Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Hear The Fear and Do It Anyway

As featured on Popjustice today, Lily Allen's new song The Fear will be released on January 26th 2009. It's the first single from her "It's not me, it's you" album, which the music press eagerly awaits to praise/tear apart. For the past year Lily has been more the celebrity than the pop star and many have waited for her to have an Amy moment or two, but she hasn't really. The only Lily Allen song I really liked was Alfie but I liked The Fear (what a great song title too!) as soon as I heard it. I love the "look at the sun, look in the mirror" lyrics, still a London girl and all heart. The video for the song is on Channel 4 at 11:05pm on Thursday 4th of this lovely month. Here it is, popfans!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Brave

Starting today is a new series, on Strike Curious Poses, of featured songs that should have been much bigger hits than they were when they were first released or even a success at all. They will be songs from the past 3 decades but mainly songs from the past two years. The reason for it all is that even though there are plenty good solid pop hits in the charts at the moment, I still think the way a song is released in order to be a chart hit is still a complete mess. I think the policy of releasing a single on download and then weeks or even months later as a physical CD single has to be combined, that is both formats released on the same day, a Friday or Monday. This would allow a song to get it's proper chart placing earlier in it's release or else build on sales as more people download the song. I think it is only a matter of time before the physical format CD single is no longer being produced. I haven't bought a CD single in at least a year. A big part of the reason is that for an average of €5 you get the main song and just some average remix or album track tagged on. Where are the 4 or 5 club remixes that made all the Madonna / Kylie / most dance artists something that you had to buy on a Friday (here in Ireland) or Monday (in the UK)? What is also needed is someone to launch a proper download / pop magazine. Smash Hits! 2. I know I am always going on about the glory days of Smash Hits! but it was the perfect place to find out when all the new songs were out, sometimes a new song would have a gorgeous full page ad. The singles review section and song words throughout the magazine also immortalised every new song whether it was going to be a big hit or not. Much has been said about the possible return of Top Of The Pops but the two words that killed that are simple. Fearne Cotton. Well, not just Fearne, but an assortment of completely dreadful presenters in the years before the show was killed off. For me, the real pop show that was a huge asset to 90's pop was the ITV morning show, CD:UK. It is because of that show that Cat Deeley and of course Ant & Dec are still successful TV presenters. They were simply brilliant. They gave the impression that they were friendly with most of the pop acts they had on the show. When Simon Webbe walked over to Ant & Dec for a jungle task on "I'm a Celebrity..." the other night, all I could think of was Blue in studio some winter Saturday morning years ago. CD:UK was part of Saturday morning children's TV but by having the pop show as a separate show it was something students and twenty something's like me (at the time) adored as well. Simon Cowell has made a suggestion of buying the "Top Of The Pops" format and this caused great dismay to nearly everyone, well let him! When you look at the acts in the charts recently; Leona, the "Hero" song, Leon Jackson, Rhydian, Same Difference, all of these are Simon connected. As well as Take That, Girls Aloud, Britney and soon Beyonce, all appearing on this season's "X Factor". Going into a new decade, the year after next, there has to be a proper weekly UK new music show. That is what will save the music industry. The loss of proper pop magazines and TV shows I really believe has changed the way a song became a hit. Jennifer Lopez was a regular performer on both "Top of the Pops" and "CD:UK". In September 2007 her first single, "Do It Well" off her "Brave" album just went to number 11, (31 in the US). It is never good for a major artist to chart outside the top ten. Her second single "Hold it, Don't Drop It" would chart at 72. A disaster. But the truth is there were several singles by high profile artists not only having flop single releases but massive flops. Around that time big name record stores started to stock a smaller selection of CD singles. There were plans for Jennifer's album's title track "Brave" to be released on single but this never happened after the failure of the "Hold It, Don't Drop It". "Brave" was the type of pop that easily would have been a bigger hit just 2 or 3 years previously. But any song, good or bad needs airplay and exposure. The other song from the "Brave" album that should have been a single was "Mile In these Shoes". It was used as a promo for a the third series of "Desperate Housewives" but nothing much came of it. Jennifer Lopez has sung some of my favourite pop song of the past 10 years; "If you Had My Love", "Ain't It Funny", "Get Right" and most of all the full Intention remix of "Love Don't Cost A Thing". "Brave" and "Mile In These Shoes" should be songs to appear on a best of album but the words "greatest hits" would never be truthful. The thing with downloads is that most people don't know when a song is released as a download or may only purchase a song when browsing the I-Tunes site. It is possible for a song to chart if enough people buy the song from the album. If that is the case why isn't a song like "Better" by Boyzone, which is available on their current best of album, charting in the UK? That song is due for release, officially on December 15th. I'm sure I'm not the only person who has "updated" my UK I-Tunes page and then I'm suddenly forever connected to the I-Tunes American site where I can't purchase songs. I know that is probably reasonably easy to fix but I still haven't, mainly because I usually go into a download buying frenzy which can get expensive. I'm sure a lot of pop fans would read these words would agree with me and many sites have mentioned songs that they think should have been bigger hits, but I would love to read about more. It's also a way of highlighting songs to others who may not have heard them. Here's a well edited video, that was made by Camrebirth, for "Brave. And just the song, with v nice photo, for "Mile in These Shoes".

