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Saturday, January 10, 2004

Time for some new MP3s then. The Pearl track reviewed below is now available, and you should get it and love it, even if you are a Francophobe. Also, Emma Bunton's album is just lovely, and the retro rapid-fire nonsense of Crickets Sing For Annamaria is slight but charming. And I'm not entirely sure what I love more about Lambchop's Each Time I Bring It Up It Seems To Bring You Down, the gorgeous 40s musical in summer strings or its wonderful title, which it almost comes close to living up to, but I do like this sort of thing in small doses (one, let alone two albums tends to be a bit much) and you might too.
# 2:27 PM []
PEARL - J'ai Des Choses A Te Dire
French rap is great, so what of French R&B? Well, it doesn't sound too shabby either judging by this. The chorus is a thrown-together bunch of quick flowing syllables underneath lovely breathy aahs - few straight female-sung songs of this type ever manage this level of smooth verbosity, and I'm wondering whether it's a function of language or one of culture. And you don't have to wait too long before being surrounded by it, the only thing preceding it is a phone conversation.

Guitar populates the verses, while Pearl (working on the assumption Pearl is a woman and not a band) invokes drama and fun simultaneously in a way Ashanti can only dream of, and these verses and choruses are so short and drift into each other and back again so seamlessly it actually seems a little pointless to arbitrarily divide them - but they are divisible by the different backing and the lighter, nimbler singing and repetition in the chorus already alluded to.

Musically, this seems to hark back to the early 90s R&B ballads - although the bass is pure 80s slow jam - an era that seems only to get tapped for samples nowadays as if there were some kind of stigma attached to its music, which is just silly as it was a vibrant, hugely enjoyable period of pop, and it's nice to be taken back to it by something as slick and modern as this.
# 1:44 PM []

Friday, January 09, 2004

1. Black Eyed Peas - Shut Up. Right. OK, I'm calling you out. If you read this blog and can explain to me the appeal of this wretched bunch of mingers in a way that a moron can understand I will be eternally grateful. Are people being blackmailed into buying their singles as BEP have naughty pictures of everyone or something? 1

2. Sarah Connor/Naturally 7 - Music Is The Key. Is the deep-voiced dude Naturally 7? If so, well done, Naturally 7, you've done a fine job. Unless you had anything to do with writing this song, which is rubbish. With a title like that it should surely be an up-tempo arse-kicking disco stomper, except it never is, even after listening to it four times and hoping. 3

3. Christina Aguilera - The Voice within. On an album as ridiculous as Christina's, surely it's unforgivable to put out a song that's completely boring, isn't it? 4

4. Alexander - Free Like The Wind. He was a maniac. And a bad dancer. He couldn't even pick up the gay vote at World Idol. Male pop stars should not look as if they could be beaten up by their fans, and they certainly shouldn't sound like it either. 0

5. Overground - Schick Mir nen Engel. See, the problem is with the complete lack of camp drama. The angel singing in the original, the cheesy keyboards all combined to make something. This is just a dreary guitar ballad. Further to last round's rant it seems important to stress that if you've never heard the Real Life original, do track it down, it's fantastic, so much so that even a canon-denier feels offended at this trudging reworking. 0

6. Limp Bizkit - Behind Blue Eyes. On the other hand, if worshipping a theoretical pop canon gives an excuse to get even more offended at this than is necessary, then please send me a copy. 0

7. Evanescence - My Immortal. Never would have picked this as a single, but the string swells are still just charming, Amy Lee's voice isn't as good as she thinks it is, but it's better than everyone who hates her thinks it is, and that's more than sufficient. Lovely. 8

8. Star Academy 3 - L'orange -- Wot. Okay, when doing a double A-side, I'd usually give the mark that I'd give the better song if it were a stand-alone single, the theory being that I can just imagine the weaker song is a B-side. L'Orange, all harmony and popping percussion, gets 3 for sounding so oddballs, and I'll throw in a bonus point because at least the people who've been suckered into buying this only have to buy one CD to get these two monstrosities rather than buying them separately. 4

