Sunday, 30 January 2011

Yasmin - On My Own

Over the past couple of years the music industry saw a massive ‘80s revival’ of sorts with acts like La Roux and Little Boots filling the charts with synth-heavy pop. But it could be that now a 90s revival lies in wait too? It seems almost unthinkable, the 90s almost too recent for such a revival to even happen. But happening it seems to be; from Brit-Pop laced indie bands to dance tracks that hark back to the early 90s.
One such track is Yasmin’s hypnotic On My Own, which comes across like the younger sister of Massive Attack’s sublime Unfinished Sympathy. The vocals are beautiful, touched with a kind of emotive quality that is missing from so many singers these days. Most importantly, it is a voice that is equally at home in a dance or pop setting. It’s this mutability that marks Yasmin out as a real star that can hold sway in both the pop charts and dancefloors around the country.
You may recognise Yasmin from when she features on Devil’s Runaway, another classic example of the moving overtones in her voice. When she sings, you believe every word. Hailing from Glasgow, Yasmin has previously DJ’d on Radio station 1Xtra – now, turning her hand to her own music, we can more than believe she’ll make it on her own.
On My Own is available to download on iTunes now.

Video: Jessie J feat. B.O.B. - Price Tag

Take one dreamy, sugary sweet pop song from the hottest act around at the moment and add into the mix a video which pretty much captures all those things just as perfectly as the song itself. What you get is the lovely piece of charming wonderful-ness that is the video for Jessie J's new single, Price Tag. With an inspired kids' toys theme and some frankly brilliant customes (the puppet one is my favourite), it's bound to be a big hit.

You can download Price Tag from iTunes now here.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Stages of Dan - What Is Love (Haddaway cover)

I love this punky, full-of-attitude cover of Haddaway's classic What Is Love by London trio Stages of Dan (Eminem also recently sampled What Is Love on his track No Love). It's got a real Clash-like swagger to it, all pumping guitar and the bass turned up to full. And then it goes all Supergrass - in other words, it's pretty awesome and one my favourite cover versions I've heard this year.

Stages of Dan - What Is Love (cover) by ThePlayground

Nicki Minaj feat. Drake - Moment 4 Life

Nicki Minaj's British accent is actually the most amazing thing ever invented. Fact. So a video where a blonde-haired Nicki fairy-godmother appears, speaking in that very accent is by association all kinds of awesome.

Oh, and the song is brilliant too.

Empire Signal - Big Wide World

Empire Signal are the sound of forgotten pleasures, perfect memories. Think James, think Feeder – majestic, energised British rock. The guitar hooks are subtle but beautiful, the vocals at once both forlorn and hopeful. So often rock bands skimp on the chorus of their songs, arguably the most important part of the track. But there’s no fear of that here, Empire Signal know the importance of a big, epic chorus and Big Wide World is a prime example. It’s the kind of song that you can see packed stadium’s coming alive too, the crowd responding to every word. Their story is one of grit and determination, musicianship honed over the years, coming to fruition in a track that makes you sit up and listen, a gleam of sunlight among the clouds. Modern British rock as it should be done.
Big Wide World is available to download on iTunes now.

Parade - Louder

Parade are the latest in a set of fresh new girl groups bursting onto the scene in 2011 and with a glossy, fun-loving look and great voices to match, they're well worth checking out. They remind me a lot of an early Saturdays, when they were fresh off from supporting Girls Aloud and their single Louder is an infectious Pixie Lott-esque slice of pop brilliance. Sugary and sweet, it's the perfect introduction to Emily, Lauren, Bianca, Jessica and Sian.

You can also get a free download of their acoustic track Rokstar on their website here.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Adele - Promise This (BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge Cheryl Cole cover)

Promoting her new album 21, Adele took to Radio 1's Live Lounge, covering Cheryl Cole's sublime Promise This, transforming it into an epic, bluesy piano ballad. At moments soft and subtle, at others sultry and full of swagger, it's an inspired song choice. And it goes without saying, WOW at Adele's voice. Simply breathtaking.

Adele – Promise This (Cheryl Cole Cover) by CherylOnline

Genuine – Another take on the BRIT awards

I recently read an article criticising the BRIT awards for being dominated by ‘pop’ artists such as Take That, Cheryl Cole and The Wanted. The article placed these artists in direct contrast to ‘genuine musicians’ like The XX or Arcade Fire. Now, don’t get me wrong, both these two apparently ‘genuine’ artists are great – they produced two of my favourite albums of the last year – but to presume that they are in some way innately more ‘genuine’ and by association ‘better’ than pop artists is ridiculous.
What a makes a ‘proper musician’? The notion defeats itself by way of the fact that the definition can only be completed with the involvement of personal bias. There is no fact to the horribly general label, only the user’s opinion of what they personally think is ‘proper’ and ‘genuine’. Whereas, if we look at the facts, every single one of the artists nominated for a BRIT award is by fact a musician. They have released albums of music which have gone out into the shops and we have brought. Indeed, it could be argued that many of these ‘pop’ artists - who tend on the whole to sell the most records every year – are in fact the better ones. The public opinion is clearly shown by the opening of their wallets. People will buy an album if they like an artist’s music and think it is good, so by association, the artist who sells the most records could indeed be seen as the best.
Of course, things aren’t that simple – but it highlights the key point that a portion of musicians simply cannot be written off simply because of personal bias. The article in question continues in its war on pop artists, saying that the future of British music will only be secure if music becomes seen as an art form and not just a commercial asset. There are many things wrong here – firstly, all music by its very nature is an art form. Music is a creative act, just in the same way as writing and painting are. That art may manifest itself in a myriad of different genres, and not all of them may be to your taste, but they are all undoubtedly ‘art’. Think of what music is made up of; melodies, lyrics, production and so on – all have been crafted by people; artists.
Secondly, is there anything that wrong with music being a commercial asset? If music didn’t sell, then no-one would hear it at all, thus, the whole point of it would be defeated. Also, without the mega-sales of those select popular artists, the labels would potentially have no money to invest in breaking new or experimental acts. By zooming out and seeing the greater scheme of things, Britain’s musical landscape is in fact a far more harmonious place.
Lastly, the article takes issue with the BRITs not featuring enough up-and-coming acts. Well, for starters, there is in fact both ‘breakthrough’ categories and a critics’ choice award; giving ample coverage to new artists (and if you look at previous winners, they have since gone on to be massive successes). And let’s think about things; if all the BRITs were was just a platform to appraise new artists, then would anyone even pay attention? No, far better is a greater construct supported by established, well known artists that catch people’s attention – and then when they attention is caught, the subtle introduction of a select few new artists; the real cream of the crop. And at the end of the day, this leaves us with the most important thing, what people actually like.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Jessie J feat. Devlin - Price Tag

