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Who needs guitars anyway?

Best Bits
Thursday, September 27, 2007

Observations on Swedish Idol

1. Swedes know a good song when they hear it. Gavin DeGraw seems to be the most popular artist to sing songs by, yet if you performed one on X Factor you'd be met with blank looks. I've also heard Anouk (ace Dutch angst-poppet) and Nanne Grönvall (Melodifest favourite)!
2. Whoever chooses the backing music has great tase. Bertine Zetlitz, Fannypack, Vincent and Marit Bergman were all heard in the third episode.
3. I think when a girl sang Life by E-Type it was the first audition I'd seen where the auditionee didn't sing anything originally sung by the artist, as all the lyrics she sang were those of the female singer who sings on Life. I would have laughed if she'd broken into E-Type's comedy Svensk-rap, though.
4. The judges are quite harsh on this show, as there have been several I thought would go through that didn't, unlike the UK where it's usually the other way around. Considering the population of Sweden is so much smaller, it must be a good sign for their talent that the judges can be so picky.
5. They don't just show the very good and very bad on Swedish Idol, but a lot of normal-looking people who sing just like the average person on the street. Not particularly impressive or even tuneful, but not hilariously weird either. Perhaps there's a national shortage of weirdos? I guess that's a good thing for me. I have noticed I have many more options of sane-seeming people to sit next to on buses than in England, but then again I do work in Reading...

I think Britain might need me back after all...

I just Googled 'RyanDan', a new band whose album is in this week's top 10. I'd already guessed they weren't mainstream Radio 1-type music as I'd never heard of them before, so to learn they were a classical act was no surprise. The only problem is I can't take them seriously when they have the least original and most rubbish-sounding name in history, and they are twins who both look like Ethan from the first series of Lost! If classical-warbling twins wasn't a scary enough prospect, just make them look like the creepy villain of one of my favourite shows and I'll be having nightmares for weeks. Coincidentally I did have a very disturbing dream about someone else from Lost last night, but I don't really want to talk about it!

Has the UK traded me for the entire Swedish pop industry?

I left England just over a month ago to broaden my horizons in the land where normal-looking people don't exist (they're either unreasonably beautiful or amazingly ugly), and since then it seems that the British music industry has missed me so much they've become obsessed with Swedes. Robyn had already had her no.1 hit before I left, but now the battle is on between the two current top Swedish songwriters, Max Martin and Dr. Luke, for this week's no.1 spot!

When the Max & Luke pop-rock sound emerged with Kelly Clarkson in the USA, The Veronicas in Australia, and Marion Raven in Scandinavia, I excitedly planned how they would conquer the UK by giving a brilliant girl power song to Billie Piper, the perfect way to revive her music career. However, my great plan never came into being, and it seemed like no UK acts would catch on to the brilliance of these Swedes, which surprised me as bands like Five and Solid HarmoniE were crucial to the 90s Max Martin boom.

Until now, this is - now two very British pop acts are fighting for this week's no.1 spot, with songs written by our 2 Swedish songwriting heroes! In Dr. Luke's corner are the Sugababes, with About You Now, the British version of Who Knew or Nothing In This World (the watered down versions of Since U Been Gone etc.), and in Max Martin's is Shayne Ward, the archetypal one-man-boyband, singing a song that could have gone to 5ive in the olden days, or perhaps Darin in Sweden if Shayne hadn't wanted it. But it's no Keep On Movin' or Money For Nothing.

So, although I do like both of these songs, and I'm excited to see my favourite writers back at the top of the UK charts, I do feel it's a shame that the British acts haven't been given some ass-kicking world-moving megahits like Kelly, The Vs and Marion were (even if only Kelly became the worldwide superstar they all deserved to be). Wouldn't the Sugababes have done a great job with Dr. Luke's Tap That, the Megan McCauley classic-that-never-was? Wouldn't Darin's Perfect and Step Up have been a more suitable double a-side for Shayne, with a cheesy pop song complemented by something a bit more Timberlake-esque? Still, the song choices haven't done them any harm - perhaps the public just can't cope with the most extreme brilliance of Max and Luke's best work.

