Miss Li - Dancing the Whole Way Home - 1st April
Bat For Lashes - Two Suns - 6th April
Melody Club - Goodbye to Romance - 22nd April
BWO - Big Science - April
The Sounds - Crossing the Rubicon - May
Florence and the Machine - July
Leona Lewis - October
Alexandra Burke - November
Alcazar - 2009
The Ark - 2009
Patrick Wolf - 2009
Robyn - 2009
1. There's a great remix of Oh Father by Linda Sundblad on her MySpace page, and you can also hear two more album tracks. 2. If you haven't already, I recommend a listen to Take That's Radio 2 concert this weekend. 3. Remember Pauline who sang Answer and Running Out Of Gaz? There's an ace demo by her on her record company's MySpace.
Just Jack - Stars In Their Eyes As you may have noticed I'm a big fan of Just Jack and very excited about his 2nd album, which is out at last in January. Hopefully this song will be as successful as it deserves, or at least enough to get Writer's Blcok re-released and make his album sell plentifully. His sound is quite unique (although sounding like many other things combined) but fits in with what's around at the moment, even if he probably will be pronounced the male Lily Allen. There are some similarities in sound and lyrical content, but JJ's style is definitely more mature and his music is really interesting, especially considering its pretty different to my typical favourites and yet I'm still quite devoted. Give him a chance, pop lovers! 92% Poptastic!
McFly - Sorry's Not Good Enough After having completely missed the release of McFly's last single, which of course went to no.1 and left me mumbling "Star Girl? Isn't that a magazine for little girls?" (I'm pretty sure my younger sister used to buy it), I decided against switching over when their new one came on TV, and I have to say it's not too bad. They went a bit rubbish and pretentious in the 2nd album stage and I thought all was lost and they might as well just split up now, but lo and behold they came back with a 3rd album which seems from the singles to be just as jolly as their debut. In fact the whole debacle has been depicted in the changing colours of Dougie's hair, which was blonde in their glory days, turned black in the dark days of Ultraviolet and now as the light appears at the end of the tunnel it is brown and sure to be lightening by the day. Phew! 67% Poptastic!
Robyn, Annie, Bertine Zetlitz, Kylie, Girls Aloud, Madonna, Rachel Stevens, Marie Serneholt, Sugababes. A fairly comprehensive list of the best female acts of this century, and Margaret's music not only sounds like all of them but this album could be a compilation of their very best recordings and biggest hits. Few people have paid Margaret much attention so far, but even if it means I have to mention her every day for the next decade, this wrong will have to be righted because this album is absolutely fantastic. With consistent quality, a distinctive style and an overwhelming 'feel-good' effect, this could easily be a substitute for the new album we were told to expect from Robyn this year, and it's the album Chewing Gum suggested Annie could make if she tried hard enough and ignored the temptations to be cool.
Now for a quick track-by-track review:
Silver Fairy The sort-of title track mixes dark ethnic beats with floaty, eerie sounds and mantra-like vocals.
Seek I'll Hide Squelchy Annie-style electro with sassy yet very catchy lyrics, building up to be more poptastic as the song develops.
Will You Remember Me Tomorrow Ridiculously uplifting girly pop masterpiece which you will remember the words to for the rest of your life, not just tomorrow. (Download)
Samantha The hit single I've been loving since July, superior to everything the mainstream female singers have made in 2006. (Video)
I'm Gonna Stay After Summer This song makes me think Sia should ask Outkast to produce her next CD, cos it's a brilliant combination of their styles.
Get Physical A more conventional electro-pop track, which would have fit well on Richard X's X Factor album.
Naive A bit Lily Allen, but the super-sweet Norwegian version - an absolutely lovely song, also somewhat Sugababes-y.
Robot Song Could be the sequel to Robyn's Robot Boy in style and content, a likely future single for Margaret I think.
Pretty Things In Life A fun yet slightly dark party track, with a catchy 80s pop slant, although the chorus reminds me strangely of Liberty X!
Have You Never Ever Sophisticated atmospheric electro Madonna would be proud of, a definite grower - think Royksopp's poppier moments.
Just Jack had his first TV performance last night (of course his first TV appearance was on Popworld many years ago, the time I first heard of him) on Later with Jools Holland. He sang two of his fantastic new songs and you can watch videos of them right here.
