Friday, October 28, 2011

New music from Little Boots

This won't be a long post as I'm at death's door today, coughing and spluttering like a dying duck.

So here, without further ado, is a new mixtape from Little Boots (remember her?) Amongst the goodies on offer are a fantastic remix of Metronomy's The Bay, Oh Land's Son Of A Gun, Madonna's Into The Groove, Desire by Eli Escobar and Classix's Into The Valley. One of the best Saturday night, electro-disco, pre-party mixes I've heard in a while.

Best of all, if you stick around to the end you get a new Little Boots track - Shake Until Your Heart Breaks. Victoria's breathy, waifish vocals make me think of St Etienne's Sarah Cracknell - albeit a rather bedraggled Sarah Cracknell staggering across a muddy festival campsite with a vintage drum machine clutched to her busom, as dusk slowly turns to dawn.

The fun kicks off at around 38'40" and the whole thing is downloadable for your listening / running / dancing pleasure.


On her blog, Little Boots promises more new material soon. Hooray!

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Beyonce has made another video - and here it is

The speed with which Beyoncé has been churning out videos is enough to make your head spin -- and she shows no signs of slowing down. The latest is for the mid-tempo R&B jam Party - a song which Bobby Brown would no doubt have called "wicked fly" if we were in 1990.

The single has been almost imperceptibly retwizzled to allow a guest spot for rapper-of-the-moment J Cole (as featured on these very pages just 24 hours ago). The video also features Solange Knowles and Kelly Rowland, just for shits and giggles.

Beyonce ft J Cole - Party

Now, I'd put the indecent haste of Beyoncé's release schedule down to her impending motherhood (it seems there won't be any Buffalo Stance moments from Queen Bee, sadly). But it turns out there's another reason for the music video production line - they're all being compiled onto a DVD in time for the Christmas market. They'll come packaged with footage from one of Beyoncé's intimate concerts at the Roseland Ballroom earlier this year, where she played the 4 album in its entirety - as well as running through just about every hit single she's had from Destiny's Child, to her Jay-Z guest spots, right up to the present day (here's a setlist).

According to this article in the LA Times. there will be seven videos in the anthology - which means there's one we still haven't seen. I've got my fingers crossed for the Diane Warren enormo-ballad I Was Here. How about you?

Beyonce - Live at the Roseland Ballroom trailer

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"What a mess I made upon your innocence"

Who are the BIGkids?

Just stumbled across this video on Vimeo (its YouTube for nerds) and I'm intrigued... The music sounds like a cross between Fatboy Slim and The Go Team - stuffed silly with samples and party noises, married to a big dumb chorus that I'm 99% positive will be stuck in my head til Tuesday.

BIGkids - Drum In Your Chest

But Who are BIGKids?

Their Facebook page explains: "BIGkids are a boy and girl from camden. Big singalong duets to grin your face off to, over DIY beats with lots of saxophones and samples. This is music to trash your bedroom to. Watch this space for more cheap videos and sweaty gigs."

Their Soundcloud uploads reveal that Drum In Your Chest isn't a fluke (and that someone in the band does an amazing Etta James impression).

Their tumblr blog displays an obsession with 80s pop culture, pumpkins, breasts, and pumpkins that look like breasts.

But THAT is IT. Which is quite a feat in this era of sharing your every stumble and belch with the world in 140 characters or less.

I've pressed that "follow" button on Vimeo... Watch this space for more.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

J Cole - not just a pair of hairy eyebrows

J Cole... J Cole... J Cole... I know I've heard that name somewhere. Born in Germany, raised in North Carolina, he's been hanging around the outskirts of the music industry since 2007, flashing those freakishly hairy eyebrows at any passing R&B track with 16 bars to spare for a guest rap.

So far, he's turned up on tracks by Jay-Z, Rihanna, Trey Songz, WALE and Beyonce, but his solo career has burned slower than a candle in a vacuum. Until, that is, his debut album (actually his fourth album, but his record company isn't going to be swayed by something as insignificant as facts) went straight to number one in the US - selling 217,000 copies in a week. That's a lot, apparently.


:: It is called Cole World: The Sideline Story

:: Rejected titles included Cole Of Duty: Modern Warfare, At The Cole Face, Baby It's Cole Outside

:: Jermaine says, confusingly, that the 15 tracks on the CD "represent all the songs that aren't even on this album".

