Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Video: Disclosure - Magnets (ft Lorde)

In which Lorde dances like a stop-motion marionette, giving me flashbacks to The Exorcist.

The plot sees our (pure) heroine mercilessly dispatching a two-timing, low-life, abusive love rat. But she's not seeking revenge, she's a cold and calculating boyfriend killer - as she revealed on Twitter:

She expanded on the theme on her always-entertaining Tumblr page, writing: "The most important detail is the girlfriend's black eye. Watch it with that moment in mind. That's the point the whole video hinges on. [It] takes it from being 'an affair narrative' to 'dude's girlfriend hired Miss Ella the hitgirl to "seduce" him then take him the FUCK out.'"


Describing the song on her always-entertaining Tumblr, Lorde said: "I'm super proud of this one. In my head it's dark electric blues and greens, and it moves like liquid."

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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Good Times with Jamie xx

I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times) is one of the more surprising tracks on Jamie xx's solo album, In Colour. Featuring US rapper Young Thug and Jamaican dancehall artist Popcaan, it feels like a contemporary, if laid back, hip-hop track compared to the soulful nostalgia that permeates the rest of the record.

That's not a criticism, though. The song is a joyous, arms-aloft tribute to US rap; which originated during The xx's residency at the Armory in New York in late 2013. As Jamie told Grantland, it was inspired by his nightly drive over the bridge to Manhattan, when he’d listen to cutting-edge radio station Hot 97. Eventually, he decided to make a rap track of his own. One that would fit seamlessly on US hip-hop radio.

He quickly whizzed up a backing track, sampling The Persuasions' Good Times. Then he started scouting for rappers to contribute on the track. Many tried, but only two made the final cut, Jamie explained to Annie Mac.

"They both really liked the track when I sent it to them - and they sent it back within days, which was very suprising. I'd been working on the track for such a long time, and listening to lots of people do their versions. But when I got that one, I knew it was the one."

Here it is then, with a colourful video courtesy of Rollo Jackson (Angel Haze, Chase and Status, et al).

There's also a fantastic Skepta remix of the song, which premiered last night. Here it is.

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Florence + The Machine cover Justin Bieber

Despite what 99% of guitar bands think, the litmus test for a Live Lounge cover is not making a pop song sound melancholy by slowing it down. Because, guess what? Everything sounds melancholy when you slow it down. Even a pig being tickled.

No, the real proof of a successful Live Lounge cover is that it sounds like something the covering artist could have written and recorded themselves, no matter how unlikely the source material.

And that's exactly what Florence "+" The Machine have done today, with their cover of Jack U and Justin Bieber's Where Are U Now? Admittedly, Florence only has one musical gear ("foghorn in a hurricane") so it would be hard for her to make the cover sound like anything or anyone else - but when she delivers performances like these, who cares?

The cover comes at the end of this six-song special. Skip to 23 minutes into the embedded player below.

PS: That player expires on 28 October, so apologies if you're visiting the page after that date.

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Monday, September 28, 2015

Rihanna rocks in Rio

I can't believe this will remain on the internet for more than 24 hours, so get it while you can - Rihanna's brilliant, provocative performance at the Rock In Rio festival.

Lasting more than an hour, the set contained no new material and revealed nothing about the star's long-gestating R8 album.

Rihanna even acknowledged the long wait, describing FourFiveSeconds as "a new one", before adding sheepishly, "well, new-ish".

Rihanna recently told the NME that her eighth studio album is still "not done," suggesting executive producer Kanye West was partly to blame.

"Kanye definitely wanted to be involved in making the album," she said. "So he did start helping me make it. Now we just have to wait to get back in the studio together. His schedule and mine are totally opposite right now, but I think this month we’ll be back in the studio."

Let's hope she caught a private jet to Ye's house straight after this performance.

Rockstar 101
Only Girl (In The World)
Phresh Out the Runway
Birthday Cake
Rude Boy
What’s My Name?
Talk That Talk
Live Your Life/Run This Town/All Of The Lights
Man Down
Love The Way You Lie
Take A Bow
Cold Case Love
Take Care
Where Have You Been
We Found Love
Pour It Up
Bitch Better Have My Money

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Video: Years and Years - Eyes Shut

Eyes Shut has been knocking around the Years & Years setlist for ages, having first appeared on the band's Real EP in February 2014, when they were signed to boutique pop label Kitsune. It was subsequently re-recorded for their major-label debut, Communion, earlier this year and now it is finally being given a full single release.

You can see why the band are so keen to revisit it - Eyes Shut is the heart of the album, a touching, moving piano ballad that packs a huge emotional wallop in the midst of all that effervescent froth. It sees singer Olly Alexander confront his shyness, and discuss the "public disguise" he wears to keep his sanity.

The video illustrates that beautifully - as Alexander walks through a derelict building and a broken city, isolated from those around him.

It's also worth checking out this acoustic version of the song which, if anything, is superior to the studio recording.