9. Helene Segara - On N'oublie Jamais Rien. Actually, for a wet ballad this is fairly good. It sounds extremely dated, but the strings are well placed, it has those wibbling noises over the intro that have been MIA in pop for years now and the melody is decent. Bridge is short and sharp and it actually reminds me a teensy bit of early Massive Attack - can't quite work out why or how though. 7

10.Preluders - Everyday Girl. Ugh. Still rubbish. Not even the best song going around Europe about not being an every day girl, either - don't listen to this, listen to Sahlene's No Ordinary Girl, and hear those lovely Swedes do it properly. 3

That's 30 this round, 67 in total for an average of 33.5. After two rounds they haven't even done as well as Norway or The Netherlands have after one.
# 4:48 PM []
Yeah, it's a boring one. Italy's singles chart seems to be (ugh) plodding a bit. Sorry. Anyway, because I consider Madonna's Remixed and Revisited EP which is #3 to not be a single, I'm arbitrarily excluding it from any chart which includes it. Since some charts I'm looking at count it as an album or neither single nor album, it's just easier for consistency.

Outkast (10) and Britney (8) have already been mentioned this round.

1. AVENTURA - Obsession. I still remain utterly unswayed by this song. What's so great about it? It seems to have been #1 here for nearly as long as Black Eyed Peas. I thought I'd deleted it since Round 1, so got it again, relistened, found it was still crap and then found the original copy in the same folder. Stupid me. Stupid song, too. 3

2. THE RASMUS - In The Shadows. Not as all-conqueringly dramatic and awesome as First Day Of My Life, but agreeable enough with a nice explosive chorus. I like the "oh-ooohhh!" and the driving bass and echoed backing vocals in the choruses. Good stuff, but rhyming "answer" with "cancer" is a teensy bit dicey. Mainstream rock done right, then, and the album is terrific too. 8

5. ELISA - Broken. God, boring songs don't half hang around a long time in the Italian charts, do they? I gave this 4 last time, now I'm downgrading it to 2 because volatility, not stability needs rewarding.

6. MADONNA - Love Profusion. Definitely one of the better songs on the album, but this sort of acoustic emotional outpouring should not be encouraged any more. Back to the disco with you, Mads. I like the strumming in the "I got you/Under my skin" bit, and the electronic effects that follow, those sounds can stay. 8

9. EVANESCENCE - My Immortal. This is by far the worst song on the otherwise-fantastic Evanescence album, the only track on which the description "oh it's all like the single minus shouty bloke" is actually true. 6

7. NEK - Almeno Stavolta. Still has a nice piano line. Still has nothing else to recommend it. 5

10. SEAN PAUL - Like Glue. I'm sorry, I'm all Sean Paul-ed out, really. That said, it's filthy, so still gets a decent score. 6

11. BLUE and some UNLUCKY PEOPLE THEY ROPED INTO THE STUDIO - Signed, Sealed Delivered, I'm Yours. Right, this is pants in a way I didn't think anyone had in them. A man's not made of stone, and the appeal of one or two of their earlier singles was (slightly) understandable, but jeez louise.. 0

56 this time for Italy, an improvement on their wet debut. Now they just need to send that fantastic Caparezza single into the top 10 and I'll be happy. Total: 103, Average: 51.5
# 12:05 PM []
TUBE & BERGER - Straight Ahead
Squelching bass! Squealing synths! An actually fairly sexy vocal that seems to have been done by... umm.. Chrissie Hynde! Thudding, insistent beat, monotone, menacing mantras for the words and it's dead funky - I don't really know how to describe it. This has already been a big club hit in Europe under its original German title Geraderaus, this should be coming out as a proper single fairly soon, and what I love about it is that I've managed to download two distinct versions, the biggest difference of which is the tempo.

