Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Well, well. Here we are. I had grand plans for my TOP 40 SONGS OF 2010 and my BEST MOMENTS OF 2010 posts but let's just say between the Christmas pudding and the TV boxsets my Christmas has made me a bit lax about blogging.

But why not? 2010 has been a mental one for me but in the best possible way. I've met some deadly people, been involved with some great projects and had more than my fair share of "Is this really happening?!?" moments.

To everyone I worked with, met, hung out with, said nice things about Following Fade Street or even just read this blog (and everything in between!) a HUGE HUGE THANK YOU. I've had the best year of my life and 2010 will have to do lots to top it. I'll see you post NYE for more pop culture dirt here and on Twitter.

Quite frankly this post is purely an excuse to show my favourite image that sums up the year I had. You can see the glamour, you can feel the passion in this photo from Peter Fingleton's Sharp Shock:

Beautiful. Happy New Year everyone!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Chart Attack: Matt Cardle Trounces Rubberbandits for Xmas No. 1

The X Factor has taken the top of the Christmas charts ever year since it kicked off seven (that's right SEVEN) years ago. Last year's much ballyhooed Rage Against The Machine Vs Joe McElderry battle meant the UK broke the cycle but here in Ireland we've kept it X Factor friendly every year. I'm not getting into the ridiculous nature of that chart battle or this year's attempts at an "alternative number one" in the UK (I'd be here all day!) but this year Ireland has had a more interesting chart battle on it's hands.

Limerick based comedy duo the Rubberbandits have built up a steady profile over the last few years and saw that truly start to take off in 2010 with their regular appearances on RTE's Republic of Telly and plenty of live shows, including playing at the Electric Picnic. It was Horse Outside though, that has sent them nuclear. 

A truly hilarious pop tune with an even funnier video it's not hard to see why the video has now amassed more than 3 million hits. The campaign to get them to number one does have the usual smug "like, the X Factor is so manufactured" nonsense behind but it also shows people who genuinely like a song, buying it and hoping it does well. 

Sadly, Chart Track released the official info for the sales in Ireland today and Matt Cardle, this year's X Factor winner, has still managed to snag the top spot.

In reality it's not surprising. The X Factor was getting close to 700,000 viewers per week over here. If you sell a couple of thousand singles in the Irish chart you can do very well. So even if a tiny chunk of the show's audience buy the winner's tune, it will of course go on to do big things.

All that aside, Matt's figures are truly staggering. According to Chart Track, Cardle came within 500 sales of beating the figures of Elton John's Candle In The Wind in 1997. Unbelievable. The CD single was what did it for Matt in end it seems, as noted by Chart Track:

"the sales of ‘Where We Collide’ were split 91% CD and 9% download, handing Matt Cardle the accolade of best-selling CD single in Ireland over a week ever"

In their defense the Rubberbandits put up a decent fight, beating their own download record and setting a new record for digital sales in a week.  Though as Chart Track notes their total sales were only half of Cardle's final haul. Given that Matt would have done close to 55,000 this week (unbelievable figures for Ireland) we could probably guess that the Rubberbandits did about 20,000 (this is my estimate and I could be totally wrong) which at any other time of year would be enough to put them on top by a huge margin.

There is an argument here that Limerick's finest should have taken the top spot, with that many hits on YouTube indicating there was a huge interest in the track. However a quick glance at the video's YouTube stats show a huge amount of views in the US, UK and Australia an audience that can't buy the song and affect the chart position here. Also, numerous viewings of the video could be down to repeat watches, shrinking the number of potential buyers again. Also people watching a video online does not always follow through to them buying it. The Rubberbandits appeal to an older audience who are less likely to download a single or buy one physically. The physical single of Horse Outside was always going to struggle against the X Factor. There was no way a relatively small Irish band would be able to print, distribute and sell the same amount of singles as one of the biggest record companies in the world. 

Ultimately, the Rubberbandits have increased their audience a huge amount, knocked out one of the funniest pop tunes of the year and become a national talking point. Matt Cardle's chances at sustaining a decent pop career are probably not good. Despite the largest audience for the show ever this year Cardle still failed to match highs set by the likes of Alexandra and Leona with their singles in the first week. Joe McElderry has struggled to maintain an audience despite a surprisingly decent debut album while runner up Olly Murs has managed two hit singles.