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Friday, September 25, 2015

Playlist: 15 Janet Jackson deep cuts

There's just one week to go before Janet Jackson's long-awaited 11th studio album, Unbreakable, hits the shelves and, let's be honest, it has a heck of a lot to live up to - Janet has sold more than 69 million albums, and scored 10 US number ones in her career.

The signs are good though, with the deep and groovesome No Sleeep the best single Janet's released in years.

But there are plenty of deeper cuts buried in Janet's discography that are worth excavating, even for the casual fan. I've put together a playlist below...

Go Deep and Enjoy.

1) Don't Stand Another Chance
Janet's first two solo albums have been airbrushed out of her official history. And rightly so - they're awful. But this track, from 1984's Dream Street, is the exception. Written and produced by her brother Marlon, it's a frisky disco jam in the vein of Don't Stop Til You Get Enough. Listen closely, and you'll even hear Michael's distinctive vocal hiccups in the background.

2) Diamonds (Herb Alpert ft Janet Jackson and Lisa Keith)
Diamonds popped up on the 1987 album Keep Your Eye On Me by legendary horn-blower Herb Alpert - who also so happened to be Janet's boss at A&M Records. Written after (or during?) the Control sessions, it retains that album's slick funk aesthetic, with a finger-snapping rhythm track reminiscent of Janet's own Nasty. Essential.

3) Alright (UK Hip-Hop mix)
A crunchy, upbeat number about falling in love with a friend, Alright was one of the slightest songs on Janet's 1989 Rhythm Nation album. But the carefree melody lent itself perfectly to remixes (I count 22 official versions, plus dozens of bootlegs). One of the best is CJ Mackintosh and David Dorrell's long-deleted hip-hop mix, which was only ever released in the UK.

4) Strawberry Bounce
2004's Damita Jo was Janet's last million-selling album, overshadowed by the SuperBowl saga and hampered by commercial blacklisting on the Clear Channel radio network (a ban which was enforced for four years). But it contained some of her best work - including a handful of collaborations with an up-and-coming producer called Kanye West. Strawberry Bounce is one of those: A lascivious stripper's anthem in which Janet purrs, "Honey, if you came for a show, I'm gonna make you lose control."

5) Rock With U
By the time of Janet's last album, 2008's Discipline, the public had largely lost interest. And so, it seemed, had she. Discpline was an unforgivably patchy record, whose flashes of brilliance were outweighed by rote R&B jamzzzz and an over-reliance on smut. The futuristic Rock With U was an exception, with Janet dampening her libido and declaring, "let's converse".

6) Together Again (Jimmy Jam Deeper Remix)
One of Janet's signature songs, Together Again is a tribute to the friends she lost to AIDS, whose celebratory chorus ("I can see your star shining down on me") puts a positive spin on tragedy. The version that charted is a flyweight house track - but the CD single (remember those?) contained this R&B version of the song, with re-recorded vocals and a totally different melody.

7) French Blue
Janet's first brush with the Minneapolis sound came via The Time's guitarist Jesse Johnson, who produced two forgettable tracks on her Dream Street album. But then, in a fit of creative frenzy, he tore up those songs (Fast Girls and Pretty Boy) and stitched them back together to create this Frankenstein's monster of a remix. The stuttering, sleazy synths and backmasked vocals make this sound like a lost Prince b-side.

8) And On And On
An off-cut from the janet album, this samples Sly and the Family Stone's iconic Family Affair guitar lick and turns it into a slick, laid-back summer party jam. It overstays it's welcome slightly ("damn this is a long song," Janet observes as it plays out) but its relegation to b-side status illustrates the high standards Janet and Jam and Lewis were setting for themselves in 1992.

9) Who
A bonus track on the Japanese edition of 2001's All For You, this is better than about half of the songs on the official tracklist - with Jam and Lewis clearly cribbing production notes from The Neptunes. Pure dancefloor catnip.

10) Say You Do
A minor club hit from Janet's eponymous first album, Say You Do shows what the singer was up against before she defied her managers (and her parents) to make Control. Say You Do isn't a bad song, per se, but is very much Jackson 5-lite. Janet gives a generous vocal performance but - despite the title - the song has nothing to say.

11) You Need Me
After the success of Control, Janet's label predictably demanded a second volume of that record's defiant coming-of-age anthems. They went so far as to propose a title, Scandal, and a subject matter - dishing the dirt on the Jackson family's feuds. What's surprising is that Janet initially ran with the idea. You Need Me, which became the b-side to Miss You Much, is an angry riposte to Joe Jackson: "Daddy he was distant. never there to hold my hand... Mother made up for him, always watching over me". In the end, the Rhythm Nation concept was stronger (and the songs better) but this is a fascinating insight into the work in progress.

12) Rope Burn
While Janet's reliance on bedroom ballads eventually grew tedious, this one, from the Velvet Rope album, stands out for its sense of humour ("tie me up, tie me down"). It was a nightly highlight on her Velvet Rope tour, as Janet would bring an audience-member on stage and pole dance for them, as they looked increasingly uncomfortable in the trouser department - you can see an example here. The song gets bonus points for inventive use of a flex-a-tone.

