Archive for stonking pop

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.

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57. ‘Dirrty’ by Christina Aguilera (2002)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on July 11, 2010 by G.K. Reid

How fortuitous that I’ve just been banging on about the wonderful nonsense that is pop music, only to find that next on my list is this, arguably the most brazenly ludicrous pop event of the decade.  As the above picture succinctly demonstrates, ‘Dirrty’ is a towering specimen of camp self-affirmation, and a no-holds-barred assault on public taste and decency that John Waters would be proud of (oh, if only Xtina weighed 300lbs!)

Aguilera’s claims to independence and self-possession here can easily be dismissed as cliched, but they’re far from disingenuous – ‘Dirrty’ has a real violence of intent and tangible fury embedded within it, strongly evoked by the almost cacophanous force of the production.  That Aguilera figured a noisy embrace of (and insistence upon) sexuality as the key to liberating her from the deathgrip of the Disney Club was arguably as dubious and depressing as it was wholly successful; ‘Dirrty’ provides one hell of a text for feminist debate to pour over.  In response to any criticism, however, I suppose Aguilera can always say: ‘well, that wasn’t me with the shaved head and the umbrella and the parasitical husband and the baby driving the car. I’m just sayin”.

Bonus points: Redman is a strong contender for the ‘Best Guest Rap of the Decade’ award. So many choice lines, but my favourite will probably forever remain: ‘I keep my car lookin’ like a crash dummy drove’‘waiting for Sister to Act, like Lauryn Hill’. ‘We blessed, and hung low, like Bernie Mac (b’nnie mck!)

64. ‘Biology’ by Girls Aloud (2006)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on January 22, 2010 by G.K. Reid

From left to right: Pete Burns; Sour-Face; Racist; Porn Star; and The Unintelligible Irish One.

Girls Aloud. Where to start, eh? I mean, in many ways, they’re fantastic. And yet, in an equal number of ways, you want most of them to just cock the fuck off. (Not Sarah Harding, because she’s clearly one of the most amazing women of the 21st Century). I’m not entirely sure as to how Girls Aloud managed to luck into being the main vessel for the most interesting and innovative pop songwriting/production team of recent years (Xenomania), but then I have to consider that, when I listen to Shangri-Las records, I never even bother to wonder about such things at all.

However it has come to be, Girls Aloud do currently enjoy a very interesting position in the media and the music press. They’re obviously kitted out for tabloid interest – well, mostly just Cheryl… and occasionally Sarah, when her alcoholism becomes too public… and very occasionally Nicola when she calls the Prime Minister a ‘toad’ or something. (I exclude Nadine because, let’s face it, no one actually gives a shit whether she’s shagging that big-pecced guy from Desperate Housewives or not, not least because its impossible to decipher anything she ever says). But as well as being tabloid fodder, they’ve gained a lot of stuffy-critic-approved CREDIBILITY. And, as such, now appear to be national treasures.

I remain skeptical. If only because Girls Aloud have managed to generate more hype than they have good songs.

Having said that, though, Biology remains a triumph. It’s just very odd. And incredibly daring – I can’t think of another pop song this decade that shifted gears with such confident precision, yet retained such a charming, slapdash facade, as though it had all been miraculously cobbled together in 15 minutes (cleverly, the out-of-sync dancing in the video maintains this sense of ramshackle fun).

For these reasons, and more, Biology is a great example of a pop song that is happy and confident with it’s own musical or structural merits. It knows that it’s breaking the mould, but it doesn’t demand that people take notice. Unfortunately, it DID make people take notice, and ever since Girls Aloud as a pop-thing have got increasingly complacent and assured in their own vanguard brilliance. (AKA: Cheryl and Nadine are going to fuck it up for everyone else.)

Bonus points: I neglected to mention Pete Burns/Kimberley earlier re: tabloid interest. But that’s largely because there. is. no. interest. Rest assured, she’s actually my second favourite member of the band, after Sarah. Chuck Cheryl in on backing vocals (just to piss her off) and ditch the other two, and you may have my second favourite hypothetical Turbo-Ronettes of the century.

73. ‘Up’ by The Saturdays (2008)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on January 14, 2010 by G.K. Reid

Colour-coded. Do JLS know about this?

It has to be said: there are too many Saturdays. There is no way on Earth that this band needs five people in it. It’s not like the Spice Girls where they all had their distinct “personalities” and they all (minus Posh) got solo bits. All The Saturdays have is colourful tights. So, we’re ditching two of them. Specifically, we’re ditching the vampire-eyed one (also known as “Blue Tights”) because she’s clearly at least 7 years older than the rest of them, and the one in the middle (“Red Tights”) because she’s clearly at least 5 inches taller than the rest of them. Also, Yellow Tights has an excellent Girl Band Face, and Orange Tights brings the now-requisite Fierce Hair. And I think we can all agree that Pink Tights, on the far right there, has a mightily impressive set of lungs on her. 

I now recommend that, liberated from the dead weight, Yellow, Orange and Pink Tights (Pink up front, Yellow and Orange ooh-ing behind her) forge ahead to become some sort of futuristic turbo-Ronettes, and try to record songs as emphatic and as vigorously executed as this one. (Sadly, ‘Up’ is starting to look increasingly like a fluke).

Bonus points: The endearingly shoddy video seems to play with the knowledge that they need to shed some members, teasing you with the prospect that two of them may fall to their deaths.

79. ‘Wow’ by Kylie Minogue (2008)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on January 12, 2010 by G.K. Reid

‘Get me into the shade’

Upon first hearing this song, I thought it was almost aggressively camp, and so cynically squared at Kylie’s G.A.Y. market as to be unbearable.  Admittedly, this was in a gay bar in Manchester, where they played the song four times in the space of 45 minutes. It wasn’t until I got some distance from it and it popped up unexpectedly on the radio many months later that I realised its towering brilliance. It may be camper than Christmas, but that’s one of the marks of its greatness; it’s unashamedly so. In a decade where pop has grown more sophisticated and, with it, more self-consciously hip, it was refreshing to hear such a cool-eschewing, hook-laden, flat-out pop song. And it’s fitting that it’s Kylie who delivers it, as she’s perhaps the most perfect vessel for such contraptions that there’s ever been (and it was also she who, with Can’t Get You Out of My Head, helped usher pop into the future).

Bonus points: That the simple echo of a word in the chorus (in this case, ‘rush’) should be so thrilling is one of those unshakeable mysteries of pop music.

96. ‘Toxic’ by Britney Spears (2003)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on November 27, 2009 by G.K. Reid

Whee-wo-whee-wo. Those strings kick ass. You know it, I know it, Britney knows it. Well, maybe Britney doesn’t know it. Only God knows that. But Britney does know exactly the kind of airy, deceptively passive vocal this song requires. This really should have been a Bond theme, or at least the theme to a Bond spoof (anyone know what the theme tune to ‘Johnny English’ was? Well it should have been this.) Britney vacillates expertly (yes, expertly!) between “feminine” rapture with a probably-no-good man figure, frustration with his lack of forthcoming, and downright insistence that he satisfy her needs. And, man, those fucking strings.

Bonus points: Game-changer. Aside from reasserting Britney as a major player (nobody expected ‘Baby, One More Time’ to be rivalled as her “signature” number), this had a hand in remodelling pop music and its appeal for the 21st century. Well done, Britney! Now go have a lie down.