Eurovision 2013 Review

A brief review of the whole Malmö 2013 Eurovision show
and where the UK is going wrong with all this (still…)

Who believes in Bonnie, then?

Who believes in Bonnie, then?

 If anyone is going to host a decent Eurovision show, it’s going to be Sweden, almost forty years on from their win with the best Eurovision song of all time. They had a presenter who spoke good English and made jokes that didn’t fall entirely flat. There was a fun comedy segment and a brilliant song section where they made fun of all the thing Sweden is famous for, oddly with a sexy nymph writhing around in a large glass of milk, which has made me change the name of my currently on hiatus  band to “Milky Bimbo”, but your bandmates can’t complain about that kind of thing when they’re never bloody present, can they?

It opened with a great parade of flag-bearers from all of the participated nations, very reminiscent of last year’s Olympics opening ceremony (cunning), to a musical backdrop provided by a group of people who were not Abba. Despite a bit of teasing and general musing that Abba would reunite for the main event (although I protested that Agnetha was still doing the rounds elsewhere promoting her solo album), it was a song written by Benny and Björn with Leona Lewis’ best pal, Avicii. Benny and Bjorn didn’t even turn up to wave from the crowd so that was a disappointment. The flag-bearing participants marched across the bridge suspended in the air, a bridge which represented that which links Malmö to Denmark in real life, in itself very suspicious indeed,  and you could see all their excited faces: the good looking Azerbaijan guy, the beautiful Estonian girl, the sexy Greek men, the stunning virginal Norwegian lady, then Bonnie Tyler stumbling along looking like Tulisa…

She’s a good lass is Bonnie; she’s been very entertaining in all pre-broadcast appearances, including asking the producers of The One Show to send some drinks to her down the phone line and telling stories about her time in Denmark, before someone awkwardly stepped in to tell her she was actually in Sweden, and had been for a week, while the other guest on the sofa, Christ Tarrant, held his head in his hands.  The problem with Bonnie’s entry was the same as with Englebert Humperdinck’s in 2012, and it’s quite difficult to understand how the UK’s relevant team managed to make the same mistake two years in a row.

But before I get onto a long rant about that, let’s see how everyone else got on. It was a pretty decent song contest this year, perhaps a bit ballad heavy, though. Luckily a lot of these ballads were sifted out in the semi-finals, along with a fair amount of decent ones, while a few crap ones somehow slipped through the net. I have made some notes on this year’s entries, compiled from both semi-finals and the grand final, along with a running commentary (of the semis) from my elderly grandmother who often saw past the gimmicks and at times was quite blunt.  I probably won’t comment on all songs because some don’t deserve my time, but I’ll see what I can do.

First, last year’s true winner:

 

Alors… je commence…

France – Amandine Bourgeois – L’Enfer et Moi (Hell and I):
: Rubbish song that didn’t ever go anywhere, despite the singer acting like it did, which was just embarrassing. France is one of the big five so this will be the first time most people have heard it, and the last time for that matter. The singer was not very attractive, which was unusual for this year’s contest where everyone was stupidly beautiful. I bet they had a massive orgy backstage after the event, with Ana Matronic egging them all one. This singer for France looked quite filthy, but it would be unprofessional to say this was a typical French look. Because it is not typical. Definitely not. No.
Amandine opens the show with a real look at how painful hell can be. [4/10]

Lithuania – Andrius Pojavis – Something:
Absolutely dire.  There was the good line: “Because of the shoes I’m wearing today, one is called love, the other is pain”, a line that everyone picked up on in the semi-final and this is most likely what helped the song to qualify. The singer had NO stage presence and did not know what to do with his arms at any point. Grandma’s opinion: “He’s a nice looking fella’”. And there you have it.
They say ‘something is better than nothing’, however not in Lithuania’s case. 
[1/10]

Moldova – Aliona Moon – O Mie (A Thousand): 
This song was sung in foreign, which doesn’t help the English viewer, but it was quite a good mid-tempo ballad which nobody seemed to be interested about. The gimmick of having her dress grow really tall, with fiery projections was very cool, but then even this effect was used again later in the show by Romania. Grandma’s opinions: “Isn’t she tiny? She’s petite! There’s nothing of her! I don’t think that’s going to do a lot. [The dress grows and Grandma’s jaw drops] How did she do that!? How did that happen?!”
Aliona shoots for the moon and misses. [7/10]

Finland: Krista Siegfrids – Marry Me:
From the givers of Lordi comes the kind of entry that I hate, but the kind of entry that is perfect for Eurovision as long as it doesn’t win (see Russian grannies). A woman singing that she wants her boyfriend to propose, with the post-chorus chant of ‘Uh oh, Uh oh, a-ding-dong’, which was the highlight of the performance. This did terribly and rightly so, but some have put this down to the lesbian kiss at the end. One friend said to me that it would never win because everyone hates the poor gays, but this is in fact because the woman is not a lesbian, she told interviewers that she has been with her boyfriend for eight years, the kiss was just a tasteless ploy for votes and a ‘shock tactic’ which means absolutely nothing in a post t.a.T.u. fake-lesbian music world.
Let’s hope the boyfriend signs a pre-nup. [3/10]

Belgium – Roberto Bellarosa – Love Kills:
A repetitive song dance song sung by a cute little chap, telling us ‘love kills over and over’, over and over.  I had no opinion of it at all but Grandma grew quite agitated: “That’s not a spot on that other one I liked [Croatia, who didn’t qualify] It’s Croatia for me. You don’t need all these gimmicks if you can sing. Those two dancing at the side look as if they’ve got a pain in the Anadin [referencing the sponsor of Deal or No Deal]. [Then to me] You could knock spots off him, but you won’t do anything about your voice!”. Watch out next year, Copenhagen.
Give Roberto an injection of love and wait for it to take effect [3/10]

Belarus – Alyona Lanskaya – Solayoh:
Another hottie. The woman steps out of disco ball and sings a generic Eurovision song to very nice eastern European-sounding music! The rhyming is a bit dodgy, she says “the sun is always shining on YA” so she can rhyme that with CHA CHA! Everybody sing! Solayoh-replay-oh! Grandma: “What the HELL have the men got on? They’ve got their crotch down by their knees!  Those men! What on EARTH have they got on?! It’s got a bit of rhythm to it but no, it don’t do nothing for me!”
I will not replay-oh. [4/10]

Malta – Gianluca – Tomorrow:
A very pleasant listen. There is a ukulele which prompted Twitter users to claim it was a rip-off of the lyrically-abominable ‘Hey Soul Sister’ by Train, as it appears that most people have never heard a ukulele anywhere else. This is a lovely song indeed and it is nice to listen to “His name is Jeremy, working in IT. Risk assessment’s his investment”. The lyrics are quite twee and silly, so they’ve put them up in a background lyrics video so everyone can follow the story of Jeremy and his pursuit of love. The singer is a very happy chap indeed though, and I’d put this song’s success 100% down to his pure, unrestrained joy. Grandma notes that she likes this one, mainly because she “likes the men”.
Sadly it’s probably back to the day job tomorrow for nice little Gianluca [8/10]

Russia – Dina Garipova – What If:
I think this may be the one that I labelled as GENERIC on first listen. She has many large orbs, so I think this orb over-usage was what ousted by dear Valentina Monetta of San Marino and stole her glowing orb crown. There is a key change in this so you can’t fault that, but the song was ruddy cheesy. Coming together as one, together, together, change the world forever etc., etc. Grandma: “She’s very plain looking, isn’t she? It’s not a bad song.  ‘If’, that’s a little word with a big meaning. Yes it’s got one hell of a meaning. If… if…” [fades, looking longingly into the distance, prompting strange looks from family].
What if Russia entered something decent and original for once? [4/10]

Germany – Cascada – Glorious:
The Cascada entry. One friend attending the party told me that I’d rated this song too highly purely based on my previous knowledge of Cascada, before I pointed out that I have hated all of Cascada’s europop output up to now. Apparently this song plagiarised ‘Euphoria’ but the only similarity I can hear is the dance music and ‘ORRRRR’ syllable. Another party guest noted that “she hasn’t aged well”, which was rather rude, but she looks like she’s been lifting a lot of heavy equipment recently and I wouldn’t want to challenge her to a wrestle (and I wouldn’t say that about many entrants this year, AM I RIGHT?). I thought this was pretty good though, much to my shame. I don’t think many people knew Cascada were German? One Twitter user angrily exclaimed that “Cascada is a TRAITOR! How could she sing for GERMANY?”. Oh dear. They’d probably claim Abba as their own as well, given the chance.
Hardly a glorious return to form but better than most. [8]

Armenia – Dorians – Lonely Planet:
By far the worst of all the songs in the show. Written by a member of Black Sabbath and sounding nothing like you would expect when considering that knowledge. It’s more Scouting for Girls than Black Sabbath. A song about saving the lonely planet, a shock this got through at the expensive of San Marino and embarrassing for all I dread to think about the carbon footprint they have stamped into Sweden, especially with all those flames and such.
Send them to their own isolated planet and they can protect that as they wish. [0/10]

Note:  I will never get bored of how Malmö is pronounced. It is one of my pronunciation highlights of the night.