13) Burnitup! (ft Missy Elliot)
Taken from Janet's new album, Unbreakable, and premiered on her world tour, this is a crunchy, club-ready dance track on which Janet sounds re-energised after her seven-year hiatus. It also marks Missy Elliot's third appearance on one of the star's songs, a relationship which began on the caustic Son Of A Gun back in 2001.

14) What's It Gonna Be?
The $2m video for this Busta Rhymes duet was something of an eye-opener, with Janet in a purple latex suit covered in cock rings and Busta transforming into a CGI sperm. Well, why not?

15) Someday Is Tonight
The closing track on Rhythm Nation is essentially a sequel to the hit single Let's Wait Awhile. Where once Janet had preached abstinence "before we go to far", now she was "ready to give up my love." It's still rather coy, with all the heavy petting left to Herb Alpert's fantastically sexy trumpet solo (yes, you read that right). Most importantly, the song paved the way for the declarations of sexual maturity on Janet's next album - the 20 million-selling janet.

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Ed Sheeran announces the end of an era

Ed Sheeran is taking a break. But don't worry: It's not you, it's him.

Here's what the world's most successful ginger tweeted immediately after unveiling his last (for now) single, Lay It All On Me last night.

The song, a collaboration with dustbin lid enthusiasts Rudimental is a fittingly brilliant farewell. In fact, it's the best thing Rudimental have done since Waiting All Night.

I can't wait to see the video.

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Little Mix channel The Ronettes on new single

It's a little strange to hear Little Mix stepping into generic girl band territory, but that's exactly what they've done - with all eight of their tiny little feet - on their new single.

Love Me Like You is a straight-up girl group pastiche - a not-so-distant-cousin of The Ronettes' Be My Baby - in the tradition of the Spice Girls' Stop, and Girls Aloud on The Promise - worryingly, both singles that marked the end of the bands' imperial phases.

I don't think that's the case here... When I spoke to Little Mix over the summer, they said they wanted their third album to be one they could sing along to with their mums. And Love Me Like You would sound awesome blasting out of the car stereo on a family trip to Grandma's.

Nonetheless, it's interesting to see Little Mix aim so squarely for the mainstream after two albums of exciting, edgy pop. It's been the undoing of similar acts (*waves at the Sugababes*) but something tells me the quartet will pull this off with poise.

(Amazingly, the song was originally called Fuck Me Like You. Although that's according to the not-entirely-reliable Daily Star.)

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Here's Sam Smith's Bond song and guess what? It's a ballad

Bond songs are at their best when they're utterly preposterous. Whether it's Paul McCartney sticking a firework up the bottom of a symphony orchestra, or Madonna intoning, "Sigmund Freud: Analyse this," the tracks that suit the franchise best are the ones that match it for popcorn bombast.

Which is why Daniel Craig's po-faced Bond hasn't really had a classic theme. Even Adele's Skyfall, the best-selling Bond song to date, is a bit flat.

So, what are we to make of Sam Smith's entry into the canon, Writing's On The Wall? It makes all the right moves - a tumescent orchestra, a soaring vocal, and lyrics that delve into the super-spy's psyche: "I've spent a lifetime running, but always get away."

But it's also a little dreary. I can't begin to imagine what the nudie silhouette ladies are going to do during the title sequence. Have a nap? Scroll through Twitter? It's certainly not a song you could have a deep throaty snog to, even if you were as suave as James Bond.

Nonetheless, I suspect this will be the first Bond theme to reach number one (it's already at the top of iTunes). The publicity campaign has been flawlessly executed, and Mr Smith is an artist at the top of his game. Plus, it seems like it's going to be a grower.

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Listen to Sia's new single Alive - originally intended for Adele

Sia has premiered her new single, Alive, which was originally written for Adele's next album.

"I wrote it together with Adele but it was rejected at the last minute," the 'You're Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile' singer recently told RTV Slovenija. "It's about Adele's life, so I now sing a song from Adele's perspective."

If that's true, the song marks a radical departure from the love-lorn lyrics of Adele's last album, discussing despair, doubt and (if I'm hearing it right) the anti-insomnia drug Ambien.

Here's the bride:

I had wanted to go to a place where all the demons go
Where the wind don't change
And nothing in the ground can ever grow
No hope, just lies
And you're taught to cry in your pillow
But I'll survive

Musically, we're on more familiar territory - with a foot-stomping arrangement that recalls the Ryan Tedder-assisted Rumour Has It. Sia's vocal performance is extraordinary, too, with an unrestrained vocal that sounds like she's screaming herself hoarse.

Listen below.

Sia - Alive

Alive is the first single from Sia's forthcoming album This Is Acting - so-called "because they are songs I was writing for other people," Sia recently explained. "I didn't go into it thinking, 'This is something I would say'. It's more like play-acting. It's fun."

