Friday, September 28, 2012

Here is the "prettified" version of Marina and the Diamonds' new video

Notorious gargoyle Marina Diamandis tweeted on Monday that her record company had delayed her new video because she "looked ugly".

"So, someone at my record label wont let me release the video bc I look ugly in it apparently," wrote the pop star. "We need more $/ time to paint out ugly parts."

Now, let's be blunt: Marina is a total babe. Even though, as she let slip in the Sun this week, she's been wearing a wig for the last 12 months because someone broke all her hair off.

Perhaps in the original cut of the video there was a giant booger hanging out the end of her nose. But I imagine that, when the record label said "you look ugly", what they meant was "you are not showing enough cleavage". Because that is what they always mean.

Anyway, the booger has been removed, the cleavage has been enhanced and the throbbing goiter on Marina's neck has been airbrushed out. Now we can all sit back and enjoy the completed version of the video, safe in the knowledge that the music industry's attitude to women is as depressingly primitive as it was in the 1960s.

Marina And The Diamonds - How To Be A Heartbreaker

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Cheryl Cole, Thom Yorke... and three other songs you may have missed

It's a run down of some songs that have been on put the internet this week, in no particular order. Roll on the tunes...

1) Cheryl - Screw You
Yes, Screw You a song about having your heart broken and coming back fighting but it is definitely not autobiographical. Even though all the lyrics have a direct parallel to Cheryl's life, she didn't write them and the whole thing is a merry coincidence. Anyone who says otherwise is a liar. HAVE I MADE MYSELF UNDERSTOOD?

OK, then. You can watch the video.

2) Atoms For Peace - Default
Atoms For Peace is the Thom Yorke's new project, featuring producer Nigel Godrich and Flea from Back To The Future III.

They came together as a live band a couple of years ago and, according to Yorke, "discovered loads of energy from transforming the music from electronic to live, and so afterwards, we carried on for a few days in the studio and decided to make it a loose, on-going thing - Immersed in the area between the two... electronic and live."

If comparisons are necessary, and they are, Default walks a similar path to Everything In It's Right Place from Kid A - a complicated, skittering song with a menacing swell of keyboard noise.

3) Ke$ha - Die Young
I don't hate this, and that alone makes it noteworthy in the cannon of Ke$ha. Best bit: "I hear your heart beat to the beat of the drums" [massive thump on the kick drum]. All songs should do this.

4) Night Engine - I'll Make It Worth Your While
A PR emailed me about brand new London quartet Night Engine earlier this week. Instead of exclaiming "Huw Stephens has tweeted about them!" or "they've played two sold out gigs in a shit pub in Shoreditch!", she explained in 100% ACCURATE terms what the band sounded like: "Talking Heads jitters, Bowie style ice cool and Funkadelic groove."

This is the song in question. A toe-tapper, as my Granny might say.

5) Foxes - Echo
The best video about the romance between a grown woman and a crash test dummy you will see this week, and that's a guarantee.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Rihanna premieres Diamonds

After a break of almost 48 minutes, Rihanna has come back with a new single from her seventh (SEVENTH!) album. Diamonds was written by Sia and Rihanna, and production duties come from Stargate and Benny Benassi.

A bit of a slow-burner after all the stompy stompy business on Talk That Talk, Diamonds is basically a power ballad in a party frock: A piano-led, midtempo love song set to the muted thud of a kick drum. "You and I are beautiful like diamonds in the sky," sings Ms Fenty, in one of her best vocal performances to date.

You can listen to a radio rip below. Or, if that disappears, the hi-quality version is available to stream on Rihanna's Soundcloud page.

So that's very good and all - but where does this single rank in the all-time top five of singles with Diamonds in the title? Allow me to illustrate.

Janet Jackson & Herb Alpert - Diamonds

PS: You can download a poster of the lyrics to Diamonds on Rihanna's new website -

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Review: Lana Del Rey at the Roundhouse for the iTunes festival

Oh Lana, where shall we begin?

The music: That was beautiful. Your acoustic re-arrangements of the Born To Die album tracks were sublime. The four-piece string quartet made the music soar, but not in the frightening, off-key way your voice did when you went for the high notes.

The stage banter: "Could I have more reverb in my ears"; "No, we don't have time for that one". It was like Billy Crystal at the Oscars. ON CRACK.

The choreography: Off. The. Chain. Remember that bit when you walked over there and waved at a guy, then walked over there and fiddled with your hair, huffing and puffing as if the gargantuan effort of it all might make you swoon? They can't teach that kind of stuff at ballet school.

The songs: Video Games, National Anthem, Summertime Sadness. They are all still brilliant. If you'd played for more than 40 minutes, maybe you could have done Off To The Races and Diet Mountain Dew, too.