:: The single Work Out samples Paula Abdul's Straight Up.

:: He describes the sensitive lyrics as "from-the-heart shit", which is an evocative turn of phrase, don't you think?

One of the stand-out tracks on Cole World is called Lost Ones. It's a mini melodrama, about a young couple in their early 20s who accidentally fall pregnant, and their arguments over abortion.

Cole describes it as follows: "This explores pregnancy from all sides. The male perspective on the first verse, diving into the female perspective on the second, and on the third verse I'm kind of writing in the third person, telling the story from both sides. It's one of my favourites. I've been holding onto that song for four years, waiting for this album to come out."

Indeed, Cole even made a video for the song, long before he got signed to Jay-Z's Roc Nation label. Starring the young rapper, his eyebrows and actress Antoinette Lenae, he posted it on YouTube last night. Have a look - it's moving stuff.

J Cole - Lost Ones

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Pop promos: White background update

Last Wednesday, I complained about bands having their photograph taken against a plain white background. You can only get away with it if you are (a) in an asylum for the criminally insane or (b) in the Pet Shop Boys.

One of the bands I fingered as being guilty of this crime was Oh My! Within minutes of the blog post going live, the all-new girl band got in touch via Twitter to send me this exclusive, multi-coloured kaleidoscope of pop photography.

Incredible. Oh My! are hereby awarded a certificate of pop merit and a free 12-month subscription to the Paint Colour Journal.

In other news, here is the new video for the band's new single, Dirty Dancer. Extra points for avoiding the temptation to do "the lift".

Oh My! - Dirty Dancer

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Friday, October 21, 2011

Something really rather incredible

Pay attention to this newsflash from Nicola Roberts:

Not only does it appear that Nicola is directing you to a BBC URL that ends in the word "poo" - which is amazing enough - but following that link will also result in you watching Labrinth, Tinie Tempah, a string quartet and the world's most incongruous choir playing Earthquake in the Radio 1 Live Lounge.

This performance is fucking incredible and that is not up for discussion.

The blurb on the BBC website says this will be available for 28 days - IE until 18th November. If you've arrived at this blog post in the future, try searching on YouTube. Someone is bound to have ripped it off by then.

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Emeli Sande goes widescreen

The video for Daddy, the new single from Emeli Sandé, is as vivid and dramatic as the song's nosediving string section.

Directed by AG Rojas, who also put together Bounce for Calvin Harris and I'll Take Care Of You for Gil Scott-Heron, it pulls a lot of the same tricks as the Rihanna video in the post directly below this, but with a lot more subtlety and class.

The song's not bad either.

Emeli Sandé - Daddy

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She found love in a hopeless place

...And that place was Belfast.

For all the fuss over Rihanna cavorting around a field in her bra, the video for We Found Love is surprisingly gritty and nihilistic. But the scenes of Rihanna knocking about in a Northern Irish chip shop made me giggle - because it reminded me of a local news story back in the 1990s…

A man in his mid-20s went to a chippie on the Dublin Road, near Belfast's university quarter one Saturday night and asked for a burger. He only wanted a simple quarter pounder, he explained, with no cheese and no ketchup. So when he bit into the burger and got a mouthful of tomato sauce, he was beyond rage. After berating the staff for more than 15 minutes, he returned in the dead of night to daub red paint on the shopfront. "THEY GIVE YOU KETCHUP WHEN YOU DON'T WANT KETCHUP", he wrote in furious capital letters. The grafitti was cleaned up - but continued to re-appear every weekend for several months, before the police finally arrested him for criminal damage.

And that, ladies and gentleman, is my home town.

Rihanna - We Found Love

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

New music from War Of Words and Oh My!

Last week, I wrote a piece on the tidal wave of girl bands heading for the shores of planet pop. Towards the end, I mentioned a top secret project "that I can't tell you about [but] which is VERY EXCITING INDEED". That project was War Of Words, aka Abi And Lucy from Devon and Essex (above, left).

Abi went to the Brit School and Lucy nearly made it to the live finals of BBC One talent show / garish atrocity I'll Do Anything. But don't hold that against them, because they've teamed up with Ben La Roux (and Elly La Roux for some remixes) to make an incredible album of 90s-flavoured girlpop. It would be even more incredible if Emeli Sandé hadn't just pulled off exactly the same trick, but War Of Words say they love Emeli Sandé so that's all ok.

