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.

 

Lily Allen’s been in the studio (not in the kitchen) and now she’s back!

I don’t know if you’ve noticed but the ‘chart music scene’ has been really, really bad recently. We’ve had to endure Robin Thicke‘s tacky rape anthem ‘Blurred Lines’, Miley Cyrus‘ tongue antics, endless auto-tuned EDM put your hands/drinks up in the club/to the sky ‘bangers’ and everyone twerking as if it was something only invented this year (it wasn’t).

Despite all the misogyny flying around, pop music is usually an area where girls do it best,  but I can sum all the recent albums from Lady Gaga, The Saturdays, Katy Perry and Avril Lavigne with a big meh. Where’s the spark?! Things clearly need to be done.

Luckily, my second favourite popstar of all time Lily Allen has decided to come out of musical retirement, and dropped the name Lily Rose Cooper she used when featuring on P!nk‘s ‘True Love‘, to bring take pot shots at the sorry state of the music industry, and the rampant sexism – all wrapped up in one of the best singles of the year.

This, is ‘Hard Out Here’

So, it’s clearly amazing. I could go on about how clearly amazing it is; nearly every line is quotable, the production sounds like a Lily Allen song (twinkly piano et al) in 2013 should sound like an the video if full of screen-cappable gems. Here’s my top 5 favourite bits.

NUMBER 5:  I personally like to think the amount of times Lily uses the word bitch in the song is directly referencing Britney‘s ‘Work Bitch’. Which is still a terrible piece of music.
NUMBER 4: “If I told you ’bout my sex life, you’d call me a slut / when boys be talkin’ ’bout their bitches, no one’s making a fuss.”
NUMBER 3: The ironic, and perfect (over)use of auto tune where its really not necessary. Kanye, T-Pain, Rihanna and the like must be REALLY big fans of that Cher song from ’98. You know the one.
NUMBER 2: 

This is my new favourite saying

This is my new favourite saying

NUMBER ONE (unsurprisingly):

Lily Allen Baggy Pussy

This just sums up Lily’s humour: sharp and to the point, but not afraid to self-depreciate herself at the same time as putting the (music) world (of 2013) to rights. I’m so excited, that the album and tour tickets are going to be pre-ordered the moment they go online.

Keep it coming, bitch.

(Oh, and the John Lewis advert Keane cover is lovely and all too. #diversity)

New Music Video! ‘Work Bxxch’ by Britney Spears.

I’m not going to lie, I’ve been feeling pretty run-down, constantly tired and therefore uninspired to write the last two week and a half weeks. New Miley Cyrus video? meh. It’s all been said. Kingdom Hearts HD? Too busy playing it. Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD? Seems a bit of a touchy subject amongst people I know, not sure I want to fan flames further (:P). Breaking Bad finale? I’ve never watched an episode, please don’t hurt me.

But anyone who knows me AT ALL knows how much I absolutely loathe ‘Scream & Shout’ by will.i.am and Britney Spears. The production sounded like an unfinished demo, will.i.am’s auto-tuned lyrics are typically dreadful, there hooks are weak and I don’t even know what Britney was doing with that accent. The worst thing was is that the song was (and still is) massive. I hear it in work all the time, and whilst flicking through the music channels last week, Conor Maynard listed it as number 2 (or 3, I forget) on his ‘greatest collaborations ever’ show.

The all-time great collaborations: Sonny and Cher. The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl. Queen and David Bowie. Aerosmith and Run-D.M.C. and finally: will.i.am and Britney (bitch). Yeah, no.

EVER. Are you serious?!? Not that I care much for anything Conor Maynard does anyway but I don’t understand why everyone was/is mad about it.

OK, well I have a clue: will.i.am. He’s a really big deal over here. It probably would have sold massively whether it was Britney wailing (keyword) over the chorus or any other female singer – just look at ‘This Is Love’, the only reason people know Eva Simons is that song a few years ago everyone thought was Lady Gaga and Rihanna teaming up. So naturally, the ‘Do Somethin” star enlisted will.i.am to executive produce her newest studio album, because she’s onto her 8th now and she wants it to be very emotional.

Seems like the natural choice.

If you haven’t heard lead single ‘Work Bitch’ before, then it’s basically a sequel to ‘Scream & Shout’ but with only Britney on vocals. So: godawful lyrics, that stupid faux-British accent, droning beat and the sound of me crying in the corner singing ‘Everytime’ to myself, thinking about the better days.

But this post is about the music video, which literally debuted about 20 minutes ago online and combined with the song, riled me into writing my first post in weeks. I’ve written this before watching the video so I’m going to leave my cynicism behind (and I’m being a massive keyboard warrior tonight, it’s a bit unlike me – back with a vengeance!). The ‘Femme Fatale’ era (her last album) might have sounded like Spears had no input whatsoever, but 3 out of the 4 music videos were really, really, really good. So there’s hope for this one. Britney may not really care about the music (I don’t know her so I honestly couldn’t say) but her team around her surely must know what they’re doing at least some of the time and disguise a turgid song with a good video, right?!?