And the singing. Oh, the singing. You know in La Vie En Rose, when Edith Piaf is dying of emphysema and her voice is all over the place, like a ragged sock in a tumble dryer? I enjoyed your impersonation of that. And I liked how you followed it up by saying, "You love it when I go a little bit jazzy."

But here's the thing... It might seem like I'm being negative and critical and, basically, a total bastard - but I really, really enjoyed myself.

Those songs, those arrangements, and even those languid, buttery vocals cast a bewitching, stupefying spell over the audience. I doubt another artist in the world could have pulled it off, but you managed it, you gauche pop superhero in skinny blue jeans.

Enigmatic, phlegmatic, idiosyncratic, melodramatic, hydromatic - why, it was greased lightning.

Set list
Blue Jeans
Body Electric
Born To Die
Summertime Sadness
Million Dollar Man
Video Games
Without You
National Anthem

You can watch the whole gig on iTunes now. Which is where this fantastic picture comes from...

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A*M*E and an ode to Nintendo

Judging by the number of times A*M*E says "play the gameboy" in this video, I suspect that her mum's been kidnapped by Bowser.

But before we get to the song (which is a bloody good pop tune) here is your cut out and keep guide to A*M*E and how she got to be where she is now, which is on this blog.

A*M*E - Play The Game Boy

That's out on Guy Fawkes Day, fact fans.

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Monday, September 24, 2012

New Music: St Lucia - September

St Lucia is a band. Or rather, St Lucia is the stage name of Jean-Philip Grobler (try gargling that with your tea), and some of his mates from Brooklyn.

They're signed to Neon Gold Records - the label that launched Passion Pit, Ellie Goulding and The Naked & Famous - which should give you an idea of the sonic territory St Lucia operate in: Blissed out cerebral pop with a cool breeze of 80s synths.

What I like about Jean-Philip is that he fully acknowledges his debt to 80s pop, rather than wearing it as a badge of hipster ironic cool. Here he is talking to The Deli Magazine earlier this year.

I started making music when I was about 11 or 12 years old... I was really into Boyz II Men, Michael Jackson, Sting and Phil Collins. I was making these pop songs, I suppose in a sense similar to what I'm doing now, and at all times I had about three albums planned out that never came to fruition because, well, I was at school.

Seriously, which music fan didn't do this as a child? My first album, created when I was about eight, was called "The Ruby Rubik's Cube" - which, I have to say, seemed pretty awesome at the time.

After dabbling in alternative rock, and joining South Africa's Drakensberg Boys Choir School, Grobler remembered his love of big chunky 80s keyboards and sunny pop melodies. Which brings us to today, and St Lucia's new single, the appropriately-timed-and-titled September.

And if you liked that, you should check out Before The Dive, from the band's eponymous EP, which is available on iTunes now.

St Lucia - Before The Dive

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Friday, September 21, 2012

Alt-J's matador metaphor and five other songs you may have missed

A semi-regular round up of the songs I didn't have time to blog about this week.

Today's selection includes...

1) Alt-J - Something Good
Restrained but beautiful, the new single from Mercury nominees Alt-J is one of their more straightforward songs... musically, at least. On their Soundcloud page, the band say the song "documents the death of a matador", which in turn is "an analogy for the slow mending of a broken heart through fun distractions". Taking that into account, the video is both gory and meditative.

2) Missy Elliot - Triple Threat
Followers of Missy Elliot's twitter account won't have missed the fact she's got a new single out because she spent the start of the week retweeting every person who mentioned it in an unrelenting, 48-hour egowank. Fun for her, trying for the rest of us. A bit like the single, in fact.

Triple Threat is the better of two songs on the double a-side single, even if you have to slog through an entire minute of Timbaland "rapping" before she turns up. Love the string sample.

Nelly Furtado - Parking Lot
This is one of the stand-out moments on Nelly's sadly-underwhelming new album, The Spirit Indestructible. Gritty and funky, it's a tribute to her mis-spent youth, hanging around in shopping mall parking lots listening to hip-hop. If the piercing car horn sample doesn't give you a headache, the video will...

4) Chvrches - The Mother We Share
Chvrches (try typing that on an iPhone) are a synth-pop trio from Glasgow, who have stockpiled more tunes than a newsagent during a flu epidemic. You know, because of the cough sweets called Tunes? Oh never mind...

5) Bobby Womack and Lana Del Rey - Dayglo Reflection
Earlier this week, Lana Del Rey put out a cover of Bobby Vinton's Blue Velvet this week - but even her sultry black magic can't improve that damp towel of a song. Instead, here's her duet with Bobby Womack, which is getting a single release next month. Atmospheric.

