Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Brandy "Two Eleven" Album Review

Brandy has certainly had a long but eventful run as an R&B superstar with a sideline in teen sitcom stardom and ongoing personal drama. What she also has is a voice that goes deep, intense and right into you heart on the right material. Since the failure of her last album, 2008’s Human and her parting ways with her record label Brandy has spent time licking her wounds and convincing a stellar line-up of contributors to assist her in a much-needed comeback on Two Eleven.

Named after her birthday and the date her close friend Whitney Houston passed, Two Eleven is an attempt by Brandy to update the sort of music she made at her peak. A lofty ambition it might but she just about pulls it off. The likes of Bangladesh and Rico Love pepper Two Eleven with productions that feel slick, modern but also churn with the sort of solid, hook driven R&B pop that informed Brandy’s strongest mid 90s output.

Opening track (After a perfunctory “Intro”) Wildest Dreams is a grower, a mid-tempo ode to finally finding the right lover that might not wow the way you’d expect a big single to but slowly gets under your skin, the impassioned delivery setting up an album that feels highly personal despite Brandy not writing much of the lyrics herself .  With so many producers involved it’s a credit to the team involved that Brandy’s signature vocals and tight, engaging production are joined together so seamlessly. Let Me Go and Put It Down fulfill the “club banger” quota but they’re still smart, swirling productions with beats dropping in and out as Brandy twists her deep voice around saucy one-liners. There’s some solid balladry too, like the gentle No Such Thing As Too Late that gets emotional and winds back down at just the right time before things get too soppy. Best are the mid-tempo come-ons like Slower and Can You Hear Me Now. The sex-jam is a staple of any R&B album (just ask Janet Jackon) and few get it right but Brandy’s delivery of lines about letting her inner freak out are played just right and it’s some of the most sonically interesting material on the album.

Despite the magic she came up with during her Timbaland phase on Afrodisiac, Brandy resorts to less modish sonic palettes here, instead going for a lived in vibe to the songs with a sense of space and mood created effortlessly by the songs. Frank Ocean hands in material (having worked on one of the few highlights of her last album and before he broke out on his own merits) and that sensitive, nu-R&B style in his work and in that of contemporaries like Drake, sits well on a Brandy record, a reminder of how her early work has made something of a lasting impact.

And that’s sort of the genius of Two Eleven. This is a consistent, tightly-woven piece that feels up-to-the-minute in an underhand way. With artists like The XX and Jessie Ware paying tribute to the golden era of 90s R&B in their work it’s exciting to see one of the stars of that era do music that tips a hat to their style while still sounding like themselves. A moody, brilliantly realized grower, Two Eleven might not dip it’s toe into the club-pop waters favoured by many R&B stars but is still one of the most satisfying listens of the year.

Pop Gig Blow-Out: Kelly, J-Lo, Marina and Cheryl Live Reviews

Being a fan of pop music means that sometimes you probably don't go to lots and lots of live gigs, especially if your biggest faves are the kinds who play to fairly big audiences. Thanks to some good luck, good mates and fortunate timing I managed to see a clutch of shows in the last month and decided to give each of them a mention here. I started with Cheryl's O2 show, then Kelly Clarkson the week after in the same venue, followed by Marina and the Diamonds in the Olympia before finishing with the Jennifer Lopez show in the O2 (I was in the O2 alot basically which is actually the perfect venue for a big pop show). Below is your handy guide to each show, the highlights and lowlights.

CHERYL COLE - O2 Dublin - 4/10/12

From Girls Aloud to solo-popstar/massive celeb status in many ways it makes total sense that Cheryl Cole is now touring. But for all the glitzy, enjoyable fun of her arena show it also highlights just how she’s never quite hit her stride as a solo performer. There are plenty of slick, dance-driven moments during the A Million Lights tour but there are too many moments where the whole thing feels a bit rushed and a ballad too many threatens to derail things altogether. It’s still a fun show overall, Cole is charismatic and likeable especially when nailing those trademark moves but it's not quite the flawless romp you'd love for her to do. An encore of Fight For This Love ramps up the spectacle in a way lacking at other parts of the show and reminds you that with a few bigger hits and a bit more time she could really compete with Rihanna et al.

