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Who needs guitars anyway?

Best Bits
Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Dirrrty Pop Review: t.A.T.u - Dangerous and Moving

This weekend, tATu's new album (not supposed to be released until October) leaked onto the internet. Being a lovely law-abiding citizen, I of course avoided it like the plague. Um, yeah right!! I downloaded it right away and here are my thoughts in track by track form...

1. Intro - Dangerous and Moving
The album begins as it means to go on - with urgent synths and loud electronic drums. Crash, bang, and we all remember why we love tATu!

2. All About Us
This is the first single from the album, so you've probably heard it by now. It has a very repetitive chorus, but the way each line is sung differently means it's not boring. The verses each consist of a small number of lines sung one word at a time, which is an unusual style but tATu wouldn't be themselves if they sounded normal, and it makes every word sound important. This song is definitely a grower. It deserves to be another no.1 hit.

3. Cosmos (Outer Space)
The song starts off very melancholy and I expect it to be slow, but soon the signature t.A.T.u drums join in and they are singing as fast and incomprehensibly as ever. As Edward pointed out in his own review, the lyrics are total nonsense, but with tATu it never matters what the words are, they have such a striking sound which makes up for any lack of lyrical genius. The nonsense adds to the whole tATu mystique, showing how different their world is to our normal, boring one.

4. Loves Me Not
The verses and chorus in this song are sharply contrasting, as is often the case with t.A.T.u. The verses are from a pretty, sad ballad. The chorus is an angsty, confused rock song. Combined together they shouldn't work, but of course when t.A.T.u try it just adds to their mysterious Russian charm. The theme of sexual confusion returns in it's most obvious form yet, with the chorus a mantra of "he loves me, he loves me not, she loves me, she loves me not".

5. Friend Or Foe
For once the intro is not misleading - this is the catchiest, poppiest track they've done, with a wonderful chorus. It's quite typical of current Europop, but when t.A.T.u do it, it's anything but typical. This could be a huge hit.

6. Gomenasai
The first track in Russian of the album, you may think, but you'd be wrong. The title is actually Japanese for "sorry". It begins as a ballad, but is it really one? Yes, it is! A very nice one too. Sad, of course, but very pretty.

7. Craving (I Only Want What I Can't Have)
This is a beautiful ballad with a catchy rocky chorus. The verses are sung quite gently and high-pitched, portraying the girls as feeble and needy, then the chorus creates a brilliant contrast with it's much more powerful strength. Another absolutely brilliant track.

8. Sacrifice
This track sounds most like the first t.A.T.u album, a deeply devoted love song with the girls' trademark high-pitched Russian-accented vocals in the chorus. It is quite catchy after a few listens and definitely a grower for me.

9. We Shout
This track is less interesting and exciting than the others - it doesn't really move me in the same way and is in fact quite boring. Maybe I will grow to like it more. You would expect a song about shotuing to have a little more energy.

10. Perfect Enemy
Another song that would fit well on t.A.T.u's previous album. It's not a favourite of mine but not as boring as We Shout. It's just moody, bleepy and very t.A.Tu, but it does get better the more I listen.

11. Obizienka Nol
Is this actually in Russian? Yes, I do believe it is! Not knowng what they're singing, I can't comment on the lyrics, but the chorus is nicely dramatic and screechy with lots of strangely (although not strange for t.A.T.U) pitched long notes.

12. Dangerous and Moving
The title track, and also the final track, it begins the same as the intro but is a full-length, fabulous song. The chorus sounds similar to Not Gonna Get Us (although less manic) and has a similar theme of "us against them". I don't think I would pick this as a single, although I suspect they may, but it is a fairly good track.

So, that's the lot! In conclusion, it's certainly one of the best albums of the year so far and has made me much more of a t.A.T.u fan than I previously was. However, the first 7 tracks are far stronger and better than the last 5. The first 7 with the best 5 from the first album would make it perfect.
Saturday, August 27, 2005


Yes, I know I say that a lot but this really is the best news ever! Darren Hayes has obviously been reading my thoughts/blog because his new single is produced by the same people behind...Maroon 5 and Gavin Degraw!!!! What are the chances of it being those particular 2? I mean, if it had been Maroon 5 and *insert any other popstar* it would have been exciting enough, but Gavin Degraw! It's so amazingly spookily perfect! After the whole writing for the BSBs thing (although the song never appeared on their album) and now this, it just proves his whole life is dedicated to pleasing me. Hurrah! I am really liking the sound of Darren's new material. I am unbelievably excited!