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The Staves are dead... Long live The Staves

The Staves, currently on tour with Florence + The Machine, have just uploaded a disturbing video for their new single, Steady.

Shot entirely on 16mm film it sees the sisters (Emily, Jess and Camilla) witnessing eerie visions of their own deaths in a remote, abandoned apartment.

There's something particularly creepy about seeing someone standing over their own lifeless body, singing "I was never here". But I suppose that's the point.

The video also gets a special citation for excellent acting by an orange.

The Staves - Steady

When I spoke to them earlier this year, the band described how they arrived at the intricate arrangement of the Bon Iver-produced single.

Jess: Mills [Camilla] came up with the Steady part of the song and straight away I loved it and thought, "oh we have to work on that"... A year later, we eventually did.

I'd had a piece for ages that was completely disconnected to that song, that suddenly fit – which is the verse I sing. It's the bit that goes "Rabbit in a snare" – that was a totally different song. It was a nice moment when they both fused together and it was like, "I think this is legal!"

And then, in the studio, we were like “it needs another section, too”

Emily: I love songs that have got sections.

Jess: So that song’s really nice for us to perform, because Mills starts the song, then passes the baton over to me, then we all come together and Em takes the end section. It was a song of many sections fused together.

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Big song alert: Disclosure + Lorde - Magnets

Last time Disclosure teamed up with Lorde, they performed a slightly wonky mash-up of White Noise and Royals at the Brits.

So it's a relief to hear that their first studio collaboration is a little bit more confident. Magnets is a space-age love song, with Lorde singing that she's gone "past the point of no return" in those silky, sulky vocals of hers. But don't worry - her dry humour hasn't evaporated. "Pretty girls don't know the things I know," she drawls in the second verse.

Speaking about the song to Rolling Stone, Howard Lawrence said: "That's the most equal collaboration on the record. She turned up on her own, no management or bodyguard. You can really hear her sound - she has this sassy yet vulnerable thing."

Magnets premiered on Zane Lowe's Beats1 radio show last night, where Lorde gave an update on the follow-up to 2013's Pure Heroine.

"The challenge for me as a songwriter is, 'How do I tell all these friends that I've made around the world how I'm feeling, while still making something they can listen to and relate to going to college and leaving home or whatever?'" she said, adding: "I think I just hit on the sonic blueprint of it, which is exciting."

You can hear Magnets via the Spotify player below, or on Apple Music.

If you don't subscribe to either of those services, there's a preview on Disclosure's Twitter feed.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Chvrches cover Justin Bieber

The best thing about Chvrches having a new album out - apart from the fact that Chvrches have a new album out - is that they'll be performing lots more cover versions for content-hungry radio stations.

Here they are in Radio 1's Live Lounge doing a souped-up version of Justin Bieber's What Do U Mean. It is 100% splendiferous, although I do wish Lauren Mayberry had retained The Biebs' Flight-Of-The-Conchords-worthy ad lib, "please be more straightforward."

Video: Selena Gomez - Same Old Love

As previously noted, the new Selena Gomez single sounds like Charli XCX covering Gotye's Somebody That I Used To Know - ie very good.

Now Same Old Love has a strangely uneventful video to go with it... It features Selena's journey to a gig (traditionally the least exciting part of any gig) before absconding for a bit of a walkabout, then playing the gig anyway.

The gig bit - which last approximately 32 seconds - is the only time it gets interesting. What a shame.

In case you were wondering, Same Old Love isn't a love song in the traditional sense. "The first people you love in your life are your parents," she told Radio Disney. "So for me, my dad is the first male figure I had in my life. And [the song is about] how much it means to respect your parents and have a healthy relationship with them because it trails on into your relationships when you’re older."

So now you know.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Kiesza's new single is a bloody racket

'Hideaway' hitmaker and part-time hand model Kiesza isn't one to rest on her laurels, following up last year's debut album - Sound Of A Woman - with almost indecent haste.

It's rumoured for release next year, but she's already uploaded the lead single, Give It To The Moment, to YouTube. Predictably, it's a high-velocity dance track - but you might be surprised to find that the Canadian singer has ditched the soulful minimalism of her earlier material for a forks-in-a-blender cacophony of handclaps and squelchy synth noises.

Recorded with Los Angeles-based producer Djemba Djemba, it holds together very well - with Kiesza's soaring vocals cutting through the clatter for a euphoric climax.

The new logo is solid, too.

Kiesza - Give It To The Moment

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Video: Ellie Goulding - On My Mind

There comes a stage in every artist's career where they simply have to bring a horse to the hair salon. Today, it is Ellie Goulding's turn.

The scene is one of many peculiar / brilliant moments in the video for Ellie's new single On My Mind. The story, which sees Ellie wreak her revenge on a dirty no-good boyfriend, is in many a PG-rated version of Rihanna's Bitch Better Have My Money video, but that's a good thing.

Here is the embedded video player with which you can view the aforementioned clip.