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Into The Northern Lights

I had to smile when I saw that David Van Day is now in the jungle on the "I'm a Celebrity..." TV show. After appearing on "Reborn in the USA" and a makeover show for Living, he's becoming a reality TV show regular. While it is Abba I remember most clearly from my late 1970's /early 1980's pop memories it was Dollar, that is David Van Day and Thereza Bazar, whom I just adored. This was long before Wham!, Duran Duran, Culture Club and Ms Madonna Louise and many more would define the 1980's for me. It was Dollar's 1979 songs; "Love's Got a Hold on Me" and "Who Were You With in the Moonlight" that the 10 year old me listened to a lot on the radio. The producer Trevor Horn, in the late 1970's and 1980's, worked with The Buggles, The Art Of Noise and most famously Frankie Goes To Hollywood but in 1981 he was also the writer and producer of "The Dollar Album" and on that album Trevor Horn created the concept of a "love story" written across 4 songs, which were then released as singles. The first single was "Hand Held in Black & White" (The meeting). The other three were "Mirror Mirror (Mon Amour)" (the loving), "Give Me Back my Heart" (The Break Up) and "Videotheque" (The Postscript). All 4 songs were hits and Dollar's performances of all 4 singles on "Top Of The Pops" at the time are still on Youtube. All of those details are taken from Wikipedia, I say this because back in 1981, 12 year old me didn't know that. All I knew is that pop songs, like any of Dollar's hits were marking out the music I love to this day. It was also how Dollar looked that made me love pop more than any other type of music. Dollar were pure and utter perfect pop stars. How gorgeous is Thereza in any of their videos. Somewhere in England, George Michael must have looking at a Dollar video and saying to himself, about David; "I must have that hairstyle, someday!". There was a "best of" Dollar album a few years ago but it didn't contain all their greatest hits from 1979 onwards or their version of "O L'amour" which was a top ten hit for them in 1987, which is also best known as performed by Erasure. David Van Day came across badly towards Thereza Bazar on "Reborn in the USA" which was just awful, so it will be interesting to see how his latest TV appearance will be like. Here's the joyous pop of "Mirror Mirror (Mon Amour)". And the gorgeous and perfect "Give Me Back My Heart".

Sunday, October 26, 2008

On The Radio

One of the best things about loving pop music is that it is almost impossible to name your most favourite pop song. I think that when we think of our favourite songs the list becomes dozens very quickly. A pop song will always remind us of a place, a person or simply a time in our lives and that is the wonderful power of pop music. That is why when we listen to the radio while buying something in a store, on a bus trip or in a club and we hear a certain song, all sorts of feelings and memories are brought back. A favourite song is one that you haven't tired of hearing yet and that you know in 10, 20 years you will love it, own it in your heart. Next year, a song that I know I will always love; "On the Radio" by Donna Summer, will be 30 years old, though it was a year later in 1980 that it was a Billboard top ten hit. I was ten years old when the song came out and as readers to this site know, I grew up with a radio station in my family's back garden, songs by artists like Donna Summer were heard on a daily basis. Around that time Donna also was singing songs like "She Works Hard for the Money", "Dim All The lights" and "Sunset People" which are my other favourite songs by her. "Dinner with Gershwin", a later perfect pop song, was a single I played on my radio show years later. "On The Radio" is a disco song but it is a ballad sung as a dance song. It's lyrics are that of a love song, it is a story song. The first line begins "Someone found a letter you wrote me" and then immediately; the great twist, as the three words of the song title are sung: "On The Radio". The love letter, the most private of communications, was read on the air, on the radio. "And they told the world just how you felt". Of course the entire world wasn't listening to the same American radio station but to the singer of the song they might as well have been. "It must have fallen out of a hole in your old brown overcoat" as she imagines how the letter came to be found by the "someone" on a street or in a city park. "They never said your name but I knew just who they meant" concludes, what I think, is one of the most memorable verses in pop music history. It is of course the production by Giorgio Moroder, the song's co-writer with Donna, that makes the song what it is. But it is of course Donna's voice that makes the song timeless. It has been sung on many an "X Factor" type show and was a hit a few years ago for Martine McCutcheon, who did a fairly faithful dance pop version of it. It has been recorded also by Emmylou Harris which I haven't heard but if anyone has a link to it I would love to hear it. "On The Radio" sums up the theme of almost half of the pop songs that would make up the 1980's with the lyric "The only thing that I want to hear is that you love me still and that you think you'll be coming home real soon". "On The Radio" was recorded as part of the soundtrack of the film "Foxes", something I never knew before the days of Wikipedia and because of that it was never part of a studio album and has instead been on various best of albums by Donna. On New Year's Eve of this year Donna Summer will be 60 years old.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Why Does It Hurt When My Heart Misses The Beat (and other re-discovered classic lyrics on vinyl).

It's my birthday tomorrow. 39! Each year, present wise I usually get money. Which is always very fine indeed. Today, after spending a lovely day with my parents, they gave me a wrapped up present. A record player, one with CD and MP3 malarkey as well. It was around 1990 when I last played any of my vinyl records. How different and gorgeous is the sound from a record player. It is 1984 all over again, hooray! The first song I played on my new record player was Madonna's "Holiday" from her album "Madonna" which I bought in a Co Wexford record shop a million years ago. I had to play Madonna first as my friend John Jennings would say, it would be rude not to. I have also being playing "Now That's What I Call Music 3", which I bought for my 15th birthday back in 1984, and for an album played a thousand times is still sounding wonderful. That album is pictured above. The cover is like a history of quality 80's pop. Duran Duran, Wham!, Queen, Nik Kershaw and Frankie Goes to Hollywood. There were so many perfect pop songs on that 30 track double disc album such as "White Lines (Don't Do It)" (Grandmaster and Melle Mel), "What's Love Got To Do With It" (Tina Turner), "Love Resurrection" (Alison Moyet), and "Love Wars" (Womack and Womack). The full track list is here. Here's three videos from "Now 3" with the original sleeve notes that appeared on the album. The Thompson Twins and "You Take Me Up". "Charted at No. 13 on 27th March - reached No. 2 on 17th April. From LP/Cassette "Into The Gap"." Bananarama and Robert De Niro's Waiting. "Charted at No. 48 on 28th February - reached No. 3 on 27th March for 2 weeks. From LP/Cassette "Bananarama"." Propaganda and Doctor Mabuse. "Charted at No. 64 on 13th March - reached No. 27 on 17th April."

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Official Girl

Me & U and Long Way 2 Go by Cassie were two of my most listened to pop r'n'b songs in 2006. The rest of her self titled debut album wasn't that great with Ditto" being the only other really memorable song. Earlier this year Cassie starred in the teen dance movie, Step Up 2: The Streets. A song by her, Is it You reached number 52 in the US singles chart. That song wasn't officially released as single in the US but became her second most downloaded song after Me & U. That song made it to number 3 in the US Billboard hot 100 singles chart and was a number one single in the UK download chart. Her new album is due out this Autumn and is provisionally titled "Connecticut Fever" and the first single, already released onto ITunes in the US is "Official Girl". It has a host of writers and is produced by Danja, who recently co-produced "4 Minutes" with Timbaland. "Official Girl" also features vocals by rapper Lil Wayne. At first I didn't think a lot of Official Girl" but it's one of those songs that ends up sticking in your head and it's clear that the winning formula of her two previous hits has been revisited but with a new base line. The video for "Official Girl" is below.

