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Friday, January 16, 2004

Well I had packed my computer, but when I noticed I was getting lots of hits from Livejournal, I thought I had time for another quick post to say hi to the N*Sync fans who are visiting (oddly, seemingly due to my ADIDAS post, NOT the Mp3!). Thanks for coming, you're so much better than the random Googlers I used to get who had no idea how to search for things (because, of course, "download pop mp3s" is such a good search term).

Anyway. Thoughtful reader Ambrose tells me, of the Russian chart:

i dont know how often they update this chart. indeed, i dont know how they compile the chart. there are practiaclly no (legit) music sales in russia, so its not done on that. they just pluck it out of their asses, i guess.

And then, even more thoughtfully, transliterated the titles and artists so I could find them and hear them. What a champion. So, what, then, have the good people of Russia plucked out of their collective asses? A track I'd like to mention briefly that isn't in the 10 is I Don't Know by Erika, which you should look for, a nice punchy dance-pop number with a lovely plaintive chorus.

The top two (Sugababes, 8 and The Rasmus, 8) have already been done, and Russia's chart seems to be a few months behind the time. There are some familiar names (from last round) and some that are definitely not familiar. I've listed their names as I managed to track them down - you might need to subsitute other letters to get the best result.

3. Verka Serdyuchka - Ya Ne Ponyala. The backing is creeping and creepy, the accordion in the chorus along with the backing vocals is just fantastic, but oh! the singer's voice, it's unbelievably irritating. I don't know what he was shooting for (sexy drawl? disinterest?) but he missed. 4

4. Vyacheslav Butusov/Yupiter - Pesnya Idysochevo Domoi. Having listened to the five Russian songs in the chart, I've come to the conclusion that even without vocals, I could probably tell the difference between a song from Russia and one from nearby European countries, even if I couldn't describe it. As such, the marks I've given have been a reflection of how much I like the other elements, because the actual sound of Russian pop is very pleasant to my ear, and I like the sound of the language as well. This one sounds odd in that after a few lines, it sounds like the tempo gets faster, because a bassline comes in and the beat gets emphasised as a result, creating the illusion that it's become sped up. It's a really effective trick, but the pre-chorus slows down, bringing in some atmospheric noises but ruining the momentum. The neat treated guitar comes back, at least. It hasn't really got that much in the way of a strong hook, but it's interesting to listen to at any rate. 5

5. Bosson - You Opened My Eyes. If you heard the synth stabs in DJ Sammy's version of Heaven and thought "gee, if only they were the foundation of the song rather than an extra, and the song wasn't by Bryan Adams, and it was sung by a man!", then you would love this. Particularly if you also had a penchant for really bad rhymes and key changes. And you'd be quite correct to, of course. 8

6. One-T/Cool-T - The Magic Key. If you are still immune to this song's cartoonish, upbeat and yet extremely creepy charms, you have no heart and hate fun. Russia must be about the second last country in Europe to have this be a hit, surely? I can't explain the song to someone who's never heard it before, but Tom Ewing did so very nicely. 8

7. Katya Lel - Doletai. Actually, this song is really striking for how stark and bare it is. All that's really there is a beat, a quiet bassline and a creaking noise that could be some background percussion but might not be. There's something of a mid-90s post-trip-hop sound to it which really draws attention to the vocal, which isn't special, but when Katya sings higher notes, you get the same sort of feeling you get hearing the slower songs on the t.A.T.u. album (to use a not-very good, but at least well known reference point), this is actually very lovely considering how empty and coldly desolate it sounds. 6

8. Triplex - Brigada. This gets 5 points just for the fiendish bass. It doesn't do very much with it, it has some guy talking over it, and there's a breakdown 2 minutes in, which is nice, but there's not much in the way of progression, it just starts and then ends. Sounds unfinished, a bit of a letdown. 5

9. Dido - White Flag. So over it now. 5

10. Varelij Meladze/Via Gra - Okean i Tri Reki. Ooh, I like this a whole big lot. The male singer sounds like the Russian equivalent of Robbie Williams - in the verses at least, some of the inflections on the ends of words and syllables is fairly similar, and he works with rather than sneers over the funky Russian pop backing, which has a strolling bass, lots of keyboard lines, different backing vocals, a string (!) break and is generally extremely busy. Oh, and he co-operates with the female singer, working with the background singing, but also getting out of the way of his duetting partner. 8

