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Who needs guitars anyway?


Best Bits
Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Max Martin will be quaking in his boots

Because I've just discovered that Thomas Troelsen, apart from being lead singer of incredible Danish pop act Private, is also behind some of my absolute favourite pop songs of all time! These include Baby by Melody Club and Hot Summer by Monrose, both completely amazing songs. His latest work is the new single for Sarah Connor (the German answer to Britney), which is rather good (no surprise) and makes her sound very much like Jamelia, an odd coincidence since Jamelia was in my dream last night, where she was replacing Cheryl Cole as the new X Factor judge. This in turn links me to the most exciting news, that Thomas has produced the whole of the new, adorable and brilliant Danish X Factor winner's album! It's sure to be a masterpiece, and you never know, if it's a success he may be roped in for the UK winner's too. Then again, is anyone deserving of a Troelsen song likely to win X Factor over here?

Back to life, back to reality

You may have noticed that I didn't post DP:UK last Sunday, but don't worry, I haven't forgotten you! I was visiting a friend in Belgium, so I'll just carry the votes over to this Sunday.

I made some interesting discoveries in Belgium, particularly a great Flemish radio station called Q Music, which you can listen to online. I thought I'd found a nice new Belgian artist, but in fact the song I kept hearing turned out to be by Jack McManus, so I'll have to give him another chance, since I'd previously written him off as a boring post-Blunt type. In fact, Bang On The Piano, sounds more like something a continental Idol winner would do - very cute and jolly with vague leanings toward 'serious music with guitars and everything' but not going overboard with it.

I also danced to Eurodance with real live Europeans, so that was a fun new experience, although there was sadly no Kate Ryan involved. I did discover that there is a Dutch version of Boten Anna (or Bota Anna as it's oddly pluralised on the UK album cover), which was rather odd. At the end of the night, loads of Flemish songs were played and all of the men sang along loudly and drunkenly, which made it feel more like a football match than a night out, but it was rather fun anyway. I had Rood by Marco Borsato in my head for the whole trip, and must take this moment to remind you to listen to it if you never have, because it's an absolute masterpiece of modern pop music!

Speaking of pop masterpieces, yesterday I went to see the stage production of High School Musical! There were many odd changes to the plot, for example neither Jason nor Mrs Bolton no longer exist, and instead there is a random radio DJ who likes Kelsey, and a disturbing love affair between Coach Bolton and Ms Darbus! Now I'm really excited for HSM 3, although I'm in two minds about it coming to the cinema. It'll be exciting to see it on the big screen, but it'll cost £7 if I want to go on opening night. Downloading it hours after its first American showing (as I did for 1 and 2) was so much better, cos I could instantly watch it repeatedly in good quality. I feel more sorry for the Australians, though - they don't get to see it til the end of November!
Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Which of these singles are best?
Alphabeat - Boyfriend
Avenue - Last Goodbye
Esser - Headlock
M. Pokora - Catch Me If You Can
Gabriella Cilmi - Save The Lies
Tilly & the Wall - Pot Kettle Black
Das Pop - Going Underground
Rihanna - Disturbia
Jordin Sparks Ft Chris Brown - No Air
Cyndi Lauper - Into The Nightlife
Madonna - Give It 2 Me
Solange - I Decided (Freemason's Remix)
The Saturdays - If This Is Love
Sara Bareilles - Love Song
Infernal - Downtown Boys
Alcazar - Inhibitions
The Ting Tings - Shut Up And Let Me Go
Sam Sparro - 21st Century Life
Cheetah Girls - One World
Kylie Minogue - The One
  
Free polls from Pollhost.com

As if Katherine Jenkins wasn't evil enough already

I now find that she has helped to ruin one of the world's most brilliant and beautiful pop songs! The song in question is Where The Lost Ones Go, a duet between Norwegian pop singer Espen Lind and classical singer Sissel Kyrkjebø. Looking up info about Espen just now, I discovered that Katherine has covered this incredible song along with Garðar Thór Cortes, who I don't want to hate because he's Icelandic, but frankly their version is completely wrong.

The reason I love the original is that it's a very grand song, but Espen (who wrote it) has typical pop vocals, in fact sounding very similar to Gary Barlow, which mix wonderfully with Syssel's classical voice. Syssel of course does sing in an operatic style (sorry I can't use more technical terms), but she is not extreme in that sound, and the balance with Espen is original and perfect for the song. It was written for them to sing, after all. Katherine and Cortes, in comparison, seem to be having a 'who can sing the poshest' competition. While I appreciate that this kind of music is very well-regarded and it takes great talent to sing like this (although Katherine was a bit crap on X Factor), I just feel like the emotion in the original is far more real and sincere, because the singers sound so much more natural.

Luckily it doesn't seem likely to become a single, but that only shows the crapness of these two singers - they can't be that great if they can make a song like this not sound good enough to be immediately released and rocketed to no.1 in the charts. I'm still hoping it will re-emerge as a Take That/Leona duet, a surefire Christmas no.1.

International Video Challenge

Representing France: M. Pokora - Catch Me If You Can
Whether necessary or not, it seems France now has it's very own Justin Timberlake. He's even worked with Timbaland, and this video is suspiciously similar to JT's for I'm Lovin' It, right down to the blue checked shirt. Unfortunately for M (or Matthieu, as he's known to his mére), he hasn't got Justin's looks or charisma, but being French is always an asset in my eyes at least. M also has a mime artist in his video! I may be the only one outside of France that remembers them (and my memories are vague), but M. Pokora made his name in an early Popstars group called Linkup, who only lasted 2 singles, although their debut was quite nice (covered in English by Twen2y 4 Se7en). After that he went solo, and now seems to be very successful, with this single coming from his 3rd album, while he's still only 22!


