Monthly Archives: October 2012

Song: Amelia Lily – “You bring me joy” (2012)

Well this was a surprise! Third-placed in last year’s X-Factor, Amelia Lily made herself known in the show for her powerful voice and penchant for Kelly Clarkson covers. As a wildcard, voted back into the contest by the public, she outperformed expectations and made it to the final.

Success for the winners of X-Factor is far from guaranteed, longevity of their careers even less so. This guarantee dwindles yet further as you get further from that winning position. Still, there are plenty of exceptions to that rule, and it’s often the case that a runner-up is the biggest act of the series (e.g. Olly Murs – 2nd to Joe McElderry, JLS – 2nd to Alexandra Burke, One Direction – 3rd to Matt Cardle).

So on this thin ice, sullen-faced but colourful-haired Amelia Lily makes her debut. The striking thing is how dancey it is, considering her apparent leaning towards pop-rock. Not that it’s going for a dance anthem, it’s more of a subtle synth-heavy wash of a pop song. Think a vaguely dancier sound to The Killers.

Her voice sounds oddly familiar though, in fact the whole thing feels a bit like latter-day Girls Aloud now I think about it. Maybe that’s why I like it so much. Much like Nadine’s foghorn vocals, she doesn’t have a lot of subtlety to her voice, and seems to belt out the vocals to keep afloat in the busy soundscape.

The verses could easily be from a Kelly Clarkson record, even if the music doesn’t quite match up. But the chorus is where it all comes together, even though it’s very repetitive. You can get away with that sort of thing more with dance tracks, people aren’t paying much attention to the lyrics I suppose. It’s got a bit of a sad tone to it all, not QUITE a relationship failing, but all is not well. Gives a bit of substance to the track anyway, and the overall effect is surprising and catchy.

I’ve certainly heard worse from X-Factor runners-up, and after its surprise debut (which outpeaked 2nd place finalist Marcus Collins), I wonder what the plan is from here. Hopefully she’s not going for a kamikaze album release in the busiest time of the year, that really WOULD be a recipe for disaster.

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Song: Christina Aguilera – “Your body” (2012)

Goodness me, where to start? Empowered super-slut Xtina is back. That in itself might not elicit too much excitement based on the commercial disaster of previous album “Bionic”, but she’s clawed her way back into the limelight via her judging spot on “The Voice”.

Hitching her wagon to fellow judge Adam Levine, together they got one of the biggest hits in either of their careers, in the shape of “Moves like Jagger”. Though it was technically a Maroon 5 (and by technically, I mean ‘actually’), Christina has always been a difficult presence to ignore. God knows, she’s not about to make it any easier with the lead single from new album “Lotus”.

Not sure what Conceptina’s trying to say with this one, but it sounds a lot like she just wants some cock, and will stop and NOTHING to have her way. Don’t be fooled by the thin facade of wanting to “love” your body, the uncensored version makes it quite plain what’s on her mind.

It’s another futuristic throbbing electropop track, with a fairly slow tempo but it really work out when it gets to that chorus. There’s a lot going on, but fortunately Xtina is shrieking at the top of her lungs for most of it. I think I might like this album, having never really listened to one all the way through before (I love my eardrums too much).

The lyrics are slagtastic, she doesn’t care who you are, or how clean you are, she just wants it in her NOW. If you think that’s unladylike, the video takes it to another level.

A murderous trailer-trash black widow, she stalks around her neighbourhood in variously horrid costume changes, picking up strangers from bars, shops and the side of the road. After getting her way, her conquest is treated to a colourful death. The baseball bat glitter incident being a particular highlight.

This is a Christina I can get on board with, and I hope that now she’s really embracing her inner harpy we are spared the usual “oh I’m sensitive really” ballad as a follow-up. Not that they aren’t usually great, but this is just so much more fun.

