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Friday, October 01, 2004

Returning from last round are myself (EO), Jessica (JP) and Diego (DV), but also this round:

TW: Tom White, Euromaniac and cyber playboy (Apparently)
GD: Geoff aka Lockedintheattic, who just submitted scores last time
CA: Christoffer, who does The Sounds of Sweden. Hooray!
SS: Shahaf, "just a chart freak, really"
AP: Andries P, the greatest pop fan in all of Belgium
PT: Paul Thomas, not predominately a pop person, but we won't hold it against him.

And I'll probably end up updating this bitch when I get a late ballot or two (hint hint!). Hooray for ungainly and long posts, though.

(EDIT on 6/10 to correct some stupid spelling mistakes, and while it was too late to be included, Dave Raposa's invective-rich ballot for France is far too good not to post in its entirety.)

1. AVENTURA - Obsession
EO: 3. JP: 2. DV: 10. TW: 6. GD: 7. CA: 7. AP: 5. SS: 10. PT: 0. ADJUSTED SCORE: 6

AP: Being a Flemish Belgian I am QUITE acquainted with this already thankyouverymuch, seeing that the darn thing spent a total of 29 weeks on our own charts (If you'll allow my chart anorak showing for a brief minute -- a feat which has only been bettered by two other singles over the past 10 years, being Everything But The Girl's "Missing" and a cheesy comeback attempt by camp middle-aged Dutch crooner Rob de Nijs from 1996 which translates to "There's no heart more afraid than mine" -- this will all be on the exam, boys and girls!).
EO: There are two kinds of people in this world: those who love this song, and those who don't see what the fuss is about. Count me as the former. I ran out of things to say about this one months ago.
SS: I can't really define what genre this is exactly, but i'm loving it for a year now, and it hasn't reallly ages a bit. Just watch the endless covers who are coming ala Dragostea Din Tei...
PT: A boy meets girl duet (probably) with a hint of salsa and feels oh-so-eighties. Your mum and dad would probably dance to this.
JP: The phone/talky bit at the start is novel and the girl singer in the chorus is bearable, but the rest just sounds like a big mess to me. What am I missing?
DV: Begins like a latin Love Is The Drug; the Lexus-flaunting macho on the prowl makes a desperate call to the young girl he's currently trying to impress, instead of taking the damn car to the singles' bar downtown. However young she might be, she already knows the score: over a harmony different enough from the verses as to underline her wisdom, she politely informs him that what's in his mind should not be considered exactly love. She could have suggested a cool shower as well, but she's probably too tired.
AP: Anyway, those Latino siblings and their (probably unrelated) minstrel first hit Belgian airwaves in dead of winter and could still frequently be heard in seething hot mid-summer, so you can imagine it has "somewhat" suffered from overkill. For me personally the appeal had by and large worn off by early spring.
GD: Really grew on me. Simple, unusual, and catchy.
TW: I still haven't quite made if I like the combination of the Latin sound and the boyband vocals. I'd probably love if it had a backing like early Max Martin though. Its only saving grace is the great remix by Gabry Ponte, the guy from Eiffel 65. Damn I miss those guys. Seriously.
CA: I hated it at first but it has really grown on me and I like it now. I'm usually not so keen on these kind of songs but I like the singer and the girl-part is very catchy. The video is dreadful though.
AP: Still, the gentle instrumentation reminds me of another hit from the Dominican Republic (the only other I can come up with, in fact), Burbujas de amor by Juan Luis Guerra, which in turn reminds me of the summer of 1991, for which it provided my personal soundtrack along with such seminal cuts as Désenchantée, Gypsy Woman, Last Train to Trancentral and Crucified. Since these were by all accounts happier days in the life of Andries, silly sentimental me finds it hard to give this less than 5.

