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.

 

Pop Partners In Crime ANNIE & RICHARD X are back together with… ‘Back Together’

It’s my 25th blog post! Huzzah! I hope people have enjoyed reading them (or, just read them) as much as I have writing them. So, without further ado…

What a brilliant thing to return from holiday to. Norweigan Popstar ANNIE and My Second Favourite Producer Ever RICHARD X have announced The A&R EP is coming out in August. It features 5 songs the pair have described as ‘dance influenced pop’, ie: the areas they excell in. One song is tantalisingly called Ralph Macchio, about The Karate Kid actor. I can’t wait to hear what wonderfully weird lyrics Ms. Strand comes up with for that one. Argh, hurry UP August!

I imagine many people reading this aren’t going to get why I’m so excited. So here’s a brief history of the both, with lots of embedded YouTube videos of varying quality.

Let’s start with Richard X, who is a producer. But unlike, say, David Guetta, he doesn’t make bad music.

Quite the opposite actually:

He made his name doing 80s sounding mash-ups but he’s done completely original things too, producing a Number One album for this chap, led by this brilliant single:


Another single from that album samples the opening song from Drive and makes its better. Because that’s what Richard X does. He’s also produced songs for Goldfrapp, The Sound of Arrows, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Saint Etienne. He’s also done some fantastic remixes of Pet Shop Boys, Cassie, New Order and Nine Inch Nails. In fact, I may dedicate a future blog post to his best stuff. Or just hijack parties with my laptop and a Spotify playlist.

Onto Annie now…

You may remember Annie from her 2004 minor hit Chewing Gum:

 

or critics favourite Heartbeat:

The former was the first collaboration between Annie and Richard, but in 2003-4 they created two MUCH more interesting songs together. The first, Just Friends is an ambient-y few minutes of gloomy bleeps and bloops where the Norweigan pop princess is having second thoughts about meeting up with a guy she’s chatted to over the internet or some seedy phone line. It’s a great late night track. The other is the totally bubbly and cheesy Me Plus One. The production and ‘Mrs B-E-AUT, Mrs I, Mrs FUL’ chant give it a playground feel but the song is actually a diss track. Ready for some pop facts?

(breathes in)

Basically, and frequent songwriting collaborator Hannah Robinson wrote the classic Some Girls (always get what they wanna wanna, etc) which was recorded and released by Rachel Stevens Of Amazing Second Album Fame. Because it was for Sport Relief it has a pretty naff video, which Rich (rhyme!) apparently hates but that’s beside the point. Ginger Spice Geri Halliwell wanted the song for herself and locked herself in a car in a bid to get it. Whereas Some Girls uses clever wordplay to disguise the fact its on about performing sex acts to get ahead (ermmm) in the music industry, Me Plus One is pretty direct at who the song is aimed at. And its delicious.

Let’s fast forward to 2008/9 where the pair teamed up to create two fantastic icy disco gems, Songs Remind Me Of You and Anthonio.  Here they are you for your listening pleasure. (Not so much visual)

Going by this rule of the pair’s collaborations getting better as the years go on, this year the songs should be so good it isn’t humanely possible to comprehend.

Or at least be as good as my favourite song of the year so far, Take A Look At The World:

Luckily, the first song off the EP has been released already!! Annoyingly, when old Richie X popped it on his SoundCloud he didn’t allow it to be embedded (that or I’m an idiot). Here it is.

https://soundcloud.com/richardxbm/annie-back-together

It was written by Little Boots and sounds like it would fit perfectly on Nocturnes, the album she released a few months ago and you ALL should have bought. I’m surprised that the album didn’t feature any X production, here’s hoping he remixes one for a single release – preferably All For You. That being said, any one would be a killer.

But yes, Back Together is pretty great. It is however, definitely more album (or EP) track than single. Annieponannie has been social media-ing about a new single and video so I’m hoping for something so incredibly everyone else will just give up music and go home (or maybe just will.i.am and Rita Ora at least). That may be a bit far-fetched, so let’s just hope the video is better than this:

2013 will be the year all you ever hear about is Richard x and Norweigan Popstar Annie. From me at least.

The Wanted ‘Walks Like Rihanna’ Music Video Review

 

The clip for the new music video by boyband The Wanted is up online. Here are my thoughts…

In short, I like it. Its got that cheeky playfulness that has made me warm to One Direction in their two most recent music videos. If we are going to compare, I have usually preferred The Wanted‘s music, they do great lead singles but their slowies and album tracks aren’t up to standard. By the title alone you’d think this song would be in the same mould as Maroon 5 & Christina Aguilera‘s ‘Moves Like Jagger‘ but lyrically it has more in common with the Robbie Williams/Pet Shop Boys collab ‘She’s Madonna‘ (go check that one out, Robbie bears a surprising resemblance to Jessie J circa 2011). The chorus is catchy enough and there’s a few ‘boom booms’ and ‘oooh ooooooohs’ but it kind of plods along in my opinion. I think this is definitely their weakest lead single yet, but the music video makes up for it.

The lads parody other boy bands, with my favourite being the Take ThatBack For Good‘ (Take THAT Take That!) spoof with water bottles standing in for rain. Jay even chucks in a little ‘Gangnam Style’ in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment. Its nice to see Nathan looking well, obviously he’s been through a lot since then. I can imagine all their fans are hoping he recovers quickly.

So yes, The Wanted ‘Walks Like Rihanna’ : the song is OK, and the video is a lot better than Annie‘s ‘Tubestops & Lonely Hearts‘ (what isn’t? Seriously Annie, I cherish you and all but what were you THINKING?!?).