Netherlands – Anouk – Birds:
A Lana del Rey-like entry from Anouk. It goes on a bit and there is absolutely no beat but it’s nice the Netherlands managed to get through for once. This gets a big cheer though but the subject matter reminds me of one of my favourite B-movies, ‘Birdemic: Shock and Terror’, itself which contains a song far better than this, and all of this year’s entrants. [See below] Grandma: “It’s a bit boring when you get women singing after women. You want something like Brotherhood of Man, or Sandi Shaw with Puppet on a String, that was a lovely one! Nobody can write us a good song anymore. Who could sing it better than Bonnie Tyler with that lovely gravelly voice of hers? What I’d love to hear is Bonnie Tyler singing with Rod Stewart, they’ve both got gravelly voices. [Back on topic] I don’t think this will get far, unless it’s political. LOOK AT THAT BIG FELLA IN THE BACKGROUND!”
Fly away home [3/10]

Romania – Cezar – It’s My Life:
It’s a shame Cezar let down Romania this year. My general Eurovision theory is this: Safura should have won for Azerbaijan in 2010. Azerbaijan undeservedly won in 2011 when Eric Saade should have won for Sweden. Sweden won in 2012 when I had my money on Mandinga from Romania. The theory is that a country always wins Eurovision the year after I wanted it to win (you can’t argue with that evidence!), so Romania should be my bet this year. However it is a falsetto-singing, fist-clenching, dance-opera Rupert Everett lookalike standing on a billowing sheet of plastic while naked dancers jiggle around him. Another novelty entry.
In need of life-coaching [1/10]

Hungary – ByeAlex – Kedvesem (My Darling):
I was very pleased this got through, because it seemed so unlikely. A Hungarian hipster in a beanie and thick-framed glasses bobs up and down singing a song that nobody outside his country will understand, while weird cartoon images pass behind him on the screen. It is not a Eurovision-style song by any means but is pleasant enough to listen to. Grandma said this wouldn’t do well unless they livened it up a bit. They didn’t.
Bye, Alex. (These are writing themselves!) [6/10]

Denmark – Emmelie de Forest – Only Teardrops:
Somebody somewhere decided this was the favourite, despite it not really being a stand out. It gets a rousing cheer before it even starts when the man blows on his cheeky little whistle. The audience are clapping along, as if it’s already won. She’s just a young Danish Shakira-lite but I reckon Shakira will need to release a decent song by the end of the year before Emmelie de Forest is rolled out as her full-time, worldwide replacement. Sparks and glitter are raining down from the sky and she hasn’t won yet, which is very presumptuous and rather arrogant of them, but nobody is going to argue with it at this point. The winner was decided long before the contest and surely it’s just a coincidence that the city of Malmö is connected to Denmark by a short bridge, easing the process of dismantling everything and transporting it to next year’s venue in the most extraordinary way. Suspicious. It’s no better than Romania’s entry last year! Grandma agrees, again referring to her favourite of Croatia which still hasn’t been resurrected since it was kicked out in the semis. “Oh no, it’s Croatia for me.  It’s not a spot on the other one, but it all depends what you like.” I tell her that there are a lot of pretty women this year and she tells me off, saying “Yes but you’re not voting for that, you’re voting for the SONG… It’s the men for me”. That’s me told, then.
Lucky that her breasts are fine and ample, so you don’t confuse her with Shakira [7/10]

Azerbaijan – Farid Mammadov – Hold Me:
I don’t agree with countries like Azerbaijan being in Eurovision since they are not in Europe, but you can’t complain when they take it so bloody seriously. Every year Azerbaijan enter a great song and put on a great performance and it puts our country to shame as we enter a steady stream of crap then complain that people hate our country for political reasons. This came second in the end and rightly so; it was a good Eurovision/pop song sung by a stupidly handsome singer, with by far the best and most interesting staging of the night, and you can’t argue with that. I wish this had won, if Norway couldn’t, just so I can hear everyone pronouncing the name AZER-BAI-JAN over and over again. HEHLO BA-KU! Never mind. I got a good laugh out of the various pronunciations of Azerbaijan throughout the night. Grandma had a very deep opinion of this one: “Who is that? [“Azerbaijan”] I can’t say that.”

I don’t suppose he struggled to find someone to hold him after the show [9/10]

Greece – Koza Mostra – Alcohol is Free:
They’ve sent another novelty song again. It’s about alcohol (Lol! I love to drink too!), there is an old man on stage and all the good looking band members are wearing skirts. But at least good old Greece have a group rather than a sexy bimbo this year, it’s just a shame the song is 100% gimmick. Grandma: “That’s jolly. It’s a gimmick but it’s jolly. One with a squeezebox, a guitar, a trumpet!” (“Squeezebox”)
Hangovers all round on Sunday morning [6/10]

Ukraine – Zlata Ognevich – Gravity:
This was my second bet. I loved the song in the studio version but something was lost in the live performance, it didn’t sound as big as it could have done. I don’t understand why she had to be brought on stage by an actual giant either, though he promptly disappears. This caused a lot of bores to complain that this was making light of the man’s condition but he surely made a bit of money from it and got some good exposure for his acting career. This song is great, the lady’s vocals are astronomically good and she is the best looking female in the competition, an eastern European Shania Twain. A worthy top-3 placing. The key changes at the end are ear-piercing and apart from the giant, it’s pretty gimmick free, just an excellent vocalist wailing in a sexy dress and surely worthy of a placement of the Lion King soundtrack. As Zlata wails impossible notes at the top of her lungs, Grandma tells me: “You could knock them all dead if you went on here. You ought to do something with that voice of yours.” I don’t know if I can back up those comments with sufficient evidence.
Sir Isaac Newton’s life’s work was leading up to this moment [8/10]

Italy – Marco Mengoni- L’Essenziale (The Essential):
I like Italy. Since their comeback a few years ago they have entered consistently good songs that will resonate well with the national juries but perhaps not so much with the heckling audience who want accordions and fireworks. I liked this a lot because it was rather beautiful but the staging was terrible. Nothing happened. The room was not impressed at my party.
Seemingly unaware that good staging is essential to win this thing [6/10]

Norway – Margaret Berger – I Feed You My Love:
This was my favourite of the night. I thought it stood out by miles as a darker song than the rest, although this could have been used to better effect in the staging. I was the only person at my party who gave this points, and the UK gave this no points either, so I think everyone has missed something that I saw here. I loved the strings, the drums, the rather nonsensical chorus line/title of ‘I feed you my love’, her clothing, her looks and especially her funny little dancing which appeared to be hugely restricted by her dress. The vocals seemed a bit lacking in the performance on the night, so perhaps better use could have been made of the backing singers. I fully expected this to trounce Denmark and bring the competition back to Alexander Rybak’s homeland, but you can’t complain about a fourth place ranking really. I expect this will chart in the UK, if anyone has any sense.
I like a feeder [10/10]

Georgia – Nodi Tatishvili and Sophie Gelovani – Waterfall:
I hadn’t heard this one before the semi-final but it struck me as a great possible winner, that could sneak up on all the high octane, bare-footed dance gimmicks and give the contest back to a power ballad, much like Azerbaijan’s 2011 winner. I was slightly disheartened to hear that Georgia had bought out Sweden’s winning-song writers from last year in order to secure a hit. Don’t these countries have songwriters of their own? I think a rule will be introduced in years to come that each country’s entry must be written by a national of that country, rather than Scandinavian writers doing the whole blinking lot every year. This did not do nearly as well as I expected, which shocked me. All together now, “I’m flying like if I had wings, like I am sailing on a sea of dreams, your love is pouring down on me, you’re my WATERFALL”. Bloody good showing from Georgia. They can be proud of that.
Things can only get wetter [8/10]

Ireland – Ryan Dolan – Only Love Survives:
I am glad the UK didn’t finish last this year and the competitive side in me is rather happy Ireland did. The song is terribly derivative; it sounds like a Pitbull and Enrique Iglesias effort being sung by Joey Essex. There is an Ibiza rave chorus and half naked super-camp dancers, but I still don’t know why this finished last below atrocities such as Armenia, Iceland and France. My favourite part was that Ireland appeared to have saved up all their Euros for the last few years of Jedward representing them and had finally got a song they thought could win for them, now they were able to host it, yet it does worse than either of the Jedward efforts. Classic. But then Norway’s pretty decent entry came last in 2012. It’s anyone’s guess how the voting will turn out so it’s never worth a wager on something so subjective and unpredictable. Oh no, Graham Norton just said “THAT COULD WIN!”. Grandma noted that Ireland usually have a good song, but it was not as good as other years, so she was disappointed in that respect, but I think she is quite a big Jedward fan, so that’s to be expected.
Back on the dole for Dolan [5/10]

So that’s that. Bonnie had a crack at it but she was never going to win with that song, even though it was written by Desmond Child of Livin’ on a Prayer, Livin’ La Vida Loca, and She Bangs fame, a poor showing from him.

