I can say is “no comment”. I especially can't talk about what we've recorded this week. On Saturday. JB: We had a ballad on the last album but we didn’t release it as a single. We felt that we wanted to come with something different for the first singles. But you never know.
A lot of girls want to hear a big love song from JLS.
Oritse: We’ve been trying to keep the clubs alive with our music, you know?
That sounds strangely familiar. Oristse: Yeah! Where did I get that from? But, you know, I think – we had a ballad on the last album that could have been a single, but the way the year went we were only going to release three singles. But this year… we’ll see.
So it'll be out in time for Christmas? All: Mmmm... Errr... JB: Are you working on the JLS team? You know more than us. Aston: Christmas.... Or Valentines. Watch this space.
There's a ton of good new music floating around at the moment, which is good, given that this is the time of year usually reserved for novelty records and second albums from bands-who-haven't-quite-lived-up-to-expectations.
First up, we have Everything Everything, with a reswizzled version of their sparkly electropop song My Keys, Your Boyfriend.
You might have heard it before, because it was doing the rounds at the end of last year, when the Manchester quartet made the BBC's Sound Of 2010 list. The new version has a new, bigger-budget video, but there's no escaping the fact that the lead singer Jonathan Everything (not his real name, I suspect) looks like an extra from a Guy Ritchie cage-fighting documentary.
Waterfalls happens to be the first release on a new record label set up by the Grandaddy of all pop blogs, Popjustice. Bankrolled by Virgin, Popjustice Hi-Fi it looks like it'll be a boutique label in the mode of Neon Gold - with a similarly excellent rosta of artists and singles.
Their second release will be Love Part II, a slyly catchy nugget of synthpop from songwriter extraordinare Rod Thomas. He's remixed Kelis (amazing), written with Nerina Pallot (amazing x2) and named his pop persona after a line from The Gremlins (amazing x ∞).
Bright Light Bright Light aren't putting their single out 'til September, but you can have a listen here and now.
Finally, here's the new video from Northern Irish indie kids Two Door Cinema Club. Their kinetic guitar chops trigger nostalgia for my teenage radio show in Belfast (I'm sure the "hilarious" audio clips will make their way onto the site someday).
The programme was supposed to be aimed at trendy, NME-reading students - this was the era of The Charlatans and the Stone Roses - but I stupidly insisted on playing George Michael's Too Funky every week. My infinitely-better-qualified co-presenter would have loved Two Door Cinema Club and I would have been sniffy about them.
One thing I've come to realise over the last six months is that Ms Goulding gives a good lyric. Phrases like "kiss me with lightning" and "I wish I could feel it all for you" breathe life into feelings we've all had, but couldn't necessarily express.
The Writer has a similarly universal sentiment, as Ellie explained to Sky Songs earlier this year. "It's about how you'd do anything and change absolutely everything about yourself if necessary, just to be noticed by this one person."
She must have developed a crush on the girl out of Lionel Richie's Hello video, because she sings: "Why don't you be the artist and make me out of clay?"
I'm not 100% sure what I think of the message here. I mean, we've all massaged the truth at some point to attract a partner: "You like Frappucinos? Oh My God, I love Frappucinos. We're so similar it's freaking me out! Do you want to have sex now?"
But offering to subjugate your entire personality to someone else's whim? Allowing them to dictate your words and your appearance? That's just inviting emotional abuse.
I'm probably taking this all far too seriously. It's just a song, after all. And it's not like Ellie was the first to have this idea.
Abba dealt with the thorny issue of unrequited love for a thoughtless artist back in 1976. And, quite frankly, their take on the matter was much more disturbing.
I can hear how you work, practicing hard
Playing night and day, woah-oh
And it sounds better now
Yes, you improve every time you play, woah-oh
But it's bad
You're so sad
And you're only smiling
When you play your violin
Dum-dum-diddle, to be your fiddle
To be so near you and not just hear you
Dum-dum-diddle, to be your fiddle
I think then maybe you'd see me, baby
The moral here, folks, is that you should avoid relationships with creative types, because they’re all in love with themselves more than they'll ever be in love with you.