Whatever happens, we'll always have the Horse Outside video and more importantly, that amazing Liveline appearance to look back on whenever we look back on 2010.

Beat that Cardle!

Following Fade Street

This year saw a TV event for the ages. Finally Ireland got it's own version of The Hills. Fade Street arrived ahead of huge press attention in November and soon became one of the most talked about Irish TV shows of the year. By now we've had YouTube spoofs, a parody comic, hilarious blogs dedicated to it and of course my little spoof show. I've been doing Following Fade Street, a online show dissecting the series, for every episode and it has been loads of fun.

The videos go up on straight after the episode every Thursday (the show is moving to a new time in the New Year. Exciting) and we've been popping them up on YouTube too. The lastest episode is below. At this point, I have to thank everyone at Straywave Media, especially Jessie Ward who does a fine job of making me and the show look good every week. And to everyone who has said nice things about the show this year, thank you very much!

The plan is to do another 6 episodes in the New Year as all the Fade Street fun unfolds, so keep your eyes peeled for more on the antics of cast of everybody's favourite reality show. 

While we wait, check out the rest of Following Fade Street and this hilarious YouTube clip, probably my favourite bit of web parody I've seen yet. Brilliant:

Supporting Shakira: A Truly Surreal Story

So a few weeks on Twitter I joking asked if the legions of hip music types looking for Arcade Fire could get me one for Shakira. I was painfully excited about her incoming Dublin gig (her first time performing here) and didn't have the funds for a ticket. Suddenly I ended up on the guest list courtesy of Brian Spollen and considered myself the luckiest Shakira fan in the world. Then something amazing happened, Brian asked me if I would DJ before Shakira. That's right. I played it cool on the phone (I still can't believe how cool) but inside this was my face:

(photo courtesy of Peter Fingleton at

Anyway, before I know it I'm at the 02 waiting to DJ before Shakira. It was a surreal moment, hanging around one of the biggest venues in the country and trying not to freak out. Before I knew it I'm on stage in front of thousands of people. NO BIG DEAL. It was great fun although I wasn't my usual "raving behind the decks self" due to my crippling nerves. Still, the crowd were lovely and suitably enthusiastic. In case I had forgotten both Dynamite by Taio Cruz and Firework by Katy Perry make people go absolutely mental when you play them. Always good to know.

Shakira herself was suitably brilliant. I've been a fan for years so getting to see her perform was a real treat. She is clearly made for the stage. The stage set up was quite minimal but you wouldn't have noticed so busy was Shakira flying around the place.  She threw herself about the stage, bouncing over to enthusiastic audience members, gyrating in a manner that would put most starlets to shame and also gleefully moving between big hits and album cuts.

Shakira is clearly a star who has engaged with the English speaking territories on her own terms. Sure she wheels out the hits that we all know but the mixed, up for it audience went just as crazy for tracks like La Tortura and new tunes like Gordita (from her recent album Sale El Sol). The show was perfectly judged, starting with the star walking through the crowd and ending on a triumphant note with fans joining her on stage to perform the Waka Waka. In between you could see the potent mix of sexuality, business saavy, showmanship and songwriting craft that have made her on the most successful artists in the world.

I could go on but needless to say the evening was pretty incredible and a week later I still can't believe it happened. Big thank you to Brian and all at MCD for giving me the opportunity. And if you ever get the chance to see Shakira live, do not miss it!

Big big thank you to photographer Ruth Medjber for taking the shots of me playing and for letting me use them here. Check out Ruth's work on her blog and in Hot Press.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Lady Gaga Is Still Human, Gives Good Onstage Chat

Obviously Lady Gaga has had what you would call a successful year. Relatively speaking. One of her biggest achievements this year has been the ongoing success of The Monster Ball tour which will continue to see Gaga flail around arenas will into next year, even after the release of her new album Born This Way

During The Monster Ball Gaga poses, prances and puts on a huge huge show. The show is thread around a loose concept with plenty of ridiculous dialogue and highly staged numbers (see my review of the show's first visit to Dublin earlier this year here. But thankfully Gaga is willing to indulge in plenty of freewheeling banter each night. A neat reminder that she is in fact human as opposed to the part popstar-part robot air she cultivates sometimes.