Cheryl is back on tour with Girls Aloud later next year, details here 

KELLY CLARKSON - O2 Dublin - 10/10/12

Between that near-perfect pop voice and her genuine air, it’s hard not to fall a little bit in love with Kelly Clarkson by the end of her Dublin show. A non-stop ride through all of her best tracks and the strongest album cuts from her recent gem Stronger mean that this is a concert that never really lets up. It’s not a big, dance-driven spectacle but Clarkson and a tight backing band whip up so much pop magic that you wouldn’t even notice. Highlights include a stunning cover of Nothing Compares 2 U that brings awed silence to the arena, a jaunt into the crowd for the underrated Already Gone and the debut live airing of new single Catch My Breath. Best is an exhilarating encore that lines up some of Clarkson’s best songs in quick succession in a final charm offensives that leaves more than a few hearts broken when she leaves.

Kelly's album Greatest Hits : Chapter One is out mid-November

MARINA AND THE DIAMONDS - The Olympia Theatre, Dublin - 17/10/12

Marina and The Diamonds has turned her camp-quirky-art-pop stylings into a heady mix of chart-fodder and artistic expression on current album Electra Heart. So the Dublin stop of her Lonely Hearts Club Tour has a rabid audience swooning to songs from both releases. Despite the slight change in tone between her first and second album her knack for writing sharp, brassy songs layered with wit means that nothing falls flat and her wink-wink take on female archetypes breathes life into your standard pop show. A striking beauty with an un-earthly voice and a down-to-earth presence at odds with her beaming star-power Marina held The Olympia in her thrall with just a bat of an eyelid and rightly so. 

Marina returns to The Olympia November 20th.

JENNIFER LOPEZ - The O2 Dublin - 19/10/12

Whether she’s from the block or fresh off the American Idol judging panel Jennifer Lopez still commands plenty of attention and although this is her first ever world tour you can’t help but be impressed by just how good the J-Lo live experience is. Firstly, her voice is a real surprise. It’s not big and she’s not hitting those Mariah notes but the voice you know from all those hits sounds just as good when she’s clearly singing live and even when she does an acoustic number or two (I know. I know). Better is her dancing which is completely perfect, recreating her iconic music video moves with ease. She also has a charismatic, A-list glow that is easy to be dazzled by and has a rabid audience on their feet throughout (no mean feat at a pop gig with tiered seating). By the time J-Lo has run through basically every one of her hit songs (although why Play was omitted I’ll never know) you’re left with no doubt as to Lopez chops as a performer and to why she didn’t do this world tour sooner. Stunning stuff.

JLo's Greatest Hits album Dance Again: The Hits is out now

Friday, October 12, 2012

Paris Hilton, Old Dudes and Tyres: 10 Things I Love About Lana Del Rey's "Ride" Video

Lana Del Rey has sent the internet into a tizzy again today (she has a tendency to do that) with the debut of her new video for Ride. The lead single from the Born To Die: Paradise Edition repackage (an add-on of 8 new songs as an EP of sorts, i.e. Lana's own Fame Monster moment) the Rick Rubin produced cut was always going to lend itself to an strong visual and Miss Del Rey does not disappoint. So far since Video Games blew up, we've had CGI Tigers (Born To Die), swimming with alligators in black and white (Blue Jeans), woozy JFK nostalgia with A$ap Rocky (National Anthem) and doomed lesbian love-affairs (Summertime Sadness) so it's not surprising that Ride comes with it's own visual motifs.

There's lots to like about Ride, an impressively moody piece that's equal parts David Lynch, Easy Rider and Lolita with Lana riffing off the "I was a troubled youth" stories that have populated her recent interviews and inform many of the lyrics on Born To Die. The monologue topping and tailing proceedings and the near 10 minute length would threaten to de-rail things if the Anthony Mandler-helmed clip wasn't so intoxicating in it's slow, slightly-tragic rhythm. In honour of that almost-10 minutes run time here are the 10 best things about Lana Del Rey's "Ride" video (in no particular order)

10.  Lana On A Tyre : As you can see on the single cover above you will have noticed that Lana not only sports an amazing studded jacket in this video but SWINGS OUT OF A TYRE IN THE DESERT LIKE A BAD-ASS. Thankfully this amazing image is a big part of the video with Del Rey gloomily swinging back and forth while the wind whips through her dessert. An image of which I will never TYRE. Geddit? Tyr-I'll see myself out.

