Reading the US music press, it appears that people are getting quite excited by Cher Lloyd. Billboard magazine named her "one to watch" in this week's issue, while her debut single in the States (Want U Back, thankfully, not Swagger Jagger) has been getting a lot of support from Top 40 radio and is "bubbling under" on the pop charts.
As part of her continued assault on the US, Lloyd has been videod singing Usher's OMG next to a man with an acoustic guitar and ridiculous facial hair. It is, to all intents and purposes, brilliant. Have a squizz below.
The video has been getting a lot of love online over the last 24 hours - but Cher's fans have pointed out the cover has been part of her live show for aaaaaages. So long, in fact, that it's become a sing-along classic. Like Robbie Williams' Angels, but less grating.
Here's the 18-year-old X Factor graduate duetting with the audience at Bristol's O2 Academy last October.
In "oh get on with it" news, up-and-coming pop star Ria Ritchie has put out a single with South London dance specialists Disclosure. Not that this is a terrible thing - I've featured both artists on the blog before, and their collaboration is a smashing piece of work. It's just that Ria Ritchie has a couple of incredible solo songs I've been dying to tell you about for months - and this isn't either of them.
But let's not be churlish - this is a great little slice of a "dream-step". If I understand it (and I don't, really) dream-step a new genre that splices 2-step and ambient vocal house. If you like Katy B, this is going to be right up your street.
The song is called Control. Janet Jackson's lawyers are already on the phone.
Good news for fans of ostentatious rap brigands Jay-Z and Kanye West – the artists sometimes known as Hove and Yeezy are recording a sequel to last year's Watch The Throne album. So says recording engineer Mike Dean, who told Quiet Lunch: "Watch The Throne 2 – it’s not started yet, but it’s coming."
That confirms Jay-Z's comments to MTV earlier this year, when he said: "You might see a Jay, then Kanye, and a Throne album next year... We really found our zone".
In case you haven't heard what the combined weight of the planet's two biggest egos sounds like, they have helpfully "dropped" a new video for the album's opening track - the ominous, guitar-led No Church In The Wild.
Featuring one moronic tautology ("What's a god to a non-believer, who don't believe in anything?") and one sublime metaphor ("your love is my scripture") the song dances around the contradictions between religious belief and personal opulence, without ever drawing any real conclusions.
The video spins off in a different direction – featuring spectacular, violent scenes from a riot. It was shot by MIA's director-of-choice Romain Gavras, so you know it’s not going to pull any punches. Watch below.
The Scissor Sisters fourth album, Magic Hour, is out this week and bloody good it is, too. I did a big set-piece BBC interview with them last week but, as is often the way, I had to leave out all the fun bits about parties and swearing and willies.
So here is the other half of the interview with Jake Shears and Baby Daddy, who were quite simply awesome.
One of the stand-out tracks on this record is Let's Have A Kiki - which I understand is a specifically debauched Scissor Sisters party. What's the best Kiki you’ve ever thrown?
Jake: Last year, I threw a Monkey Island party. I only sent out the invites the morning of the party but hundreds of people showed up. I had smoke machines and lasers going and it was one of the best parties New York has probably seen in a long, long time. It had the weirdest line-up of strange celebs and porn stars and downtown people and musicians. And then we got raided by the police. It was about 20 officers in my house, videotaping everything. But when they showed up everyone thought they were strippers.
It was absolutely bonkers. We had about 70 people hiding in my bedroom, all in the walk-in closet, going “shhhh!” The police busted in there, and got everyone out. Then they found Ana hiding under some coats in the closet. They literally marched back in and dragged her out by her heels.
Apparently down in the street – and I live in Tribeca, which is quite refined – everyone started throwing eggs at people.
That was an astounding kiki. We got the best pictures.
You worked with Amanda Ghost (Beyonce, Shakira, James Blunt) on this record. What was that like?
Baby Daddy: She was just the kind of thing we needed. We’re four albums in. We’ve tried a lot of things. We knew we had to get something out – and we didn’t want to toil over something for a year.
Jake: She organised everything. “You’re writing on these weeks, you’re collaborating with these people”.
So she was like a wedding planner for the album?
Jake: She was amazing. This album would not have been made at such a speed without her.