Robyn is (almost) here - her new Rakamonie EP is out in just 9 days' time. It's so exciting to have her back and releasing something I don't already have, so I'll actually be able to go out and buy it and I expect you all to do the same. So when is she gonna announce these live dates she keeps teasing us with mentions of?
I don't know if it's because I can't watch TV much at the moment, but I had no idea until today that the Platinum Weird album had been released in the UK, and neither did I know that the phenomenally ace Mambo by Helena Parizou is also to be released on Monday. Will it get further than September's Satellites and actually make it into the shops?
If people think the mid-00s have been a bit barren in terms of poptasticness, look back to the early 90s. SAW were dying out, Kylie (and her old fans?) had gone indie, Madonna preferred acting, teenagers went to raves and no-one was really making great pop music - or if they were no-one was listening. The only big boyband were NKOTB and even their best singles wouldn't have got onto an *N Sync album. Then came Take That, and what a relief - it took a few singles but the lack of fun in the charts meant there was a huge gap in the market for them and once they'd got a few fans it wasn't long til they were so famous no-one could imagine life without Take That and although there still weren't many other pop bands it couldn't be denied that pop was back in a huge way.
I see Take That's rise to stardom as the catalyst for the big wave of pop that my personal pop fandom has lived through. Of course it's had its ups and downs and the sound has changed constantly depending on outer influences from other popular styles - everything from rave to rap to latino to electro have come in and out of vogue and pop has adapted itself accordingly. But since Take That, as far as I can tell (I was only 2 when the band formed, after all!), there hasn't been a dip in pop quality and ubiquity as big as the one which was heightened in 2004/2005.
However, 2006 so far has been really quite poptastic. Many great songs have been hits, there have been many great no. 1s, Girls Aloud are more popular than ever, and most brilliant of all is the resurgence of some of the major pop acts of the 90s/early 00s pop wave - Backstreet Boys, All Saints, 5ive, East 17 and of course it is Take That, who ignited this pop wave in the first, who made the biggest and most glorious comeback of all. My only question is why they are releasing a single in November when it's Christmas next month and Take That never had a Christmas no.1 before???
So, Take That have triggered a pop uprising before - can they do it again? My answer to that is yes and no - while their new music is not very poptastic (although Patience is very nice), the reminder of how they were at the beginning when there was something really exciting about them (and the latter years would not have happened if they hadn't earned it by being ace and ridiculous in their early years) could well inspire a whole new era of pop. It's not certain to happen, just as it's far from certain that there can ever be an all-encompassing wave of pop or any musical style again, now that listeners have access to such varied music, making it more difficult for one band to be omnipresent and loved by all, but it is not impossible if people decide they want it.
Already the effects of Take That's return to public consciousness is showing its effects. Eton Road on the X Factor are praised for having the spirit of early Take That, rather than criticised for not being original, although in fact that would be a very redundant claim as their individual quirks are original and in fact what makes them like Take That. The positive reaction to both Take That's reunion and Eton Road's recreation of their early style and energy, shows that there is a desire for new pop and what the audience wants, the audience gets, especially in a music world where pretty much everything is available.
All we need is a few great pop bands to be dangled in front of music buyers and soon enough one of them will take their fancy and they'll be huge in minutes and pop will be back before we've even had time to analyse it. I don't think Eton Road will be the new Take That and neither will any other band - as I have said countless times in these features, the next big thing will be nothing like any old big thing and we cannot predict it, but it won't be another Take That or another Spice Girls, but something else entirely and I'm sure they'll be just as great in their own way (although I probably won't like them much, cos they'll have to appeal to the current teenage market who have awful taste in everything).
It's nice to feel positive about the future pop for a change. It'll be just our luck that Eton Road will get voted out on Saturday for not having enough guitars or smiling too much. Until then enjoy them singing my favourite ABBA song on last week's show, and imagine my slightly scary amounts of excitement when I heard they had chosen it...
