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Who needs guitars anyway?

Best Bits
Tuesday, November 27, 2007

New Pop On The Block

Backstreet Boys - Helpless When She Smiles (Listen)
I haven't bought the new BSBs album yet, since I decided to put it on my Xmas list in order to have at least one thing to be excited about this Yuletide. I liked the first single, Inconsolable, even though every time I hear it I must still take a moment to work out if it is Inconsolable or Incomplete, but I was a little annoyed when I heard the boys complaining that their record company was forcing them to release this, yet another song that sounds like Incomplete. However, after a few listens I've grown to really like this song. The first line of the chorus, "I'm a house of cards in a hurricane", has something really satisfying in its lyrics and melody. I can't remember much of the rest of the song, but I have to declare my love for that one line.
85% Poptastic!

Caroline Larsson - Sweet Little Gun (Listen)
I always thought this song was by a man until I found out that the singer was called Caroline. She's not that manly, though, I'm just used to girly Swedish male singers I think! The song is really catchy pop-rock, maybe not super-original but very jolly anyway. I was going to say it was the jolliest song about guns I've ever heard, but then I remembered Andreas from Alcazar's extremely camp solo single, Lovegun. Her other songs on MySpace aren't so good but she could have a big hit with this one, as it's already played quite often on the local radio here, although maybe only since she is a local girl.
81% Poptastic!

Linda Kiraly - Can't Let Go (Watch)
When this song started I thought she was going to be something along the lines of Vanessa Carlton, so I was rather surprised when it morphed into an upbeat r'n'b number! Her voice reminds me of Utada Hikaru but actually she's Hungarian. What with Estonian Kerli also making a play for the USA at the moment, it seems to be the moment for Eastern European lady popstars, but I don't know if either have much chance of success. This song is pretty good though (made with Rodney Jerkins), and would certainly appeal to fans of Nelly Furtado and Natasha Bedingfield. I'll be looking out for more from her.
74% Poptastic!

Anouk - Good God (Watch)
I love Anouk so I'm glad to see a new single and album for her. She amazes me by being so fierce and fabulous despite looking quite sweet and innocent. Her songs are often very angsty but sometimes she goes for fun and this is one of those times. I've never noticed before but she sounds a lot like Amy Winehouse here. This is the least rocky song I've heard by her (or maybe it's just more rock'n'roll than modern rock), but it's perhaps the craziest and definitely most danceable. It's nice to see her taking a new direction as some of her recent songs have been a bit boring, and this is definitely not. The video is really cool too, although her make-up artist definitely needs the sack!
90% Poptastic!

Emmy Rossum - Slow Me Down (Watch)
I had heard that Emmy (star of The Day After Tomorrow, Phantom of the Opera etc.) was a classical singer so I expected an album of covers of classical classics and a few modern ballads like You Raise Me Up or similar. Well, that's what we'd get if she was English. But instead she seems to have decided that one Imogen Heap isn't enough, and we need two of them. I have a feeling that Emmy's singing career is going to go the same way as her Phantom co-star, Minnie Driver, especially since Emmy hasn't done many films and is hardly a household name. She could appeal to the mum market, but this Imogen-lite material might be a bit weird for some of them, although it is a bit like Enya. It sounds nice though, and she is very pretty, but there's something annoyingly earnest about the girl.
66% Poptastic!

You'll never have to put up with Edith Bowman again

Although I've only been here 3 months, my knowledge of Swedish radio goes back much further than that. I've been a listener of the following stations for at least 3 years, and regularly namedrop them on this site. Therefore I thought it about time that I presented you with my guide to the three best radio stations in Sweden, and links to listen to them online:

Mix Megapol
This is one of the most varied radio stations I've ever heard, yet it's also one of the most consistent in quality. This is where you can hear the classics other stations spurn, from Eiffel 65 to that Sunscreen song, alongside the latest hits from Rihanna to Moneybrother, BWO to Sugababes. Just don't turn it on for your bathtime listening just before the rock show starts, as I did. It was not a great experience, although I did have a jolly sing-along to Hard Rock Hallelujah. There are different Mix Megapol stations around the country so you can browse between them or settle on the Gothenburg version, which I find is the best.

Rix FM
This station can't be compared to any other in the world, because it could not exist anywhere but Sweden. This is pure pop, and the first place to hear each new single by Amy Diamond, BWO, Darin and co. As soon as Rix FM get their hands on these songs, they'll be played hourly for the next month, so for Svenskpop fans such as me, this is radio heaven! They also play classics, but their definition of what is a classic is much more in line with mine than any other station I've known - think BSBs, Savage Garden and Britney. I love it.