The single, So Beautiful (presumably not a Pete Murray cover), is being mixed in LA this week and will appear on the Savage Garden greatest hits package, Truly Madly Completely, along with all the singles and some rare tracks and b-sides and one other new Darren song. The new songs will also appear on Darren's new solo album, out later this year. Now all we need is a SG reunion tour (or a solo Darren one would be fine) and I'll be grinning like a mad person for the rest of my life!
Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Popping The Question

In Popping The Question I discuss some of the big questions concerning pop music at the moment. Today's topic is:

Will we ever have another reality TV show contestant who can make it as a long-term pop star?

X Factor is back and you should all be going here to read Steve and Joel's brilliant commentary, but, as much fun as the X Factor is to watch and make fun of, can they possibly achieve their goal of creating a successful pop artist? The first series created two fairly successful acts - the winner, Steve Brookstein, had a no.1 and single and album, but the biggest success was G4, the 4-piece opera boyband who had a huge hit album (and my mum loves them!), although no no.1 singles. But Steve's success was short-lived and he has been largely forgotten about, even by his mentor Simon Cowell, which is actually quite unlike him - he usually fights for people to the death for fear of it becoming apparent that he may not be right about everything! Meanwhile, G4 will probably get another album released, but if all they do is cover versions (they have done no original songs yet and I find it hard to imagine them having a hit with one), the novelty will soon wear thin.

The other problem with G4 and Steve is that neither fit in to the current pop market, which means that they will always be in their own little X Factor category, unable to appeal to the powerful younger music buyers. Of course, older buyers are just as powerful in the currently mroe lucrative albums market, as can be seen by the overbearing presence of "adult contemporary" acts in the album charts. If the X Factor can tap into that market as they did with G4 in particular, they will make a lot of money out of it, but the mostly-teenage singles buyers are much harder to please.

Music is a fashion object to many teenagers these days, especially the type who buy singles. The annoyance of Crazy Frog, the non-stop swearing of Eamon and the dirty connotations of 50 Cent is all very impressive to a 12 year old boy, and to be the first in the class to own the single is obviously going to be very attractive to them. It worked the same with girls when the first Popstars and Pop Idol singles were released a few years ago. I can remember when Will and Gareth released their first singles, several girls brought their copies in to school having bought them on the very first morning of release - and this was in a country village school where you had to drive to the next town to find a music shop!

Surely the aim of the X Factor series is to find a singer or band who can recreate that kind of crazy obsession that not only affects a few dedicated fans but the whole country. The difficulty is that the charts have changed a great deal since Pop Idol, perhaps even because of it. If Will and Gareth entered X Factor, they may still win (they would even have different managers as Will would now be in the over 25 category while Gareth is much younger) and do fairly well, but they would never have the same extent of success, because the concept of a talent show contestant has already been done several times and everyone knows the exact routine by now. It doesn't take a genius to predict that the winner of X Factor 2 will have a big hit single or album (or at least big for the slow January charts), maybe another smaller hit to follow it if they're lucky (Steve didn't even get that), but within a few months they will be forgotten and ITV will be planning the schedule of X Factor 3, another Pop Idol or perhaps even Popstars, if Simon has got so fed up of the UK by then that he refuses to do any more shows here.

It could just be the X Factor format, particularly the encouragement of older singers, which churns out soppy granny-pleasers (we've already got a new one in Trevor, the shy young boy with big voice from the first episode of the new series), but there were younger singers on offer, namely Cassie and Tabby, who could have had some success as pop stars and even would have fitted in quite well with the current pop fashions, yet neither reached even the final 3 and little has been heard of them since. This seems to suggest that the audience of the X Factor is much older than that of Pop Idol and Popstars in the past. Of course these shows always appeal to families who want a good fun programme to watch together on a Saturday night, but there definitely was a much stronger teenage/young adult audience for the first Pop Idols and Popstars.