Representing Sweden: Amit Paul - Judge You
Another pop band member gone solo is Amit Paul, but luckily his band, A*Teens, were both much better and much more successful. Amit is going for a rock-pop acoustic-y sound with his solo material, quite similar to that of fellow Swedes Andreas Johnson and Sebastian, so expect him on Melodifestivalen next year. It is odd, actually, that no A*Teens have entered MF yet. If Marie Serneholt had sung Hero this year instead of the scary cat-lady, they might have done a bit better! Sadly for Amit there's an air of McFadden about this single, and him in general, but if Andreas and Sebastian's very many fans enjoy it, he might still have a hit. Personally I'm much more interested in hearing more from Marie, whose first solo album was excellent.


Representing the UK: Red Blooded Women - You Made Your Bed
It's fun to have an influx of new pop acts in the UK, although none of the girlbands have really grabbed me so far. I wanted to like RBW as they seem really keen to be popstars and 'play the game', but this song kind of just washes over me, not really making much of an impression at all. It's kind of like a home-made version of Annie, but without the catchy bits. I'm afraid to say I can't see them being anything more than the new Cookie (whose name now seems far more absurb than it ever did before). If they do make as little impact as I suspect they will, we shouldn't be concerned, though - girlbands flopping is nothing new, and even in the golden days there were bands like Made In London and Solid HarmoniE who were good but no-one really cared. With acts like GA, Alphabeat and Madonna still doing brilliantly, we're definitely not in any kind of pop drought in 2008.
Sunday, July 20, 2008

DP: UK - New music special!



Tilly & The Wall - Beat Control
Pot Kettle Black is the first official single from the group's new album O, but it's not quite as poptastic as Beat Control, which they released an ace video for back in February. Both songs, however, are a testament to the grooviness of Tilly & the Wall. If you didn't know already, they're a Nebraskan indie-pop band, best known for having a tap dancer instead of a drummer (as all bands should, in my opinion), and releasing the absolutely incredible jolly-pop song, Rainbows In The Dark. If I could invent my own music genre, jolly-pop would be it, and Rainbows would be the archetypal jolly-pop song. If you're looking for a pop band who are also cool enough for you to write on your Facebook favourites list, check out Tilly & the Wall right away!

High School Musical 3: Senior Year Trailer
Hooray! High School Musical is back, and this time they're bringing it to the big screen - HSM 3 will be released in cinemas/'theatres' around the world this October. Which is a rather long time, but nevertheless I'm looking forward to it already. This trailer makes it look like it will at least be better than the second film, and maybe nearly as good as the first, although I think that would be impossible to beat because it's such a classic now. The songs seem good, and I'm sure some of them will leak in full soon, so that'll be something to keep us going at least.

Avenue - Last Goodbye
I'm sure it will come as no surprise to you, considering I still regularly listen to V and Triple 8, that I am very very excited about the arrival of a brand new good quality boyband. They come along quite frequently, even now, in forms such as Billiam and Go:Audio, but I couldn't care less, because I don't love boybands for their looks or even their dance routines, but for the music. In contrast to the beliefs of 99% of the population, boybands depend on good songs for survival, and some of the best pop songs of all time were by boybands such as BSBs and *N Sync. I only feel sorry for Jamie Tinckler - the poor lad seems to have been ousted from Avenue, missing out yet again on pop stardom.

CSS - Left Behind
At last there is a video for this fabulous new single from brilliant Brazillians CSS, and it comes just days before their new album is released. Donkey will be out on Monday and I'm extremely excited about buying it, because their last CD was fantastic and I love what I've heard of their new one so far. I've also heard it is supposed to be more poppy, and considering their last album was pretty poptastic in my opinion, this is definitely a good sign! The video for Left Behind is very 80s (the dancing is clearly Kste Bush-inspired), and has some slightly disturbing masks, but it's silly and fun yet effortlessly cool, capturing the spirit of CSS perfectly.

Myléne Farmer - Dégénération
The award for most accents in a song title 2008 goes to... Myléne! She is considered the Madonna of France, and I'd say that's quite a fitting comparison, as she's remained on-trend throughout her career, and is to Madonna as France is to America, much more stylish and subtle, although a little too mature for my taste. I enjoy listening to it, and wish I could be tasteful enough to not want something bolder and sillier, but I must admit that I do. Still, it is always interesting to follow Myléne's career, and her work with the rather more poptastic Alizée is one of French pop's masterpieces.

And now for this week's top 5...

5. Sam Sparro - 21st Century Life
4. Cyndi Lauper - Into The Nightlife
3. Rihanna - Disturbia
2. Jordin Sparks Ft Chris Brown - No Air

1. Kylie Minogue - The One
Silly Kylie hasn't made a video for this ace new single, so here's the performance of it she did on The Kylie Show last year.
Thursday, July 17, 2008

I love them 'til I die

Alphabeat have a new video out! It's for their next UK single, Boyfriend, and I'd say it's one of their best ever videos, alongside the amazingly jolly one for Fantastic 6. I just can't believe a) how brilliant this band is and b) that they are actually popular and society allows me to like them! Every day I wonder at this miracle.