If you've already fallen in love with Jessie J from the catchiest tune of the moment, Do It Like A Dude, then  Price Tag might just make you love her even more. There's a sugary sweetness to the track that is impossible to resist and watching this live version of the song from London's Scala, Jessie fills the song with such charm and enthusiasm you just want the song to go on forever. There's that sing-along anthemic chorus which is duty built to be blasted out of radio's nation-wide in the months to come.

Jessie really gets into the track, just watch the 'everybody look to the left... look to the right' bits... It's something so simple but it's stuff like this that really connects with the audience (and judging by the rather amusing sea of phones held up here, they're eager to capture every minute of the young popstrel). Even better, Devlin steps up to fill in for B.O.B's guest spot on the track. It's a cracking performance of a brilliant future hit and just serves to confirm why Jessie J justifies every inch of the hype around her.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

You Me At Six feat. Chiddy - Rescue Me

You Me At Six team up with Chiddy of Opposite of Adults fame for this Linkin Park flavoured slice of rock-rap. In particular, if you remember LP's duet with Busta Rhymes, Rescue Me is very much in the same vein. It represents something of a departure from the sound of the band's fantastic Hold Me Down album, but they pull it off with confidence. Fist pumping choruses and lovely little production touches make this a real winner of a track.

Rescue Me is released 14th February

Kilto Take - Retrogress

Imagine a faster, more sinister Muse, with touches of U2-like guitar, and you'll have an idea of what the brilliant Retrogress by Kilto Take sounds like. The lead track from their self-titled EP, the song is available to download from iTunes now. The band are one of my up-and-coming favourites and represent an exciting new force to reckoned with.

Kilto Take - Retrogress by Medical Records

Adele - 21

If Adele’s 19 album was the warm-up, then 21 is the fully fledged masterpiece. As the album settles into the first few tracks you are stunned into silence by just how good it is. Tracks like Set Fire To The Rain show Adele’s vocals at full tilt; her range is stunning, her voice full and empowered by a new-found confidence that so many artists discover on their second albums.
We all fell in love with the gentle balladry of Chasing Pavements back in 2008, but the songs on Adele’s new album represent a very different kind of sound. All the class and glamour are still there paired with bared-to-the-skin emotions and feelings - but the tracks now have so much more energy, more attitude, and in the case of stunning lead single Rolling In The Deep, even dip into up-tempo, gospel tinged disco.
Recent years have seen countless artists ‘re-creating’ an ‘80s sound’, or a ‘Britpop vibe’ – delving into the musical chest of ideas from ages past. But with Adele, any allusions to years gone by feel completely and utterly natural. In the velvety richness of her voice and the comforting, warm production, there are glimpses of the 60s and 70s; all Dusty Springfield and memories of more innocent times. But it always remains resolutely Adele’s own sound – she is the genuine article, not an imitation.
Her voice is instantly recognisable and at times we must remind ourselves, at 22, just how young Adele is. By naming her albums with something as simple as her age, just two digits, she creates a real sense of intimacy to her music. From 19 to 21, we have followed her progression from up and coming songstress to one of the most shining examples of British talent. I’ll Be Waiting, with its brass section and anthemic chorus exudes pure swagger while Turning Tables is this album’s Hometown Glory, chilling piano melodies flowing round delicate strings.
On 21, Adele is all diva, and she has every inch of the talent to back it up. You need only look at the praise the British press has already heaped on the album to see how much people are taking this album to heart. It feels like the return of an old friend, sweeping you up in all the emotions that entails. And with some of the hottest production talent around at the moment on hand – Paul Epworth, Fraser T Smith, Rick Rubin – 21 represents the sound of an artist knowing exactly how to excel at everything that made them so brilliant the first time around.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Jessie J - Who You Are

After the mega-success of Do It Like A Dude, it goes without saying that Jessie J's debut album Who You Are will be one of the year's must-buys. We're loving the album cover, where Jessie shows that no-one in pop rocks the razor-sharp fringe as well as she does. The all black look is rather cool too, especially the lippy.

In terms of Jessie's music, Price Tag is one of our definite faves from the album and features American rapper B.O.B.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Skepta - Amnesia

Who hasn't had a night like this? When you're so drunk you literally can't remember a thing the next day. And who better than Skepta to pen an anthem like this - as ever, his raps are supremely witty. There's an immense chorus too that is sure to become the soundtrack to many a future night out on the tiles. Coming hot on the heels of his brilliant single with N-Dubz, Skepta is shaping up as one of my favourite British artists of the moment.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Tinie Tempah feat. Ellie Goulding - Wonderman

With more attitude and swagger than Invincible, Tinie's new single Wonderman borrows the same concept of a featuring female vocalist + hot chorus and injects it into what is surely to be another smash hit. Ellie Goulding and Tinie represent two of the biggest talents in the UK right now, something the BRIT awards has seen keen to acknowledge, lavishing them both with multiple nominations.