Baby Daddy: Part of that speed was just taking time away. Giving us a week off. The way we usually work is we just go and go and go.
Jake: She’s also a really hard set of ears. Totally merciless.
Baby Daddy: She would just say to us ‘these songs suck’.
Jake: But what I’ve discovered over the years is that, when you’re making an album, you’ve got to have people who are great sounding boards.
Wikipedia constantly refers to the band as Glam Rock. Where do you think that comes from?
Baby Daddy: We could put out an album of nothing but R&B songs and people would call it 70s influenced. We’re a 70s band in some people’s mind and we always will be because we love David Bowie and some of the first album referenced that.
Jake: But this album is very contemporary.
Jake, your mum came up with the title Magic Hour - but why did you like it so much?
Jake: Well, I was in Ibiza in August and Only The Horses was the only song we’d written. I had the demo for it and I was with some of my DJ friends. We’d been up all night and the sun was just about to come up and I played Horses for them. I’ve got pictures of the moment. It was that magic hour, the sun was about to come up, there were no shadows. I had the time of my life that night. I played that song for the first time, and that embodies what I feel about this album.
Is that still your favourite time of day?
Jake: Absolutely. I’m a morning person - but in that way.
On Shady Love there’s a line, “she’s going to vote for Obama”. What did you think of his statement on gay marriage?
Jake: It was exciting. It was fine. I feel mixed about it.
Does it seems odd that gay marriage is going to be the major theme of the election campaign?
Jake: Can you imagine if everybody put all their energy into something that actually mattered? I mean, of course gay marriage matters, but it shouldn’t be an issue.
The thing about his statement that I thought was so ridiculous was that he said ‘gays should have the freedom to marry one another although I support the state’s individual decisions to ban it if they feel like it’. What does that mean?
I guess he has to be very careful with the divide between federal and state law?
Baby Daddy: Especially in an election year.
Jake: But if you took this argument and changed gay marriage for inter-racial marriage, it sounds completely insane. I really don’t think Obama went all the way.
Do you vote in the US?
Jake: Totally. And I’ll be voting for Obama.
Talking of marriage [amazing segue alert] tell me about the fan who proposed to his girlfriend at your gig...
Baby Daddy: It was really sweet. This fan of ours with the whole band tattooed on his back.
Jake: He passed Ana a note at the beginning of the show, then at the end she brought him up.
Baby Daddy: I didn’t even know what the note had said.
If you were the girl, would you have said ‘yes’?
Baby Daddy: I can’t imagine saying ‘no’ at that stage!
Jake: I was really nervous for him myself.
When was the last time you were nervous with the band?
Jake: Last night, I got pulled out of the venue at seven o’clock to do an interview on the news about Donna Summer. Jon Snow interviewed me. It was so scary. Just to go on live TV. It was one of those moments. I just thought, ‘if I say something backwards or if I sneeze and end up with a booger on my finger’ those moments never go away. There’s the opportunity for career suicide.
I went on TV earlier this year without noticing a huge toothpaste stain on my shirt...
Jake: I just did The Voice with my fly unzipped! At the end of us singing, I looked down and noticed my trousers were wide open.
Honestly, I leave the country for one week and Cheryl throws herself off a balcony...
I am kidding of course. Cheryl was literally throwing herself into the debut TV performance of Call My Name on Saturday's The Voice. It was nothing short of spectacular. In fact, I'm struggling to think of another British pop star, past or present, who could pull off choreography like this. Well done, Mrs [last name removed].
On Sunday's instalment of The Voice it was Kylie's turn to thrash out a new single. Timebomb, part of Minogue's 25-years-in-showbiz celebrations, was released by stealth last week while I was in Portugal. My initial impression from the beach was "hmm... not much cop".
That suspicion was confirmed when Danny "I would give a standing ovation to a jam sandwich" from The Script failed to perform even one desultory fist pump in honour of Kylie's latest effort.
Canada's Feist is known for incorporating dance into her videos - the free-spirited, primary-colours routine for 1,2,3,4 is one of the most joyous things ever committed to film. Her new video is more low-key, but similarly mesmerising. Feist steps back from the limelight, playing an acoustic version of Cicadas and Gulls from her (excellent) Metals album - while members of the East Oakland dance crew Turf Fienz perform a stunning slo-mo breakdance around her. Just brilliant.