You just have to love that speech. Sure, the "Little Monsters" schtick has worn thin at times this year but Gaga has a natural ease with her audience that often eludes other popstars. The icing on the cake is definitely Gaga doing such a spot on impression of "The Gays". It should be cringe-tastic but is so affectionate and funny that it's impossible to dislike.

Gaga recently described the new album as "a marriage of electronic music with major, epic, dare I even say, metal or rock 'n' roll, pop, anthemic style melodies with really sledge-hammering dance beats."

Which makes it sound like it might be quite undeniably amazing. 

2011 is likely to be another Gaga heavy year and thankfully it seems like she's still able to have alot of fun despite the kind of schedule that many other popstars would crumble under. I for one, can't wait. 

Ke$ha gets festive... WARNING: Contains "poo" humour

I am always ranting about Ke$ha on here it seems. It's not my fault she hands out trash pop gems and is generally a mess. But in an entertaining way. And by entertaining, I obviously mean, completely manufactured.

But MOTHER OF GOD.... check out her "Christmas greeting" to her fans.

On the one hand, we see Ke$ha actually singing (Which doesn't happen often enough, though I enjoyed that pretentious video of her singing a Stones tune at house party awhile back) but on the other hand it features someone pretending to take a dump in the background.

I feel like we should be rolling our eyes at this contrived attempt to remind us Ke$ha is badass but... it sort of sums hers up so well.

Ultimately, you can roll your eyes or you can think about it. Would you see Katy Perry willing to have someone pretend to shit behind her? No. Would Rihanna? No. This video, in it's own cringe-y way reminds you of Ke$ha's very own special place on planet pop.

And you can't say fairer than that.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Mariah has Christmas Covered. AGAIN (and forever)

We all know that Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas Is You is the greatest Christmas song ever. Even after years of hammering at Christmas parties, on radio playlists and in various shopping centres across the world it is a joyous piece of timeless pop that is more festive than a room full of giant Christmas trees surrounded by towers of mince pies.

Mariah is the Santa Claus of pop music. Never mind other artists and their holiday albums this and festive cheer that. Mariah Carey is the Queen of Modern Day Christmas tunes.

A few months back Mariah unveiled her new festive single Oh Santa! ahead of the release of new Christmas album Merry Christmas II You (the sequel to her 1994 album Merry Christmas). When the song first popped up I couldn't stomach it. October? Christmas songs? No chance.

But over the last few weeks I've returned to the new Mariah Christmas classics in search of some Christmas tunes.

I haven't listened to the actual Christmas album in full that many times purely because I've had 2 of the tracks on repeat so much I haven't had time. The first is Oh Santa! which is buckets of fun. Tongue in cheek, catchy and painfully festive it feels like a worthy successor to All I Want...

But the icing on the festive cake is Mimi's trash-tastic on Auld Lang Syne. The first minute is your bog standard take on the Christmas classic. But then the cheesy dance beat kicks in and away we go. There are sky scraper vocals, Mariah asking "Does anyone really know the words anyway" and all sorts of fun.  Mariah has wrapped it all up in one of the funniest music videos I have ever seen. It sees uber-pregnant Mariah attempt to make green screen FX of fireworks and over the top miming pass off as a good video. It is one of the funniest videos I've seen all year and makes an already genius take on Auld Lang Syne even... geniuser.

If that doesn't make you want to pop a bottle of champagne, kiss a stranger and resolve to stop having those late night slices of chocolate cake then you are a made of stone.

Merry Christmas II You is out now and if you need an injection of Christmas pop int your party playlists you need to check it out.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Emma Bunton Gets A Nation Dancing. Kind Of.

Tonight, I had settled down for an evening of prodcutive blogging and other computer based things but for some reason I ended up watching Gremlins and a host of other satellite TV programming instead. WHOOPS. 

