21 Aug 2014

Britney Spears - Stronger

I felt a bit nostalgic this evening and remembered how incredible this was/is/will always be.

What a great time.

Nicki Minaj - Anaconda

"I like big butts and I cannot lie..." is one of the most well known lyrics on earth. That's quite a sad thing really, but I digress. The idea that rap maniac Nicki Minaj would sample this line in a single at some stage in her career isn't surprising, what is surprising is that I didn't predict it right away. Its obviousness is startling and new single Anaconda is as unrevolutionary, unsatisfying and ridiculously shit as music can be. 

A step down from better quality Pills N Potions which harked back to the more promising moments on her debut album Pink Friday, this song is novelty rap-pop at its worst. The video might be captivating and enjoyable for all the wrong reasons, but the song is as pleasant as eating rotten fruit. In the chorus Sir Mix A Lot drops "My anaconda don't want none unless you got buns hun..." followed by the lady herself chatting in an airhead vocal "Oh my gosh - look at her butt" repeatedly with added hamster vocoder sounds. There's writing music to empower females and celebrate the female form, then there's believing your own hype and writing a song about your most famed asset, which in this case comes across as obnoxious drivel. 

1 / 5

17 Aug 2014

Jessie Ware - Say You Love Me

Singer of gorgeous songs Jessie Ware dropped the first single from her upcoming album Tough Love in early August. Said song of the same name is reviewed here.  It was/is amazing as is most of what she sings. Now she's put second single Say You Love Me on the internet and it's a predictably beautiful affair.

It's a down tempo, much more acoustic sounding track than its predecessor. From the bare percussion in the opening to the wistful chorus where she coos 'I don't wanna fall in love/ If you don't wanna try/ But all that I've been thinking of is maybe that you might...' this is perhaps her most commercial friendly record to date. That's not a bad thing. It's stepped away from the 80s synth mastery of her back catalogue to a more anthemic, acoustic arrangement and her vocals sound more authentic and powerful than ever. If the album Tough Love continues the quality of its first two singles then it's something to get very excited about.

4.5/5

6 Aug 2014

Neon Jungle - Welcome to the Jungle

Neon Jungle consists of Shereen, Amira, Jess and Asami and their debut album Welcome to the Jungle dropped at the end of July. That's who Neon Jungle are and what this review is likely to be about. Nutshell complete. The big questions are, is their music good? Can they sing? Will they continue their success?

Opener and second single Braveheart is known as their biggest hit to date. It's a club ready electro synth rumbler, with a euphoric pre-chorus. The dancefloor breakdown is pretty infectious and it's quite refreshing to have a girl band releasing music with this kind of roughness to it. Continuing the dancefloor vibe is Welcome to the Jungle, a dark dance track with an intimidating pre chorus build up. It's not as a standout as its predecessor and at times it can be quite coarse but it's certainly memorable. Debut single Trouble makes an expected appearance and in the context of the album doesn't sound as ridiculous or annoying as it did on its own. It's a very contrived piece of 'edgy' pop and the attitude filled shouty chorus coupled with vocoder grates. 

The tone changes completely with Louder, the first instance of balladry on Welcome to the Jungle. It's a complete surprise and really does shit in my cereal (I said they couldn't sing, they can, bollocks). It's a thumping (almost) power ballad with a strong, memorable chorus and as I said, good singing. Waiting Game is another ballad, stripped back to a piano and vocal harmony arrangement. It's authentic and haunting to say the least and the strong run of ballads continues with Fool Me

Welcome to the Jungle isn't quite a melting pot of genres, however it does dabble. The Rihanna imitations on Bad Man are distinct, but the track doesn't stand out even with all its bravado. It's certainly nowhere near the brilliance of the Ruby Goe track of the same name. They also dip into slow jam R'n'B with Can't Stop the Love which doesn't hit the mark, at all. 

Sleepless In London is the album highlight. It's pure pop, with a thumping chorus and the most easily memorised lyrics on the album. In this case, simplicity is perfection. Similarly, Future X Girl goes down the pop route and it suits the girls perfectly. They inject a Princess Superstar inspired rap too, which actually works very well indeed. 

Welcome to the Jungle is a revelation, albeit an imperfect one. They can sing, pretty well. Their music is at times, amazing and at others not so. I predict moderate success for them in the future. Moderate is better than none! With tracks like Sleepless In London, Future X Girl and Braveheart under their belts they've (hopefully) not got too much to worry about.