Gwen Stefani - Wind It Up (Audio) What a disaster! It's a weird mix of The Sound of Music, Fergie and the Vengaboys. Who would have thought the Lonely Goatherd section would actually be the best bit? This is such a far cry from the brilliance of What You Waiting For and most of the rest of her first solo album, that it's really just depressing. It doesn't even have a tune or a catchy hook or anything. Girls rapping can be great (Neneh Cherry, Lisa Left-Eye etc. - pop icons!) but this track doesn't even have the sense of girl power attitude that is usually entailed in such things. Still better than My Humps though... 55% Poptastic!
Nelly Furtado - Say It Right/All Good Things Come To An End (Videos) Can Nelly not be content with releasing one or even 2 singles at a time? It was only the other week I was reviewing a video for No Hay Igual, and this week alone I have seen 2 new videos from the most prolific single-releaser in pop at the moment, and this is not new for Ms Furtado, who launched her album with 3 singles at once earlier this year. We in the UK seem to be getting All Good Things, so will we have Say It Right and No Hay Igual afterwards? I guess now she's made 5 videos and single covers she can just relax as they all get released around the world. SIR: 73% Poptastic! AGT: 77% Poptastic!
In a valiant attempt to put off my Philosophy essay as much as possible, I have been wading through the archives of some of the other pop blogs I try to read. While there are some great posts out there (and I will get to that in a minute), I was not quite sure whether to be annoyed or flattered when I noticed that certain blogs seemed to be basically re-producing the archives of this blog and my mp3 blog, Into The Groove. I'm very pleased that some of the wonderful acts I have tirelessly supported over the years of writing these blogs may get some new fans who didn't hear about them the first time, but with my policy not to repeat old posts on Into The Groove, it is rather annoying to see others getting credit for the ace pop discoveries I made. So I guess I'm just saying if you run a pop blog and you want to do so in the poptastic spirit, go out into the world of pop and make your own discoveries, find something new and present it in a style that is refreshing and different and actually interesting to read. Say something about the songs - if you're giving background information, pick out the interesting bits. I guess that's enough advice from me, here to end this post on a more positive note, are a small selection of the blogs I continue to love and read religiously:
Arjan Writes He may sometimes confusingly post videos we've known about for ages as exclusives, but Arjan's posts are always interesting and the bands he picks out to recommend are varied but always something different that we might never hear of without his site.
The Zapping This site is no work of literary genius but the genuine enthusiasm, fun attitude, lack of pretentiousness and love for music all bring me back to this site again and again. This is the site for posts on music and other things with an endearing and very British personal feel.
Aaron off of V It's so nice to see a pop star who really cares about pop music, even if he's not really a proper pop star at the moment - he certainly deserves to be and his blog is full of ace references to the pop world that once was. In an ideal world all pop stars would have this attitude to music, with no desire to be anything but poptastic. He goes to gigs to see "fit people" and cherishes his crazy Latvian readers - what more could you want from a pop star or a blogger?
Enthusiastic But Mediocre His posts may be a bit sporadic these days but Edward is still the most knowledgeable pop blogger around and certainly the one with the best taste. No-one else has introduced me to so many fantastic songs and bands. Maybe if we all visit the site he'll realise that everyone wants him to post lots more and fulfil our wish...
The new album by everyone's favourite Swedish rock-turned-pop chick, Linda Sundblad, is available now to buy on CD Wow. I've been a fan of Lambretta for years but their rock sound led to much of their music (apart from the usually ace singles) being a bit dull, but now she is a pop princess in the vein of Robyn or Gwen, channeling Madonna and doing exactly what Kylie should be, I'm sure that her debut solo album will be fantastic. Click here to order it from CD Wow, unless of course you're Swedish and you can buy it from the shops and help her get to the top of the charts.
Representing the USA: Stefy - Hey School Boy The follow-up to Chelsea has moved on a decade or so from Debbie Harry to surely her modern day counterpart, Gwen Stefani. This is certainly more like No Doubt than Gwen's solo stuff, and with the voice of the singer (also called Stefy, I think) being very similar to Gwen's it really does just sound like a forgotten bonus track of the Rock Steady album. Still, that was a great album and this is not a bad attempt at emulating it, even if something more original would have been better.
Representing Sweden: Marie Serneholt - Oxygen Marie has a great album of surprising consistency, so why she has released the boring ballad I don't know. There are so many other tracks that would have made fab singles, such as I Love Making Love In The Morning, Can't Be Loved and Calling All Detectives. The video is nice but not very exciting. Why do great pop acts think it is obligatory to release a ballad? There are plenty of ace mid-tempo tracks she could have gone for instead.