6) Carly Rae Jepsen - This Kiss
Carly Rae Jepsen has daintily dodged the one-hit-wonder bullet by following up Call Me Maybe by releasing This Kiss, a perky pop song that is approximately 500% better than anyone was expecting - especially after that awful duet with Owl City. Nicely played, Carly. Nicely played.

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The legendary quiff contest of 2012

Two new videos have popped up on YouTube this morning. One is Sweet Nothing, the excellent new single from Calvin Harris and Florence and the Machine. The other is for One Direction's disturbingly catchy Live While We're Young (Die When You're Old).

I might have made that bit in brackets up.

What both videos have in common - apart from being laser-targetted at number one - is a towering, majestic quiff. Florence has one. Zayn has one. Niall has one. It's all quiff, all of the time.

But whose is the best? And how do they compare the high-rise hairstacks of history? Your vote is requested in this... er, vote.

The videos follow, in alphabetical order, and certainly not order of musical brilliance.

Calvin Harris ft Florence Welch - Sweet Nothing

One Directions - Live While You're Young

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Five songs about pets

I couldn't find any new music worth writing about today, so here are five songs written about a pet dog or cat. I don't know why.

1) The Beatles - Martha, My Dear
Yes, famous vegetarian Paul McCartney loves animals. Who'd have thought?

On the surface, Martha, My Dear sounds like a love song, and many have presumed it was written for McCartney's then-girlfriend Jane Asher and her wonderful party cakes. But no. Sir Fab Macca wrote it for a sheepdog, Martha, who was his first ever pet. Here he is banging on about it:

"She was a dear pet of mine. I remember John being amazed to see me being so loving to an animal. He said, 'I've never seen you like that before.' I've since thought, you know, he wouldn't have. It's only when you're cuddling around with a dog that you're in that mode, and she was a very cuddly dog."

Noted Beatles' scholar Ian MacDonald said of Martha, My Dear: "Scintillatingly gifted as this song is, it's also virtually devoid of meaning." Ouch.

2) Queen - Delilah
Legend has it that Freddy Mercury wrote "You're My Best Friend" about his pet dog. The problem is that bassist John Deacon wrote that song, and he's said on several occasions it was about his wife Veronica Tetzlaff (mind you, you would say that, wouldn't you?)

But Queen did have a song about a cat - Delilah. Peculiar even for them, this album track from the Innuendo sessions was a tribute to Freddy Mercury's favourite pet, a tortoise-shell tabby. It contains the memorable couplet: "You make me slightly mad /
When you pee all over my Chippendale suite

Roger Taylor hated it.

3) Arcade Fire - Neighborhood #2 (Laika)
OK, not strictly about a pet - but about the first canine cosmonaut, a stray dog called Laika.

"It's a great story about a dog being the first living creature in space," Win Butler told Minneapolis magazine The Pulse. "Doing this spectacular thing, but not having food and watching itself fall back into the earth."

The dog's intergalactic journey is also (apparently) a metaphor for the life of Alexander Supertramp - the man whose journey into solitude in the Alaskan wilderness was told in Sean Penn's film Into The Wild.

4) Norah Jones - Man Of The Hour
This is by far my favourite song on the list. Jones' boyfriend has given her an "it's him or me" ultimatum - and she chooses her pet dog, as any sensible woman would.

The meaning of the song becomes clearer as the song goes on - eventually making sense of the slightly barmy first verse.

I can't choose
Between a vegan and a pot head
So I chose you, because you're sweet
And you give me lots of lovin'
And you eat meat

You might think that's Norah's pet dog sitting next to her on the cover of The Fall (see right) but it's not. It's a stunt dog, called Ben, who was brought in by the photographer. Talk about betrayal.

5) Henry Gross - Shannon
I'm ending with a weepie. Shannon was written about the death of Beach Boy star Carl Wilson's Irish Setter. Awwww.

The story goes that Henry met Carl on tour in 1975, and they got to talking about dogs. Henry mentioned his wife's pet, Shannon, "an uncannily human dog whose ability to manipulate her human counterparts cannot be understated". To his surprise, Carl nearly burst into tears - having recently lost an Irish Setter of the same name in a car accident.

Back at home, with his pet dog on his lap, Henry wrote the song while imagining "the indescribable sadness that losing such a beloved partner" must cause. Played in a pseudo-Beach Boys style, Henry had hoped to have Carl sing backing vocals, but scheduling conflicts meant it was not to be.

Either way, the treacly, mawkish ballad shot to number one in the US and is played at uncomfortably sentimental pet funerals to this day.

Warning: The following video will either bring a lump to your throat or make you do a sick in your tea cup.