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My Mariah Top 20: #20 – #11

It took me a long while to post all the Mariah album reviews, but I finally got there. I wasn’t even writing them this time, I did all this about a year ago! Never mind, here you go…

20. Anytime you need a friend
From Music Box

Let’s PLUNGE right into the early 90s, lots of B&W art shots, kiddies playing etc. HOW NICE!

Gospelly and uplifting, with a great chorus. I WILL. BE HEEEERE


19. One sweet day (with Boyz II Men)
From Daydream

Louis Walsh might not remember this one, but I’m sure plenty of Americans do, with this having spent approximately 12 years at #1.

I’m not a massive Boyz II Men fan (why WOULD I BE?), but this is one of the biggest examples of a great Mariah duet. AWESOME.


18. Thank God I found you (with 98 degrees)
From Rainbow

Onto another schmaltzy duet, this time with crummy late 90s boyband 98 Degrees. I shouldn’t really like this, it is a pretty sickly love song, but it just WORKS for me. Rainbow did peter out towards the end, but this was a late highlight in an overlong tracklist.


17. When you believe (with Whitney Houston)
From #1s

Oh OK, one more duet, this time with old NIPPY herself. A CLASH of the TITANS, surely?

Well not QUITE but it’s a lovely song, with some lovely lyrics keeping it from getting TOO drowned in syrup. Problem is that neither is really trying to outshine the other, so it’s a competent but restrained duet. Hate Whitney’s hair though, how old does she look?


16. Open Arms
From Daydream

I remember having the CASSINGLE of this one. OK I’m picking a lot of ballads here aren’t I? I suppose several of them are pretty much as good as each other, while the uptempos are left to have a bit more identity.

I love this though, Daydream was the first Mariah album (at least singles-wise) that I really paid attention to, and sounds like the VOX were still there at this point.


15. I want to know what love is
From Memoirs of an imperfect angel

Oh yes I know, it’s not really up there in her well-known CANON so I’m well prepared to get it in the neck for including this. But the truth is that I already loved the song, and here comes Mariah singing it ballad-style, very gently to start, then the traditional gospel choir pops up for the FINALE.

It’s just a well-written song, performed well. That video really is fucking cheap though!


14. Never too far
From Glitter

While we are getting the commercial disasters out of the way, it’s as good a time as any to talk about Glitter. Of course this project nearly fucked everything up for her (let’s leave it to Charmbracelet to give the deathblow). But it wasn’t all bad, this main theme from the movie was lovely.

Stretching the vox all over the place, great big note at the end followed by a lovely non-whistling glory note *head explodes*.

Just don’t expect to see Last Night a DJ Saved My Life higher up this chart.


13. Migrate (ft T-Pain)
From E=MC2

Finally we get out of that stretch of ballads with the opening track from E=MC2. I do wonder how well this will age in years to come, given the slightly stale feel Mimi has these days, but so far so good.

LOVE that sample they make from her voice, really fresh and nothing like she’s done before. Could do without T-Pain’s rhyming dictionary though.


12. We belong together
From The Emancipation of Mimi

Let’s get another biggie out of the way, and her signature hit of the 00s I think. Great video, looks the sort of quality she should have been producing for the earlier part of that decade.

I hadn’t really got into the song until the Live8 performance, really worked for me. The vocals get a bit hysterical near the end but I think I rather LIKE that.


11. Touch my body
From E=MC2

In a similar vein, we have Mariah’s attempt to re-bottle the lightning she got with WBT. It might not have reached that high watermark, but it was another #1 and I think it’s a wonderful summer song. I love the sense of humour there too, threatening to hunt a guy down if he puts a sex-tape online, and yet the whole song is sweet as pie, who could get away with that?

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Eurovision reloaded: Istanbul 2004: My #11 – #20

Eurovision Song Contest Istanbul 2004 logo

Keeping up the momentum, we reach the halfway point of my Istanbul countdown. I won’t pretend this is an amazing year, but there aren’t really any songs I’d say I hate. Sure, some are really crap, but at least you can enjoy their crapness.