See you on the other side…

Oh dear.

Let’s get the good out the way: 1) the desert sequences remind me of Spice Girls ‘Say You’ll Be There’ and Sugababes ‘About A Girl’ so that’s something. 2) She wears a nice dress in the pool sequence. 3) will.i.am doesn’t appear. 4) It’s not got a #toteshipster Instagram filter over the top of it (looking at you, MKS).

That’s about it.

The dancing is just… really stifled and awkward. I wasn’t expecting incredible moves but it’s like the ‘Til The World Ends’ video all over again (the one bad video out of the four from her last album campaign) but it just looks a bit rubbish. The whole S&M/bondage/Fifty Shades stuff feels even more forced, not to mention something that just feels out of date now (kind of like the song with the EDM). It’s trying to be ‘sexy’ and ‘edgy’ without any real point, except maybe ‘I’M STILL RELEVANT!’

Britney sits in front of a mirror with her perfume beside her, again. It was annoying the first however many times so stop now please. The rest of the product placement isn’t so blatant; there’s an ad in the background for her Vegas shows and one of the bound and gagged men has some sort of beats thingy in his mouth. So it’s not frequent, but in the latter case, its still stupid.

How did I forget to mention the product placement of the 'Boo-gar-tee' and 'Lam-boo-geenie'?

How did I forget to mention the product placement of the ‘Boo-gar-tee’ and ‘Lam-boo-geenie’?

But my favourite (and by that, I mean laughably bad) bit is when Britney proves her cultural relevance by getting the dodgy CGI-rendered sharks from Sharknado to… swim around Britney in the pool unconvincingly. Well, done everyone.

These sharks are most definitely in there with her, there can be no mistake...

These sharks are most definitely in there with her, there can be no mistake…

So, dodgy dance routines, out-of-place looking aquatic killers, out-of-place popstar, over-the-top bondage all brought together in a package I don’t think is technically edited and framed very well either. My verdict: everyone involved in this video needs to go back to class, learn what to do and how to do it properly and THEN get back to work.

Bitches.

So, August…

So August came and went in a bit of a blur, so much so I barely blogged at all (sorry!). So I thought I’d do a reflective post on Things I’ve Been Doing. Admittedly I’ve not done anything as exciting as gone to the MTV VMAs and got everyone talking about my foam finger (I could write an entire essay about Miley Cyrus but in short: she’s not doing anything worse than I’ve seen on many nights out, but she is trying too hard and getting on my goat a bit) but I’m sure I will spice things up with a few pictures and (attempts at) puns.

Most of my time this month has been spent commuting to and from Cardiff for work. I’ve got an enjoyable job and its digging me out of my student debt but obviously it’s not where I want to be in my life. And as graduates know, very few leave Uni and walk into a career. The media especially requires you to know the right people, be in the right place at the right time and/or get shed loads of experience.

Luckily for me and a few of my fellow graduates, this weekend we have gotten some of the latter and it’s been invaluable.

L-R: Leah Coombs, Gwyneth Jane Humphreys, Laura Emily Harris, myself, Jack Perry and Alex Tisley.

We’ve all spent the last few days at Snetterton Race Course up in Norwich for the Citroen 24 Hour 2CV Race. As you can tell by our funky uniforms we were the official media team for the whole race. For us this meant we had to man the Twitter, set up and fix the cameras around the race course as well as vision mix and maintain the online live stream. With the race being 24 hours we each got a chance to try our hand at everything multiple times, and get a few hours sleep. Except for Jack and Leah, who endured the full 24 hours with less pit stops than the cars themselves.

Our office for the race. Surprisingly at the point this photo was taken only one tube of Pringles was open.

Our office for the race. Surprisingly at the point this photo was taken only one tube of Pringles was open.

The event wasn’t as intricate or large as Formula 1, but the experience is very similar (I’d imagine).  Carrying around the roaming camera in the pits we had to be totally aware of our surroundings: what cars were in the pits, who was about come in or leave and where you shouldn’t walk unless you want to get run over. As the audio was handled separately by the radio team and their commentators, we had to try and catch the action on the camera as it was being spoken about. We had walkie-talkies to communicate with the director/vision mixer and at the start found it difficult to communicate, with all the noise of the vehicles and other people around. We learned as we went on to communicate direction using short and to-the-point phrases and assume the camera we were carrying was live all the time.