It's really worth checking out some of the other videos by Tuff Fienz if you have time. They came to prominence about two years ago after this rain-soaked tribute to one of their members, who was tragically killed in a car accident, went viral. You can read more about that, and the crew's history on the website for their local newspaper, East Bay Express.
That cheeky scamp Labrinth has got his new single on Radio 1's A-list, so you can be pretty sure it'll be inescapable over the next month.
The lyrics are a Jessie J-style lecture about being who you want to be and don't let anyone tell you that who you are isn't good enough because we are all individuals and everyone has the right to determine their own path in life. YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL NO MATTER WHAT THEY SAY WORDS CAN'T BRING YOU DOWN. However, Labrinth's rules do not apply to murderers and despots, who should stop being who they want to be right now and be someone else instead.
Express Yourself samples the 1960 funk classic of the same name by Charles Wright - but Labrinth doesn't quite do it justice. According to science, his version Express Yourself is only the sixth best Express Yourself of all time. The chart goes like this.
Delilah's exquisite new single, Breathe, is out next week. To celebrate, we've been given a video of her playing the song at a sold-out gig in London's Koko club last month. Given that Breathe was kept back 'til the encore, this is a surprisingly measured performance - but one that really shows off the Londoner's smoky and supple vocals.
There's a full review of the concert on The Independent website (top quote: "she sang a variety of songs") but the video tells you everything you need to know.
If you liked that, Delilah's debut album From The Roots Up is out on 30th July. The cover art is breathtaking.
Ne-Yo is back in the charts at the moment with the gratuitously noisy Calvin Harris single Let Go. It's a welcome return for the Arkansas soul singer, whose last few singles got the sort of reception normally reserved for Conrad Murray at a Jackson family barbeque.
Capitalising on the success of Let Go, Ne-Yo put his new single up on Soundcloud today. Lazy Love is a laid-back R&B ballad about a day inside his boudoir of consequence (where the consequence is always sex).
It's borderline hilarious, like a parody of Barry White's "yeeeaaaah baby, I'm gonna make you sweat til you scream" late-night antics. But Ne-Yo is just smooth enough to make it work without the whole enterprise reeking of scented candles and "sensual" oils.
NB: Beware the unnecessary visual image in verse two - "Damn baby that was good, I'd better hit the shower". Shucks, Ne-Yo, you're such an old romantic.
Right, here's the thing. Do I like the new will.i.am single because it's a good song, or do I like the new will.i.am single because I've warmed to him on The Voice? And when I haven't liked previous will.i.am singles, was I wrong? Because when I interviewed him about those singles, he was surly and not a little bit rude. But when I interviewed him on the red carpet at the Brits this year, he was charming and funny, like he is on The Voice.
So what's changed? Have I changed? Has will.i.am changed? Has will.i.am's music changed? Is it all three? Has will.i.am's music improved because he no longer has to give a shit about apl and Taboo? If so, why was his last solo album so uniquely terrible? Has someone upgraded the core will.i.am operating system? Has he found Jesus? Has he found inner peace? Is he having crazed sex with a pony? (Lawyer's note: will.i.am is not having crazed sex with a pony).
And when it comes down to it, is will.i.am even that talented? Or does he just seem talented because he sits beside Jessie J all the time? Would this song sound even better if it was played after a Jessie J song? Could any song fail to sound better if it was played after a Jessie J song?
Well, there's one surefire way to find out the answer to that question, which is to take will.i.am's new single to Capital Radio, where every other track is a Jessie J record. And that's exactly what Will did on Monday morning. He burned the record, called This Is Love, onto a CD and just turned up at the reception like a genie or a tramp. He explained why to breakfast show hosts Dave Berry and Lisa Snowdon.
"I remember when I first got into wanting to do music. We used to go to a radio station in Los Angeles and we used to sit in the lobby trying to get on air and it just made me feel alive like I was trying to do something."
Then Will said something extraordinary... He had brought this CD along without getting permission from his record label. "Well, what are the other options?" he said. "We give it to the label and the label does it traditional? Or we break tradition and realise that it's 2012 and we have laptops and tablets."
I think I've made up my mind: Will.i.am is a genius.
Here's the record. Unless it's been taken down. In which case, here's a broken link.