The 5-minute "extended version" sounds really fast and higher-pitched, has more vocals, and the poppier leanings emphasise the kinetics, and the slower version found on a Ministry of Sound compilation sounds filthier and more carnal (particularly the bass), and both sides of the coin are really enjoyable.
# 11:55 AM []

Thursday, January 08, 2004

1. TIKTAK - Tuuleksi Taivaanra. Ooh, pretty acoustic guitar with strings. Not exciting in the least, but the melody is nice. Aforementioned string bits are the best bits. 3

2. ANNA ERIKSSON - Kaikista Kasvoista. One thing I love about Finnish is that lots of the words look like the names of monsters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Kaikista Kasvoista! Didn't that one have cloven hooves or something? This remains, as with last round, a decent diva ballad. 6

3. GIMMEL - Harmaata Lunta. I sampled a few other Gimmel songs after loving their previous single, and I liked most of them. This was the worst, sounding like a really bad late-80s serious pop ballad, given considerable polish and effort, but it's not very good. Salaa and Blah Blah Blah are much, much better songs. This is really wet indeed. 3

4. PETRI MUNCK - Pystytkö Lupaamaan. I like the layered vocals in the chorus, and in fact, the main hook of it - it's very reminiscent of something else, not just in the structure, how you get half the chorus, then it winds back on itself and comes back more powerfully. The verses don't hold the interest, but overall this is fairly good stuff. Agreeable guitar riff, nice bridge into the chorus, that sort of thing, don't you know. 7

5. NO DOUBT - It's My Life. Improves in stature with every listen, now adore it, all swooshing, swaggering and wailing. 9

6. DIDO - Life For Rent. You know, having to give 7 out endlessly for White Flag got a bit annoying after a while because while it was nice, one got the feeling that there were far more deserving songs to be worldwide mega hits. Fortunately, there's no such necessity to do so here, this song is rancid. The way she floats over the chorus is extremely cloying. 0

7. OUTKAST - Hey Ya. Obviously this remains a peerless work of goofy, swinging genius. I'm just being honest. 10

8. KOTITEOLLISUUS - Minä Olen. Another Finnish word that whose name looks like a monster from Buffy, and the title looks like it's a person's name. More significantly, this has lovely pounding bass, a big dumb riff and is completely forgettable, although I do recall the growled bit in the middle. I rather enjoyed it, actually. 7

9. BRITNEY - Me Against The Music. I really love doing Britney's fake rap bit when I sing along... I'm a takin' ya awwwwwwwwn.. that's the best bit about this, and is still unfairly maligned. 8

10. CELINE DION - Tout L'Or Des Hommes. Oh, fuck's sake, Finland, raise your standards. 0

A somewhat deflated 53 for Finland second time around, then. Total: 114, Average: 57.0
# 10:36 PM []
Christina Milan is my pop nemesis, I think. She wrote J-Lo's hideous Play (unless this is yet another misremembered fact) and her solo singles were omnipresent and really irritating and everyone except me seemed to think she was really good.

Anyway, a lot of people are bigging this new one up, and, as surprising as it is in the time where consensus on great singles often approaches total, it's not very good. Christina probably listened to a few of the dominant female sex-type songs that have been around lately and has thought "I could do that!". Well, really, she can't.

The handclaps are good, the beat is nice and the exotic flourishes are quite lovely, in fact there's nothing wrong with the verses. The chorus is the irritating bit. She tells you to "pop that thing", and surely Khia's My Neck, My Back was quite sufficient, and she says she can show you how to make your "man say oh!". Donate half your royalties to Kelis for giving you that idea, Christina. It sounds like the same fake-Eastern patch that skimmed over Britney's Touch Of My Hand was put over this needlessly as well. But most of all, for a chorus that should have been naughty (dip it low/pick it up slow/roll it all around), it's delivered neither with the giddy, swaying raunch of Kelis nor the virginal instability of Britney, not even the supreme crass glee of Khia.

It's gonna go top 5 everywhere and annoy you to death, so perhaps you might as well succumb to it.
# 1:32 PM []

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

I am back from my break. I am extremely sunburnt, so I'll have no choice but to stay indoors and listen to magnificent pop for a few days. Which makes this the ideal time to start Round 2 of the Cross Europe Chart Challenge.

