Thursday, July 28, 2011

Single Reviews 31/07/11

We had planned to squeeze in some sort of little tribute to Amy Winehouse here, but given this week’s Single Reviews come in the form of an X Factor Special, it’s safe to assume she wouldn’t be too chuffed with that. So let’s just push on with dissecting the selection of X Factor alumni who are flooding the singles market in one go. Mind you, we reckon only one at a push will even make the Top 40, so it’s not what you’d call a monopoly. With no further ado, it’s time! To face! The music! *roll titles*

Opening the show – in the death slot, no less – are Belle Amie, hotch-potch girlband from 2010, albeit one member down. The fact they’ve even reached a debut single despite having no identity as a group or apparent cohesiveness with each other is impressive; Girls Up itself is most certainly not impressive. The objective is apparently a quirky, catchy, uplifting girl power anthem – but the result is a disarray of awkward, artificial, tuneless irrelevance. Geneva Lane had a very lucky escape indeed. It’s a no from us.

Faring slightly better are fellow 2010 contenders The Reason 4, the blue-collar manband ditched at Judges' Houses. On the strengths of debut single Take It All, there’s some definite talent on board – soaring choruses and glossy production make this a power ballad very much in the vein of Nu Take That, even if they do have a penchant for a lyrical cliché here and there. It’s intriguing to consider what they might have achieved had they been given an opportunity in place of the appalling groups that did make the cut.

Single of the Week is bestowed upon Ruth Lorenzo, a singer we have no problem labelling as our favourite X Factor finalist of all time. Yes, even greater than Addictiv Ladies. However, we’ve not let that cloud our judgement – debut single Burn wins our approval entirely on its own merits. An earnest, passionate, timeless rock ballad with a captivating melody, it perfectly accommodates her impressive pipes and genuine artistry. It’ll probably sell diddly-squat, but Lorenzo makes a lot more sense doing this than having to kneel down in front of Simon Cowell.

Next is a member of the Hard-Done-By Winners’ Club paired with a faceless dance diva. Must Be A Reason is a peculiar entity courtesy of J Pearl featuring Shayne Ward, though the credits went the other way round when it was merely an album track from the Series 2 champion. Based heavily on the Wamdue Project’s 1999 hit, it’s a house-lite summer stomp with vocals so tweaked it sounds like a swarm of bees got into the studio. And while the chattering, breakneck vocals, which teeter on the verge of rapping, showcase an interesting side to Shayne, it’s probably too little too late.

And we close with perhaps the most talked-about song of the year. A track which doesn’t even polarise opinion so much as stir up venomous hatred across the whole of humanity. Yes, it’s Swagger Jagger, the unreservedly shocking debut from the unmistakeable Cher Lloyd. From its Western folk sample to its electro-twizzle breakdown to its social media lyrical splurge, it’s all hideous stuff. And yet, it feels like that was the intention from the outset. With millions of views, people casually (if ironically) quoting from it left right and centre, and Cher Lloyd’s name on everyone’s lips, mission accomplished.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Amy Winehouse 1983 - 2011

Understandably, the blogosphere is awash with tributes to the late Amy Winehouse. And it's difficult to know exactly how to handle it. We've specifically steered clear of Twitter with its tributes and its accusations that certain tributes aren't fitting and its rants that the accusations about the tributes are inappropriate.

Frankly, her music is the best possible tribute in itself.

However, we'd quite like to pay homage to the fact she was really, really fucking hilarious. Enjoy this episode of Never Mind The Buzzcocks from 2006:

RIP Amy. x

Friday, July 22, 2011

Single Reviews 24/07/11

Welcome to the Single Reviews, in a week where news of a Captain Planet live-action movie is announced, Brian Dowling returns to the Big Brother trainwreck, and Steps declare they’re planning a comeback. Judging by this pattern, we can expect the next couple of days to reveal the relaunch of the Sinclair C5, a whole new series of Ice Warriors commissioned, and that Vanilla are reforming for the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics.