What the UK needs to do is have a look at recent trends of what was popular in the last few Eurovision contests and try to create an entry that takes into account factors of these, to produce a song that people will actually enjoy. This does mean writing a song especially for the event, not just picking a ‘strong’ track that would never, ever have been heard, from the new album of an 80’s star. When the last winner by a mile was a dance track, it may be an idea to follow suit and enter a song that is current and would actually stand a chance of being played on radio, or of being remembered at all by the end of the competition.

You can’t just rely on the name of your entry, even if it is someone as once-good as Bonnie Tyler, because if the song is crap and the UK can’t get behind it, what is the chance that Europe (and parts of Asia) will? If a pensioner like Humperdinck singing a crap ballad came second from last (and last in the jury vote) last year, don’t do exactly the same and enter another forgotten pensioner with a crap ballad. The BBC can tell us all they like that Bonnie/Englebert ‘has a huge fan base across Europe’ when there is no evidence of this come the end of the competition.

Everyone needs to let go of the whole Jade Ewen/Andrew Lloyd Webber thing, yes they came 5th with a ballad but this was a fluke. Nobody seems to have realised that while Blue came eleventh in 2011, if you look at the statistics that the Eurovision folks later published, Blue came FIFTH on public votes, with their score being dragged down by a jury (in a system which was supposedly devised to help countries like ours, to whom the voting public were unjust!). The Blue song was an up-tempo, fairly decent pop song, being sung by a group of handsome, muscular males. Nearly every single act in the in Eurovision final this year was BEAUTIFUL.

I’ve never heard anything about Azerbaijan outside of a Eurovision context, but the one opinion I have of it now is that everyone there is good looking. Similarly, everyone in Azerbaijan must think our country is one full of dizzy old folks being forced to sing for their suppers and work until they are eighty (wait a minute…).

We need to stop complaining that ‘the voting is fixed’, ‘everybody hates us because of war’ and all the other stupid excuses. Germany managed to win it, despite all their past political faux pas, because they entered a cute girl singing a decent and memorable song, and you can’t moan about block voting when the top 4 this year were all actually decent songs.

What we need is someone beautiful and talented.

What we need is someone beautiful and talented.

We need to therefore do the same, and that is why we should enter someone like Marina and the Diamonds, for example. She is gorgeous, every inch the popstar, and writes bloody good pop songs. She’d probably have a good night out and take advantage of the limitless flowing alcohol, like Emmelie de Forest clearly did on Saturday, seeming to get drunker every time she was awarded 12 points.  Ideally Marina, or whoever, will be singing a huge pop song, in a colourful dress, preferably not clutching her silly poodle toy, and she will win because of all the silly faces she pulls at the camera, like that nice Maltese chap did this year.  This is an example; you could enter anybody young and attractive with a decent song and the idea stands. Sending pensioners with crap ballads is the opposite of what everyone else does, so we’re not ‘breaking the mould’, we’re just showing we haven’t got a clue about how to approach the whole thing. Of course doing all of this doesn’t mean you will WIN, see Eric Saade’s shocking loss and Margaret Berger’s startling oversight this year, but we will place top half and that’s better than we’ve done for the last couple of years.

I do have another theory as to why we don’t place well (and the same goes for France and Spain here), is that we do not get to participate in the semi-finals due to our automatic inclusion and annual backhanders to the producers. Although this allows us to qualify where it will be otherwise unlikely, we do not get the publicity that the other countries get from their appearances in the semi-finals and the subsequent social media coverage of this, as the semi-finals seemingly become more popular every year. For a lot of people, myself and my friends included, the big Eurovision final is the first time you hear the songs from the big 5, whereas the auditioning songs have wormed their way into people’s ears several days before.

Finally, the recent trend of there being a ‘bookies’ favourite’ weeks in advance (decided by WHOM?) which goes on to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, is rather aggravating; I don’t know where these come from. Only Teardrops was a decent song but sounded like any other song, any other year. It was just decided that this was the favourite, so people believed it and paid special attention to it, whereas they would have gone for a wee or to open a beer during someone that hadn’t been touted as a winner, like Moldova or any other random entrant. That needs to stop, ideally.

We could bring back a national selection process after complaining about the acts that the BBC selects for us, but then we would probably go back to selecting people like Scooch, dressed as air stewards and asking the audience if they want anything to suck on. In short we need to send someone attractive singing a decent upbeat pop song. But apparently that’s too much to ask.

To finish off, here are my favourites of Grandma’s ramblings on some songs that didn’t qualify:

Somewhat confusingly, on Montenegro’s rap / dubstep entry with rappers in spacesuits and a wailing cyborg woman: “Are they out of space? *chuckles at joke* It’s different isn’t it! Some people will love it but it’s a gimmick.  I’ve got to go and see if my cat is back, he’ll be soaking wet. It costs be a bomb, buying all these tissues to wipe him dry when it rains! I loved this one. It was RUBBISH”.

On Cyprus and skinny entrants. Semi-final presenter Scott Mills says the singer had a sprain and went to hospital but Grandma’s selective deafness comes into play here: “She’s anorexic, I think, she’s been to hospital but is fine now, she must have anorexia. Look at the size of her! She’s been in hospital, I think she’s anorexic. I can’t eat chocolate this late at night [9:10]. It stimulates me, it stimulates me. It stimulates me to eat it this late at night.”

On Israel and larger entrants: A larger lass in a low cut dress  and big glasses sings a song:
Grandma: “A fat lady in a mermaid dress, NO NO NO, it’s not good.  They say big is beautiful but… How did she get into that dress? She must’ve started putting it on yesterday. You’re eyesight’s pretty bad when you’ve got to wear glasses just to see! That song doesn’t do it for me, I like the men.”

And there you have it. Now Eurovision is over, we’ll have to wait another whole year until the next one. The days after Eurovision are like Boxing Day for me. What the hell am I going to do now? Probably put on that Malta song again…

Emmelie is sobered up before singing one last time.

Emmelie is sobered up before singing one last time.

Overall 7/10, mainly down to Sweden’s hosting skills. Well done them.

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Band biography review – Council Tax Band

Press release analysis – A comparative study

 

The point of a new, unsigned artist sending out press releases, biographies and promo CDs is to pique someone’s interest and make them want to listen to your hastily cobbled together tunes, rather than just chucking your life’s work into a pile of similarly shoddy efforts. You could make their ears prick up by giving a hefty list of unbelievably diverse artists who influenced your music, a list that makes you seem wise and cultured beyond your years. You could also use lots of big flashy adjectives and buzz words to describe the sheer quality of your music so that the reader of your biography will be salivating all over their lap before they’ve even had the time to insert your Sharpie-tagged disk into their computer so they can actually hear this music seemingly created by the gods themselves.

Before I move onto the actually biography in question that’s prompted me to write this, let’s look one done by a proper label person for a proper new artist: such as this one about up-and-coming-for-many-months-now Tom Odell. He was awarded the Critics’ Choice Award at the BRIT Awards, and despite a series of high-profile TV performances and being Taylor Swift’s supposed Shag Of The Day in the Daily Mail (Disclaimer: Term not used in actual article), Tom hasn’t quite taken off yet. Although he has had a little bit of publicity, he is still being wheeled on at the end of shows as a closing act and not actually having the chance to actually talk.

This is Tom’s performance of ‘Can’t Pretend’ on Jonathan Ross earlier this year. I’m sure you will agree it was quite tuneful and at times very loud and mashy. It might sound very good in a studio recording. But would you listen to that performance and turn to you dear lady wife, sitting in her dressing gown with a hot water bottle shoved up her top, and say “Sharon, wasn’t that beguiling?”, or “I don’t know about you, but that music was so magnificently formed that, when coupled with his personality, it becomes somewhat incendiary”. It’s all very fancy sounding. I steer away from that kind of vocabulary because my AS-level Media Studies education does not fill me with the confidence to use such flamboyant lexicon, hence why I describe music as ‘loud’, ‘mashy’ and ‘tuneful’, unlike those  who write these biographies and probably wasted 3 years doing a full-on degree in Media Studies, or those who write for the Guardian, where you can read a 5000-word album review and still not have a bloody clue what the album will sound like, with any clues about actual content hidden behind the writer’s pompous references to early Twentieth Century aristocrats and Evelyn Waugh novels.

The Tom Odell track is pretty good. It would sound good on an advert and I would be keen to hear more from him. But I wonder if any of his influences have been mentioned in his biography? You’ll be pleased to hear that they have, and not only that, but his musical taste includes ‘such diverse pleasures’ as “’Hunky Dory’ era Bowie” (a good era, and cooler than the ‘mainstream’ Ziggy era) and various other  artist, of all genders and sexualities, including “pre-‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ Elton John” (as if ‘Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me’, ‘I’m Still Standing’, and Blue single ‘Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word’ aren’t worthy of his time). That’s our Tom for you he has unconventional tastes, he breaks the mould, he doesn’t care that Princess Diana died for our sins.

His biography goes on and tracks his life, how he has only ever being interested in music, how his songs “emerge in torrents”, and how he ‘fervently’ shops in Rough Trade, not in HMV like the plebs.  Overall it’s a bit of a turn-off but that’s not Tom’s fault, someone else, who was paid to do so, wrote it for him and he probably finds it all a bit embarrassing, yet overall it’s a pretty effective biography.