Ellie Goulding - On My Mind

By the way - Ellie has gone on the record to deny that the single is about Ed Sheeran, even though it is clearly about Ed Sheeran.

As I mentioned last week, On My Mind contains several lyrical and thematic similarities to Ed's record Don't, which detailed the messy end of the couple's relationship. Ellie's song even references a boy with tattoos, of which Ed has many.

But the singer has insisted to MTV that fans were reading too much into the track.

"I’m sorry to all the people that want it to be about someone, it’s not, it’s like a myth," she said. "I like guys with tattoos, my boyfriend [McBusted's Dougie Poynter] has tattoos... but I don’t mind. People can read into it however they want. It’s fun to do that, I would do that too."

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Have you noticed that Beyonce is singing on the new Naughty Boy single?

Over the past five years, Naughty Boy has produced records with Ed Sheeran, Rihanna, Sam Smith, Emeli Sande and... er, Alesha Dixon. But somehow, the fact that he's got Beyoncé singing on his new single has made everyone do a tremendous, Family Guy-sized double take.

Clearly, Beyoncé operates in a stratosphere above the rest of the pop universe - but I do enjoy the patronising nature of people's response to the collaboration. "How could a British person even approach Beyonce? Is she consorting with peasants now? This will only end in tears."

But speaking to Channel 4 News (who apparently had nothing better to do) Naughty Boy said the song came about quite organically. "I met Beyoncé briefly in LA in January, around the Grammys and she was lovely," he said. "I had the song in its early stages. Someone played it to her. Between us, we finished it and made it the spectacle that it is."

"I think it’s the first time Beyoncé was featured on a record like this, so I feel privileged," he added. "I'm still flying the flag [as] a British producer, an Asian producer. I love that about it."

The track in question is called Runnin' and it is, in typical Naughty Boy style, a midtempo banger with a chorus so uplifting Wonderbra could sue for copyright infringement. Beyoncé wasn't available for the video (obviously), so instead it features two world champion free divers, walking along the floor of the ocean.

Shot over four days in Polynesia, it is supposed to reflect the song's lyric about "two lovers" who are "looking for each other in the enormity of the sea" and have to run to each other. There's a fascinating article about how it was shot over on Cosmpolitan's website... and you can watch the clip below.

Naughty Boy - Runnin' (Lose It All) ft. Beyoncé, Arrow Benjamin

PS: I really tried to find out something about co-vocalist Arrow Benjamin, but all I could dredge up was a Facebook page that said: "Arrow Benjamin Is An Artist With Depth & Purpose. Follow him on his Audio Revolution!!"

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Friday, September 18, 2015

Video: Ibeyi - Stranger / Lover

The debut album by French-Cuban twins Ibeyi is one of my favourite records of the year and Stranger / Lover is one of its best tracks, so it's nice to see it get wider release as a single.

The video, by Léo Bigiaoui and Maxime Baudin, is simple but effective - playing out the psychodrama of the lyrics with brutal simplicity. It calls to mind Godley and Creme's outstanding video for U2's Numb, but with the "tee-hee" mateyness exchanged for a hefty emotional wallop.


Ibeyi - Stranger / Lover

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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Is Ellie Goulding's new single any good?

Yes, it is. Very good indeed. Opening with a stuttering guitar arpeggio, it leads into one of Ellie Goulding's best ever vocal and lyrical performances - with an almost conversational tone to the verses, and a multi-layered call-and-response chorus.

But the Max Martin-assisted song is also - very clearly - Ellie's response to Ed Sheeran's Don't.

Don't, you may remember, was about Ed's relationship with Ellie, and how she (allegedly) left him for One Direction's Niall Horan, while they were all staying in the same hotel. It sounds like this.

On Ellie's song, On My Mind, she also she sings about being in someone's hotel room. He is making grand declarations of love - but she isn't keen. "You wanted my heart, but I just liked your tattoos," she sings.


And If the song really is about Ed, it seems that Ellie's feelings were hurt when he spilled his guts on Don't. "You mess with the truth," she accuses, "saying that I hurt you, but I still don't get it... You didn't love me. Not really."

But in the chorus, she gives a clue as to why it all rankled so much... "So why have I got you on my mind?" she asks. "I could have really liked you."

What a convoluted (but fascinating) tale. I look forward to hearing Niall's version of the story on One Direction's next album.

Listen below.

On My Mind premiered on Nick Grimshaw's Radio 1 show this morning. Ellie didn't discuss the subject matter, but did talk a little about her forthcoming third album, Delirium.

"It's been a long time coming. Love Me Like You Do... was never really meant to happen. I thought I was doing that for the film then it all kicked off. All of a sudden it was like 'she's back'. Now I'm really back. I'm back and it's just me."

Discussing On My Mind, she added:

"This was the first song I wrote with Max Martin. We met when we did Love Me Like You Do, and we got on really well. He's brilliant, he's hilarious.

"It's all very relaxed there. It's not like you go in and say, 'right, let's write a song'. It's more like we just chat about things for a day, and the next day we start thinking about writing some lyrics. The more I talk, the more ideas I come up with to write about."

