On Sunday night, Iceland's warbling wonder Bjork was presented with the Polar Music Prize by the King Of Sweden. You don't get that at the Brits, do you?
After she received a cheque for £80,000 (again - not what you'd take home from the BPI), Ms Godmundsdottir was made to sit through a Swesish singer "interpreting" a number from her back catalogue. Luckily, the singer in question was Robyn, and the song was the elegantly barmy Hyperballad. A "win" for all concerned.
But Robyn's not the first person to cover Hyperballad and the results have been, um... varied. Which is your favourite? Have a listen and vote below.
One of the best things about Mark Ronson's new album, Record Collection, is that it sounds completely spontaneous and relaxed, even though it must have taken months of painstaking work (and phoning up his mates) to piece it all together.
It's a neat trick, because collaborative projects like this often turn out to be studied and ponderous (I'm looking at you, Damon Albarn). Ronson's skill as a producer is that, despite numerous revisions, guest vocals and mixes, he always manages to preserve the giddy headrush of the original creative spark.
The second single off Record Collection is called Bike Song and it is a case in point. Unlike Bang Bang Bang, which was based on the words to a nursery rhyme, this actually sounds like a nursery rhyme (but a very cool nursery rhyme with a rap in it, obviously). It sounds like it was just finished five minutes ago, but listen closely and you'll hear tons of little details - the vintage bicycle bells, the way the guitar line teases and toys with the melody - which can only be the product of pure hard graft.
The video has been deliberately aged to look like one of those 1970s public information films (although, sadly, no-one gets electrocuted after throwing a frisbee into an electrical pylon). Embedding is disabled by Royal Request, but there are two important things to observe:
1) Kyle Falconer of "The View" continues to have ridiculously improbable hair.
2) Just because the cool kids don't wear helmets, it doesn't mean you should follow their example. Reflective clothing, functioning lights and bicycle clips for your pantaloons are also advisable.
Burying the hatchet can't be easy, especially when you're in the public eye. So it's heartwarming to see Gary Williams and Robbie Barlow kiss and make up (almost literally, judging by the video) after all these years.
But amidst all the gooey-eyed nostalgia for The That, we have to remember that conflict fuels art. No Regrets, Robbie's two finger salute to his former band, is by far his best song. So the potential for the GazWaz duet, Shame, to be a mawkish chumfest is very, very high indeed.
The early signs are not good. We open with an acoustic guitar riff that is legally (but not audibly) distinct from The Beatles' Blackbird. It's followed by the world's most tired cliché: "There's three versions of this story - mine and yours, and then the truth". It puts the ewww in re-eww-nion.
But, like the singers' relationship, the song starts to mature. The Nashville harmonies and gently strummed guitars conjure up a real sense of nostalgia and regret.
Some of the lyrics - particularly Robbie's "I wrote a letter in my mind / but the words were so unkind / about a man I can't remember" - have the ring of bitter truth.
Other moments - like when Barlow sings about Williams' "poster 30ft high at the back of Toys R Us" - have the rind of a bitter 30-year-old cheese.
Nonetheless, it's a clever and brave single. By pouring all of that emotion into a song, they've not only cleared the air, but neatly sidestepped a thousand interviews about the missing years. The video even suggests that the Take That + Robbie Williams "comeback", which could have been a cynical business arrangement, is based on genuine affection.
On first listen, it sent shivers up my middle-aged spine. But then, I'm a big softy. What think you?
Comic book film Scott Pilgrim vs The World came out in the UK yesterday. Starring Michael "Arrested Development" Cera, it's a high-calorie energy blast of eye popping action movie mayhem - but with a soft, tender underbelly.
If you grew up in the 80s and owned a Sega Mega Drive, this film is for you. If you didn't, it's still worth checking out.
Over at the BBC, I've put together an intricate, 11-panel comic strip showing how the graphic novel was lovingly and faithfully translated to the big screen. Please click on this link to justify my existence.
And, for those of you who are interested, I've posted the full transcript of my interviews with director Edgar Wright and stars Michael Cera and Jason Schwartzman "after the jump".
If you hear that song, with it's mix of doo-wop harmonies, Atlantic Stax soul production and foul-mouthed expletives, and think to youself "I preferred it in the 1960s when soul music expressed itself in a more poetic way", then you have never heard this version of Jackie Wilson and Lavern Baker's Think Twice.
