This issue has been delayed, because my father should have gone into hospital Wednesday morning and thus ordered a deep clean from social services over Monday and Tuesday, and hauled me and my sister in to prepare the house over the bits of Saturday and Sunday we were free. I despise cleaning with a passion, and I'll be taking out my anger on this week's issue.
I was asked an interesting question during the week; would, if a major artist like David Bowie did at the start of the year, I print the entire chart history when writing an obituary for an artist? Good question. Mm, probably not. Our usual mantra is to prioritise number ones, and where these are non-existent, then we go into more detail. In the case of what the Official Chart Company calls "the huge pop acts who never scored a Number 1 single", I'll cross that bridge when I come to it but I'll probably just rake up whatever I consider to be their biggest hits to be. With Bobby Vee from issue 17, it was nice and easy because I happened to own a number of compilation albums and just picked the tracks I had on those albums.
Blvck Delorean's Time Waves deserves to make waves on the chart. It's a delightful instrumental (well, not strictly, since it uses "everything's okay"s as percussion) with shiatsu-like synths and drums almost as relaxing as ASMR tapping. I'd enjoy a longer version, but as is I haven't heard such a pop-ready instrumental as this one since Animals by Martin Garrix, and that topped the chart.
Oh, I thought I'd seen the back of you! It's that Britney Spears again, and this time with barely a new record – rather a new version of Slumber Party from her album billed as containing Tinashe, albeit sufficiently little that I had to rummage through lyric sites to establish what she'd actually done given how similar the two singers sound. (I hope never to have the problem of uneven contribution from group members in my work, let me tell you.) This is an interesting record, because there's the seed of a good track here; hints of reggae fusion over the chorus and sharp percussion over the bridge complement the track. Adding Tinashe to the record was the equivalent of replacing the hard drive on a computer with a busted central processing unit and extractor fan; it's not the problem. The distorted "like a slumber party" at the start of the third verse feels like a cop-out – a proper rapper would liven up proceedings – and the synths running throughout the track provide a foundation as suitable as AstroTurf; there is a hit buried here, but it needs a firmer bassline.
Mm, delightful. Carmody's The Light of Me kicks off with a concatenation of thumps and carries on with a beautiful, crystal-clear vocal enough to brighten up almost anything, with licks of guitar decorating the chorus, synths humming in various places and quantities and otherwise negligible percussion for what I can only hope is the sort of stuff they play in heaven. Lovely.
Hello, and welcome to the 1970s, where Childish Gambino has released the effortlessly soulful Redbone, with slap-bass Parliament-Funkadelic would happily put their name to providing a beefy bolognese onto which the pitch-shifted vocals melt like mozzarella; the third 'half' of the record, while repetitive, squeals like an early synthesiser, and it is a delight to listen to.
Yank Courtney Marie Andrews has put Put the Fire Out out, fire being a metaphor for stress, Put the Fire Out being her début in this country. Andrews' gorgeous, southern vocals are admittedly the most interesting thing about this learner-driver bit of country in which there is virtually nothing going on; the drums are the sort of relentless tap a person with sedatephobia (that's what I thought but I'm assured it exists) might make to keep themselves company and bizarrely so, since it isn't alone. (There's also a guitar.) Not for me, thank you.
Oooh, I don't like this. Dan Caplen, previously known as D/C, has put out Blinded By the Lights this week, and it's boring as hell; for the most part it's just D/C singing on top of an impoverished beat of a simple piano and gospel vocals which, to me at least, come across as a poor man's So Good to Me (Chris Malinchak), with drums taking almost two minutes to kick in, by which time it would be too little, too late for almost anything to rescue the track. (Not that it tries, mind…)
It's always interesting to see how artists that have had hits as a featured artist fare on their own. One third of Tsunami, DVBBS, is using CMC$ (see me counting stacks, apparently) and Gia Koka in place of Borgeous and Tinie Tempah for his new record, Not Going Home. Koka's silky vocals are very enjoyable, and the rest of the record sounds pleasant enough but it feels as though something or other is missing, something I can't put a finger on, that just stops this record from tipping into greatness. A shame.
Irish hip-hop trio Hare Squead have released their new single Herside Story. I must be completely honest and admit that I can't remember the last time I heard music from Irish black people – not since Samantha Mumba, I reckon, though I could be wrong. Herside Story's bassline has a hurried quality to it which, coupled with the trap-like percussion, goes down a treat; with each vocalist taking a different verse, think a harder WSTRN. That said, bits of this record annoy; the fade-out is too soon for my liking, plus the poorly edited vocal stutter grates like nails down a chalkboard. Hare Squead will probably have a bit hit one day, but it won't be with this.