Popjustice HiFi is releasing the band's first two singles at exactly the same day - a move which is brave and bold and brilliant and bananas. The first one is called Panic, and it sounds like this.

War Of Words - Panic

The second one is called Battleground and it sounds like this.

War Of Words - Battleground

OH MY GOODNESS, you must be thinking, THIS IS AMAZING AND I AM FULLY SATISFIED WITH MY DIET OF TWO GREAT POP SONGS IN THE SPACE OF ONE BLOG POST. But as soon as you remember to switch off your caps lock button, you will notice that there is a third great pop song waiting for you - and this one comes from Northern pop lasses Oh My! (above, right).

They're the ones I described last week as being a cross between Mini Viva's sophisticated pop and Bananarama's parental advisory barking at the moon. Their new single hit the internet yesterday - revealing itself to be a chick-flick inspired tale of teenage hedonism called Dirty Dancer. Here is it.

Oh My! - Dirty Dancer

As luck would have it, I have written an entire article about the whole Oh My / War Of Words / resurgent girl band phenomenon. It contains interviews with both of the bands and their and a random quote about Atomic Kitten. You may read it on the website of the nation's largest public service broadcaster.

One final point - can whoever is in charge of these girl band promo shots please splash out for something more visually arresting than a plain white background? Plsthxbye.

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Retro R&B jam of the day: Elle Varner

We are all products of the age we grew up in, and that makes me a child of the 90s New Jack Swing era. If there's a song that echoes SWV or En Vogue or Bel Biv Devoe, I will be drawn inexorably towards it, like a cat to a person who does not like cats.

So Elle Varner's new single, Only Wanna Give It To You, was a shoo-in for the blog before it even got past the intro. Sweeter and stickier than a bubblegum pie, it's only a Blackstreet remix away from being a solid gold 90s nostalgia-fest.

Born in Los Angeles to two profesional songwriters, Elle honed her musical skills at the Clive Davis Program Of Recorded Music (Clive Davis being the be-jowled music industry bigwig who signed Aerosmith and nurtured Whitney Houston). She was nominated "most likely to win a Grammy" by her classmates and, perhaps unsurprisingly, was immediately snapped up by Sony Music offshoot J Records... Owned by one Clive Davis, Esq.

Her voice has the slightly croaky tone of Lauryn Hill before she went loopy, and she plays and produces her own material. Best of all, Elle dresses in blinding fluorescent sweaters and baggy dungarees like TLC at their youthful best.

While you watch the video, I'm off to dig out some magic eye pictures and my global hypercolour t-shirt. Power Rangers!

Elle Varner ft J Cole - Only Wanna Give It To You

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That Britney video in full

Just a quick update from yesterday's post... Here is the official video for Britney Spears' Criminal in its entirety.

Utterly bonkers.

Britney Spears - Criminal

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Britney's Criminal video

The video for Britney Spears' new single Criminal is brilliantly ludicrous. Here is a brief synopsis of the plot:

1) Britney's comedy English boyfriend slaps her at a party.

2) Another English man, but this time with tattoos and a motorbike (oooh, dangerous), comes to Britney's rescue.

3) Britney kicks her boyfriend's nadgers right up into his mouth and makes off on the motorbike.

4) Britney has steamy sex with tattoo man.

5) Oh no! There is a gun in his apartment.

6) A theft is committed with the gun.

7) The police track down Britney and her lover and, without provocation, shoot them dead for over a minute.

8) Or do they?

Despite a reliance on filmic cliché and the fact that it is dangerously unthethered from reality, this video has a credits sequence that proudly boasts: "Story by Britney Spears and Chris Marrs Piliero".

Sadly, the video is going up and down from YouTube like a yo-yo, so we have created our own behind-the-scenes "documentary" of how the finer points of the storyline were thrashed out on set.

None of the characters or situations depicted in this video are based on real events or people. Obviously.

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"If you love someone it should feel good to let them breathe"

Oh look, here's another band from Brooklyn dripping with studious cool and chunky rubber band bass lines. This one's a five-piece male-female combo called Friends. History does not record whether they are named after Chandler and Monica and Ross and Rachel, but let's assume that they definitely are.