We love the video for their new single together, the whole science-theme fits the track perfectly and how cute does Ellie look dressed as a doctor?!

Friday, 21 January 2011

Nicki Minaj feat. Rihanna - Fly

Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday was one of my favourite albums of late 2010. I’d find myself drawn back to it again and again by Nicki’s genius lyrics and the cracking production values on the songs. Every song just drew you in, each listen rewarding you with new bits you never picked up on before. It’s one of those albums through which you really get a sense of ‘knowing’ the artist. All the persona’s Nicki contructs, the voices she affects, the attitudes she puts forward. One moment spitting out the words with anger, the next moment delivering gentle, beautiful lines.
And right from the start, Fly was the one track that really stood out for me. A product of JR. Rotem (and coming with that by now oh-so familiar rave-horn intro) those heavenly Owl City-esque synths are perfection. And My God, that chorus is just immense. So uplifting, so epic. Of all the collaborations on Nicki’s album, it is Rihanna who compliments her best; their voices go together so well – two young girls living the dream. It is a song of pure emotion, of over-coming all that stands in your way, standing proud and victorious at the end. Fly is the anthem that stands as an affirmation to all that and more.

One to watch in 2011... Devlin

British Hip-Hop seems to be going through something of a renaissance at the moment, the likes of Tinie Tempah and Dizzee Rascal hitting levels of success previously reserved only for the nation’s favourite pop darlings.  It’s injected the charts with a dynamic, intelligent new breed of music and artists like Essex’s 21 year old Devlin are leading the charge.  You may have already heard his brilliant singles Brainwashed and Runaway, and 2011 looks set to be the year he hits the big time.
Devlin’s sound is distinctly British; profoundly witty, razor sharp, with a real edge to it.  Angry, funny, euphoric – all these emotions and more are caught up in the whirlwind of energy that is his debut album Bud, Sweat & Beers.  Imagine The Streets, but on steroids.  Frenetic beats collide with epic string orchestrations and thundering guitar hooks.  Devlin’s sound is BIG, attention grabbing - ‘My name’s lodged up in your brain, just like a blade in an operation’ he boasts in Brainwashed, proving he is nothing, if not ambitious.
Tracks like London City and Dreamer present a more subtle, laid back side to the rapper; anthems to the country’s capital city and the VIP clubbing lifestyle.  It’s this sense of the here and now that drives Devlin’s music, it’s distinctly contemporary, a vivid portrayal of the very streets we walk every day.  And with collaborations with Tinchy Stryder and Labrinth already in the bag, for Devlin, the only way is up.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Why I won’t be smiling for Mary Portas... Thoughts on 'Secret Shopper'

Mary Portas returned with a new ‘secret shopper’ program on Channel 4 last night and within minutes, social networks were alight with debate about the message she was trying to preach. Her issue is that the staff in British retail outfits are miserable, don’t smile and serve the customers poorly. What she failed to understand is just what it’s like to be a sales assistant in your average high-street store.
Want to know why they don’t smile Mary? Because they have to stand for hours on end, performing mind-numbingly monotonous and dull tasks. They must deal with nightmarish and stuck-up ‘problem’ customers, watch the same shoplifters return to the store time and time again without ever being stopped and handle dirty change all day long. And all this for a tiny wage. No wonder they don’t smile! Very few people who work in retail are in the job for life, it is a stopping-off job, a means to an end, a quick fix of money before they hopefully move onto the job they really want. Maybe if Mary went back and spent a few weeks in a high-street store she’d start to understand all the crap sales assistants have to put up with in their thankless task of serving the public.
In this Telegraph article she talks about her frustration at being asked at a shop till-point if she wants any of the sweets/chocolates on offer at the moment. Shop assistants are forced to ask this question, if they don’t they get in trouble with their managers. They are only doing what they are told to do as part of their jobs. And trust me, they hate having to ask the question just as much as you hate hearing it.
In the Guardian she talks about foreign shop workers not understanding her. So what would she rather have? These people actually working in shops and contributing to the economy, trying to make a living the same as the rest of us, or on the dole at home or out on the streets? We all have to earn money, we all have to start somewhere.
Mary talks about how much she despises the entire shopping experience, exclaiming 'I hate this, I hate you all, I hate the fact that I have to be here.' Sounds like the woman has a serious problem with negativity here! Why on Earth would you ever take such an awful attitude when conducting such a simple act as shopping! Getting worked up, frustrated and depressed like this is utterly pointless and she is only letting it happen to herself. She is allowing herself to hate the shopping experience when if she actually took the time to put herself in the place of the shop assistants she despises so much, maybe she’d start to understand.
Her blasting of the profession is purely unconstructive, it can’t be making her feel better and it sure as hell can’t be nice for the shop assistants having to hear it either. Why can’t there just be a bit more room for tolerance, understanding and nice-ness in the world? Mary seems to hate the shop assistants because they won’t smile at her? Well maybe when people like her start being nice to the shop workers, they’ll start being nice too. It goes both ways.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Bikini Test Failure - Fleecing The Easily Pleased