Which of these songs are best?
Rihanna - Disturbia
Jordin Sparks Ft Chris Brown - No Air
Cyndi Lauper - Into The Nightlife
Madonna - Give It 2 Me
Solange - I Decided (Freemason's Remix)
The Saturdays - If This Is Love
Sara Bareilles - Love Song
Infernal - Downtown Boys
Alcazar - Inhibitions
The Ting Tings - Shut Up And Let Me Go
Sneaky Sound System - Pictures
CSS - Left Behind
Sam Sparro - 21st Century Life
Taio Cruz - She's Like A Star
California Liar - I'm Not Over
The Script - The Man Who Can't Be Moved
Cheetah Girls - One World
Santogold - Lights Out
Raen - Drama Fanatic
Kylie Minogue - The One
  
Free polls from Pollhost.com

Sunday, July 13, 2008

DP:UK



Anna Speller - Waiting
Since my post about K-Otic the other day, I discovered that one of the girls from the band released a solo single last year. She was in a Dutch film called Honeyz, about 2 girls who got trapped in a department store and had a night of hilarious teenage hi-jinks, and she released Waiting as the soundtrack single. I know that the film wasn't well received, so I guess this song didn't do well enough to warrant a full solo career from Anna, which is a shame cos she has potential to be fab, just like all of her ex-bandmates. Also a shame is that Anna was nominated for an award for 'worst actress' for this film! I think she'd better stick to singing from now on.

Ida Maria - Oh My God
Yet another Scandinavian act breaking through in the UK, and well-deserved too, as they have a great sound and were brilliant when I saw them live at The Great Escape. I'm posting this one instead of the new single because I prefer it, and because it shows that they are far from a one hit wonder. It's exciting to see this kind of indie music getting attention from mainstream British press, instead of just the few music obsessives who would already be familiar with Sweden's position as the creator of the world's best indie music, and the only kind it's truly acceptable to like! Hopefully Ida's success will convince a few more people to investigate Swedish indie-pop girls like Maia Hirasawa and Marit Bergman.

Elf watching with Hafdis Huld
I absolutely love Icelandic people, even more than Swedes or French, because they are the most adorable, kooky characters with such a distinct personality which is so supremely lovable. I always wanted to love Bjork's music because I love her as a person, but I never really managed to. However, with Hafdis I am a fan of her as a person and as an artist, because her music sounds just how Icelandic people are - very sweet yet very cool. Just listen to that accent: have you ever heard anything so fantastically ace? If you love Hafdis, keep an eye out for a new Mercedes advert in which she sings Stop by Sam Brown.

Fe-M@il - Flee Fly Flo
Here's a bit of a flashback. Anyone remember Fe-M@il? Back in the day when text speak was still a novelty, this girl group released their first and last single, the frankly insane Flee Fly Flo - think a mixture of playground chants and Vanilla. It is kind of catchy in its craziness, but if anyone can work out what it's all about, please do let me know. I wonder what has happened to all of these girls since the band flopped, and if any of them are still in the music industry now. I wouldn't have recognised any of them if they'd turned up on Pop Idol or similar. As sweet and fun as the group was, I doubt they get this video out to show potential employers these days.

S Club 8 - Don't Tell Me You're Sorry
With Frankie and Rochelle making their attempted return to the charts this week, I thought I would highlight my personal favourite song on the group's second album. It was released last (in fact it was the last thing they ever released except for the terrible I Dream stuff), so didn't do very well, but I think it's rather underrated and actually one of their best. I loved how despite their young age, SC8 were still given pop songs which were just as good as groups 5 or 10 years older were releasing. It's nice that their management acknowledge that kids do have ears, and didn't try to fob them off with some imitation pop like the Disney stars often have - this can of course be good when done well, but that is rare, and those teen acts could definitely learn from SC8.

5. Rihanna - Disturbia
4. The Ting Tings - Shut Up And Let Me Go
3. Jordin Sparks Ft Chris Brown - No Air
2. The Saturdays - If This Is Love

And at no. 1 this week is...

Alphabeat - 10,000 Nights of Thunder
This is this song's third week at no.1, which means it now must be retired to the old pop folks' home. It's been fun! Here's the original video for the Danish release of 10,000 Nights, which I think is just as ace as the UK one, even if it is less polished. Their wonderfulness shines through no matter what the video budget is.
Saturday, July 12, 2008

International Video Challenge

Representing Romania: Andreea Bălan - Baby Get Up and Dance
She began her career as a member of a dance duo called Andre (the other member was named Andreea too), then went solo, but recently became famous in Mexico of all places, as a contestant on a TV dance contest, Primer Campeonato Internacional de Baile. Now she is releasing her first international single and her first in English, naturally with a dancing theme. It isn't the best quality of pop music, but after one listen it's firmly stuck in my head, and I think it would have been in my top 10 favourites if it was a Eurovision entry this year. If you like the style of music in Eurovision, which I suspect many of you do considering this blog's main focus is Europop, then you should certainly give this a listen. I love this performance where Andreea barely even tries to mime, and they even show the video instead of her during the chorus - certainly the antidote to the UK's Jools Holland and Abbey Road shows!