9: Lana Drinking Fizzy Orange Juice: There's an oddly sad moment early on in the video with Lana's extended monologue painting the picture of a destitute youth with no sense of self who pops into her nearest shop to buy fizzy orange. Lana glugs the drink while waiting for one of her greasy biker dude boyfriends to come pick her up (more on those in a minute) and you guys, it's REALLY SAD. I'll never look at fizzy orange the same again.

The world's saddest bottle of orange.

8: Lana and A Bunch Of Older Dudes: So, the general plot of the video sees Lana hanging out with various older men, the majority of whom seem a little gross, looking both delighted and downbeat about the men she is lumped with (or humping with ahahahaha-excuse me). On a practical note the fact that these rather gross men (SORRY) get to hang out with a 5-star stunner like LDR is surely a career highlight for them all. Bring back the tattooed hottie of Born To Die and Blue Jeans I say (I get that the men are part of the video's story and blah blah blah but ..seriously)

7: Lana Performs: There are so many haunting and striking images of Lana performing the song in various club type scenarios throughout the video but the best is that first shot as the song kicks in around the 3 minute mark, a simple white dress wrapped all over Lana as she sways delicately (no SNL freeze-ups here thank you very much) is perfect.

6: Lana Dry Humps A Dude While Playing Pinball : this is just to reiterate how lucky all these dudes filming are that one of them gets a whole scene where Lana dry-humps him while they "play pinball" (I bet that wasn't the only balls being played wi-Ok, No I'll stop it now). This bit is actually quite sexy-sad which is a term I've just coined and could sum up 98% of LDR's visual/musical output. You're welcome.

5: Lana Wears A Headdress: Obviously in the context of the video Lana wearing a Headdress does make sense given that it's a Native American look sported by someone roaming the desert and harking back to the beginnings of America. But it's also basically another girl wearing a headdress and after a summer of ropey festival fashion (shudder) it's a bit like watching that girl who probably took a half a pill too many at Electric Picnic gurn her way through the campsite at 3 in the morning. Also it's clearly a homage to Style Queen Paris Hilton (see below). Clearly

Lana Del Festival Chic
One of the images from LDR's "Ride" video moodboard.
4: Lana Goes Biking: All the scenes with LDR sailing down the highway on the back of a bike are 100% amazing. Despite my crushing fear of motorcycles all I want to do is flail down the highway with some burly biker. Mind you I'll probably wear a helmet unlike Lana Del "Where Is The Safety Message in this Video" Rey. Tut tut.

3: Lana Smokes Alot: Puffing on the ol' nicotine sticks is a big part of the Lana Del Rey sexy/sad (Yes, it's a thing now. Deal with it) aesthetic whether it's the aforementioned pinball dry hump moment or another highlight when LDR hangs out at a petrol pump looking all cowgirl chic in boots and a flawfree jacket. I was half hoping for a tribute to Xtina's Your Body video with Lana blowing up the petrol station or a car or two at this point but hey.

2: Lana Is Crazy Y'all: The video concludes with Lana going wild on the top of some desert mountain as her moody monologue tells us she likes to have fun and is "fucking crazy" (Me too sis, me too). This bit has a surreal touch to it that sums up the hazy, real-life-shot-through-soft-focus tone of the video beautifully but, and forgive me LDR die-hards, when Lana utters that line about being crazy, all I could think was Kristen Wiig's impression of her on SNL. Oh dear. Still Lana likes to chug whiskey in the dessert and roll around with gross dudes and to that I say BRAVO!

Kudos to my fave MuuMuse for this image
1: This Video Has Credits So Y'know it's Important: I love the extended credits because nothing screams Extended Mini-Film Music Video like proper credits. Also I thought the fact that the stylist was called Johnny Blue Eyes was quite terrific and that the styling assistant is down as Savannah is even better. Quite frankly they both have popstar names and I would buy records by either of them based off of their names alone. And joking aside Johnny Blue Eyes styling choices throughout are totally on-point. It's a more lived in 80s teen meets wayward 50s starlet look than some of her more glammed up styles and it's perfect for this video. Blue Eyes (TOTALLY HIS REAL NAME) has an impressive CV which you can see here.