Some days I wish I could go back to the 90s. There was just a real special-something about the decade; maybe a little rough around the edges at times, but always enfused with that sheer joy of life. And Bikini Test Failure’s album Fleecing The Easily Pleased is full to the brim of that feeling, so much so that the first track is rather cheerily titled Yes, We Are Having A Good Time Now. The songs here are pure Blur and Lightning Seeds; packed with that anthemic sense of energy, pride and happiness. Jangly guitars and elegant touches of synths polish the sound off, front-man James’s vocals coming across like a modern-day Damon Albarn.
Tracks like Missing A Gene come across more like Oasis in one of their more gentle moments, full of that Brit-pop swagger. Bikini Test Failure’s real strength is recapturing that lost sound, revitalising it and unleashing it in a whole new era. It’s old sounds, but with new innovation – the album being remarkably consistent, keeping a flowing sense of continuity from end to start with nothing that ever really jars the listener. There’s a cutesy, quaint British-ness to all the tracks; a pretty home-made quality to tracks like Falling Apart that stands as a perfect counterpoint to the grander moments elsewhere on the album.
There’s even touches of Doves to their sound too, and hailing from Manchester too, there’s a real sense of the musical legacy of that great Northern city here. With soaring, radio-friendly choruses and a real sense of musicianship to the songs here, Fleecing The Easily Pleased, is an album that impresses from first listen and is sure to delight fans of the best in British alternative guitar music everywhere.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

The Phoenix Foundation - Buffalo

If you’re a fan of the likes of Mumford & Sons you might just find that The Phoenix Foundation float your boat too. They conjure up that same atmospheric wall of sound, but here, the folky vibe is turned down a few notches and fizzing synthesisers intertwine with the brilliantly conceived guitar hooks to create a fascinating and unique sound. Buffalo is the first single from the album of the same name, and like Mumford, there’s that natural feel here – the production of the record is spot on. The track is full, inventive, warm... never cold, mechanical or uninviting.
Hailing from New Zealand, the band maintain that mystique of the far away; a dazzling, magical land that is captured in the light, airyness of tracks like Buffalo. This is music for the sun breaking through the clouds on a glorious spring day, the song buzzing with energy and pure life force. Lead singer Sam describes the ‘consistent breeziness’ of their songs and it’s a brilliant match for the band’s sound.
Most impressive is the fact the band self-recorded the whole album, you would never guess it for how good the production qualities sound. The band are lined up to support the Go! Team on their February UK tour and iTunes are currently offering another track from the album, Bitte Bitte, as their free single of the week.
The single Buffalo is released on 24th January with the album following on the 31st.

Love Amongst Ruin - Alone

There are some songs that seem much older than they really are. Love Amongst Ruin’s brilliant new track Alone is one such song. It’s dripping in the gloomy, angsty rock vibes of the late 80s and early 90s. All echoing guitars and an infectious hook of ‘I don’t wanna be this alone...’ There’s some magical element to this track that transports you back to that blurry space on the edges of your memory; faded images of a place and time that you can only partly remember.
Steve Hewitt’s vocals match the music perfectly, all whispering and laced with sinister intent. It has the effect of instilling the song at once with both an icy chill and an enveloping warmth of reassurance; there’s a drama to the lyrics here that goes beyond the bog-standard energy of most rock bands. As an acoustic guitar gently picks out the outro, you can almost hear the fingers on the strings; the raw, organic drive of the music, the sense of it as a genuine force. Alone marks another brilliant single for the band and a fantastic taster for the album as a whole; it was one of my surprise favourites from last year and is definitely worth checking out.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Wretch 32 - Traktor

Traktor is one of those songs that you just can’t ignore. That rumbling bassline just worms its way into your head, while slamming beats transform this into a ready-made smash for clubs and radio alike. Oh, and there’s a genius reference to The Jeremy Kyle Show thrown into the mix too. Like all the best hip-hop, the cultural references are quick-witted and laced with humour, and Wretch 32 AKA. 25 year old Jeremiah Scott is a dab hand at it. Tinie Tempah clearly agrees too, proclaiming him ‘one of the best lyricists in the game’. Devlin is also a big fan.
Tipped in the BBC Sound of 2011 and with support slots with Professor Green and Example, he’s the next in the line of a strong pedigree of new British rap stars. When the guy’s already sold 15,000 mixtapes in his home-turf of Tottenham, you’ve got to admire his business skills too.
Download Traktor from iTunes here.

Aggro Santos feat. Kimberley Walsh - Like U Like

Aggro Santos, fresh out of the I’m A Celebrity... jungle, obvious has a thing for girls called Kimberley.  His first single saw him teaming up with The Pussycat Doll’s Kimberly Wyatt for the irresistible Candy – referencing your own website in a pop song had never sounded so good.  And now he’s back, and with a new Kimberley in tow, in this case Girls Aloud’s Kimberley Walsh, the duo serving up a fun, frisky slice of hip-pop in the form of Like U Like.
Kimberley’s vocals are sultry, Aggro’s raps full of ingenious comic flourish (our particular favourite is ‘they call me chef, they like the way I mix it’.  The song’s strength is its simplicity; in an age of sour-faced indie tunes and over-produced R&B, Like U Like is a straight-up tune to let your hair down to, knock back a few shots and hit the dancefloor.  There’s even a bit of Spanish thrown in there to take you back to the days where Ricky Martin and Enrique Iglesias ruled the charts.  This is one of those good, old-fashioned pop smashes, and to continue Aggro’s cooking metaphor, all the right ingredients are here – catchy lyrics, guest vocal from a hot girl group member, lots of synths, and a great beat.
Download Like U Like from iTunes here.

