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Friday, October 22, 2004

What, you assumed because I'd heard the new Girls Aloud single that I'd be posting an Mp3 of it? What, you think I'm just another GA obsessed punter who never thinks about anyone else?

Oh wait, I am, and I am!

Girls Aloud - I'll Stand By You

It is sappy and manipulative and I love it. The original holds a special place in my heart, as it came out in the brief window between me starting to listen to music after a 2-year hiatus and then discovering (ugh) indie.

Also, if you speak Spanish, or are handy with a translator, please enjoy this link: Bizarre Love Triangle, where Miguel is attempting to prove that Girls Aloud are better than the Beatles, single for single. Now you can get a head start on entry seven, Miguel.
# 5:09 PM []

Thursday, October 21, 2004

I warned you it was bad.

Anastacia is a repeat. She scored 5 when assessed in Finland, and that number carries. Even though she'd have gotten a better score from this jury. Which, due to the shitness of this chart, is smaller. See, France was INTERESTING. One new panelist: Scott Nash (SN), who has turned his complaining to the harsh mistress that is Europop, hoorah.

1. LAURA PAUSINI - Resta in Ascolto
EO: 5, SN: 3, AP: 7, PT: 2, SS: 7, CA: 1. Adjusted score: 4

SS: The female Eros Ramazzotti is back yet again in the scene, after not doing that great with her English effort (despite Surrender being quite a gem!) she's back to her Italian roots, and back to her uptemo ballads thingy as well it seems.
AP: I can't see this putting Laura back for good on the pan-European chart map, but a passable power ballad it is. Even the fact it sounds like it could have been written by Per Gessle and/or Diane Warren somewhere around 1989 does not irk me terribly.
EO: She's giving it a bit of stick in the chorus, but to no avail. Well into a coma by the time that gets here, deadly dull verses, great string sweep/drum bit towards the end, though - that gimmick could have been used a few more times to add some interest.
PT: Erm, Nice crisp drums? I really do try and listen to these yawn-fests but even this website I'm reading on how to make a casserole is more interesting and holds my attention for longer. Did she sound a bit like Avril?
SS: To be honest I expected something MUCH better from Mrs Pausini but this song just doesn't really do it to me, her voice is strong as usual but the melody isn't really working, maybe this could have worked as a Eurovision ballad if Italy had been participating, but as a #1 single it doesn't really work.
SN: I don't speak Italian, but if I had to guess what this song was about, based solely on Laura's apparent enthusiasm for her topic and the quality of the production, I'd bet on "hanging the washing" or "feeding the dog." There's a brief glimmer of interest when the chorus limps in...maybe they're out of dog food?
CA: Her voice and the production makes me think of Celine Dion for some reason, which could be a good thing but this time it isn't. I don't find it catchy and it simply gets boring after a few listens.

2. EAMON - Solo (translation of "Fuck It" in Italian, yes)
EO: 0, SN: 0, AP: 1, PT: 0, SS: 1, CA: 0. Adjusted score: 0

IT: See how much less of an impact your song makes when you remove one fucking word?
SS: Are Italians really that dumb? they just had this at #1 for who knows how long, so which sane person would really invest in another cd-single just for another version? I think everyone should blame Blue for this, they're the one to blame for all these Italian versions!
AP: From what I know, "solo" just translates to "alone", so it doesn't even have the "swearing in the title" novelty value. Now, how long do we give it till some cynical Italian label releases an answer-back track by a bird called "Francesca"?
SN: The only pleasure I derived from Eamon's original was counting the number of profanities he used. Now that it's in Italian, I can't even do that.
SS: If only Mussolini was alive. I'm sure he would have hung them all!

3. DURAN DURAN - (Reach Up For The Sunrise)
EO: 6, SN: 7, AP: 6, PT: 0, SS: 8, CA: 5. Adjusted score: 6

SS: It's not one of their best really, but certinaly one that chears you up a bit when it comes on the radio,
between the current bland 'rock' band and the next one who's trying to be Britney.
EO: The first single of theirs that has sounded a bit like Rio since... Rio! I've said it's the worst song on
the album, and it's not really (that'd be Bedroom Toys, it's just that Nice and Want You More are so much better than this.
SN: Unmistakably Simon Le Bon et al., but with a bit more grunt and a slightly better chorus. Give it a few years and it'll sound as dated as "A View To Kill" does now, so I'm going to make the most of it while I can.
AP: Given my penchant for happy clappy 80s handbag pop (am I the only one below the age of 31 to look forward muchly to the new Erasure album?), in theory I should probably be ecstatic about this little comeback of theirs. All in theory though, as this really is more bland than poptastic. However, I gladly take Edward's word for it that this is the worst to be found on the new album!
PT: What Dirge. Big comebacks NEED big singles. Blondie did it right.
EO: Really, why is this top 10 everywhere and Out Of My Mind sank without a trace? That was much better. I have a very long story about how Duran Duran are to blame about my Shameful Indie Phase of 1994-1999. Fortunately, I won't share it.
CA: I'm actually too young to remember Duran Duran and I haven't bothered to check them out. The only song I know they did is Wild Boys and that's because Phixx covered it (badly - EO)earlier this year. However I don't care much for their comeback. The chorus of this song is catchy but the verses are bad and it's the singers dreadful voice's fault.