Being Sweden's state-run equivalent to Radio 1, it's no surprise that the quality here is quite varied. Even within one show, the mix of music can include 1960s northern soul and the latest super-obscure indie-electro from New York. If you want to hear what's big right now in Sweden you can check out their chart shows, Tracks or DigiListan, but avoid the comedy shows if your Swedish is lacking, since the music is sparse and more commercial. It takes some persistance, but P3 is perhaps the best station in the world for discovering the next big thing or collecting cool new acts to namedrop and impress hot indie boys and girls, which always proves useful in my life at least.
Sunday, November 25, 2007

Dirrrty Pop Review: Girls Aloud - Tangled Up

When I witnessed the formation of Girls Aloud on Popstars: The Rivals 5 years ago I could not have imagined that they would go on to be one of the greatest pop groups of all time. I didn't even care that much for Sounds Of The Underground, and when I heard the amazing No Good Advice I believed it would be their one-off great song, which of course was very incorrect, as I learned when the influence of Popjustice led me to buy their debut album. For the first few years we waited pessimistically for them to stop making the top 5 and get dumpered, or to have a massive fall-out and break up. Then they released their Greatest Hits and suddenly it wasn't just the usual pop fans who recognised their brilliance: everyone did. The group were at last seen as the national treasure they are, and now they are releasing their first album since.

I know a lot of long-term fans are not so keen on the new dancier direction of the group, but for me this is no problem. I want to see the girls keep things fresh, and to hear Xenomania's take on a slightly different genre than the electro-pop and pure pop they usually provide us with. Plus, I love dance music when it's done well - September's latest album is one of my absolute favourites this year, and every time she came on the radio when my English friend was here, he thought it was a new Girls Aloud song. The sound suits them, and it is only more prominent on this album, not actually taking over. Some of the best songs are the non-dancy ones, such as I Can't Speak French and Call The Shots. But then there's my instant fave, Girl Overboard, which is one of the group's danciest tracks yet.

I enjoyed Sexy! No No No, but it hasn't won a spot in my top 5 GA songs. Call The Shots, similarly, is not an absolute favourite for me, but it is probably their best ballad, if you can call it one. Their best song that is definitely not for parties anyway. I think I would enjoy it more if I could understand the chorus lyrics, though... Put your rays in the bed? What's that supposed to mean? Overall this album has more of a set sound than their last two, I think, and so it is harder to pick out which tracks should be singles. I think Girl Overboard, Can't Speak French or Control Of The Knife (I just love the male vocoder bits) would be my top choices, but will they be able to keep up the girls' impressive record of success? Most fans will have them on the album, and what with the decline of CD singles there is even less reason for a single to sell when it has already been available on downloads for a while.
Friday, November 16, 2007

New Pop On The Block

Amy Diamond - Stay My Baby
Well, Amy seems to have given up on the new mature direction (which turned out to be the same as her old songs but a bit boring) already and employed the one and only Max Martin to provide her with a song as cute and fun as we had come to expect from our favourite miniature pop diva. It's very catchy and great, but I can't remember much more because I've only heard it once on the radio so far and it's not online anywhere, as far as I can see. I certainly recommend you to keep an eye on YouTube though, or just listen to Rix FM as they're sure to be playing it every other song soon enough, as they thankfully love to with new Amy songs. The album, if you're interested, is out November 28th.
93% Poptastic!

Ingrid Michaelson - The Way I Am (Live)
You might have heard her song Keep Breathing used in a poignant moment in Grey's Anatomy recently (if you're American or adept with the Internet, that is), but it's this one that is being played on American radio stations and so I presume it is her new single. Although her name sounds Scandinavian she lives in New York, but I suppose her style could fit in well enough with the quirky pop ladies of these upper regions of Europe. Perhaps more so, though, with people like Imogen Heap or Regina Spektor. I think it's lovely to see a popstar with glasses, and with her lyrics of ordinary-people-empowerment (you take me the way I am etc.) she is a new icon for geeky girls.
79% Poptastic!

