The Top 8 Alesha Dixon Singles

The new series of Britain’s Got Talent is back in full-swing, and that means the loveable Alesha Dixon is back on our screens. She’s known more as a TV personality nowadays, which is a shame because she was a pretty good popstar. She could sing well enough, proved on Strictly she could dance and her rapping was usually the highlight of a Mis-Teeq song. She never really had any major smashes, or anything you could label a classic, but digging into her back catalogue I’ve discovered Alesha has got some pretty darn good songs under her belt, with much more personality (her and her songs) than what you hear on pop radio today. I say some because I tried to make it a top 10, but of her solo and group singles, I’d only consider 8 of them good enough to be featured. Which is at least 5 more than a lot of people on her popstar ‘level’ have. Let’s get on with the (Alesha) show.

All I Want (2001)

Mis-Teeq were kind of like the UK’s answer to Destiny’s Child, with some added garage. Which makes Alesha kind of like the UK’s answer to Beyonce, with the added… uh talent show judging. This song/video is pure early noughties with the dance moves and terrifically cheesy falling through the mirror effects.

UK peak: 2. Best part: Enter!

Knockdown (2006)

Alesha’s first collaboration with production team Xenomania (Girls Aloud, Sugababes, Pet Shop Boys) who, as you all should know, I love. This song was meant to launch Alesha’s debut album ‘Fired Up’, sadly the commerical failure of this and previous single ‘Lipstick’ meant the album only got released in Japan. It’s easy to see why this wasn’t a hit – despite its bouncy ska like production, its a pretty weird track. Apart from the chorus, nothing is repeated or follows the same melody. There’s a bit where people genuinely just go ‘ho ho ho ho ho-ho, ha ha ha ha ha ha-ha’. The single version awkwardly slams straight into the harder, rappier ‘K-Gee Heat Remix’ near the end which is, quite frankly, terrible. The album version carries on with the ska beat and lyrical genius/nonsense but that wasn’t the version released as a single, hence the lower position. A curious oddity, but an infectious one.

UK peak: 45. Best part: Sitting up by my window, WATCHing the summer rain

Can’t Get It Back (2003)

From a song with a terrible single version to one with a much better single version. The Ignorants Radio Edit lifts this R&B jam with oh so 2003 guitar strummy goodness. The chorus is fantastic and Alesha adds another great rap to her collection. There’s not much I can say about it. It’s like a the little sister to the Sugababes ‘Hole in the Head’. I also really like how they begin verse by actually saying (or singing) “verse 1” and do the same for verse two. It’s like how Mark Owen literally did the “x minutes left to go” when it was x minutes left of the song. Cray cray.

UK peak: 8. Best part: the chorus

Radio (2010)

You’d have thought a song written by Emeli Sandé and produced by Naughty Boy  would be an instant smash, especially as this was when Alesha was a judge on Strictly Come Dancing (remember that?). This track peaked outside the Top 40, which isn’t as bad as the album, ‘The Entertainer’ which hit the lofty heights of number 84. At least it was released in Britain I guess… poor Alesha. Anyway, you’ll notice that the song sounds a LOT like Robyn‘s fantastic ‘Dancing On My Own’ which is obviously a good thing. Maybe not in the originality stakes but if you’re going to copy, copy from the best. The lyrics are about turning up the radio; not to have a dance to some generic EDM but to block out the emotions from a bad (possibly abusive) relationship.

UK peak: 46. Best part: He can’t break my heart if I can’t hear a word

Let’s Get Excited (2009)

This song treads the line between amazing and annoying. Just listen to that beat. You’re either going to love it or despise it. Unlike the similarly Marmite-y ‘Drummer Boy’ I love this song. The production doesn’t ever slow down, insisting that you get up and dance, and it helps the verses are just as upbeat as the chorus. There’s a namecheck for Madonna and a reference to ‘Get Into The Groove’ if you’re into that sort of thing. And in the video, Alesha gets soaking wet from a giant hose, if you’re into that sort of thing.

UK peak: 13. Best part: I’m a detective I’m all over you 

Breathe Slow (2008)

Artistic black and white video time! Alesha was at her commercial peak with her 2008 album ‘The Alesha Show’ and this song is her most successful. It was around for absolutely ages, you remember it, I remember it, your Nan probably remembers it. Not much to say here: a solid ballad, strong video and the biggest triumph for a woman who had been through a rocky divorce and career low just over a year before release.