Don't Stop Saying It Right

What do you get when you mix something as wonderful as Nelly Furtado's "Say It Right" with something as wonderful as Rihanna's "Don't Stop The Music" together? This! Full credits to Kami

Like Stars

Taio Cruz's She's Like A Star is one of the songs that I think is most gorgeous this year, one that I played a lot when i heard it first a few months ago. It climbs 12 places to number 20 in the UK singles chart this week. She's like A Star has one of the sweetest hooks on it's chorus which some people would either love or find v annoying. It is also the fifth single off his album Departure". His third single Come On Girl reached number 5 last year and Taio's most recent single "I Can Be" went to number 18. The video for She's like a Star features Taio and Roxanne Drew McKee, an actress from the TV show Hollyoaks and there is also a remix of the song featuring Busta Rhymes and Sugababes, which is a bit messy I think. The original version is just fine. The video below is neither one that features Taio or any other vocalists. It's just two dancers, two guys whose style is really poetry in motion. They dance under the name MindBogglerz and they also have a Youtube post on line of them dancing to Janet's Feedback, which is also brilliant.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

But it Don't Look Like Rain

Today in America Glen Campbell released his new album "Meet Glen Campbell". The album, which is his 59th, is a collection of covers of songs from the 1960's to this decade. The project is similar to Johnny Cash's recording of "Hurt" and other great covers that he did during that great period of his life. The 10 songs on "Meet Glen Campbell" are; "Jesus" (Velvet Underground), "Sing" (Travis), "Angel Dreams" and "Walls" (Tom Petty), "These Days" by (Jackson Browne), "Times Like These" (Foo Fighters), "All I want is You" (U2), "Good Riddance (Time of my life)" (Green Day), "Sadly Beautiful" (The Replacements) and "Grow Old With Me" (John Lennon). The musicians featuring on the album include some of America's finest and most respected such as Chris Chaney on bass guitar, Vinnie Colaiuta on drums, Rick Nielsen (the founder of the band, Cheap Trick) and also Wendy Melvoin, of Wendy & Lisa, on electric guitar. He is also touring with this new album. Those tour dates as well as audio of three of the songs on the album can be found on Glen's website which is here. Glen Campbell has been in the music business for over 50 years, he was 72 last April. He has sang some of the most memorable songs in country music and also covered some of the most beautiful songs such as the song below, Jim Croce's "Time In a Bottle". The performance is of one which he recorded for the BBC in 1975. Glen was a touring member of The Beach Boys, where he played as a temporary replacement for Brian Wilson. Like a lot of music stars in the 1970's Glen had his own TV show. The clip below features someone else who also had one of the most famous TV shows in the US around the same time; Cher. They sing a melody, completely live, which includes two of Glen's most well known songs; "Country Boy" and "Rhinestone Cowboy". A song that would easily be in the top ten of my favourite songs of all time is "Wichita Lineman" which Glen recorded first 40 years ago this year. It is a song that both beautiful and sad at the very same time. The line; "I know I need a small vacation but it don't look like rain" just brings me back to childhood in the 1970's and the memory that it was all those pop country songs that I heard growing up made me realise that a love of music has been with me since I can remember. The "Wichita Lineman" album also included songs like "Dreams of the Everyday Housewife", "Reason To Believe", The Bee Gees "Words" and a gorgeous version of Jacques Brel's "If You Go Away". There are many performances of "Wichita Lineman" on the net but the one below is recent, only a few years old, I'm not sure exactly when. Like many other stars Glen Campbell's private life has sometimes had it's share of controversy but as a singer and guitarist throughout the history of country music, he is still simply one of the best.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

One Great Song

In 2009 "They Don't Know", the song written by Kirsty MacColl, will be 30 years old. it is a song forever associated with her but, unbelievably, it was never a chart hit for her. When it was being released in 1979, there was a strike at her record's distribution company which effected the singles sales. There is more on the song's history here. Kirsty's version would also never appear on a solo album by her but has been on most of her "best of's" compilations over the years. Her version of "They Don't Know" is below. "They Don't Know" was re-recorded in 1983 and was a huge hit for Tracey Ullman. It was a number 2 hit in the UK charts and number 8 in America and was one of the first of a new wave of hits by British artists in the US in the 1980's, a trend that continued throughout that decade. I have always liked Kirsty MacColl, except for Fairytale of New York" which I have never liked. I loved all of Tracey Ullman's hit singles. In 1983, as well as the success of They Don't Know she also had UK top ten hits with Breakaway and Move Over Darling, all three featured on her album You Broke My Heart in 17 Places. In 1984 Tracey released two more singles; My Guy and Sunglasses but while both were Top 30 hits, neither song made it into the top ten. A few years later in 1987 Tracey was on her way to becoming a major TV star, especially in America where her "The Tracey Ullman Show" would go on to earn four Emmy wins and was also the launchpad for a new cartoon sketch featuring the family known as The Simpsons. Here's Tracey's video for They Don't Know.. The video is a real classic, highlighting both her comic talent and cheeky girl next door image that she would often use in sketches throughout her career. The video also features a cameo by Paul McCartney.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Happy Birthday, Superstar