Compare and contrast with the promotional information I received in the post last week from ‘Council Tax Band’.

Council Tax Band – ‘Three Songs EP’

Image

Council Tax Band have emerged from the ashes of the so far better ‘Das Wanderlust’ like a crippled, vulgar phoenix, probably so they could start afresh with a hilarious new name. There’s a dual-meaning of the word band! Well done. Sadly, until recently they were unaware that a Sussex-based group of groovy’ local councillors  with names like Nigel and Mary started  up a band with the same name in 2007, in order to reach out to young people and encourage them to vote, with their forceful and imaginatively-titled song ‘Vote!’. That’ll do the trick. Maybe get rough ex-Youth Police and Crime Commissioner Paris Brown in the studio too, to bring in the listeners?

The press release by the new Council Tax Band is one of the more depressing and self-deprecating biographies you may have the pleasure of reading this year. They tell us how they write “songs about boredom, disappointment, and failure; as such they’re sure to be a money-spinner with the lucrative pre-teen demographic”.  They haven’t got an interesting back story and couldn’t be bothered to think one up, they have “unremarkable haircuts”, and their “ultimate goal” is to eventually sell out and have their music on cardigan adverts.

They recorded the three songs on their wackily-titled ‘THREE SONGS’ EP in a room full of crap using “a combination of borrowed gear, and gear they bought themselves by slogging their guts out in a variety of shit jobs” and apparently it’s the first thing they’ve churned out which they “consider fit for public consumption”.  Additionally, the cover ‘artwork’ for this EP is a low-resolution snap of the four band members awkwardly looking at the camera and holding mugs of beverages (one can assume tea) in their room full of crap.  Their unremarkable haircuts are in view.

There is a “No bullshit version” of the biography too: “Two guitars/synth/drums. And shouting”, which sums it up completely accurately.

It’s a refreshing take on the necessary but tedious task of mailing out biographies to people who don’t care, but maybe they’re just being modest and ‘funny’ with their lack of effort? Maybe this is actually the greatest EP of its generation? Perhaps the handwritten note saying ‘Please find enclosed three unpleasant songs for your esteemed consideration’ was a red herring and the songs would actually be stunning recordings, or even beguiling pleasures?

The responses to those questions are all no.  If this is the first output suitable for public consumption, you can’t help wondering how sonically unpleasant the first drafts were.

They probably did have fun making it though and it’s obvious they can’t imagine a real career in music, but I reckon you could get into their gigs in Bedford for a quid and have a completely adequate evening out.  I went to a Das Wanderlust gig several years ago and got hit when a bit of a guitar fell off, so that might happen again if you’re lucky.

Track one is called ‘A Salty Grave’. The lyrics are repetitive and quite hard to understand. It goes on a bit.

Track two is called ‘Mentioning No Names’. It is a rare beauty on the EP in that there is actually a little bit of singing. From what I can gather, the song is about a left-wing politician. “He’s let the left down/he’s let us all down/but worst of all he’s let himself down”.  I best not speculate as to who it might be about, since the song’s name is anonymous, but we are told that “he’s not a racist, he’s just an arsehole” and there is quite liberal chanting of the C word during the chorus, which, we can all agree, is fairly rude.

Surprisingly track three is even better than track two, which in turn was better than track one, so we’re making slight progress here, well done. ‘Happy New Year’ has words you can actually make out and appears to be taking the piss out of people who make New Year’s resolutions and expect things to actually change. From the standard “You’ll give up the fags… you’ll hit the gym”, to the slightly less common “For every toilet roll you’ll plant a dozen trees” and something about cooking Lebanese (?)Then there’s a little keyboard breakdown which is not completely awful and a final verse about what I can only assume is the make-believe world where New Year’s Resolvers live, where there is no longer any war and the rivers are made of chocolate. I reckon that’s what it’s about but who knows… Either way, there is a droning chorus of HAAAPPY NEW YEEEAR HAAAAAAAAPPY NEW YEEEEAR, which is fairly horrible.

Nobody is going to gain anything by me pretending this EP is going to take the world by storm. If those brief song descriptions sound pleasant to you, you can download the songs for whatever you can afford at their Bandcamp page, which I’m sure they’ll appreciate. I probably could have just gone on a bit about Kafka or Smiths B-sides and ignored the actual content of the CD and people would have been more inclined to go and listen to it, but if you can’t be honest on an anonymous blog that nobody will read about a poor-quality band that nobody has heard of, then when you can be honest, eh?

 It’s all a bit of a racket though, which is a shame. Das Wanderlust, the ashes of which should preferably be scooped up and reconstituted into something that resembles the old band, had many more enjoyable tunes, all with good names too: ‘Sherlock Holmes is Better Than You’, ‘I Wish I Was a Robot’ and the shout-along lost classic ‘Humbug’, but we’ll let Council Tax Band off as it’s early days yet.  They still have time to come up with lyrics as gut-wrenchingly emotional as “After we’ve watched shit TV, we decide what we want for tea. We go to the orange shop and we buy some bits and bobs”, but you can’t just force out that kind of gold 24/7, it has to come to you naturally, in a dream or ethereal vision, and it’s quite clear that Council Tax Band won’t make the effort to hurry that vision along.

They say that if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all, but I think it’s best to be brutal and hopefully the victim can make a few changes and progress from that point. A gig review recently described the band as ‘ungooglable’ which, in fairness, is possibly the best comment you  can make without being rude or lying, and you’ll probably see that word on a label across the cover of their next EP.

 

 

Little Boots – ‘Nocturnes’ and ‘Motorway’

Little Boots – Nocturnes,
Motorway review &
Recent developments regarding the new album

 

Releasing an album that nobody thought would see the light of day: Priceless

Releasing an album that nobody thought would see the light of day: Priceless

 

I’ve been looking forward to this album for a while, as you can see HERE, but in news that will shock even her closest relatives, Victoria ‘Little Boots’ Hesketh has quite literally ‘got on with it’ and officially released some details of her four-years-in-the-making sophomore effort. Here’s what we now know:

It has a name.

As we’ve known for several weeks, the album is called ‘Nocturnes’, which according to our good friend, Google, means: 
“A short composition of a romantic or dreamy character suggestive of night, typically for piano.” So far I haven’t heard much piano but basically it’s an album characteristic of the night, which presumably is best enjoyed at night. See: ‘Tonight, Franz Ferdinand’ and ‘Night Work’ by Scissor Sisters, other very good night-themed works, but not exactly worldwide smashes.

It has a release date.

‘Nocturnes’ will be released on 5th May 2013.

It has some crap artwork (see top).

Boots released a picture a little while ago, which people said was a bad choice of album cover, but now she has released the actual cover, which is actually worse. Parallels have been made between the Nocturnes cover and Ellie Goulding’s ‘Halcyon’ cover as well as numerous others, but to me it just looks like a Mastercard logo, perhaps suggesting that Boots is aiming for the Mastercard Album of the Year award at the 2014 Brit Awards and for that, we should commend her ambition.

There are 10 songs on it. (BOO!)

Back to the drawing board...

Back to the drawing board…

This tracklisting was announced to the music consumer of today via Instagram (what else!), but as a list of tracks written on a blackboard rather than iced onto cupcakes. That picture can be found below, but in case you’re not good at discerning information from crap photographs, or you can’t see chalk, that track list is:

Motorway (4:59)
Confusion (5:01)
Broken Record (4:33)
Shake (5:31)*
Beat Beat (4:18)**
Every Night I Say a Prayer *** (3:38)
Crescendo (5:42)
Strangers (6:39)
All For You (4:21)
Satellites (5:25)

*As you can see, previously released single ‘Shake’ is there, but its running time has been reduced by around 40 seconds.

** ‘Beat Beat’ and ‘Shake appear’ to be the other way around to that listed on the blackboard.

**‘Every Night I Say a Prayer’ is also there. There was rumour beforehand that the track’s title had been changed to ‘Every Night’ and in the blackboard photo it is listed as ‘Prayer’. To confuse matters further, the iTunes track list gives the full original title, and that’s the one we will stick with, as it is the better one. This is a tell-tale sign of the inconsistency that has marred this whole campaign.

 There is an obvious omission in the track listing

Confirming what had already been discussed in various online locations, the most upbeat ‘single’ of the three released, ‘Headphones’ , the one with a proper video and everything, has been left off the album, probably because it was too cheery. ‘Superstitious Heart’ is also missing, but I’ll let her off there. Back to ‘Headphones’, it is available to download from reputable online sources if you are made of money, but there are remixes available for free, which are very good, especially the Moon Boots remix, so that’s an option if you don’t have Adele’s bank balance, or if you have Little Boots’ bank balance.

[Side rant: This is just like what happened with Marina and the Diamonds leaving first single ‘Radioactive’ off the album but releasing it on a ‘deluxe version’. This kind of behaviour shouldn’t be encouraged. It’s just winding people up really. Just decide on a definitive track list and release that on one album. Why does everything always have to be standard / deluxe / re-released / with bonus tracks / reloaded / special edition / with extra remixes!? For one thing, it makes labelling on iTunes more complicated than it needs to be and secondly, it makes the artist look indecisive. I’m not going to buy one copy of each version; I’ll buy the cheapest anyway so nobody is fooling me into spending more than I need to.]