UK peak: 3. Best part: I’m running out of patience ’cause I can’t believe what the hell I’m hearing (hearing)

The Boy Does Nothing (2008)

A mambo record about berating a man for not doing the washing up? So very kitsch. So very Xenomania. The crazy genius production team decided to work with Alesha again to come up with this corker of a comeback single. It fitted right in with the throwback sounds all the best British female stars were doing in ’08 whilst still having its own thing going on. The whole thing is so upbeat and fun to dance to, the chorus takes off, there are two (!) fantastic middle eights and its ends with the repeating chant of “if the man can dance, he’s get a second chance”. It’s just FUN all the way through. Oh, and it has Florrie on drums. I quite like her.

UK peak: 5. Best part: All of it. If I had to pick: I wanna see ya shake ya HIPS and learn

Before we get to number one actually, I’d like to give some honourable mentions to songs from ‘The Alesha Show’ (and its Encore edition) that Alesha did with Xenomania that weren’t singles. The stuff they created together is pretty overlooked by Xeno fans, which is a shame because there are some fantastic tunes I shall now list:

Play Memore of an assault than a song, set in the key of awesome. Amazing with headphones in, really gets your heart pumping.

Don’t Ever Let Me Goa relaxed, accoustic guitar with a hint of synth thrown in before the end. Repetitive chorus but it works with the whole ‘lazy summer afternoon’ feel I get from the song.

I’m Thruthe theme tune for the campest James Bond movie ever made. Another really fun song, made better by the use of the word “shebang”

Mysteryone of those annoying ‘hidden’ songs people occasionally. Best described as ‘hyperactive’, take that as you will. The second verse descends into actual gibberish before a fantastic rapid fire ‘no-no/so-so/polo’ rhyme bit. And the ‘this is the jump off, we wanna see you jump off’ is probably originally from another song Xenomania made but decided to cut and paste into here (as they often do, ie: Biology) and its probably the best bit of the whole album.

The Lightshould’ve been the single for the Encore release instead of that naff Gary Barlow penned ballad. A piano and squiggly synth lead slowie, with wistful vocals and an uplifting chorus. Really should’ve been a single.

Scandalous (2003)

Was there ever any doubt? Everything about this song is so effortless. It rhymes “simulation” with “conversation” which is pretty epic in itself. The slick sound comes from production team Xen Stargate, famous for their work with Ne-Yo, Rihanna and Beyonce. All the girls have their moment to shine, with Alesha herself adding some dirty rhymes before the chorus as well as the “that’s why you know should be scared of us” hook. One of the best girlband anthems of the noughties, a decade not at all short on them.

UK peak: 2. Best bit: WOO WOO WOO WOO

So there you have it; a quick whistle-stop tour through the back catalogue of an entertainer (see what I did there?) who never reached the upper echelons of stardom, but has had a better music career than you’ve probably given her credit for. Think about that next time you’re watching Britain’s Got Talent. 

 

ENTAH! (or, exit)

 

 

 

New Music!: Royksopp & Robyn, THAT Avril Lavigne song and… Ed Sheeran

It’s been too long since I did a music review round-up, and this time I’m going to avoid waxing lyrical about my favourites Lily Allen and FlorrieTheir most recent songs are pretty amazing and you should have clicked on those links already – one at a time please, otherwise you’ll just hear a messy mess of noise or so much amazingness your head might explode.

When Robyn and Royksopp recently announced a ‘mini-album’ to support a tour they’re doing, I thought my head would explode from their combined Scando-superpower. Two tracks leaked online the other day and have since been ripped down from YouTube. Luckily you can listen to them both here.

Of the two, I think most people are going to like the title track, ‘Do It Again’. If I’m being honest, it didn’t majorly impress me on first listen. Lyrically and sonically, it doesn’t sound like either at their best. Thankfully, ‘Every Little Thing’ is a melancholic electronic gem. Its slow and sinister, kind of Royksopp‘s own ‘You Don’t Have a Clue‘ had a baby with Richard X/Norweigan Popstar Annie‘s collab Just Friends‘.

Since I can’t embed a video for either song, let’s remind ourselves of their fantastic 2009 collaboration; ‘The Girl & The Robot’.

The “don’t deny me, call me back, I’m soooooo alone” send shivers down me

Right, let’s move onto the big one. Avril Lavigne with her new single ‘Hello Kitty’. If you haven’t seen/heard/experienced it yet, here it is:

I want to get a few things out the way first, ie: the things most of the internet are talking about. I don’t think the song or video is racist at all. Avril is really popular in Japan and is a self proclaimed massive fan of that country and the Hello Kitty brand. I’m also not against culture appropriation either; I was raised on dubbed anime that changed a lot of character names and references. Personally I don’t believe that’s a bad thing. If an art form such a music video or children’s TV show has familiar elements mixed in with the foreign, it can make it easier to absorb and less alienating.