Representing the USA/Sweden: Carolina Liar - I'm Not Over
Max Martin has well and truly conquered the world of pop, and now he's here to show people with rather less taste just what great music sounds like, with this new rock band whose album he produced entirely. Already this group, a mix of Swedes and Americans, are doing pretty well, with a recent performance on major TV chat show Jimmy Kimmell Live. Soon enough, Mr Sandberg's music will be soundtracking the lives of the very people who could not even comprehend that a song by Britney Spears or the Backstreet Boys is of the highest quality music can be. The irony is going to be delicious. But it's not just for that reason that I'm pleased to discover them, as they also have some really nice songs - think Rooney on a good day, or a jauntier Killers. It is such a testament to Max Martin's talents that he can do the music of his songs' critics even better than they can.


Representing Belgium: Regi - I Fail
Regi is the producer behind Milk Inc. and many other Belgian dance acts, and for his latest single he's roped in the Scala Youth Choir. This group of young girls are known for their covers of pop hits, and did a brilliant version of I Touch Myself by The Divinyls, which I've had on my mp3 player for years. I never realised before that they were Belgian, and their bio claims they're most famous for a cover of With Or Without You. I much prefer the cover songs to this track with Regi, which is nothing special really. I don't recommend I Fail, but I do recommend that you go and listen to some of the choir's cover versions, cos they're great fun and sometimes really lovely too.
Friday, July 11, 2008

Popping the Question: What is this 'commercial pop'?

I often like to go into Borders and read through the latest issue of Music Week - I can't afford to buy it and it only takes ten minutes to read, so there wouldn't be much point. It's a very interesting read, though, as you get lots of behind-the-scenes info about the current trends in music. However, there is one thing I need to complain about. In Music Week there are loads of charts from various different chart companies, such as the Official Top 40, a dance chart, an independent labels chart, and so on, and there's one chart for a genre they call 'commercial pop'. I always find this interesting to read, because considering you could not find much more of a pop fan than me, I still always see several acts I have never even heard of before in this chart.



I really have no idea what criteria they have for it, because surely there are enough 'commercial pop' artists to fill a top 30 without need to resort to Raen (above) or Kevin Jon, even if we just include poppy-sounding acts like September, Rihanna or Gabriella Cilmi. At first when I found this chart I was excited at the prospect of new pop music I'd never heard of, but then I looked up these acts and was horrified by how dated and embarrassing they are. Raen are an Australian girlband, and not too bad but certainly not anywhere near the standards of Girls Aloud or even The Saturdays. Kevin Jon, however, is one of the worst new acts I've seen in ages.

The thing that bothers me is that, if whoever compiled this chart stopped for just a moment to consider the meaning of 'commercial', there'd probably be less Kevin Jon and more Dizzee Rascal. How can some artists be labelled as having profit as their main goal, while others are not? Did someone go around each act releasing a single this month and ask them whether they're in it for the money or not? I highly doubt it! As a supporter of pop music (by which I mean music that sounds stereotypically 'poppy'), I find it insulting that pop artists are believed, at least by the compiler of this chart, to have universally commercial motives which are not shared by artists in other genres.



I think this idea that pop music is bad because it has a commercial aim is really unfair, but it is also confusing, because the influential people who infect the public with these opinions are generally representing very powerful companies themselves. Journalists, for example - if they think it is wrong for a musician to want success, then surely they should lead by example, and give up their jobs at major magazines and papers in favour of writing fanzines and blogs. No, no, we musn't make money from our talents - that would just be immoral! And yes, there are huge record companies who want to push out new acts like a factory line, but in most cases such attempts to please the public wind up with Girl Thing (above) or Freefaller, not the Spice Girls or Busted.

The belief that pop music is worthless unless it is hugely successful and making money is one of the most unpleasant things about the music industry right now. When a new pop act starts out, they have one chance, two at best, to release a single and capture the nation. Take for example The Saturdays, only signed because of Girls Aloud's success, and releasing their debut single this week: if it doesn't go top ten, will they get another chance, or will they be dropped? And if they are dropped, of course they will split up, because what is the point of making pop music if it's not going to make money? Compare this to Adele, the Kaiser Chiefs, Kate Nash, or even someone really uncool like James Blunt. All of those acts released a song or two before the one which made them famous, and after that went back and re-released those first songs. It is recognised in these cases that the public sometimes don't catch on to something good immediately, and that doesn't mean there's no point in persisting, but with pop acts this is rarely the case.



The thing is, I may be making a pointless argument here, because the kind of music I'm talking about is dying out, thanks to those past-it party-poopers who have very successfully persuaded the public that it is worthless. In the past few years an interesting thing has occured. You may remember in the early to mid 00s, Radio 1 was at it's most up-it's-own-arse. They really only played serious music, and anything which even hinted at the existence of fun or positivity in the world was kept well away. Then, one bank holiday, they had a special day where listeners could text in and request any song they wanted, anything at all. And did we hear Coldplay? Did we hear The Editors? No, but I distinctly remember them playing *N Sync and Hanson! At last, the station could not avoid taking note, and from that day on gradual changes were made.

Nowadays, there is no shortage of songs to sing along to on Radio 1, and that is an undeniable triumph because how can I complain, as a pop fan, about the UK's top youth station supporting Robyn and September? In 2004, listening to Don't Stop The Music and We Can Do It, I never would have dreamed it. What interests me is that, although only a lucky few pop songs are allowed onto the Radio 1 playlist, they are always loved by the listeners. This gives Radio 1 incredible power, because they get to decide which pop songs are allowed to be popular, and which are not. Terry Wogan may have more listeners at breakfast time, but it's still Chris Moyles, who doesn't even seem to like music, who has the magic key to success for new pop acts.