Little Boots has left 679 Records.

In news that will surprise nobody, Boots has changed label, leaving behind terribly-organised 679 Records, which is probably why the album plans are actually in motion now. The album is released on ‘On Repeat’, whatever the hell that is. It sounds like Little Boots is self-releasing them. Lord knows if this means she will be releasing it into shops (if record shops still exist by then) or simply selling it out the back of a VW campervan, but she is apparently signing 1000 copies so she’s ambitious sales-wise, we’ll give her that.

Continuing the artwork theme of 'Terrible'

Continuing the artwork theme of ‘Terrible’

You can hear ‘Motorway’ now.

The opening track, ‘Motorway’, for which you can see the artwork above (which is continuing the newly-introduced theme of ‘terrible’), can be listened to now. Even better, you can download it for free from her website HERE. There is a little box where you can enter your email to sign up to (and quickly unsubscribe from) her mailing list. We don’t need to be on that, since we follow her on Instagram, right? Here it is:

Here is a brief review:

You can’t exactly dance to it, but don’t let you put that off. Whereas this would normally mean that it’s no good, the song is a perfectly pleasant listen and it sounds even better when listened to at night and in the dark. I suppose that’s why she’s called the album Nocturnes. The song starts out pretty slow but does pick up as it goes along, with a drum beat eventually coming in, but it never really kicks off. At the start it sounds like it is going to lead into Marina’s ‘Fear and Loathing’, but that obviously doesn’t happen, although a mash-up of the two would be welcome.

The song seems to be about Victoria wanting to elope with somebody via the motorway. She sings ‘Meet me on the motorway, together we can make our great escape”. Although this is more or less fine as a lyric, I can’t help but think about how inconvenient it would be to meet somebody on the motorway.  Surely the thrill of eloping would be bigger if you were in the same car, or TOGETHER. With the price of petrol today, fleeing in two separate cars is going to cause you a lot of financial hassle, not to mention any potential tolls and subsequent parking. At one point you will have to ditch one of the cars, so what’s the point in taking it? Perhaps it would be quite romantic racing round the M25 and looking out of your windows at each other, but I’m a man of convenience so that doesn’t suit me at all.

The vocals are dreamy, there are lots of bleepy noises and the lyrics are not grating, although when she sings of her ‘heavy eyes on the road’ I can’t help thinking that if they were driving together, then they could take it in turns at the wheel, giving the other and opportunity to sleep and thereby avoiding any unnecessary stops at service stations, which would give the fuzz a chance to catch up with you. Music-wise, the song could do with a bit of a kick up the bum with a big middle-eight break down, like in Scissor Sister’s Night Work buzz single and career highlight ‘Invisible Light’ with lots of crashes and loud back ground chanting (Sir Ian McKellen monologue optional) but even without that it sounds pretty good anyway. Note: obviously by crashes I mean cymbals, not car crashes. However, in the tragic event of one of the cars crashing, which would clearly be terrible,, there would be half as many casualties as the two were, of course, riding separately. Silver linings… I’ve cracked the code!

I’ve mocked up a better single cover on MS Paint for everyone’s benefit, which embodies all the beauty of motorways.

"Together we can make out great escape..."

“Together we can make our great escape…”

Arbitrary rating: 8/10, very good but could explode a bit more towards the end.

With three good songs on it already, Nocturnes is probably worth buying already, but if you want to confirm this, or if you’re just a fan of ruining surprises, 1:30 long clips are available of all tracks on iTunes. You can also pre-order the album now in the obvious places, but you usually get it late when you do that, which is against the point really, isn’t it? Still if you fancy Little Boots scrawling an emotionless message on your CD case, go for it.

Don’t le me down, Hesketh.

 

 

Robbie Williams’ Brit Awards performance review and 5 better things to spend your money on.

Five things you could buy for 99p that are better than the video of Robbie Williams’ live BRITs performance.

This morning, upon the Twitter, I received this hugely welcome piece of information from the marketing intern at Universal Music who is officially masquerading as Robbie Williams: 

Barking up the wrong tree

Barking up the wrong tree

 Robbie Williams used to be one of our greatest pop entertainers, but he hasn’t really released anything good enough since Escapology in 2003 and he has been dead behind the eyes for as long as I can remember, despite the fact he has something to live for now. Here is a link to Robbie’s live effort: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=geJ4qcVYgIM

Obviously it would be easier to embed that link, but the awkward folks at the BRIT Awards have prohibited that, as it would make it to convenient for people to enjoy and share the performance.

I made my views on Candy clear when I reviewed it upon release, saying it was definitely hummable and could have been a great track were it not for the lyrics, where Candy is not only let down, but completely deflated.

Robbie has never been a great live singer, finding it easier to  just shout and hold his hands in the air, telling the audience to sing the words for him. SHE’S GOT LOTS OF DIFFERENT HORSES BY LOTS OF DIFFERENT MEN! Yet Robbie stands out because he has enough personality to match that of every other performer and winner at last night’s BRIT Awards, which was a completely charisma-free affair. This could have been remedied by handing one of Emeli ‘The Underdog’ Sandé’s awards to Paloma Faith, who would have given us the chance to see a proper speech as she was one of the few nominees with enough energy to make it the whole way through the show.  Sandé must have been taking naps in between awards to merely keep her strength up.

Sadly, the truth, Universal intern, is that I didn’t love the Candy performance. It sounded like Robbie had forgotten how Candy actually goes and he shouted ONE! TWO! THREE! FOUR! whenever he couldn’t remember which nonsensical line came next. It also took Robbie two minutes to shout ‘Come on!’ and try to get the audience to sing a line, which must be near to a new record for him. At the end of the performance glitter rained down on the stage like when somebody wins the big money on Deal Or No Deal, but the only thing Robbie was earning was a collective sympathetic look from the audience. Despite all that, the stage looked great and the brass-wielding backing band/dancers were well choreographed, so it wasn’t all bad.

Would you watch it again though? No, of course you bloody wouldn’t. It was one of those ‘of the time’ performances that will not be remembered past the original week of broadcast. If you look through the history of Brit Awards performances there are plenty you had forgotten about. For instance, above is a video from 2005 of one-time Best British Urban Act, Lemar, and professional panel show contestant, Jamelia, delivering a flaccid and completely inexplicable rendition of Robert Palmer’s ‘Addicted To Love’, in a year where Lemar released soul classic ‘If There’s Any Justice’ and Jamelia released the song that famously ended domestic abuse for good, ‘Thank You’.

So, the truth is that I won’t be spending 99p on Robbie’s live video (not that I’ve ever bought a music video. Why would you?) Just in case you were considering it and you are prospering so well in this economic climate that you have 99p to just throw away, here are a handful of things you could better spend that money on.

1.    TLC’s Waterfalls on 12″ Vinyl

12" singles, the height of convenience.

12″ singles, the height of convenience.

It’s a great song, with a great chorus and meaningful lyrics!
It would look cool hanging on your wall if you don’t have a record player!

It’s ‘Collection Only’ from Romford!

2.    Kurt Cobain All Apologies:

‘A tribute to the man and his music’ from 99p Stores  

A reputation booster, for sure.

A reputation booster, for sure.

What better way to show your teenage angst than by owning a Kurt Cobain DVD?

I hope it would be more of an ITV2 talking heads show with Michelle Bass and Jedward sharing their memories of when Kurt went ‘dead mental’, but it appears to include music. Viewer beware! 

Did you know that the ‘All Apologies’ single by Nirvana featured the double A-Side classic ‘Rape Me’ and B-Side ‘Moist Vagina’? You wouldn’t get that kind of rock authenticity from Robbie, would you? Despite those hardly charming track names, you can’t help miss the B-Side tradition. 

‘Candy’ actually had a CD single but the B-Side was a remix. Sad face indeed.

3. A pastry from Greggs.

Haute cuisine

Haute cuisine

 

You may think you can’t compare buying a snack to a media item that you can keep forever and ever (or at least until digital media becomes obsolete), but think about it how many uses will you get out of a sausage roll?

One. Or more if you’re doing something unorthodox… 

How many uses will you get out of the video of Robbie’s BRIT Awards performance? One? None?

Maybe you’ll want to watch it and relive the historic moment every time you’re on the bus, but it’s unlikely.

4. ‘BONO on Bono’ from eBay 

He's just trying to be a good guy, OK!?

He’s just trying to be a good guy, OK!?

The seller describes this, in all capitals to help the message sink in, as “PAPERBACK BOOK FROM THE MOUTH OF THE U2 FRONT MAN AND ALL ROUND GOOD GUY… THIS BOOK IS A GREAT ADDITION TO YOUR U2 BOOK COLLECTION.” 

What music memorabilia could you want more than a book of transcribed conversations with rock’s number one good guy, spectacle enthusiast and Captain Modest?

And all for a bargain 1p. Buy 99 copies and hand them out to your nearest and dearest, or to your city’s homeless population, to give them hope. 

Frankly, you’d be a fool to buy Robbie’s video when your U2 book collection is still incomplete.