Representing Latvia: Brainstorm - Lonely To Be Lonely It is rare to find a Latvian band, so apart from Eurovision entries I had no idea what Latvian music sounded like. This is quite a dull guitar-ballad and sounds very much like Crowded House. The cartoon video is quite sweet, though. They must be pretty popular cos they won the first ever Best Baltic Act award at this week's MTV Europe Awards (although they beat Vanilla Ninja which just can't be right). Now perhaps some more Eastern Europeans can infiltrate the show and not just so people can mock them now everyone thinks they are oh so hilarious thanks to Borat.
Representing Lithuania: Inculto - Welcome To Lithuania This isn't new but I only just discovered it myself and just had to share. It was beaten by LT United to become this year's Lithuanian Eurovision entry, and as much as I loved We Are The Winners this is much better and perhaps even funnier. The video is great and do you know any other song that includes the line "Sex tourists beware!"? No, I didn't think so.
Cascada - Truly Madly Deeply (Video) I would just like to state that when I posted this on Into The Groove it was not this trashy dance remix but the surprisingly likeable original ballad version. Is this the sign of a new era as songs I was a fan of first time around start being covered by new bands? I wonder what Darren will think of this... I can't imagine it will be very positive. 34% Poptastic!
Take That - Patience (Video) It's certainly no Never Forget or Back For Good, but it is better than quite a lot of TT's back-catalogue. This actually reminds me of A-Ha's recent comeback single Analogue, which was quite a hit and considering Take That were many times more popular than A-Ha in their hey-day, this should do pretty well. It's exciting to have them back, even if I doubt their whole album will be that great. 83% Poptastic!
Christina Aguilera - Hurt Still not as good as anything from Stripped. Why isn't she releasing Candy Man? It's a rather strange state of affairs when I prefer Beyoncé's new single to anything from Christina's latest album. I hope the next Christina album is better or I might have to give up on her forever! 65% Poptastic!
1. The Pipettes - Judy (UK) 2. Siobhan Donaghy - Ghosts (UK) 3. High School Musical - Breaking Free (UK) 4. Beyoncé - Irreplaceable (UK) 5. Genki Rockets - Heavenly Stars Above (Japan) 6. The Feeling - Love It When You Call (UK) 7. Snow Patrol featuring Martha Wainwright - Set The Fire To The Third Bar (UK) 8. Scissor Sisters – Land of A Thousand Words (UK) 9. Keane - Nothing In My Way (UK) 10. Basement Jaxx - Take Me Back To Your House (UK) 11. Sugababes - Easy (UK) 12. Meatloaf ft. Marion Raven - It's All Coming Back To Me Now (UK) 13. Take That - Patience (UK) 14. Lilyjets - Perfect Picture (It Would Be Better) (Norway) 15. Erik Faber - Not Over (Norway) 16. Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out Of This Country (Sweden) 17. The Kooks - Ooh La (UK) 18. Minor Majority - Supergirl (Norway) 19. Moby ft. Debbie Harry - New York, New York (USA) 20. Anna Ternheim - Girl Laying Down (Sweden)
Just missing out this month were the Long Blondes, Chipz, 365 and Marie Serneholt - maybe next time, eh? Let's see how this affects my overall chart of the year:
1. BWO - Temple Of Love 2. BWO - Will My Arms Be Strong Enough 3. September - Satellites 4. Pipettes – Pullshapes 5. Will Young – Who Am I 6. Scissor Sisters - I Don't Feel Like Dancing 7. Delays – Valentine 8. Rihanna - S.O.S (Rescue Me) 9. Kate Ryan - Je t'adore 10. Infernal - From Paris To Berlin 11. Najoua Belyzel - Gabriel 12. Camera Obscura - Lloyd I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken 13. Lillix - Sweet Temptation 14. Margaret Berger - Samantha 15. Fefe Dobson - As A Blonde 16. The Pipettes - Judy 17. Andreas Lundstedt - Love Gun 18. Will Young - All Time Love 19. Elena Paparizou - Mambo 20. The Veronicas - When It All Falls Apart