An example of some of the tweets I made whilst manning the official social media page

An example of some of the tweets I made whilst manning the official social media page

Once we worked out this system, and worked out the rhythm of vision mixing the process ran pretty smoothly. Sure, every now and then one of the cameras would decide to not work (it wouldn’t be a proper live broadcast unless something technological failed) and the amount of sugar and snacks I’ve consumed is disgraceful but it was a fantastic experience and, as the first piece of media work I’ve done since University, I’ve been reminded just why I want to be in this industry. It’s a thrill. And the race was pretty exciting too!

I've discovered a passion for motor racing

I’ve discovered a passion for motor racing

Apart from that, there’s not really much to write about what I’ve got upto, so I might quickly whizz through some music and film reviewsopinions.

Music: apart from Miley Cyrus, August saw (and heard) the return of megastars Lady Gaga and Katy Perry with the lead singles from their third albums. Both are all right I guess, ‘Roar’ is probably the better song but ‘Applause’ is more interesting, if only for some of the lyrics and that accent on the verses. First singles are usually pretty safe, predictable options in today’s overly cautious Top 40 music scene, and I’m hoping there are some genuine classics to come from both. As we move into the last few months of the year, loads of albums are released hoping to be scooped up in the Christmas buying rush. The first one of those is obviously Janelle Monae, who has been pretty much on repeat in anticipation over the last month.

This has also come to my attention recently, and anyone who knows me is well are of my… gripes with the original.  (NSFW)

I’m not sure what’s better: this parody or the comments on the web from men who find watching this uncomfortable. So much irony here I could use it get rid of all the creases in my clothes forever.

Films: I’ve been TERRIBLE with going to the cinema this last month; literally only seeing two films. And no, neither of them were One Direction: This Is Us.

Both The Wolverine and Elysium were, in my opinion, strong solid 7 out of 10 movies. Great films wrapped up in good ones, with their potential just hindered by a few things. The Wolverine starts off as a slow, character piece with a gorgeous setting in Japan and a fantastic set-piece atop a bullet train with physics being thrown out the window. I was actually reminded of one of my favourite films of all time, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children; both have that Japanese sensibility, a mix of realism and stylisation, similar pacing and focus on lonely warriors afflicted with symptoms that cause them to collapse at inopportune moments. But whereas the over-the-top action felt in place in Advent Children, and the set-pieces outdid themselves each time, The Wolverine’s final third just descended into silliness for me, with a gigantic CGI samurai robot. There wasn’t much tension in that fight either, with shots of a character waking up from being knocked out and noticing a weapon they could thrown ruining any element of surprise. The teaser trailer has me very stoked for next year’s X-Men: Days Of Future Past, which is clearly 20th Century Fox‘s answer to Marvel’s The Avengers. Let’s hope its just as awesome but I’ve probably memorised every line of last year’s epic nerdfest and I’m insatiable for more.

(speaking of Insatiable, Queen Nadine Coyle annoucned she’s having a baby!)

Back to films and onto Elysium which, like the Pet Shop Boys album with the same title released last year, wrapped up some social commentary (the film about class divide and capitalism, the album about ageing and fame) in a package that’s easily enjoyable, but leaves you wanting more. I’m guessing that’s what you’d find if you looked up the word in the dictionary.

Oh.

Oh.

Unlike most people I’ve talked to, I had no problem with Jodie Foster at all. In fact, she was one of my favourite aspects of the film. My beef was with Sharlto Copley. He was one of the best things about the incredible District 9 but here, I can’t take him seriously as a villain. I can see what he was going for but I never found him creepy, or intimidating – just a large ham criminally out of place.

Continuing on the theme of enjoying things but finding them a bit disappointing (I am so middle aged…) I’ve been playing a lot of Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch which has sucked up a fair bit of my time. It’s got that irresistable JRPG hook of ‘just one more thing to do before I stop’  but like Level-5‘s previous games Dragon Quest: Journey of the Cursed King and Rogue Galaxy I find as the game goes on it gets too repetitive and its becoming a bit of a slog. The combat is frustrating at times with ridiculous AI and the story I’m not really into.

It is VERY pretty though. I’m a sucker for Studio Ghibli and being able to have a Totoro lookalike on the team is pretty awesome.

I will say though, I’ve pretty much not used a guide at all so far which I’ve purposefully tried to do after realising I’m potentially ruining gaming experiences but using them too much during my first playthrough. Sure there’s a great in-game encyclopaedia and a lot of hand-holding with very little thinking involved for a lot of puzzles, but I’m choosing my own monster team and one of their two final evolutions based on gut feeling, rather than guides and what other people online tell me to. I could go into a LOT more detail but I’m saving this for either a full blog post once I finish the game or get a YouTube channel with one of my friends off the ground.

Eyes on this space, guys. Eyes on this space.

For now, I’m going to sleep some more and recover from the weekend. Comments, likes, follows etc. are all greatly appreciated and have a lovely September. I promise to post more! Joe