Truth be told it might seem like I'm taking shots at the video but Ride is another stunner from Miss Del Rey. It's enjoyable to see how her major label home and growing audience has been channeled into such polished and well-realised clips. Lana Del Rey is serving up smart, spooky pop music with a major label backing most would kill for.

Ride is include on Born To Die: Paradise Edition released in Ireland on the 9th of November, the UK on the 12th and the US on the 13th. 

(Sadly the single is not available to buy in Ireland right now but perhaps you'd like to buy this tribute single with it's tyre related cover-art instead?)


Updated Musings incl. Adam Lambert and Aiden Grimshaw

I'm doing my level best to keep this going as a reguar home for writing of all kinds but mainly on the wonderful world of pop music. With that in mind it's worth linking you to some recent GCN pieces I've done so that should you want more of my ramblings you can find them in one place.

Every month I write the magazines music column and this month's issue also includes my interview with X-Factor star Aiden Grimshaw whose album Misty Eye is terrific. You can read that issue here, check out their archive for the June issue and my cover feature with Adam Lambert.

Also check out my blogs for the site incl. the Friday Four where I line up for big tunes for the GCN readers.

More stuff to come here in the next few days too and as always plenty of pop updates on my Twitter page.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Heineken Live Project Lineup Unveiled: Poptastic Additions, My Hometown Gets In On The Act

Heineken's reputation for getting involved with rather stellar gigs across Ireland over the last few years is well earned. They've just announced their Live Project line-up that will take in various venues across Ireland in November and December. It's fun to see that indie-pop darlings Passion Pit will play at the Olympia for discerning Dubliners while Labrinth, whose live show is apparently amazing, takes his well dressed self to Cork AND Rizzle Kicks will play another show in the People's Republic. I'd love to go to this one because it's no secret that I want to be best mates with Rizzle Kicks. They just seem really cool and they are well dressed and fun and WHY WON'T YOU JUST BE MY BEST MATES RIZZLE KICKS.

MY FUTURE BEST MATES (via PurplePR Tumblr)

Also, rather brilliantly my hometown Carlow has secured an absolutely bonkers line-up that will see a rather eclectic mix of acts, who still boast plenty of broad appeal, descend on the town I grew up in.

Jack Beats, The Magician, Maverick Sabre and Dublin electro-rock faves Le Galaxie are all hitting up my hometown. I am now frantically playing a road-trip back home with as many mates as I can convince to go. And actually given that I covet Labrinth's wardrobe and want to be best mates with Rizze Kicks I am planning a trip to Cork too. Do you think Heineken will fund it? No seriously, I think convincing a hip-pop duo with good threads to be your best mates is very on brand for Heineken (Right? Right). 

Full dates are as follows and the best thing is the tickets are FREE you just have to go here

Cork, November 1st - Labrinth at The Savoy. (Tickets released on October 18th).

Cork, November 4th - Rizzle Kicks at The Cork Opera House. (Tickets released on October 22nd). 

Dublin, November 11th -- Passion Pit at The Olympia. (Tickets released on October 29th). 

Carlow, December 6th -- Jack Beats, The Magician, Maverick Sabre, Le Galaxie at Dinn RĂ­. (Tickets released on November 15th).

Also worth checking out is the promo for the line-up which moves at a great clip and has hilarious facts about each artist. The first time I watched it I got so caught up in the facts that I had to watch it two more times. Again, WHEN ARE RIZZLE KICKS GOING TO BE MY BEST MATES? (SERIOUSLY)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Ellie Goulding "Halcyon" Album Review

When Ellie Goulding released her debut album Lights in early 2010 she did so on the back of considerable hype, and it was no surprise to see the commercial  success she was enjoying across Europe. Goulding's arrival had been cleverly moved from the blog-friendly world of working with Starsmith and early releases with Neon Gold to a home with Universal and on radio playlists that ate up her clever mix of nu-folk touches and electro-pop ideas. She shone on singles like Starry Eyed but for me her debut crossed into twee territory too often, such as the schmaltzy The Writer which had little of the sparse, intricate feel that characterised her best work.