I spent all that time worrying that she'd mutilate the Flashdance hit of the same name when I should have spent time worrying about what the alternative was… Back in issue 3 I noted that one of the lyrics in Tinashe's Superlove made me feel sick. Welcome to an entire record's worth. Jhene Aiko's newest release is a record called Maniac, likely short for nymphomaniac, and I expect it will find an audience with teenage boys because it is, without question, the most sexually explicit track I have ever heard in my life, never mind over the course of writing this column, and I've heard the third verse of Nicki Minaj's Anaconda. I really thought that once we had Anaconda, the bar had been lowered as far as it could go – but then again the American public thought that when they voted Bush in, and then came Trump.
The only reason I hope to hear more of this is that I'm super obese and throwing up is one way of losing weight (a very, very unhealthy way of doing it, but one way nonetheless). Even the version not marked 'explicit' on Spotify was nauseating enough, especially given that the censorship isn't all that clever (if you listen carefully you can still hear one or two bleepables in the record). I would be an unfair reviewer if I did not state that I can't fault the instrumental; given the lyrical content, the leering, trap-influenced bassline is perfect for it, as is the hushed tone of Aiko's voice. Come and have a go if you think you're hard enough. [Ed: Or if you want to be.]
John Legend's new record Penthouse Floor, released 16 November 2016, is deliciously funky; his usual lyrics about love are laid down over a soulful guitar strum (we were reminded of Paul Young's Wherever I Lay My Hat); it is a welcome respite from Legend's piano-based ballads. A verse from Chance the Rapper helps the record justify its almost five minute running time. Not bad at all.
The Isle of Arran, as well as being an island north of Scotland (you can't say this site doesn't educate), is Loyle Carner's newest record, and it's a soulful piece upon which Carner lacquers his rough and ready vocal over a soulful beat complete with gospel samples of indiscernible origin in a piece containing the melodiousness of Kanye West without spilling into the self-centered I'll-spit-wherever-I-want ostentatiousness West is better known for. Not bad.
It is almost impossible to keep track of which are Macklemore releases and which are Macklemore & Ryan Lewis given how variously billed they are. Macklemore's Wednesday Morning, referring to the morning after the American election, is what Eminem's Campaign Speech should have been; politically biting, which admittedly is nothing unusual of Macklemore, yet with a pleasantly optimistic vibe to it. It's an iron fist in a velvet glove.
I was amused to read in Stage Right Secrets that with his new record Should've Been Me Naughty Boy "goes back to his roots: bringing through new talent". The two featured artists on this track are Kyla, who earlier this year featured on the longest running number one for over twenty years owing to a Drake sampling a record on which she featured when it came out eight years ago, and Popcaan also has a top ten single to his name. (In fairness, they're newer than the original featured artist, Ellie Goulding, would've been.) I must say that no matter the singer this sun-saturated throng of tropics is a thoroughly enjoyable if belated beauty which had it been released during the summer would have been a worthy adversary for One Dance; given its autumn release, we'll have to see.
Noah Cyrus, sister of Miley, released a superfluity of sound effects as her début single Make Me (Cry) on 15 November, and while it is certainly an assured performance for a sixteen year old, there's the acrid aroma of an Amsterdam coffeehouse about it, from the abrasive plops and distorted mid-verse screams one might hear out of paranoia whilst under the influence to the blues and twos-like jabs of the instrumental break after the second chorus to what in the form of Labrinth's soulful vocals sounds like the kind of old man teenage girls are only too happy to associate themselves with whilst under the influence (for legal reasons, I'm not implying anything). Not for me thanks.
Hooray! SeeB's had the bright idea of remixing Kids by OneRepublic (which we reviewed back in issue 7).
Hooray! They haven't excised any of the good stuff!
Hooray! It's actually quite good!
SeeB does enjoy remixing records that have hit potential; they even remixed Coldplay's Hymn For the Weekend when it was at its peak of #6. That said, at this point Kids has had two separate chart runs and everyone who's going to buy it will have bought it by now. Kids was basically competent, but had a number of flaws, and had the misfortune of coming up against us when we were in a bad mood. (Actually, that's not quite right. It had the misfortune of coming up against us – we're almost always in a bad mood.) We've amended our review of the original; it previously contained "a three of four anticlimaxes; the fourth will be this song's chart position" and now contains "the first, second and third of four anticlimaxes (the fourth will be its chart position)". What we're now saying about the original is that it "reacts the singer's vocals with unusually prominent synths and negligible drums; guitar strums line the first verse, while the second verse trades this in for a thicker bass guitar and the third verse gets rid of that altogether. Even more annoying than the repetitive bass drum stings which pepper the track are the nasty chasms in the middle of each chorus; while they try to help exaggerate their second halves, they only serve to form the first, second and third of four anticlimaxes (the fourth will be its chart position)". SeeB's new version is the equivalent of a spring-clean; all the dirt's been brushed away and the whole thing's been cleaned up. It is a vast improvement, and would be disappointed if it did not cause the track to re-enter the chart.