I Nine - Seven Days Of Lonely (Listen)
They do like numbers, don't they? This band seem quite promising, though. The sound is similar to Lilyjets, Avril Lavigne, Michelle Branch or Lillix, but this band isn't a girl band, just a female-fronted one, so of course they are inherently inferior to Lillix and Lilyjets. The song is catchy and nice, although not at all original. It's popular on my new fave US radio station (well, my fad of this week, anyway), KMBX Hot AC from Las Vegas. I can't see this being hugely successful, but it will be sort of a shame if it is (even though it's good), since there are so many better similar songs available which never have any success in the US because they are all girls, or marketed at teenagers, or not American.
82% Poptastic!
Thursday, November 15, 2007

A public service announcement

Readers of my other music blog, Into The Groove, may have noticed that I haven't been posting much recently, and may have stopped reading the site. Well, now you should unstop, cos I am back! And if you're not a usual reader... why not? Go and take a look now! Similarly, my film blog Lights Music Camera Action has taken a bit of a funny turn but I hope to get it fixed up soon, so go over there and bookmark it if you have good taste in films. In fact, even more so if you don't, cos you need educating!
Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Disco weeks are never a good idea

But I suppose it might be quite favourable for my beloved Same Difference. If only Alcazar were more famous and they could do This Is The World We Live In. I also hope that one of Dannii's contestants will follow Swedish cutie Mattias and sing This Is It. Speaking of Swedish Idol, I'm sad to say that its most beautiful contestant has finally headed home. He was terrible at disco, admittedly. Now I'm all about Daniel Karlsson for the prize. Vote, Swedes, vote!
Tuesday, November 13, 2007

So maybe pigs can fly?

A highly unexpected event just occured. A Fergie song just came on the radio, and I actually turned it up. There are few singers I hate as much as Fergie, but unlike P!nk and Kelly Clarkson, until now she had never done anything I even slightly enjoyed. Then I heard Clumsy, and in the interest of complete honesty and fairness, I have to admit that I loved it. When I found out who sang it (it doesn't sound like her particularly) I tried to stop, but a good song is a good song. It's only a shame that it couldn't have been given to a more deserving popstar.
Saturday, November 10, 2007

New Pop On The Block

Cascada - What Hurts The Most (Listen)
I don't know if this is their new single in the UK but it is here in Sweden and before you ask, yes it is a Jo O'Meara cover. Well, OK, maybe the intention was Rascal Flatts, but if I remember correctly, Jo did release it several months before they did. I quite liked it when Jo released it, in the days before she hadn't had her life ruined by George Orwell, and I must admit I rather enjoyed singing along to this new version when I heard it for the first time on the radio this morning, after having known for a while that they had covered it. It works much better than their awful Truly Madly Deeply, in my opinion, and that did very well (inexplicably - I'm pretty sure it wasn't any Savage Garden fans buying it!) so I expect this'll be a hit too, especially since it hasn't really been a hit in ballad form in the UK. In fact, if anyone knows it, unless they're country fans it will be for the Jo version, so they'll probably be rather surprised at Cascada covering a minor hit by an ex-S Clubber!
85% Poptastic!

Simple Plan - When I'm Gone (Listen)
It's rather embarrassing, but I actually quite like this song. It has some great "woah"s. I don't really know anything about this group except they're a rock band similar to Blink 182 and their ilk, and even my rock-loving younger sister thinks they're bad, so they must be pretty seriously uncool. And I'm not surprised having heard this song - it sounds like a boyband song rocked up a bit, but when I say boyband I'm not thinking so much of Busted or McFly but Backstreet Boys or second album A1. Sung with a less stupid voice, it would be really poptastic. In fact, it's quite poptastic already. Interestingly, one of its producers was another protgée of Timbaland. What with Ryan Tedder and now this guy, known as Danja, Timbaland is really taking over the whole of music at the moment at a worrying rate.
76% Poptastic!
Friday, November 09, 2007

The Next Big Thing?

As far as I can tell, Morello is mainly a guy called Malcolm, and I have to say he's the first cool Malcolm I've ever encountered. I was first intrigued by hearing he had a song called Exchange Student, since I am one at the moment, but I found the rest of the songs on his MySpace to be equally jolly. They sound a bit like Alphabeat, but more indie/home-made sounding and with added electro-soulfulness (his influences range from Stevie Wonder to Daft Punk). The songs are catchy and very cute. This is the kind of music that shows that pop is a sound and not just a status of popularity, because this music is quite sometimes obtuse sounding (many would find it annoying), but it is certainly poptastic. It also shows that a catchy melody and fun lyrics are much more important than a high-tech studio and big budget effects. Maybe one day Malcolm will go on to work with such things, but for now I'm enjoying the sweet and simple tunes he's making without all that.
Hit Potential: 5% Poptasticness: 85%

