Monthly Archives: February 2012

Artwork win

Now  THIS  is how you do album artwork.

Brownie points for Santigold. Master of My Make-Believe is now scheduled for release on May 1st. And it’s going to be a good ‘un, I can feel it in my waters…

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So this is what FEBRUARY 2012 gave you…

The road to ESTELLE is paved with good intentions:

The problem with Estelle is that like many black British artists, she’s been badly promoted to to the extent that each time she releases anything it feels like a major career comeback. Her new album All Of Me has just been released in the US and is expected to do reasonably well over there on the likes of the Adult Contemporary Chart thanks to performances on BET and the Wendy Williams Show. It’s not coming out in the UK until March 12th and the only bit of promotion I’ve seen for it has been an interview with the Evening Standard magazine. BUT, career salvation may be at hand in the unlikely arms of Simon Cowell. Kelendria Rowland isn’t coming back to judge on The X Factor this year as she wants to concentrate on snuffling for success around Beyonce’s feet like trufffles music so a vacancy may well be opening. If this rumour turns out to be true it might provide the latest lifeline in the career that deserves much, much better than to be just remembered for that soporific song with Kanye West.

Hold it right there:

The latest marketing gimmick in selling your music appears to be…don’t sell it at all. Postpone the release date and you’re guaranteed to drum up a bit of attention, useful if you’ve been away for a bit. In the past month VV Brown, Adam Lambert and Ladyhawke have all delayed the release of their new records. With Ladyhawke this decision seems to have been made by her record label without any discussion to the extent that she’s blasted it as “a pain in the arse” in recent interviews.  A note to labels, be careful in messing your artists around with their music, otherwise they might just “Do a Ting Tings” on you and delete the lot.

DragonSNAP:

Madonna’s underperforming new single (scraping in at the UK charts at No.37), produced by Martin Solveig might owe some of its lack of success down to the fact that it sounds eerily similar with its cheerleaderish chants to ‘Hello’, Solveig’s earlier sleeper hit with Dragonette. Well now Dragonette have returned the favour/taken back what was theirs by releasing another single with Solveig…complete with more cheerleaderish chants. ‘Big In Japan’ is repetitive, unoriginal and by far the weakest thing they’ve ever recorded. And I love it. For fans of the band’s own material you’ll be excited to hear they’ve released some SPIFFING teases on their Soundcloud page. Bring on their new album.

And finally…

CIARA got her hair did. You go girlfriend.

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Adam Lambert – Too queeny for Queen?

Music – it’s a serious business. There’s so much ball-ache involved in getting it right that it’s little wonder that by the time everything’s been produced, recorded and promoted it often turns out to be not a million miles from crap. This is even more true with bands where instead of being reliant on just one individual, everyone has to hold the show together while grimly accepting the role of a frontman/woman as figurehead. Every group, no matter how hairy has its own Geri Halliwell and the band who undoubtebly managed this balancing act to the greatest heights were Queen.

Queen get a lot of flack for being “Dad rock” and “Radio 2”, but frankly being part of the fibres of British culture isn’t something to be sniffed at. Your average 10 year old child will unconsciously know more Queen songs than hits by our supposed “national band”  The Beatles. Granted, they are played to death but that doesn’t stop them from being solidly GOOD.  Losing Freddie Mercury before the band had a chance to go U2 stale was ironically the greatest thing that happened to Queen in granting them musical immortality.  Occasionally flitting back into the spotlight after his death to tour has been considered kosher by fans, and even recording a posthumous album without him as “Queen +  Paul Rodgers” was largely regarded as acceptable as it was more of a supergroup project with a pal of Brian May. But what about this chap performing their material?…

Since last week’s announcement that Adam Lambert will be performing with Queen at the Sonisphere Festival at  Knebworth in July to mark the 25th anniversary of the band’s last performance with Mercury, there’s been an online explosion split into two sides. There’s the more obvious objection by Queen fans that Freddie Mercury’s footsteps aren’t worthy to be walked, let alone performed in by an American Idol loser. And much like the Westboro-nutty of Gaga’s most fanatic Little Monsters who collectively prayed for Madonna to have a stroke during her Superbowl performance, some of Adam Lambert’s diehard stans sincerely believe him to be not just Mercury’s equal, but capable of delivering the man’s own songs better than him. Erm….