Many years ago, I think in the early 1990's, I thought that; on August 16th 2008, Madonna will be 50 years old. It seems so long ago when I had that thought and now that day is tomorrow. I think that is the great thing that unites Madonna fans all over the world is that they believed that she would be around for a long time and that every year she would do something new and iconic and unforgettable. For every little bit of praise Madonna has had since her career and stardom began in 1983, she has recieved twice as much criticism, but never from her fans. We may not like a certain image or an album track or a video or even question her motives ( and sometimes morals) but we simply always believed in her. I was going to list my favourite Madonna songs here, even list 50 of them, but for me album tracks and b-sides, right back to "Ain't no Big Deal" were just as important. Is "Live to Tell" a better song than "Oh Father"? Which remix of "Vogue" is best? Was "Causing a Commotion" more cute than "True Blue"? The common link between all these songs is that they are just so famous. There are all moments of modern popular culture. I know I feel happy every time I hear "Holiday" and "Angel". I know I am a teenager again when I look at her performance of "Dress You Up" and see that jacket. I know that the line "my sisters and me" was forever stuck in my head when I heard "Jump" for the first time and I thought of my own sisters and how fab they both are. Likewise, I think of my parents and my brother when I hear "Keep it Together". Sometimes when I hear the line "my baby's got a secret" from "Secret" I think of anyone who hasn't had the courage to come out yet. For me, Madonna has always been about the songs. I couldn't imagine never hearing "Borderline" or "Nothing Fails" or "Bad Girl" again. I found Christopher Ciccone's book on his life with her both entertaining and comical in an "National Enquirer" kind of way. The read-between-the-lines notion that she would have been nothing without him is just so tragic. Being her brother turned out be both blessing and curse in equal measure. I was going to write about that book when I had read it but I much preferred David's brilliantly written review of the book, on his David's Daily Dramas website. That review is here. Please check out David's site too, it is a treasure chest of all that is fab in popular culture, just like the blogs links, both old and new (that includes you Paul and Yuri!), I have listed on this site's blog list. I have seen Madonna twice. On stage in London in "Up for Grabs", which was like a dream but for all of that I remember I hadn't the nerve to tell the queen I was sitting beside to shut the fuck up. Nowadays I wouldn't think twice of doing so. And I saw her in Slane, here in Ireland, on her "Re-invention tour". That day I went with friends that I still know, friends I wish I still would see now and strangers whom I never met again. 14 of us travelled in a hired mini-van driven by a driver who didn't really know how to get to Slane from Dublin but who turned out to know the local guards in Slane village who signalled us on to the gate of the venue where we all got pit-passes armbands and we would be mere meters from greatness that Slane night. That concert was so good I have not been disappointed that I haven't seen her in concert since. So many Madonna moments will appear on blogs and websites everywhere in the world this weekend. The video below is quite simply one of the greatest televised performances of a song ever. In 1990 Madonna had toured the world with her "Blonde Ambition" tour. The documentary film "Truth or Dare" or "In Bed with Madonna" was being filmed. The dancers on both her tour and the original video for "Vogue" were all used again for her MTV music awards performance of "Vogue". Her Marie Antoinette inspired performance featured some of the most memorable choreography ever seen on an MTV awards show. The montage is sexy, sleazy and faultless in equal measure. Madonna's dancers especially, Donna De Lory and Niki Harris, her female backing singers and dancers, were perfect on the night. When you watch the video again, look at the hand held fans, when they are thrown into the air. All this is done live, it's truly fantastic. It is Madonna as perfectionist, as superstar.
The second video is a mash up featuring Timbaland's (and Keri Hilson's) "The Way I Are" and Madonna's "Holiday". "The Way I are" is one of the best songs of the past decade and "Holiday" is a song that I will never tire of hearing. It's a great example of how Madonna's songs work perfectly within mash ups, there are several other mash ups on ddjmilk's Youtube page. How cute did she look in that outfit too, also from the "Blonde Ambition" tour.
Happy Birthday, Madonna, and thank you.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Potential Threat

This week sees the soundtrack for the "Mamma Mia" movie at number one in the Billboard album chart and also in Australia. It is number 2 in the UK compilation charts. "Now That's what I call Music 70" is number 1. Abba however are number one in the "regular" album chart with "Abba: Gold" which has been around for years. "Mamma Mia" the movie is currently number 5 in the US where it has made $107 million to date. I have been to see the film at the cinema twice now and could easily go again, it really is the most feel good movie of the year. I think a major part of it's continuing success is that it appeals to both young and older cinema fans, because of the characters of the friends of both mother (Donna) and bride to be (Sophie). One of the positive aspects of the soundtrack is that the album actually features the songs sung by the actors in the film, something that dosen't always happen. A case being with the "Chicago" movie soundtrack where the album featured versions by Macy Gray and Anastasia. I think I still love "Honey Honey" the most but there are loads of good songs or rather any that that the three male leads don't sing solo. One of my favourite scenes was with Sky (Dominic Cooper) and Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) when they sing "Lay All Your Love On Me". Both actors really give the scene and song their all. That scene all ends in complete silliness with Sky's friends doing a male can-can chorus. It will be interesting to see in which direction the careers of Amanda Seyfried and Dominic Cooper will go now. I love Amanda Seyfried's voice in the film, I could easily go and see her in a show or concert. Dominic Cooper's voice isn't as good but it's not bad and his singing suits his character, as is the way of most of the male characters in the film. Dominic Cooper will next be seen in cinemas in "The Dutchess" with Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes. If the film is any good it will really make the year end on a high profile note for all concerned but especially Dominic Cooper. He's 30 years old but looks younger and therefore could play a variety of roles. If his next 2 or 3 projects are also well selected he could easily be a major name for the next decade, something that fellow British actor James McAvoy is excelling at recently. Both actors starred as friends in the comedy "Starter for Ten", a British film, that deserved a bigger audience than it got on it's cinema release. Dominic is pictured below, with his "The History Boys" co-star James Corden at the Tony Awards in New York 2 years ago. While James is looking almost statesman serious, Dominic looks like he had a Babycham too many. Bless!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Stavros?

David Tennant's recent visit to see his fellow Doctor Who co-star, Catherine Tate, in her West End play "Under The Blue Sky" resulted in him having to leave the theatre early as over excited Doctor Who fans "began singing the show's music and waving sonic screwdrivers", during the performance. Somehow, I don't think any of those fans were under ten. More on that story here. It's just a classic example of a "who on earth would want to be a celebrity" type story. Catherine Tate, professionally, managed to ignore the people in the audience but you can imagine there were a few choice words in the dressing room later. A few months ago I decided that I don't watch TV enough to merit paying for cable every month so I got rid of my Sky or NTL as it's known in Ireland. So far, I don't regret it, though I may wish it back as X Factor looks like it could be a great Dannii and Cheryl show this Autumn. Because of not having TV stations anymore I find I am reading more and watching all those DVD's you buy and never watch. I couldn't do without my internet though. Especially Youtube. One series that I haven't really seen at all has been the most recent Doctor Who so I don't really have an opinion of what Catherine Tate's Donna was like. What I did like, a lot, was her interview with the forever joyful Graham Norton recently. The interview is below. The entire video is funny but my favourite bit is when she tells of the fact that she wasn't a fan of Doctor Who before joining the show and her reaction when told that one of the show's ultimate villains, Darvos, was returning. It's classic TV.