So, that's my lot... Any other suggestions? NB: Michael Jackson's Ben was actually written for a film, not a pet rat, and Snow Patrol's Chasing Cars (sadly) isn't about pretending you're a dog.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Night light, night light

Jessie Ware is my favourite nominee on this year's Mercury list but, sadly, I think her only chance of winning is if the judges give up trying to tell the difference between all the underperforming white middle class experimental art rock boybands (Alt-J, Django Django and Maccabees, I am looking at you).

Here is her new video, anyway. It's for Night Light, one of the more melodramatic moments on an album whose defining characteristic is lusciousness, if that is an actual word.

One for fans of cellos and silhouettes.

Jessie Ware - Night Light

PS: I love how Jessie has chosen this screen-grab as her profile picture on Twitter. Classy through and through.

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Video of the week: Aluna George

Hooray for Aluna George, who are getting better and better with each new release.

The duo, who must be a shoo-in for the BBC's Sound Of 2013 list in a couple of months time, have just released their new video Your Drums, Your Love via uber-posh art website Nowness (say it in a whisper, like a perfume commercial).

Shot in a sparse white warehouse, the video features the mirrored sculptures and spirograph animal prints of up-and-coming British artist Aaran Gregory.

As Aluna takes in the exhibition, all the other patrons start body-popping behind her. Why? It's never explained.

For now, you're being forced to go to Nowness to watch it - but I highly recommend expending the effort on making that mouse click.

UPDATE: Here is the video "in full" right here on this webpage. Fantasmajesticles.

AlunaGeorge - Your Drums, Your Love

And here is a picture where it looks like Aluna is about to say "fuck".

Your Drums, Your Love is released on 14 October. And if you want to know more about Arran Gregory's art, there's a fantastic article on the Jaguar Shoes Collective website.

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Monday, September 17, 2012

That's how it goes in the wild, wild west

I spent an entire evening watching videos of The Staves on YouTube last week. It taught me two things:

1) Lots of The Staves' songs are played on just two guitar strings.
2) I should never, ever try to sing harmonies.

The band's debut album, Dead & Born & Grown, is released in November, around the time they support Bon Iver on his European tour tour. Those of you who've heard the band's two EPs will already know what to expect: Impeccably sung, beautifully strummed, blissful campfire folk (Advisory: one of the tracks contains whistling).

The sisters have just released the video for their latest single, Tongue Behind My Teeth - or as the video would have it "Lengua Detras De Los Dientes". It's a Spanish-themed, guns-ahoy, Spaghetti Western-fest with the trio sporting Stetsons and shooting up a caboose.

Basically, it's a music video version of that film Wild, Wild West - but without Salma Hayek or the big metal spider.

The Staves - Tongue Behind My Teeth

There's gold in them thar hills, etc...

More about the Staves on their official website.

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Rita Ora: Roc The Nation

Apparently Jay-Z is strapped for cash these days. How else do you explain the fact that his label has spent exactly zero pence on this cheap-ass "tour footage" video for Rita Ora's new single? (The song is pretty good, though).

Rita Ora - Roc The Nation

At the time of writing, the top comment under Roc The Nation on YouTube says: "I love this girl, she is unique, she has own style". The comment is written by one Filipo Cabrerizo Cabanos, who presumably lives under a hardline religious dictatorship that has banned the collected works of Rihanna.

Poor Filipo.

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Big tune alert: Ria Ritchie

For those of you who aren't aware of Ria Ritchie already, let's go over the basics. She plays guitar, she sings, her brother is Hollywood heartthrob Reece Ritchie, and she is a (brace yourselves) YouTube sensation.

Luckily, Ms Ritchie is a YouTube sensation in the style of cute cats and Lady Gaga videos, not Justin Bieber or this guy.

You may have heard Ria doing guest vocals on Disclosure's popstep donkathon Control earlier this summer. Sara Cox once said she liked it a lot. And, bless her cotton socks, Ria recorded Sara's endorsement off the radio and put it on her soundcloud page. Isn't that sweet?

Hailing from Suffolk, Ria was discovered by Plan B, with whom she has some great songs on her forthcoming album. She promises that record will be "acoustic pop and soul and Motown but edgier". Strangely, her new single sounds nothing like that.

The 24-year-old says Something About You started off as a soul track in the Cee-Lo Green "vein" but at some point they decided to turn it into a 90s rave track (as you do).

You can still trace the song's origins through the chunky gospel piano chords, but basically this is an arms-in-the-air, legs akimbo barnstormer. Here it is getting its world premiere of Rrrrrradio 1 Xtra.