So, it seems very unlikely that X Factor will be able to provide a fantastic new pop star with the power to change the tide of the dwindling presence of pop music in the current charts, but perhaps what we need is a break from these shows for a few years. Just long enough for even the slowest people to have got over their "deep insights" that the winner will not be successful and therefore doesn't deserve their support. If anything it's become a race to be the first one to pronounce the winner's career dead, as opposed to the race to pronounce yourself their biggest fan, as it used to be. It's a shame that at a time when we could really do with another brilliant pop act like Will Young or Girls Aloud, we may not be allowed one, whether they are out there or not.
Monday, August 22, 2005

Top 5 "Running Up That Hill" Covers

1. Within Temptation - the Dutch gothic rock version
2. The Honeymoon - the lovely pretty version
3. Patrick Wolf - the version Kate herself would love
4. Elastic Band - the dance version
5. Placebo - the boring version (how can they make this song boring? It should be impossible!)

Video Killed The Radio Star

Beulah - Sweet Kinda Something
Despite this video being shown on The Amp, the song actually sounds more like something Bellefire would do. She could be too pretty to do well in MOR market, though - not ordinary enough, yet the song is spectacularly ordinary so maybe she still has a chance. Although she is going to have trouble with people confusing her with the band Beulah. My Googling also revealed that this song is produced by someone called John Kelly who has worked with Kate Bush, but it doesn't show.
73% Poptastic!

The Rasmus - No Fear
I was surprised that the Rasmus were releasing this at all in the UK, let alone so quickly but I guess their last album was pretty successful so they're right to have a go at repeating it, but I really think their chances are small because this is no In The Shadows - it's not even a Guilty.
68% Poptastic!

Nickelback - Photograph
Nickelback are, erm, back! They must be getting lazy in their old age, cos they appear to have re-used one of their old videos (don't ask me which) with a new song dubbed over it. At first I thought it was one of their old singles. But I guess you can't really expect originality from the owner of hair like that!
5% Poptastic! (and they only get that for not being Crazy Frog/'urban'/the 'urban' version of Crazy Frog)

Jo O'Meara - What Hurts The Most
Jo was my fave S Club girl, so by rights this should be even better than Rachel's solo work! Sadly Jo doesn't have any songs by Richard X or Vacuum, but she has still come up with a lovely ballad which grows on me with every listen and shows off her great pop vocals. Whether or not she still has the support of the public is yet to be seen, but she definitely has mine.
89% Poptastic!

Franz Ferdinand - Do You Want To
First single from their make-or-break second album and the video is set in a chaotic art gallery with lots of singing to the camera as though it's a person. Hmm, sounds familiar! It's only 2 years since the Will Young single, did they think we wouldn't notice?
85% Poptastic!

Gavin Degraw - Follow Through
Woha! New Gavin single and I didn't even know! And it's NOT Chariot! That is good news because, although I do of course like it, I couldn't see Chariot being a hit if even I Don't Wanna Be wasn't, but if bad Day got to no.2, then Follow Through should be no.1 for a milennium. It doesn't exactly sound like Daniel Powter but people who liked it should love this because it's kind of similar in slushiness and piano content, but much, much better! The video is the same one he used 2 years ago when he first released this single in America but he looks very sweet and nice in it, so I am pleased. Maybe he will finally make it here now!
96% Poptastic!
Saturday, August 20, 2005

Where Are They Now?

It has been 2 years since I was in the midst of my crazy obsession with Fame Academy 2, so I think it's time to see what they are all getting up to now:

Carolynne was recently spotted in a Tony Christie video (for all of 2 seconds).
Nick is playing disused underground toilets (and other places).

Audley has a single out and has toured with Ja Rule and Boys II Men.

Alex was supposed to have a single out this month, but has moved it to October. She isn't dating Jill from Speedway anymore and doesn't even have spikey hair!

James has appeared on Broadway and toured the USA playing Billy Joel in a musical about his life.