Introducing... Wonderland

When a new girlband makes their first tentative steps into the world of pop, things will always be a little shaky. Expectations – there are a lot to live up to. The pressure to step up to the gauntlet laid down by the hallowed girl group icons of the past. But having a look at Wonderland, they look all set to kick-start their assault on the charts with considerable ease. Take a listen to their brilliant first single Not A Love Song and you’ll hear what I mean. They have the confidence and shine of a group who’s been around for years; that experience and cool edge that really mark them out.
The track itself is something very different too. Think girl bands and you’re bound to jump straight to images of high-tempo, synth-heavy, dance numbers. But not Wonderland, they front up a more guitar-flavoured approach; well-written, modern pop rock that artists like Amy McDonald and The Script have made a career out of. There’s even a slight country vibe to it, but it’s never overpoweringly so – think more Taylor Swift or Miley Cyrus – the country flavours always paired with a keen pop sensibility.
Oh, and did I mention how stunning the band are too? They’re properly gorgeous. Many have commented on their uncanny resemblance to Girls Aloud (there’s the short-haired blonde, a red-head, etc.) but it’s a very different kind of look they have.
So, there we have it – Leigh, Corrina, Sharon, Jodi and Kasey. Remember those names well because this hot five-piece look set to be making it big in 2011. You can download their track Nothing Moves Me Anymore for free on their website and their debut single Not A Love Song is released on the 6th March.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

The BRIT Award nominations & who I'd like to win...

So, the BRIT Award nominations are out! (How cool are the new winner's trophies by the way?!) Every year there's usually some obvious winners as well as those artists who are notably absent from the list. Here's the full list of nominations anyway, with the names of who I'd like to win each category in bold...

Mark Ronson
Paul Weller
Plan B (His album is one of my faves from 2010, really consistent and packed with great singles)
Robert Plant
Tinie Tempah

Cheryl Cole (Goes without saying I'd pick Cheryl. Reckon Ellie will be her biggest competition)
Ellie Goulding
Laura Marling
Paloma Faith

Ellie Goulding  (One of the best female talents to come out of the UK in years)
Mumford & Sons
Tinie Tempah
The xx

Biffy Clyro
Mumford & Sons
Take That
The xx (Take That's The Flood is amazing but I LOVE The XX's album as a whole)

Alexandra Burke ft Pitbull - All Night Long (Would love to see Chezza win this too but adore this song so much).
Cheryl Cole - Parachute
Florence & The Machine - You've Got The Love
Matt Cardle - When We Collide
Olly Murs - Please Don't Let Me Go
Plan B - She Said
Scouting for Girls - This Ain't A Love Song
Taio Cruz - Dynamite
Tinie Tempah - Pass Out
The Wanted - All Time Low

Mumford & Sons - Sigh No More
Plan B - The Defamation of Strickland Banks (Again, have to go for Plan B but reckon Tinie Tempah and The XX could be tough competition for him)
Take That - Progress
Tinie Tempah - Disc-Overy
The xx - XX

Bruce Springsteen
Cee Lo Green
David Guetta
Eminem  (Simply for the brilliance that is Love The Way You Lie)
Kanye West

Alicia Keys
Katy Perry
Kylie Minogue (Aphrodite is my favourite album from 2010 so I'm going for Kylie for this category. I reckon Rihanna will get it though.)

Bruno Mars (Not overly keen on any of these acts, so going for Bruno Mars as he's released a great couple of singles)
Glee Cast
Justin Bieber
The National
The Temper Trap

Arcade Fire
Black Eyed Peas
Kings of Leon
The Script
Vampire Weekend

(This is a tough one for me to decide as the Black Eyed Peas were AMAZING on tour, some great memories there. Arcade Fire's album is probably the best of the lot but I'm going for The Script as there's a couple of tracks on their new album that rank amongst some of my faves from 2010)

Arcade Fire - The Suburbs (See above, a truly brilliant album. Their best too, in my opinion.)
Cee Lo Green - The Lady Killer
Eminem - Recovery
Katy Perry - Teenage Dream
Kings of Leon - Come Around Sundown

White Lies - Bigger Than Us

White Lies in many ways seemed to spring from the last dying moments of the ‘indie’ explosion of 2004-2009, one of the last in a generation of enthusiastic, young rockers, each looking to make their own, unique mark on the British music scene. So returning now, into a scene that has shifted rapidly toward primarily urban and dance music, the odds are perhaps turned against them. We’ve already seen previously greatly promising artists like The Klaxons releasing dissapointing 2nd albums. So can White Lies continue to impress? Their first album had some absolute gems on it, especially the epic To Lose My Life, and with new single Bigger Than Us, the band look like they’re sticking to the sounds they’re used to.
So often bands will attempt to re-invent themselves with new singles and albums, but Bigger Than Us plays to White Lies’ strengths; well produced, modern rock centred around catchy hooks and atmospheric soundscapes. Lighter and more energetic than the likes of Editors and Interpol, White Lies represent a band still eager to prove themselves and this new single represents the perfect message to say: We’re back, and we’re just as good as we were the first time round. A strong taster for the new album.

Cheryl Cole - Everyone (featuring Dizzee Rascal)

We're very excited to hear that Everyone, featuring Dizzee Rascal, is going to be the third single from Cheryl's Messy Little Raindrops album. Let us remember that Dizzee has racked up five (yes, FIVE) Number 1 singles over the past two years, so his addition to Cheryl's single is sure to give it a helpful boost up the charts in the coming months. He's got an affinity for collaborations with the best in British female pop too; his duet version of You've Got The Dirtee Love Florence and The Machine was another smash hit.

Everyone  represents a rather interesting single choice as in many ways it's not the most obvious track on the album. Away from the up-tempo drive of Promise This and the emotive balladry of The Flood, Everyone instead lies somewhere in-between. It's this more subtle edge to it, and the touches of dub-step bassline pulsing under the brilliant 'Happiness is for everyone...' chorus that really make this track stand out for us. It's packed with a really uplifting message to not let anyone stop you in your quest for happiness, to pick yourself up and keep going even when life seems at its most unfair. We just know that there's probably going to be some insanely good remixes of this that will be massive in the clubs too.