A surprisingly strong 65. I can't say that I flat-out loved listening to the songs that were new to me, but it was interesting at any rate.
# 12:04 AM []

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Well, to tide y'all over while I'm moving, here are three new Mp3s. All three have been written about, all three are great so get them. Perhaps most attractively, there's the fantastic JC Chasez track, which simply demands to be heard, and if the number of fakes on Kazaa is anything to go by, a lot of people are looking for it. Also, the brilliant Love Strikes is there for you as well - I hope you love it as much as I do - it's too good not to be heard. And a promised, the highly bizarre and entertaining Shemale is there as well.
# 1:04 AM []

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

A gauntlet is being thrown this week, no doubt. Which is good, because some kind of distance is vital in any ill-conceived but seemingly somewhat popular blog feature. Repeats this time are No Doubt (9), at #1 with the still-smashing It's My Life (hah! clearly the pop lovers outnumber those who scream "Sacrilege!" at this cover) Outkast (10) and Black Eyed Peas (1).

2. Per Gessle - Tycker Om När Du Tar Pĺ Mej. Yes, that would be Per Gessle from Roxette. It's a ballad. You know what Roxette ballads were like. This is slower. With more strings. It makes Roxette's I Wish I Could Fly (that was their last sizable hit, if you remember) sound exciting by comparison. The strings are nice, actually it's nicely composed and arranged to be fair, but it's too slow and pained, especially the singing. 2

3. Eskobar - Love Strikes. See, in some countries this would almost count as indie. But no! Because this drips pop hooks, one after another, from the "oooh oooh oooh" at the start and in the chorus, the drums pounding cleanly, the plaintive verses, the jingling guitar, the way the word "truth" is slightly accented, the chugging and charging chorus, oh more like this please! Utterly gorgeous - yes, the year's first hidden gem from Europe unearthed (OK, it came out last year in Sweden, but still!) - this is another song that's far too good to only conquer one chart. Superb. Any reader who knows anything about them - please tell me more! 10

5. Sara Löfgren - Starkare - This seems more fitting at #8 than it did at #1 where it was a few weeks back. Still sounds like True Colors. The guitary chorus and all, that's sounding quite good right now - particularly the instrumental break. Yep - 5 last time was being far too harsh for this one. 7

6. The Cardigans - Live And Learn. One of the very best tracks off their excellent last album. Oh to think I thought it was boring. GOod thing you can change your mind, eh? Especially good bit: "Came to on a corner with some help from a man/And goddamn, I don't seem to have learned/That a lady in need is guilty indeed/So I paid and got laid in return". See how many rhymes Nina Persson
crams into that bit? Clever and gorgeous mid-paced country rocker. 10

8. Lisa Miskovsky - Lady Stardust. Joakim Berg from Kent co-wrote this. Kent are excellent, but this is only good. Another song where the verses are the best bit, the chorus is a little unimaginative ("play on" repeated lots of times, really) , and the cantering rhythm of the guitar in the verses slows down to a plod, and there's less melodic flourish in the chorus as well. That said, when a chunky guitar comes in three minutes in, it gives the song much needed weight and that particular part is pretty irresistable - the outro would have made a good chorus. 7

9. Sugababes - Hole In The Head. Still only good. Was it being silly to think that if listened to 500 times it would magically change into something fantastic? Or my ears would change into someone else's ears, i.e. someone who DOES think this is fantastic? Probably. 8

10.Elin Sigvardsson - Paper Cup Words. The album appears to be called Saturday Light Naive, which is an extremely good crap joke, which makes me want to forgive this song's appalling title. Um, pretty ballad. Not much in the way of excitement, but the piano is good, and in the dramatic bits, instead of bringing in strings (they have to wait until last), there's a faint organ. The restraint is admirable. 6

Sverige, Sverige, what a blinder. 70 points, taking them to 132 (average: 66).
# 10:55 AM []
We'll conveniently ignore the fact that it's not even the second song to be called that in recent times, and we'll do that because this is that rarity, a massive epic pop masterpiece that isn't trying to be anything other than a damn good time. You can split it down the middle if you like, the first three-and-a-half minutes are some very corny, old lines delivered with riotous glee by JC with the biggest, dumbest chorus you'll here this year. All backed by a lovely floaty electronic backdrop.