Alistair has had several of his songs covered and released very successfully by Dutch popstars.

Paris has joined a frankly terrifying band named Smokin' Circus. Unsurprisingly, they sound like Lenny Kravitz.

Peter recently did a "kiss & tell" in the NOTW about Fearne Cotton.

And they weren't in FA2 but for anyone who is interested:

Ainslie is in a band named The Last September, who have been played on Radio 2.

Snedders is in a 60s-style rock band called The Sham.

And Sinéad has been raising money for charity with a "bike hike".

So it's all going well really!
Thursday, August 18, 2005
I've started posting up my Sweden report and I'm doing it in blog form, so you can see what I have posted so far by clicking here. Enjoy!
Tuesday, August 16, 2005

More good news!

Bodies Without Organs have revealed their new video for Sunshine In The Rain and you can watch it here! It has all the normal qualities of a BWO video - Martin looking very lovely, Marina being glamorous and Alexander being fabulously mad. So it is great in that way, but I am a little disappointed that it is not as euphorically sunny as the song itself. In fact it is quite disgusting in places as there are bugs everywhere and Martin gets holes in his hands which the camera goes right through! But there is a brilliant bit where Alexander and one of his many showbiz pals who no-one has heard of stand facing each other, slapping small plasters on each other's faces. I have no idea what it means but it is clearly totally genius.
Monday, August 15, 2005

Oh my God, she's back again!

Yes, I am back and I return to some very exciting news in the world of pop!

1. The Backstreet Boys have revealed their new video for Just Want You To Know (click here to see). It's the best song on their new album and the video is fab and unlike anything they've done before, although it doesn't match the song too well. But it shows they're up for a laugh and it might get them noticed by some new younger fans who like a comedy mullet or two!

2. Darren Hayes will have a new single by the end of the year, which will feature on both his own new album and the long-awaited Savage Garden Greatest Hits package. He keeps saying on his messages to his web site how happy he is at the moment and what a good feeling he has about the new material, so it's looking likely that we will get some great pop music from him this year. How very exciting!
Monday, August 08, 2005

Thank You For The Music

Here is another of my brand new features, where I will be writing about some of the great modern pop songwriters. And no, that doesn't mean Chris Martin or anyone with the surname Gallagher. More like these ladies...

Karen & Shelly Poole

If you recognise those names it may be from their days as one of the coolest and best pop duos of the 90s, famed for shopping at the now extinct C&A (or "Cheap & Affordable" as I believed it was called) and some great songs including I Am, I Feel and Alisha Rules The World. Yes, in case you hadn't worked it out by now, they were Alisha's Attic.

In 2001 after 3 albums as Alisha's Attic, the girls had come to the end of their contract with Mercury Records and decided to pursue other projects. They issued a statement saying, in the words of so many reality TV losers, "this won't be the last you'll hear from us", and they were not wrong.

As fans of Popjustice will know, Shelly (who is married to a member of Texas) is about to launch a solo career and reviews are so far extremely positive, but she has also been spotted on the writing credits for Janet Jackson's album track SloLove and a song called Je M'Appelle which features on Rachel Steven's forthcoming second album.

However, the real songwriting success was Karen Poole whose writing credits have included countless excellent pop acts, including Will Young, Dannii Minogue, Lene Nystrom, Amy Studt, Freeform Five, Sugababes, Rachel Stevens, Jamelia and even 2 Kylie singles (Red Blooded Woman and Chocolate). It probably won't surprise you that I have heard every one of the above albums and the tracks written by Karen are in all cases among my favourites. Here is an album track that she wrote for Amy Studt which had to be the best song Amy recorded and really should have been a single:

Amy Studt - Ladder In My Tights
Sunday, August 07, 2005

Video Killed The Radio Star

Vanessa Brown - Whipped
When I saw this for the first time this morning I presumed that she was a new American artist, yet the lack of results brought up by Google suggests otherwise. All I could find out was that it comes out on the 12th of September. This may be r'n'b but it's still very good. It's quite poppy, a bit Motown-ish and lots of fun. It really does sound good and look good for a British r'n'b single - considering how much money is spent on US 'urban' stars, it is hard for us to compete but here we have managed it and made a song much better than anything Ashanti is doing. Let's just hope she actually is British and that this does as well as I think it could.
78% Poptastic!