Either way, we’re on to the better stuff now.


Norway Norway

Knut Anders Sørum – High

#24 in the Grand Final

Sounds a bit like a Cliff Richard song but I won’t hold that against it. It’s a nice uplifting little ditty that wouldn’t have sounded out of place in the Irish mid-tempo hall of fame.

It’s got a great feeling of mid-90s Radio 2 about it, in a GOOD WAY. OK it’s not going to show up on many radars, and indeed it did come last in the final (after an auto-qualification) giving Norway yet another wooden spoon. And I swear that’s (probably) not a poorly-advised salute in that photo…


Poland Poland

Blue Café – Love Song

#17 in the Grand Final

Craptacular might be the word you’re struggling for. While Switzerland went with the kids TV-style nonsense, Poland went a bit more Latin American with their drivel. That chorus is pretty hopeless, “Sweeeet song, Laaaaahve song”, but I do like the random Spanish outbursts.

Her voice is… distinctive, reminds me of something (Gabriella Cilmi?), and while it feels like it should be terrible, I’ve grown quite fond of it. Particularly when that mental Spanish breakdown hits you in the middle, CHA CHA CHA!


Latvia Latvia

Fomins and Kleins – Dziesma par laimi

Did not qualify, #17 in Semi-final

Oh who doesn’t love a bit of Baltic cock-rock? OK don’t all answer at once, and surely I wouldn’t count myself as a fan of this ‘sound’. But in a weird way – maybe it’s my age – this has a pretty cool little chorus.

OK Latvian might not be the karaoke language of choice (particularly for voters who dumped it at 17th in the semi-final), I really like the melody and weird Latvian sound of the words.

Proud to stand in the mainstream, where others are merely floating face-down in it, I think this is one of the unsung heroes of ESC 2004.


Estonia Estonia

Neiokõsõ – Tii

Did not qualify, #11 in Semi-final

Boing, doing, bloing. Is this Estonia or Australia? Estonia are usually good for a bit of captivating regional music, and they haven’t disappointed this year. Christ knows they didn’t exactly give their performance much welly.

Dressed in organic beige peasant clothes, they shriek, they do the hokey-cokey, they harass a drummer (who faceplants in an ill-advised stage-dive) and try a dance routine that looks decidedly like a stroppy teenage girl.

But the song’s really good, honest! Well it’s alright.


Malta Malta

Julie and Ludwig – On Again… Off Again

#12 in the Grand Final

Is it hot mess time already? Of course, Malta are always welcome in Eurovision as the perpetual bridesmaid of the contest. This time they offer a duet in a sort of happy-clappy dance beat. Seriously, this defies genre.

They cheerfully sing in varying levels of melodrama and operatics about their difficult relationship. They don’t sound too cut up about it, though Christ knows why they are still together. Maybe it’s all his operatics that annoys her.

Except then he suddenly decides he can sing like a normal member of society and she picks up the ridiculous opera role. As ever it’s a very light-hearted and lovable entry, and I dearly hope one day to go to a Valletta Eurovision.


Romania Romania

Sanda – I Admit

#18 in the Grand Final

Who in Hell styled this one? The fragrant Sanda struts on to the stage, presumably from the new Mad Max-themed strip club in Bucharest. Not fazed in the slightest at forgetting her proper outfit (or any outfit of any description), she competes with her backing singers who insist they know the lyrics better than her.

Fortunately the song is pretty cool, and the chorus is catchy as hell. A surprise quiet moment in the middle gives a bit of a break from the non-stop gallop of a dance routine, it might have got a bit lost on the night, but it’s another entry in Romania’s impressive Eurovision songbook.


Serbia Serbia and Montenegro

Željko Joksimović & Ad Hoc Orchestra – Lane moje

#2 in the Grand Final

Time to get serious, and look who it is! It’s only the debut of Eurovision heavyweight Zeljko, last seen once again propping up the top 3 in Baku. He wrote a few top 10 finishers at Eurovision in the intervening years, and he certainly knows what Europe respond to.

