We have a new number one. Rockabye by Clean Bandit, Anne-Marie and Sean Paul has shoved Shout Out to My Ex by Little Mix and Say You Won't Let Go by James Arthur down to #2 and #3. We share the same contempt for it when it was released, though we've got to say they were savvier than we gave them credit for since more as more of the young people who buy chart music are having kids young, so this resonates with them. (I could go on about one of my theories as to why, but it would take up several issues. Perhaps in a quiet chart week.)
One opinion we were asked for during the week was our definition of 'oldies-artist'. Just over eighteen months ago, a team from Queen Mary University of London and Imperial College London examined over 17,000 songs from the Yankee charts, the Billboard Hot 100, and found that music revolutions took place in 1964, when a rockier sound pioneered by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones took over the charts, in 1983, when technology, synthesisers, samplers and drum machines became accepted into the mainstream and in 1991, when rap and hip-hop became mainstream. They published their study in the Royal Society Open Science journal. We regard oldies artists to be those who had hits before the first of these in 1964.
Two firsts in regards to our obituaries; the death of a Sir, and the death of someone we've reviewed a release of. But first, this week's new releases.
Betty Who has released her new single, Human Touch, this week. It's a beefy electropop jam which slides sensually throughout and showcases Who's breathy vocals. Even the percussion – which at times can be a bit peppery – doesn't sound entirely out of place, instead adding a crackling edge to it. I just wish the third verse didn't sound so divorced from the second chorus, but otherwise we look forward to seeing this on the charts.
Busted have this week continued their guided tour through music through the ages; their newest track, One of a Kind, sounds straight out of the 1980s. Some very pretty synths indeed flitter across the introduction, while the rest sports Busted's signature vocals and synths that wouldn't sound out of place on the Top of the Pops repeats do business with guitar chords which improve the record no end. I'd say that of the four Busted releases I've reviewed, this has to be the best one.
Mmm, I could fall asleep to Childish Gambino's Me and Your Mama. Well, much of it, anyway. It's a big sandwich; two minutes of delightfully drowsy keys and honeyed trills to match which Laura Mvula's Ready Or Not wishes for that I could just fall asleep listening to if the publication of this issue wasn't running so late and the fact that it abruptly flips into a couple of minutes of mean guitar like that of the seventies bands I find myself listening to whenever Old Grey Whistle Test gets repeated on BBC4 by bands I never bother learning the name of but do bother learning that they don't ever morph into the succulently sparse soul of this record's final two minutes which features soulful guitar gently weeping and wailing keys over sparse percussion which is the sort of easy listening I need in my life after many hours of advanced mathematics on a weekday morning. (Yes, I know that's a long sentence. Mike McCormack won £10,000 for writing a single sentence during the week, so now it's my go.) As constituent parts the songs are entirely listenable, but as a sandwich it's a bit much. Consider clipping the middle out.
Idolator.com, which we have found no evidence to suggest is a reliable source, noted that there was "something familiar buried within the melody" of DNCE's new single Be Mean. There's a good reason for this; all of DNCE's records sound the bleeding same, and this one's a sweaty speech on sadomasochism. DNCE may enjoy torture, but there's no need to subject it upon innocent listeners.
It's always interesting to see what my house style was when I started this. Back in issue 1 when I reviewed M.I.L.F.$, not only was I not taking into account releases as part of a band but I was typing the actual dollar sign rather than the HTML code for it. That's been fixed. It looks like Fergie's produced something more accessible herself; her new single Life Goes On is an enticing mix bookended by gentle acoustic guitar lines and containing placid percussion and pan flute not heard since Justin Bieber's What Do You Mean?. I don't see why there needs to be a drop and guitar solo in the same place (before the third verse), though, and why does said verse continue after the rap? Otherwise, this isn't a bad record, and we would be upset if it didn't chart.
A number of articles about the record noted that the song references the controversial results of the American election, where Donald Trump was made president-elect. I must say that although I am not American, and hope never to be, I would have voted for Trump for two reasons: Trump is a businessman, and America's debt recently exceeded $18 trillion; the main alternative (I don't know enough about the two other alternatives) was a woman who had previously attempted numerous government jobs including First Lady, and was rubbish at all of them. In her own words: Trump must have a chance to lead.
Now this I like. Gabrielle Aplin's vocals on her new track Miss You are so gorgeous and so expressive just listening to it brings me out in an ASMR rash; although I don't usually enjoy sound effects, having what is designed to be a door opening and closing at the start and hiss to evoke rain works brilliantly, and despite little in the way of actual instrumentation (just a few piano plinks and drums and a lot of bass) the whole thing is just beautiful. We would be enraged if this did not chart.
Zayn's in high spirits this week, for Little Mix have for the first time in ages released a record which doesn't slam him: Nothing Else Matters. The fire of their previous records, while overindulgent, has created a Stockholm effect; without it, it feels as though the record is missing something. My usual mantra would be to add a rapper, though this would be unlikely considering that this is an album track, intended to be taken that way. My other mantra applies; if you're going to do it, do it right.
Sia's new record, featuring Miguel and Queen Latifah, is frankly irritating. There's almost nothing to the instrumental, and although I can't fault any of the vocals on the record at all, the record feels decidedly top-heavy. You can almost hear the record creak under Queen Latifah's rap verse. What's more, at over five minutes long it's just far too long; it's boring after less than three. (There's a false ending then at which point the record should have been split; there's no point binning the rest, since it's part of the Hamilton Mixtape and it tells a tale, but they should have separated the two tracks out.)