You can hear the full interview (there's about 45 minutes of it) on the BBC iPlayer. Ellie first pops up at around 1h 45min into the show.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Songs you may have missed: The Duffy comeback edition

Songs You May Have Missed is a semi-regular round-up of music that's slipped through my fingers over the last seven days. This week's candidates include Duffy (yes, that Duffy) and all these other goodies:

1) Selena Gomez - Same Old Love
This Charli XCX cast off riffs on Gotye's Somebody That I Used To Know, and was apparently intended for Rihanna before Selena nabbed it. It's Rihanna's loss. And Charli's. Gotye will be seeing the lot of them in court.

2) ZHU ft AlunaGeorge - Automatic
You might not recognise the name, but Zhu's Faded was one of the biggest club crossovers of last year (you'll probably recognise the hook - "baby, I'm wasted, all I wanna do is drive home to you...").

His new track enlists the Aluna half of AlunaGeorge for a similarly dark take on deep house. Stick around for the sax solo at the end. Very INXS.

3) Hailee Stanfield - Love Myself (acoustic)
A competently delivered performance of one of the year's toppermost pop songs.

4) Roman GianArthur - No Surprises (ft Janelle Monae)
Roman GianArthur is a member of Janelle Monee's Wondaland Arts Society, whatever that means. He's just released an EP of Radiohead covers (listen here) of which this is the absolute standout.

It takes the original's depiction of anaesthetised suburban life and turns it into an irresistible nu-soul duet. Radiohead fans may hate it but - judging by the time I saw Thom Yorke grooving away to Mary J Blige - he'd give it the seal of approval.

5) Aquilo - Good Girl
Aquilo are Ben Fletcher and Tom Higham, two neighbours from the Lake District who have previously specialised in tasetful, ambient electronica. But they seem to have found the emergency chorus button on their laptop, with this slinky little single, which is out on Island records imminently.

6) Rachel Platten - Stand By You
I was surprised to find out that Rachel Platten was 34. Not that there's anything wrong with that - it's just that I can't remember the last time a record label signed a pop artist who predated YouTube.

This song follows up to the UK number one Fight Song, and is a similarly percussion-driven arms-akimbo pop stomper. "It's a love song at its core," says Rachel "and it's about being the hands to catch someone if they need to fall. I'm honestly obsessed with this song. Is that okay to say?"

7) XY Constant - Do It Well ft Tom Aspaul
Falmouth-based producer XY Constant plays out the summer with this chiming and catchy - if somewhat undemanding - tropical dance track. As every blog under the sun has noted, it sounds exactly like Years & Years.

8) Duffy - Whole Lot of Love
Eagle-eyed cinemagoers may have spotted Duffy popping up in the new Tom Hardy movie, Legend, when it came out last weekend. The Welsh warbler cameos as US singer Timi Yuro in the Kray twins biopic - and this tambourine-tanged track is one of the soundtrack's standouts.

It'll be interesting to see if Duffy can orchestrate a proper comeback off the back of it... And if you're wondering where the Rockferry singer has been for the last six years, this article on Music Business Worldwide tells a cautionary tale for anyone entering the music business.

9) Halsey - Maida Vale session
Pop's shootingest star descended on the BBC's legendary Maida Vale studios last night to perform a couple of songs from her 4-star debut album, Badlands. You can hear Hurricane and New Americana at the start of this 28-minute segment - but stick around to the end for a rather astonishing mash-up of three songs: Her own Young God, The Weekend’s Often, and Justin Bieber's What Do You Mean?

10) Kendrick Lamar - Album medley (live on Stephen Colbert)
Kendrick Lamar was the final performer on Comedy Central's Colbert Report last December. On Wednesday night, he became the first musical guest on Stephen Colberts new show - The Late Show - on CBS.

It's a masterclass in how to perform rap live. Energetic but controlled, with a pin-sharp live band, Lamar runs through four tracks from his To Pimp A Butterfly album in just six minutes.

If you watch nothing else in this megapost, make it this.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Disclosure's video trilogy reaches its conclusion

As you might know, Dancefloor dabblers Disclosure have been releasing a "mini movie" to coincide with their new album, Caracal.

Split into three parts, the cinematic story began with a young girl smuggling a mysterious "ink" through a dystopian police state. The second installment, which was also the official video for Omen, basically ditched the narrative for a series of shots of a sweaty Sam Smith.

The final video, picks up the thread again, with Mariella captured and interrogated by a mysterious stooge with a pocketwatch. Then she turns into Howard Lawrence, the youngest Disclosure brother, after which... oh, I don't know. It's a load of old nonsense. But the song, Jaded, is up to the band's usual high standard.

Disclosure - Jaded

So that's all well and good. But what we REALLY want to hear is the track Lorde recorded with the brothers' Lawrence. A clip of it leaked yesterday and it sounds more than promising.