And the results so far? Shayne's a few thousand ahead at the moment, but the 'Babes are only out on download so expected to take the top spot next week. Maybe we'll have to call it a draw...
Wednesday, September 26, 2007

New Pop On The Block

Vanessa Carlton - Nolita Fairytale (Watch)
I'm not a huge fan of Vanessa's music but I like her in principle for putting personality into her music and making some great videos. This is another one to add to the list of Thousand Miles and White Houses, and it even takes a self-referential joke at the expense of the former, although I did get a bit confused and thought I'd got the wrong video when it started playing! So, good video, good lyrics, a nice girl... but still the sound is not blowing me away, as much as I'd like it to. Like Celine Dion she has been working with some hip-hop people on her new record, and just like Celine it seems to have had no effect!
71% Poptastic!

McFly - The Heart Never Lies (Video)
Oh dear, who told McFly to go serious and boring? After their last album, which reverted to the funtimes of their debut, brought them back to the top of the charts, surely the last thing for them to do is make their most boring single yet. I know they're getting older but that's no excuse, as every member of the Scissor Sisters is at least 7 years older than each of McFly, and they're the funnest band around! It seems like they're trying to do a Chasing Cars or How To Save A Life type of song (with added guitar-thrashing and gurning at the camera), and yes those songs were very successful, but that was regardless of who sang them, and this one will only be a hit because it's by McFly.
22% Poptastic!
Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Today's the day!!

The new BWO album is released and I can buy it in a shop with real money! I just hope they have it as I remember looking for Alcazar's Dancefloor Discotheque a week after its release and finding it nowhere in Stockholm.
Monday, September 17, 2007

Erm... oops?

I just love the first line where it sounds so much like Siobhan Donaghy and Delta Goodrem, and the repeaty bit at the end, "Keep bleeding, I keep keep bleeding love" over ridiculous wails from Leona. I have also thought up an utterly brilliant video for it, inspired by my current gothic novel course...

It's set in a gothic castle in the 16th century, with Leona playing a recently bereaved wife. She roams the castle, distraught, sees the ghost of her husband and follows him but he always disappears. She has flashbacks to the night he was killed, when they were travelling home through a storm and were stopped by outlaws. Finding no money, they decide they will take Leona instead, and her husband dies in her defence. She wails a bit more. The end! Perhaps I've just been reading too many mysteries of Udolpho, but I do think this would be great, and there is something very gothic about power ballads (Total Eclipse! It's All Coming Back!), so it's perfect!

Now I know I'm going to be really upset when I see the video and it's just Leona lamenting in a fancy hotel room or something equally dull. Gothic castle! Please!

New Pop On The Block

Leona Lewis - Bleeding Love (Listen)
In the words of Darren Hayes, who would have thought? Leona sounds like Delta Goodrem on record! Well, that's when she's not sounding like Celine, Whitney etc. with a touch of Lucie Silvas and, most surprisingly, Siobhan Donaghy! Let's just hope she doesn't ruin her life by dating someone from Westlife, if there are any straight ones left unmarried anyway. Actually she'd be quite a good match for Gareth Gates - just imagine the intellectual debate at their dinner parties! I like the song at the moment but I might get bored of it. I can't deny my love for power ballads, though. In fact, I'm going to make up a power ballad playlist as soon as I've finished writing this.
83% Poptastic!

Amy Diamond - Is It Love (Listen)
I'd heard that Amy was going in a new direction with her new single, so I was quite intrigued. And I guess she has gone in a new direction, but the only name I can think of for it is 'boring'. It isn't really very much different to her other songs either (kind of like a slowed-down version), although I suppose it's hard to change your style when your singing voice is as distinctive as Amy's is. Hopefully it will be a grower and I'll be begging her forgiveness in a few weeks when I'm obsessed with this song. We'll just have to wait and see. It's not awful, I just expect more from the first single from an album.
74% Poptastic!

Celine Dion - Taking Chances (Listen)
Rather than putting up a fight as Leona tries to take her place as top pop warbler, Celine has decided to go in a new direction. Unlike Amy Diamond, it seemed like Miss Dion really was going out on a limb with her comeback album, having worked with Timbaland, Ne-Yo, Evanescence, R. Kelly and Linda Perry... so why does the first single sound just like her usual music? Perhaps even more boring! It gets a bit guitarry later on, but it's hardly Rammstein. It was actually written by Kara DioGuardi and Dave Stewart (aka Platinum Weird), who I personally find a bit overrated compared to the Swedish pop-rock writers, although Kara has contributed to some amazing proper pop singles like I Want It That Way, Spinning Around and I Knew I Loved You. I don't think any of Celine's mum fans will be very upset by this new direction.
56% Poptastic!
Saturday, September 15, 2007