I did stumble across a gem of an advertisment though. You may or may not know (I didn't!) that Emma "I was Baby Spice once, remember that?" Bunton is now a radio presenter for Heart FM. Surprsingly, Heart FM does not seem to be the home of death metal on UK radio. But I'm glad Emma has landed a regular gig, her move into presenting has really suited her. Though I do miss pop gems like this:

and this:

BUT fear not because there is now an ad for Emma's station that will make you giggle quite a bit and is almost as much fun as her pop career highlights. The ad sees Emma play a tune and soon the nation is dancing. In slow motion. And with reckless abandon. Even nurses who should be doing their jobs are too busy bopping away. And good luck trying to get a haircut in this new nation under DJ Emma Bunton. Even Baby Spice herself is too busy throwing shapes in studio to get any work done. What a disgrace.

I've always loved the idea of working in radio and despite doing bits and pieces with various shows and stations in the last few years, I've never seen anybody boogie around in slow mo and turn their listeners into carefree, work-ignoring zombies. 

What a shame.

The ad is airing on most of the UK satellite channels right now with "I'm Every Woman" as the soundtrack but the clip above is the exact same, just with a different track. You get the gist. And the next time you hear your favourite radio jock "drop a record" you better pray that somewhere a nurse is getting her freak on and ignoring a patient. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Parachute by Cheryl Cole : The Original Co-Writer Remix

You may have just caught me chattering about Bruno Mars and his rather good new single. While having a little browse on YouTube I watched this lovely performance he did for Billboard online. Then while flicking through their list of videos I saw a performance of a track called "Parachute" by Ingrid Michaelson. "Ha, wouldn't it be funny if it sounded a bit like that amazing Cheryl Cole track Parachute. Haha" I thought to myself. So I clicked it and realised that they were... THE SAME SONG!

Mad. Yes, Michaelson co-wrote the track which Cole made a hit of early this year and last month decided to release her take on the song as a single in the US. Apparently the singer has had some success being an independent artist and placing songs on hit US shows (which I learnt after a cursory google, I'm obviously thoroughly researching this piece. Ahem) . It was interesting to see her logic behind releasing the tune, as she explains below:

Her point about the fact that the US audience are buying singles digitally means there is a market for that kind of release is interesting. The advent of legal downloading has dramatically changed the US charts in the last few years. After years of a chart that required radio requests and airplay to gauge success, the ability to buy single tracks and have those sales measured has meant that the pop single has experienced a bit of rebirth as people can now buy single tracks legally without purchasing an album. This seems odd compared to how it works here and in the UK where a culture of buying (or not buying as the case may be) singles has been how we've always done things. 

Funnily enough, for all of Michaelson's desire to have her own pop single moment her version just doesn't have the same kick as Cheryl's. Admittedly, they're two different takes. Michaelson goes for her own folk-y, Aimee Mann-lite delivery. It's certainly enjoyable and it reminds you how solid the songwriting of the track is. But it's a bit too try hard quirky from the silly video to the would be winsome delivery. 

Cole's version may feature more elaborate production and a bigger budget video but she invests her version with plenty of emotion. Cheryl Cole is hardly the biggest belter on planet pop, but a huge part of her appeal as popstar/national treasure/TV judge who cries alot is her heart on her sleeve quality. Parachute plays off that for a song that bounces along at a fine clip but also feels dramatic and layered in despair. In short, Cole sings the hell out of the song. Michaelson goes for a more measured approach that ultimately sells her work short. Either way, Cheryl will struggle to get a third single this good from her new album. 

The moral of the story here is that Cheryl Cole is actually pretty good at this pop thing sometimes.

Bruno Mars Gets Melodramatic on New Single

Been enjoying this new single from Bruno Mars alot this week. He's featured on two of the years biggest hits in Billionaire with Travie McCoy and Nothin' On You by B.O.B. (and co-writing credit on another, Cee Lo's Fuck You) and his own solo track Just The Way You Are was also an international success story landing on the top of the charts here, in the UK and in the US. Just The Way You Are was rather lovely. Sappy as hell yes, but also sweet and uplifting. It was a really enjoyable mix of R&B cheese and earnest balladry and is the sort of hook driven number that sounds great on the radio.