Everyone is released on March 21st.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Introducing... The Ultra Girls

Supporting Kylie Minogue is a pretty big gig. Her previous KylieX2008 tour didn’t even have a support act. So The Ultra Girls must be feeling amazing right now as they have the exclusive honour of going on tour with Kylie for her Aphrodite Les Folies arena dates.
So who exactly are The Ultra Girls? Well, they’re a trendy looking new four-piece girl group consisting of Lucy, Lauren, Amy and Laura. “We’re young and fun. We want you to dance with us, wear your trackies with us and go crazy,” they say. “It’s not ‘look how sexy we are’ its girls singing about girls lives, not taking it too seriously or being too polished.” Attitude is a key ingredient for girl groups and these girls seem to have it in bucketloads.
One of our favourite things about them is that Lauren used to be in a tribute band with Tom from The Wanted. He’d sing Take That covers and she’d do Girls Aloud tracks. A good taste in great pop songs always wins us over so we’re liking this little factoid a lot. The team surrounding them is amazing too, including music-mastermind Steve Anderson (the man responsible for producing Kylie’s mind-blowingly good Impossible Princess album, which most hardcore Kylie fans agree is her best). There’s also stylist Kenny Ho on hand, who’s an experienced hand when it comes to girl groups, having worked in the past with the Spice Girls and Girls Aloud.
The band have got a couple of free downloads available on their website/Facebook page at the moment, including a genius mash-up of P!nk’s Get The Party Started and Blur’s Brit-pop anthem Song 2. It’s fresh, feisty and full of attitude. Even better is their gorgeous chilled acoustic version of The Wanted’s Lose My Mind; this one lets the girls really show off their vocals and fans of stuff like Pixie Lott’s cover of Use Somebody will love this. The harmonies in the chorus are spot on and remind us of The Saturdays when they were just starting out in 2008. The Sats started out supporting a much-loved pop act too, and now represent one of the biggest and best British acts around, so the future looks very bright for The Ultra Girls. We can’t wait to hear more from them!

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Sunday Girl - Photoshop Handsome (Everything Everything cover)

I love the original version of this song by Everything Everything, but this cover/mix of it by electropop starlet Sunday Girl is quite possibly even better. One of my favourite bits of the original are the bonkers, quirky lyrics, and in Sunday Girl's version, they stand out even more.

All the dreamy, bleepy synths are lovely and by the time it hits the chorus it just leaves you going 'WOW'. It's a pure 80s, almost Human League/Blondie-esque new wave straight out there slice of awesome. Sunday Girl looks set to be one of 2011's biggest new stars and paired with her amazing single Stop Hey, stuff like this is getting me very, very excited for her album.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Skepta vs. N-Dubz - So Alive

I’ve always had a soft spot for N-Dubz, there’s just something about them that stands out. They kind of exist as their own entity, quite apart from anything else in the current musical landscape – not quite the sound of underground hip-hop and grime, but equally not quite part of the mainstream either. And it’s tracks like this, a brilliant collaboration with Skepta, that sum that essence up best.
Probably the band’s best work since the synth-based bounce of I Need You and the epic Number 1, the buzzing bassline leading into creepy, echoing chants, it’s the frenetic piano-laced chorus that really hits the spot. There’s a nervous-ness, a twitchy raw energy to the whole song that really plays to the best of both N-Dubz and Skepta. It makes you stand up and listen. Radio friendly and club friendly, we’d love to see this become one of the new year’s first big hits.

Adele - Rolling In The Deep

It goes without saying that the standout track of Adele’s first album was the hypnotic, bewitching beauty of Hometown Glory. It had this mystical darkness to it with all the right dashes of an uplifting anthem at the same time. And now Adele is back with Rolling in the Deep and the best thing about it is that it captures that very same essence, but wraps it up in a funky, up-tempo beat. It struts its way onto your stereo and has No. 1 single written all over it.
When Adele was hitting the big-time in 2008, it was all about her vs. that other soulful starlet Duffy. At the time it looked like Duffy had easily won the battle – it was Duffy’s single Mercy after all that went on to become a massive global hit – but in 2010, with the stakes re-drawn, it looks like Adele might well and truly take the crown.
Those who loved the retro stylings of Adele’s debut album will find plenty to love here; it’s what she’s always done so well, plucking the best elements of the 60s and 70s and pairing them with glossy modern production and heartfelt lyrics. Those falsetto vocals in the chorus are pure Scissor Sisters, the best moments of Rolling in the Deep transporting you to some glittering disco-dancefloor before letting you fall back into the gentle embrace of Adele’s warm, enveloping vocals – which for the record, have never sounded better than they do on this track. There’s a new confidence to her, she means business with this track and no-one is going to get in her way.
Rolling in the Deep is released 17th January.

Britney Spears - Hold It Against Me

Remember how good the demo was? Now multiply that by a million. That's how good the proper Britney version is, and we finally get to hear it. That chorus is just DIVINE. The bit where it goes all bonkers and dancey at the end is SO good too. Have a listen below:

Friday, 7 January 2011

Edei - Loved

Emma Deigman is a name many will remember from Girls Aloud’s 2009 Out of Control tour, and now, in the form of ‘Edei’, she’s back sporting a soulful new tune. Loved is a sweet Duffy-esque ballad that leans heavily on the likes of classic Stand By Me. Edei’s vocals are impressive and you can easily imagine this track soundtracking any number of rom-coms. Fresh off supporting JLS on tour, 2011 could well be the year Emma hits the big-time. Personally, we loved her when she supported Girls Aloud and look forward to hearing more from her!
Loved is released January 16th, pre-order the single on iTunes here.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