Opening this week’s releases, She Makes Me Wanna is a wretched, hands-in-the-air thud-along courtesy of JLS featuring Dev. It’s hard to remember how fresh and exciting Beat Again felt on its release, as JLS have gone on to peddle some of the most trite, predictable ‘in da club’ R&B pigswill imaginable. It also employs that annoying habit of interchanging city, country and continent, whilst Dev’s contribution just sounds like Nicole Richie reading the football results.

Joshua Radin, of all people, scoops a begrudgingly-awarded Single of the Week with the perpetually happy I Missed You, crafted specifically to dampen a stadiumful of American housewives. It’s so chirpy, so bouncy, so cloyingly nice, it’s impossible not to feel some sort of Grinch-like disdain for it. But the rockabilly beats and mesmerising vocal hook prove an incredibly powerful force. God help us all if this makes it to radio.

The first major release for overtouted newcomers Six D comes in the form of the high-velocity pop thumper Best Damn Night. It’s actually quite an effective introduction, blending rap and a candyfloss chorus atop a pulsating backdrop, and there’s a synergy amongst them that certainly comes across. But take away the sizeable online buzz, the try-hard ‘urban’ leanings and the slick choreography, and the question arises: are they really any different to Boom?

And finally, Maverick Sabre shows us exactly what a hybrid of Hackney and Wexford sounds like. Remarkably, it’s not a fiddle-de-dee jig with a brap-laden chorus. Let Me Go houses a brassy, addictive, hip-hop beat beneath some interesting vocals which channel Finley Quaye (with an unfortunate snifter of Amy Winehouse). You’d be hard pushed to walk anywhere in London without tripping over male singer/rappers of this ilk, but there’s just enough of an edge here to outline his individuality. Just.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Honking Box Preview: The Apprentice

Another series of The Apprentice, another nation of sofa cushions raised in excruciating discomfiture. From episode one, with the genuinely frightening, near-psychotic tendencies of Edward “DON’T FIT THE MOULD” Hunter, it was pretty clear this was going to be a classic series.

Since then, we’ve had semi-racist iPhone apps, illogical refuse collections, opera gloves during business presentations, Hip Replacement magazine for the over-60s, the most unappealing biscuits ever created, June Sarpong being robbed of her title of World’s Most Annoying Voice by Melody, and a few hundred thousand superfluous uses of “yeah?” courtesy of Natasha. So what are we left with?

Susan Ma

Who she?
The whiny little one with the eternal woe-is-me complex.

Background: Susan set up her own business at 17. “JUST LIKE YOU, LORD SUGAR! We are THE SAME! HIRE ME!” Susan’s particular specialism, however, was cosmetics. A darn sight more lucrative than The E-M@iler.

Series highlight: Questioning whether the French love their children. In fairness, we understood what she meant, but it didn’t half come out ham-fisted.

Specialisms: Buying; selling; shiny things; ‘putting ingredients together’; being shouted down by her teammates; acting as a human doormat; a general victim mentality.

Likely business venture: Given Susan’s ongoing insistence that she’s a successful businesswoman already, perhaps Lord Sugar sees something lucrative in the skincare market. And anyone who’s watched The Apprentice in HD will know he could certainly use a staff discount.

Jim Eastwood

Who he? This season’s strongest contender for the Katie Hopkins/Alex Wotherspoon passive-aggressive poisonous bitch role.

Background: Having started out in his dad’s fish and chip shop, Jim’s success later came in one of those stupid business sales solutions management e-nonsense jobs no-one (a) understands, or (b) gives a flying fuck about.

Series highlight: Sounding like a one-man Punch & Judy show as he flogged an array of cheap, nasty merchandise to the good folk of Shepherds Bush Market.

Specialisms: Argument-diffusing; massage; talking utter shite to an often-successful end; worming his way out of trouble; blame-shifting; being an eel in human form.

Likely business venture: A consultancy that works with new businesses to create imaginative, dynamic company titles. Titles like Everydog and Caraca’s. Then, when said businesses flop as a result of Jim’s awful name choices, he’ll liquidise his consultancy, set up a new one and do it all again. Repeat ad nauseum.

Helen Louise Milligan

Who she?
Silent-but-successful Sugar-bot with a near-perfect win record.