According to this blog, the band formed last year after working together at a vegan restaurant. According to a different blog, they got together after a bedbug infestation forced them to share a flat for several weeks. Either way, they make great music.

This is Lykke Li with a disco itch; Neneh Cherry via The Tom Tom Club. Handclaps and cowbells abound. It's coming soon to an indie disco near you.

Friends - I'm His Girl

After listening to this I flicked straight over to Whodini's YouTube channel to relive their 1984 smash hit Friends. It was totally worth it.

Whodini - Friends

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Monday, October 17, 2011

Introducing R&B "sensation" Miguel

I was just about to blog about James Morrison and Jessie J's wet fart of a duet out of sheer desperation when someone sent me this... Consider it a lucky escape for everyone involved.

The song in question is by US R&B singer Miguel and it is his new single Girls Like You. Essentially a cross between Prince's unfettered libido and Kid Cudi's downbeat atmospherics, it features an incredible reference to noughts-and-crosses strategy game Connect Four that shouldn't work, but ends up winning you over.

Miguel - Girls Like You

Here are five quick facts about Miguel, one of which is totally untrue:

:: Miguel's full name is Miguel Jontel, which trips very pleasingly off the tongue, does it not?

:: Miguel has written songs for Usher and Mary J Blige, and won a Grammy nomination for his solo song Finding My Way Back.

:: Miguel's favourite board game is not Connect Four but Hungry Hippos.

:: Miguel turns 25 next week and will be celebrating with a birthday party, with presents and such.

:: If he was forced to get a tattoo at gunpoint, it would say "don't shoot".

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Who's Beyoncé been stealing from this week?

Barely seven days have passed since Beyoncé unleashed the video for Countdown, and now we have a fresh three minutes of song and dance for Love On Top, a prime nugget of vaudevillian cheese from her latest album, 4. This is the one that has key changes stacked up on each other like mattresses in a warehouse. If Westlife were to cover it, they'd be sitting down and standing up like it was a game of musical chairs.

As we all know by now, Beyonce has been busy "liberating" dance moves from lesser-known choreographers during her recent public outings. First of all, she used a (literally amazing) video screen installation at the Billboard Music Awards that turned out to be based on the work of Lorella Cuccarini. Then last week's Countdown video nabbed portions of a famous Belgian ballet, if there is such a thing.

So who's provided the inspiration for Love On Top? The answers may surprise you.






Amazing scenes.

Beyoncé - Love On Top

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Friday, October 14, 2011

Set your videoboxes for Lana Del Rey

Video Games is oficially the second-best piano ballad of the year, after Adele's inescapable Someone Like You.

Its owner, Lana Del Rey, will be performing the track on Later... With Jools Holland tonight, alongside The Horrors (spooky goth bollocks), Ghostpoet (inner city poetry), Noah And The Whale (you'll like them, despite yourself) and Peter Gabriel with a 46-piece orchestra (switch over to Babestation during this bit).

As a taster, here's Lana performing the song live to the nation on Later's midweek preview show. There's a strange hesitancy to her delivery - and she's clearly struggling to keep her eyes open under the weight of those false lashes - but there's still something mesmerising about the way her voice flits between sultry ennui and a naive, almost babyish falsetto.

Will the taped show provide a more polished performance? We'll find out at 11:50pm tonight...

Lana Del Rey - Video Games (live)

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Hip Hip Hooray For Earth

New York band Hooray For Earth should be filed under the "a little bit pop, a little bit indie" category in HMV's rapidly-shrinking music section. If you like Yeasayer or MGMT, they might be up your street. Other things that might be up your street include a fire hydrant, a cat, someone's bike, that one guy with the wonky eye, hedges, sledges, ledges, drainpipes, stalactites and a magic pony.

Anyway, Hooray For Earth have a single which is getting a lot of love on 6 Music. True Loves is its name, and it stutters along on a jerky, insectoid rhythm while singer Noel Heroux rambles on inconclusively about love and the aging process.

If you're expecting the video to help you decipher the lyrics, good luck. It appears to be some sort of tribute to Planet Of The Apes and / or science fiction in general. There's lots of ominous smoke and trudging through long grass and wearing of facial hair but it's very perplexing indeed.

Great song, though.