2.5/5

Cher Lloyd - Sorry I'm Late

Cher Lloyd hasn't had an easy time in the popularity stakes since her stint on the UK Xfactor in 2010, in which she placed fourth. Her problem wasn't a lack of vocal talent (her abilities make her mentor Cheryl Cole sound like Paris Hilton), it was the rumor mill that spins out of control in the mid to latter stages of the TV competition. She was a brat, a bitch, this and that; she was a little diva with ideas above her station. Whether any of that is true is really neither here nor there, what matters is the music... right? So with the moderate success of her debut Sticks and Stones which saw some recognition in the US charts and a 2014 duet with Demi Lovato under her belt it seemed sensible time for album number two, Sorry I'm Late. Aptly named following the numerous delays that seemed to curse the album from its conception. Was it worth the wait?

Sorry I'm Late is a shameless pop record. Opener Just Be Mine and lead single I Wish (feat T.I.) state this clearly and are very likeable pop numbers. The former has an 'ahahahaaa' hook that quickly burns itself into your mind and the latter has a strong chorus and current arrangement, with Lloyd wishing she was taller and richer to get the man she wants. Bind Your Love is an album highlight, a really solid uptempo love song with a stadium worthy chorus, "When you call me/ I will always find you/ When you need me/ I'll come for you..." followed by a surprise electro-pop breakdown.

She hasn't ditched the wince worthy pop numbers that came on her debut though. Dirty Love and M.F.P.O.T.Y ooze the insolence the media would have you expect from Lloyd, dripping in playground chants and irritating lyrical links. Killin' It similarly reeks of adolescence, although not as pungently. 

There are moments where Lloyd's vocals show the development associated with experience and maturity. Sirens, an epic anthem penned by Saturdays hitmaker Ina Wroldsen, starts with a steady drum beat, climbing to the chorus which explodes into an array of throbbing dance synths. Similarly brilliant is Human. Gorgeous vocals dripping with sincerity sit atop an enormous arrangement of echoing drum beats. 

Sorry I'm Late isn't without its misfires. However, it's sporting enough pop gems to make it worth the wait and worth a listen and where it's really good, it's really bloody good.

3/5

Jessie J, Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj - Bang Bang

"She got a body like an hourglass but I can give it to you all the time..." Jessie J coos bellows in the opening line of Bang Bang, a pop collaboration between 2 hugely successful divas and a fresh from the pop womb teeny bopper. It's infuriatingly catchy and whether you like it will remain a mystery even by listen number 10. What's clear is that Jessie and Ariana can sing and Nicki, well she does her own thing in her usual oddball high pitched rap stylings. The track itself is packed with sass, high notes and Jessie J signature warbling and overall it's a standout pop song, which at times is so DIVA it's abrasive, with a thumping beat and epic clash of percussion, synths and horns.


3.5 / 5

19 Jul 2014

Sigma - Changing (feat. Paloma Faith) Review

It's summer and thus it's the season of obligatory dance smashes. Sigma seemed to pop out of nowhere with their debut single Nobody To Love which was and still is, amazing. It set the tone for the sunny months perfectly with its epic arrangement of piano keys and d&b synths, plus the strong vocals by Daniel Pearce. Now they're back with second single and potential number one number two, Changing featuring Paloma Faith. Her vocals suit the dance production perfectly, overflowing with a 90s dance, soul sound. It's refreshing to hear her on a track like this and coupled with Sigma's production, identifiable after only one single, it makes for one hell of a summer anthem with an huge chorus.

5/5

9 Jul 2014

Sia - 1000 Forms of Fear Review

There are few songwriters as in vogue as Sia Furler. She began her solo career 14 years ago and achieved moderate success with her first five studio albums. Then with the sneaky shenanigans of one David Guetta her voice was flung into the spotlight on mammoth dance hit Titanium and then again with Flo Rida on Wild Ones. With the pressures of fame her personal battle with alcohol, drugs, depression and her unfortunate diagnosis of Graves disease she now wants to remain out of the spotlight, at least as a person. Her music however, could thwart this as she releases sixth studio album, 1000 Forms Of Fear, an album that is set to be her biggest seller so far and increase the attention bestowed on her. 

