Archive for Amy Winehouse

44. ‘See It In a Boy’s Eyes’ by Jamelia (2004)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on October 29, 2010 by G.K. Reid

Considering the career trajectories of the would-be pop princesses of Britain, you can understand why high school careers advisors might have recommended that Jamelia pursue a more secure path in life. Like baking cakes or getting her tits out on the internet, or whatever it is that careers advisors encourage young women to do.

As the decade closed, the battlefields of British pop were littered with distaff casualties.  Before Wino and Leona captured the attention of the US (the former with her fierce talent and Rock-Star-Burnout potential; the latter with a gleaming, Whitneyesque ballad practically giftwrapped for Uncle Sam) and thereby greased the wheel for the likes of Adele, Duffy and Estelle to secure superstar collaborations and Grammys, the prospects of the pop women of Britain were modest at best. There were, by my reckoning, three trajectories to follow:

1. You seem to arrive from nowhere, and swiftly return from whence you came, with at best one or two minor hits under your belt.  People have to think really really hard to remember those hits, let alone what your name was.  You are Lucie Silvas, Amy Studt, Jem, Remi Nicole, Kele le Roc, Shola Ama.

2. You enjoy a higher level of critical acclaim and/or record sales. You may even be a big deal for a year or so.  But both the sales and the support dwindle vertiginously, and you’re left either sitting complacently on a big pile of cash or lurking about the edges of the pop world, like a bad smell you can’t fully expunge. You are Dido, Ms Dynamite, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Natasha Bedingfield, Joss Stone. You were also Sade, Alison Moyet, Lisa Stansfield, Dina Carroll, Mica Paris (the stinkiest smell of all).

3. You were part of a successful group, and attempt to turn this into a solo career. You fail, but you have the comforting arms of television open to you. There are soap operas, dancing and cookery competitions, panel shows, and stuff-that’s-on-in-the-morning awaiting you! This option is neverending and ever-ravenous. It even extends to non-Brits, as long as you can pretend that Beyonce still keeps in touch. Just – for God’s sake – given this opportunity, please try not to say anything racist.  You are Kym Marsh, Alesha Dixon, Emma Bunton, Louise Redknapp, Mutya Buena, Rachel Stevens, Liz McLarnon, Melanies Brown, Blatt and Chisolm. (NB: Why wait til your group is defunct?! If you know which side your bread is buttered, you can elide the misguided solo venture and get a headstart in presenting right now! If you do this, you are Kimberley Walsh, and you are a very clever girl indeed).

If you are Jamelia, however, then you have somehow managed to live out all three of the above.  Your attention-grabbing breakthrough, ‘Money’ (with its noisy operatic bits and neatly subversive video) was a Top 5 hit, but was swiftly followed by years in the wilderness. Then, just when everyone had lumped you in with the Le Rocs and the Amas, you come strutting back in the most commanding fashion and score one hell of a hat trick – the stupendous ‘Superstar’; the piquant and deeply-felt ‘Thank You’; and, best of all, ‘See It In a Boy’s Eyes’, officially the best thing Chris Martin has ever done.

You’re collaborating with slick producers and smart songwriters. You demonstrate an expressive, but nuanced, control of your voice and an ability to invest a song with ambiguous drama (if anyone doubts that, they just need to listen to ‘See It In a Boys Eyes’ again). Your album is nominated for the Mercury Music Prize. You also do this at the Brit Awards:

You have, in X-Factor parlance, ‘the whole package’. You’re all set. You’re big league.

Oh, wait, no you aren’t. Your third album didn’t sell too well. So you’ve gone the ex-Spice Girl route, and now you’re presenting a whole week’s worth of Big Brother’s Big Mouth. You’re talking crap on Loose Women. You’re standing in for Louise Redknapp (LOUISE REDKNAPP!) on Something for the Weekend. You’re on every single comedy panel show going, and you’re not even being particularly funny (except when you nonchalantly call Javine a slag). You laugh a lot, you seem like you’re having a nice time. But you deserve better. You were unlucky to precede Winehouse and Leona; a Jay-Z or Kanye or Pharrel-shaped leg-up could have worked wonders. It still could. Jesus, if Estelle can do it, then so can you!

Bonus points: Jamelia is HOT.

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61. ‘1980’ by Estelle (2004)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on February 10, 2010 by G.K. Reid

Before she speak her shoe-be-spoh…

Estelle’s back! Twice in the countdown. That’s pretty good going for the girl whose presence in the Live Aid 20 video caused the nation to collectively furrow their brows and enquire ‘who’s the diminutive gremlin cosying up with such musical royalty as The Darkness, Joss Stone, Rachel Stevens, and that guy out of Travis?’ It gladdens the heart that Estelle emerged from such inequity to find a place on the worldwide stage, attracting the attention of the American bigwigs and winning a Grammy along the way, because I’d been a supporter of her angler-fish rap-soul stylings since this, her debut single, proved so arresting.

1980‘ quite clearly bears the influence of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (particularly, in it’s childhood-scrapbook concept, the track ‘Every Ghetto, Every City‘) but equally, in both it’s proud Anglo-specificity and its skillful application of modern lyrics to a celebratory retro production, it also functions as a precursor to what Amy Winehouse would go on to refine and perfect. But all this wouldn’t work if Estelle couldn’t sell it so well; it’s testament to her charisma that when she presumptuously invites you to ‘come walk with me, reminisce on my life’, you don’t for a second feel like turning her down.

Bonus points: As I said, she’s in this countdown twice, but she almost scored a hat trick. I am still trying to justify to myself (and others) as to why American Boy didn’t quite make it in.