Somehow I missed this during the week, but there is now a video for Rosanna's excellent UK debut single, Waterfall. The director has gone for lots of arty shots of clouds, rather than the titular Waterfalls.
Of course, water falls from clouds, but the fluffy stratocumulus clouds featured in the video are highly unlikely to produce rain. They really should have gone for the more common cumulus nimbus or nimbostratus clouds if they'd wanted to suggest imminent precipitation. Tsk.
None of these questions have been answered satisfactorily. But one thing is for sure: The fans aren't happy. Here are some eloquent experessions of distaste from the comments section.
"Video is cringe" - tinajonas1000
"NO NO NO!!!!! What has you done!" - The Alixsz
"This is embarrassing" - thebirdisblue
"i actually voted for u on xfactor, back when you had talent." ancho101
"She stresses me out. I'm such a major fan, but what is this?" - jordan9893
Still, at least one person appreciated the video. "Its weird but I kinda like this," wrote Raisa. "Watch it a few times and it grows on you."
Is it just me, or has Raisa just experienced some... er, unusual feelings for the first time?
Thanks to the ever-prescient Karinski, I have been alerted to the talents of 20-year-old South Londoner Katy B.
She's on the A-list a Radio One; she cites Jill Scott, Erykah Badu and Mary J Blige as influences; and she can be found a-crooning on top of wibbly wobbly dubstep basslines on her debut single On A Mission.
According to The Guardian, she has a secret past as a Hi-NRG dance act, who recorded awful poppers-o-clock covers of Katrina And The Waves' Love Shine A Light and Deniece Williams' Let's Hear It For The Boy. But that's all a bit odd - because the latter was released in 2001, when Katy would have been 11. Something doesn't quite add up about that...
The single and it's predecessor, Louder, give the dubstep scene a much-needed melodic twist. Katy's stream-of-conciousness club poetry is sweeter and stronger than Taio and Tinchy's sexy chick schtick. I love the line in On A Mission about "sinking into a tune". One to watch.
You can tell Tinie Tempah has arrived in the major league because his new video was filmed standing on a rooftop in America. No, really. Standing on a rooftop is a music industry rite of passage that officially means you are A Big Deal. The Drifters even wrote a song about it.
To put it another way: No-one is going to waste all that imposing imagery on The Saturdays or Olly Murs. Even Take That didn't get to stand on a rooftop until the Rule The World video. Standing on rooftops says "I am important. I am somebody. I am allowed up here and you are not. I have access to untold riches and unspoiled urban vistas. And also the janitor's keys."
While drinking in the grandiose majesty of Tinie Tempah's newly exalted altitudinal position, there are a few other things to spot in this video. .
1) Singer Eric Turner has had to pawn all of his worldly possessions to pay for his Grand Piano. He sleeeps inside it at night, and is unable to shave. Furthermore, he is trapped in a featureless apartment and is definitely not allowed on the roof at this moment in time.
2) This fella is pretending to be the young Tinie Tempah, even though he is sitting on a basketball court in America and the real Tinie Tempah grew up in the smoky London suburb of Plumstead (FACT: All of Plumstead was once a monastery). He is suffering financial hardship, which you can tell because his school jotter has no staples in it to hold the pages together. Poor young fake Tinie Tempah.
3) These are some Mean Girls who are laughing at Tinie Tempah's misfortune (or they have just done some sick in their mouths, it is hard to tell). They will never amount to anything. In years to come, they will still be standing on ground level, peering through the wire fence of this basketball court at other losers who have made nothing of their lives, a bit like that scene in The Wire once.
4) Here is Tinie Tempah at the end of the video, standing on his private rooftop.
With no-one around to see him, he is grinding out a solo on his imaginary "axe".
The moral here, folks, is that you can rise all the way from the basketball courts to the top of a skyscraper, but you will always be that same doofus who pulls a "meaningful" face every time you hear a guitar solo. Which is pretty heartwarming, is it not?
Corking Aussie pop twins The Veronicas were in Atlantic City last night, showing off three new songs they've written for their upcoming third album.
One of them was called Heart Like A Boat (hollow, with barnacles on it). It starts off as a pretty routine acoustirock ballad - but then, at 45 seconds, it suddenly drops into a minor key and makes my stomach do little somersaults.
Poor old Goldfrapp. Poor album sales = no money to make video = promotional clip cobbled together from tour footage = video won't be playlisted on The Box = single won't chart = album sales will tank = no more videos.