Background: Executive Assistant to the Grand High Overlord of Greggs the Bakers. Much has been made of Helen’s absence of drive or independence in the workplace, but which of the other contestants can boast they play a part in bringing steak bakes to the masses?

Series highlight: Smashing the existing boardroom sales record by flogging kiddie seats to the French, thus also answering Susan’s question about whether the French actually like their kids...

Specialisms: Pitching; strategising; spray-tanning; keeping any form of emotion well under wraps.

Likely business venture: Assuming that Lord Sugar doesn’t have any interest in investing in the greasy pastry market, Helen could make a fortune opening a training academy for the next generation of silent, stealthy business ninjas.

Tom Pellereau

Who he? The Michael-Sheen-a-like boffin with the missing bottom jaw.

Background: An inventor who supposedly came up with the idea of a curved nail file. Cos, y’know, they haven’t been available from any bogstandard pharmacy across the world for decades, or anything.

Series Highlight: ‘Qype’ into ‘Mypy’ – the beautiful mistake that saw a dim-witted misreading of a sign turned into a successful, pie-shifting takeaway brand.

Specialisms: Being right; being ignored; losing; sighing; skin-shreddingly bad roleplay.

Likely business venture: We’ll rule out Tom setting up a drama school following his shambolic BixMix presentation, so perhaps a new branded exercise program, a la Zumba or BodyPump, which strengthens, tones and conditions entirely from nodding techniques.

The probable winner? The smart money is on Helen: professional, intelligent, and – let’s face it, she’ll be working for a forceful megalomaniac with a Napoleon complex – subservient. But honestly, we’d quite like it to be Susan. As annoying as she has been, there’s a real underdog quality to her, and Lord Sugar appears to have seen something in her that perhaps the cameras haven’t yet picked up on.

The final, which sees the interview round promoted to final task and once again invites back Her Majesty Margaret of Mountford, airs this Sunday (that’s Sunday, not next Wednesday) at 9pm. And hey, if Lord Sugar wants to use it as an opportunity to announce his retirement and put Margaret front-and-centre next series, that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Single Reviews 10/07/11

Welcome to this week’s Single Reviews, which we’d like to dedicate to the News of the World as it bows out this weekend. Thank you for your dangerously-skewed coverage of events. Thank you for your sanctimonious, pitchfork-wielding campaigns. Thank you for giving a platform to utter cunts like Dan Wootton and Carole Malone. Thank you for your awful copy, your bigoted tone, your lack of humanity and your shameless defecation on the name of journalism. Rot in hell. You take care now! x

We open with a grotesque package holiday to the skankiest corner of Ibiza Town, courtesy of The Wanted. The treacly twinkle that launches Glad You Came is soon detonated by a hooting Balearic hook which goes beyond the concept of parody, and smarmy, skeevy lyrics that even Enrique Iglesias wouldn’t attempt (so imagine how effective they are when croaked by a mismatched oaf-band). They’d be better off just releasing All Time Low again and again in lieu of new material.

Single of the Week is awarded to the idiosyncratic splendidness of Up Up Up, the wide-grinned, mood-lifting, bopalong debut from Louisiana folksters Givers. With such a bubbly immediacy throughout, it’ll prompt you to wonder where you’ve heard it before, but seemingly, that’s the sorcery of Givers. Expect this to be fully exploited by the world of holistic medicine as an alternative to any number of anti-depressants.

Man Down is the 724th single from Rihanna this year, and it’s every bit as lame as you’d expect. Yet again, it’s a vain attempt to round up some controversy, as this moron’s shitty output certain won’t sell based on its musical merits. With its tactless narrative and hilarious rum-pa-pums, it genuinely sounds as though it’s being made up as it goes along. A strong contender for the worst thing Rihanna has ever recorded – and Lord knows there’s plenty of competition in her dire catalogue.

And lastly, Promises Promises sees Nineties alt-rock bastions Incubus in a particularly mellow mood. The ivories are tinkled, the drums are guarded, the chorus is hushed... oh hai, middle age. It’s not a bad song by any means, and it’s unquestionably dignified in its tone – in fact, it’s the sort of thing Train would murder their families to record – but it’s sorely devoid of the heavy, sexy, concentrated edge Incubus carried with such effortlessness.
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