4. REM - Leaving New York
EO: 1, SN: 1, AP: 5, PT: 6, SS: 5, CA: 7. Adjusted score: 4

CA: I've been a fan of R.E.M. as long as I can remember but I wasn't very keen on this at first. Thank god it's a grower though - I like it now.
EO: Jangle jangle jangle jangle jangle jangle. They've lowered the bar again! New Adventures In Hi-Fi was good, wasn't it? I seem to be doubting the fact that they were ever good now...
PT: At one point in their career REM songs had energy and hooks. These days they plod and if we are lucky they'll have a hook. It's all very nice and everything but to me it's still not proper REM. I'd put it down to them losing their drummer all that time ago.
SS: R.E.M. always were a bit of mystery to me, I mean everyone loves them really, you can't hate R.E.M , no matter what they release every radio station will play it, and eventually if you like it or not you'll find yourself humming that song as well
AP: Probably heart-rending and painfully poignant for people with more patience than me.
PT: Buck's still writing nice melodies and Stipe can still give the songs feeling, but there is nothing underlying driving the song, or them. I think what I'm trying to say is that this doesn't pop.
SS: This song got many great reviews for being so good, but not over here it don't, it's just boring, I really don't get, and I feel like I already heard it about 754 times, when infact it's just about the 10th time i'm hearing this, but then again like I said before, I can't really hate it as well.
AP: It strengthens me in my conviction that last year's GH is all I need to own by them for now.

6. MICHAEL BUBLE - Spiderman Theme
EO: 0, SN: 10, AP: 0. PT: 8, SS: 1. CA: 1. Adjusted score: 3

EO: I hate Michael Buble. My mother likes him, but oh, he should be strung up. I specifically asked all respondents to give this a zero. Because it deserves it. Why?
CA: How dare he turn the Spiderman theme into a really bad jazz mess. This is really bad, thank god it didn't make it into the soundtrack for Spiderman 2.
SS: Being back to the 80s was fine, but the 50s are not a very friendly place to be.
PT: Ha Ha. This is great. Not as good as the Ramones version obviously, but still..wheres the Jamie Cullum version for our chart? OK I hate Cullum with a passion but if he did this I'd consider him some sort of genius, in a twisted way it'd probably be his defining moment.
AP: If I ever start up my own record label though, my first initiative would be a compilation series called "Now That's What I Call Music for people who don't like music", with an anthology of tracks by Melua, Cullum, R***n K*****g and this bloke, and watch it go platinum in no time.
EO: Do you see? That's TWO people who've mentioned the C-word (Cullum). After accidentally enjoying Katie Melua's Crawling Up A Hill, (forgive me!) I can't take any more chances with this sort of toss.
SN: I probably won't be allowed back after giving this song this score, but I'm going to do it anyway. While I quite liked Mr Buble's original version, the JXL remix gives this little swinger the bombastic horns and swaggering beats it deserves. And the key change? Perfection. Most definitely a cynical cash-in after the success of the movie, but one I'm happy to put on repeat any time.

7. LUCA DIRISIO - Calma E Sangue Freddo
EO: 6, SN: 8, AP: 3, PT: 10, SS: 8, CA: 4. Adjusted score: 8

SN: Ooh, jaunty! There's something geeky about this song that I can't quite put my finger on, but it's all the more endearing for that. I love the loping rhythm, the rather jumpy vocal line in the verses, the unexpected Rhodes organ...not so keen on the chorus, but you can't have everything.
EO: I'm probably alone, but the jumpiness of this makes me think of an Italian, less annoying Jason Mraz. Seems longer than it is, but kind of awkwardly charming. So, scrap that description then.
AP: Ah Italia, the nearest country I can think off where it is not deviant for men to have names ending in -a. Well, thatobservation is more fascinating than this song anyhow.
CA: I can see why Italy likes Luca - he's damn hot! That doesn't help the song much though, it's boring. But it's still the best local song in this chart by my opinion.
PT: Wow, lovely. Skips along with great pace, nice bridge and launches into a hook-laden chorus. A slighty less-than funky organ flutters around a bit, but the bongo-reggae vibe is what pushes the song along. fPretty good production as well.
SS: The Italian music scene also has become weak in recent times. 5 years ago, I could point out at least 5 songs in the top 20 I liked, not anymore though. This song is fun, really it's fun listening to it, has a great melody and hook, and is a bit original I guess. I've been listening to this for a few weeks now, and it's still rather fun listening to it again, it's not so memorable though, which is its downside.