Jamie Shaw - Different
Yes it is that Jamie Shaw and yes he does look and sound a bit different (well he has facial hair and is going for a post-Busted rock sound), but one thing stays the same: I can't stand him! He is useless and terribly annoying and just...eugh! Let's call him the one-boy Noise Next Door and hope he does just as well (ie. not at all) as them.
12% Poptastic!

Tammin Sursock - Pointless Relationship
If Jamie is post-Busted then Tammin is post-Avril, which means she should be just as bad but this is quite bearable, despite her being almost as annoying as him. This may be because it was written by the recently mentioned Marion Raven (ex-M2M member) or just because I was always more of a fan of female wannabe-rockers than the male ones.
57% Poptastic!
Saturday, August 06, 2005

Popping The Question

My lovely new layout has inspired me to start some new Dirrrty Pop features and here is the first. In Popping The Question I will discuss some of the big questions concerning pop music at the moment. First up:

How has the addition of downloads affected the singles chart?

There has not been a drastic change in the singles chart since the addition of downloads, but there have been a few trends emerging which have in my opinion affected the charts negatively. The main trend that has emerged in the past few months is that popular singles (especially those big on radio or music channels) are staying in the charts longer - as of last Sunday, Crazy Frog, MVP, James Blunt and 2-Pac had been in the top 10 for between 6 and and 10 weeks each, and most unusually 2 of those will remain in the top 5 this weekend which suggests they are far from on their way out of the charts.

Meanwhile, singles which are only a hit through high first week sales due to the fame of the artist are falling out of the charts just as quickly as they usually do, but are not charting quite as highly as they once would - there are far less one-week-wonders than there used to be with most songs either sticking around the top for a long time or not reaching the top 10 at all, although all those pointless Elvis re-releases counteracted this theory.

These new patterns may be due to the addition of downloads or they may have arrived more naturally as the UK chart increasingly reflects the main American chart, the Billboard Top 100. There songs start at the low end of the chart and move upwards until they peak. The same is often true in other countries' charts, such as Australia and Canada, but is rare in the UK until recently when a few acts have managed it, most notably James Blunt whose current single, despite having been at no.1 for several weeks now, entered the charts outside the top 10.

Songs in the Billboard chart also stay around for a long time, for example this week's "Greatest Gainer" in sales was the "new" Lifehouse single, You And Me, which has been in the charts 26 weeks (about 6 months!). Of course this is a top 100, so you would expect there to be songs at the lower end which had been in the chart a long time but for the average song in the top 10 to have been in the chart for 16 weeks is quite different to the UK where the average of the current top 10 is 4.5, and still I think that is quite high for the UK. Until recently, there were more entries at no.1 in the UK charts every year, as for the first few years of this century we had a new no.1 most weeks, but this year's amount of no.1s is certain to be considerably lower. This is another sign that our chart is becoming more like America's, because to enter their charts at no.1 is extremely rare. This week's highest new entry in the UK was Daniel Powter at no.2, yet there was not one new entry in the top 50 American singles.

The negative effect this is having is that it is harder for singles to get into the top 10 because it's full of singles which have been there for ages, refusing to move. I think the main reason for this is that as CD single-buying becomes less popular it is mainly big fans of an artist who want to buy a single on it's first week (or to own the CD of it at all), so the people downloading singles are a different type of music fan. The emphasis is more on the song than the singer, which can be a good thing, but the trends of downloading, for the moment at least, reflect what is being played most on the radio (it is interesting to note that the American chart is based on radio airplay as well as sales, like our rubbish Hit 40 UK chart). This is quite worrying as radio playlists are, as I'm sure you all know, controlled by a small number of people who can be (and often are) prejudiced against or in favour of certain acts or types of music.