Hooray For Earth - True Loves

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Black Eyed Peas have finally been absorbed into the Matrix

If you've been paying attention to the Black Eyed Peas' last two albums, you'll be aware that they're slowly turning into cyborgs.

It's not just the dehumanised vocals, or the vacant, expressionless performances (although it is both of those things). No, it's the soul-free hum of anti-music created entirely by computer algorithm.

We can't even be certain that the various members of the Black Eyed Peas turn up to the studio to record their vocals any more. has gone on record to say he wants to sample the Fergie, apl and Taboo's vocabulary so he can create an endless stream of "product" without the need for physical contact with his band. They are becoming the Stephen Hawkings of the pop world.

To continue their evolution into fully digital beings, the Black Eyed Peas have now been reborn as cartoons. Christened the Baby Peas, the CGI quartet are even putting out their own records. In case you assume this displays a degree of humanity and wit, the band have issued a dead-eyed press release that contains the phrase:

"The animated characters known as the Baby Peas were
created by to immortalize the real Black Eyed Peas
so they could live and entertain fans on multiple screens."

That's right, "multiple screens".

Against all expectation, however, the Baby Peas' debut single XOXOXO is the most sweet-natured, super-cute and personable BEP track in years. That's right - the computers have started to assimilate human characteristics.


Baby Peas - XOXOXO

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

This is what we call a groundbreaker

UK hip-hop is the most confident it has been in a loooong time - from the mystical lyricism of Ghost Poet to the dizzying success of Tinie Tempah. The latter's producer, Labrinth, blew my socks off last month with an audio preview of his party anthem-in-the-making Earthquake. Now the video has arrived and by jove it's a corker.

Apparently filmed in the disused spaceship Michael Jackson abandoned after the Scream mini-movie, it stars Labrinth as the hero in a Hype-Williams-meets-Will-Smith rap blockbuster, crammed to breaking point with CG graphics, virtual 3D environments and expensive special effects.

It is an audacious statement of intent... but for me the best bit is the simplest. Forget the explosions and sci-fi trappings, what's better than a chorus of Bavarian monks giving it some a capella "action"?

Labrinth ft Tinie Tempah - Earthquake

Anyone else want to buy a Mini Cooper that transforms into a boombox?

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It's a girl band knockout

As the various members of Soundgirl, Parade and Two Shoes will attest, it's been a tough 12 months for girl bands. For the first time in years, the boys are winning the big battle of chartpop - its JLS, One Direction, The Wanted and Take That against the poor old Saturdays -- and one of them can't put up a proper fight because she's all pregnant.

Nonetheless, record labels are busy trying to redress the gender balance by signing a raft of ladyband wannabes. Here are five of the best.

They are: Jessica, Nicky and Tasie

Average age: 19 and two-thirds

Evil svenagli figure: Jo Whiley's husband, Steve Morton

Working with: Cameron McVey (Sugababes) and John Fortis (Ellie Goulding)

For people who like: The first Sugababes album

Random Twitter quote: "I am watching The Day after Tomorrow and eating chocolate and peanut butter out of the jar" (Tasie Woowoo)

What's that name about?: It is in tribute to their friend's boat, which was called WooWoo, and definitely nothing to do with a lady's front bottom.

Do they have a single? They do, and they have called it Fizzy Lettuce

What the... why? According to Nicky: "Fizzy lettuce is 'off' / expired so we took that idea and applied it to idea of a person slowly expiring."

Fizzy Lettuce by WooWoos

2) RD
They are: Troy, Chronz and Martika

Average age: 20.33333

Evil svenagli figure: N-Dubz

Working with: Geeneus (Katy B), Katy B (Katy B), Naughty Boy (Chipmunk)

For people who like: The fourth Sugababes album

Random band quote: "We have a habit of really needing to go to the toilet before we go on stage. It makes us perform better" (Holy Moly)

What's that name about?: It's an acronym for Ruff Diamondz

YouTube comment "saw them at wemberley with olly murs pixxie lott e.c.t They were alright, there outfits were chavvy but they look ok in the vid x"

Do they have a single? Got Me Burnin' came out two weeks ago and went nowhere

RD - Got Me Burnin'

They are: Courtney, Alex and Karis

Average age: 19 and two-thirds

Evil svenagli figure: Jo Perry (a British songwriter, not the hairy guy out of Aerosmith)

Working with: Jo Perry (still not the Aerosmith dude)

For people who like: TLC, The Cookie Crew and profanity

Random YouTube comment: "What on earth have I just witnessed?"
(The Brendanio001)

What's that name about?: The girls say that "the word ‘stoosh’ means expensive, or it could mean stuck up, or it means to hide something or to be rude. Then an E is added to make the word ‘she’ at the end."