Mars' next single Grenade is already picking heat stateside and it's easy to see why. It boasts another unstoppable chorus but feels suitably darker than his last effort. A broody number with a suitably melodramatic video it feels very Michael Jackson in it's mix of emotive R&B delivery and slick but effective production. Mars knows his way around a tune but he also knows how to pack one full of emotion. Grenade is that rare thing, a melodic radio smash that still manages to ripple with a bit of pain. The best pop music often has a strangely tortured vibe running throughout and Grenade has that in spades.

It's released here on the 7th of January and Mars' album is with us (finally!) on the 21st of January.

I Love Magazines

When I was younger I was a voracious reader. I used to have six books on the go, which I think explains much about why my attention span is so bad these days. Anyway, I don't read half as much as I used to which is a shame. I am absolutely obsessed with magazines though. To a painful degree. I have a huge collection building up that is both impractical and slightly scary. But at least it's better than collecting stamps. Or plates. Or crack pipes.

Magazine wise these two are the current obsession:

X Magazine is basically the weekly X Factor magazine. It shouldn't work but it does, in spades. It goes into all the gory detail on each week's show, has a lively fashion section but it's the pop music writing and humour that is the selling point. It's a music mag for people who want to hear the latest on pop with no snobby music journos getting in the way. It's been a joy to read every week and having just found out it's folding with this week's issue I am a tad upset.

i-D is obviously a bit of an institution but one I've only come to enjoy in recent months. It's a big, ridiculous fashion title that is filled to the brim with ideas. What I love about i-D is how it mixes high concept photo shoots, oodles of cool creative types but ultimately has an accessible, unpretentious air that makes the content some ten times more enjoyable than your usual po-faced fashion title.

I also divide my reading time across the year between Rolling Stone, Hot Press, Elle (UK + US), Glamour (UK) and my all time Irish fave Stellar. I'm actually mentioned in the new issue of Stellar, on sale this week and to say I'm excited would be an understatement.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to have a bit of a cry about X Mag closing. Why is life so unfair?!?

Mash Up Magic

I don't trust people who don't like mash ups. I remember working with a guy who was a "musician" (I believe that was the term he used) when I lived in Canada who told me that as a "musician" (there's that word again) he couldn't get behind mash ups. He said it was because it didn't sound right to throw two songs together, something about key changes, pitch, him being a snob etc etc etc. Look I'm sure there are genuine reasons why mash ups are musically unsound but honestly, take a listen to this beauty:

Now as far as I can see grafting two very modern pop gems on to a bunch of thumping dance hits can only ever be a good thing. A bit of Shakira is always amazing, a bit of Lady Gaga is always fun, throw in a Madonna beat, a bit of Pitbull (who has perfected the art of the trashy club pop tune) and a snippet of David Guetta and how can you go wrong?

I may not be a "musician" (truth be told, I just like putting quote marks on things, no disrespect to any musicians intended) but I can't help but this not only makes the case for mashups, it also makes the case for Shakira and Lady Gaga teaming up for some kind of world conquering pop superduo. Like Salt 'N' Pepa with the rapping swapped with leotards. I think it would work well for everyone.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Pop Earworm Alert - The Beach Girl5 "Scratch"

This tune is one of my favourites right now. The Beach Girl5 come across like a clean cut surfer chick version of The Pussycat Dolls and with debut single "Scratch" they've a trashy pop nugget that fits that brief to a tee. A nagging synth line, some electro blips and a ear-worm of a chorus give this track plenty of addictive charm. I am also thoroughly obsessed with the video. It reminds me of the early 90s, particularly Paula Abdul, which is no bad thing and looks suitably slick. The band are managed by Kris Kardashian (mother of the Kardashian sisters obvs!) and are signed to Hollywood Records, home of Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers amongst others. What a stunning pedigree.

Usually a trashy gem like this never makes it to our shores but apparently it's down for release here in January. This fills me with joy. Hopefully this will become a sizeable hit so that when I sing this under my breath on public transport I won't seem like a crazy person. Or at least seem like a crazy person who is singing a hit song.