The whole ‘minority just used a prop/backing dancer’ thing regarding this, Lily Allen‘s ‘Hard Out Here‘, Miley‘s ‘We Can’t Stop‘ performances etc. gets on my nerves a bit. Its starting to feel like everytime a white artist is using someone of different origin in their videos/performances they are blasted online for putting themselves on a pedestal and reinforcing negative stereotypes. I wonder if these keyboard warriors just want to see only white people in a ‘white persons’ music video, and only black people in a ‘black persons’ video? I could start a whole debate but it’s been done to death so lets move on.

Another thing people are blasting Avril for is that she is ‘too old’ to be making this sort of music and having the image that she does. It’s similar to what Madonna has been facing for years and I kind of agree to a point. Should Madonna, at 55 stop singing about going out dancing and enjoying some sexy time? No. People of that age do do that, believe it or not – as much as we like to block out that fact. However, should Madonna keep baring her breasts on stage? Not really. It’s a bit embarrassing at 25 let alone 55. Back to Avril, then. She is 29. Should she ditch her attitude and rebellious rock chick persona? No. People like Joan Jett have been rocking out for way longer and good on them. Avril’s second single from this album (‘Hello Kitty‘ is single #4) ‘Rock n Roll’ is about maintaining that persona and it’s a great song.

‘Hello Kitty’ is not.

You don’t need to mature with every new album, and by age 30 only sing ballads. But at the same time, to regress to the point where your new single sounds like it was written and produced by a 12 year old is a bit ridiculous. Avril’s first album, released at age 17, was more mature than this. It just feels like a massive step backwards. I love a good novelty record from time to time, especially in summer. Heck, I’ve been blasting the heck out of the ‘Asreje (The Ketchup Song)‘ and ‘Numa Numa‘ for the last week and regret nothing. But this isn’t even ‘so bad its good’. It’s just… dire. The horrid dubstep, “a fat kid on a pack of Smarties/throw a chocolate cake at me”, the annoying beat, just… everything. The sad thing, as a population we buy this stuff up normally. ‘#SELFIE‘, ‘Bom Bom‘, ‘GANGNAM STYLE‘ for pete’s sake. Why this gets so much hate is beyond me. Is it because people are jumping on the racist/too old bandwagons, or we know Avril can do better? One thing is for sure though, it’s getting people talking about her. Remember her previous single, Let Me Go‘? Course you didn’t.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about Ed Sheeran.

Now I dislike Ed Sheeran. I respect him for getting where he is and the way he did it but he annoys me. His voice is shrill, his lyrics are poor (and really creepy, in the case of that 1D song he wrote) and his one song I did like (‘Lego House‘) got overplayed like crazy until I hated that, too. But god damn, his new song is pretty good. If you’ve not heard it yet, enjoy:

What you’ll probably notice right away are two things: 1) This sounds like a Pharrell production and 2) This sounds like first album Justin Timberlake. And those two things are exactly why this is good. ‘Sing’ sounds like a better Justin Timberlake single than anything Justin himself released last year. Ed’s voice actually delivers the smoothness needed really, really well. He sounds as confident as the music, effortless whereas before he sounded way too try-hard. Alongside the marvellous Happy, Pharrell is getting closer to redeeming himself afterBlurred Lines and whilst Ed has a ways to go in my opinion, this is definitely a step – no, a major stride – in the right direction.

 

‘The Double’: Film Review

 

Jesse Eisenberg as Simon James and James Simon

 

Billed as a black comedy, The Double is more a poignant drama about isolationism, suicide and identity. Most interestingly it is, to me at least, a modern take on classic German expressionism in films. Yes, Jesse Eisenberg is very good here, his physicality giving his two roles clear distinctions and Mia Wasikowska is quirky without being annoying but the real star is director Richard Ayoade, surely an auteur in the making. From the visual style to sound design, everything is so precise. The world is an amalgamation of eras; everything looks 1950’s or earlier, with crude computers and a wonderfully cheesy sci-fi show backed by 70’s synthesisers (and a Paddy Considine cameo!) blended in.The apartments and offices look like underground WWII bunkers or prisons; bleak and claustrophobic. Similar to the way characters move, there is a strange rhythm to the score, which plays more like a soundscape than anything else – there is a regular, soft wailing sound underscoring scenes set in the apartment blocks, as if someone is injured and pitifully wailing for help in the distance.

I could really go on about all the little touches in this film but there are really so many it would take forever to list and be a discredit to a film you are best off seeing for yourself. Despite what listings tell you the genre is The Double can be uncomfortable viewing but, if you are interested in the art of cinema or Richard Ayoade‘s blossoming directorial career, you will find much to enjoy here.