Following the success of the album, a reissue entitled Bright Lights arrived alongside her slow-burning take on Elton John's Your Song. It soundtracked a John Lewis ad, became an X-Factor staple and likely sold her a bucketload of albums. So far, so typical British pop success story. Then something funny happened. A track from that reissue, Lights (previously only an iTunes bonus track) was released as a single in mid-2011, appearing on the US chart in August before reappearing January of this year. It began a slow and steady climb on airplay and download charts before finally reaching no. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in August, having clocked up 3 million downloads.

Suddenly, without really having to try, Goulding had a huge hit in the US and added a huge territory into her arsenal. While Lights was a few years old at this point, Goulding already had new material ready to go after plenty of press coverage. She famously performed Your Song at William and Kate's wedding, dated high profile Radio 1 DJ Greg James before famously shacking up with electronic music superstar Skrillex. Goulding was already a big star but the last year has slowly shifted around her to give her second album Halcyon a sense of expectation even she couldn't have predicted.

The beauty of this second album then, is how Goulding not only delivers an album of songs that could garner many hits but that she amps up all the things that made her first album so strong.

The majority of the production comes from Jim Eliot of electro-pop group Kish Mauve who famously worked on 2 Hearts for Kylie (And co-wrote All The Lovers) and on the sophisticated downbeat disco-pop of Will Young's Echoes album from last year (including the stunning single Jealousy). That well balanced mix of electronic music flourishes allowing more pared down melodies to surface informs the strongest moments on Halcyon.

Opening track Don't Say A Word is all ghoulish humming, eerie chords and ambient vocals but it works as setting out the stall for the slightly darker tone of proceedings this time, the faint, gloomy bass not a million miles from something The Weeknd would do (apt given that Goulding covered one of his tunes earlier this year).

From there it's a back and forth between shades of growling electro-pop and more delicate moments. Some of these songs are already out there for fans to take in and give a decent sense of the album. Anything Could Happen, the sprightly lead single, is a real winner, a big uplifting chorus and tweaked vocal samples rippling along nicely. Explosions and I Know You Care are more traditional, winsome folk-lite pop ballads that make good movie soundtrack tunes (I Know You Care being used for the soundtrack of the Dakota Fanning weepie Now Is Good) but feel a little flat. Especially when an album track like Joy mines a similar territory but adds in sweeping choral vocals and a little more imagination to lift an already haunting tune or the delicate intensity of her Active Child cover Hanging On that debuted a couple of months ago.

However, the real gems come when Goulding lets loose, conjuring her own expansive, almost-gothic pop vision. My Blood is a tumbling piano driven number that builds with a Coldplay-esque sweep that Goulding pulls off with aplomb. Figure 8 scatters jumped-up dubstep production all over the place and works magnificently, one of the standouts, while Only You is jittery and infectious gloom-pop. There's an enjoyable bonus track tacked on too, I Need Your Love a Calvin Harris production featuring Goulding's vocals (it'll appear on his forthcoming album 18 Months) that is poles apart from the rest of the material but works on it's own merits.

Halcyon may drift into slightly twee territory at times but for the most part this is an impressive and engaging gaggle of electro-folk-pop building on the promise of her Starsmith days and Neon Gold buzz and maturing an already impressive sound. With an ever-growing audience and such a polished second wave of material there's little to stop this album being one of the biggest of the next 12 months.

Halcyon is released Friday in Ireland, Monday the 8th of October in the UK and the day after in the US. The single Anything Could Happen is out now.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Weird World of Not Quite Right Gaga and Christina Aguilera Weight Gain Reporting

If you were keeping an eye on any celebrity chit chat in the last few weeks then you probably spotted the ongoing saga of how Lady Gaga had apparently put on alot of weight, was talking about it publicly, came under fire for it and then rushed to defend her figure while referencing her own teenage struggle with an eating disorder.

It was a frustrating story on a number of levels. First of all the amount of weight Gaga actually did seem to gain wasn't even that large amount and even if she was the size of a house who cares? Gaga may frequently appear in scant clothing but it's not her main selling point. She uses her image in an ever-shifting way and so trying to boil down her presentation to "Is she hot? Is she skinny?" is missing the point by such a huge margin. Jezebel discussed this topic including a round up of the amount of news outlets that ran with the story about Gaga's weight.