Check out the video below, it will make you want to jump around an abandoned warehouse and run across a beach with your friends. Isn't pop music magical?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Cher Lloyd: True Star of X Factor 2010

Look, let's cut the shit here everyone. We've all been watching The X Factor this year, either because of our better judgement or in spite of it. Or the fact that in reality it's been a strange year with a not great line up of talent, some ridiculous press coverage and plenty of eye rolling Louis comments (I do have to say though, I treasure those moments where he makes a joke and nobody, NOBODY, in the crowd laughs. Brilliant.)

With all that in mind, I'm approaching this week's final with a slight sense of dread. There are too many boring contestants, too many ad breaks. Just too many EVERYTHING. The X Factor was always going to become more bloated as it went on.

So thank God then for Cher Lloyd. Love her, hate her, think she makes a faces like a slapped arse (you've got me there) the girl is the only fresh thing to land herself on the show this year.

Rebecca? Can sing but is painfully dull. And frankly, seven years into the show the contestants need to be able to do more than just sing and be humble. Matt is a middle of the road, singer-songwriter bore who makes James Blunt seem edgy. Plus I will never forgive him for that awful cover-of-a-cover pillaging of Britney's ...Baby One More Time. One Direction have improved quite a bit in a short space of time but they're still in need of a bit more life and energy. And at this stage they're guaranteed a decent record deal whatever happens.

Which leaves us with Cher. She may not be perfect. Certainly some of her performances haven't been as strong as that stunning first audition but each of them have shown a girl with oodles of charisma, star power and a popstar glow that most contestants would kill for. Plenty of people have said Cher comes across as cocky but clearly she's an insecure 17 year old girl under immense pressure. So of course she comes across as a bit cocky. It's clearly a front as the vulnerability in that performance of Stay displayed.

This criticism irks me however as it shows how reality TV has come to favour being "humble" and "genuine" over being interesting, having a personality or even just trying to figure out what is going on. Ultimately this is supposed to be a show about finding a popstar, a talent that people want to invest in. Rebecca's "journey" is that she's now able to look up from the floor while she warbles politely on stage every week. Wonderful. How epic. How thrilling. How shit. Cher is certainly flawed in many ways but the fact that she clearly wants to try to be herself even if that always doesn't seem nice-y nice is ten times more interesting. Cher is clearly talented, vaguely bonkers, a possible trainwreck and endlessy entertaining. In short Cher is a popstar.

Another key thing people have missed about Cher, and what makes her genuinely unique in this show, is her choice of songs and the way she views pop music. Performing a Keri Hilson remix of a Soulja Boy song (of all things!) on her first audition shows that she is someone who finds her pop nuggets where-ever she can. Cher is clearly part of a generation digging up songs on YouTube, zooming links around amongst her friends and not concerned with picking a big, safe song that she knows people will definitely get. Cher is part of a generation that follow songs when they leak online, that might not be bothered with the conventional release schedule but ultimately love music. Performing Mike Posner's Cooler Than Me at judge's house months before it became a hit here is a good example of that. On the live shows she's picked up on the many rapper/singer hits of the year and done them herself. She effortlessly taps into what is going on in chart music and putting her spin on it. The judges this year are obsessed with talking about how "marketable" each contestant is, how they'll definitely sell albums, definitely put on a good concert. Of that bunch Cher is the most effortless. There's no need to "market" her to a young audience because she IS the young audience. That makes her not only a bankable popstar but also a genuine one.

When Cher gets it right, she does it in style. Her best performances are when the staging, choreography and tone of her what's she doing are slightly pared back but energetic. Her first week performance felt like the opening number to a popstar world tour. She saunters out, works with a troupe of backing dancers and nails every inch of it. Her performance of B.o.B's Nothin' On You last week worked in much the same way. Her performances are sometimes too cluttered, too garish and slightly cheesy. Her take on Empire State of Mind was a little too day-glo/cutesy to work. But even with too much going on Cher oozes an ability to knock a song dead that lifts the whole enterprise.

Sadly, the likelihood of her winning is slim. She will be performing with Will.i.Am (not Rihanna, who for some reason is performing with Matt. WHY?) and will no doubt put on a great last show. But ultimately, the wider audience want "humility" and a bland performer. Cher Llyod is neither of those things. The show may not be hers but in a few year's time I think it'll be Cher who is the real breakout star of this series.


