Monday, September 22, 2014

Nicki Minaj erased from history and 10 other songs you may have missed

A semi-regular round-up of songs that slipped through the cracks. The late September collection sounds a lot like this.

1) Jessie J and Ariana Grande - Bang Bang
Amazingly, there are still radio stations that won't play pop songs with a rap breakdown in case it "alienates" their listeners. Never mind that Jay-Z is 44, and Grandmaster Flash is pushing 60 - apparently there are people who cannot comprehend a musical genre that originated five decades ago. It's like a 1970s radio station refusing to play Born To Run because the saxophone solo might remind people of the jazz era.

It doesn't help that the record labels pander to this nonsense, which is why a Nicki Minaj-free version of Bang Bang exists, despite her verse being the only respite from three minutes of sub-Aguilera screeching.

2) Queen + Michael Jackson - There Must Be More To Life Than This
Started in 1981, finished a couple of weeks ago, this track will feature on the upcoming compilation Queen Forever.

Queen's sessions with Jackson allegedly faltered when the King of Pop objected to Freddie Mercury inhaling vast amounts of cocaine in his living room. On the basis of this track, it does sound like Jackson was a little overwhelmed by the moustachioed rock legend, with his fragile, quivering vocals no match for Mercury's bravura performance.

A Jackson-free version of There Must Be More To Life Than This surfaced on Mercury's 1985 solo album Mr Bad Guy. This re-dub has been produced by William Orbit who adds strings, guitars and a bombastic coda that recalls The Beatles' Hello Goodbye.

3) Brika - Options
"Sometimes love isn't enough to stop trains and planes like in the cinemas".

This stripped-back, tabla-powered song is pop at it's most elegant and groovesome. I love it to bits.

4) Hozier - Do I Wanna Know (Live Lounge cover)
A real stand-out moment from Radio One's More Music Month, transforming Arctic Monkeys' rollicking rock stomper into a lachrymose lament. Soul-stirring.

5) Mary J Blige - Whole Damn Year
The second track to emerge from Mary J's London Sessions album is an Emeli Sande / Naughty Boy collaboration, and sounds almost exactly like you'd expect - a break-up ballad in the classic soul template, with a killer vocal and an sucker-punch lyric.

"It took a whole damn year to repair my body," groans Mary J Blige. Ouch.

6) Hugh - One Of These DaysA lolloping, laid-back, smooth-as-peanut-butter groove from London newcomers Hugh.

Apart from being impossible to Google, the four-piece take pride in their melting pot of influences - Soul II Soul, Grizzly Bear, Beach House, Young Disciples. You can hear them all in this track, the opening number from their forthcoming EP.

7) Prides - Out Of The Blue
Hardcore synths, pop melodies and a vowel-chewing Scottish accent? No, it's not Chvrches, but hotly-tipped newcomers Prides. You may have seen them at the closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Games while you were waiting for Kylie. They were impressive then and they're impressive now - with the 18-months-in-the-making video for Out Of The Blue, one of the tracks that got them noticed last year.

8) The Knocks - Classic (feat. Powers)
The Knocks are great. Powers are great. Together they are classic (do you see what I did there?)

The video, for reasons that are never explained, is a tribute to Machiavellian time-sink computer game The Sims.

9) Jessie Ware - Kind Of, Sometimes, Maybe
I'll be honest. I haven't listened to this, in the hope that there'll be a few surprises on Jessie Ware's album when it finally comes out next month.

But if you're the impatient sort, this Miguel-assisted duet is bound to be a beauty.

10) FKA Twigs - Two Weeks (Live on Later)
FKA Twigs delivered a brilliant, blistering rant about being labelled "alt R&B" in The Guardian last month.

"When I first released music and no one knew what I looked like, I would read comments like: 'I've never heard anything like this before, it's not in a genre,'" said Tahliah Barnett. "And then my picture came out six months later, now she's an R&B singer. I share certain sonic threads with classical music; my song Preface is like a hymn. So let's talk about that. If I was white and blonde and said I went to church all the time, you'd be talking about the 'choral aspect'. But you're not talking about that because I'm a mixed-race girl from south London."

It's an excellent point. This sounds nothing like R&B. It sounds like the future. And, now that she's been on Jools, I finally know how to dance to it.

11) Breach - The Key (ft Kelis)
Speaking of mis-labelling, Kelis's new album, Food, has been labelled "Alt R&B" - I think on the basis it was produced by a white man from an indie band. Rubbish - it's classic soul with a modern twist, and one of my favourite records of the year so far.

The Key began life as a reworking of Rumble, one of the first singles from the album. But Kelis liked it so much, she jumped into the studio with Breach (aka Ben Westbeech) and re-recorded the vocals. It takes me back to the singer's ahead-of-its-time dance album Fleshtone. In other words, it is excellent.

And that's all for this week. Thanks for tuning in!

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