8. TIZIANO FERRO & JAMELIA - Universal Prayer
EO: 1, SN: 1, AP: 5, PT: 2, SS: 7, CA: 3. Adjusted score: 3

EO: And, separated from really good material, Jamelia proves once again she doesn't have very much charisma at all!
CA: I like Jamelia but I don't understand why she teamed up with dreadful Tiziano. He destroyed the summer of 2002 with Perdono and the followup single was also really bad.
EO: Perverso was good though.
SN: I saw the grandiose title. I saw that Jamelia played a part. I had high hopes for this song. I now see that this enthusiasm was more than a little misguided. I vow to learn from my mistakes. The ghastly synthesised strings and tin whistle make me want to hunt down and kill the inventor of the Casio keyboard. Oh, and leave the "you can do anything" lyrics to S Club 7, would you? Maybe it's a grower, but I'm not willing to listen to it that many times to find out.
PT: Laughable duet. Got a nice scatty beat towards the begining, but this was always going to be another bloody dreary ballad. Oddly reminisent of that Ashanti & ...sorry, I've gone blank. Some clever layering of the uh's, what, and cmon's and the familiar beat does have a fewredeeming factors - mainly its taking the focus of the awful lyrics. It's all by numbers and it's all so-very-predictible.
EO: "Open your eyes, we're all the same". This is the sort of thing that makes me very, very, angry. Along with pointless "yeah"s between verses.. oh it has those too.
SS: The song itself is not so great, despite having 2 good singers on it, the chours is OK, if a bit silly, and the verses
aren't really doing anything, but I still like it from some strange reason.
AP: Dear Ms Jamelia Davis, kindly vow that you will put an end to this recent spiral of spreading yourself thin by seemingly turning into a collaboration whore. You ARE superior to the status of female Sean Paul, you know. That said, this is not all bad, if a bit plodding.
CA: Good chorus but the lyrics are lame.
PT: I wish that Jamelia was never given a second roll of the pop die (Money remains the best thing shes ever done).
SS: This is by far Tiziano's WORST single release, and I love him usually, stick to the Italian! The English doesn't work!
AP: Has anyone ever told Tiziano to blow his nose before entering a recording studio though?

9. VERDENA - Elefante
EO: 1, SN: 2, AP: 2. PT: 0, SS: 9, CA: 0. Adjusted score: 2

SS: Oh what is this ? Did Muse release an Italian version to one of their songs and forgot to change the artists name? Really this is SO Muse. Such a rip off, but it's working, that guitar string is something Muse actually didn't produce since 'Origin Of Symmetry' ! Yes the vocals aren't as strong as Matt Bellamy's , but it really does work as a song!
SN: Is this emo? Alt-rock? Nu-metal? I get so confused. You'd think a song named after a large jungle-dwelling animal would be better, wouldn't you. What a day of disappointment this has turned out to be.
AP: I appreciate the fact their album title appears to translate as "The Samurai's Suicide". Very Pet Shop Boys B-side-like. Oh, the song, you ask? Not my cup of Earl Gray, I have to say. If I want "angsty continental goth-lite nonsense", HIM and Within Temptation are much more up my alley!
PT: They've nicked that riff wholesale from the Foo Fighters. Some attempts at muffled growls that don't seem muffled enough for my liking. This song doesn't attempt to go anywhere. I wonder if the band actually believe this is good? Yawn.
EO: Unfortunately, the Foo Fighters song this resembles is the one where Dave Grohl and Jack Black are in drag. Ugly. Just like this. I am not averse to ugly rock songs - I actually like Muse, but this is clumsy and deeply... thudding. I get the feeling if you listened to this on headphones for an extended period of time you would lose the ability to hear things except very trebly dance music. Convenient, because after this, I want to listen to ANYTHING that does not feature a guitar.

10. MARILYN MANSON - Personal Jesus
EO: 5, SN: 9, AP: 4. PT: 1, SS: 6, CA: 0. Adjusted score: 4.

SS: Quelle surprise, Manson doesn't really mess it up, in fact he hasn't really changed much apart from adding some more guitars. Of course it doesn't come close to the greatness of the original, but still it's fun hearing this song on the radio I guess.
PT: Anger. Arrrrgh. Sounds like he's eating the microphone again.
EO: I wasn't surprised that this sounded exactly as I expected, but I was surprised to find I didn't hate it completely. It's a pretty sturdy song, and the loping RAWK rhythm of the original has really just been beefed up and sung by someone a bit awful. Hardly the end of the world.
SN: I tell you what, this sounds positively glorious after almost everything that's come before it. Glam rock with more guitars and vitriol = a Very Good Thing Indeed.
SS: I muchly prefers Johnny Cash's take from last year though.
SN: For what it's worth, I think he'd do a very good job of covering of Rachel Stevens' Some Girls.
AP: I find it quite hard to come up with any other response than *shrugs shoulders* Luckily the original wouldn't really rank among my faves by the Mode -- at least he didn't pick Enjoy the Silence or Never Let Me Down Again. Or, heaven forfend, The Meaning of Love! *dances around handbag*
PT: Also for somebody who is meant to be "controversial" he never says anything interesting.
CA: Am I the only one who's tired of Manson turning great 80's songs (this, Sweet Dreams, Tainted Love etc.) into shit?