This all means that while Alphabeat, who play their own instruments, and acts like September and Estelle, who can be categorised as dance or r'n'b instead of meaningless, artificial pop music, get their place on the playlist, The Saturdays haven't a hope in hell of joining them. Even if they revealed that they can all play instruments, they'd still not be taken seriously - when did you last see an all-girl instrument-playing band on Radio 1? They've no hope at all! And yet, the phenomenom of High School Musical, the wonderful popularity of Same Difference on last year's X Factor, and the fact that most Alphabeat fans couldn't care less about whether they write their own songs or not, all prove that there is a place for good old fashioned pop music in the current music industry. Maybe HSM's success, which seems to increase by the second, will allow for its comeback. I don't want to get my hopes up quite yet, but I'm not giving up hope either - only a depressive bore who listens to indie/rock music would do that!
Wednesday, July 09, 2008

A Tribute to K-otic: the best reality TV band to ever exist

I realised the other day that I haven't written about K-otic in a while, and that is a travesty because they were one of the best girl-boy groups in pop history. I was totally obsessed with them (and Sita, who was in the band but went solo) for a while, and even learnt some Dutch so I could navigate their websites, and made a fansite for their UK fans. Listening to songs like I Surrender and I Was Made To Love You now makes my stomach flip with great memories.

What I loved about K-otic was their diversity, as band members were brought together on a Popstars-type show, and each took the lead at certain times enabling all aspects of pop to be covered, from rock to r'n'b and even a touch of country. They were quite the antidote to Hear'Say! In every style they retained that special turn-of-the-century pop sound, and although they'll probably never make any more music (I suppose a reunion could happen now they're so trendy) they'll always be a great reminder of a wonderful period in pop music history.

To commemorate the brilliance of K-otic, who unbelievably have now been split up for a whole five years, I have compiled a special YouTube playlist of all of their greatest moments.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

New Pop on the Block

Arash ft. Rebecca - Suddenly (Watch)
I haven't heard a more desperate attempt to capitalise on the success of a past hit since Lou Bega's thankfully well forgotten follow-up to Mambo No.5. A few years ago, Swedish-Iranian Arash released a brilliant single called Temptation with Rebecca on vocals, one of the best summer Euro hits of recent years. For this new single, he's recruited the same singer and basically recreated Temptation with different lyrics and a few new musical bits. Unfortunately, while sounding so similar, Suddenly is nowhere near as catchy and of course not as unique. Still, a recreation of Temptation is obviously miles better than one of Mambo No.5.
70% Poptastic!

Sharam ft. Daniel Bedingfield - The One (Watch)
I thought when I heard of thi that Daniel was back at last, but really he's just done a Samantha Mumba and provided extra vocals for a new remixed version of his old hit, If You're Not The One. I don't think it's going to work at all, because the original is too recent and well-known. Cascada did well with Truly Madly Deeply, but I think that was cos most of their disco-chav fans wouldn't be very familiar with the original, while I think a larger number of them will know If You're Not The One, and if you do this dancey version really doesn't work at all, at least not for me... and I like the original and dance music, so they've not got much hope really!
66% Poptastic!

Katy Perry - I Kissed A Girl (Watch)
The new mascot of sexism is beginning to make waves here in the UK, so I suppose I must talk about her now. And yes, while we're on the subject, I would like to bring yesterday back around, and remember the good old days where Max Martin and friends were a little more discerning. I should have expected Katy Perry's arrival, as Avril Lavigne's jump over the fence from annoying twitville to the land of poprocktasticness left a space in the annoying twit category. I'm sure she'll get along very well with Queen of Twitville, P!nk. The reason I dislike these acts so much, when I adore some similar ones, is that I detect in them an attitude which I despise. They're like the feminists who think that to gain equality we have to copy men, even their bad sides - isn't it better to rise above and demonstrate how to be in control with class and dignity? Hot'N'Cold is a great song, though.
32% Poptastic!

Dirrrty Pop Meets... The Saturdays!



As the new girl band on the block, how do you plan to steal the crowns of Girls Aloud and the Sugababes?
We are not trying to steal anyone’s crown. We just want to be as successful as those great girl bands. We really respect them. Being on tour with GA is an inspiration to us.

My readers and I were big fans of S Club 8 back in the day, so I'd like to know what the rest of the members are up to these days?
Jay has a fashion internship in Milan, Calvin is acting and recording in LA, Aaron is touring with Flash Dance, Hannah is training to be a hairdresser, Daisy is in a girl band called From Above and Stacey is recording solo club music.

I heard that Daisy from SC8 is also in a girlgroup - will there be a big rivalry between you?
Yes!!!!!!!!!! (All punch the air) ;-)

Now that TV shows such as CD:UK and Popworld, and magazines like Smash Hits no longer exist, it must be difficult to promote a new pop act. How are you going to overcome this difficulty?
Things are always changing and we have moved on with the times. Live performance is still huge and we are very in touch with our fans online with our forum, You Tube, My Space and www.thesaturdays.co.uk.

Girlbands are known for their in-fighting, but you all seem very friendly in your blog entries, so I want to know who is the Saturday most likely to go off in a huff, and who is the band peace-maker?
Our manager!!! And we all look after each other.

Have you got nicknames within the band, like the Spice Girls had?
We’ve got these nick names within the band: Mollie - Kodak, Rochelle - Shopaholic. Vanessa – The rebel. Una – The Night Owl. Frankie - The Flirt.