5. Walkers Salt & Vinegar Crisps with Scary Spice! 

Tracked down, at last!

Tracked down, at last!

Remember all those years you have spent regretting ever throwing away your limited edition Spice Girls crisp packets in 1997? Well, stop worrying, pop enthusiast, as somebody had held onto them!

The seller helpfully adds that the Best Before Date of the crisps (which s/he has eaten) was 27/12/97, so that’s good news if that’s the one you needed!

Other choices include Salt and Vinegar French Fries with Mel C. From a smoke and pet free home, no less!

 

6. Give the money to someone who really needs it.

 

iTunes probably isn’t in desperate need of your money and they won’t miss it, so if you are affluent enough to chuck your Pound around like it’s as worthless as a Best Live Act BRIT Award, give it to someone who needs it.

Head down to your local charity shop and you can surely get something that is far less one-use than Robbie’s video for 99p. A book, a Robbie Williams CD with decent songs on it, an ornament that might turn out to be worth something.

Perhaps just donate it to the Brit Awards committee so they can afford to put on a bigger budgeted show in 2014? Maybe they will finally be able to upgrade from their presenters of James ‘Gay Joke’ Corden and Rizzle Kicks.

(Personally I’d get the sausage roll though. And you’d still have change for the Bono book.
Holy Valance, there is a lot of crap on the internet.)

 

BRIT Awards 2013: The Emeli Sandé show

Gearing up to watch The BRIT Awards 2013:
(It’s either that or The Best of You’ve Been Framed on ITV2…)

 

"Won't somebody PLEASE pay attention to me for once??"

“Won’t somebody PLEASE pay attention to me for once??”

 

That special time of year has rolled around again, no, not the birthday of Yulia from t.A.T.u, it’s the BRIT Awards! Celebrating the music of our tiny little nation for the 33rd time, an opportunity to award the celestial genius of those, such as dear Olly Murs, who were so cruelly overlooked at the all-encompassing Grammy Awards.
Who needs a Grammy when you have a BRIT Award? Just ask Best British Male 2004 winner, Daniel Bedingfield, who has been nominated five times in total, including Best British Urban Act in 2003, before being upgraded to a Pop Act nominee in 2004. Bedingfield, who is still active in the industry and last year revealed the NSFW video for a new song to universal apathy (the name of which I cannot remember and will not search for) in which he appeared naked, which was just such a treat for everyone, has won the Best Male award as many times as Best British Male in Any Field of All Time, David Bowie.  This is how much the BRIT Awards matter: very much indeed. Girls Aloud regularly refer to winning a BRIT Award when asked for their career highlight, despite meeting the Queen and putting their names to false eyelashes. It’s a big deal.
And this year is no exception! Merely looking at the list of nominees for the BRITS 2013 is enough to make your grandmother put down her knitting, mouth agape. Finally, some recognition for the oft-neglected Emeli Sandé, she cries!
In an effort to drum up more publicity, for the past three years the BRITs organisers have invited a British artist to redesign the statuette to be handed out to winners. 2011 saw Vivienne Westwood deliver a kind of Union Jack Dress-wearing statuette, perhaps inspired by Geri Halliwell’s iconic attire, or not, and 2012 saw Peter Blake design a primary-coloured abomination that a class of primary school students could have come up with. This year the task was handed to everyone’s favourite purveyor of fine art, Damien Hirst, which could have gone terribly wrong. I was half-expecting a statue based on a cross-section of Elton John frozen in formaldehyde, but instead his minimal effort design (probably actually designed by an assistant) looks like a Children in Need candlestick. Then again, it is the best of the three, in my eyes. Who can we expect for next year after this year’s choice? My money would be on thoroughly likeable character, Tracey Emin. Below is how I imagine her design to look. It’s not pretty but it’s a fitting choice and wouldn’t look out of place in Tulisa’s hand.
The evolution of the BRIT award...

The evolution of the BRIT award…

For budgetary reasons, James Corden has been chosen to host the awards for the fourth time and will be sure to deliver laughs and joy throughout, with his cracking wit and charm. That was actually sarcasm and for that I apologise, but it seems that the organisers have got fed up with looking and are just keen to avoid controversy, as in previous years. But just imagine how good a gig it would be for Simon Amstell, delivering all his Popworld and Never Mind the Buzzcocks bitterness, perhaps paired up with British pop’s very own funny hat-wearer, Paloma Faith, who incidentally has publicly abandoned all hope of winning everything, since she she is pitted against the messianic Emile Sandé in both her nominated categories. Amstell and Faith for 2014! I’ll forward this to the organisers. It would be nice to inject the proceedings with some entertainment without having to rely on drunken brawls.

So what can we make of the nominations this year? They’re for the most part quite tiresome and obvious choices, with an evident winner in each category before the winners have even been announced. It’s almost as if they picked their winners and then padded out the list with some fellow nominees who don’t stand a chance and are just there for the ‘indie’ credentials (I’m looking at you, four-time nominee Bat For Lashes).

Before we get into the miserable looking lists, let’s just appreciate the nomination list for Best British Single of 2003:
Liberty X — “Just a Little”
Atomic Kitten — “The Tide Is High”
Gareth Gates — “Anyone of Us (Stupid Mistake)”
Gareth Gates — “Unchained Melody”
Will Young — “Anything Is Possible”
5 songs, 2 covers, 2 Gareth Gates (oddly absent from 2013’s list) singles, 4 reality TV acts, 1 song that still (or ever did) sounds decent after ten years. Well done everybody.

Let’s have a look then:

MALE SOLO ARTIST: Ben Howard, Calvin Harris, Olly Murs, Plan B, Richard Hawley.
Obvious winner: Calvin Harris. He’s released about 40 singles this year, with most of them charting in the upper echelons of the chart.
Deserved winner: I’m not really a fan of the repetitive nature of Harris’ keyboard hooks, or his trademark crescendo-pop-thunderclap, but I can’t help singing along to gurning fool, Olly Murs’, ‘Troublemaker’, so I’d give it to him and help us all avoid a 2-second long Calvin Harris speech.
Sympathy nominations?: Ben Howard: Ed Sheeran without the success; Richard Hawley: The ‘cool’ nomination.
FEMALE SOLO ARTIST: Amy Winehouse, Bat For Lashes, Emeli Sandé, Jessie Ware, Paloma Faith.
Obvious winner: If national treasure and ‘Critics’ Choice’ Sandé doesn’t win this, I will not only eat my hat, but every piece of knitwear in the vicinity. Even if you’re not into Sandé’s schtick, the BBC and ITV will have you believe you are, and she’ll just keep singing until you give in and buy her bloody album.
Deserved winner:  Marina and the Diamonds. Maybe she didn’t have enough success with Electra Heart, but the album charted at #1 and lead single ‘Primadonna’  at #11, while Bat For Lashes album charted at #6, and the lead single at #144, so Marina’s omission is absolute bollocks, really.  Out of the nominations I would give it to Paloma for ‘Picking Up The Pieces’, alone.
Sympathy nominations?:  Amy Winehouse: Look here, I adored Amy, she was excellent and stunning when at her best, but a posthumous nomination for an underwhelming, swiftly cobbled together rarities album just reeks of publicity more than anything. Bat for Lashes, Jessie Ware, ‘cool’ nominations.
"Shall I just stay at bloody home then?"

“Shall I just stay at bloody home then?”

BRITISH BREAKTHROUGH ACT: Alt-J, Ben Howard, Jake Bugg, Jessie Ware, Rita Ora.
Obvious winner: I wouldn’t bet on this one, as I wouldn’t say any were especially deserving, but poor man’s Rihanna, Rita Ora, has definitely broken through more than the rest, and that’s what we’re awarding here (I think so anyway, I’m not sure if that’s the case).
Sympathy nominations: Alt-J would not have been nominated were it not for winning the Mercury Prize, that’s glaringly obvious. If Jake Bugg, current holder of worst name in music, wins, it will be a waste of time and money for everyone, since, being the ROCK STAR he is, he has announced he will decide whether to turn up or not depending on how he feels at the time. He has the evening off, but he might just skip it, because he’s that laid back. What an idiot.
BRITISH GROUP: Alt-J, Mumford & Sons, Muse, One Direction, The xx.
Obvious winner: Mumford & Sons: The banjo botherers won the Grammy for album of the year, so this is a given. That is assuming the ‘committee’ chooses the winner, of course. If any kind of public vote is involved you can assure One Direction will win by a landslide, thanks to their millions of terrorising, spamming, obsessive fangirls.
Sympathy nominations: Muse are a ‘cool’ nomination again, despite everyone (INCLUDING THEIR FANS) knowing that the quality of music has reached an all time low and Matt Bellamy has descended so far into his conspiratorial state of m-m-m-m-madness that his mental health is now a serious concern, but not as much so as the fact he is bringing up a child.
BRITISH SINGLE OF THE YEAR:
Adele – “Skyfall”
Alex Clare – “Too Close”
Coldplay & Rihanna – “Princess of China”
DJ Fresh featuring Rita Ora – “Hot Right Now”
Emeli Sandé – “Next to Me”
Florence and the Machine – “Spectrum (Say My Name)”
James Arthur – “Impossible”
Jessie J – “Domino”
Labrinth featuring Emeli Sandé – “Beneath Your Beautiful”
Olly Murs featuring Flo Rida – “Troublemaker”
Rita Ora featuring Tinie Tempah – “R.I.P.”
Rizzle Kicks – “Mama Do the Hump”
Robbie Williams – “Candy”
Rudimental featuring John Newman – “Feel the Love”
Stooshe – “Black Heart”
Obvious winner: This one is voted for by the public, so anything is possible really. However it is nice to see underexposed Emeli Sandé making the list twice.  People voted for James Arthur on X Factor, so I expect they will vote again in this instance, so he might win, but then again, TV personality Jessie J has an obsessive fan base, so her ear-piercing single might take it. Oh yes, Adele is in it. It’s been weeks since she won something, and a speech from her will get more follow-up press attention than most of the awards, so she’ll get it, won’t she?
Deserved winner: Primadonna not nominated… Olly’s single was good, Stooshe’s single was good and Florence’s single was good, so I’d happily take any of those.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Alt-J, Emeli Sandé (who?), Mumford & Songs, Paloma Faith, Plan B.
Obvious winner: Read all about it! Read all about it! Emeli Sandé in award win shocker! (Though it could be Mumford again. I once handed my sister a copy of ‘Babel’ and asked her to guess which one was the dad. It took her ages.) None of these are deserving winners.
"Oh go on then, just the once, mind"