2. BRITNEY SPEARS - Everytime
EO: 9. JP: 6. DP: 6. TW: 6. GD: 3. CA: 10. AP: 8. SS: 4. PT: 4. ADJUSTED SCORE: 7.

CA: One of my favorite Britney-songs and I'm not tired of it even if it's extremly overplayed. It's a classic!
AP: Now, before I get to the point (i.e. my opinion on this particular song), I would like to state I am strongly sceptical towards Britney's status as the female pop star of the century so far being in any way justified on the strengths of the girl's (woman's?/not a girl, not yet a woman's?) back catalogue. It all started off so incredibly promising with THAT debut
single five years ago, but I'd be hard-pressed to find any single released inbetween "Crazy" and "Toxic" that would have ever been more than a very minor hit for a singer with half her fame and PR. Textbook example of style over substance (and even the former is highly debatable). But then of course she took everyone and their slightly queer cousin by surprise with THAT Katharine Dennis-penned golden pop nugget, and she did not even disappoint with this follow-up, her very first downtempo single that does not make *me* ask to be intoxicated now.
JP: She should have released Brave New Girl.
EO: Or The Wanking Song. Backed with a cover of I Touch Myself.
JP: Still, she gets several points just for being Britney.
GD: 3 points, and they're all for Stephen Dorff's body in the video.
SS: Thank god for the dance remixes though, which save it a bit.
AP: Very sadly, her golden pop streak has now prematurely come to an end already by cutting the In the Zone project short, and serving us a half-cooked 80s cover instead to promote, erm, a GH package (but more on that in a month or so when it will likely grace the Top 10 in every European chart under the sun *grumbles, mutters, rolls eyes at humanity and such and such*)

3. O-ZONE - Despre Tine
EO: 5. JP: 7. DV: 2. TW: 7. GD: 8. CA: 8. AP: 6. SS: 10. PT: 1. ADJUSTED SCORE: 7.

JP: You'll recognise the intro from the DDT video when they are preparing to board the plane. The song is not that different to Dragostea Din Tei but it's fairly enjoyable.
CA: I think this was a bad choice as the second single but it seems to be doing well wherever it's been released anyway, and that's great. Good to see that O-Zone isn't a one-hit-wonder after all. However, I think it's a good song and the video is very ace.
SS: Excellent tune, i'm enjoying this muchly and it just as cheesy as it should be. By the way the old version from Romania is superior to the new radio edit, which is excellent anyway.
GD: This is basically Dragostea Din Te part 2. Still, if you're going to keep making the same record, it might as well be a good one. Not quite the same magic as the original, but still good enough.
EO: The whole album is like this. In cases like this, you keep the best result and throw away the rest. And this isn't the best result, obviously. This is "the one with whistling".
DV: This gives empirical platform boots to those who took for granted they only had one song in them.
TW: I have the album, and I really liked this track at first, but I've gone off it a little bit to be honest. About the most interesting thing about this song is the comically misplaced whistling, though it doesn't really have the mind-numbingly catchy factor of DDT (the song, not the pesticide).
PT: It starts out exactly like Plug It In so I can't completely hate on it. Actually yes, yes I can. It's the one with the deep voice that really grates - he should be doing some spoken word thing with William Shatner - not euro-pop.
AP: Having actuated my physique (AKA "strutted my stuff") and uttered many a suppressed yodel myself to "Dragostea..." over the past half a year or so, it pains me to say I am not sensing half as much Eurolove for the new offering by the Moldovan "ma-ia-hii"-mooing merchants. It's not so much the "churn out a painfully obvious xerox of the previous hit in the hope of striking gold twice" approach that irks me (why, Maxx' "No More", Jam & Spoon's "Find Me" and Ann Lee's "Voices" amongst many others have all been known to receive healthy airplay on Andries FM), but something different that I cannot quite put my finger on. Nonetheless, at the local homosexualist gathering I attended on Friday night, it seemed to drum up as much response from the crowd as the previous one (though maybe the majority of them were so high on poppers they didn't notice a difference), so there must be something about O-Zone that might extend their fifteen minutes by at least another 21 seconds (apologies for any So Solid Crew association caused). And if anything, it should keep my pet O-Zoner, that nice 'n tall cheeky charmer Dan, from quitting the group to become A Serious Singer/Songwriter for just a little while yet.
TW: In breaking news, the band may be about to split, as lead singer Dan Balan is about to release the English version of Dragostea… in the States as a solo record. Hmmmm.