Analysing both sides of the Crazy Spectrum is no way to assess any situation, but it does raise the question – should the two very different worlds of Queen and Lambert be colliding?  Let’s compare the two:

Name: Queen. Summary: Epic Glam-rock band mostly from the 1970’s and ’80s.

Greatest achievement: 7 number one albums, 4 number one singles and 6 Ivor Novello awards.

Name: Adam Lambert. Summary: O.T.T. homosexual American Idol finalist from 2009. Creator of For Your Entertainment, a debut album that dipped its toes in rock, pop and dance as a Jack of All Trades but master of none. Promising stuff though.

Greatest achievement: Managing to eclipse that year’s bland Idol winner, Kris Allen through a combination of shock tactics (see ‘controversial’ Grammy antics which shocked Middle America) and having arguably the best current male voice in pop.

Actually, once you get over the fact that Mercury and Lambert are two very different beasts it’s not too difficult a concept to get your head around.  There are two important things to remember; firstly that Queen aren’t reforming per se, sticking post-its outside your local offy saying “Wanted: Lead singer to replace deceased iconic frontman of aging band”. This is not Adam Lambert joining Queen. As the Sonisphere posters point out, this is “Queen + Adam Lambert”, a slightly less bitter pill to swallow.

The second (and most) important thing to remember is what this date means to the rest of Queen. The 7th June 2012 will be the 25th anniversary of when they last played as a whole group with Freddie. Understandably they’d like to celebrate this date by performing together at the same location. Only trouble is, they need a lead vocalist for that.

Enter the Glambert.

Nothing can bring Freddie Mercury back. Nothing. And I bet if you tried you’d be met by the most flamboyantly pissed off poltergeist in the history of the supernatural. But his bandmates are entitled to celebrate the last time they were privileged enough to perform with him, and they could do a lot worse than rope in the talented but no-danger-of -being-an-overshadowing-superstar presence that is Adam Lambert for an evening.

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New Music Videos (and spot the drag queen)

What’s this? Someone else from The Class of 2008 making a return? The Artist Formerly Known As Santogold (and now for legal reasons SANTIgold) is back with ‘Disparate Youth’ before planning on releasing new album Master of My Make-Believe sometime in May. Not much of a departure from her old material, and not much of a video either. But A) Her old material was brilliant. B) Erm, it’s called a “buzz single”, try to keep up love.

AND

Xelle, formed from two biological lay-deez and a former contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race let the ship marked ‘Novelty Act’ sail long ago. They’ve already released two singles (including the Alcazar-inspired masterpiece ‘Hologram’) and this latest offering ‘Invincible’ obviously hopes to tap into the It Gets Better market with its “inspiring” and “uplifting” lyrics. What it NEEDS is an Almighty mix.

Have a lovely weekend.

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A chat with: Razika

As you’ve possibly already gauged during the short lifespan of this blog – I’m possibly certifiable insanely obsessed with music hailing from Scandinavia. But while the region that’s given us everything from Abba to Whigfield is rich in bloody good pop, musically there’s so much more to it than just that genre. Let us not forget; HIM, Ida Maria and rock/metal bands like Opeth have been showing the rest of the world how it’s done for decades. And one of my favourite recent discoveries is another genius Nordic find. These lasses…


What does the name ‘Razika’ mean and why did you choose it as a name?

Razika is an African girls name. A girl we went to school with was called that, and we thought it was a really cool name. Between the four of us, Razika became a sort of code-word for a good looking boy, so instead of saying it out loud when we saw one, we’d say “Look! Razika to the left!” This was when we were like 14, but a few years later when we started the band, Razika just seemed a obvious choice.

How did you end up forming the band?

We’d known each other since we were 6 when we all started school together. Since then we’ve been friends, more or less. We were all very interested in music and when we were about 15 we finally started making music together. We started practicing in Maria’s cellar in the autumn of 2007 and held our first concert three months later. We were really awful to start with, none of us could properly play our instruments so we ended up learning to play together . 

Unlike many girl groups who perform Pop, Dance or R&B, you’re very much a Ska/Rock group. Was it difficult getting record label interest at first because of this or easy because you stand out so much?

To be honest, we didn’t really think that much about getting signed, we just wanted to play and have fun!  We were of course very happy when were signed with our label Smalltown Supersound.