It's all very good stuff. But the kicker is that after the song fades out at 3:20 in, you get this amazing break in the middle. What it sounds like is an old intro screens that got coded by people who illegally cracked and copied Commodore 64 games in the 1980s. These were a big part of my musical history, and the electronic pulses so scarily recall that, it's scary. Aside from bringing back wonderful memories, it just sounds incredible, a pastiche of odd influences without desperately trying to be clever, relevant. After all, similar things were going on on N*Sync's well-meaning but rather terrible Pop single, and appropriately, this is vaguely reminiscent of a BT song I can't place. Or maybe it's someone similar to BT. Anyway, you get two minutes of this wonderfulness before the chorus comes back to squash everyone in its path like a particularly shiny steamroller.

Lazy, seemingly obligated bit now. This isn't even remotely on the same page as Justin Timberlake, stylistic comparisons would say precisely nothing - Justin superimposed himself onto a successful template, which was risky for his producers and label but not for him personally or creatively. This by contrast is expansive, strange even in today's musical climate but at the same time hugely commercial what with its ridiculously anthemic chorus where JC repeats slight variants on "all day I dream about sex" and this is just the sort of thing that should resonate equally as strongly with his legion of young female fans as it does with 80s pop freaks (there's never been a better time to be one of those, that's for sure). It's stupid, but delivered without a trace of irony, just an enormous sense of fun. Let's hope the record company doesn't decide to radio edit it to oblivion.
# 3:31 AM []
Grr. It's very depressing that the very lovely Natalia (OK, I have no idea what she looks like, but I assume she is lovely because her song is so ace) has been knocked off Number One by those moralising mingers, the Black Eyed Peas, who one day will get theirs - hopefully they will be slapped silly by an army pop fanatics as punishments for their crimes against charts worldwide. Shut Up gets 1, the other repeat is for The Rasmus's rather good In The Shadows (8).

2. Natalia - I've Only Begin To Fight. Still sounds absolutely perfect. Light, frothy but still dramatic, perky disco par excellence, ear-catching, musical and lyrical hooks, a track that surely must cross over and become a hit all around Europe if there is any justice at all. 10

3. Marco Basto - Afscheid Nemen Bestaat Niet. It's funny, the bits where there's big sweeping drumming and piano aren't very good, but the stripped-down bit before the final chorus is actually quite lovely. Chalk this one up as an argument for minimalism in pop ballads from time to time. Actually, I like the tune quite a lot, but I was always a sucker for mega pop ballads. 7

4. Sarah & Koen Waters - You Are The Reason. This remains the worst type of music that's ever been done, and it's not even a particularly good exponent. 3

5. Kevin Lyttle - Turn me On. A few weeks ago I'd just have said I liked it. Now I think it's time to admit that young Kevin's three-minute opus is a so much more than that, it's immensely lovable. Oh, the cheap Casio backing. The refreshing lack of alpha in his love serenade. That chorus, admit it you love it too. 9

6. Tiesto - Traffic. Haven't warmed to this one particularly. It still sounds like a dance track I coughed up using (don't laugh) Dance Ejay V1.0 all those years ago, except my bassline was so much better. People who hate dance music think it sounds like this - "oh it's just repetitive noise". Or something. 4

8. Gene Thomas - Voor Haar. Being charitable, the way Gene flutters the ends of the syllables in the chorus is good. He believes, clearly. One is not entirely sure why, you've got to acknowledge the sincerity, but again, it goes straight through even after four or five listens. 5

9. Spring - Te Min Voor Anja. Yep, like this one a lot. It has that sort of 70s rock piano in the background, some swirling fake strings, a little guitar squall here and there, and... did I mention the rock piano? Terrific. Big dumb pop hook in the chorus is merely the icing on the cake. 9

10. Xink - De Friendschapsband. Actually, the cutesie sentiment of this is going down slightly better than last time. Not bad for a little kid, actually. "De Friendschapsband" is a truly terrible title. Hopefully Xink kiddie will hit puberty and start singing about girls, drugs and normal things like that to a swinging pop beat. 5

61 points, as Belgium launches themselves to the top of the table, to be 117 after two rounds, average 58.5.
# 12:23 AM []

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

SHEMALE - Etre Une Femme
Yes, you read the artist's name correctly. This has been bigged up by a number of pop blogs, but, possibly because their minds have been (understandably) blown by the existence of three singing shemales, not much has been written on what it sounds like.