Voice Recorder >>

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Monday, September 14, 2015

Macklemore is back(lemore)

I'm not a fan of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis's comeback single, Downtown. It's a Frankenstein's Monster of a song, stitched together from half a dozen half-formed ideas. I can't work out whether it's paying tribute to old-skool hip-hop or making fun of it. And what's with the chorus? Is Macklemore a secret Roxette fan?

The video is equally off-putting, full of crotch-grabbing and "hey bro" douchebaggery. What was everyone thinking?

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis - Downtown

Awful, isn't it?

Luckily, Macklemore's next song - a duet with Ed Sheeran called Growing Up - is more focussed... and a lot less hateful. It was written for his baby daughter, he says, and "half of it is advice about growing up. The other half is trying to figure out how to grow up myself."

Here's part of a long essay about her birth - and Macklemore's fears about being a dad - from his SoundCloud page.

Our daughter, Sloane Ava Simone Haggerty was born 2 months ago on May 29th. There is nothing like the joy and happiness that comes from bringing a baby into this universe. She has filled my heart in ways that I never knew were possible. She is the love of my life. This song is for her.

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Friday, September 11, 2015

MNEK goes volcanic

There are big songs, there are BIG songs and there are HUMONGOUS songs. But this song sounds like a volcano erupted in the Grand Canyon.

It's called Never Forget You and it courtesy of MNEK - producer of Madonna's Living For Love and Little Mix's Wings - and Swedish pop star Zara Larsson. At times, the singers sound like they're competing with Anastacia and Celine Dion for the title of "shoutiest duet of all time". At others - particularly when it veers into deep house territory - it's irresistibly soulful.

The tension between the two styles is what makes it work. You're constantly caught off balance as the song swerves between hyperbole and harmony... so your attention never wavers.

It could be a massive hit, or it could make you cover your ears and run away. Listen below to find out.

MNEK and Zara Larsson - Never Forget You

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Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Demi Lovato pulled off a great Live Lounge version of Cool For The Summer

It may be one of the songs of the year, but Demi Lovato's Cool For The Summer is entirely a studio creation.

Thanks to producer Max Martin, its an electronic duststorm of duelling guitars and deafening synths that seems impossible to recreate for an acoustic performance...

But Demi attempted that very thing in the Radio 1 Live Lounge this morning, trading the sawtooth guitar sound for a funky Rhodes piano. And, do you know what? I think she pulled it off.

Listen here.

Sadly, that audio might get pulled down after 30 days... But Demi's (inferior) cover of Hozier's Take Me To Church will live forever on YouTube. Here it is, for reference.

Demi Lovato - Take Me To Church

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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Meet Kanye West's new favourite artist

Last year, Kanye West signed Kacy Hill to his G.O.O.D Music imprint, based on the strength of one single - Experience.

Featuring a dreamy, fractured vocal over a deep electric beat, it was an impressive introduction - and one that extolled the virtues of a stimulant-free life ("drink is a soft kind prison," she trilled).

The song was a comment "on society's inability to function without mind-altering substances," she explained to BlahBlahBlahScience. "I think there's something really lovely in being able to be a human and be nervous and weird and be okay with it. Everyone wants to be sold a lifestyle but no one wants to honestly feel what it is to be consciously alive."

In another interview, with Pigeons and Planes, the singer said it was one of the first songs she had written, after being encouraged by a photographer who discovered Kacy singing to herself on a shoot.

As someone whose first song was about a two-headed robot, colour me impressed.

Kacy Hill - Experience

Kacy grew up in Phoenix, Arizona, and began modelling as a teenager. She moved to LA aged 16 after graduating from High School and was cast in a string of commercials for American Apparel. Perhaps more importantly for her future career, she landed the job of backing dancer on Kanye's Yeezus tour last year.

But the 21-year-old has been silent since signing her deal last December... until now.

Foreign Fields - a gorgeous, swelling electronic epic - is her G.O.O.D. Music debut; calling to mind the minimalism of James Blake and the melodies of Little Dragon's Yukimi Nagano. Others have compared Kacy to Jamie Woon and FKA Twigs - so you get the picture.

Lyrically, the song is about "finding people in your life that help you progress and move you forward," Kacy told Hunger TV. It exemplifies the "sweet spot between classic pop and 'cool' music," that she's trying to capture on her forthcoming debut album.

Watch the unsettling, Rankin-directed video below.

Kacy Hill - Foreign Fields

Fun fact: Kacy can lick her elbow.

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Monday, September 7, 2015

Is it time for a gospel house revival?

Back during the first wave of deep house, the Grammy-winning gospel band Sounds of Blackness scored a handful of UK hits with dance versions of their singles. Chief among them was this classic David Morales remix of I Believe, a song Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis knocked off after they finished the Janet album

With Disclosure, Duke Dumont, Julio Bashmore and the rest crate digging for mid-90s inspiration, it was only a matter of time before someone revived the gospel-house vibe. But beating them all to the punch is Para One - aka French electro producer Jean-Baptiste de Laubier - who just so happens to have lived through the craze first time around.