Who inspires you musically? Obviously not the Spice Girls…
Haha, no! The four of us in the band have quite a different taste in music, but we kind of “meet” at some point. When we first started we were really into 60’s pop and rock like the Beatles and the Norwegian band The Pussycats. We also really liked the Strokes, Franz Ferdinand and the Arctic Monkeys. A bit later we discovered the Norwegian New Wave bands the Aller Værste! and Program 81 (our album Program 91 is named after these guys) along with the English Ska bands The Specials and Bad Manners.
Your songs are in a mixture of Norwegian and English. How does writing and performing material in different languages compare?
As you’d expect it feels very natural to write in our mother tongue, but at the same time we’re surrounded by English so it’s just the way things have turned out. It’s more interesting to write in several languages, it makes everything a lot more fun.
Who else in Norwegian music do you think we should all be listening to, asides from Razika and Ida Maria?
If you ever get the chance to go see Kakkmaddafakka live, you should! We were on a tour with them last April, we saw them every night for about three weeks and it was NEVER boring. If you’re into Garage/Psychedelic music then have a listen to Death By Unga Bunga. And of course our friends in the amazing Young Dreams.

What do you have planned next for the year, are you finished with school yet?

All of us are still studying or working part-time besides being in the band. We just started recording our second album and have a lot of gigs both in Norway and abroad. So we have a lot to do – it’s going to be a hectic year for us!
If you could perform live with anyone, who would you pick and why? 
The Specials because they are one of our biggest inspirations, we would love to play with them. Watch this space…

Razika perform at KOKO in Camden on February 24th (tonight!). Their debut Program 91 is out now.

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Gig Review: Nicole Scherzinger, 02 Apollo, 22/02/2012

The act: Nicole Scherzinger

The venue: 02 Apollo, Manchester.

Why? : After enduring years of abuse as ‘Flopzinger’, ‘Shitsinger’ and ‘Zingerburger’, Nicole Scherzinger finally released Killer Love, a rather brilliant solo album last year…although you probably could have successfully sued Interscope under trade descriptions for calling the Pussycat Dolls a ‘group’.

The music: An amazing start with a medley of RedOne tracks ‘Club-Banger Nation’ and ‘Poison’. Afterwards the more acoustically suited songs including ill-fated early single ‘Baby Love’ and US single that never was,  ‘Pretty’ managed to elbow their way into the setlist. This was followed by a vast PCD section which was great for everyone who loved the Pussycat Dolls but a bit dull for fans of the album the tour was supposed to be promoting. Fortunately she finished things off with the remaining solo singles, finishing with a rousing rendition of ‘Don’t Hold Your Breath’ that had everyone on their feet, air-punching with as much vigour as a Malcolm X rally or a fisting convention.

The banter:  A bit like Janet Jackson whose Rhythm Nation tour obviously ‘inspired’ everything here from costumes to heavy dance choreography, Nicole is one of those performers who manages to pull off both raunchy moves and saccharine sweetness, launching into odes to everything from her fans to God, instructing us with deadpan seriousness; “You know it’s a killer love when you know it’s worth fighting for!” Ta.

The crowd: Teenage girls with  their reluctant, lumpy boyfriends, gay scallies and mums attempting to out-dance their 4 year olds to ‘Don’t Cha’. The star of the night was 64 year old Michael sitting at the front row who got a special mention from Nicole for “really shakin’ it”.

Any surprises? Nine Pussycat Doll singles. Nine. That’s almost a Greatest Hits album. Described by Nicole as “Songs close to my heart”, performed with 4 backing dancers (and occasional singers), one of whom was a lovely shade of Carmit ginge.

The question you all want to ask: Were any of the other former members of the Pussycat Dolls there?

The answer: HELL TO THE NO. Although the bored-looking woman selling tour merchandise could’ve once been a member, it’s hard to say. What were their names again?

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How do you solve a problem like Rachel Adedeji?

