Friday, March 30, 2012

Single Reviews 01/04/12

It’s been a while since we’ve put any singles under the microscope round these parts. Frankly, it’s pretty difficult when release dates don’t count for much anymore, and anything half decent has a battle to even chart, thanks to the Top 40 being clogged up with faceless dance and the endless torrent of Rihanna’s dead-eyed, off-pitch hogwash. Now, with that burst of negativity out of the way, maybe we can say some nice things in this week’s Single Reviews...

First to get the once-over are The Horrors, who pluck a more-than-decent offering from their Skying album in the form of Changing the Rain. It’s a laidback yet considered number, all lilting vocals and drowsy beats and ocean-like hums, a frankly unbelievable progression from their early material. Which, let’s face it, was shit. More of this, and we can even forgive them Sheena is a Parasite.

The second album era has been a kind one to Olly Murs, flicking the critics away with ease via two first-rate No. 1 singles. Sadly, the momentum hasn’t carried through to the third offering, Oh My Goodness. It’s catchy and it’s fun, sure, but it all feels rather like a bit of a non-event, the stuff of a B-side perhaps (hey, remember B-sides, kids?). If you're looking for blame, you could do worse than point fingers at the truly atrocious video.

Speaking of Olly Murs, claiming Single of the Week are his Heart Skips a Beat cohorts Rizzle Kicks, who manage to chase the addictive Mama Do The Hump with something equally impressive yet entirely different. The reticent, understated British rap of Traveller’s Chant has parallels with The Streets’ Dry Your Eyes, and is a welcome display of a UK hip-hop act that doesn’t borrow from skull-thumping Euro-cheese.

And on the subject of cheesy house beats, it’s a shame to see a singer who’s so revered as a trend-setter dangling from the bandwagon, clinging doggedly on by her fingernails. Madonna manages a worrying mix of extraneous and derivative with Girl Gone Wild, a busy electro-mess where her vocals – and, if you can believe it, personality – are smothered. Another Ray of Light this ain’t.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Honking Box Preview: Masterchef

Ready the Embrace soundtrack! Get India Fisher a honey and lemon! Dangle the jam roly poly in front of Gregg’s enclosure to get him all gee’d up! It’s Masterchef – the final!

As far as Masterchef series go, it’s been a good ‘un, if not quite a classic. Aside from the inconsistent scheduling and the grievous fucknut of a chef in the Gilgamesh challenge, the show has ticked along rather happily, all pleasant contestants and ickle jelly crabs and relatively good behaviour from Gregg and John. It’s settled nicely into its own little niche, which for a show that previously raised the blood pressure of much of its viewing audience, is perhaps slightly unusual.

There was, however, one star, one shining beacon of batshit-mental brilliance that made the series truly entertaining – Wacky Aki. It’s a huge shame she didn’t make it to the final, her crazy expressions, mouth-watering food and peculiar naughty-sprite quality making for an overall genius contestant. Other than her, you’d be hard pushed to remember any of the other contenders of the series.

So either it’s been a largely unmemorable affair, or it was only ever destined to come down to an Andrew/Tom/Shelina final. For what it’s worth, we reckon it’s a little from Column A, a little from Column B, but there’s no denying the right three have reached the final hurdle.

So who’ll take the trophy? Andrew’s ardour and imagination are impossible to contest, but it’s been hard to warm to him solely based on him looking like The Anointed One from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. A valid reason it may not be, but them’s the breaks. Tom, meanwhile, is a likeable chap with significant skill, and has also improved the most over the series, making him the ‘journey’ contestant. (Which is ironic, given that he was stuck in London for last night’s challenge while Andrew and Shelina got to visit Holland and Belgium. It’s what’s known in the reality TV glossary as ‘being in Louis Walsh’s category.’)

But, as the final gets underway, it’s looking like Shelina could pip the boys at the post, and it’s no bad thing. Masterchef could do with another female victor. Even in the earliest episodes of this series, when past champions were invited back to poke and sniff at the efforts of 2012’s hopefuls, Thomasina Miers was somewhere at the back, was struggling for screen space amongst her six male counterparts. This in spite of her own terrestrial TV series, several books, and a (rather fantastic) chain of restaurants.

But Shelina deserves the kudos for a hell of a lot more than just having ovaries. Her skill is apparent, her creativity is unparalleled, and her passion is uncontainable. Maybe we’ll steer away from her unashamed mango-lust just a tad – the last time anyone on an elimination food format was so blatant about their love of mango was when a contestant on The Restaurant thought Raymond Blanc would be satisfied with tinned mango pulp dolloped in a cup, and went home in Week One.

So let’s raise a glass of some sort of mango liqueur to Shelina, and only hope that it’s not too presumptuous, or that we’re jinxing her win in any way. And, beyond that, we can only hope that next series, there’s a bit more oomph, a bit less Gilga-cunt, and another Aki, if such a thing could ever exist.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Honking Box Preview: American Idol

Another talent show reaches its live stages, which means it’s time for another rundown of the endearingly naive hopefuls. How useful these round-ups are is questionable – in last year’s summary of Idol contestants, we predicted the truly shambolic Scotty McCreery would last of all two seconds, while in our profiles of the X Factor 2011 finalists, we said Little Mix would be first to go home. Alas, both went on to win their respective shows. Ahem.