On the plus side, this video features a man in a floral print dress, and Goldfrapp's greatest hits album now looks to be a certainty.
She's always shunning convention, that MIA. Writing her album's name as a series of keystrokes (/\/\/\Y/\) so that you can't Google it. Making short films about murdering gingers. Marrying multi-millionaire record company executives.
It must get tiring, though, bucking the trends and defying people's expectations all day long.
Would you like salt or pepper with your penne arabiata? NO WAY, ASSHOLE. That's just SOCIETY forcing its PREJUDICAL CONVENTIONS on my tongue.
Do you need a receipt with that? HA HA HA You can't fool me with your FASCIST SURVEILLANCE techniques. I will set your FACE on FIRE.
Fancy coming to see Toy Story 3 later? ARE YOU KIDDING ME, TWATBAGS? There are CHILDREN DYING in SRI LANKA.
MIA's latest escapade is to make a video for her truly excellent single XXXO, just two short months after it was released. I warn you now, she directed it herself.
"Nothing is more attractive than a heavily pregnant woman" - Andre 3000.
Let's weigh this up for a moment. On the plus side, pregnant women have a beautiful serenity and the sensuous glow of impending motherhood. They also (and I suspect this is the real selling point for Andre 3000) get bigger boobs.
On the other hand, a heavily pregnant woman has difficulty walking, the appetite of a ravenous grizzly bear, and the constant desire to do a wee. In the words of Nora Ephron: "If pregnancy were a book they would cut the last two chapters".
On the other hand (I have three hands), I'm sure there's nothing more attractive than seeing your partner in the final flush of pregnancy, before your social life is put on permanent hold for the next 24 years.
Whatever your stance on this hot button topic, I'm sure we can all agree that the song it comes from - I Do - is a masterpiece. Just two minutes long, this doo-wop-hip-hop track has a swagger and a confidence which suggests Andre 3000's long-awaited solo album will be a strong rebuttal to Outkast bandmate Big Boi's recent, and fabulous, Luscious Left-Foot CD.
So, last week I was summoned to a posh central London hotel and pushed in front of Lady Gaga's producer, RedOne, who had some Important Messages to impart about his new record label venture. Obviously, I spent the whole time asking about Bad Romance and Poker Face instead - and the results are on the BBC website. I was particularly impressed when he said they'd written Bad Romance on a bus. I can't even write a text message on the bus.
Anyway, the first signing to Mr One's new label is a Swedish-Congolese singer called Mohombi. RedOne - a blinding solar flare of energy at the best of times - literally exploded out of his seat when describing this new discovery.
"He's going to be a global phenomenon," he said, in a curious accent that blends his native Morocco, his adopted homeland of Sweden and the occasional slip into Hollywood-speak ("My friend Bono" - urgh).
Bizarrely, RedOne went on to compare his new signing to 1990s novelty dance act Reel II Reel (I Like To Move It, Move It). "They had big songs, but nobody knew the artist," he said. "Now, for the first time, we have the superstar who's been performing all his life, but with global hits like that."
To me, his debut single sounds more like 1990s one-hit-wonder Diana King - whose Shy Guy is built around the same chord structure and soca rhythms as Mohombi's debut, Bumpy Ride. But RedOne insists the performer, who has already won a South African Grammy, isn't destined to be a flash-in-the pan.
"He's not competing with Gaga but, just like her, he has his own world and his own sound," the producer said. "And he's got the looks. Girls and guys are going to go crazy for him. They're going to want to get next to him."
And who said pop was shallow? Judge Mohombi's music (and his pretty, pretty face) below.
Sara Bareilles, of "not going to write you a love song" fame, has a new record out. In celebration of this fact, she's covered Beyoncé's Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) in exchange for a bit of promotion on Billboard's website. And, subsequently, this one.
Kanye West released a teaser clip for his heavily-previewed new single, Power, on Friday. It's a pretty lavish affair - a Greco-Roman orgy, with West standing statuesque at the centre, wearing a giant necklace bearing an image of Horus - the Egyptian god of the sky, law, war and protection of the living Pharoah.
PS: The YouTube comments are worth reading, just for the huge argument over whether or not Kanye is an instrument of the Illuminati. The main evidence seems to be the existence of a triangle in the video's imagery. I feel sorry for the people (let's call them 'nutjobs', for ease of reference) who have to keep an eye (no pun intended) on the Illuminati's activities. Imagine having to check out the progeny of every triangle ever drawn in the annals of popular culture. How do you differentiate between an evil triangle, heralding the dawn of the New World Order and a regular triangle, symbolising a slice of pizza or a vegetable samosa? Does trigonometry help?