Do they have a single? Yes, and it is called Betty Woz Gone

What's the lyrical content like? It's funny you should ask. There's a lyric video below. Make sure your mum's not in the room.

Betty Woz Gone

They are: Aino and Caroline

Average age: 24 and a half

Evil svenagli figure: None, for they are Beyoncé-style Independent Women

Working with: Patrick Berger (Robyn), The Knocks (The Knocks)

For people who like: Video game soundtracks, Ladytron and excessive use of the melodica

Random band quote: "We are really looking forward to Ainos famous vegetarian Gambian BBQ" (Swide magazine interview)

What's that name about?: It translates from Swedish as "pop icon"

What are they saying on Twitter "oh fasen vad härligt. Låt oss dansa tillsammans i neon. Ses på lördag!xx" (Twitter)

Do they have a single? Of course. It's called Nights Like This

Is the video inspired by any key works of 1990s feminist cinema? Only if you count Thelma And Louise

Icona Pop - Nights Like This

5) OH MY!
They are: Alex and Jade

Average age: 19 and one half

Evil svenagli figure: Ravetacular pop gentleman Example

Example's amazing PR quote: "Two girls. Late teens. Both from up north. Gorgeous girl next door looks. One of them can do a backflip - like Mel C not like Aston." (Popjustice)

Working with: Dmitri (Nicola Roberts), The Saturdays (ie they are going on tour with The Saturdays)

For people who like: Mini Viva, Bananarama

What's that name about?: The girls chose it as a tribute to Tweet's incredible R&B "jam" Ooops (Oh My!)

Random Twitter comment "Today we have been to fashion shows! i want to see girls with boobs!!!!!! Some of the models we saw need a mcdoalds or noodles and hotdogs!" (Twitter)

Do they have a single? Oh My! are in between singles right now. Forthcoming chart smash Dirty Dancer can be heard on their mixtape. Meanwhile, here's an earlier effort called Kicking And Screaming.

RD - Kicking And Screaming

So that's five - but there are more. Plenty more. And at least one that I can't tell you about which is VERY EXCITING INDEED. Will any of them trouble the Top 40? Who can tell... But let me know what you reckon in the comments or on twitter.

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Is boring pop necessarily a bad thing?

Saturday's Guardian has a piece by Popjustice editor Peter Robinson arguing that pop music had gone beige. The UK's music scene, it suggests, has become a boring, unadventurous, whirlwind of shit.

It's Adele's fault, Peter says, for writing Someone Like You and forcing people to like it. Ed Sheeran and Birdy are causing actual narcolepsy. Ellie Goulding and Foster The People are named and shamed in an accompanying graphic, but their crimes against music are apparently too disturbing to be discussed in front of a family audience.

Now, I'm not going to pick a fight with Peter, a writer who punches way above my weight in just about every respect, but his piece was designed to provoke a debate - so here's my two cents.

First of all, Adele. I agree that, the elemental savagery of Rolling In The Deep aside, her album resurrects an ultra-safe Carole King 1970s pop vibe with alarming alacrity. A song like Don't You Remember is acoustically dampened by flock wallpaper and cosy deep-pile carpets. But at the centre of it all is Adele's voice - a stop-you-in-your-socks wail of agitated self-pity and visceral loneliness. It's so anti-boring that Adele's throat has literally exploded.

I have sympathy with the criticisms of Ed Sheeran and Birdy, two artists who are about as innovative as a shoe. But attacking the residents of Radio 2's playlist for being universally palatable is like criticising The X Factor for failing to have a Motorhead theme week with Lemmy as guest judge. This is just the way the world turns. At least Ed's got a song about a drug-addict prostitute unlike, say, Dido - a singer so neutral and inoffensive she could be Switzerland.