Ria Ritchie - Something About You


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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Michael Jackson at Wem-ber-ley

The 25th anniversary reissue of Michael Jackson's Bad comes out next week, complete with Spike Lee's documentary on the recording of the album and a "previously unreleased" (not considered up to scratch when Jacko was alive) recording of the Bad Tour at Wembley Stadium. Princess Diana was there, you know.

A couple of cuts from the concert were uploaded to Jacko's YouTube channel last night. Human Nature sees the star indulge all of his worst tics - oversinging, grabbing his crotch, not really paying attention - but Another Part Of Me is a gem, as the King Of Pop surveys his kingdom with a great big grin plastered all over his face.

Watch below.

Michael Jackson - Another Part Of Me (live)

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

He wants Candy

Robbie Williams is at his best when he's being ridiculous. Rock DJ - ridiculous. Let Me Entertain You - ridiculous. Hunting UFOs in his back garden - ridiculous.

You will be pleased to hear, therefore, that his new single is nutso batshit bonkers. Candy is its name, and it contains such lyrical gems as:

:: "She's got a hurricane at the back of her throat"
:: "She's got lots of horses from lots of different men"
:: "Her father beat the system by moving bricks to Brixton and learning how to fix'em"

It's utterly barking, but in a very endearing way - even if it occasionally strays into Olly Murs territory.

The video is like a live-action Looney Tunes short, with Robbie the Wile E Coyote to a femme fatale Road Runner. He gets set on fire! He gets hit by a car! He punches a granny!

Like I said, utterly ridiculous.

Robbie Williams - Candy

Welcome back, silly pop star Robbie. We missed you.

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Monday, September 10, 2012

Exposure for Disclosure

When they're not busy scribbling over their press shots with a Tipp-Ex pen, Disclosure are squirreling away making pop tunes with a dubstep inflection, in a style that I like to call popstep because I am very imaginative and creative.

Their last single, Control (ft Ria Ritchie), was good enough to be played on Radio One a couple of times. OK, that's not so much setting the bar low as dismantling the bar and throwing it over the wall, but the it's better than, say, being posted on Perez Hilton's "blog".

In the last few months, the band (who are brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence) have been signed to Jessie Ware's record label, the achingly-hip PMR Records. And now they've got a new single, called Latch. A hugely enjoyable bag of hooks and bloops, it's roughly 50% SBTRKT, 40% Sam Sparro and 10% The Artful Dodger ft Romina Johnson.

Guest vocals come from Sam Smith, about whom Google knows NOTHING. I'm secretly hoping it's this guy.

Here is the single. Here is the single. Here is the single.

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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Review: Lady Gaga, Born This Way Ball, Twickenham Stadium

Lady Gaga has some information. It's complicated information and she wants to make sure we understand it, so she repeats it a dozen times during this two-and-a-half hour gothic pop extravaganza. "Do not be afraid to be who you are," she commands. "This is the greatest freedom we can know".

This message is the foundation stone of the Born This Way Ball.

It is also the message of Disney's Aladdin.

Still, you can't deny its impact. Twickenham Stadium, home of English Rugby, is rammed full of heavily made-up acolytes (Gaga calls them "monsters") who've been inspired by Gaga's outré outfits. There are neon wigs, coke can hairdos, all manner of ill-fitting lycra and some truly terrifying bum cleavage. Even the disabled section houses the most pimped-out, pink sequinned wheelchair I've ever seen in my life.

How will Gaga up the fashion ante in the face of this? For one thing, she actually appears as the human motorbike from the Born This Way album cover, her limbs entwined with the machine which later, amazingly, becomes a piano.

Other outfits could be loosely described as Intergalactic bee-keeper; Statue Of Liberty bondage party swimming costume; and "I can literally see your vagina".

While the costumes are breath-taking, conceptually the show is all over the place. The story goes that Gaga is an alien fugitive who's escaped from a medieval castle where she was simultaneously being kept prisoner and owned a walk-in wardrobe, and now she's visiting other planets to "absorb all culture", before "invading earth" as "your pop star" and... OH JUST GET ON WITH IT, WOMAN.

When that pop invasion finally happens, the Born This Way Ball is up there with the best: not least because Gaga sings 100% live, even during the more exhausting dance breaks. There's a section that runs Bad Romance, Judas, Fashion of His Love, Just Dance, LoveGame, Telephone that is almost perfect - a 30-minute shot of adrenalin in your earballs, eyeholes and dancebones.

Other moments drag, however. Particularly the more teutonic, tuneless tracks from Gaga's second album. And a lengthy speech about new song Princess Die ("I wrote it about Princess Diana, I wrote it about myself, I wrote it about Amy and Whitney") isn't half as moving as she thinks; settling somewhere between trite and astonishingly dumb. The same goes for the song itself.