Kiss Goodbye

I think 2008 will be the year that I finally, and sadly, have more or less lost interest in the UK singles charts. In the 1980's most new single releases charted around the top 50 or 60 positions and slowly made their way up the charts, sometimes taking weeks to get to number one. Very few songs went straight in at number one. Those were the days that pop singles made a lot of money, songs like George Michael's "Careless Whisper" and Jennifer Rush's "The Power of Love" sold over a million copies on 7" vinyl alone. By the end of that wonderful decade the amount of new pop acts was increasing all the time, their success was due to high profile publicity from a mixture of MTV, pop magazines and shows like "Top of The Pops" and Saturday morning TV shows. For most of the 1990's and early 2000's there were several new single releases each Friday and it would not be unusual to see 5 0r 6 brand new entries in the singles charts and at least a dozen or more in the week's top 40. This trend is no longer happening. Today, in 2008, I truly believe that the download is slowly killing the actual concept of the hit song. HMV now just sells a selection of CD singles, their branch in Grafton Street, here in Dublin, has a tiny display stand with a selection of 12 songs. These are usually the edit of the single song and a 3 or 4 minute remix. These are usually priced at €2.99 or €4.99 but when the average price of a download per song is 99c it's obvious that the CD single is no longer good value. How I loved the days when you bought a new CD single and there were 3 or 4 remixes or a live track or cover version included, sometimes there were two CD singles of the same song. I have most of Madonna's CD singles and nearly all her early vinyl singles. It just isn't the same with downloads. I have all her downloads! Like, wow! Go, you! Today, Sunday 10th August, Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl" went from number 4 in the UK charts to number 1. No one is surprised. The song is currently 7 weeks at number one in the equally boring Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. "I Kissed a Girl" has also got to number one, to date, in Sweden, Canada and Australia. It is currently number 2 in Ireland. Guess where it will be next week! The current UK singles charts features "American Boy" by Estelle featuring Kanye West at 36, "Cry for You" by September at 35, Nickleback's "Rock Star" at number 27 and Sam Sparro's "Black & Gold" at 21. These are all good songs but they are just some of the many songs which have been in the UK charts for months. The reason for that is not because they are so brilliant that they deserve to be in the charts for ages, it's because there is very few other new singles releases which receives enough publicity and/or airplay that they chart in the top 40. If music retailers are only selling a handful of CD singles as well this also keeps certain songs in the charts for longer than they would have been before. Does anyone know when a song is officially released as a download, I don't think so. This week's UK singles chart top 10 includes Rihanna's "Disturbia" (which has been on the radio for weeks already), The Verve's "Love is Noise" and The Script's "The Man Who Can't be Moved". These songs are new now but expect to see them still in the UK charts in 2 or 3 months time. Unlike, The Saturdays, whose single "If This Is Love" goes in the wrong direction this week as it falls to number 13 after only one week in the top ten. I think there is something almost tragic in popular culture that the UK singles charts have become a lazy playground. It used to be so exciting to see which pop act did best each Sunday but the UK pop chart which was always one of the best in the world is now one of the dullest. What has also happened with the lack of TV shows promoting new pop acts, as well as established ones, as well as the loss of magazines like "Smash Hits!", is that unless a song is play-listed on Radio 1 in the UK it hasn't a hope of becoming a hit. Some songs, which deserve to be hit singles, never are released at all. If an artist has a hit single and the following single isn't a hit there then aren't any more single releases from the accompanying album. Long gone are the days when an album had 5 0r even 6 hit singles taken from it, such as albums by Michael or Janet Jackson, Madonna and Destiny's Child. One of my most favourite songs from last year, which I doubt will ever be a single, was on pop sisters Aly & AJ's "Insomniatic" album. That song was "Silence", a gorgeous little pop ballad, which, I think is an example of a song; if it had been a single release combined with having a show like "Top Of The Pops" or "CD:UK" to promote it, would easily have been a UK hit. Here it is.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

This is Not The Future My Mother Warned Me About

The teaser trailer for "Terminator Salvation" has been released and is below. The trailer will, from this weekend, be shown in cinemas alongside the release of "The Dark Knight" in the US. While all "The Dark Knight" talk and publicity centres on the late Heath Ledger, it is very obvious that by the time the 4th Terminator film is released in May 2009, Christian Bale will be the most well known actor of this generation. Christian Bale stars as John Connor. The films co-stars include Anton Yelchin, Sam Worthington, Common and Bryce Dallas Howard. I loved the first two Terminator movies and hated the third so every movie fans hopes are high for the return to the franchise next year. It is directed by McG, best known for the two "Charlie's Angels" movies. There is more information on the plot and production of the movie here. The image below is taken from the movie's web page which can be found here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Something Old....Something New.

The cover art for Madonna's second album, "Like A Virgin", is one of the most iconic images of the last 25 years. Would it have worked as well as a colour image? Judge it by comparing the photo above. You have to see this photo too. It's featured on a great American blog called Olga Loves Yuri.

Little Bright Lights Are We


My Fizzy Pop continues to be one of the best sources of new pop on the net and one song I came across on it recently was "Downtown Boys". This is the newest song by Danish pop duo Infernal who are still best known for their dance pop song "From Paris To Berlin".


"Downtown Boys" has already been number one in the Danish pop charts. The song is the first single from their new album "Electric Cabaret" which is released on August 11th.

Here's the video.

Starlight Shimmers

Last month, fellow blog-master, Enda featured the Freemasons remix of Kylie's new single The One on his website. The One is a gorgeous piece of remix heaven. What I only read recently is that The One was originally a song by Laid & Emma Holmgren and was, back in 2006, called I'm the One. Was it any good? Have a listen!