Let's face it, the UK hasn't excelled at producing female rappers. There was a time when we could have done it - Monie Love, Wee Papa Girl Rappers, The Cookie Crew and Neneh Cherry all appeared in the late 80s and looked set for big things. But the combined assault of rave and gangster rap killed their careers stone dead.
Since then the only female rap talent to make waves has been Ms Dynamite (one great album, one awful album, 10 years off), Estelle (dropped by her label and forced to move to the US) and Speech Debelle (only kidding).
Let's hope London's Dreama breaks the curse. She's been a regular reader / commenter on the blog for a while now (which proves she has good taste) so it was a pleasant surprise when she emailed last week to show off her new, self-released EP, Reifier. When the EP turned out to be properly good, that surprise doubled in size and assumed the startled expression of Louis Walsh in a revolving door.
What struck me most was the wordplay. This is literate, intelligent rap - down to earth like gravity. Take CRTL+ALT+DEL, a drowsy anecdote about Dreama's permanently-connected world. "Social media, I feel you're getting greedier," she begins, setting the scene for a polemic about internet addiction... Until she gets distracted by a website about celebrity liposuction. It's clever and relevant and funny, like
Some of the tracks on the EP have a harder, percussive edge but I find myself drawn to the more melodic material - which better suits the MC's sing-song delivery. An older track, A Dreama's Reality, is probably my favourite - if only for the verse:
I always knew all I'd do was become stellar
London girl, the place to carry shades and an umbrella
Pardon the clichés but, yeah, the weather's awful
Big jackets, woolly hats... I've got 'em by the drawer-ful.
The EP is below. You can also check out Dreama's website over here, then head over to her Twitter page and tell her I said hello.
But Rita Ora killed it on last Friday's show, where she was a last-minute replacement for Sinead O'Connor. Her performance is proof that pop artists don't have to be intimidated by the presence of "poper" musicians, so long as they can turn up and kick some ass.
I've been meaning to post these videos all week - but I've got a renewed excuse, as it looks like Rita's debut single RIP will be number one on Sunday. Not a bad result for someone who lost out to Jade Ewen in the selection process for Eurovision 2009.
"Interesting" fact: The most common Google search for people coming to this website is Ed Sheeran Small Bump, closely followed by small bump meaning Ed Sheeran. The song, first previewed in live streaming acoustic concert, is a sad but true story about one of Ed's friends who lost their child in the fourth month of pregnancy.
Here's what he told Interview magazine about the lyrics last year: "It was quite a difficult subject to tackle. I wrote it from their perspective. It was my perspective looking on them to begin with. It's quite a touchy subject, so I wrote it from the perspective of actually being the parent."
Probably the most heart-wrenching thing you will hear this week.
It has come to my attention that previous articles about ice-cool electropop artists Foxes (left) and Wolfette (right) have revolved around a series of childish and tedious animal puns. I would like to take this opportunity to apologise without reservation for this lapse in judgement.
In the future, any music by Foxes or Wolfette will be presented without suggesting that the artists in question habitually raid bins and tear sheep apart with their bare teeth. Nor do they howl at the moon, except when artistically appropriate.
Here are their new videos, both of which are aarrrrrooooooooooeally good.
This is possibly the most upbeat song about the financial crisis you could imagine. Less "Brother, can you spare a dime?" than "Brother, I may be poor but I am rich in experience and isn't that what really counts?"
You may remember Passion Pit from the ridiculously catchy The Reeling, which was practically inescapable on trailers and sports montages about three years ago. They have a knack for bright, inspiring melodies but their previous lyrics were all a bit twee: Happy families and smiling faces. One of their early songs was even called Cuddle Fuddle.
The new single, Take A Walk, is a big leap forward. Frontman Michael Angelakos clearly knows it, because he's posted the lyrics in full on the Passion Pit website. Across three verses, they tell a very personal tale of immigration, debt, missing pension funds and swindling bankers - all set to a stomping marching beat and ticklish keyboard riff that sweetens the pill.
It's an interesting take on the crisis - less angry than Plan B's Ill Manors, but less easily dismissed as a result. Take a listen below.
Yes, thanks to some particularly ropey green screen, Nelly Furtado is a giant monster woman, stalking through the skyscrapers of a thrumming metropolis. Don't be scared: She's just promoting her new single Big Hoops (Bigger The Better) and will retreat safely if you buy her single and feed her a cracker.