Elsewhere, Peter raises the spectre of Lady Gaga emerging from her egg at the Grammy Awards. He suggests Adele's Brits performance could also have done with some pyrotechnics and lasers. The mistake here is to confuse "eye-catching" with "interesting". Lady Gaga is great not because she's constantly frotting with a blow up banana (cf Katy Perry), but because she uses her visuals to support her music. Being carried in an ova about isn't just showing off (although it is), Gaga's talking about being reborn musically, personally, sexually and... you get the point.

If Adele was going to visually represent Someone Like You with a lavish stage production, dancers and light shows wouldn't be the way forward. No, she'd need that guy from Indiana Jones and the Temple Of Doom to walk onstage and rip out her heart before holding it triumphantly up to the crowd. On balance, I think tears were probably enough for primetime ITV1.

While we're on the topic of Gaga. For all of her subversion of the pop mainstream, its no secret that the Born This Way album has had a difficult genesis. The videos for the title track and Judas were a mess, the songs feel short of their expected chart positions, and the album only achieved high first-week sales in the US because it was discounted to a ridiculous $0.99 on Amazon. What set the entire project back on track? A ballad called You & I, possibly the most conventional song of Gaga's career, overseen by Shania Twain's former producer / husband John Mutt Lange, with a guitar solo by "Dr" Brian May. It's so conservative, it could tell you a story about an asylum seeker and their cat. It is, in fact, Beige This Way.

The Guardian article seems to be trying to emulate Peter's polemic against landfill indie, two-and-a-half years ago. That piece felt genuinely revolutionary, voicing an opinion (that Scouting For Girls were indescribably awful) many of us felt, but had never quite crystallised into actual words.

This time round, the argument feels weaker. Adele and Ed Sheeran are selling by the bucket-load. Ellie Goulding is pretty boring, but are people really that bothered by her? Surely she's just one of those artists, like Jack Johnson or Belle And Sebastian who are just there - not really making any impression on anyone, but mysteriously eking out a career all the same. And let's not forget all the amazing music being made at the moment - from the fresh pulse of Katy B's club hits to the astonishing sadpop of Lykke Li, via the bottom-wobbling bass of Chase & Status.

Towards the end of his article, Peter points out that the new wave of new beige is providing a necessary antidote to the vapid "parade of LOLpop party hits" by David Guetta, Pitbull and LMFAO. If that's the case, bring it on. I'm ready for a 100% hardcore boregasm.

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Sunday, October 9, 2011

Still the one

A friend of mine had her first child this week. She was in labour for 42 hours... slowly and painfully pushing out a massive nine-and-a-half pounds baby boy. For eye-watering reference, that's about the same as a medium-sized bowling ball.

Somehow, I can't imagine Beyoncé suffering anything half as painful. When the time comes, she'll give a polite cough and a perfectly-formed toddler will magically appear, plump and laughing, on a lilac-scented bed of silk. There won't be any sweat, or enemas, or epidurals, or screaming, or blood. Jay-Z, Beyoncé and their new-born will just sit there, quietly being awesome together.

For now, though, Beyoncé's still up the duff and making frighteningly athletic music videos. Here's the latest - for Countdown - which is a love letter to Mr Shaun Carter. If we'd been paying attention when the album came out, this would have given the whole pregnancy "secret" away long before the MTV Awards: "I'm trying to make a three from our two. He's still the one."

Beyoncé - Countdown

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Thursday, October 6, 2011

A poem about Pixie Lott

Great Scott, it's Pixie Lott!
She's hot to trot.
And her single's no blot.
On a career that's got
More appeal than an ocelot.

The video has no plot
But there's a shot of her bott
And Pusha T, who's easy to spot
Cos he's a bit of a clot.
You'll like it. Or not.

Pixie Lott - What You Take Me For

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Rihanna Review: Loud Tour, O2 Arena

Phwoaaar! She loves a bit of it, that Rihanna, don't she? Just look at all them song titles: S&M (fnar!), So Hard (whaey!), Rough (woof!), Rude Boy (crikey!). Single entendres haven't had this much action (stop it) since Julian Clary's glory days.

So what's in store for her live show? Basically a checklist of the genre tropes for the sexually confident young female pop star: Revealing her bra, grabbing her boobs, dancing on a pole, having a pretend wank over her tutti frutti hotpants, and doing that curious dance move where she forces a man's head into her nether regions, slaps it back and forth a bit, then steps over him.