There must be an Angel

Growing up in the 1970's, my two big TV star crushes were Lee Majors as Steve Austin in "The Six Million Dollar Man" and Parker Stevenson as Frank in "The Hardy Boys". While Shaun Cassidy as Joe was the biggest teen idol, Frank Hardy and Steve Austin and the actors who played them represented, for me, all that was perfect about American TV. As a child if I wasn't watching TV I would be reading and it would usually be my Doctor Who books with the Tom Baker covers or the many Hardy Boys novels by Franklin W. Dixon just like the one below.
The book above, "The Haunted Fort", is the exact same edition that I got out of my library many, many years ago. My other favourite TV shows growing up were "Space 1999", "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" "Battlestar Galactica", "The Brady Bunch" and "Charlie's Angels".
"Charlie's Angels" and "The Hardy Boys" were pure escapist, entertaining TV. I hated the movie adaptations of "Charlie's Angels" and I can just imagine how awful the movie version of "The Hardy Boys" would be like. There have been rumours that Tom Cruise and Ben Stiller are to play Frank and Joe in a movie for Twentieth Century Fox called "The Hardy Men". Especially with Ben Stiller involved you can only imagine that this will be played for laughs. The original trio of "Charlie's Angels", Kelly, Sabrina and Jill were the best. While Kate Jackson as Sabrina Duncan and Farrah Fawcett-Majors as Jill Munroe were both gorgeous and fab, Jaclyn Smith as Kelly Garrett was always my favourite Angel.
Recently I came across this great TV clip taken from "The Hardy Boys Mysteries", where Frank and Joe were investigating a case in Hollywood and Frank walks onto the "Charlie's Angels" set. TV worlds collide and the result is truly memorable!

Lili Hadyn

When Lili Haydn was a child her parents Lotus Weinstock and David Jove allowed her pick her to own name. For a while she choose Helicopter. How could you not like someone like that. Lili was born on Christmas Day 1969 and is an actress, composer and violinist. She is one of the many music artists who is currently performing on the True Colors 2008 tour. Her website is lovely and is full of writings and good causes. Her new album is called Places Between Places. One song that I like very much from that album is Strawberry Street and here it is.

True Colors

Cyndi Lauper plays Dublin's Tripod music venue on Saturday October 18th. I cannot remember Cyndi ever playing a show in Dublin before and of all the concerts I will see in 2008, this is the one I am most looking forward to. A big thank you to David for telling me about the concert, I know he will see her in London and I hope he loves the show. When I was growing up, my favourite music artist was of course Madonna, but for every Madonna song and video there was a Cyndi Lauper song and video which were equally as good. So many times Cyndi's image and music was compared to Madonna which I always felt wasn't fair. Pop music, good or bad, is always neatly put into boxes by music critics but each artist is special to their fans for individual reasons. I never thought I would see Cyndi in concert, I was going to go to England to see her and to think that she is playing a small venue which she will be perfect in, on an Autumn night is still like a dream to me. I love Cyndi because her heart has always been in the right place, she is fun and kooky and also serious and honest when she needs to be. There are so many Cyndi songs that I love. I am one of those people that never really liked "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" but almost every other Cyndi song is a pop classic. I grew up watching the video for "Time After Time" on the Irish Sunday afternoon show MT:USA, a show my fellow Irish bloggers will remember. I thought the "Time After Time" video was one of the most beautiful and saddest pieces of pop art I had seen then and still do now. "She's so Unusual" is still one of those perfect pop albums. It was released in 1983, 7 songs were released as singles and in 1984 Cyndi Lauper would win a Grammy for Best New Artist, she had been nominated for 5 that year. "All Through the Night" is another song that 25 years later is still timeless as is her cover version of Prince's "When You Were Mine". My favourite song on that album was "She Bop".
Most of Cyndi's videos can only be viewed by going into Youtube and keyword searching. All of these are of great quality both in sound and image. "She Bop" is a video of it's time, something you could put into a space capsule in years to come. Throughout the years other Cyndi songs that I loved were "Change of Heart" which featured backing vocals from The Bangles, "Sally Pigeon's", "Heading West", "Sisters of Avalon", "Please Don't Let me be Misunderstood" and "Same Ol' Story" from her new album "Bring Ya To The Brink". The video below is not one of Cyndi's many singles but is from a Tribute to John Lennon, which took place in Central Park on October 2nd 2001. I have never seen it before this week but when you look at the date, it was just 3 weeks after 911. Listen to the way that Cyndi introduces the song and then the song itself. In 2007 Cyndi was the organiser of the "True Colors" tour where various music artists toured to raise awareness and support the Human Rights Campaign and for groups that benefit GLBT (Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender) groups and the Matthew Shepard Foundation and to educate people about the reality of hate crimes. This tour is credited as helping the Matthew Shepard Act to have come into law. The "True Colours" 2008 tour is presently playing in cities across America. It began on 31st May and continues until July 5th, playing in 24 cities. The artists performing at most or some of the venues this year include; The B-52's, Regina Spektor, Deborah Cox, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, Rosie O'Donnell, Andy Bell and Tegan & Sara. The True Colors tour website is here. Below is Cyndi singing "True Colors" on the American TV show "The View" on March 19th 2007, this was before the first "True Colors" tour even started. She is joined by Rosie O'Donnell at the end of the performance.

Monday, July 14, 2008

These Are the Days of the Open Hand

Of all the winners of American Idol over the past few years, the greatest still I think is Carrie Underwood. I love both country and gospel pop music. Jesus Take The Wheel is the one of best of that combination of music.
Anyone who visits this site regularly knows that I love hearing music stars singing versions of other stars songs. This year Carrie sang a song that George Michael first sang in 1990. That song was Praying For Time and it was performed live on Idol Gives Back, where stars like Mariah Carey, Gloria Estefan, Annie Lennox, Fergie and Miley Cyrus sang to raise money for charities in America and Africa. Carrie really stood out that night, both in how she looked and her delivery of the song.