The more I listen to the song, the more I like it. The lyrics are particularly fun, as Nelly namechecks some of her favourite rap songs from her teenage years. I've copied out and annotated the first verse below, just in case you're as big a nerd as me.
Hey hey hey, what's the scenario [A Tribe Called Quest - Scenario]
The boy keeps passin' my by [Pharcyde - Passin' Me By]
I said no diggity, no doubt [Blackstreet - No Diggity]
I thought I told you I was fly [Sugar Ray - Fly]
Yeah he and all of his friends they
They got that hair like Hi-Five [A reference to R&B smoothies - Hi-Five]
I don't wanna talk about sex [Salt-N-Pepa - Let's Talk About Sex]
Wanna express myself tonight [Salt-N-Pepa - Expression]
I originally thought the last line was a Madonna reference, but Nelly set me straight when we spoke last week (you can read the interview here). Half a dozen more songs get a shout out in verse two, but I'll let you work them out for yourselves.
People have been (rightly) praising the new singles by Justin Bieber and British Justin Bieber knock-off, Conor Maynard.
Justin's Boyfriend and Conor's Can't Say No are great radio songs, with just the right balance of R&B swagger and pop brilliance. It's a trick they've stolen from Justin Timberlake but, if he's going to insist on wasting his time hanging around film sets hoping to be the next Brendan Fraser, we'll take what we can get.
The problem comes when these songs appear on YouTube. Justin and Conor have been struck down by a virulent strain of seriousface. They gurn and grimace and contort their faces into expressions that are presumably supposed to convey a heady cocktail of sincerity and sexiness. Instead, they look like someone has rubbed fire ants into their scrotum.
And don't get me started on the "urban" hand gestures. Jesus Christ.
So who does it best? And who is the worst representation of humanity?
If you read the cool music blogs by people who like cool music, you'll no doubt be aware of Alt-J, a really cool new band from cool town. As you can see from the picture above, they are are furiously independent and eschew society's straitjacketed expectations of what a rock band should be. And get this - their name isn't even Alt-J at all! It is the typographically hard-to-render ∆, which is the symbol that comes up on an Apple Mac if you press the 'Alt' and 'J' keys simultaneously. These guys are quite literally mad!!!!!!!
But I shouldn't mock. As it turns out, Alt-J (sorry, ∆) have written some really infectious, intricate math-rock that deserves attention. And anyway, didn't Prince get away with being called for half a decade because he was having a big old sulk with his record company?
Still, I'm looking forward to a glut of keyboard shortcut bands over the next couple of months. Here are a few suggestions from the standard Windows character set.
Alt + 2
Alt + 14
Alt + 21
Alt + 176
Alt + 168
Alt + 0156
Hmmm... How about we just get on with the song? It's called Breezeblock and it's out on 21st May, by which time you should have got used to the vocalist's peculiarly acrobatic "technique". The video is a bit grizzly, but very much worth your time.
Perennially brilliant but frequently overlooked, New Young Pony Club are never less than interesting. Their new single You Used To Be A Man is a case in point. An electronic rumble that rubs shoulders with Prince's Forever In My Life. A musical cocoon that slowly unfolds to reveal its deadly allure. A rather good pop song indeed.
Here's what lead singer Ty Bulmer had to say about it to The Quietus: "It's about betrayal. A situation where trust is continually extended and destroyed to the detriment of that relationship and ultimately your view of that person. He's not a man anymore in your eyes anymore. He's a mole or a mote of dust or a hatstand or whatever."
Here's a problem that occurred to me while watching The Staves last night: How do singers convey a story of loss and betrayal when they're part of a vocal harmony group?
Heartbreak is an intensely personal, lonely experience. But harmony by definition means co-operation and unity. If three people are singing in unison about emotional torment - and The Staves have a song that goes, "Everyone I know is gone, and I don't even know myself" - doesn't that dilute the impact?
Not always, as it turns out.
Bands like Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver (who The Staves tour with next month) use complex harmonies to establish a mood, but I'm often unmoved by their lyrical content. The Staves do it differently. They never embellish their melodies, dropping down to a lone voice for the most intimate moments. When the sisters sing "I'm not the best at moving on", during Icarus, it has an exquisitely mournful quality.