Still, I suspect I wasn't the target audience for these bits. Gaga plays solely for her core audience of freaks, fashionistas and misfits. An audience who, she reveals, her record label once branded "too niche".

"Well this is a big fucking niche," she crows. "I quite like our little stadium niche."

She is pelted with gifts from the "monster pit" - including a barbie that she tears apart, limb by limb, and a t-shirt labelled Art Pop (the title of her new album, announced just this week), which Gaga gamely picks up and wears for the back half-hour of the show.

Eventually a lucky few get to join Gaga on stage (one, bravely, wearing nothing but hotpants and two strips of masking tape on her breasts). They are struck dumb, on the verge of wetting themselves - but they get crowned audience ambassadors, and lead the 55,000-strong crowd in a final, full-throated chorus of Marry The Night.

It is a beautiful, mad, chaotic mess.

As I said on Twitter: Gaga brought us to The Edge Of Glory, to The Edge Of Insanity, and to The Edge Of Pornography.

I had a thoroughly good night.

Highway Unicorn (Road to Love)
Government Hooker
Born This Way
Black Jesus † Amen Fashion
Bloody Mary
Bad Romance
Fashion of His Love
Just Dance
Heavy Metal Lover
Bad Kids
Princess Die
Imagine (John Lennon cover)
Yoü & I
Electric Chapel

The Edge of Glory
Marry the Night

Full disclosure: The above photos are all general shots from the last 45 dates of the Born This Way Ball world tour... I only had my iPhone with me, mainly resulting in "detailed" and "perfectly-exposed" shots like this one.

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Saturday, September 8, 2012

Mini Gig Review: Elbow at the iTunes Festival

A colleague of mine interviewed Elbow right at the start of their career, and has stayed in touch with the band over the years. She always makes an effort to see them play when they're in town because, she says, "it feels like my best friend and his band from school made it big."

The thing is, I think everyone shares that sentiment, no matter when they first stumbled across Elbow and their tender, melancholy rock lullabies. No band I've ever seen has the power to transform a room full of strangers into a group of instant friends, then transport every single one of them to a whole other plane simply by singing a bit.

This is all down to the ebullient, self-deprecating, beardy frontman Guy Garvey, who wears his heart on his sleeve - even when, as he illustrated at the Roundhouse last night, he struggles to put his jacket on.

Garvey introduces Puncture Repair with a short, but touching speech about the night that inspired the song: "My heart was broken," he told the audience ('awwww,' the chorused; 'I thank you,' he grinned).

"The only person I knew who would be awake at the time of morning it was, because he had a tiny baby, was our drummer Richard," he continued. "So, I phoned Richard and I said [comedy shaky voice] 'my heart's broken, I don't know what to do,' and he came and got me, drove me back to his house, put his baby in my arms, and made me cups of tea while he listened to me blub. Then a few days later, Craig [Potter] and I wrote this.,,"

It's an intimate moment, but its not the only one. When the band face each other in a tight circle and play Weather To Fly, you get the sense that this slightly gruff, blokey band have found in music the only way to express how much they love each other. And when they turn back to face us for a final, exhilarating blast of One Day Like This (the audience even does the harmonies), it's clear they want to share that feeling with the world. Tears were shed, beers were held aloft, there may even have been cuddles.

It was emotional.

The gig was part of the iTunes Festival - so you can stream all 1hr 44min of it on your PC or Apple gadget thing. Here is the link for your convenience.

High Ideals
The Bones of You
Leaders of the Free World
Grounds for Divorce
The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver
The Night Will Always Win
Puncture Repair
Some Riot
Lippy Kids
Station Approach
Weather to Fly
Open Arms

The Birds
One Day Like This

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Friday, September 7, 2012

Shock news: Cher Lloyd in 'shockingly good song' shock

The Gamma Rays that blasted Cher Lloyd's 747 as it crossed the Atlantic must have been surprisingly strong. Because somehow, when she landed in Los Angeles, all traces of "swag" and "being teeth-gratingly irritating" had been entirely erased.

The first evidence was her superb cover of Usher's OMG, which I posted back in May. Now there's a new single, Oath, that is not only catchy and cute, but fulfills the promise of that X Factor audition two years ago.

Sugary sweet and aimed straight at Hannah Montana's teenpop jugular, the Dr Luke-produced track also makes a virtue of Cher's mangled, bratty rap stylings (there's also a verse from Becky Gomez, who looks a lot like Selena Gomez but apparently has nothing to do with her).

Oath premiered on New York's Z100 yesterday and they've played it more than half-a-dozen times since then. Given that the station pretty much dictates the pop charts at the moment, that bodes well for Lloyd's US career.

