Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Brits' best bits and eight other songs you may have missed

At this moment in time, I feel like a walking bucket of snot - so I dread to think how many pop stars I infected with the lurgy at last night's Brits. Poor old Katy B...

From a reporting point of view, though, it was a great night with lots of access to proper A-list stars. We spoke to Kylie ("There should be a David Bowie award. He should get an award just for being Bowie"), One Direction ("we're a bit drunk"), Haim ("we owe our lives to the UK") and Pharrell ("Yes, I understand why Blurred Lines was controversial").

The ceremony itself was an odd affair. James Corden's "hilarious" prison rape jokes were, presumably, a desperate attempt to recapture the Brits edgy reputation; and he had the temerity to announce Bruno Mars as "the finest showman performing anywhere in the world right now" while standing in the same room as Prince.

On the other hand, the performances (Bruno's included) were actually very good for once. Beyoncé, who was in London for approximately an hour, stole the show despite being dressed as the Little Mermaid. She didn't give The Brits permission to put her performance on YouTube, but lots of other artists did... So here are my picks, alongside the regular "songs you may have missed" selection.

1) Nile Rodgers and Pharrell - Get Lucky / Good Times / Happy
Unbridled positivity from the two nicest men on the red carpet. Pharrell even scolded a reporter who asked him whether the Brit Awards needed American stars to remain relevant, saying he wasn't fit to walk in Freddie Mercury's footsteps.

2) Disclosure and Lorde and AlunaGeorge - Royals / White Noise
Strangely odd. Oddly compelling.

3) Katy Perry - Dark Horse
"Katy Perry is reenacting a period of historic slavery in dayglo," whinged half a dozen killjoys on Twitter. I'm sure they'll raise the same objections when the RSC next stages a production of Anthony and Cleopatra. Or maybe they're just twats.

Anyway, this was the most visually-arresting performance of the night. All it lacked was Katy singing: "All the old paintings on the tombs / They do the sand dance don't you know..."

4) Arctic Monkeys - RU Mine
How Matt Helders manages to pull of those drum fills while maintaining a perfect falsetto, I will never know.

5) London Grammar - Hey Now
Interesting discovery at the Brits: London Grammar are really tiny. Like, smaller than Kylie. I wasn't expecting that.

Anyway, they've just unveiled a mesmerising stop-motion video for Hey Now, one of my favourite tracks from their debut album, If You Wait. If you like this, you should also check out the awesomely atmospheric club mix by Russia's Artyom Stolyarov.

6) Shakira - Nunca Me Acuerdo de Olvidarte
It's the Spanish language, Rihanna-free version of Can't Remember To Forget You and, as is often the case, Shakira's lyrics scan better before translation.

I still find the video slightly disturbing, though. Shakira's not being sexy, just making herself available. There are moments where she presents her posterior to the viewer like a dog in heat. Is that healthy? Am I just getting old? Answers on a postcard.

7) The Chainsmokers - #Selfie
This is the most aggressively terrible song since whatever's last single was called. Truly, grotesquely, shamelessly awful. [Breaks a Kit-Kat in half] It's going to go a long way.

8) Lana Del Rey - Behind Closed Doors
Leaked Lana Del Rey songs are about as common as Malaria (and often just as infectious) but this one's particularly interesting, because it seems to be the first track to have emerged from the sessions for her upcoming album UltraViolence.

It has a slightly more contemporary, Britney Spears vibe to the production, but Lana's voice is as alluringly gauche as ever. Worth a listen.

9) Chvrches - Recover
Prior to the release of their debut album, Chvrches' Recover was widely considered to be their weakest single - but time has been forgiving, and it has set up a little camp site in my brain where, once a week, it toasts marshmallows and hosts a little singalong around the fire.

It's not getting an official re-release, as far as I know, but this tour video has just appeared on YouTube as a sort of travel diary / album promo.

10) Alexa Starr - Famous
For fans of Kelly Clarkson and Avril Lavigne, here's an unsigned young Londoner who's attracting interest for her brand of shiny guitar-pop. Her strongest song, Famous, could be an early Gaga demo with a couple of nice lyrical flourishes ("life is a stage but I need an arena").

The production could do with a bit of a polish, but the melody and the energy are there. One to watch.

11) Jungle - Just Busy Earnin'
All we know about Jungle is that there's two of them, they come from Shepherd's Bush and they are to be called "T" and "J" (for "The Jungle," presumably). Oh, and we also know that they've released a brace of clever, funky dance tracks with eye-popping videos (the one with the 8-year-old B-Girl and the one with the dudes on rollerskates).

Their new song, which sounds like Passion Pit covering Jungle Boogie, is an absolute blast. Zane Lowe made it the hottest record in the world last night, having reached Planck Temperature at about 19:22 GMT.

12) The Saturdays - Not Giving Up
God bless The Saturdays, whose latest single is apparently named after the band's mission statement. As you can imagine, this is a clubby-dancey-poppy track that will fill four minutes on the radio, without ever entering your conciousness.

I'm only mentioning it at all because of Una Healey's profound and compelling column about the making of the video, written in this week's Hello Magazine. "I was quite proud as I danced in the highest heels I've ever danced in," she wrote. "I think heels were necessary because the video is very glamorous. I especially liked the effect from all the wind machines."

You can read it here. It will change your life.

Blimey - that went on a bit. Congratulations to anyone who got this far. Now put your feet up and have a cuppa.

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