The album opens with behemoth track Chandelier which serves as the album's lead single and it's more immense, euphoric and heady than any of her past releases. Dealing with the 'party girl' approach to alcoholism ("Party girls don't get hurt/ can't feel anything/ when will I learn/ I push it down I push it down..."), a reflection of Sia's own battle with the addiction, the song is a thumping, whirlwind power ballad with elements of eletronica and hip hop layered under a soaring vocal that cracks at all the right moments. It's a contender for song of the year and as it stands it's way out in the lead. The grandeur doesn't stop there. Big Girls Cry is another album highlight/massive ballad with a brilliant chorus and Eye Of The Needle is wrought with emotion. The vocal breaks give her emotion authenticity and it's her pathos coated vocals that send the likes of Fire Meet Gasoline into the stratosphere, a song with a killer melody and an epic chorus that only she could hold the reigns to.

28 Jun 2014

Ariana Grande - Problem (Feat Iggy Azalea)

After the shitfest that was/is 'Talk Dirty' by one Jason Derulo I never wanted to hear a pop infused horn section again. Then Ariana Grande went and stuck one in her new single Problem and it's actually pretty awesome. 

Problem is an uptempo pop track with brilliantly polished production, some cool lyrics, and lovely singing.  The song opens with "Hey baby even though I hate you/ I wanna love you" and Ariana makes it clear she's not just some Nickelodeon alumni brat with mediocre talent. Iggy Azalea even drops a rap in the middle eight and it's burgeoning with sass and a cheeky homage to Jay Z. There are bound to be those who set her and peer Demi Lovato up for combat, however the two kid stars couldn't be further apart. As far as this song is concerned, Ariana doesn't need to worry about competition.


4 / 5

22 Jun 2014

Lana Del Rey - Ultraviolence Review: "She's emotionally bruised and beautiful..."

Lana Del Rey's Born To Die is a distinct 'debut' album that polarised opinions from critics. Some hailed her authenticity and emotive performance while others found her high pitched timbre and contradictory low gravelly jazz tones unpleasant. Both opinions aside, Born To Die went on to sell over 7 million copies worldwide and as incohesive and random as it is, it is one of the most intriguing albums to come out of 2012. 

The problem with Born To Die is that it doesn't gel, dipping in and out of themes and identities so often that you never get a sense of who Lana Del Rey is. The beauty of songs such as Born To Die and Blue Jeans is countered by frustrating and forgettable tracks like Carmen and Million Dollar Man. What Lana needed to do was show us who she is, consistently. Thankfully, the identity she portrays on third studio album Ultraviolence is far more accessible, relatable and grounded than the retro noir mistress acted on her last. There's nobody better at portraying 'black and white classic' than Lana Del Rey and when you couple this with the production of Dan Auerbach (Black Keys) you have the starlet and the auteur. 

16 Jun 2014

Jessie Ware - Tough Love - "Jessie Ware is awesome."

5 / 5

Jessie Ware is awesome. That's a fact just like the earth being round. Her debut album Devotion is incredible. Leo Tolstoy took 6 years to write War & Peace. That's a lot of facts for a Monday night. Her new single Tough Love dropped tonight on Zane Lowe's Radio 1 show. I was excited and I was nervous; maybe a sweaty palm or two. Thankfully, the nerves were wiped out as soon as the first verse kicked in and Jessie's vocals floated high above the wavering synths and echoes. Then the immense gorgeousness of the chorus came into earshot:
"When your heart becomes a million different pieces / That's when you won't be able to recognise this feeling/ That's called tough love..."
Her vocals are more ethereal than ever before and coupled with beautiful production from BenZei, this is one of 2014's and one of Jessie's most sophisticated tracks. It could fit into Devotion nicely, but there are hints that her next outing might be even more unforgettable.

Nicole Scherzinger - Your Love - "Skip to the midway mark..."

Boomerang was a bit of a misfire for Nicole Scherzinger last year, which is a shame because it's actually quite catchy and not shit once you play it a few hundred times. She's now back and like her nemesis Cheryl Cole (sounds good doesn't it?) she's releasing a new single just in time for Xfactor fever to carry it to a lower top 10 placing... if she's lucky. Your Love is from her tepidly anticipated sophomore album.

It starts off with lots of caribbean beach flavour, courtesy of Rihanna hit makers Tricky and The Dream. Then there are some "yeah - yeah' bits and a "woo". Going well so far right? Then Nicole jumps in with a really 'shit attempt at being seductive' spoken word segment which includes a line about being knocked out like Michael Tyson. It improves once she actually starts singing but then takes a nose dive when she "doo doo doo"s; this seems to have become habit in the now lazy popscape, throwing in some noises because you can't be arsed to come up with some proper lyrics.