Madonna and Britney and Janet have done it all before, and it was never this joyless and forced. Rihanna, not possessed of the most expressive voice in pop, sings lyrics like "sex in the air, I love the smell of it" with the hollow professionalism of an 0898 operator trying to bring a suicidal alcoholic to climax at three o'clock in the morning. It's faintly depressing.

Then something weird happens. Rihanna's singing Hate To Love You when a smile appears in the middle of her face. Her eyes flicker to life. She even appears to connect with the lyrics.

It's there again when she sings phones-aloft lung shredder California King Bed, dressed (relatively) demurely in a canary yellow ball gown.

Both are songs about the dissolution of a relationship - not the cheeriest of subjects but one that apparently carries more emotional resonance for our star than "whips and chains excite me".

Reanimated, Rihanna breaks into a sequence of big, dumb party anthems, and the night really takes off. A shimmying soca version of What's My Name and a celebratory Cheers (I'll Drink To That) are the late-breaking, rump-shaking highlights of a show that finally finds it's groove, just in time for the inevitable, valedictory encore of Umbrella.

Ever since that song thrust her into pop's major league four years ago, Rihanna's USP has hinged on her portrayal as a "bad girl" (a phrase she deploys in her lyrics with crushing regularity) but on the evidence of tonight's show, that image is no longer a comfortable fit.

Two sections of the set indicate a way forward. The ridiculous cod-reggae murder ballad Man Down allows Rihanna to develop her rebel persona without having to constantly remind us that she really, really enjoys sex. Alternatively, her fruity cover version of Prince's Darling Nikki, performed in a figure-hugging three piece suit, showed how utter filth can be delivered with a self-deprecating sense of humour (Rihanna later played another, more obscure Prince track, The Glamorous Life, complete with Shelia E drum breakdown, which shows she's been paying attention in the right places).

Will she bother to change a winning formula? Who knows. You don't get to be one of the planet's top three of global pop acts by embracing subtlety and But it'll be fun to watch what Rihanna does next - especially if she's having fun, too.

Only Girl (In the World)
Shut Up and Drive
Man Down
Darling Nikki
Let Me
Raining Men
Breakin' Dishes
The Glamorous Life
Medley: Run This Town" / "Live Your Life
Hate That I Love You
California King Bed
What's My Name?
Rude Boy
Cheers (Drink to That)
Don't Stop the Music
Take a Bow

Love the Way You Lie (Part II)

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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Ed Sheeran does it on a boat

Ed Sheeran has a new single. The new single is called Lego House. Those of us hoping for a stop-motion Duplo brick video, á la The White Stripes, have been left disappointed. Those of us hoping to see a sensitive ginger kid playing acoustic guitar on a canal are totally in luck.

Ed Sheeran - Lego House

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

It's hard to dance with a devil on your back

The campaign for Florence and the Machine's second album kicks off in earnest with the video for Shake It Out (sadly not a cover of the Metro Station "classic").

The single's chanted chorus makes it more immediate than teaser track What The Water Gave Me, which came out over the summer. But Florence is sticking to the safe ground. The tribal drums, doom-laden chords and banshee yelps are her unique sonic fingerprint... Although you might hear something similar right before they sacrifice you to the volcano gods.

Lyrically, it's goth cliché o'clock - all "the darkness before the dawn" and "the devil in me" and "burying a horse in the ground". But, let's face it, none of this would work if Florence was bellowing the usual "my heart belongs to you" platitudes. Unless she was presenting her lover with an eviscerated pig's heart in a symbolic ritual of blood sacrifice. Which would undoubtedly result in lower playlist rotation at Radio 2.

With brilliant marketing flair / irony, Island Records is putting this single out on Hallowe'en. Until then, here's the spooktastic video.

Florence and the Machine - Shake It Out

There is also a rumbletronic remix courtesy of The Weeknd, which recalls the breakout mix of You Got The Love that Jamie xx put together a couple of years ago. The remix is available this week.

Florence and the Machine ft The Weeknd - Shake It Out remix)

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Monday, October 3, 2011

Two excellent singles are out today

Make haste to iTunes store, for the purchase therein of these popular fancies.

Marina & The Diamonds - Radioactive

Ronika - Only Only

I'm no expert, but I'd hazard a guess that neither of these women are natural blondes.

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