“Oh go on then, just the once, mind”

INTERNATIONAL MALE SOLO ARTIST: Bruce Springsteen, Frank Ocean, Gotye, Jack White, Michael Buble.
Winner: Nobody’s here for the international awards! They’re the BRIT awards! This may seem a narrow-minded view, but the Best International Album award hasn’t been handed out for a couple of years now, seemingly to cut down on awards for non-British artists. Frank Ocean had a lot of hype about him so I’d go for him.
INTERNATIONAL FEMALE SOLO ARTIST: Alicia Keys, Cat Power, Lana Del Rey, Rihanna, Taylor Swift.
Winner: Proving year after year that women are dominating the pop music scene, this list is about 50x more interesting than the male list and it could go either way between the posable and fully lifelike, Lana Del Rey, Best International Role Model, Rihanna and Most Effective Succubus, Taylor Swift.
Deserved winner: Taylor. ‘We Are Never Ever Ever Ever Ever Getting Back Together’ and ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’ were both excellent singles. Lana would get the award for worst singing on potentially good songs, and ‘Ri-Ri’ would surely get an award for quickest churning out of an album, for the seventh year in a row.
INTERNATIONAL GROUP: Alabama Shakes, The Black Keys, Fun., The Killers, The Script.
Winner: The Black Keys cleaned up at the Grammys and are on every advert going, but then The Script (featuring Danny from The Script) features TV personality Danny From The Script, so he could get a sympathy award as a collective ‘Sorry The Voice didn’t turn out to be a game changer’.
Critics’ Choice Winner: Tom Odell. There is no need announcing other nominees at the same time you announce the winner, is there? I would’ve given it to Arlissa, personally. I can’t help feeling that we are in March now and Tom Odell hasn’t been shoved down our ears and throats as much as previous winners of this award, so maybe he will break the curse of Over-Exposed Artist of the year. Maybe it’s because he’s the first male winner of this award. END SEXISM IN POP.
BEST LIVE ACT: Coldplay, Mumford & Sons, Muse, The Rolling Stones, The Vaccines.
Obvious winner: Coldplay. They are so good live that they cured all disability or something when the Paralympics closing ceremony was chosen to support them at one gig/publicity stunt this year.
"You are now all healed! All thanks to the power of music!"

“You are now all healed! All thanks to the power of music!”

THERE WE HAVE IT. Those are the main awards. The Outstanding Contribution to British Music award has been left out this year, since there is nobody left to award it to, which is a shame for the female boss, Tulisa, who not only literally released an album and singles this year, but also claims she wrote two lines on Will.I.Am and Britney’s work of art, Scream and Shout, so Tulisa surely would have got it.
Finally, you can look forward to performances from Muse (tea break), Ben Howard, (tea break), shy, retiring wallflower Emeli Sandé (FOR THE LOVE OF JESUS AND MARY CHRIST) singing her dreary ‘Clown’, Mumford & Sons (tea break), One Direction covering Blondie (tea break), Robbie Williams, he might be worth staying for, unless he is singing Nursery Rhyme of the Year, Candy, Best International Male turned Actor turned Myspace Creative Director turned Actor turned Underwhelming Pop Star, Justin Timberlake, and finally most Effective Succubus, Taylor Swift, who will be scanning the audience for a piece of meat to take back to her hotel room and devour, before devoting a single to how he turned out to be a scumbag and not actually ‘the one’.
That all sounds jolly interesting doesn’t it! With all those tea breaks, I’m going to be in the bathroom all night, by the sounds of it. I might even miss the James Corden segments if I’m lucky.
Let’s at least hope there’s a good duet to open the show, maybe Beyoncé will turn up and do that Hulk pose to lighten the mood…

Albums Named After the Worst Track on Them

Albums Named After the Worst Track on Them

When I was writing about my anticipation of the new Little Boots album a little while ago, I re-listened to the original, rather than just listening to some choice cuts, and realised how bad the title track, Hands, is. So, I’ve dug a little deeper into my music library to see where pop and rock history could be rewritten to make everything a little neater.

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Subject A. Little Boots’ ‘Hands’

Although the debut Boots album had many good electropop songs on it, this dodgy piano ballad lent its name to the entire album, despite sounding like a Kate Nash demo. There is no Tenori-On, some of the vocals are pretty rough and, most worryingly, the lyrics are awful. EXAMPLE:

I said ‘Why don’t you go to the clouds,
I hear they’ve got a really good laboratory up there’,
So she went up to the heavens,
About quarter past eleven,
And they said ‘Now what seems to be the problem?’

A far superior name for the album would be ‘Stuck On Repeat’, which makes far too much sense for it to be bypassed, really. It was the name of one of the best songs on the album, for sure, and just imagine having an album called Stuck on Repeat! It would make it sound like it was so good that you couldn’t help listening again and again. That’s obviously not the case, what with the dip in quality to the end, but people might have been fooled into buying more copies.

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SUBJECT B. Arcade Fire’s ‘Neon Bible’

Arcade Fire’s second album had some huge depressing indie-rock tunes on it, all the way from opening track ‘Black Mirror’ right through to organ and accordion heavy closing tracks ‘No Cars Go’ and ‘My Body is a Cage’. Yet there was one huge blip in the middle of it all, track 3, ‘Neon Bible’, a 2:17 long blip, a needless whispery interlude, which simply plodded along with its ‘ne-on-bi-ble-ne-on-bi-ble’s until a real track comes on, one with some kind of power behind it, unlike Neon Bible, which has all the power of a wind-up torch.

A good name for the album would have been ‘Intervention’, named after one of the many songs on the album better than the real title track, and typical Arcade Fire, with heavy organs and Régine’s wailing backing vocals ‘YOUR LIFE WILL FALL APART’ etc. It would have also nicely followed debut album ‘Funeral’ and be a good start to a list of albums all named after depressing family events, perhaps followed by albums 3 to 5,  ‘Divorce’, ‘Family Reunion’ and ‘Conjugal Visit’.

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SUBJECT C. Marina and the Diamonds’ ‘The Family Jewels’

The Family Jewels being on the album depends on which album you’ve got; if you have the standard edition, the worst track is of course ‘Girls’, but if you have the iTunes version or the American version,  TFJ takes that particular biscuit. It could probably be improved as a track if it had a bit more work done to it, but it’s just Marina plonking a piano, and not in a good way, like in ‘Obsessions’. There is lots of bad rhyming, particularly in one bridge where Marina rhymes ‘it’ with ‘it’ and ‘fit’ with ‘unfit’. I understand the whole jewels/diamonds thing but I think my main problem with The Family Jewels is that as a title it is very genital. I suppose in a way it is a relief that she didn’t name the album ‘Shampain’, and ‘Oh No!’ would be as off-putting an album title as Franz Ferdinand’s ‘You Could Have It So Much Better’.

A better title for the album, from the selection presented by Miss Diamandis, would be ‘Obsessions’. I think it pretty much sums up all of the themes covered in this album, from being famous, to choosing crackers, to her obsession with America, or to her constant feeling of being an outcast. This obsessive aspect of her personality became quite clear when the album didn’t sell as much as she wanted it to and she did approximately 100 interviews complaining how crap she was and how she wanted to be a star. It is telling enough when you read an article about Marina on NME and the related articles have names such as “I worried people wouldn’t allow me to become a pop star” and “UK didn’t understand Electra Heart”, but that might just be the old NME making everything sound more dramatic than it is.

A further note: ‘I Am Not a Robot’ would be a great name for an album in today’s world of faceless, auto-tuned, disposable pop whores, but I’d rather that be saved for the next Nadia Oh album.

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SUBJECT D:  Lady Gaga’s ‘Born This Way’.