Compilation Genius to Cure the Flu Blues

I am sick as a parrot today (this is a phrase I use. Just go with it) and plans to try and get lots of writer-y work done is moving at a snails pace. The urge to crawl under a duvet on the couch and watch Gossip Girl is slowly starting to take over. Some people self medicate, I just stare at Blair Waldorf.

BUT as I struggle through a compilation of party tunes I've just got has made the day go a bit smoother. I've gotten alot of stick from my mates about my weird obsession with party tune/chart hit compilations but with the DJing I do and my general music collecting tendencies a good one is a little slice of heaven.

So roll up Everybody Dance. I'm aware I overuse this word but the tracklist for this is amazing.

At a glance you have this gem:

and this one:


All of these numbers feature alongside a host of other beauties. I have two words for you: The Rembrandts. Honestly I feel like I should do one of those mad high concept blogs where I blog about a song of this every day for a few months. Oh could you imagine the fun I'd have.

ANYWAY of all the big party tune collections you'll see filling stockings this Christmas this is far and away the best. I love how it mixes old dance tunes, disco hits and some random pop tunes (Oh hello, Holly Valance) together. If you are anywhere near me and a party I'm playing tunes at in the next few weeks, expect to hear songs from this.

Now if you'll excuse me I'm going to blow my nose with To Be Real on repeat. Every flu has a silver lining.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Wigs, Tequila and Soft Focus: Burlesque gets Reviewed

I got to head to an early screening of Burlesque last week, the Cher/Christina musical that I've been excited to see for months on end. A star vehicle for both a returning icon and another whose recent pop comeback was something of a damp squib this film has had "future camp classic" written all over it. In big glittery, soft focus letters.

The plot is more threadbare then the pearl dress Xtina slinks about on stage in at one point. Christina plays Ali, a country bumpkin who blows into L.A. and soon finds herself in a Burlesque lounge that she is only gagging to sing for. Despite the fact that only ringmistress Tess actually sings in the club. The rest of the girls lipsync and dance along to show tunes, making some of the early performances look like acts from particularly athletic drag queens.

Still Christina auditions for the show, gets a part as a dancer but soon gets those vocal chords stretched and blows everyone away, with Cher giving her best surprised face on seeing her sing her heart out:

What follows is mish mash of tepid love story, enjoyable but unfulfilling banter between Cher & Stanley Tucci and a parade of tunes that sound a bit like the last Christina album and a bit like the one before it. Back to Bionic Basics if you will.

The pace of the film is off. Big moments feel rushed like the whole thing is in a hurry to get somewhere. But then what feels like forever is spent on inconsequential moments that were obviously meant to build up the characters but fall flat due to a poor script. The cast, for the most part are great and are clearly trying to work with material that doesn't do them justice. Despite her botoxed face painfully limiting her ability to really act Cher manages to make a decent impression and her easy going banter with Tucci is fun to watch. Kristen Bell does a fine job of chewing so much scenery she nearly chokes and Christina does a decent job for her first time in a major role. 

The musical numbers are slickly edited but the fact that they never leave the stage of the club means that it feels like you're watching a string of music videos as opposed to proper musical set pieces. At times like these you notice how oddly low budget the whole enterprise is. Much is made of how L.A. is this magical city that Ali escapes to but we never really see it, except in unintentionally hilarious scenes where Ali finger snaps along to her iPod as a form of "rehearsal" (if you saw someone do this on the street you would not think "there goes a successful Burlesque performer". You'd think "that person is a nut job")

The actual "burlesque" nature of this is quite questionable. It's all very Pussycat Dolls (Robin Antin the founder of the dance troupe turned pop sensation is the sister of the film's writer/director Steve Antin) meaning the choreography, while enjoyable, is basically hip hop video booty popping meets coquettish popstar dance moves with a dash of jazz hands for a bit of flavour. Still it's no surprise really. Christina famously performed with the troupe when they were picking up serious heat around L.A. in the early 2000s and she channels much of that throughout the film.