Right, let me tell you how I know it's gonna be. I wanted to include a few other countries but I didn't know how. But I do now, so starting in round 2 there'll be some other countries included. Then, at the end of Round 6, there'll be an extra round for those countries that missed out first time around.

I'd always envisaged Croatia, or Hrvatska to its people, to be one of the big powerhouses of Europop that doesn't travel. Why? I don't know, but it seemed bad that they had to be left out of the CECCOD - but a helpful reader pointed me in the direction of their chart and a series of good fortunes enabled me to get them off Soulseek. Vesna Pisarovic was fairly easy to get, mind.

1. DINO - Ti Si Moja Prva Ljubav. This seems to be the Croatian entrant in the 2003 Junior Eurovision Contest - so it's charting a bit late after the event isn't it? Anyway, it's much better than the Belgian entry that was hovering around their charts in Round 1 (Xink I think they were called). It actually reminds me a teensy bit in places of the underrated Slovenian entry at the normal Eurovision - anyway, decent, nice chorus, key change bit, well done kids. 6

2. COLONIA - Plamen Od Ljubavi. Yep - a fine song. Well constructed, sounds interesting, is not Varaždinski Band Aid... everything's a plus here. Up four spots from #6 last week and definitely deserving of it. 9

3.LJUBOMORA , Vesna Pisarovic. Good up-tempo dance number. A bit like J-Lo's Waiting For Tonight, if that weren't a big pile of shit, obviously. I like how it opens with probably real drums lulling you into thinking it's not a big Eurodance thing and then it sensibly cheeses out nicely. 7

4. VARAZDINSKI BAND AID - Bozicna. Band Aid? No, it couldn't a treacly charity thing, could it? Fortunately I can't tell what the song is about exactly, but the presence of what sounds like someone has selected the "choir ooh" noise on their cheap keyboard confirms that it is rubbish. 1

5. TONY CETINSKI - Nebo Iznad Nas. Would that the vocals were mixed lower - they're too loud, and the worst thing about this. There's a good bassline in the chorus, and the whole thing has a quite nice funky squelching rhythm that's drowned out a bit. Could have been good - especially if it had been a little bit faster. 4

6. JELENA RADAN - Netko Drugi. Not a patch on previous ace single Povedi Me - big stirring chorus is present, but not correct - it's not particularly thrilling or exciting, or even, in fact, stirring at all. 2

7. IVANA BANFIC - Lav U Scru. Sounds a bit like someone programmed a music box to play the pre-chorus from Wild World at the start. That plonging noise in the background hasn't been used in a Eurohit I've heard in about eight years - good to have it back. For a dancy song, this has a bit of variety in the rhythm, and it's not bad. Instrumental break recalls the glorious break from All The Things She Said, if not precisely, at least in spirit. 5

8. CHARLIE & TEQUILA BAND - Da Mogu Vrijeme Vratiti. Decent and no more; fairly agreeable summery riff, some nice blips and sparkling noises but not really much that's engaging in the way of melody. 4

9. VANNA - Kao Da Me Nema. Uses that R&B guitar intro that TLC's No Scrubs (seemingly) invented (even though it didn't) and rendered obsolete in the space of four minutes. I like the way Vanna sings, she's putting a lot into it, and she raises her game when the big, chunky beats come in behind her. It's a nice building effect, rather diminished by an ungrateful chorus which loses momentum almost immediately. The verses are good - another missed opportunity here... 5

10. MAJA SUPUT & ENJOY - Onako Kako Ti Znas. The chorus reminds me of Sunny Came Home. I don't know why, but this is not a good thing. 3

46 for Croatia, then. While I'm here I would like to plug the only Croatian pop music blog I'm aware of, Ruralna Gorila. Chances are that like me, you won't understand a word of it, but I suspect it's our loss. (And if the writer of that site is reading this, recommend me Croatian pop please!)
# 11:44 PM []
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