With the 11th (ELEVENTH!!) series of American Idol beginning its countdown towards its newest champion, we chew over some of the talent on offer. Sadly, the brilliant/awful/amazing Reed Grimm fell just at the last hurdle, failing to make it into the Top 13. But who did make it? Anyone likely to shift the kind of numbers Carrie Underwood managed? Anyone as likeable as Ruben Studdard? Anyone as inexplicably atrocious as Megan Joy?

Colton Dixon
Which one’s that, then?
The demi-punk one who Randy Jackson dared to describe as ‘indie’. Hijacked his kid sister’s audition. Quite talented. Very annoying.
Most likely to: Emo up every track he tackles, get called a one-trick pony, and sail through each week on the pity vote.
Predicted position: 3rd, though many a teenage girl will be without credit on her mobile as a result.

Heejun Han
Which one’s that, then?
The one who looks and talks like the perennial joke contestant, but actually, sings rather nicely indeed.
Most likely to: Continue to be treated as the perennial joke contestant, handling it far worse than Sanjaya ever did. Poor Heejun.
Predicted position: He’ll last around until 6th place, at which point he’ll break down on stage and blame the miserable cowboy from Hollywood Week.

Jessica Sanchez
Which one’s that, then?
The one that received a disproportionately high amount of screentime at the Las Vegas stage. In fairness, she’s very good.
Most likely to: Smash every ballad she’s given with ease, get the ever-patriotic Pinoy audience doing backflips, then inevitably crash out due to the show’s leanings towards male contestants.
Predicted position: 4th. Highest female, mind you.

DeAndre Brackensick
Which one’s that, then?
The one that looks like Leona Lewis who whips his fucking ugly hair back and forth.
Most likely to: Give it some irksome falsetto, whilst whipping his fucking ugly hair back and forth.
Predicted position: 11th, because America will soon tire of seeing him whip his fucking ugly hair back and forth.

Hollie Cavanaugh
Which one’s that, then?
Sweet, tiny, anaemic-looking Scouser-cum-Texan with the voice of a woman twice her age and three times her size.
Most likely to: Cry on Beatles Week during a rendition of Let It Be.
Predicted position: 5th. Another victim of America’s penchant for a male Idol.

Jermaine Jones
Which one’s that, then?
The booming-voiced Gigantor that makes Ryan Seacrest look like a Borrower. Even more so than usual.
Most likely to: Ruin an otherwise-stirring take on an Alexander O’Neal song by cracking the Perspex in the stage.
Predicted position: 6th. He’d come higher, but many a viewer will be enraged after he reaches a note so low it shorts their sub-woofers.

Erika Van Pelt
Which one’s that, then?
The friendly, apple-shaped one with the subtle muso quality.
Most likely to: Attempt to win over America with ill-advised vocal runs and vibrato, essentially stamping all over her own quirk.
Predicted position: Somewhere around 10th place, when she’ll realise playing modest gigs in smalltime bars and selling CDs from her boot would’ve been a less-depressing option.

Skylar Laine
Which one’s that, then?
This year’s zany (if zany = bothersome) country girl, a la Lauren Alaina and Kellie Pickler.
Most likely to: Go arse-over-tit into the audience during a tuneless rendition of Shania Twain’s Any Man of Mine.
Predicted position: She’ll hang around until around 7th thanks to the colossal train-wreck quality; her gabbling pre-performance VTs will be sorely missed.

Joshua Ledet
Which one’s that, then?
Now there’s a question.
Most likely to: Go completely under the radar. Seriously, did this guy even audition, or was he a delivery man bringing Swarovski-encrusted puppies to J-Lo’s dressing room who thought it’d be fun to sneak into the Top 13?
Predicted position: 12th. He’d be taking 13th place if he weren’t male.

Shannon Magraine
Which one’s that, then?
Another country girl, though slightly more white-bread than the bingo hall goofiness of Skylar Laine.
Most likely to: Limp through a load of sappy mid-tempo tracks unbeknownst to any UK viewers.
Predicted position: 9th, just about clawing onto a spot on the Idol 2012 Tour. Hey, every show needs a toilet break.

Elise Testone
Which one’s that, then?
The gravelly, bluesy one that looks about 54. But it’s ok, cos she’s a proper ‘artist’.
Most likely to: Give an interpretation of a Fiona Apple B-side that sounds rather like a coughing fit, which will cause Steven Tyler to ejaculate, whilst the audience wonder what the hell just happened.
Predicted position: 13th. Despite the judges gushing about her musicality and individuality and whatever, America won’t ‘get’ Elise.

Jeremy Rosado
Which one’s that, then?
The tubby one that made Jennifer Lopez cry.
Most likely to: Sing a selection of ballads – and ballads only – to make Jennifer Lopez cry some more.
Predicted position: 8th. Jennifer Lopez will want to use the Judges’ Save, the other two will overrule her. She’ll cry.

Phillip Phillips
Which one’s that, then?
The eventual winner.
Most likely to: Send the good folk of America into a frenzy with a radio-rawk rendition of a tacky 80s classic, whilst frothing up the all-female front row.
Predicted position: 1st. The white-guy-with-guitar formula has resulted in four successive wins, and it shows no sign of letting up with Phil-Squared.
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