The most obvious comparison would be the more uptempo singles off the first Atomic Kitten album, when they were brasher and more enjoyable, and did fewer lame ballads, particularly Right Now, this is very similar, with its sleek bassline, pumping beat and almost spoken vocals. Oh the singing, if you weren't aware of this being sung by a group called Shemale, you would just regard them as competent French disco vocal stylings.

What actually elevates this above the norm - and how great is it that novelty pop these days actually puts the effort in to sound right? - is the great rhythmic fit it throws in the second prechorus, where the beats sound mental and compressed, the singing excitable and the pace is irresistable. The chorus can't live up to that, but it swings in a manner befitting a disco diva, soaring in the right bits and not going on too long. Generally, well structured and performed all around.

It's a little sad that disco as a subgenre of dance often doesn't get much attention as it should and that it's a gimmick rather than a hook bringing a song to light, but what the hey, it's enjoyable. I'll put it on the sidebar in the next few days, as it's not easy to come by for download.
# 7:44 PM []
Right, then. This week is going to be a bit shit, sorry. Unless you happen to like the Cross Europe Chart Challenge of Death, in which case you'll think this week is just dandy. My ability to devour large amounts of pop is greatly impeded by the fact that I'm moving on Friday, and it'll be all traumatic and, in preparation, have adopted a really bad mood. So, hopefully some Spanish pop will soothe my savage breast. Or something.

The mighty Britn0r is Number One in Spain with the song everyone said was rubbish and would kill her career. Who's laughing now? 8 points.

2. David Bustamante - Devuélveme el aire. Yes, a boring ballad. But one with a nice line in acoustic guitar in the verse, giving away to some almost indie-sounding ones underneath the pre-chorus. The catchiest bit is actually in the verses, where there's a faster up-and-down singing bit which is very good indeed. 6

3. Alex Ubago - Aunque no te pueda ver. Shuffling rhythm in the background: nice. Not a lot of energy - when the best bit is when a guitar comes in, there are problems on the Good Ship Pop. 3

4. Cafe Quijano - Tequila. I didn't like this one last time. Still don't. Kind of makes me want a drink. But not of tequila. 2

5. Mago de Oz - La costa del silencio. I went above and beyond the call of duty and found out that this band's album is called Jesus de Chamber. Whatever. This is surely some kind of super-innovative, yet (despite album name) unholy melding of Irish-sounding stuff, country and chunky rock riffs. A truly excellent idea, and the execution isn't too bad either. Like this a lot, actually, but suspect it might not be a keeper. That said, it's brightened this Monday night immeasurably, so what the hell? 8

6. Andy & Lucas - Y en tu ventana. Guitar. One of them sounded like Bryan Adams when I wasn't listening too closely. This is not making me happy. 2

7. Tony Aguilar - Latido urbano. I'm sorry, I can't think of anything to say about this. Nor could I last round, I know, bad me etc. But really, now, why don't you try say something interesting about this? 3

8. Red Hot Chili Peppers - In the late 80s when they started becoming popular, I knew I was too young for that kind of nonsense. Now I know that I'm far too old to listen to their maturer nonsense. This means that there must have been a point at which I was exactly the right age to be an RHCP fan. Good thing that never occurred to me at the time. Um, this has a quite decent bassline, but the guitars over the beginning are annoying and Anthony Kiedis just shits me for some reason. What, you were expecting thoughtful commentary? 0

9. Rosario - De mil colores. I tried opening this when I only had like 10k downloaded and it kept looping and it sounded like Say Goodbye by Fleetwood Mac. Really. Unfortunately, the rest of the song fails to live up to the promise of half a second repeated over and over again. Singing voice is warm and pleasant, the progressions in the pre-chorus are sort of vaguely 80s soft radio classiques, but um, there's not a lot happening here. 5

10. Alezandro Sanz - Regálame la silla donde te esperé. Boring ballad piano and such, but with interestingly busy percussion. Mildly annoying voice, but sounds much better when double-tracked - and much worse when Spanish guitar appears ominously in the mix. It's probably not a good sign for Alezandro that the most dramatic bit is when he's not singing - the instrumental bit, that is. 3

40 points. I am no happier, that's for sure. Total: 89. Average: 44.5.
# 2:20 AM []

Monday, January 12, 2004

Or, Anglophilia Strikes Back. Stupid Blackeyed Peas' Shut Up has failed to fall out of the top 10 as it obviously should have, so it gets 1 again.