Their latest signing is Dutch pop star Caro Emerald. She's been at number one for 20 weeks in Holland with her debut album Scenes From The Cutting Room Floor, a breathy union of jazz, hip-hop, mambo, swing and pop.
At this point, you're probably thinking: "Oh great, just what the world needs now - another Paloma Faith". It doesn't help that Caro also spends most of her time wearing feathery cocktail hats and fascinators at impossibly jaunty angles, as if she's Clara Bow or something.
But there the comparison ends. Caro is quirkier, and more soulful, than her British counterpart. She's backed by a live band of "proper" jazz musicians, who give her material more sass and bite. Her songs, meanwhile, are insanely catchy.
Her first UK single is Back It Up, a xylophone-powered swing that will have you tapping out rhythms on your steering wheel. Great video, too.
Pop overlords Sparks have taken their electrical toolkit to Katie Melua's new single, A Happy Place, and created something really quite astonishing.
I have listened to this remix 10 times in a row, and I'm still not sure (a) what I'm hearing, or (b) how to describe what I'm hearing.
It's a beautiful cacophony. A Bontempi organ cycling through it's demo modes. A four-minute wow machine. Alice In Wonderland's tension headache. A swarm of crickets flying through a field of cymbals. The history of pop on a psychedelic roundabout.
A disaster. A triumph. A disastrumph.
Oh, I give up. Listen to the song and draw your own conclusions.
It's a sign of a great gig when you emerge drenched in sweat (your own and other people's) and you don't care one jot.
And that's exactly what happened to me last night, as Arcade Fire broke three years of silence with a gig at the Hackney Empire. The audience was so pleased to have them back that they shouted and bounced along to every song in the 18-track set, even though eight of them were brand new.
Eccentric and intense, the band always come across like they're playing a worship service on the eve of the apocalypse. Their songs shake and reverberate in the manner of a child being exorcised of a pernicious demon. You half expect their between-song banter to be spoken in tongues.
But no. When he talked to the crowd, a genial Win Butler actually joked about his soundman, who apparently grew up "half a mile away" from the venue, and gently mocked England's World Cup performance.
His new songs sound more relaxed, too. The post-millennial angst has been dialled down, and the bombastic sturm and drang channelled into straightforward, driving rock riffs. Modern Man and new single We Used To Wait One are direct and radio-friendly.
That's not to say Arcade Fire have suddenly become Coldplay - they're too dramatic and nuanced for that - but these sound like songs for the open road, rather than the end of days.
Sadly, though, they've largely abandoned the huge, uplifting "woah-oh" chants that made their old material so much fun to sing along to.
The show was more professional and focused, too. The light show and video installations were spectacular and the band's prediliction for swapping instruments between every song was more business-like, with short, feedback-fuelled pauses filling in gaps that were once minutes long.
None of this should suggest that the eight-piece have become all corporate and respectable.
Regine Chassagne was dressed as a lemon fairy cupcake, while guitarist Richard Reed-Perry wore a fetching white babygro, set off by realistic stab wounds and fake blood. Founder member William Butler, meanwhile, need not fear any changes to his Wikipedia biography, which describes him as being "known for his spontaneity and antics during performances".
The show came to a head with a rousing, four-song encore: Crown Of Love, Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels), Keep The Car Running and Wake Up. By the last track, the 1,500-strong audience were drowning out the band.
If Arcade Fire can translate that passion to the charts, their new album could finally herald the big breakthrough they've seemed to be on the cusp of for the last five years.
Ready To Start
No Cars Go
We Used To Wait
Month of May
Crown Of Love
Keep The Car Running
No-one seems to have noticed in this country, but Nelly Furtado's Spanish-language album Mi Plan is really very good. If you can find a copy, I suggest giving it a spin - the record's ebullient carnival rhythms sound fantastic in the summer sun.
Luckily, Nelly has sold enough copies in the rest of the world to justify the release of four singles, each of which have had amazing / barmy videos.