If you make it past the first 50% of the song things do improve vastly. The mid section is brilliant and saves this 4 minute track from being a complete waste of time. The production amps up and the bass thumps under her vocals as for the first time on the track, you actually feel like you're listening to a popstar. Your Love isn't quite what I was expecting after such a lengthy hiatus from the charts. It's nowhere near the epic quality of Don't Hold Your Breath. The production is faultless throughout, however if you're a lyric snob you'll probably guffaw. Skip to the midway mark - it's really a very good mid section.

2/5


Cheryl Cole - Crazy Stupid Love - "Paint by numbers pop..."

It's hardly surprising that Cheryl Cole is releasing a new single a few months before her Xfactor comeback. It's also unsurprising that said single is distinctly pop and has a very catchy chorus. The problem with this record is that it's not particularly memorable, nor is it pushing any musical boundaries. Sure, she's not known for being experimental and Crazy Stupid Love is no exception. She's roped in Tinie Tempah for a pointless rap somewhere in the middle and she's shoved in an annoying sax section after every chorus. It's no Call My Name, but it is produced by Wayne Wilkins who did the hard work on Fight For This Love and Promise This. It's a paint by numbers pop record, but even that fail safe doesn't save this single from being a flavourless disappointment.

2/5

26 May 2014

Ella Henderson - Ghost

If you catapulted Adele and Florence Welch into each other you'd be left with Ella Henderson, Xfactor alumni and all round good singer. Comparisons are unavoidable in a market saturated in female artists and in this case it's a huge compliment to the young chanteuse. 

Her debut single Ghost is very overdue, but it was worth the wait and it's definitely better than anything James Dickwad Arthur has released. It's pop alright, but it's coated in soul, funk and echoes of deep south gospel. Ella's voice soars over a thumping drum beat as she belts 'I keep going to the river to pray/ Cos I need something that can wash out the pain...' on the Ryan Tedder penned chorus. It's a solid introduction to her first album, which should be out sometime, so you'd think. 



4.5/5

10 May 2014

Kylie Minogue - I Was Gonna Cancel

Kylie doesn't set the charts ablaze the way she used to. It's not because the quality of her music is dire or that she packed away her butt flaunting hotpants, it's probably just because the pop landscape has changed so much. It's a shame, because All The Lovers and Into The Blue had number one written all over them but neither soared to the top spot. So, with her newest album Kiss Me Once we are presented with another string of singles. Unfortunately it's not the wonder of the album's title track we're getting because that is a fucking great song (credit to Sia - god like songwriter & musical marvel). On this occasion we have I Was Gonna Cancel, another Pharrell Williams production for 2014.

It's 80s disco mania from start to finish, with Pharrell's funky electro synths & Daft Punk esque robotic mutters layered beneath Kylie chanting "just hop out of the bed / go ahead face the day". It's infectious pop fun, but it feels flat at times and just doesn't have the same sass that made the big Kylie hits so bloody brilliant. 

3/5

8 May 2014

Sia - Chandelier Music Video

I have one thing to say. The video for Sia's Chandelier is amazing. 


7 May 2014

Iggy Azalea - The New Classic Review

Iggy Azalea wanted to be recognised by her label as a serious rap artist, not for her commercial viability. A high school dropout, Iggy worked with her mother cleaning hotel bedrooms to save money to make her dream of moving to America and pursuing a music career come true. In the end it did and it's clear from her debut album The New Classic that she takes her craft seriously and that her work ethic deserves nothing but admiration. This is a debut packed with sass, bite and odes to her journey to the top. 

Opener Walk The Line is a divine track, slipping from thumping rap production to haunting 'oohs' on the chorus, that showcases Iggy's fierceness and has her singing about the sacrifice of 'home' she made to get where she is. The New Classic is intended to reflect Iggy's personality, her belief and her attitudes to her life and the people around her. Don't Need Y'all is about the fake people who want to know her now that she's 'somebody'. The guy who used to flush your head down the toilet in school is suddenly your best friend sort of situation (not a personal experience).