The other reason it was vastly irritating was how it was a story composed across several sources that wasn't even particularly true and yet so many outlets ran with it. 

Huffington Post, amongst others, ran with this piece using a picture of Gaga on stage as proof that she'd piled on the pounds. The picture was from her Amsterdam stop on the Born This Way Ball tour and from the off seemed like a photo that had likely been tweaked or at the very least taken from a bad angle. I'd been at the show just days before this picture was taken and there was nowhere near that amount on Gaga's frame. I was standing near the catwalk and got plenty of close-up looks at Gaga in the flesh. She was in terrific shape, clearly someone keeping themselves fit and in show-ready shape but not afraid to look womanly. She bared a bit of ass cheek constantly, was happy to strip down when it suited her and just as importantly was squeezing into skin-tight leather ensembles at a dizzying speed. Basically she clearly was looking after herself and exceedingly comfortable in her skin. There was no way the Gaga in the Amsterdam picture was in fact a reality.

But that didn't stop the press from running with a non-story. Huffington Post, like other showbiz sites (there weren't the only ones who ran with this piece and are obviously not just a showbiz site, I'm just using them as an example in this case) began using lines from Gaga herself where they claimed she was addressing her weight gain after the pictures. They cited an interview she'd done with American radio where she referenced how much she'd put on, her Dad's new restaurant and how she was enjoying the food etc. Yes Gaga had said all this but in AUGUST. The interview is on her own Youtube channel and her discussion about her body are a small part of a seven minute piece where she sounds relaxed, keen to be in shape to do her shows in Europe. Suddenly the web was flooded with pieces about how much weight Gaga had put on, her response and painful hand-wringing from media outlets. Again Jezebel neatly summed up the stupidity of these comments but few seemed to question whether the sources of this story were legit (again that photo) or actually directly referencing the past week (An interview quotes were pulled from which literally anyone could google in about 2 seconds and spot was weeks old). Still it's easier for copy-and-paste showbiz sites and sound-bite celebu-tainment shows to run with an unflattering pic and some sort of line then it is to go "Oh, is this actually accurate?"

This week a similar has been brewing with Christina Aguilera. The popstar-turned-Talent show judge has had plenty of comments on her changing shape in the last couple of years but as she plugs new single Your Body and the accompanying album Lotus there's been plenty of commentary on Christina's shape. Billboard magazine placed Christina on the cover of their latest issue, posting a part of the story online two weeks ago. The slightly over the top comments on her previous album Bionic had already been picked up by pop fans but today another part of the interview where Christina made very explicit references to being a "fat girl now" and discussing specific situations where she claims music execs told her to slim down were being quoted online, causing quite a stir.

It did seem a tad fishy that people were running with quotes from Billboard that weren't on their website already but given that they promised the "full story" in their print edition maybe that's where they lay. The quotes were used by the website of Us weekly and soon appeared on plenty of sites until in the last couple of hours both Billboard and Christina's rep confirmed that the were in fact completely fabricated. Now many of the sites that shared the materialare rejigging and updating their previous posts (in a way they probably should have read in the first place before the desire to be first with a scoop took over). Unlike the Gaga story, which cleverly stitched together material in a typically tabloid way this story seemed to be completely false.

There are two things that are slightly worrying about how both of these stories unfold. One is that obsession with weight and how a comment on it will create a feeding frenzy. The other is that in the world of fast-paced gossip sharing, the accuracy of quotes is second to getting some hits. It's fascinating to watch how stories both false and accurate now feed into the images of stars. Even when stories are retracted or defused by those involved they'll stick in people's heads. It may only be famous people we're discussing, people with vast amounts of money and very different problems to the rest of us, but if we are supposed to be reading reports and fed information shouldn't it be accurate? The funny thing about how quickly stories like this move around is also how easy (almost too easy) it is to take apart the claims and see that most of them are bull.

It might only be celebrity journalism and it may not be highbrow but the ease with which narratives are knocked together by outlets quick to sell a story whether the star involved is playing along or not is worrying. Gaga and Aguilera's responses to these stories suggest that many stars are no longer going to play ball and when we can quickly figure out how fake such pieces are, why should we keep doing the same?