Sophia Somajo
Sounding like Robyn but even more squeaky and a little more hip-hop, Sophia is still a surefire hit with me, and I suspect with you too. She's friends on MySpace with Vincent and I think this is quite appropriate, as she could easily be called a female version of him, although when she's being less hip-hop she sounds rather like Feist. Her song Stockholm Calling, which she released as the lead track of an EP in August, is really catchy and cool, but do her other tracks keep to the same standard? Well, from what I've heard so far they're not far off, but Stockholm Calling is definitely the one to hear first. I love the way that Swedes mix American-influenced urban sounds with a more quirky style, making music which is much more consistently enjoyable than American r'n'b, where I find I enjoy many of the big hits but am sent to sleep by the rest.
Hit Potential: 15% Poptasticness: 75%
Thursday, November 08, 2007

Reality Round-Up

Idol 2007
I have finally caught up to date with the Swedish Idol programme, and am enjoying the show very much. My Swedish is improving but I still can't understand very much of what is said (they speak fast!), so it's interesting to watch a show and simply judge the singers for myself rather than being influenced by the judges' opinions, although of course I can tell if it's negative or positive from the contestants and crowd's reactions. Up until this week only girls had left in the finals, which shows how the programme is really aimed at young girls and older ladies, so the sweet boys are the favourites, just like in the UK's Pop Idol shows. It's no problem for me, though - I'm totally in love with adorable Christoffer, although my favourite singer is Daniel, and Matthias is also cute. There's a really cool girl called Amanda, another called Marie who is OK, and a guy called Andreas who I find rather annoying for no distinct reason. This week they dedicated songs to people they love, which included Matthias calling his best mate "babe" and Christoffer telling us his mother "attracts him like no other lover". Hmm...

The X Factor
I was rather sad to see Futureproof leave last week since they were my second favourites, but as long as Same Difference stay in the show and sing ace pop songs then I'm happy. I have been enjoying the series very much this year, and get very excited about downloading it each Sunday, but I'm less attached to the contestants than ever, with the exception of SD of course. I used to get so attached, in the days of Pop Idol and Fame Academy, and now I'm not affected at all. My attitude is much more 'what will be will be' after having seen so many of these shows and knowing it always happens that someone good goes too early, and the likelihood of the one you like ever becoming a real popstar is never very high. I look forward to seeing Same Difference on next year's Making Your Mind Up, though.

The Next Great American Band
This is a new talent show created by Simon Fuller, which is basically like the band section of X Factor, except the bands here have to play instruments. This means that although the bands on the show are very varied, there is a large sector of society almost entirely missed out i.e. females and non-whites. There is one girl group and one black male group, that's all. I know it's typical of bands of this sort to be white males but when you are shown about 25 of these with only 3 girl groups, it's a bit boring. There is, however, a group of 12 year olds who are like the metal Hanson, so I guess the show wasn't entirely without amusement. Considering there were so many boys on the show, there was a distinct lack of attractiveness. Is it any surprise that this show has done pretty rubbishly in the ratings?
Thursday, November 01, 2007

Top of the Poptastic!

1. Delays - Love Made Visible
2. Private - My Secret Lover
3. Ola - S.O.S
4. September - Until I Die
5. Darren Hayes - Me, Myself and I
6. Bertine Zetlitz - Ashamed
7. Mans Zelmerlow - Brother Oh Brother
8. Maroon 5 - Won't Go Home Without You
9. Lykke Li - Little Bit
10. Helen Love - It's My Club
11. FrYars - The Ides
12. Kylie Minogue - 2 Hearts
13. Girls Aloud - Call The Shots
14. Bruce Springsteen - Radio Nowhere
15. Vincent - Miss Blue
16. Venke Knutson - Walk The Walk
17. Stars - The Night Starts Here
18. Within Temptation - All I Need
19. Markoolio - Idollåten
20. Take That - Rule The World
21. E-Type - Eurofighter
22. Christophe Willem - Double Je
23. Richard Fleeshman - Coming Down
24. Amy Diamond - Is It Love?
25. David Jordan - Place In my Heart
26. Krezip - All My Life
27. The Veronicas - Hook Me Up
28. Rihanna ft. Ne-Yo - Hate That I Love You
29. Bodyrox ft. Luciana - What Planet You On
30. Vanessa Amorosi - Kiss Your Mama

And a question: Why is Bruce Springsteen suddenly good? This makes about as much sense as Jesse McCartney writing Bleeding Love. Well, OK, maybe it's not quite that insane...

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