In between the songs, however, Emily, Jessica and Camilla are disarmingly funny. "So, has anyone here been mis-sold PPI?" asks Emily (at 29, the eldest sibling) apropos of nothing, while her sisters tune up their guitars. Later, Jessica pulls a Frank Spencer impersonation out of thin air: "Ooooh," she quivers, as the rest of the band collapse in hysterics, "I've had a bit of trouble".
You'd never get this from Laura Marling.
If I had a criticism at all, it's that too many of the songs hover around the same tempo. There's very little variance in the set before the end, when Wisely And Slow bursts into life, finally giving the drummer something to do.
The band even admit their bass guitarist Douglas fell asleep mid-concert a couple of nights ago. But the audience at The Tabernacle show no signs of nodding off. Songs new and old get an enthusiastic reception and there's a (rare for London) pin-drop silence during the quiet bits. Which is quite a feat when 95% of the gig is quiet bits.
The Staves are due to release their debut album in the summer. If you get the chance to see them before everyone else catches on, I thoroughly recommend it.
The video for Cheryl's new single Call My Name has just popped up online. It's her 30th - thirtieth - video, so let's take a look back at Cheryl's on-screen appearances, and how they've developed over the last decade.
A sobering look back at fashion, there. But the main point is how confident Cheryl has become over the years. Call My Name has none of the nervous face-pulling and winking at the camera that plagued the early Girls Aloud videos. Here, Cheryl smoulders like a melting nuclear reactor, and the choreography is fantastic - punchy and aggressive.
What's more, the video opens with a quote from notorious 19th Century sex-pest Marquis De Sade: "The only way to a woman's heart is along the path of torment". Which is a little darker than "should have hung around the kitchen in my underwear", I suppose.
Still, if we're doing quotes, I'll stick with Voltaire: "The ear is the avenue to the heart." Call My Name takes the motorway.
We've been living with the new Little Boots single for about two weeks now. Every Night I Say A Prayer does several amazing things in the space of four minutes, the key points of which we have outlined below.
1) It reminds you that Little Boots exists and that, contrary to some unnecessarily snipey articles in the press, that she is very good at writing pop songs.
2) It reminds you that Saint Etienne exist and that, contrary to their rather lacklustre 21st century output, their 1990s heyday produced about 30 premium-quality tunes.
3) It reminds you that sometimes pop artists shouldn't spend all their time trying to be flashy, hyper-real disco queens sitting upon a chart throne and working with RedOne because subtle, slow-burning pop songs are just as important as the ones that snog your face off then run away screaming "sorry, you're not my target demographic" leaving you feel empty and hopeless.
4) It reminds you that the Korg M1 house piano sample is one of the best keyboard presets of all time.
5) It reminds you to tap your toes, thereby maintaining a healthy circulation and reducing the likelihood of deep-vein thrombosis.
This is clearly a laudable set of achievements, and I haven't even mentioned that the whole thing is AVAILABLE FOR FREE, like a copy of the Metro newspaper, only it's not shit.
A video has just premiered. Little Boots says it was a "little bit inspired by Paris is Burning (the film, not the Ladyhawke song, although that is good too)". For context, Paris Is Burning was a documentary about the New York club scene in its 1990 heyday. Which is why Little Boots's video looks like a slightly cheaper version of Vogue. This is not a bad thing.
That was meant to be the new video from Michael Kiwanuka, whose Sound Of 2012 status hasn't exactly helped him to multi-platinum sales. Home Again, his debut album, entered the chart at number four when it came out, but it's been slumming it in the lower reaches of the Top 40 ever since.
Which is a shame, because it's a superbly-crafted set of songs, as comfortable as one of Labrinth's woolly cardigans. If you decide to check it out, I recommend the deluxe edition - as the extra disc of alternative mixes by Ethan Johns (Laura Marling, Kings Of Leon) is actually an improvement on the official release. He gives the material a slightly sharper focus than the Paul Butler, whose production sometimes disappears in a fug of incense and "special" cigarettes.
But I digress. Here's the flute-enhanced new single, I'll Get Along, which should make you sink back in your chair and go "aaaaaaahhh" for approximately three-and-a-half minutes.