Time for the strangest news of the day... I just learned that the DanceX winners' single was actually written by Danny Saucedo! Considering that Danny is not exactly a singer-songwriter in its traditional sense (and all the better for it), I suppose this just means it is a reject from his album. Still, his involvement in the song makes me slightly more sad that it only debuted at no.91 in the UK charts!
Sunday, September 09, 2007

New Svenskpop On The Block

BWO - Let It Rain/Rhythm Drives Me Crazy
This is sort of like a double a-side but they've released 2 separate CDs. CD singles aren't a big thing in Sweden, though, so radio play is more important. I haven't heard RDMC on the radio yet but Let It Rain is getting plenty of plays on the reliably ace Rix FM. It's only 10 days now until the new album, and although these 2 tracks aren't quite of the same super-magnificence as Conquering America or Will My Arms Be Strong Enough, I still have confidence that their third album, which is called Fabricator, will be another slice of acetastic pop music.
LIR: 94% Poptastic!
RDMC: 90% Poptastic!

Danny ft. Therese - If Only You
This isn't a favourite of mine from Danny's album, but the addition of the fabulous Therese makes it a little more exciting. It's more of a proper dance song than the cheesy pop of Play It For The Girls and Tokyo, but it's still Eurodance as opposed to the boring sort of dance music Radio 1 play, and has a nice summery vibe. Then again, it could certainly be a UK hit and brighten up the repetitive dance shows a little bit.
76% Poptastic!

Billy the Vision & the Dancers - Overdosing With You
I'd vaguely heard of this act but not heard anything by them until this song appeared on the radio. I was intrigued by the lyrics, which talk about being addicted to the TV shows Desperate Housewives and NYPD Blue, but it wasn't until the guest star began to sing that I was properly hooked - it was none other than Annika Norlin from Hello Saferide! The song isn't as brilliant as some she's given us in the past, but I do love the bit where Billy sings "Hello Saferide, can you give me a safe ride back to sleep?".
69% Poptastic!

Da Buzz - Baby Listen To Me
In the past few years Da Buzz ave gone from a reasonably good dance-pop act to one of the best around, as they've released some really excellent songs - Dangerous, How Could You Leave Me, Without Breaking, Last Goodbye, and now this, one of their best yet. It sounds similar to Elena Paparizou's catchy Mambo style, mixed with September's sing-along dance-pop, which is quite an unbeatable combination. You won't get these "na-nana-nana-hey"s out of your head for weeks - don't say I didn't warn you!
96% Poptastic!
Sunday, September 02, 2007

Top of the Poptastic!

My favourite singles during August 2007:

1. BWO - Let It Rain
2. Da Buzz - Baby Listen To Me
3. Junior Senior - Can I Get Get Get
4. Ladytron - Destroy Everything You Touch
5. The Sounds - Painted By Numbers
6. BWO - Rhythm Drives Me Crazy
7. Peter, Bjorn and John ft. Victoria Bergsman - Young Folks
8. BSBs - Inconsolable
9. Ali Love - Late Night Session
10. Sugababes - About You Now
11. Passenger - Walk You Home
12. Velvet - Chemistry
13. Lucky Twice – Lucky
14. Taio Cruz - Moving On
15. Candie Payne - One More Chance
16. Magnus Carlsson - Waves Of Love
17. Enrique Iglesias - Tired of Being Sorry
18. Mitchell Bros vs. Calvin Harris - Michael Jackson
19. MIA – Jimmy
20. Maximo Park - Girls Who Play Guitars
21. Millburn - When The Money Goes
22. Sohodolls - Right and Right Again
23. Brick & Lace - Your Love Is Wicked
24. Chemical Brothers – The Salmon Dance
25. Grace - Sink Like A Stone

Song Thievery Revealed!

I kept wondering why Tired Of Being Sorry by Ringside kept being played on Swedish radio. I thought it must be getting a very late release over here, or maybe it was just a really big it the first time and I hadn't noticed. But then I learn that Enrique Iglesias' new song is also called Tired Of Being Sorry, so I YouTube it and as soon as I hear the first note, it all fits into place. Enrique has taken Ringside's brilliant single (which was a big hit in Poland but perhaps nowhere else, except Into The Groove where I posted it in December 2005) and is now bringing it to the world. It's a shame the original act won't get the credit, but it's also good that the song won't be wasted, and Enrique's version really does sound just like Ringside's.

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