Let's face it - we all know who Alesha Dixon is: A smouldering, high-kicking, pop warbler with a laugh like a drain. So why, in her new video, does she spend the whole time pulling a ludicrous angryface®? It's as authentic and threatening as Hannah Montana.
Yes, the 24-year-old has created an amazing, mind-bending record. It blends fluttering pop, hip-hop beats, psychedelia, hard rock riffs, orchestral strings, neo-soul, fleet-footed dance, slick funk and startling 1950s haircuts in a way that other artists aim for, but never quite achieve.
So, it's custom-made for critics - but my trusty pop barometer (aka mrsdiscopop) just finds it confusing. "I don't know who I'm listening to," she declared half-way through the album's high concept opening suite. "It might as well be a compilation album. And not in a good way."
Nonetheless, if Monae manages to establish a coherent musical identity, she's guaranteed to make a mainstream breakthrough. And if you're in any doubts that she's the real deal, her new video could be the thing to change your mind.
It's for Cold War - a distant cousin of Gnarls Barkley's Run, and probably the most straightforward pop song on Monae's album. Filmed in a single take (but probably not the first one, despite the captions) it's a mesmerising clip of the singer lip-syncing to the naked, bruising lyrics. Essentially, it's Sinead O'Connor's breakout video for Nothing Compares 2U but without the pointless scenes in the park and the turtleneck jumper. Fantasmajesticles.
From Beyonce to this - Shakira's latest duet is with perky cartoon irritant Dora The Explorer.
Called Todos Juntos, it is lifted from Dora's greatest hits album (!) and has not, despite what I initially thought, got anything to do with the Todos Juntos children's charity - which helps children in the slums of Argentina.
...Called Emilie Simon, whose music will cleanse your palette after that terrible Ke$ha track. For fans of Marina, Kate Bush, Tori Amos and anyone else who sings pop with a mildly theatrical lady voice (IE me).
It almost seems unfair to sit here and criticise Ke$ha. With that dollar sign in her name, and the crass nasal drawl of her singing voice, it's already safe to assume she's not aspiring to credibility.
Nonetheless, it's astonishing to witness the lack of effort that's been put into her latest single. When pop is often misrepresented as "kids' nursery rhymes", it takes a certain audacity to simply recycle a playground chant for your chorus.
Warning: The following song plumbs so far into the depths that it has discovered seven new species of sub-aquatic life, all of which pose an imminent and terrifying threat to humanity.
"There's a place in France,
where the naked ladies dance
and there's a hole in the wall
where the men can see it all
Their minds go blank
'cause they're dying for a wank
And the mice play snooker with their balls!"
Well, I couldn't call it an exclusive, since Sky has spent the last week speaking to most of the major music sites (and some more obscure ones as well). But good for her. It's nice to see a burgeoning pop star making an effort - and her single, One, a brooding electropop melodrama is totally worth it.
Spurred on by her tireless promotional duties, I've worked my fingers to the bone (spent 10 minutes in Photoshop) producing an artist profile, like you used to get on the back page of Look-In. Cut it out, pin it to your wall, then read the interview below. Amazing.
Hey, Sky! How are you?
I’m good, how are you?
I’m great, thanks. So, how did you choose One as the next single?
Actually, I’m surprised the label chose this as a single – I thought they weren’t going to. It’s kind of a sad song. It’s about the feeling of being numb, and wanting to feel something.
Feeling alone even though you’re with somebody.
Yeah, exactly. And it's also about being – not in an abusive relationship, but being neglected by someone.
The songs on your MySpace page showcase a lot of different styles – from glam to punk and hip-hop. Were you just casting around to find the one that suited you best?
I wanted to do each track on the album in a different genre, but it didn't turn out that way. I love doing top 40 and I love hip-hop beats, and I love 80s and 70s and French music. There’s so many different things that I love and I’m trying to combine all of it.
But I think I have a sound – it might not be a specific sound, but melodically and lyrically there’s a pattern to what I do. And my voice is pretty distinctive.
It’s quite deep for a young singer.
That's because I started off singing gospel, then I was classically trained to sing opera. I was a soprano.
What’s your range?
It used to be four octaves. I don’t know what it is now – I haven’t done the opera training for about a year.