He's hooked up with the South African Youth Choir (pictured above) for a song called Elevation that's equal parts inspiring and funky. It's been hanging around clubs and blogs since June, but I reckon it's still worth a spin as the sun sets on summer.

Check it out.

Para One - Elevation

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Saturday, September 5, 2015

Songs you may have missed: Three weeks off edition

Let's just gloss over the three week gap in posts (the longest unscheduled break I've taken in 11 years) and crack on with some great music.

Here's what you (I) missed.

1) Justin Bieber - What Do You Mean?
Justin's first UK number one, and deservedly so, this is a collaboration with Skrillex and Diplo, as part of their Jack U project. It's been around since Christmas, slowly creeping into people's consciousness, thanks to an understated and, dare I say, emotional performance from the former brat. Best bit is the summery flute solo which, it turns out, is actually a heavily-processed vocal sample.

2) Taylor Swift - Wildest Dreams
This is a song from Taylor Swift's underappreciated recent album 1989. The video has caused some controversy because the lion does not eat Taylor's face off, or something.

3) Halsey - New Americana (live)
Why Ashley Nicolette Frangipane decided to adopt a stage name is beyond me... Maybe there was another Ashley Frangipane registered with ASCAP?

It doesn't really matter, though, when her music is this catchy. New Americana is a strident pop anthem set to a marching beat, in which the 20-year-old declares the next generation of Americans was "raised on Biggie and Nirvana". Imaginging the British equivalent - "raised on Dizzee and the Gallaghers" - makes Halsey's version seem even cooler.

4) Half Moon Run - Turn Your Love
Montreal indie outfit Half Moon Run scored Annie Mac's "Hottest Record" accolade on Tuesday with this skittering, psychedelic track. It starts off like an Alt-J cast off but builds into a beautiful crescendo with a "was that really human" falsetto.

5) Jarryd James - Sure Love
A laid back, loose fitting love ballad from Brisbane's Jarryd James, who scored a top 10 hit in Australia earlier this year and has been working extensively with Lorde's producer, Joel Little.

This song, however, comes via US super-producer Malay (Frank Ocean), who sprinkles his vocals over a twinkling Rhodes piano and a pleasingly chunky tambourine sound. Luscious listening.

6) Troye Sivan - Wild
Strewth, it's another Aussie singer-songwriter. Troye Sivan hails from Perth, and is being tipped for big things by the likes of Rolling Stone and Popjustice (who, somewhat prematurely, named him "pop entity of 2014").

He makes pop music that's quietly anthemic (if such a thing is possible), delivering monumental hooks with a subtle intimacy. Wild is the "big single", capturing the first tilt of romance, when you're walking home from a club with someone new and thinking: "Oh my God, they're hot".

It's the title track of his new six-song EP which, he says, is a mere snapshot of the "upwards of sixty" songs he's written over the last year. Expect big things.

7) Janet Jackson - Unbreakable
The title track, and opening number, from Janet's new album is a supple, funky little number about gaining strength from your friends and family. "The truth is that I wouldn’t be here Without the love I stand on," sings Janet over an old-time soul groove.

I've said it before, but everything about this new Janet project screams "return to form".

8) Oh Wonder - Livewire (live lounge)
Oh Wonder are something of an indie sensation. They appeared on Soundcloud last year, describing themselves simply as a "writing duo, releasing one song a month for a year." They did just that, captivating their small band of followers with a sequence of fragile, melodic songs set to heavy - if subdued - hip-hop beats.

Last week, they popped into Radio One for their first ever session... which also turned out to be their first ever live performance. Rarely do bands emerge so perfectly formed - but these guys are the real deal.

9) Alexx Mack - Sunglasses
2015 is turning out to be a vintage year for uncomplicated, balls out pop - from Demi Lovato's Cool For The Summer, to Little Mix's Black Magic. I guess we have Taylor Swift to thank.

The latest entry into canon is a minor one, but worth noting simply for the lyric: "Let's wake up naked and make out". Think Charli XCX by way of Katy Perry and you'll get the idea.

10) John Newman - Tiring Game (ft Charlie Wilson)
John Newman's been threatening to go gospel for ages. Now he finally goes for it, on this frantically cheesy duet with Charlie Wilson. A Philip Bailey and Phil Collins for the sound system generation.

11) Grace Mitchell - Jitter
Left-field, glitchy, speaker-threatening pop from 16-year-old Grace Mitchell, who is signed to Republic Records - home to Lorde and Taylor Swift.

The big surprise is that this avant garde track is produced by Mark Foster of Foster The People "fame".

12) Avicii - For A Better Day
Taking his cues from Mumford and Sons, Avicii has dropped the banjos and gone stadium rock. I'm not kidding.

13) Chvrches - Leave A Trace (Four Tet Remix)
Deconstructing Chvrches' wall of synths and viewing the debris through a haze of television distortion, this is an unsettling, but brilliant, remix. The original's still better, though.

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