Mamma Mia!: Simply Gorgeous

Last year the big musical to movie was "Hairspray". It was fun throughout. This year the biggest musical movie is "Mamma Mia!". It is the most joyous film this summer, a definite must see. It doesn't matter if you haven't seen the stage show but if you have, every now and again you will remember scenes from the original theatre production. The movie, thanks to it's cast and beautiful Greek Islands setting, is something that will stand alone by itself. The first song on screen is "I have a dream" sung by Sophie as played by Amanda Seyfried, as she posts three letters to the men of which one may be her father. The whole film is set over 48 hours; the day before and the day of Sophie's wedding to Sky on the island where her mother Donna runs a quaint but ramshackle hotel. When Sophie meets her two best friends, as they arrive for the wedding, the first full song sung is "Honey Honey". This was always one of my favourite Abba songs and it is a wonderful start to the movie. Amanda Seyfried has a great voice and in truth she is easily the best singer throughout the movie. Her recording of "Honey Honey" is below. "Mamma Mia!" does what the movie version of "Evita" should have done, that is; it isn't entirely sung, the songs are performed in between the dialogue. When you are watching this movie the one thing that you notice is how many hit songs Abba had and how great they still sound. The lyrics of each song remain the same as they were originally were written and they are incorporated into the script in a witty, if sometimes corny, way. Meryl Streep is just fantastic in her role as Donna, Sophie's mother and in many scenes is amazingly energetic, especially in the scene where she discovers that 3 of her former lovers are on the island. The humour in many scenes is bawdy, a girls night out type, or a boozy holiday, the type where a group of friends spend half the holiday simply laughing. Christine Baranski as Tanya and Julie Walters as Rosie had my friends and myself laughing each time they were on screen. Like "Sex & the City" this movie is aimed for the most part at women but it is something that children and teenagers will all enjoy immensely. "Sex & the City" has been credited for getting many women back to going to the cinema, "Mamma Mia" will continue that but will also bring many older couples too. Dominic Cooper as Sky is real future big star potential here and his scene with Sophie as they sing "Lay all Your Love on Me" is well, passionate. It is in the characters of the three potential fathers that the film lulls a bit, none of them can sing. Colin Firth hasn't looked as handsome since "Bridget Jones Diary" but his "Our Last Summer" is forgettable but not as bad as Pierce Brosnan's "S.O.S.", which is simply awful. At that point my friend turned to me and asked; "Is this supposed to be funny?". The only other slightly negative aspect that stood out for me was that the villagers on the Greek island really play second fiddle. They are used mainly to be part of a chorus or to join a Pied Piper merry song and dance march. It seems unusual that Donna lived so many years on the island without having a close Greek friend but with so many characters in the storyline, it's obvious that the film makers choose to centre just on Donna, Sophie and the main wedding party guests. Meryl Streep is not the greatest singer ever to sing in a musical but she gives the character of Donna her all and her solo songs are gutsy especially, "The Winner Takes it All". The view of the church in the distance, as she sings this song, is one of the most gorgeous pieces of cinematography I have seen all summer. If ever there was a tourist ad for a sunny destination in a movie it is that scene. Benny and Bjorn from Abba both make very brief guest appearances, both seem to enjoy their cameos immensely. There are parts of the film that it felt almost ad lib. There is one scene where Christine Baranski as Tanya seems to stumble over her lines and they keep on filming. If so, it works really well. Another wonderful aspect of the film is the fact that there are so many women involved in the production of the film. It is Phyllida Lloyd's first major movie as director. Judy Craymer is a producer and Rita Wilson is an executive producer, (along with her husband Tom Hanks.) Ellen Lewis and Priscilla John are the casting directors. At the close of the film there are two songs sung by the cast over the credits and then Amanda Seyfried singing appropriately enough, "Thank You for the Music". "On of Us" and "Knowing You, Knowing Me" are two songs used in the stage show which aren't sung in the movie version. The other song not sung in the movie version, which I loved in the stage show is "Under Attack". The original video of "Under Attack" is below. It seems only right to close this review with Abba, one of the best pop groups of all time.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

When Annie met Richard

Why oh why isn't Norwegian singer Annie one of the most successful singers of this generation? Cult status is one thing but she deserves to be more well known. Maybe her new single "I Know UR Girlfriend Hates Me" will change all that. I think Annie is like Robyn's little cousin as her lyrics are just as cheeky and for all the bubble gum sound of her music the production work and structure of the songs is always immaculate. "I Know Your Girlfriend Hates Me" is released next Monday in the UK and hopefully will be top ten bound. It is produced by Richard X who produced Annie's most well known singles "Chewing Gum" and "Me Plus One" and he has done great production work in the past for Liberty X, Sugababes and Kelis. Annie says that she had been listening to a lot of Prince when she wrote the song, especially the song "Kiss", the lyrics are loosely based on something that happened to one of her friends and also to herself. Here's the single cover for "I Know UR Girlfriend Hates Me" or otherwise simply known as, in the days of the download; a nice picture. The single is taken from her new album "Don't Stop" which also features production work from Xenomania. There are more details on "Don't Stop" here.Annie's website can be found here and has been recently updated. If you want to sign your life away on the mailing list there is also a free remix. The video for "I Know UR Girlfriend Hates Me" is below and I love it.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Smash Hits! The Classic Covers: Stephen & Peter

Once upon a time I used to have every edition of the UK pop bible Smash Hits! but then, my family moved house and every issue, yes every issue, was burnt in a big bonfire! It was truly one of the most tragic moments of my life! In 2008, however, there is e-bay and issues dating back to the end of the 1970's can still be bought and kept away from bonfires. Smash Hits! was a perfect music magazine. Each fortnight, I used to buy my copy in my Uncle Tom's newsagent in Kilkenny. The covers were very often amazing and beginning this week I'm going to start a Strike Curious Poses, "Smash Hits! Classic Cover" section. The first classic Smash Hits! cover features Pete Burns and Morrissey. Dead or Alive were at the height of their fame at the time when the photograph above was taken in October 1995. Morrissey was still in The Smiths and that year The Smiths had released 4 singles, including their most recent single then; "The Boy With The Thorn In His Side". In January of 1985 The Smiths had released the song that would become one of their finest moments; "How Soon Is Now". In 1985 Pete Burns was at his most fabulous in his band, Dead or Alive. The Stock, Aitken and Waterman produced single, "You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)" had gotten to number one in March and their album "Youthquake" had some perfect pop songs such as "Lover Come Back To Me", "My Heart Goes Bang" and the song featured on video below; "In Too Deep".

Spotlight

Ne-Yo is currently number one in the UK with his single "Closer". He is also a co-writer and co-producer on the new single, "Spotlight" by Jennifer Hudson. This is currently available on download only in the US but hopefully will be released worldwide as well. It deserves to be a big hit. It reminds me of the type of big R'n'B ballads that were in the charts well before the days of Destiny's Child. Jennifer's self titled album is released on September 30th. The video for "Spotlight" has just been released and is featured below. Jennifer will next star in the film adaptation of "The Secret Life of Bees", the much loved novel by Sue Monk Kidd. Jennifer plays the central role of Rosaleen Daise, the carer and friend of Lily Owens (Dakota Fanning), a young girl who is trying to get over the death of her mother. The film is directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood and co-stars Paul Bethany, Queen Latifah and Alicia Keys. It should get a lot of publicity when it's released this Autumn.