1. Michelle McManus - All This Time. I sympathise with Michelle - by rights this should be her moment to be recognised for her singing (even though she's not that good), but instead she's getting fat jibes. This might have something to do with the fact that her song is rubbish. In the rush to get the record out now while people still remember to purchase it, the Pop Idol svengalis have to resort to hedging their bets with a song that could be sung by anyone rather than tailoring it to what the winner would be good at. Still, let's hope she becomes the UK's answer to Carnie Wilson - i.e. loses lots of weight and, most importantly does not put out singles. Better than Evergreen, mind. 3

2. Michael Andrews featuring Gary Jules - Mad World. I thought I loved this, but I don't. It's actually quite dull, when you get down to it. Maybe it sounds a bit more exciting to people that, when they heard it on the radio last month were hearing it for the first time, but it's hard to go back to that state when looking at a song that has got to be about two years old. 7

3. Kelis - Milkshake. Oh, goddamnit. Just as I was wondering if I was giving out too many 10s in order to make my Anglophilia look more sensible, Kelis comes in and I have no choice. Milkshake is absolutely everything I want in a pop single. It grinds, for starters. It has a ridiculously stupid hook that makes no sense no matter how many spins you put on it (her milkshake is her breasts? No, because how would she teach THAT?) and it ferrets itself into your brain using industrial drills, before building a little shanty town in your memory centres. And it's short, so you can listen to it nearly TWENTY times in an hour. Because you would. It's a record precisely of this time, so its long-delayed release now makes sense - it would have bombed 6 months ago. Now it's had time for the unbelievers to be won over and for the lovers to become even more passionate about it, it's become the monster hit it deserves. Yeah, by rights her monster-mega-break-through hit should have been Get Along With You, but this is a joyful moment for pop - Kelis finally getting her due as a Great Pop Star. 10

4. Ozzy & Kelly Osborne - Changes. Kelly's song Shut Up was fantastic - like an (oddly) less punk Shampoo. This reworking of an old Sabbath song has gotten purists up in arms because it's apparently actually a ruining of an old Sabbath song. A point for the uproar and the slaying of apparently sacred cows, none for the song. 1

5. Boogie Pimps - Someone To Love. The bits where the vocal is cut-up and loops on itself - good. The other bits - not good. 4

6. Sean Paul & Sasha - Still In Love With You. Yes, I'm all Sean Paul-ed out, but this is actually pretty sweet and charming. It's summery, and since it's summer here, it fits well. (The backing of at least one of the versions comes from Uptown Top Ranking, right? Like you can bugger a song up when you start with that). 8

7. Victoria Beckham - This Groove/Let Your Head Go - Again, the Double A-Side rule comes into effect. Let Your Head Go is extremely brilliant, everything that dance pop done by people who can't sing very well should be. This Groove is a load of pap (though do get the Para Beats remix, it's fab), but LYHG makes this an easy 10.

9. Outkast - Hey Ya. Gets a special mention this time because it slipped out of the top 20 and is rebounding. Hooray! This is just everywhere, no matter where you are in the world. Blaring out of shops in the mall, on the radio, on the TV, in your head. It's like an extremely pleasant virus infecting everyone. It's not even really hip-hop when you think about it. Jesus, it transcends mere labels. Except for the label "great". 10

10. Will Young - Leave Right Now. Cannot really believe this still is in the charts. That'd make it a Real Hit, then. As many others have pointed out, he'd have walked World Idol if he'd sung this. He was nearly as big a sore loser as Kelly Clarkson, but if Ms Clarkson ever puts out a song one-tenth as good as this I will eat my hat (Actually don't own a hat so will eat Kelly Clarkson's stupid hat as worn on WI). Swooning, faux-80s-soul-pop never was half as good as this - his next single should feature a Spandau Ballet cover as a B-side. 10

A surprisingly good showing of 63 for the UK, total 114, average 57. Surprising when you consider that if this had been done about three weeks ago it would have been... ooh.. about 13.
# 2:49 PM []
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