JLS - Eyes Wide Shut

See what JLS did here? Use that piano-into-all-out-club-banger template that worked so well on One Shot and repackage it into a slick new package. The result is Eyes Wide Shut, and it’s actually really good. Sure, it isn’t quite as epic as the aforementioned previous single, but if anything, it’s even dancier and best of all, it features man of the moment Tinie Tempah on it.
And there’s a lyric in it about ‘looking forward to it like a Saturday’. Now we wonder what that might be referencing... Anyways, we’re won over already. And while JLS still seem just as obsessed with the days of the week as they were on Love You More, this is a far better track and perfect for the clubs. It’s futuristic, dancey, got a rap in it; chart smash – in the words of Gordon Ramsey – Done.
Eyes Wide Shut is released 13th February

Britney Spears - Hold It Against Me (Demo Version)

The ‘return’ of Britney Spears is something we always look forward to with baited breath. There was the first return, when she came back after years of not releasing any music, but even then her life was still consumed by all kinds of randomness, and the music reflected that. Then there was the proper return, when her Circus album came out, packed with amazing songs and an equally amazing accompanying tour.
And now she returns again, with new single Hold It Against Me. And quite possibly, she’s better than ever before. The demo version of the song is out and it’s a full on hands in the air slice of pop joy. The chorus is sublime on the level you have to listen to it again, just to check how good it really it is. And it is good. SO SO good. If the demo is this brilliant, God knows how mind-blowingly spectacular the real thing is.
What I love so much about Hold It Against Me is that on some levels its real classic Britney, the kind of pop music we haven’t really heard for nearly a decade. But equally its bang up to date, full of vibes of Ke$ha and Gaga (who of course owe so much to Britney in their own sound). Let’s just hope the rest of the album is as equally amazing as this track is, because if it is, Britney could easily find herself finally getting that UK No. 1 album she’s waited so long for.
Listen to the demo version of the song here.

Also, check out more Britney Spears information on MTV.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Cheryl Cole - The Flood

Last year, Parachute gave fans a taste of the kind of love-drenched pop Cheryl Cole was capable of producing – but whereas that was a mid-tempo workout with a suitably dance-focused video, The Flood represents the all out epic ballad, the perfect outpouring for all those emotions and feelings. It’s interesting to remember that Girls Aloud themselves hadn’t really brought out a ‘traditional’ ballad since their Chemistry album so the gentle touches of Cheryl’s new single make for a refreshing change. And by God is it good!
What I love so much about The Flood is that in essence it has two choruses, both as equally catchy as each-other. The poetic beauty hits you first, ‘You can’t hold onto water, it fills you up but never stays’, before the song its crescendo, rolling over you like a wave, sweeping you up into its depths. You can lose yourself completely in the layers of this song, each listen bringing something new. Those strings swelling in the background, the lazy tropical sounds of the beat, the sunny strumming of the guitar. This song transports you away to a magical fantasy world where it’s just you, Cheryl and the music – and it’s amazing. Her ad-libs are damn impressive too.
There’s a tenderness to the song, something the beautiful, picturesque – and the brilliant video only serves to further emphasise this. Set on the coast, all arty and windswept, it presents a more candid view of Cheryl than the hyper-stylised likes of the Fight for this Love and Promise This do. It’s all impossibly cute, like the song itself, picking you up on a buoyant swirl of love and emotion. This is Cheryl at her most natural, the acoustic flavours really suiting her voice. There’s a lush organic vibe to the whole thing, a sense of ‘rightness’, and as Cheryl sings ‘sitting on the shore all day, waiting for the tide to come’, we can think of fate and how we’re all waiting for that perfect moment.
The Flood is out to download on iTunes now.
The video can be seen on YouTube here.

The complaints culture – Why so negative?

Everywhere you look these days there seems to be someone making a complaint about a TV show. Whether it be people saying Come Fly With Me is racist, that Frankie Boyle’s comedy shows are too rude, that Rihanna’s X Factor performance was ‘too sexy’, or people casting aspersions that the whole X Factor show in its entirety is fixed, everyone seems to have something to complain about. When did we get so sour? I just can’t see the point in it. TV was designed as a form of entertained, as in something that we get entertainment, enjoyment from. So why choose to watch it only to vent your anger in some kind of explosive outburst that would be more befitting of a stroppy child?
To actually go to the effort to complain about a show, to feel that level of negativity about something that appeared on a small screen in front of you just goes over my head. In life we’ve managed to control many of our emotions, so to succumb to negativity in such a way as this and ‘choose’ to see something in such a bad light that you need to complain about it just seems silly. Why are the people watching these shows anyway if they find them so awful? Maybe on some level they’re craving the enjoyment these shows so clearly provide to millions of other people.
No, the real reason why people seem to complain goes beyond this. One of the best ways this was illustrated by Danyl-gate in X Factor, when everyone got into a bit of a fuss over some comments Dannii Minogue made to contestant Danyl. On the original instance of the show being broadcast, only a few people complained, but as soon as the newspapers printed articles about it, the number of people complaining massively increased. What seems to be going on here is people jumping on the bandwagon in a rather pathetic attempt to exert some kind of ‘power’. To some people, the act of complaining seems to ‘empower’ them. They feel that they are having influence beyond their own small, individual lives – exerting power on a national level. They are venting their negativity in a silly knee-jerk reaction. Surely it’d be better for them to vent this energy in a more constructive form?
In any other situation, yes, maybe these shows might be inappropriate; but the things is, this is TV, comedy, entertainment. It is a format designed specifically for people to sit down and enjoy, to be entertained, to laugh, to forget about the labours of real life for a little while. With shows like X Factor and Come Fly With Me, who’s viewing figures exceed 10 million, it is clear audiences love them – the percentage actually picking up the phone to complain miniscule in comparison. Yet it is the complainers that get all the press. Let’s hope next time when one of these complainers gets the urge to pick up the phone, instead of thinking ‘Oh My God! How can this be shown on TV, HOW OUTRAGEOUS!!!’, they’ll instead just change the channel and think ‘You know what, I don’t think that show’s my cup of tea’.