The integration of downloads into the chart may also lead to some interesting events in future. It is possible that a single which was released a while ago and is still available for download, though not in the shops, could make a resurgence towards the top of the charts if, for example, it is used in a TV show, film or advert. I wonder if there is a rule against singles of a certain age being counted towards the charts? I guess there must be a rule that album tracks downloaded do not count, but maybe this rule will one day be removed so that any song available to download could be no.1. There are all sorts of possibilities for the future of the chart and it's impossible to know how it will change and whether it will manage to stay relevant, but I do think we will always have a chart and as long as people have favourite artists and songs, there will always be interest in it.
Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The Sweden Life 2: Gothenburg

In precisely 1 week's time I will be on my way to Sweden! Yes, the poptastic one is returning to the land of most poptasticness! I am obviously very excited about this, especially because I plan to catch BWO along with Amy Diamond, Anna S and others at the Rix FM festival that evening and, if I'm not all popped out by this point (as if!), various other popstars including Lilyjets and Arash at NRJ the next day! I will of course report back about the whole thing when I get back, just like last year when I went to Stockholm. I might even recreate my V festival! I must watch that DVD again soon. I can do an impression of a plum tree!
After many hours of toil and trouble, I can finally show you the brand new look of Dirrrty Pop! I hope everyone likes it. Hopefully you weren't too shocked by the brightness. If you have any comments leave them in the usual place.
Monday, August 01, 2005

Video Killed The Radio Star

You can watch all these videos at www.mtve.com

Oscar Sharp - Runaway
This is the first I've heard of Oscar and so far I'm liking his style (mainly cos he sings a lot like the lovely Christian Walz) and although this song despite being quite a grower is still a bit too much on the soul side of soul-pop for my liking, I think with a catchier song he could be amazing. It's just a shame he's not as pretty as Christian or Tyler James who he also sounds a bit like. Let's call him one to watch.

Moneybrother - Blow Him Back Into My Arms
This guy certainly likes long song-titles doesn't he? BHBIMA seems to be a ballad but gets faster after a minute or so. It's a bit Morrissey-esque, but in a good way. There are also some lovely folky instruments in the background and the ending is crazy but you won't be able to help bobbing along to it.

Marion Raven - Break You
Marion is fierce! She doesn't just chuck some stuff around like Kelly Clarkson in her feeble attempt at trashing a room. Marion gets the power tools out on the furniture! The song is a bit too much girl-angst and not enough catchy hooks but she's a good singer and certainly a more realistic girl rocker than the embarrassing Skye Sweetnams and Tammin Sursocks of the world, plus her songs are written by Max Martin and his writing partner Rami, which certainly scores her some bonus points! If you recognise Marion it could be from her old band M2M, who were very big in Scandinavia and released the cute single from the Pokémon soundtrack called Don't Say You Love Me, in the UK.

It's Time For A Bumper Boredom Busting Summer Holiday Pop Quiz!

I've tried to make it tricky so you might have to do some Googling/deep-thinking to get the answers and therefore fill more potentially bored time.

Which bands used to be called the following?
1. Parva
2. Kara's Flowers
3. Touch

Which country are the following Europoptastic acts from?
1. Eliza
2. Elise
3. E-type

Who sings these top songs of the summer 2005?
1. Love Me, Love Me
2. Who's That Girl
3. From Paris To Berlin

Which Swedish bands do these lead singers belong to?
1. Kristofer Östergren
2. Ola Salo
3. Linda Sundblad

Which words are missing in these song titles?
1. Show Me ____ - Robyn
2. Sexual _________ - Alcazar
3. ______ Girl - Hitch Hike

Which Girls Aloud songs are these lyrics from?
1. "Long ago I lost my soul, to some forgotten dream"
2. "Check out the A List, sporting the fashion,lights, camera, action"
3. "Moet in mud, and a bottle of bud and Monday looks divine"

Who had tours called the following?
1. Too Close For Comfort
2. Showgirl
3. Who's That Girl

Which films were these songs on the soundtracks of?
1. Sugababes - Round Round
2. Girls Aloud - You Freak Me Out
3. Maroon 5 - Sweetest Goodbye

Which pop videos are these screencaps from?

Which ex-pop stars wrote the following singles?
1. Amy Studt - Misfit
2. Blue - If You Come Back
3. Santana & Michelle Branch - The Game Of Love

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