Obviously, this song won't be for everyone - but fans of Avril Lavigne, Ke$ha and their "ilk" will find a lot to love about it. Hark at the branded Z100 player below.

Cher Lloyd - Oath

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Calvin Harris and Florence Welch and five other songs you may have missed

An increasingly regular round-up of noteworthy songs I didn't have time to blog about over the last seven days... Your guests this week include:

1) Calvin Harris ft Florence + The Machine - Sweet Nothing
Calvin recently got Florence her first number one. Now she's trying to get him his second (amazingly, I'm Not Alone is his only solo chart-topper to date). Stereogum called this "sillier and more simplistic than your average Florence track" but that's the whole point, isn't it?

2) Daley ft Jessie J - Remember Me
This is inspired by Blueboy's Remember Me, which itself sampled Marlena Shaw's magnificent, 10-minute performance of Woman Of The Ghetto at the 1973 Montreux Jazz Festival.

Daley is joined by Britain's foremost proponent of uni-legged body stockings, who trades singing "J-J-J-Jessie J" for "Geng G-G-Geng G-Geng".

A change is as good as a rest, I suppose.

3) Moya - Making Me Fall
Moya is a 21-year-old singer-songwriter from Brighton, who I think you will like a lot. "My songs are made to be played in big spaces," she says. "They could fill arenas". Her new single, Making Me Fall (out now!) would also work brilliantly in a stadium, or a quarry.

4) Grizzly Bear - Yet Again
To be filed under "sounds like Radiohead, before they bought a Macbook".

5) John Rowley - Guilt Trip
John is an unsigned singer from Sydney, Australia who wrote to me, saying he'd put his new song up online and that it had "gone down quite well so far". He continued: "I would LOVE to hear back from you, even if your response just consists of 'nope you’re crap and ugly'".

I'm a sucker for self-deprecation and, as it turns out, Guilt Trip is a rather good swirly pop tune, a bit like The Pet Shop Boys when they're being moody and enigmatic. You can buy it on John's Bandcamp page if you like what you hear.

6) Savoir Adore - Regalia
Savoir Adore are boy-girl duo Paul Hammer and Deidre Muro. Their band began as a dare - the couple challenged each other to write and record an EP in a weekend.

The result, "The Adventures of Mr. Pumpernickel and the Girl with Animals in Her Throat", earned them a recording contract and the rest is history.

Regalia, their new single, is out next month. It reminds me of that phase in the 80s when all music went a bit latin - there are staccato guitar picks and timbale drum solos all over the shop. It is basically perfect.

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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Paging Justin Timberlake's lawyers

I know we're all very upset that Justin Timberlake has decided that making music isn't as much fun as dicking around on movie sets and playing golf, but do we really have to express our anguish via a series of increasingly inferior rip-offs of Like I Love You?

First it was that Justin Bieber single (hateful), then "Conor Maynard" stuck his oar in (hateful10,473,661,05), now bloody JLS are having a go.

Their new single, Hottest Girl In The World (urgh) works so well musically that it could almost be an out-take from the Justified sessions. What lets it down is the lyrics. Would JT ever sing anything as corny as "if you should ever wonder why these dudes all fall in line, it's because they see that sexiness has finally been defined"?

Well, yes, he probably would. But it wouldn't be so skin-crawlingly, bite your knuckles off embarrassing.

JLS - Hottest Girl In The World

Next up is "dope" recording artiste Tyler James. He's recorded a mega R'n'ballad called Cry Me A River Single Tear, showing off those truly stunning falsetto riffs he used to great effect on The Voice.

But the debt to Cry Me A River is so undeniably gigantic that he even copies the whole betrayed-by-a-girl / filming-yourself-having-a-bit-of-hanky-panky themes of Justin's video. I bet he denies it's about Britney Spears, and everything.

To be fair, Tyler is the artist who's most likely to succeed in riffing on the Timberlake sound - his performances have all the warmth and sincerity that's missing from the other efforts. If only he didn't look like Boycie off Only Fools And Horses.

Tyler James - Single Tear

How about we just leave this stuff to the professionals next time?

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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Crikey, this Ellie Goulding video is pretty glum

Nothing like a massive bloody car crash on a beach to lift the spirits...

And, no, I will not "Shazam for more". Please go away.

Ellie Goulding - Anything Can Happen

(The song is a grower, though. Give it a couple of 'spins', to use the 20th Century vernacular).

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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Three colours Alicia Keys

Talk about indecisive: Alicia Keys has just released three versions of her new single, which she'll be performing at the MTV VMAs this Thursday.

The song finds Keys in default power ballad mode but the title - Girl On Fire - is likely to make fans of The Hunger Games sit up and make this noise.