Is Una the mum of the band, being the oldest by 6 years?
Rochelle is the Mum and she looks after everyone.

If you become huge stars like Girls Aloud, which male celebrities would you most like to date?
Frankie – Mark Ronson. Rochelle – Chris Brown. Vanessa – Wentworth Miller. Una – the Aberchrombie and Fitch model Eoin Macken. Mollie – Paulo Nutini.
Monday, July 07, 2008

Where are they now? : Reality TV popstars

Same Difference - X Factor (2007)
Hooray! My favourite X Factor contestants ever are releasing a single in November, and will appear on X Factor's first live show to perform it. The single will be a cover of Breaking Free from High School Musical, along with a new song as a double a-side. They've been recording songs in Sweden, and working with Mike Stock of SAW, so there's definitely potential here for some ace pop music to be made. I just hope all their X Factor fans haven't grown out of HSM by the time they actually release anything.

Chris Hide - Pop Idol 2 (2003)
Remember the Pop Idol vicar? I spotted him in a train station the other day, and had to find out what he's up to these days. He has a slightly misguided new hairdo with red streaks, but overall was looking much cooler than he used to. My strangest discovery was that his latest brush with fame was working with terrible new boyband Billiam... as a remixer! When they were deciding who to ask to remix their new single, how on earth did they come up with the Pop Idol vicar? I'm baffled!

Rosie Ribbons - Pop Idol 1 (2002)
After flailing on ABBA week, Rosie went on to release some brilliant pop songs, Blink and A Little Bit, although unreleased track Good Thing was her best by far. As her pop career disintegrated, Rosie was all but forgotten, until in 2007 she re-appeared... on Australian Idol! Rosie had decided she was actually Australian, and entered the Aussie answer to Pop Idol. She got through a few rounds but still she has not achieved her dream of becoming an Idol.

Noel Sullivan - Popstars (2001)
I noticed the other day that all 3 Hear'Say girls have remained in the public eye, while neither of the boys have, but Noel actually has had some work in music since the band split. He has been in the musicals Love Shack and What A Feeling, and oddly presented a show in Vegas with Zoe Birkett! However, the strangest thing I have learnt about Noel is that he lives as a lodger with Myleene and her family.

Which of these songs are best?
Rihanna - Disturbia
Jordin Sparks Ft Chris Brown - No Air
Cyndi Lauper - Into The Nightlife
Madonna - Give It 2 Me
Alphabeat - 10,000 Nights
Ladyhawke - Paris Is Burning
Solange - I Decided (Freemason's Remix)
The Saturdays - If This Is Love
Sara Bareilles - Love Song
Infernal - Downtown Boys
Alcazar - Inhibitions
The Ting Tings - Shut Up And Let Me Go
Little Jackie - The World Should Revolve Around Me
Noah And The Whale - 5 Years Time
VV Brown - Crying Blood
Ida Maria - I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked
Menudo - Lost
Mêlée - Built To Last
CSS - Left Behind
Sneaky Sound System - Pictures
  
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Lazy days, summer nights

It's the holidays again and time for those of us still in education to do as little as possible for a few months. However, I always get bored of this quite quickly, so here are my poptastic suggestions to keep you busy for a bit.

1. Watch the Backstreet Boys' latest UK tour on MSN Control Room, including performances of tracks old and new, from Larger Than Life to Any Other Way. Forget Boyzone and Take That, the BSBs are the only reunited boyband I care about, and their live show looks as good as ever.

2. There's a new book out from the author of Hotel Babylon, and this time she's supposedly unveiling the secrets of the pop music business. However, I read the first 32 pages in Borders the other day, and didn't discover anything that I either didn't know already, or was just opinion/guesswork. Any insider the author spoke to obviously wasn't a very important one!

3. Go along to the first ever Wonky Pop club night this week, with Annie and the Clik Clik playing live, and DJs from Popjustice and Alphabeat. It's sure to be a good night, but I do have my worries that the idea of Wonky Pop makes pop music seem like a trend - it's not a trend, it's the world's best and most important genre of music!
Sunday, July 06, 2008

DP:UK (a live performance special!)

This week I've decided to focus on live performance videos, because when you're following bands who are mainly famous abroad, you sometimes miss out on this side of pop fandom, but with the invention of YouTube that's no longer necessary.



Amy Diamond - Mamma Mia
When I went to live in Sweden, I had to learn Swedish asap, and my answer to this was to sing along with the lyrics to songs which were in Swedish. Best of all were songs I knew well, and what better than Mamma Mia by ABBA? I was reminded of this video as I was watching Amy's performance at Sommarkrysset 2008, and thought it would be very fitting to post now, since Mamma Mia: The Movie is released this week. I can't wait to see it, and am so glad it's getting lots of hype - ABBA may be uncool but there's no denying the extreme excellence of their music. It even sounds brilliant sung by a child star and in Swedish! I am pleased to say that after a few listens I could sing the whole thing fluently, and after 4 months living in Sweden, I even understood some of the words (in case you're wondering, Swedish is a language easy to learn as long as you don't want to have any conversations in it).