Well, that was really dire. 39 points, which I think was quite generous, and one-fifth of it came from one song which somehow managed to get an 8. I'm not hugely enamoured of it, but since it's the best local song and it got at least a 7, here it is.

LUCA DIRISIO - Calma E Sangue Freddo

Next time, it's the United Kingdom. Ugh, Manic Street Preachers will be Number One, so hopefully everyone will give them a good bash for how rubbish they've become.
# 11:47 PM []

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Back to the beginning (or, Idol re-examined)
Occasionally, I feel the need to revisit things I've written before. This usually results in being self-conscious because of my variable, amateurish style, and a tendency to pick up things that seem obvious in hindsight.

This very first post is a good example, in which the dreaded Cultural Cringe swalloed me whole. I've got much love for the fodder of reality TV pop shows. Girls Aloud and Will Young put out two of the best pop albums of 2003, and I've got much love for the work (released or not) of Sarah Whatmore, Rosie Ribbons, some of the Preluders' (from Germany) singles, Natalia from Belgium has put out four strong singles, and two of my favourite singles this year have been out of Finnish Idol - Antti Tuisku and Christian Forss.

But Guy, Guy Guy, pushed far too many of the buttons I didn't like. Syrupy treacle didn't become him, and while I'm not entirely convinced by his R&B influence - even to the point of his label scraping a video for being too pop - remembering that this is someone who brought the house down with a rendition of Climb Every Mountain, ferchrissake.

Anyway, I thought that given how unfair it was to compare his record-label sanctioned debut with a more carefully thought out Will Young song, it's time to reevaluate now Guy's second album, Beautiful Life, is out. The single Out With My Baby isn't too bad, but as with much of the album, as far as R&B goes, it's awfully polite, not too surprising in a country where (oh god, here comes the Cringe again) a record label's request for something funky is usually met with a referral to the fucking Rockmelons (this comment will be lost on foreigners, I'm sorry). There are a few sickly ballads, though none as bad as Angels Bought Me Here, including a particularly awful one with Mya, but elsewhere, it's pleasant, lightweight fare. Great songwriting is thin on the ground, as is interesting production, but there's a concerted sense of effort hanging over it, and it's not hard to pore over it and find a lot of songs that could have worked really well with just a little more oomph on the production, and also to wonder which of Guy's producers had their foot so firmly pressed on the decelerator pedal.

The one absolute winner is I Wish, which is as much I Want You Back as Supernatural - in other words, a pretty impressive disco-soul groove with an impeccable, authentic 70s squelch about it. Female backing vocals, sweeping strings both disco and horror movie in places - but think a more organic Rock Your Body, and if the soul is plastic, then it's pretty great plastic. It's enough to make me think there's a great pop star in Guy if only he had motive and opportunity to become it. (EDIT: Yes, I am aware that it's a Stevie Wonder cover, but it's a good one, and yes, this does destroy the anti-cult-cringe point of this post, but anyway, it's great)

For the benefit of overseas people who didn't get the Rockmelons reference, here is an MP3 of I Wish. [MP3]
# 8:19 PM []

Monday, October 18, 2004

I selected three songs for the Stypod this week. The fact that one of them is a Marc Almond cover is rather pitiful timing, given this.
# 8:39 PM []
PORTOBELLA - Viva La Difference
Obviously, if Covered In Punk couldn't become a hit this won't either, but it's so surprising that this works, because it doesn't contain any of the elements that made CIP so great - the shouting chorus, the utterly addictive propulsive beat - but it at at least keeps the okay bits. It's a lot slower, references "new romance" instead of punk, but the groove on this one is a bit more... well, if it went the whole way it would almost be hypnotic, and instead of delivering its payload in the prechorus, the big hook moment waits until the break just before the last chorus itself - "I'll be there. I'll be THERE!" yelped out loudly before a spoken-word interlude that reminds me ever-so-slightly of Transvision Vamp for some reason.

Not quite a ball-tearer, but a pretty catchy thing nonetheless. Probably a lot easier to dance to without hurting yourself too. I can't think of a bad song with "Viva" in the title, though admittedly I am unable to think beyond Shampoo's Viva La Megababes right about now. [MP3]
# 8:58 AM []
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