It’s not easy to get strong finishes from non-English entries, but he’s got the knack, and we get a tasteful and powerful Balkan ballad that very nearly nabbed Serbia & Montenegro a debut win, only beaten out by Ukraine with a margin of 17 points.

I don’t know WHY this stirs me the way it does, but he can keep stirring for many years to come.


F.Y.R. F.Y.R. Macedonia

Toše Proeski – Life

#14 in the Grand Final

Love that weird ethno-beat intro! Always keen to see FYR Macedonia in a final, if only to hear the long-form country name in two languages, what a mouthful! They showed off the country’s knack of only JUST qualifying but somehow always securing a mid-table finish in the final.

It’s a grower for me, with that slightly unbalanced beat of the chorus really doing it for me. It’s a shame poor Tose died only a few years later in a car accident, as he’s surely one of the better FYROM performers we’ve had since their debut.


Greece Greece

Sakis Rouvas – Shake It

#3 in the Grand Final

Banal lyrics? Sakis is your man, and to stop them being too obvious, he can only breathlessly pant the song out inbetween stripping.

Sakis had a very Eurovisiony 00s, hosting the Greek contest in 2006 and returning to represent his country in 2009 with a superior but no less shamelessly attention-grabbing performance.

They know how to put on a show anyway, an irresistible beat and a ridiculously catchy chorus. Throw in some Greek dancing and a few nipples and you’ve got yet another top 10 finish. Bravo!


Denmark Denmark

Thomas Thordarson – Shame on You

Did not qualify, #13 in Semi-final

Oh God I love this so much. The performance feels like it should be a key moment in “Charmed – The Musical”, with heavy-set Thomas as the understudy for the part of Cole. He draws on Denmark’s rich history of Latin music and dons a revolting red suit befitting a TV-drama demon.

The song has a great chorus, but you can’t leave these things to chance. He pops out the wheels on his Heelies for about 5 seconds, getting a whoop of delight from a bored audience. He spots a casting agent in the audience and suddenly starts singing the shit out of this song, hitting some impressive notes.

The backing singers, also roused by the casting agent, make a frantic dash for the spotlight and rip their bras out through their sleeves in celebration. Incredible.


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Song: Justin Bieber ft Nicki Minaj – “Beauty and a beat” (2012)

Not sure what I think of Bieber. Well to be honest, the most exposure I’ve had from his impact on pop culture is the relentless and tedious trolling hate that everyone seems so keen on spewing. Did I miss something? Well good on him for not imploding under the weight of all this hatred and just carrying on.

For the record, I really loved “Baby”, and quite liked “Somebody to love”. I haven’t really heard much else, and was losing any interest I had when “Boyfriend” – lead single from second album “Believe” – came out. A bit too urban for me, even though that didn’t seem like the guiding sound of the album from what I could tell.

Perhaps this album hasn’t gone completely to plan, since “Believe” is getting a deluxe edition with some new songs, including this hit-chasing dance collaboration with serial feature-credit Nicki Minaj and her gigantic ass. It’s not reinventing the wheel, but it does a fine job of a catchy pop song with up-to-date production.

justin bieber nicki minaj beauty and a beatOK his voice is a little one-tone, but it’s not a bad tone to begin with. In that respect it’s a little identikit, but so what? The video is refreshingly underproduced too. Well of course it’s not the impromptu home video it pretends to be, but it’s a lot of fun, and Bieber certainly looks like he’s having a great time. Nicki does her usual, which I still rather like. Who else could sing “Buns out, WIENER” with something resembling a straight face?

That song title might well be awful (I haven’t decided yet), but he’s provided something I suspect the UK single-buying public has been waiting for since “Baby”, an unashamed pop hit from an artist who hasn’t entirely translated his US success yet.

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