Throw in a pile of unconvincing wigs on top of Cher and Xtina's heads, more soft focus than you could shake a Botox needle at and plenty of blatant plugs for Patron Tequila (the fact that Robin Antin had a PCD style girl group sing a song about the brand in 2009 is hardly coincidence!) and Burlesque adds up to be one mess of a movie. It also turns out to be hilariously entertaining with it and if you need some quality campy laughs this Christmas this movie will surely make you happy. 

Burlesque is released here on the 17th of December while the soundtrack is out now.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Nicki Minaj and Katy Perry Do Typically Low Key Cyndi Lauper Cover

VH1 Divas is one of those odd US cable TV institutions that rears it's ugly head every few years as a parade of female stars belt out some big numbers and look fabulous. It used to be a real Mariah/Celine/Cher fest but last year it was rebooted as a vehicle for legendary divas such as ... Miley Cyrus and Jordin Sparks. Ahem.

Anyway this year's installment was themed as a "For The Troops" affair which I'm sure is all very nice and well done the soldiers and blah blah blah. The line up is an odd mix of current pop/R&B divas like Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj and Keri Hilson and then a few more country/"alternative" acts such as Paramore, Sugarland and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. Not exactly thrilling. Thankfully they roped Kathy Griffin in for a bit of humour on the side. 

But one performance is surely the best thing about the show and all you really need to know about. It's Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj doing a cover of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun that is as tasteful and low key as you could expect from an artist who places giant strawberries on her breasts and another that calls herself Harajuku Barbie.

Perry gets things going at the start but you can tell that Minaj, who has built a rabid following over the last 2 years, is the real draw for many of the audience. While Perry gurns her way through the performance and cranks out some truly horrific "Your Drunken Uncle At A Wedding" dance moves Minaj sort of wafts around with a perfect mix of diva and "aw shucks look at the troops" charm. Ultimately the pair play well off each other and the whole thing is more fun than it should be. It does sound an awful lot like the Miley Cyrus take on the tune from a few years back which depending on your perspective is either a good thing or a bad thing.

The rest of the show seems fairly unmemorable although Minaj does a fine job on Right Thru Me (And again the crowd are clearly rabid) while two more of her performances that weren't broadcast are floating around on YouTube. In one way Minaj clearly has the biggest bunch of fans in the crowd so it's a shame they didn't air more, but we guess a track like Roman's Revenge which is one giant "parental advisory" sticker of a song isn't exactly TV friendly. Still, worth a look if you're a Minaj fan. The rest of us meanwhile can enjoy Perry and Minaj bounding around on stage and question why Perry thought it would ever be a good idea to try out those dance moves in that dress.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Ke$ha releases video for We R Who We R, makes little sense.

I am quite a fan of Ke$ha. I enjoy her trashy pop genius. I think she has more talent than many give her credit for and the recent Cannibal EP tied into a reissue of her album has churned out plenty of gems. Not least the current We R Who We R another fine slice of Dr. Luke approved snyth-electroy-trashy pop pleasure. I was quite excited for the video, with Hype Williams on board, how could she go wrong? Well quite easily it seems.

The video is a bit of a hack job. I found myself asking WHY? everytime I watch it.

WHY? # 1 : Why pick Hype Williams to direct a video, clearly spend a fortune on elaborate tunnel based seqeunces and then intercut it with shots of Ke$ha that look so cheap they were probably filmed on an iPhone she stole from Katy Perry's handbag? WHY?

WHY # 2 : Why would anyway look at a dating website on their laptop while DJing at an outdoor raveathon? WHY?

WHY # 3: Why did Ke$ha think it was a good idea to put studs on her eyebrows for her closeups. Can you imagine how hard it must have been for her to get those off the next day?

WHY # 4: Why is that tequila bottle so badly shot? If you're going to do product placement at least have a bit of balls about it. Please see motion picture event Burlesque for lessons on how to shamlessly plug trendy tequila.

WHY # 5: Why does Ke$ha seem intent on being a great popstar but then releases videos like these that imply that she is not a great popstar? WHY?

I could be here all day with the whys, the whys, the ENDLESS WHYS but have a look for yourself. The Cannibal release is still well worth checking out, awful videos related to it aside: