38. ‘Let’s Dance’ by 5ive (2001)

Posted in Uncategorized on December 30, 2016 by G.K. Reid

cardboard-cut-out-sean

5ive were exhausting. Britain’s teens, already enduring the vague Millennial dread of their parents and the potent same-such of The Daily Mail, but – more importantly – still reeling from the betrayal of Ginger Spice, were also forced to process the rock-rap pretensions of this peculiarly ugly-pretty boyband. Their contradictory instructions did not help. We were told to “get up” one minute only to “get down” the next, until ultimately we were expected to do both at the same time (“Keep on Movin'”).

When the Millennium finally came, maybe we realised we didn’t need 5ive anymore. A few months later they propped up the corpse of Brian May and donned leather (vests and cuffs!) to open the BRIT Awards, furiously insisting that they could (they-could) rock us. Their most assertive pose yet was also their most baldly insecure. Swiftly afterwards, their most doubtful-looking (and least utilised) member abandoned them. It was an inverse Halliwell moment. Sean did not get too big for his britches, for he never had britches to begin with. He was just in despair.

With nothing really left to do, 5ive got meta as shit. Finally given permission to, this mismatched bunch of boys gleefully pulled the curtain down upon themselves. They replaced Doubting Sean with an actual cardboard cut-out and, rather than telling us when to stand, they finally just invited us to dance.

BONUS POINTS: Vintage 90s gay panic.

39. ‘Be My Valentine (Anti-Crisis Girl)’ by Svetlana Loboda (2009)

Posted in Uncategorized on May 25, 2012 by G.K. Reid

Behold, ladies and gentlemen, the most triumphant Eurovision Song Contest entry of our times. Triumphant not in the sense that it actually won the competition (still to this day I will stop dead in my tracks, AMAZED and INFURIATED that it only came in 12th), but triumphant in the sense that it is the very embodiment of what makes the song contest such an enduring and fascinating spectacle FESTIVAL OF LIFE.

The reasons are threefold:

1). A great Eurovision performance requires ‘WTF-just-happened?’ showmanship. Look what a well-mounted production this is. LOOK AT IT. The centurion choreography alone would make Madonna weep with envy.
2). A great Eurovision song should be simultaneously irresistable and nonsensical, littered with random sounds (e.g. “you are so sexy – BOM”). And you get extra points if it also functions as a snapshot (or at least a shoddy, blurred Xerox) of what is currently “hot” in music. ‘Be My Valentine’ essentially connects the dots between Timbaland and Lady Gaga; a squelchy, pulsating dancefloor anthem about demented co-dependency.
3). A great Eurovision performer takes it seriously. Svetlana Loboda not only remortgaged her house in order to buy those giant hamster wheels to frolic on (they are now collecting dust in her dad’s garage, apparently, possibly along with the centurions), but she also entered the competition to help her mount a campaign against domestic abuse of women. As pop platforms for political activism go, it’s at least more bonkers (and briefer) than Live Earth.

So, there we have it. Svetlana Loboda: better than Madonna, Timbaland, Lady Gaga and Bono. Well done, the Ukraine. Douze points.

Bonus points: Parentheses.

40. ‘Real Late Starter’ by Nerina Pallot (2009)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 12, 2011 by G.K. Reid

Through the course of his excellent Then That’s What They Called Music project, The A.V. Club’s Nathan Rabin has repeatedly coined the phrase “secretary rock” to handily sum up the commercially palatable confessionals of your Sheryl Crows, KT Tunstalls and Vanessa Carltons.  We all know how this stuff goes.   The workaday emotional dilemmas of the everywoman embedded in unfailingly catchy melodies.  There’s nothing challenging or even interesting about these songs but, without them, society as we know it would alter dramatically, and for the worse.  What would soundtrack Underappreciated-Working-Gal Kate Hudson as she bustles down a busy New York street and adorably spills latte on herself and gets her pants splashed by a passing cab? If secretary rock just STOPPED, then so too would Kate Hudson’s motor skills.  And how is Self-Centred-Careerist-Gal Kate Hudson ever going to learn to love (repeatedly) or raise her dead sister’s mongoloid children if she can’t even MOVE? And what about Anne Hathaway?  If it wasn’t for secretary rock, she’d still be stuck in a thankless job getting sighed at by Meryl Streep and having her scenes stolen by bitchy British girls.

And it’s not just Hollywood starlets that would suffer.   What are people in sofa ads going to kick off their shoes to as they fall beatifically upon their plush new, life-changing purchase? What would daytime radio stations organise their inane chatter around?

I’m only half-joking, here. It’s interesting how, going back to the Rabin articles, “secretary rock” is initially a pejorative, but as the project goes on, it’s deployed less dismissively and invoked more as an acknowledged subgenre.  The subgenre may essentially amount to constant rehashes of songs off Tapestry but, like any other, it has it’s good and bad practitioners. And, as far as I’m concerned, everyone needs at least one deeply unhip female singer-songwriter in their corner, be it Michelle Branch or Norah Jones or, as it’s increasingly been for me over the last couple of years, Nerina Pallot.

I was vaguely aware of Nerina Pallot when she first surfaced with that catchy (of course!) but borderline-offensive-in-its-naivete song about the war, and quickly dismissed her (of course!) as yet another guitar-jangling, kooky Vega-lyte. And then, one dreary day in the office (of course!), the neverending blandness of Steve Wright in the Afternoon was briefly brightened by the jaunty momentum and oh-so-resonant lyrics of this track, which essentially functions as a 9-to-5 for bemused and directionless late-twentysomethings (the album it led is aptly titled The Graduate).  Inspired to dig a bit deeper into the Pallot output, there was some honest-to-God first-rate songwriting to be found, and she’s been playing heavily on my iPod (albeit mostly when walking to and from work) ever since.

Given the airplay-friendliness of her material and that she’s Kylie’s current go-to girl for quality album tracks, it’s strange that a bonafide hit has so far eluded Pallot (although the video below evidences that she understands the paradox of having such a strong pop sensibility but not quite being able to convince as a popstar). But without that one hit, I guess that’s the deal with secretary rock; hierarchically, you’re always going to be the hoop-jumping Hathaway to Radio 2’s imperious, glowering Streep.

Bonus points: It helps that Real Late Starter is a total self-affirmation-but-not-really anthem.

Best & Worst of 2010, Part 4

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on February 12, 2011 by G.K. Reid

Best Singles of 2010 

from 5 – 1


5. Broken Bells – The Ghost Inside

Slinky, understated funk is the last place I expected James Mercer to flourish, but he’s never sounded better (or, dammit, cooler) than with the not inestimable assistance of Dangermouse here.  His pained falsetto neatly doubling up for both observer and subject, compromise and deep disappointment are evoked in spades. But, most importantly – those handclaps!

 

4. Alicia Keys – Empire State of Mind, Part II


Keys gives her much-mythologised hometown another anthem, albeit one that cops to the prospect of failure as much as the promise of success, and simultaneously gifts the world with one of the most lush, resplendent vocals in recent memory.

 

3. Cee-Lo Green – Fuck You!


There were many joyful, hilarious things about Cee-lo’s (second) breakthrough, aside from the song and video themselves: the initial confusion amongst many that Mr. Gnarls Barkley had apparently changed his name for some reason (‘This guy sounds like that guy who sang that crazy song!’, ad infinitum); the inventive/lazy censoring; the use of ‘fuck you’ as a noun; the X-Factor finalists doing this. Hell, this song even single-handedly restored humour and public fondness to Hollywood’s least-favourite aging starlet! Cee-lo Green is nothing short of a miracle worker. We should all bow before him.

 

2. Kylie Minogue – All the Lovers

A blissful, exultant dancefloor anthem tinged with emotional ambiguity. We’ve been here before with Kylie, sure, but if we’re to assume (with good reason; it’s certainly what she represents to her fans) that she’s motivated by a pursuit for something like purity – or, perhaps more accurately, transcendence -then All the Lovers is arguably the closest she’s come. I mean – shucks – in the gorgeous video, she’s the figurehead of a skyscraper constructed entirely out of interracial omnisexuality. Let’s all just take our clothes off and be friends!

 

1. Kanye West feat. Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj & Bon Iver – Monster

The single greatest thing to happen to music in 2010 was Nicki Minaj’s rip-roaring, bracingly dexterous contribution to this track. I don’t think a star has ever been so violently born, nor a show so emphatically stolen. To this day, having listened to it countless times, I am stunned into rewinding the last three minutes of the song every time. It’s almost enough to make you forget just how phenomenally engineered and replete with choice moments and turns of phrase the rest of the track is. And it’s still only my third favourite song on the album! (Unfortunately it’s difficult to find the seemingly excellent video in decent quality anywhere on the damn internet)

 

 

Some also-rans: Kelis – Acapella; Tinie Tempah – Pass Out; Marina and the Diamonds – Oh No!; Dark Dark Dark – Bright Bright Bright; Example – Kickstarts; Rihanna – Rude Boy; Scissor Sisters – Invisible Light; Patrick Wolf – Time of My Life; Nicole Sherzinger – Poison; Professor Green feat. Ed Drewett – I Need You Tonight; Hot Chip – One Life Stand; Arcade Fire – The Suburbs; Lady Gaga feat. Beyonce – Telephone

 

And with that, I’ll resume whatever it was I was supposed to be doing in the first place.

Best & Worst of 2010, Part 3

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 3, 2011 by G.K. Reid

Best Singles of 2010
from 10 – 6

 

 

….much-delayed drumroll please…

 


10. Katy Perry – California Gurls

So, Katy Perry is a trifling, cynical dilettante. Snoop Dogg never ever makes any sense.  At all. And Max Martin has made bazillions churning out some of the cheapest-sounding pop music ever to have chirruped and clattered its way through your ears. Nothing – absolutely nothing – about this should have worked. And I’d love to tell you how it does, but I abandoned logic and reason sometime around mid-August last year, as I was submitting myself to the genius of this vacuous romp for the 198th time.

 

9. Hurts – Stay

Essentially an exercise in top-shelf boybandry, with shades of the Georges Boy and Michael in its unabashed earnestness and outsized melancholy, Hurts craft the kind of fastidiously orchestrated, balls-out ballad that tips maudlin, drunken lonelyhearts into oblivion the world over.

 

8. Alex Gardner – I’m Not Mad

Given the current vogue for introspective synthpop, of which this debut single is something of a quiet masterclass, and Gardner’s combination of matinee idol looks and soft, distinctive vocals, it’s curious the Xenomania couldn’t make this kid into more of a “thing”.  Although the amount of callow moodiness he’s asked to project in the video does suggest they overestimated the electro/Twilight crossover market.

 

7. Robyn – Dancing On My Own

Speaking of glum electro, Robyn proved over three sort-of-albums last year that nobody can weep silently into their alcopops quite like her. Not deviating much from her unique MO, Dancing on My Own is another sneak-attack designed to make you slit your wrists right there on the dancefloor, surpassing even With Every Heartbeat in its exquisite misery. Cheer up, Robyn, thing’s will seem much better in the morning. (They won’t)

 

6. Janelle Monae – Tightrope

It’s such a kick that Janelle Monae finally shot for the kind of niche superstardom that she’d long been threatening to, and in such loose, effortless style to boot. And I’d like to particularly thank her for bringing the soft shoe shuffle back onto the pop cultural radar. This had better lead to a craze.

Best and Worst of 2010, Part 2: 5 Worst Singles

Posted in Uncategorized on January 3, 2011 by G.K. Reid

 

NB: In compiling the following list, I’ve granted clemency to the likes of Katie Price and the guy from the Go Compare ads, if only because the awfulness is surely inherent in those cases. Likewise, I’m giving a pass to anything organised to help either Heroes or Haiti. (Further NB: I’m going to attempt not to accuse any unsuspecting popstars of being white supremacists in this post – even when it’s tempting)

5. JLS – ‘The Club is Alive’

To say that everyone’s favourite plucky, backflipping X Factor underdogs have reached saturation point is something of a massive, booming understatement. There is far too much JLS in the world. If one were cynical, one might surmise that their record label does not have much confidence in the longevity of their “brand”, and thus one is being bombarded with their likeness everywhere one goes, til one is convinced that nobody else exists on the planet except for oneself, Marvin, Aston, JB, and that bug-eyed one. The JLS takeover seemed to get really aggressive upon the release of this unholy marriage of  The Sound of Music and hackneyed r’n’b euphemisms. One can only hope that their condoms are less shoddy

4.Cheryl Cole – ‘Parachute’

Much like JLS, another case of more effort going into the artist’s pop cultural stranglehold than their actual pop music. Presumably trying to make things easy for her, The People’s New Princess is given roughly three notes to not-quite-hit in this tedious ballache of a song, and she still sounds like she’s being unfairly overchallenged and is about 30 seconds away from throwing a tantrum about it. They expect her to sing? Don’t they know who she is?! She’s a national treasure for crying out loud! She doesn’t need to emote, or connect with what she’s singing about! Just let her phone it in, goddammit! The general publics are slavering morons who will buy anything!

In essence, I suspect that Cheryl Cole in the studio goes a lot like Lina Lamont’s elocution lessons in Singin’ in the Rain. In the accompanying video, to complement her not-quite-singing, Cheryl also does a lot of not-quite-dancing:

3. Biffy Clyro – ‘God & Satan’

Now that they’re bafflingly getting airplay and TV spots, the hitherto low-level musical efforts of Biffy Clyro have gone from being amusingly self-serious to a serious threat to the mental health of unsuspecting telly-watchers the land over. It’s not pleasant to be enjoying your dinner in front of Coronation Street only to be afflicted by the cringeworthy opening bars of ‘God & Satan’ during the ad break.  The song plays like one of those cloying, anodyne Billy Joel ballads (welcome to Biffy, Steve Wright fans!) but penned by a naively angry 14-year-old who lacks the stamina to just read some Nietzsche and get. the. hell. over. it.

2. Olly Murs – ‘Thinking of Me’

After easily securing the prestigious  ‘ATSL Shuddering Thundercunt of the Year’ award when he did this, Olly Murs decides to release a song seemingly market-tested for shuddering thundercunts just like him.  Let’s face it – if you’re a white British dude of a similar age to Mr. Murs and you listen to Bob Marley, chances are you’re not only a shuddering thundercunt, but also an incorrigible bore. Just put down the fucking spliff, you creepy culture-plunderer. And if you’re dating a Marley-listening Murs-a-like, and you find the sort of trite, insincere sentiments Murs espouses here swoonworthy, then there is simply no hope for you upon this Earth.

1. Scouting for Girls – ‘Famous’

In a feat of profound numbskullery, Scouting for Girls decide to say something “significant” about “the times we live in”. Needless to say, the results aren’t exactly Dylanesque. The Scouting duuuudes insightfully observe that (a) there’s a lot of reality TV around these days, and (b) a lot of people want to be famous for famousness’ sake.  And who do they reference to illustrate this point? Katie Price? Katona? Princess Cole? Nope, they invoke the names of James Dean and Bette Davis. Cos we all know how the high schools of Britain are populated by 14-year-old boys daydreaming about becoming a method actor when they should be knuckling down with their biology project. Referencing Dean and Davis may confuse the smug and redundant point that the band are trying to make, but they do rhyme pretty easily with stuff. And arguably that can be more important to a pop song, right? Unfortunately, ‘Famous’ fails just as hard as a pop tune as it does social commentary; setting their Casio to ‘demo mode’ and slapping a half-arsed collection of ‘oo-oohs!’ and ‘na-na-nas!’ on top, it follows the facile Scouting for Girls formula slavishly. Perhaps the worst crime of the song is that these amateurish chancers show not one hint of irony or self-awareness throughout.

Dishonourable mentions: The Saturdays – Missing You; Sugababes – Wear My Kiss; Christina Aguilera – Not Myself Tonight; Glee – Don’t Stop Believing; Owl City – Fireflies; Jessie J – Do It Like a Dude; Train – Hey Soul Sister; McFly – Party Girl

Best and Worst of 2010, Part 1

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on December 18, 2010 by G.K. Reid

Please forgive this departure from regular service (not that that is something this blog has ever aspired to, clearly). But we’re deep in the festive season, with all of the retrospective impulses it encourages, and since I’m refiguring my end-date for the original project to sometime in summer 2011, I think I have time to spare. Handily, this break-from-the-norm allows for a very-British Top 40 countdown to follow. Very patriotic of me. 

Herein, I’ll cast a long, wistful glance at the year gone by, and proffer something of a personal overview of the popular music available for consumption in 2010. This was originally intended to be a simple ‘Top 10 of 2010’ list, but – as is the unstoppable compulsion of those who choose to measure and record their lives through musical (or cinematic – but that’s a whole other blog) means – it quickly proliferated into something bigger, with musical touchstones colliding atop one another to create this morass of beats, hooks, turns of phrase, key changes, and memorable facial expressions. These memories are both welcome and otherwise, and I’ll start with the latter. Below is a (very short) list of songs which will always remind me of this year, if only because I could not escape them, no matter how hard I tried:

 

MOST UBIQUITOUS SONGS OF 2010:

2. Eliza Doolittle – Pack Up

There are several things about this girl which make you want to retch:

Number 1: She takes her name from a character made famous by Audrey Hepburn (AKA the most dubiously revered, patriarchally-friendly woman of all time).  Number 2: she seems to have modelled herself on every manic pixie dreamgirl ever. Thus, number 3: she probably thinks of ‘Garden State’ the way some people think of the Bible. Number 4: her songs are shit, but palatable to TV producers, who will happily paste their shows up and down with this inoffensive, faux-retro drivel. Number 5: while plundering their musical heritage, she utilises black people in her videos like they’re some sort of aborably quirky other-species. If you do so wish to retch, watch this: 

Essentially, this woman is both emblematic of white supremacy AND a handy illustration of why the North of England so resents the South. Arrogant, awful dimwit that she is.

 

1. Florence and the  Machine You Got the Love

For a start, you DO NOT MESS with the Staton. Having said that, when I first heard this song, I was not offended. It’s OK as far as covers-of-classics go. Laughably, however, this OK cover of a vastly superior classic has now seemingly become the badge of honour of – allegedly – the coolest and most exciting and original woman in music.

Let me say it for once and for all: Florence Welch cannot sing. The woman is completely unaquainted with the concept of nuance, let alone the concept of feeling shit. She is gifted with the ability to project her voice at the exact same pitch for three minutes or so. I do not think this is what we should be hailing as the future of British music. Florence has watched Bush, Harvey, Smith – and more – and she’s taken notes. She may lack their hard-tested talent, their organic drive and imagination, their passion, but she makes up for it in cynical appropriation (comfortably funded by her mummy and daddy). And that would be fine – if only she used it as a platform for to say something interesting. Instead, she sees her cashcow, and she performs it THREE FUCKING TIMES at Glastonbury. Invading other people’s sets to do so. If you’re the type of person who sneers at X-Factor contestants yet wilfully gives this fame-hungry charlatan your money, then you’re the type of person who deserves whatever ills that befall you.

Also, look at this woman. She’s 43 if she’s a day. You wouldn’t catch PJ Harvey lying about her age.

NB: The next post will be more positive in nature! Probably.