6 May 2014

Avril Lavigne - Hello Kitty

I won't lie, I'm not a massive Avril Lavigne fan. Yes, I owned her debut and sophomore albums (Let Go & Under My Skin) and both of those were pretty good. Since those album's though, Avril has gone from teen queen to 29 year old try hard and this is startlingly apparent with latest single Hello Kitty. The single echoes Gwen Stefani, but the comparisons end at echoes. The song is silly, has a shocking dubstep breakdown and showcases all of her vocal limitations (there are plenty). At this stage in her career, it's about time Avril Lavigne defined her sound and direction rather than releasing half finished, desperate nonsense.

0/5

Anastacia - Resurrection Review

It was a bit of a shock when Anastacia announced in 2013 that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time. The first time it happened she recovered and released her very good self titled album Anastacia. It was an album brimming with emotion, incredibly emotive vocals and a new found 'sprock' sound (soul/pop/rock) apparent on singles Left Outside Alone and Sick & Tired. Her 6th studio album follows on from 2 not so great collections; one of pop-disco and another of needless covers of artists like the Foo Fighters and Kings of Leon. The aptly named Resurrection is a vast improvement on those 2 predecessors and a fine return to form.

Resurrection's tone is dark, darker than that of Anastacia. There's plenty passion fueling the vocals throughout and there are moments where she is expressing her passion to survive cancer, most notably on the ballads. Lifeline is an album highlight, backed by a beautiful string arrangement that explodes in the middle 8, and emotional lyrics that have Anastacia pleading, "Somebody tell me have I just wasted a lifetime/Show me some hope/God it's so cold/Throw me a lifeline". This fear of mortality is also apparent on the beautiful Stay where she sings, "I'm not ready to go just yet". The ballads continue with I Don't Want To Be The One Pendulum. The former is a paint by numbers heartbreak song, with soaring vocals and a memorable chorus - although it disappointingly doesn't 'take off' in the final chorus. The latter starts with great promise of being a beautiful gospel inspired ballad, but unfortunately becomes an unfulfilling and repetitive pop track. This disappointment is continued with Evolution, where the intention is good but the implementation falls short with an uninspiring and repetitive chorus. Thankfully, Apology and Broken Wings pick up the quality of the down tempo tracks, closing the album in emotional fashion. 

Emotion is clear throughout Resurrection. Opener Staring At The Sun is a piano led power ballad with a brilliant hook and epic chorus and could be one of her best songs to date. It showcases her immense vocals and how well they gel with sprock production. Anastacia take note, this is what you're good at darling. Stupid Little Things serves as the lead single, opening with thumping drums and a meandering verse. It's infectious from start to finish and the chorus is, to put it simply, fantastic. Dark White Girl's production is great and her vocals are on point as she sings about going to places she never thought possible in her lowest emotional moments. 

It's nice to have Anastacia back. Whether you like her or not, her talent is apparent both as a singer and a songwriter. Resurrection is a mature, emotional album with a focus on her battle with cancer and the emotional burden that comes with it. I imagine it will serve as an inspiration to her fans that can directly relate to her experiences and songs like Lifeline and Stay sensitively deal with her own fear of losing her life before her time. It's not perfect and there are some weaker moments, but there are enough great songs here to make a listen worthwhile. Resurrection is the album Anastacia needed to remind us of who she is and what she's good at. It's great to have a mainstream pop artist releasing material that actually means something and isn't all about aggressive sexuality.

4/5

27 Apr 2014

Kelis - Food

It seemed Kelis' career as a singer had gone past its use-by date back in 2010. Her last album Flesh Tone, as great a listen as it was, didn't make waves on the charts and when she announced her departure from music to pursue a career as a chef we just thought, 'well that's that then'. Now, 4 years on, the timer has sounded on her musical oven and out of the stur we have Food, a contemporary soul album that reminds you of why you loved Kelis in the first place but also reveals a new found authenticity in her sound. Kelis has never sounded so comfortable and those famous smoky tones shine throughout the album. Food opens with Kelis' son Knight making a cameo and playfully welcoming us with 'Hey guys! You hungry? My mom made food...' 

The album's lead single Jerk Ribs is one of 2014s best songs, backed by an incredible horn arrangement and lead by vocals that soar through to the final chorus. It's the strongest track on Food, the most instantly likeable and the best song to cook to (I've tried and it just works so well). This tempo is continued in the latter stage of the album with Friday Fish Fry, an infectious rhythm and blues number with a rock guitar riff. The only other uptempo track is Cobbler, a song that sees Kelis sing about a new man in her life, comparing being with him him to a holiday. It's unsurprising, given the song titles, that she came up with song concepts whilst cooking dinner and producer Dave Sitek jammed on his lounge piano.