The X Factor has had many “iconic moments” in its time, such as when during one of her MANY sing-offs Katie Waissel forgot the words to ‘Don’t Give Up On Me’ and ended up going “You know what, sod it…” before sitting on the floor – and still making it through to the next week. But my all-time favourite has got to be this:

Rachel Adedeji’s problem was that nobody really knew what to do with her. For each of the four weeks she was on the show she was rebranded and repackaged in a desperate attempt to make Simon Cowell’s definition of a popstar work. By the time she was voted off one dreads to think what her scalp looked like from all the different ill-fitting weaves forced on her.  The biggest shame was that there wasn’t actually much wrong with her in first place. In typical ex-contestant form one expected to hear sod all from her ever again. Until last week…

She’s back. With not just a single, but a four track EP. And Club Lights is that best kind of debut – pleasantly solid. The title track and ‘Follow the DJ’, the video for which has been lurking around since last year are both cheerful club-bangers which manage to be as lyrically shallow as your average Ke$ha track but with a touch of individual oomph. The two other tracks are more promising in terms of depth; ‘On My Own’ is short but sweet and the mysterious ‘Young Hearts’ contains a  glimmering hint that Miss Adedeji may have been listening to the likes of Benga and other decent bits of dance. Waiting since 2008 to release anything might not have done her chances of (any) commercial success much good, but it’s a welcome addition to the ex-X Factor contestant portfolio. Now, if you don’t mind, I have to hunt down Tesco Mary for her opinion on workfare…

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Dear Rihanna

Hope you won’t live to regret this

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Why The Brits are the pits

It’s late February, and that self-congratulationary wankfest of both screen and sound is already well underway: award season. The time of year when The Powers That Be shower gaudy trinkets on each other as a symbol of how tooootally aaaawesome they are.  A bit like giving something a star rating, I’ve never really ‘got’ awards – possibly because I don’t have any but also possibly because they’re just glorified opinions designed to sell stuff. And the worst offender of these by far are the Brit Awards. 

The “Best British single” category sums up this commercial borefest. Its eligibility? 10 British singles based on commercial radio airplay and sales in the past year are automatically nominated. How inspirational.

Across the pond, somehow they’ve got it right. Winning, or even just being nominated for a Grammy is somehow both a win with both music snobs and Joe Public. The ceremony is a glitzy, star-studded affair with big arse performances. You only have to look at Jennifer Hudson’s recent tribute to Whitney Houston to realise that the Grammys do class and kudos. Try and think of a recent memorable Brit awards performance? Asides from Florence Welch duetting with Dizzee Rascal, the Brits only seem to ingrain in the memory when they hilariously fuck up – see Joss Stone’s accent or Jarvis Cocker mooning.

If awards are going to have any meaning then the last thing you want them to be is a popularity contest. There’s a big difference between being a passing flavour of the month or something critically agreed to have some artistic merit. Because let’s not forget, these are supposedly presented under the façade of being “about the music”. So why on earth have awards decided by fan votes?

Today’s generation of One Direction fans were wetting their knickers over Blue yesterday, and the day before that it was in all likelihood FIVE…or A1.  They will click and speed-dial in their thousands to get their “idol” that coveted award, and for a moment it will make them the happiest they’ve ever been, until they get a bit older and encounter stuff like jelly vodka shots and (eventually) cunninlingus.  The award itself will retrain zero credibility or relevance.

As for the other, non-fan-decided awards, don’t make me laugh. Asides from peppering poor Kate Bush, Laura Marling and Fleet Foxes in as token “Look how indie we are but don’t worry, you won’t win!” nominations, the vast majority of the acts listed for each category are big, over platinum album sellers. Homework task: Have a look back at previous award winners and have a good think about whether or not they were blasted to death by Fearne Cotton. If Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Ed Sheeran and Jessie J are really the best we’ve been given musically in the past year then going deaf tomorrow should cause you no grief at all.

So what am I getting at, asides from moaning about the Brits? I suppose having a proper pop equivalent to the Mercury Prize would be an improvement. If having a Cannes-style jury panel battling out their preferences for Nicole Scherzinger over Rihanna would give pop music some credibility as opposed to yet another award-advert, then GO FOR IT.  Pop music by its nature is commercial – it’s POPular, but that doesn’t mean we have to continue to ignore the inventive which will remain too ‘mainstream’ for other forms of critical (Mercury/Novello-shaped) recognition.  Marina and the Diamonds,  Hurts etc deserve the kind of exposure to be played at least once everywhere.  Then people can kick themselves (metaphorically) and rapidly start listening to them while doing the washing up, walking to work, preparing for *that* big meeting and walking the dog.

Because that is what good pop music should be about.

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