SOHN has released Conrad this week, a narcotic track with viscous synths and drums sufficiently strong as to be able to cut through the goop and lay the groundwork for a deliciously pungent track, enough to massage the sinuses to the point of lassitude. If I had one complaint, why have a chorus over the introduction – leave it instrumental, as it stands it feels crowded – but otherwise this is just gorgeous. More please.
Strobe! released Good Vibe, a collaboration with Nyla, on 7 November 2016. It's a bellicose but bashful bit of EDM; far too angry for Nyla's, um, niche vocals, but too calm to weather the coarseness of the track, and the result is that it is sufficiently rugged as to evoke a warzone. I'll take Good Vibrations instead if they're going.
Not to be confused with the rockers responsible for the excellent EPs No Sleep No Need and Friday Night Monday Morning (which between them still come out shorter than Alex Maxwell's Signs EP from issue 19 and went to #70 and #87 respectively), The Vaults have released their cover version of Randy Crawford's One Day I'll Fly Away for the 2016 John Lewis Christmas advert in an orchestral style not dissimilar to Nicole Kidman's version. The advert sees a little girl wait all her life to start bouncing up and down on a trampoline and proceeds to run for it until a filthy animal pips her to the post – a bit like the American election really. (What do you mean The Guardian beat me to it? And what do you mean filthy animal? I don't like dogs. Give me pussy any day.)
The original Randy Crawford version is a succulent slice of soul enlivened by Crawford's stirring vocals, while Kidman slows the song down and lacquers it in an orchestra for a very tasty cover version indeed. The new version by Vaults occupies similar territory to Kidman's version – orchestral, and divested of much of the lyrics Crawford sung – but feels like a poor man's version of the track because, it really can't hold its own against Crawford or Kidman because with all due respect to the band the vocals on the record simply are not of the same ilk as their predecessors, and the record suffers for it. I would say that of the ten John Lewis Christmas songs released so far (we count 2007's Prokofiev's Morning Serenade and 2008's From Me to You), it is the least listenable.
Well, here's a track I hope never to hear gracing any televised advert for any firm – Violet Days' O.D on You (O.D being short for overdose)! Though this is a tastily truculent but temperate track, some people may be put off by its lyrical content (though the band's lead singer said it was intended to evoke running into a former lover who you loved but who hurt you). Those willing to set said qualms aside – we've heard worse, but that's so you don't have to – will be treated to a sumptuously silky song indeed.
On Hold is The xx's first release in ages. It's a track about a breakup, but it's an unusual track about breakup, because it contains a male and a female vocal; there is such a thing as an amicable breakup, but you'd be hard-pressed to know it given the songs on the subject. Plodding synths hum away while acoustic guitar strokes liven up the track. My only criticism is with the pitch-shifted sample of I Can't Go For That (No Can Do) by Hall & Oates; perhaps owing to it being pitch-shifted the sample sounds like old men laughing and jeering, which feels really out of place. Otherwise, not bad.
We had a little chuckle this week at Launchballer's lair. In an interview with NME, Zara Larsson said that "mostly I just write about feelings that people can relate to". Is thieving men from their women, as was the subject of issue 10's Ain't My Fault, relatable? Really? Anyway, she's released I Would Like this week, and frankly I haven't got anything positive to say about it. Repetitive synths and nondescript percussion run ad nauseam, and frankly the whole thing plays like a fat kid sat on top of a CD player with a broken record in it. We listen to these records, so you don't have to.
Three deaths to report this week, the first two from 7 November. The first is the embodiment of the aforementioned 'oldies artist'; Sir Jimmy Young. He topped the charts twice before turning to radio with Unchained Melody and The Man From Laramie; his version of Unchained Melody was the first version to make the UK Singles Chart, with versions by Al Hibbler (#2), Les Baxter (#10) and Liberace (#20) in the charts the week before Young went to #1 (in the 1950s, nearly every major song had several versions issued) though Unchained Melody remains the only song to have four versions in the charts simultaneously, and for over twenty six years it was the only version of that song to have two separate chart runs before The Righteous Brothers' version topped the charts. Robson & Jerome and Gareth Gates also had #1s with the song. Young was 95.
The second was 82: Leonard Cohen. Although he had but a single entry in the UK Singles Chart – Hallelujah at #36 in the week that versions of the same song by Alexandra Burke and Jeff Buckley occupied the top two slots – he was considered by many to be the "the high priest of pathos" and the "godfather of gloom", and You Want It Darker (issue 13) was a prime example of the desolateness he would produce. Aside from Hallelujah, also covered by Kate Voegele (#53), Justin Timberlake ft. Matt Morris and Charlie Sexton (for MTV's Hope for Haiti Now: A Global Benefit for Earthquake Relief fundraising programme, #91) and Rufus Wainwright (#97) (any other chart entries of that name are unrelated), he also wrote First We Take Manhattan, a #74 hit for Jennifer Warnes. (You can't say we don't do our research…)
Also dead: Leon Russell, at 74. As part of the Wrecking Crew he performed on Be My Baby by The Ronettes and River Deep – Mountain High by Ike & Tina Turner (#4 and #3 respectively); as part of Mad Dogs & Englishmen, he performed on The Letter by Joe Cocker (#39), though by that point he was playing second fiddle to Cocker's Grease Band, who had deserted him a week before a major tour. In the States, several of his solo singles charted; in the United Kingdom, none of them charted.
Oh, and whoever plied my sister with her recorder needs being poleaxed.
|New peak/previous peak||Floundering||Absent|
||Million Reasons (Lady Gaga)
You Gotta Not (Little Mix)
After the Afterparty (Charli XCX ft. Lil Yachty)
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