As far as I can see, the track isn't officially linked to the book/film (whose protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, is nicknamed The Girl On Fire) but there's nothing to suggest she wasn't inspired by it. Certainly, the lyrics would fit the story of the determined-but-troubled heroine perfectly:

Everybody stands, as she goes by
Cause they can see the flame that's in her eyes
Watch her when she's lighting up the night
Nobody knows that she's a lonely girl
And it's a lonely world
But she gonna let it burn, baby, burn

The three versions of the song aren't vastly different, but fans will find it difficult to choose a favourite. Here they are, complete with handy colour-coded artwork.

1) Version One - Red

Featuring a surprisingly subdued Nicki Minaj, "Inferno" is the urban mix.

2) Version Two - Blue

Much less bombastic. Sounds a bit like Phil Collins. Destined for Radio 2.

3) Version Three - Full colour mix

This is the "original", and is essentially the Nicki Minaj version minus Nicki Minaj. It will be played on rural radio stations who still insist that rap never happened.

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Guetta grip

I wrote a big thing about David Guetta being like the Great Wall Of China: Immense, monolithic and unchanging. Then I deleted it because it was (a) a horrible metaphor, and (b) pretentious bollocks.

The point was that, although Guetta's songs all sound the same, they are spectacularly well-built pop tunes. He is the Stock Aitken and Waterman of "EDM". He is the Alfred Hitchcock of "the drop". He is the Phil Spector of Ibiza, haircut-wise.

What I love about the French DJ is that he makes no attempt to disguise the fact he's sticking to a formula. His follow-up to last year's album Nothing But The Beat is called Nothing But the Beat 2.0. For the lead single Every Chance We Get We Run, he trades brilliant-but-underappreciated singer Sia for brilliant-but-underappreciated duo Tegan and Sara, but that's the only appreciable change.

Tegan and Sara teased the song on their Twitter feed last week, and now the full thing has emerged. You won't be surprised, but you will enjoy.

David Guetta ft Tegan And Sara - Every Chance We Get We Run

PS: Not content with a whole new album, Guetta is apparently remixing every track on M.I.A's new record, Matangi. According to this website, her hilarious nickname for the producer is David Forguetta Boutit. Oh dear.

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Monday, September 3, 2012

Back from the brink*


Thanks for bearing with me during the week-long break. I notice that traffic to the site only dipped very slightly. No doubt it was bolstered by the perennially popular searches for "What is the meaning of Ed Sheeran's Small Bump?" and "Granny Porn" - which take you to this page and this page, respectively.

To be honest, I didn't listen to much new music while I was away. Jessie Ware's terrific debut album was on near-constant repeat and, when it wasn't, I was doing important holiday things like reading a book, or sleeping in the afternoon, or falling asleep reading a book in the afternoon.

"Nonetheless", these four songs caught my eye (ear?) and here they are with a brief explanation of the music and images carried within the video container directly below the relevant text.

1) Tame Impala - Elephant
Strap on your sideburns and pull on your platform boots because Tame Impala have gone glam rock. This is the first single from Aussie quintet's second album, Lonerism, and finds them peering down the same time-tunnel as The Black Keys on their (excellent) El Camino album.

Elephant is based around a grizzly guitar-fuzz shuffle, but also features the worst drum solo since a badger got trapped in our crockery cupboard.

2) Taylor Swift - We Are Totally Never Ever Whatever, So Like OK, Yeah?
OK, that might not be the actual title, but it captures the spirit of Taylor "country music, what's country music?" Swift's new direction. The song, co-written by Swedish pop magicians Max Martin and Shellback, is as catchy as it is unoriginal. The video is ostensibly shot in one take, although the edit points are fairly obvious, and features a maniacally happy man dressed as a dog. I love it.

3) Ultraista - Bad Insect
I don't know much about this band except that they consist of Radiohead's producer Nigel Godrich, former REM drummer Joey Waronker, and their significantly younger vocalist, Laura Bettinson, who used to be in an aggressively boring band called Dimbleby And Copper (click here to see footage of them playing to half-a-dozen people at Glastonbury 2009).

Their collaboration is much, much better than the above explanation might lead you to believe.

4) Michael Kiwanuka - Bones
Here's a conversation I overheard recently: "Why do you think the Michael Kiwanuka album flopped?", "He was really, really boring". Ah well, I still think he's got more soul than the rest of the top 40 combined. Bones, the latest single from that album, combines Soggy Bottom Boy back-up vocals with a wonderfully old-school snare drum shuffle.

Don't bother watching the video - just let the tune play while you go off to buy The Hunger Games DVD on Amazon.

* Chichester

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