The latest is Bajo Otra Luz (Under A Different Light), whose title gives Nelly the excuse to put on lots of "hilarious" costumes so that we see her under a different light. Clever, eh?
Among the highlights are:
Dorothy from The Wizard Of Oz
A confused / foxy cavewoman
That last shot is actually Spanish hip-hop star La Mala Rodríguez (me neither), who provides a talky bit in the middle. Good for her.
"I don't have to worry about any pop sensibility. I can write adult songs, and I don't have to worry about choruses and hook lines."
That was John Mellencamp, talking to MTV in 2001 about his important'n'meaningful Cuttin' Heads album.
I love the arrogance of it. The way he dismisses pop music as childish and incapable of meaning. The assertion that a chorus somehow devalues a song. The belief that difficult, challenging melodies and impenetrable musical interludes are better at evoking the giddy headrush of falling in love than, say, Jackie Wilson's Sweetest Feeling.
I don't want to write off John Mellencamp (Jack and Diane is a great American rock ballad) but his point of view is wearsomely common.
Pop music isn't just silly or frivolous or obvious - although it can be all of those things. Pop is also profound (What's Going On), surprising (Hounds Of Love), inventive (Groove Is In The Heart), challenging (Papa Don't Preach), political (Paper Planes), witty (Common People) and mournful (Teardrop).
It is also incredibly hard to get right.
If you don't have the indulgence of multiple time signatures, abrupt key changes and suspended 16th notes, you have to wrestle novelty out of the standard four chord sequence... Plenty of people have done it, as this brilliant, age-old internet meme proves, but it requires a lot more discipline than John Mellencamp would have you believe.
As proof, here are two songs that haven't quite managed to get it right. The first is the Saturday's new single, Missing You, which is the musical equivalent of a post-botox episode of Desperate Housewives. Everything looks like it's in the right place, but you can't shake the eerie feeling that something essential has gone missing.
Secondly, we have Sky Ferreira's One. Again, it has all the ingredients of a hit single in 2010: Sparkly synthesizers, a Rankin-directed video, and a lyric concerning robots. But the writers have made the fateful mistake of confusing a production gimmick for a melody, and the whole thing goes flat like a glass of coke in a cupboard.
I do not worship you, nor am I impressed by the whole icon thing you've got going on. I find it weird that a 42-year-old woman's biggest desire is to "live like a princess", especially when you already do live like a princess. Get some perspective.
I like some of your music, though. The hedonism of Love At First Sight, and the robotic perfection of Can't Get You Out Of My Head are long-standing staples of my running playlists.
But I also like Finer Feelings - one of the few songs where you sound world-weary and conflicted. It makes you seem a bit more real. Fallible. Human.
So I was intrigued to read you'd decided to address the "dark period in my life" on your new record, Aphrodite. And when I was lucky enough to receive a promo copy, I stuffed it into the CD player. Here's what I heard:
"What's the point in living if you don't want to dance?"
"Put your hands up if you're feeling love tonight"
"Dance, it's all I wanna do, so won't you dance"
*Sighs* It was just more of the same old forgettable pop platitudes, plucked from the big book of "will this do?". The music, too, showed no progression from the sanitised dance beats of your last two albums, X and Body Language.
I started writing a review based on the premise that every track was a faded photocopy of the previous one. I was really quite proud of that metaphor (usually a sign that I'm writing a load of rubbish and should start again, but still)... Then I got to the middle of the record and realised I'd have to put it to one side.
There's a song called Better Than Today, which wraps your voice around an elastic, meandering groove scattered with acoustic guitars and a brilliantly silly synth line. It stands out by a country mile.
That segues into the strident, combative title track. "I got soul - you can check", you snarl at your critics. "Did you think I wasn’t real?" Finally - as your old alter-ego Charlene might have said - a bit of spunk.
It's a shame the album is so front-loaded with Kylie-by-numbers borefests, but thanks for rallying the troops on "side b". Next time round, stop pandering to your fanbase with the dance tracks. They'll come along for the ride no matter what you do, and the rest of us might fall back in love with you again.
(who has definitely not gotten too big for his boots with this post. Nosiree.)