It’s not a great song, what with it being lyrically abysmal, allegedly plagiarising and graphically overblown, but it’s definitely not the worst on the album (COUGH – HIGHWAY UNICORN). The problem was that everything about the whole album campaign and content was so fake and completely unnatural: stage name, weird  facial implants, endless wigs, motorbike body and banal, shallow, faux-emotional lyrics, that Born This Way was unbelievably far from the truth and ‘Entirely Fictitious Construct’ would have been a more fitting name. Perhaps it was ironic? But then, I don’t think anything Lady Gaga does is ironic anymore.

By far the best possible title track on the album, ignoring the obvious Scheiße jokes, would be ‘Edge of Glory’. It would perfectly express how she had come so close to being the perfect new pop star, on the edge of glory, if you will, but then royally cocked it all up.

 

Is there anything I’ve missed?

Are there any more albums where the title track is piss poor and there
is in fact a more suitable one lurking in the track listing?

 

Most anticipated albums of 2013 PT 5 – Little Boots

Most anticipated albums of 2013

Number 1 : 

Little Boots – As yet untitled second album


Release date: March, rumoured or more likely whenever she gets around to it.
I’m probably risking any credibility I may have (none?) by saying Little Boots’ new album is my most anticipated of the year, as I am in an incredible tiny minority. For most people, Little Boots is one of those artists who is only ever brought up in conversation when she is used as an example of how far off the BBC’s Sound of… polls can be. People scoff that she came in at number one on the Sound of 2009 poll, in a list that included, in hindsight, far more successful names such as Lady Gaga, Mumford and Sons, Florence + the Machine and La Roux.
With Little Boots, the potential was definitely there. Her buzz single, Stuck on Repeat, was a Kylie-stylie, glitchy, Hot Chip for girls, electro-pop banger. The song was released for free as a Single of the Week on iTunes. She appeared on Jools Holland playing her nerdy, Japanese Tenori-on gadget. She topped the Sound Of ‘09 poll. All was looking very promising. Then, for some reason her label, 679, who also messed up Marina and the Diamonds’ album campaigns, decided to release New In Town as the first proper single, which was a bit different to what everyone had been expecting, a more pop and less dance-oriented song, with fairly simplistic lyrics (“I’m gonna take you out tonight, I’m gonna make you feel alright”) . The song charted at number 13, the album, Hands, charted at 5 and went gold.
It wasn’t until Remedy came out that Little Boots had a proper hit on her hands, and a bloody good one it was too. A massive pop tune, a huge chorus and a video featuring Boots playing on her little Tenori-on just like the good old days. She said herself that this video was far more ‘her’ than that of the past single. It had kaleidoscope effects. It had a bit that went OH-oh-OH-oh-OH.  It was great and accepted far more readily by the public and the club scene. Next single Earthquake floundered and that was it, Little Boots was regarded as a one hit wonder. Nobody remembers New in Town, naturally.
The last album was patchy. There were some great songs, such as all of those above and Meddle, a few songs that were alright, like Mathematics, and some that were crap, such as the title track (why would you name your album after the worst song on your album?). Some of the songs sounded like early Britney Spears rejects, unsuitable for a lass from Blackpool in her mid-twenties. It’s one of those albums where you add a few tracks to your playlists, then forget about the rest, which in this case is pretty fair, I would say.
What will the new album sound like?
After that big balls-up, why would I be looking forward to Little Boots’ new album? She’s taken a massive break, four years, to come up with the goods for album two, which is enough time to cut out all the filler to avoid the same situation again. Also handily, unlike Lady Gaga and Goldfrapp, Little Boots has released a few songs in the past two years which indicate what the new album will sound like. And that sound is quite exciting.
In her time away, Boots has been releasing countless unnecessary mixtapes and touring clubs as a DJ act for some reason and all this dance music she has been hearing seems to have had a nice effect on the sounds she is now making. The first of these new singles is Shake (at top of page), a six-minute-something electro-dance-house track with a thwomp-thwomp bass bit. Descriptive. You can tell she is all authentic and cool now because there is a record player in the video and only cool people have vinyl. Shake has a good robot voice that says SHAKE every so often, which is a plus point for me, again it sounds like Hot Chip done by girls. There are drum machines, synths, a bloopy-bloop noise throughout that I cannot identify and a La-la-la-la-la-laaah bit in the chorus. Everybody SHAKE ‘til your heart breaks indeed. It does make me want to shake actually. Not in a spasmodic or convulsive fashion, but rather I want to bust some of my white-man moves and grind my hips like only Shakira knows how. Thumbs up, Botitas.
The second single, Every Night I Say a Prayer, is another step up and it actually has a proper video. Granted, it’s not a very good video, but Victoria herself features doing her awkward-in-front-of-the-camera moves. That’s part of the appeal of Little Boots for me; her music sounds like she is desperate to make it big and be a star, but then she always looks very uncomfortable in front of the camera. I like reluctance. Her awkward shuffles remind me of my own early appearances on dance floors, like at my first and only school disco, where I just stood by the Haribo bar and snacked on dolphin-shaped sweets rather than doing the Macarena in a tracksuit with the popular kids. Every Night I Say a Prayer is pretty catchy, another more dancey song that previous work, with a mashing of piano keys in the chorus and a hook of I HAVE SEEN INTO THE FUTURE, like a foxy, one-woman Busted. No talk of triple-breasted women, though. In the video, aside from the very pouty and limber gentlemen who throw serious shapes around her, lyrics pop up on the screen, but at random moments and sometimes in the wrong places, like two fingers up to the recent, pointless trend of lyric videos. Every Night I Say A Prayer is available as a free download on Boot’s Soundcloud page, along with several remixes as well, if you fancy it.
Third single, Headphones, is a bit of a return to that more obviously pop sound exhibited in Boots’ first album singles, but it’s still good and it features another video of Victoria looking a bit awkward in front of the camera, but the video plays on this fact, with a sleazy back alley club where punters can listen to some Little Boots tunes on the supplied headphones and lose themselves in the music, having hallucinations of themselves as the confident figure they dream of being,. Little Boots herself goes from looking like a Countryfile presenter to a rather more confident B-list popstar, as do various other characters, some of whom are more frightening and transvestite than others. The song itself is more of the British Kylie Little Boots with another chorus consisting of LA-LA-LALALA LALA-LALA-LALALA, LA-LA-LALALA LALA-LALA-LALALA, which looks more annoying and repetitive than it really is when written down. I don’t think anyone else really wears their headphones at the disco because they don’t like the music, but it could perhaps speak to those who go to silent discos (Do those only exist in Freshers’ Week?) and find themselves singing out loud for everyone to hear. Finally that awkward moment expressed in song. This single is perhaps the weakest and least exciting of the bunch, but also the catchiest and the most easily accessible for a radio audience and it has some excellent remixes, most of which are available for free download on the Soundcloud page again. The best of all is the Dimitri From Paris remix, which has been eighties-Madonnified and sounds all the better for it. That was also free to download from Dimitri’s page at one point but that might all have changed and I can’t be bothered to check.
So there we have it, three bloody good songs which in theory should be appearing on the new album. Then again, Marina released Radioactive as a pre-album single and then ended up only including it as a bonus track on the deluxe version of the album. If these songs don’t feature, I’ll be fairly miffed. Some might argue that there’s no need to have previously available songs on the album when you can have new material, but that new material might be crap, so I’d rather have a more consistent album. Or you could just chuck it all on there and make a 20-track album that you pick your favourite bits from, but that is a bit lazy.
What about the artwork?
Boots’ imagery was pretty good last time, with all her triangles and kaleidoscopic bits and bobs (which were then stolen by everyone and used to more popular effect), but the single covers so far have been black and white photos of her with her hands in a headphone position and a saying-a-prayer position. I suppose artwork is the least of her concerns at the moment, as she is probably more worried about releasing an album and trying to claw back any relevance she may have had at one point in order to prove the doubters wrong.
What is the worst she could do at this point?
Releasing a patchy album would be inexcusable after a four year absence, I’m expecting heavier dance beats this time round and I’ll be disappointed if I don’t get them. It would also be a bit of faux pas to prevent people from buying your music, which she hasn’t realised, releasing a vinyl-only 12-inch double single last week under the pseudonym LB. It’s almost as if she doesn’t want people to hear it, but one of her team uploaded the full version of side 1, Superstitious Heart on Youtube. Does it count as leaking? Is any leaking accidental anymore? Who knows or cares? The song is by far the weakest of all those that have appeared so far and not very danceable. If she could just pull a Remedy-sized pop single out from under her headphones to entice the public once more,  she would be alright, but we’ll have to wait and see what promotion 679 get her nearer the time. Probably nothing. Or releasing a non-album track as a single.  Or going for first-week sales and then abandoning the whole campaign.
How good does this album need to be?
It remains to be seen whether anyone will really take any notice so it doesn’t matter how good the album is, really, but I’d like all the tracks on the album to be at least on the level of Shake, an 8/10.

Don’t let me down, Hesketh.

Part 1: Janelle Monae
Part 2: David Bowie
Part 3: Lady Gaga
Part 4: Goldfrapp
Part 5: Little Boots