Victims

The Culture Club song "Colour by Numbers" would never appear on the album of the same name in 1983. Instead it would be part of the re-mastered edition of the "Colours by Numbers" album in 2003. It was, however, the b-side to what is, I think, Culture Club's greatest single. That is, the song "Victims". The video was a fantastic, over the top affair and captured all that was fab about Culture Club at the time. "Victims" was the follow up single to "Karma Chameleon" which had been number one in 12 countries in the world earlier that year. "Karma Chameleon" was the true definition of a worldwide hit as it was a hit in several European countries, including Ireland, Australia, Japan and their only number one hit in the US. It made Boy George a huge star in America where he would be immortalised, years later, in doll form, as seen below.I have always thought that Boy George was one of the greatest pop songwriters of his day, the other person being George Michael. "Careless Whisper" was released in America as a song by Wham! featuring George Michael. By the early 1990's and after the success of the "Faith" album, George Michael was an even bigger solo star than he was in his days with Andrew in Wham! The serious, bearded George on the "Rolling Stone" cover below has the sub heading; "Life after Wham! No more kid stuff". This year George Michael tours America again and these days he performs a mixture of his adult and "kid" stuff as he preforms both his solo work and songs from his time in Wham! Back in 1991 George Michael toured the US and on October 1st 1991 in Oakland-Alameda County Arena he sang his own version of Culture Club's "Victims". It is a gorgeous version. I will always like Boy George's vocals the most on that song but George Michael's version is as good. There are some videos of concert footage of George singing "Victims" on Youtube but the quality isn't good so the clip below is live audio only.

Hors De Prix

In "Hors De Prix" ("Priceless"), Gad Elmaleh plays Jean, a bartender in a luxury Cote d'Azur hotel. One evening while waiting on a late night hotel guest, Jean accepts the offer of a drink and expensive cigar and falls asleep in the bar. He is discovered, alone, by Irene (Audrey Tautou) who is also staying in the hotel with her lover Jacques(Vernon Dobcheff). Irene mistakes Jean for a millionaire and Jean, after failing to make her realise he is the bartender, plays along with the mistaken identity. They get drunk, she makes a pass at him and they spend the night in the best suite in the hotel, which he has access to. A year later Irene and Jacques are back in the same hotel, Jean still works there and once again Jean pretends to be someone he's not. They end up in the suite again while Jacques is oblivious to what's going on, or so Irene thinks. Of course the truth of his charade, comes out quicker than Jean hopes for. Irene is dumped by Jacques and she takes the train to Nice, spending hours dialling numbers from her address book of potential suitors with whom she has various brief connections with in the past. Jean, love struck, follows Irene to Nice and in the space of one evening she manages to spend Jean's entire life savings. By morning, Jean has transferred all his life's savings, even his pension, to buy mere hours of having Irene in his life. In order to avoid being arrested in the hotel foyer for failing to pay his bill, Jean, somehow, ends up as a gigolo for an older rich socialite, Madeleine (Marie-Christine Adam). "Hors de Prix" is a film I wanted to like but instead it ended up being one of the most depressing films I have seen in a long time. "Hors De Prix" is the arthouse equivalent of a romantic comedy. Or rather what arthouse cinema thinks is a romantic comedy. I am always intrigued by the imagery used in the publicity for movies. The poster above has the tag line; "She only dated men with money...until she met a man with a heart". Four male arms, offering expensive gifts, bribes, surround the elfin Irene. In reality, the two men who supply Irene with the luxuries she desires are, while both fairly decent men, are also Grandfather old and more than just the stereotypical sugar daddy. Irene is described as a gold-digger and opportunist in write ups of the film but what she is simply a prostitute. After Irene makes Jean a pauper, he too becomes one to avoid a prison sentence. Very few of the production photos feature the characters of Jacques or Madeleine, instead centring on the main protagonists of the story. In the photo below, Irene is centre stage while Jacques looks on, blurred in the close distance, in an almost voyeuristic shot. Interestingly, the shot is the same as the poster at the beginning of this article and this one below also erases Jacques to create a specific image. Whereas the imagery of Irene and Jean, as below, is much more romanticised. I watched a review of "Hors de Prix" on the Irish arts and culture TV programme, "The View", where the host John Kelly was obviously a big fan of the beauty of Audrey Tautou and the two male reviewers were also praising the film, it was left to the sole female panellist the journalist Anne-Marie Hourihane to say of Irene and Jean; "They're whores!". If "Hors de Prix" was a mainstream Hollywood film, it would have been torn apart by a panel like this. There has been countless depictions of prostitutes in cinema but I found the characters of Irene and Jean two of the most depressing portrayals I have seen. The earlier scene where Irene finds Jean alone in the bar and he pretends to be a bar man and makes Irene a cocktail was the first moment I knew the film was going to be ridiculous. Irene's character is not a stupid one and the fact that she didn't guess who he was straight away was unbelievable. The sad reality is that bar pursuing rich old men to attain a glamourous lifestyle, Irene has no idea of how to fend for herself. There is an especially sad scene where she ends up locked out of her hotel room, not for the first time, and she sits alone on a deckchair in a sarong and bikini top, freezing and waiting waiting for Jean to, financially, rescue her again. The love, or lust, that Jean has convinced himself that he has for Irene is a very tragic one. Bar her good looks and waif like appearance, there is nothing appealing about her character. Both Irene and Jean are owned by other people, no matter how many mind games they play with them. Both Audrey Tautou and Gad Elmaleh look beautiful in the film, and Marie-Christine Adam has an icy beauty too but the viewer is never in doubt as to who has and has not in the film. Gad Elmaleh in particular has a great movie star look and is of the two leads, the better comedic actor. He was born in Casablanca, Morocco and is well known in France for his film, stage and stand up comedy performances. The film has been compared to classics like "Breakfast at Tiffany's" but while it has touches of the screwball comedies of the 1950's and the 1960's which were set in Europe, it has very little in comparison to Blake Edwards 1961 film "Hors de Prix" was released in the US in March this year and made just $1,500,000 at the box office. It has made $26 million to date worldwide. The trailer is below and the film's French website is here.