Jason Mraz - The Remedy
I really should get around to seeing Jason Mraz live, now that he's having a bit of a comeback. This was the first song I heard of his, and hear it I certainly did - over and over and over again! It's a very addictive song. I have to say that Jason's output is very avried in quality, but The Remedy and You And I Both are two seriously brilliant pop songs in a very distinctive style, and Geek In A Pink gets an honourable mention in third place. If you enjoyed the kind of music Blake Lewis did on AI last year, you should check out Mr AZ (as he cleverly called one of his albums) because he does it a lot better, as much as I do like Blake.

Daft Punk - One More Time at Wireless 2007
I wanted to be really 'of the moment' and post something from this year's Wireless Festival, which takes place this weekend, but I failed to find anything of interest whatsoever on YouTube, and instead happened across this, which looks like one of the best gigs to be at ever! I've heard that Daft Punk gigs are amazing, and this seems to confirm it, even with the slightly blurred picture, and the lack of any actual singing or dancing. You can tell everyone is having a brilliant time, and it makes me wish I was more of a raver so I might have some friends to go along with me next time they play in the UK. I remember when this song came out, and I thought it was Mark from A1 on vocals, but loved it anyway. I'm still upset about what Kanye West did to Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger, which is actually my no.1 favourite Daft Punk song, but it seems a little less awful now in comparison to this attempt to sing it a capella.

Triple 8 - Give Me A Reason on TOTP
When talking about X Factor's disqualified (but potentially very good - although where has Jamie Tinkler gone?) boyband Avenue recently, Mr Popjustice said something I found very objectionable. He said that Triple 8 and V, the last 2 boybands to really have a go at bringing this format into the 21st century, had rubbish music. Has he taken a funny turn? They were both brilliant! Maybe their music was dated, but it can't be denied that disregarding that, songs like Give Me A Reason by Triple 8 and Hip To Hip and You Stood Up by V are total classics of the boyband genre. This video is also a nice nostalgia trip to the olden days of people being allowed to at least pretend to be able to sing and dance at the same time on TV, and ugliness wasn't required for getting into a male band. However, it's also a bit depressing, because it shows that the era of music in which I fell in love with pop is most certainly over, and even as pop music comes back in new forms, it can never truly be the same again.

Will Young - Changes
Oops! I put this song into the vote this week by mistake (it's not actually a single), and it's gone and got the most votes! Nonetheless, I have to disqualify it, and in apology to all those who voted for it, I have included the video of his actual new single, which I will allow you to vote for soon. It's very exciting to hear the song Will thinks will best announce his return to music, although this isn't the clearest sound quality, so it's annoyingly hard to tell how good the song really is. However, from what I can tell, it sounds very promising indeed, and I cannot wait to hear it in full. I'm so relieved that Will hasn't strayed too far from his old sound, and with progessing to a slightly more mature style (could a male Duffy work as a comparison?), hasn't, as so many artists do, confused mature with boring. Things are looking good so far, but I won't count my chickens just yet.

5. The Saturdays - If This Is Love
4. The Ting Tings - Shut Up And Let Me Go
3. Sara Bareilles - Love Song
2. Jordin Sparks ft. Chris Brown - No Air

It was a close contest, but it's a return to the top for...

Alphabeat - 10,000 Nights of Thunder
Hooray! What better band to be no.1 on a live performance special than Alphabeat, who are even more amazing lvie than they are on record. I still love Alphabeat, obviously, but I may just be running out of things to say. This performance, from Tivoli in Copenhagen (a brilliant theme park, btw), is great if only for Anders SG's funny hat.

New R'n'B on the Block

Rihanna - Disturbia (Listen)
After the total non-event of Take A Bow, Rihanna is definitely making up for it with this ace new dance-pop track. It's clearly aiming to appeal for fans of Don't Stop The Music as it's quite dancey, but also reminds me of Lady Gaga. Hearing the average reggae-pop track that was Pon De Replay, I never would have guessed that Rihanna would go on to be my favourite American act of the moment. Her last album was excellent, and she's really giving Beyoncé a run for her money in the way that other challengers to her r'n'b princess throne, like Amerie and Ashanti, never managed. Disturbia isn't quite Umbrella, DSTM or SOS, but I'll happily put it at no.4 of my favourite Rihanna singles, and with a song like this as only her first best, you know she's doing pretty well!
94% Poptastic!

Lexington Bridge - Go On and Go (Listen)
I was shocked when I heard about Lexington Bridge for the first time today - they're a boyband 3/5 British (the other 2 are American and Dutch), and have had some success in the rest of Europe, including a no.1 in Poland! It seems that in exchange for Polish immigrant workers, Poland is getting all of our unwanted boybands. Out of all of their singles, I think the new one is the best. I may actually listen to it again, while the rest were pleasant but forgettable, although Real Man isn't too bad for a song with Snoop Dogg on it. They're very much the traditional 'bad boy' boyband looks-wise (i.e. more Triple 8 than D-Side), with an r'n'b slant. Interestingly, they haven't even tried to release music in any of their home countries, despite having three between them.
67% Poptastic!

Jimi Blue - Hey Jimi (Watch)
You may remember young German teenage rapper/actor Jimi's complicatedly-titled 2007 Eurohit, I'm Lovin´... (L.R.H.P.), and Hey Jimi is his latest single. It is a vague cover of Hey Mickey by Toni Basil, and is very silly, but I have to say it's much more entertaining than most of the American rap music that floods into our UK charts. It's annoyingly catchy in the same way as something like Hollaback Girl. Of course it may just sound acceptably good in comparison to other German rap music, which is entirely as bad as its reputation would suggest. I'm not sure if this could become a novelty hit in the UK, but I suppose it's possible. I'm Lovin' meanwhile just sounds like a bad boyband song, and rather sleazy too.
45% Poptastic!

Gabriel Antonio - I Wanna Be The One (Listen)
I'm sure it's not what he intended, but to me this song sounds like a cheesy Eurodance track with a rap over the top. It especially reminds me of Lucas Prata's And She Said or Hellogoodbye on Here (In Your Arms), both of which are incidentally also American acts sounding like Europop, whether intentional or not. The song starts off rather well actually, but then in comes the rappin and it all goes to pot, never returning to the greatness of that opening section. Oddly, in the rap he terms himself hip hop-country, which is odd because he really isn't, and also because he says it's "never been done" - has he never heard of Jason Downs? I reckon this song could get very annoying if it becomes a hit (it's a bit Akon-ish), but for the moment I'll just enjoy its good bits and be amused at the rest.
53% Poptastic!
Saturday, July 05, 2008

Oh no she didn't!

I have a new enemy in the form of Miranda Cosgrove. She's a singer (although that's debatable!) and the star of a Disney show called iCarly, obviously hoping to be the next Hannah Montana, and her tactic is a wise one: covering some of the best songs from European pop in 2007. Unfortunately (for her and us), she has made them sound like typical Disney crap-pop, i.e. whiney and tinny and simply terrible in comparison to the original singers, in this case Amy Diamond and the Sugababes. I'm glad that Max Martin and Dr Luke will make money from her, but couldn't they have just given her some of their better artists' rubbish cast-offs? Radio Disney fans wouldn't notice - they like the Jonas Brothers! I'm not going to give her the promotion by linking to her songs, so instead here are Stay My Baby and About You Now in their glorious original forms, although this mix of Amy and Miranda does highlight very clearly the superiority of Swedish to American pop music.
Thursday, July 03, 2008

The Next Big Thing?

Lesley Roy
A few years ago I was desperate for Max Martin to bring his ace new rock-pop sound to the UK by working with a UK artist. My best suggestion was Billie Piper - this kind of music would be a perfect comeback for Billie, and there were lots of great songs that hadn't yet been hits in the UK that could be covered, such as 4ever, Tap That and Break You. It seems the closest we're getting, apart from a few Dr Luke songs for the Sugababes, is this Irish singer, who I have to say I'm not impressed with at all. The emphasis is clearly on rock over pop, never a good choice. Max Martin better record some brilliant pop singles soon, or we might have a falling out. The best writer/producer in pop can definitely come up with better music than this very much by-numbers angst-rock - every song is OK but not a single one tempts me to listen to it again.
Hit potential: 34% Poptasticness: 57%

Luigi Masi
I've been hearing his name mentioned occasionally for about a year now, and her recently supported Girls Aloud on tour, but I'd never bothered to listen to any of his music or find out any more about him. Even if I had Googled him, I would have only found a load of message board hermits getting in a flap about him, which is always sure to put me right off a new act. However, I noticed he has been advertising himself on Facebook lately, so I had a listen and he's not as bad as I expected. The style is electro-pop, but don't expect fans of Daft Punk and Justice to be impressed - this is the Smash Hits Roadshow (if it still existed) equivalent of electro-pop. Still, I loved Smash Hits pop and this isn't too bad at all - it probably has more commercial potential than Frankmusik. The problem is that the thing it reminds me of most is Phixx, and while I really enjoyed their first 2 singles, I don't remember them being particularly successful. Despite all my negativity here, I will be keeping an eye on Luigi, as he may still come out with one amazing song - he just hasn't yet.
Hit potential: 34% Poptasticness: 71%
Tuesday, July 01, 2008

6 Months of Poptasticness

Half the year has gone, and so it's time to compile my top 20 favourite singles of 2008 so far...

1. BWO - Lay Your Love On Me
2. Private - We Got Some Breaking Up To Do
3. Jordin Sparks & Chris Brown - No Air
4. LadyGaga - Just Dance
5. Hot Chip - Ready For The Floor
6. Alcazar - We Keep On Rockin'
7. Taio Cruz - Come On Girl
8. Sam Sparro - Black & Gold
9. Alcazar - Inhibitions
10. Private - Crucify My Heart
11. Mystery Jets - Two Doors Down
12. Gisela - Casanova
13. Maia Hirasawa - The Worrying Kind
14. Delays - Hooray
15. Gavin DeGraw - In Love With A Girl
16. Yelle - Je veux te voir
17. Rosie & the Goldbug - War of the Roses
18. Kalomira - Secret Combination
19. Amy Diamond - Thank You
20. Amanda Jenssen - Do You Love Me

Which of these singles are best?
Jordin Sparks Ft Chris Brown - No Air
Cyndi Lauper - Into The Nightlife
Madonna - Give It 2 Me
Alphabeat - 10,000 Nights
Ladyhawke - Paris Is Burning
Solange - I Decided (Freemason's Remix)
The Saturdays - If This Is Love
Sara Bareilles - Love Song
Infernal - Downtown Boys
Mystery Jets - Two Doors Down
Maroon 5 & Rihanna – If I Never See Your Face Again
CSS - Left Behind
Alcazar - Inhibitions
Delays - Keep It Simple
Little Boots - Meddle
Little Jackie - The World Should Revolve Around Me
The Ting Tings - Shut Up And Let Me Go
Will Young - Let It Go
Sneaky Sound System - Pictures
Frankmusik - In Step
  
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