Sky Ferreira Drops "Everything Is Embarrassing" Video, Continues To Be Queen of Cool

Sky Ferreira is cool. Like, really cool. And not just because Pitchfork debuted her latest video, she's been in campaigns for Calvin Klein, is friends with all the right people and because she's photographed by Terry Richardson as much as I eat toast (i.e. A LOT). She's cool because she's slowly but surely building a stark, moody presence as a popstar that she wants to be as opposed to some sort of faux-trendy bubblegum type. Not there's anything wrong with bubblegum (I've had Carly Rae Jepsen's frothy magnum-opus Kiss on loop the last two weeks) but it clearly was never going to work for Sky and finally we're inching towards where she wants us to see her.

There's been Youtube buzz and bloggers harping on about Miss Ferreira for years now between her perfectly pitched covers and her occassional singles (everything from the underrated electro-pop of One to the Katy Perry-esque tune shes publicly derided Obsession), an EP (the sharp and entertaining As If!) and promises about a much-delayed debut album. That debut, Wild Heart, is still awhile off it seems but Ferreira is ploughing ahead with some impressive new material. There was Red Lips a couple of months back, a co-write with Shirley Mason, all scuzzy grunge pop charm. Then Everything Is Embarrassing appeared a few weeks back, a moody yet earworm-y 80s number with a lovely sense of melancholy brought to life perfectly by Ferreira's husky yet delicate vocals. It's like a slightly more sprightly pop-driven take on the kind of 80s referencing-but-contemporary electronica Jessie Ware uses in spades on her debut album Devotion.

The video has just arrived and it's a pared back but perfect affair. Black and white and sparesly shot it lets Ferreira put on a performance that's equal parts come-hither and sad-eyes, her washed out blonde tresses and black ensemble giving her the vibe of a 90s super-model off-duty (only I guess, shorter. Sorry Sky.) The clip isn't unlike the one Azealia Banks gave us for Luxury last week, lo-fi, rippling with 90s references but using that simplicity to it's advantage. Without having to do too much this does the job of a truly great pop video, it lets the song come to life and give added impact to the message of the tune. And it lets their performer look really, really cool, something Sky excels at.

According to Pitchfork the EP Ghost will be out in October (check out their post for tracklisting and those involved with the project). It's fun watching Ferreira finally get closer to the kind of pop music she wants to make, at the moment there's more than a little Fiona Apple in her DNA which sits nicely beside her frequent references to being a big Britney fan.  Also if you haven't read the excellent interview she gave with Rookie mag earlier in the year, do so immediately. It's fascinating stuff. 

Little Mix's New Single "DNA" Is Here

After the obligatory "We Won X-Factor, Here Is A Sappy Cover That Will Top The Charts" number one with Cannonball, Little Mix won many over with their proper debut single Wings earlier this year. A frenetic slice of R&B pop it had twinges of Destiny's Child and En Vogue woven through it's plucky hook and soaring vocals. Chart success followed and now the X-Factor foursome serve up some more solid pop on new single DNA.

As Digital Spy pointed out earlier, this feels a little bit like a tip of the hat to their melodramatic take on Katy Perry's E.T. during the live shows of X-Factor last year. A growling mid-tempo number with some suitably dramatic touches, such as that eerie music box intro, it drips with a nice amount of atmosphere. There's plenty to like it but after multiple listens it hasn't quite passed into "addictive" territory for me just yet. The impression I'm getting with Little Mix is that if you followed them on the show your enjoyment of their material, their image (which for me is hideously over-styled) and personality as group improves tenfold. Obviously watching someone week to week is a great way to engage with them but I didn't follow the members of Girls Aloud on Popstars: The Rivals back in the day and I still found them interesting as a group afterwards. For me, Little Mix haven't quite figured out how win me over as a pop group on their own merits. 

Still the group have now lined up two well-constructed and suitably interesting singles in a row and in a way that bodes well for their debut album DNA, released in November. Apparently T-Boz from TLC is involved too. Lovely.

Listen to DNA below:

The album of the same name is released November 16th in Ireland and the 19th in the UK.