4. T-RIO - (Choopeta) Mamae Et Quero
EO: 0. JP: 4. DV: 0. TW: 4: GD: 0. CA: 2. SS: 6. AP: 4. PT: 10. ADJUSTED SCORE: 3.

AP: What do you call bargain-bin Las Ketchup, when Las Ketchup were already pretty much bottom of the holiday-resort-from-hell Europop barrel?
GD: I imagine this record has a sun-drenced video, probably on a beach, featuring a novelty dance routine. Sadly, unlike classic summer novelty records, if this one tried to cross the English Channel I suspect it would drown.
CA: It's a fun song indeed, but not my kind of songs at all. I think it's quite worthless and I got tired of it after a few listens.
JP: I bet this is off a TV advert, isn't it? It's also rather Las Ketchup-esque and very cheerful, so I can see why it's been a hit. Not for me though.
TW: Nao bom, as they say in Brazil. It's got a vague whiff of holiday hit to it but not really enough to be catchy or likeable. Most of the problem in my opinion is that Portuguese sounds a lot like Martian, especially when you're probably French. I love so-called novelty hits, although that only extends to when they're good. I have a feeling the band was formed in a reality show. You can kind of tell.
EO: I get the feeling that if I listened to this a lot, I would probably change the score from 0 to an 8 or something, just like I do with every bizarre pop song like this. But thousands of miles from France, I'm safe, thankfully.
SS: Taking an old children's song and turning it into a serious pop song almost never works, and in this case it doesn't work much either, still it's a bit harmless I guess, does nothing. It gets extra points from me because here in Israel, it is connected to an old "cult movie" that was made here over 20 years ago.
PT: Just. So. Joyous. From the small outerspace "whoosh!" sound at the start through to final "ariba-ahh!" at the end. I love the way there is a slight hiccup at the start of every chorus, I imagine them bouncing up and down on the spot in time to the "momo-momo". Oh, and the fantabolous trumpet solo in the middle. Actually it's a bit after halfway but it's worth listening to just for that. Every time I play the song I re-access, sometimes I feel it might be grating away at me, but then the trumpet manages to save the day every single time. It feels like something we all should've spent the summer listening to.
AP: , I can't picture this Brazil threesome still at the top of any charts come Christmas time. Or indeed, anyone remembering their existence three months from now.
DV: This is the kind of music that's used to "spice up" cheap night shows at regional TV channels in Spain.

5. SLAI - Flamme
EO: 2. JP: 5. DV: 7. TW: 7. GD: 0. CA: 0. SS: 4: AP: 1. PT: 4. ADJUSTED SCORE: 3.

PT: ASWAD? Actually it's more of a sub-par Sting effort with added-extra over crooning. It's inoffensive enough I suppose but really rather boring.
GD: Hmm. This one sounds like it's a 45 being mistakenly played at 33rpm. (apologies to younger readers who don't understand this reference). And he can't hit the high notes. Dreadful.
EO: Zouk is a very useful word in Scrabble. Outside of that, I have no use for it. I like the creepy "woo" bits. Also, there is a remix featuring Buju Banton, who is a twat. Too slow.
SS: Zouk is so 2003, We had ENOUGH last year, it just keep sounding like they're releaseing the same song over and over and over ... this one sounds a bit like a very much slowed version of Turn Me On as well.
AP: Kevin Lyttle's considerably less droll Gallic cousin (who sounds suspiciously constipated at it) gets no love but a premature click on the little square inbetween "Pause" and "Next" on my WinAmp.
CA: This is a very boring french ballad which sounds like a thousend others, and it gets kind of Turkish sometimes which is just awful.
TW: Ooh, nice. Like the vibe of this. You wouldn't think of France as a very soulful country but this definitely has more groove than most of what I've heard in a similar vibe out of the states lately. The vocals are good, lyrics are pleasant and the production is more than competent. Despite the Buju Banton connection, I'd welcome this in the UK chart with open arms. Point deducted for said Buju Banton remix being rubbish.
JP: I got all excited at the start of this cos it sounded like Ace of Base, but the song is actually quite dull and dated. Not horrible but nothing special either.

6. NADIYA - Et C'est Parti
EO: 8. JP: 9. DV: 8. TW: 9. GD: 9. CA: 10. SS: 5. AP: 3. PT: 3. ADJUSTED SCORE: 8

JP: Now this is more like it! This is ace! Very catchy, great beat and backing track.
DV: What's that? Music for gyms to Eno's music for airports? If it's true that the iPod has a mind of its own, this should pop up everytime you do push-ups. If it's "Popcorn" instead, the iPod has both intelligence and a sense of humour.
JP: I particularly love the talky bit in the middle introducing Nadiya boxing ring-style and the "nononono"s in the background.
SS: Nadiya follows up her not so good debut with ... the SAME track! yes you've heard it right, she renamed it, and changed the lyrics a bit, but it's the SAME track, the music is identical, but at least the chorus on this one works a bit better.
CA: A powerful partysong with a catchy chorus - what more can you ask for!? The fact that she sings in French makes it even better.
AP: For a country which has issued delectable chanteuses like Myl?ne F., Françoise H., France G., Vanessa P., Juliette G. and, wahey why not, Alizée, one does wonder why la France is remotely interested in demoiselles whose main aim is to sound as if they hail from the US of America, when there are plenty where those came from in the first place (then again, it worked for Sarah Connor). Listenable in a "hotchpotch of clichés lifted from assorted US urban hits which could be heard dominating global airwaves anytime between January 2003/summer 2004" way, I suppose, but on my "choon" radar it barely registers a twitch.
EO: To be fair, it didn't work for Sarah Connor, because she is crap.
TW: Having seen the artwork for this on a French website the other day, she looked like she was going to be a French Jentina (erm, it was the boxing gloves) but this is much better than I thought. The epic feel of it with the strings and stuff is pretty impressive, I have a feeling it's based on a film theme but I don't know which. The vocals aren't perfect but the production makes up for that as I said, plus the way she says "everybody" is (probably unintentionally) cute. I've had this in my head all week and I don't even like R&B much! But i'm just a complete epic strings whore really.
GD: Wow. This is a big record. Big beats, big strings, big drums, big everything. This is a record with balls,and Nadiya really spits those vocals out. Love it, definitely my favourite of the week. I've taken one point off for the cheesy rap.
EO: I, on the other hand, added a point for the cheesy rap, because cheesy raps are great.
PT: I just can't stand the whole "Lets Have a Party!" vibe as it doesn't really sound like much of a fun party. It's late and you're tired, your guests are either throwing up or have passed out, the dog is missing and someone has fallen in the garden pond but you still have to keep up the pretence it's a great party because its your party.

7. BLACK EYED PEAS - Let's Get It Started
EO: 0. JP: 3. DV: 7. TW: 7. GD: 6. CA: 3. SS: 6. AP: 5. PT: 2. ADJUSTED SCORE: 4.

AP: Set back your clocks, if you are able or inclined to do so, to late September 2003. All over the planet, charts are being stormed by a ditty called "Where is the Love" from an ensemble entitled rather humorously (well, the first couple of times you hear it) The Black Eyed Peas. Fast-forward then: late September 2004. Said ensemble has now notched up four global-scale hits, which have accumulated radio spins exceeding the population number of a random poverty-stricken South East Asian country times three, with ease. What do you know, this one's all over the radio yet again, and nearing the "throwing things to make it stop" phase. Quite frankly I can't remember my sentiments when I downloaded the original version all those many moons ago, so I'll give it the rating I'd -- quite subjectively, I admit -- give it now: 5
DV: A few months before their eventual unplugged album, I admitted I liked at least one Black Eyed Peas track. Even though they try so hard, doesn't they?
SS: Didn't we already get tired of the Black Eyed Peas about 8 months ago?
EO: I don't know. I got tired of the Black Eyed Peas six years ago. Or whenever that dreadful Joints And Jams came out.

8. MAROON 5 - This Love
EO: 8. JP: 10. DV. 9. TW: 6. GD: 7. CA: 10. SS: 8. AP: 6. PT: 8. ADJUSTED SCORE: 9.

CA: Another song that has had massive airplay but still hasn't tired me.
GD: I'm getting a bit bored of this now, although it's still a good song. And Adam is very cute.
DV: It would be a 10 if someone told me this was written by Gregg Alexander.
AP: My opinion of this old-as-the-hills-in-chart-pop-terms chestnut (I heard it first back in March) has been somewhat clouded by hearing it interpreted by a Flemish Pop Idol 2 contestant called Born [yes, BORN -- named after the Patrick Hernandez disco staple "Born to Be Alive" of all things, and, erm, by lack of a more euphemistic phrasing, in possession of the "Kurt Nilsen factor"]. It was actually not bad and it reminded me that behind the disgusting overplay (hearing this one played thirteen times in less than half as many days, is nearly enough to long back to Nickelback), lies a not-bad pop song.
PT: Learning the art of hiding a great pop song on a M.O.R album.

9. CALOGERO & PASSI - Face A La Mer
EP: 6. JP: 8. DV: 1. TW: 6. GD: 3. CA: 10. SS: 9. AP: 7. PT: 9. ADJUSTED SCORE: 8.

DV: Cute idea, but poorly (as in "not very good" as well as in "low-budget") executed. Sounds like it was recorded as advised by Computer Music, and arranged by someone who takes magazines like that seriously.
JP: Sort of like The Rasmus go rap. And French.
PT: The lyrical-flow, the beats, the piano wrapped up into an apocalyptic, dark sounding song. It sounds like they have the same rapper/singer set-up as Linkin Park, except the whiney one isn't so whiney here.
AP: The weak point here though is this Passi gentleman. The French language to me sounds ever so much more agreeable from the mouth of a lady or Lolita singer who sounds either at the height of orgasm or bored out of her brain (and in some instances both) than from that of a male rapping at spitfire tempo. Still, the repetitive piano loop alone has quite an enchanting effect, and if that worked in favour of Keane, I see no reason why it can't here.
SS: Probably the best French single released this year! Calogero took time to grow on me, but he slowly improved and this is his essential peak, Passi's rap is ok as well on this, but it could've worked without it as well I reckon.
TW: Meh is the word really. Rock and rap can work together, no question, but the rocky bit just isn't loud or forceful enough (though the line "je prends mon dernier r?ve" = "I'm dreaming my last dream" is quite hard hitting). The rap is pretty good though, and I will listen to French rap sometimes (MC Solaar is great!).
EO: Gave this a 6 last time, thankfully because it sounds like a 6 still. Second half of chorus still a thing of great daftness and wonder. Could have been fantastic with a better riff.
GD: This starts off quite nicely (I've always quite liked French rap), even if he is a bit of an amateurish MC Solaar soundalike. But then the song suffers a tragic fatal collision with an 80s hair metal number and dies before it can be resuscitated.
CA: I love the way they mix hip-hop and rock but still the background makes it sound so pop. This could be a hit in the rest of Europe too with a good video and english lyrics.
PT: A lot of the time I think that American rappers are trying to emulate the French style somewhat, rather than the perceived view of the other way round.

EO: 4. JP: 3. DV: 1. TW: 10. GD: 6. CA: 0. SS: 6. AP: 4. PT: 6. ADJUSTED SCORE: 5.

AP: I don't really hold Natasha's Céline style of singing against her, mainly thanks to her providing a beacon of light in the historically poor Eurovision edition of 2001, and Monsieur Obispo is no stranger either, his "Fan" being my sixth-favourite French-language hit of 2003. Together however the combination yields somewhat less than the sum of the parts.
JP: Pretty boring apart from the fun French counting at the end.
GD: Eek, it's an 80s soft rock number. And I thought French music had moved on. This could have been so much better though, I love Natasha's voice, and there could have been some lobely harmonising here but the whole thing just comes across as lazy.
DV: At 1:26 the two singers duet for a line and it's really nice. I want to loop it and use the rest of the mp3 to feed my dog.
PT: there are chunky guitars, solid drumming, yes there's a little electronica, and even a half-hearted "1,2,3,4" but it doesn't feel in the least bit refreshing. The vocals seem hopelessly out of place as well. And how does a breakdown with, get this, whispered vocals grab you? Dangerously close to dad rock when it could've easily been hard rock, and probably good too.
EO: I was going to say it was too fast to be properly soft rock, but really now, it IS soft rock.
TW: This is a step up from the last one. I know both of the artists, Natasha for her Eurovision performance (a bit Celine Dion for my liking) and Obispo because he sang Frozen on a French Madonna tribute that was on satellite here in the UK. The production is good and the arrangement is nice and punchy, I could imagine Busted or someone like that covering it in English – in a good way. I like the way the lyrics play with words and sounds in the tradition of Serge Gainsbourg. Lines like "D'autres qui s'enfermeraient chez eux les yeux fermés" (roughly "some people would shut themselves up at home and close
their eyes") are more about sound patterns than actual the meaning, but in my opinion that gives it a really nice feel. Nadiya was going to be my favourite, but this really gets you after a few listens! It's a 10!
SS: Oh it's ANOTHER song from Pascal Obispo performed by Natasha , and this time he also stuck himself on the song as well ... well we heard it before , a few times, but that is the finest example of the generic Obispo sound the French love so much, despite scoring a few great tunes, usually he makes avarage pop track who you get tired of pretty fast, like this one.
PT: However, begrudgingly, I like it.
AP: Distorted electrical guitars don't tend to win me over either, unless you're called Sinéad Quinn or Amy Studt. (ooh, now if you put THOSE two together!)

Right. So the top scoring local song is Nadiya, with a slightly superior average than Calogero/Passi, although its appeal was far less to people who were more familiar with it, meaning that anyone reading this from France or around there will think we're all missing the point and have no taste whatsoever.

And in the end, that's what this blog's all about, so here is Nadiya: [MP3].

France scores 60. Pattern forming? I think non. But a much less unanimous panel this time.

If this looks like fun to you, and you can receive lots of large files in your inbox, email me and you can take part in the next round, which is Italy. Hoorah.
# 10:18 AM []

Monday, September 27, 2004

EMINEM - Just Lose It
On the one hand, I quite like it when it's playing, but the shock of Eminem coming out with such an electro single was pretty much ruined by the fact that his LAST pre-album teaser was so blatantly disco.

A retreat of past glories it is then, and I like it - but reservedly so. Without Me was wonderful, but it ran out of good ideas by the third verse and resorting to some less punchy putdowns and not-quite-as-witty bits at its end. If Just Lose It has a fault, it's that its lack of ideas solution is to repeat ad infinitum (not really) what should have been one-use gags. The boy/girl confusion is funny the first time, and drags the second and third. It's a good thing it's squelchy and catchy then.

Anyway, the MP3 I have purports to be the Dirty version but I can't bloody tell what's different about it. If you're feeling like investigating and probably coming up with nothing, download it and see if you can tell the difference. [MP3]
# 10:32 PM []

Sunday, September 26, 2004

GWEN STEFANI - What You Waiting For?
Oh my god, it's like my fantasy and I didn't even know it - Gwen does a song that sounds exactly like TRAVEL GIRL! Really! Psychedelic Europop done by Americans, really who would have thought it could work? Even the tick-tock opening owes something to mid-90s Euro-house. But this is so bouncy and unthinkingly daft Scooter would have just have sped it up - slightly - and been proud to call it their own.

People who don't like Gwen when she sings high are really going to hate this, but I don't think I've heard this many hooks crammed into such a small space in a while. Gwen's "uh-huh"s in the background are adorable, the chorus is unstoppable and the middle-eight bit is fantastic, just Gwen above the pulsing rhythm section of the music.

Just ignore the lyrics (except "Take a chance, you stupid ho!" - now, that's a really bad line, isn't it - the fact is that this song is SO CATCHY they still put it out as a single despite that line tells you all you need to know) they're rubbish, but when something sounds like this, it doesn't matter. Catchy doesn't even begin to describe it.

The only problem is going to be is if this is a monster hit - Europop is going to be pillaged for hits and done badly eventually.

Radio rip here.
# 1:40 PM []
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