A very happy engagement for Sarah Harding

I’ve always loved Girls Aloud’s Sarah Harding, so when I heard she had got engaged, I was over the moon for her. Sarah had been a bit quiet in the Girls Aloud stakes recently, what with all the Cheryl and Nadine news, so it was a great time to remind us all what an awesome person she is. I’ve always adored her feisty attitude, the way at times she could seem a law unto herself, and then on other occasions displaying a more subtle, emotive side. Sarah is the Girl that, come an interview, you can always count on to pop up with some genius comment or memorable quote. Her acting roles are dead cool too, especially the film Bad Day (which more people need to go and see, because it’s awesome).
Sarah’s a girl who’s unabashed love for the likes of Primal Scream and the Stone Roses might seem out of place in a traditional girl band, but then again, that’s what made Girls Aloud so amazing, that they were so much more than that. Sarah brought that indie cool to the band, attending NME award shows and hanging out with the Arctic Monkeys. There’s something defiantly British about her and the ever-changing length of her hair is always a source of fascination. Whenever I’ve been to see Girls Aloud live, Sarah and Cheryl were the always the ones you’d have the most eyes for. They just knew exactly how to work the crowd.
So here’s three cheers for Sarah and Tommy, the prospect of two Girls Aloud weddings in a year is very exciting (and who knows, we might even have three if Justin pops the question to Kimberley too...).
You can also catch Sarah on Living TV’s Dating In The Dark very soon!

Monday, 3 January 2011

Some thoughts on Cheryl's Elle interview...

Cheryl Cole’s rather divine issue of Elle magazine is out in the shops at the moment and going beyond the simply sumptuous photoshoot, there’s also a brilliant new interview with her in their too. Now, Cheryl’s interviews are something I always really look forward to as I think there’s a lot of truth to her words. She has a way of saying things, a way of capturing the beauty and fragility of human nature.
One of my favourite quotes from the new Elle interview is this:
“Giving up would be the worst thing. To mope around and feel sorry for myself? I don’t think I could have handled things if I’d chosen to do that. I spent a lot of time feeling sorry for myself. But you can’t allow self pity to swamp you. You learn some hard things in life but they make you grow up a hell of a lot.”
There you have it. In a handful of sentences, you get an instant sense of not only Cheryl as a person, but feelings I’m sure all of us have faced at times. That is after all one of the many reason’s she is the ‘nation’s sweetheart’. She encompasses the normal person, the every-man and woman.
What’s most powerful about this quote, and the reason I like it so much is that on one hand it is the admission to a struggle, between good and bad feelings. More importantly though is the emphasis on choice; the way your state of happiness can be ‘allowed’. Yes, bad things happen to us, and it hurts at the time, but we learn from it, we don’t allow it to beat us completely, and it makes us all the stronger in the future. It’s a classic example, but one that still holds true.
When we feel bad there’s a colossal sense of feeling rushing round our heads, all these emotions and sensations – one thought often leading to another, and we just end up feeling worse. But here, we can see that just as easily as we can tip into this nasty cycle of negative feelings, we can convert that massive excess of feeling into something positive, to go ‘You know what, i’m going to take this feeling and ride on it to new heights, to beat down the negativity and look forward to the future.’

Duran Duran - All You Need Is Now

If I had a pound for every time Duran Duran’s newest album All You Need Is Now is ‘the next Rio’, I’d be a millionaire. But, the thing is, it really is. Not since that marvellous, seminal album have the band sounded quite this good. And not just that, for Duran have released plenty of good tracks since then (though quite how many is rather debatable, depending on how big of a fan you are) – but on this album, they sound energetic, re-invigorated, and most importantly – fun.
2004’s Astronaut was an amazing album, but in many ways, it did not sound like Duran Duran. It was futuristic in the extreme, consistent to the extreme and packed full of immaculately produced pop-rock classics. 2007’s Red Carpet Massacre was a miss-step, a rash grasp at ever-changing musical trends, the band latching onto man of the moment, Timbaland. The result was a jarring and rushed sounding end-product that just didn’t grab you the way you wanted it to. The singles were in place, but the makings of a good album were not.
Perhaps this is why All You Need Is Now comes as such a breath of fresh air then. It’s got that classic, Duran Duran youthful charm to it; that killer element that have kept them alive and innovative when so many other bands of their era have long since fallen. The title track is a brilliant introduction to the album, a cracking blend of old and new – something that defines this album. You’ll hear hints of instruments and sounds that you would swear came straight from Rio.
There’s contemporary touches here too, with producer Mark Ronson at the helm. Important note though: those coming to the album expecting a re-hash of Ronson’s Verion album, all horns and Zutons covers, will be surprised. He’s kept his touches on the band’s sound minimal, serving instead to pull everything together, a commanding force to better ensure the continuity of the final album. Oh, and there’s brilliant guest vocals from the Scissor Sister’s Ana Matronic and Kelis. The latter’s contribution is especially impressive on the epic, hypnotic, irresistible pull of The Man Who Stole A Leopard. It’s easily the band’s best ballad since Ordinary World.
Girl Panic!  is another favourite of mine, harking back to the likes of Careless Memories, displaying an aggressiveness the band haven’t played to in years. Most importantly, as an album, All You Need Is Now is a firm reminder that a band never comes with a sell by date. For Duran to be putting an album this good out 13 LP’s into their career is astounding. And judging by the top 10 position the album surged to on iTunes stores across the globe in its release week, the public tend to agree. Stunning, wonderful stuff.