Penthox has collaborated with Madcon and Julimar Santos, the latter previously known as J-Son, for Cigarette, one of the most monotonous records I have ever heard in my life. The guitar, which runs throughout the record, plays virtually the same note for over three minutes, and by the time the rest of the record's over and it's still plugging away for one final bar you feel like blowing your brains out. Still, you'd do less damage that way than by actually smoking a cigarette…
It's fair to say teenagers have well and truly infiltrated this issue isn't it? First Noah Cyrus comes in at 16, though you could scarcely tell given she the confidence of her vocal. Rex Orange County, currently 18 years old (not that you could tell given that much of the stuff he comes out with is the sort of stuff you'd expect of a man suffering a mid-life crisis), has released Uno, and it's a dictophonic diary over a series of keys and drums; simple, yet effective.
Sean Paul has two tracks out this week. The first, No Lie ft. Dua Lipa, is a hypnotising track with Lipa's guttural vocal complementing the dancehall riffs of the track; unfortunately, some parts of the instrumental sound knackered, and this jars with the energy of Lipa's and Paul's vocals. That said, it is a hell of a lot better than the other Sean Paul release, Tek Weh Yuh Heart, which sounds wiped out. Tory Lanez's vocal is as whiny as ever, while Sean Paul spouts the same old man verses we criticised Wiley for in Can't Go Wrong in issue 12. That didn't chart, and I doubt this will. The fact that Tory Lanez can be the least useful Tory there is given the current state of the Conservative Party says it all really.
Sia's released a single from a soundtrack. Christ, am I that far behind in reviewing stuff? Nope – this is a different track from a different soundtrack. Lion, to be exact, and the song's called Never Give Up. It sounds exactly what it is – a cosmic collision of the bouncy, reggae-like synthpop of Cheap Thrills and assorted Bollywood-like noises, and although we bashed All We Know by the Chainsmokers (issue 14 for sounding derivative, this feels more like an updated version than a knockoff. Good luck to it.
I might print a correction for any number of reasons. I might have made a mistake, or not been able to find sufficient sourcing for a claim. I may have mistyped some HTML or I've even been known to print a correction over a simple typo. One reason I definitely don't print corrections for is to allow for readers with dirty minds; given the context of 'I don't like dogs' in last week's review for One Day I'll Fly Away, it was obvious that by pussy I intended the feline variety. If you think that by 'give me pussy any day' I meant something else, then don't give it to me. (But do offer it to the lead singer of Vaults, she's polyamorous.) Speaking of which, they've got another record out this week; this one's called Hurricane, and it's much, much better than last week's One Day I'll Fly Away. Not that it's any newer, mind; eagle-eyed listeners would have enjoyed the track as early as last January since they performed it in an introducing session. (Turns out I'm really behind.) It's a slow track with limited synths and little else but drums and vocals; usually it's the sort of thing I condemn, but on this occasion the drums pierce the track and hammock the vocals just well enough to support them but not well enough as to become overbearing. One Day I'll Fly Away just missed the top 50; what impact will Hurricane have?
The Weeknd has released two new records this week. The first features Daft Punk – the phrase "chasing good money after bad" springs to mind – and is Daft Punk back in full force. Moreishly funky, it feels like the sort of easy-listening disco you could enjoy and stick it on at your grandma's house without complaint. A worthy contender for number one. Party Monster is less interesting, and what with its darker sound it evokes the manky menace of a strip club (what? I've seen them in programs, I've never actually been in one!); despite being shorter, it feels much, much longer, and I had to check that it was only my first listen (I review the songs on this site by listening to them on loop). His label would do well to concentrate their promotion on I Feel It Coming.
Mm! Will Simms has Chariot out with Stylo G, and it is one of the most bellicose records I've reviewed in ages. The electro house bassline on it fumes like a Vauxhall Corsa D (which is legally defensible, surely unlike their refusal to issue a full recall) and would be entirely at home at a nightclub. Vocally, the song is unusual; two rap verses and then a spoken word verse, and it works a treat. I wish it the best of luck.
News of Leonard Cohen's death caused his track Hallelujah to re-enter the chart, at #80. His album You Want It Darker also re-entered the top ten at #7 (still lower than its peak of three weeks ago of #4, though). Although he died 7 November, news did not break until 11 November, so I reckon withholding news of his death was deliberate in order to boost its chart position. What's the point – most of the outpouring of grief would happen in the immediate few days. News of Prince's death was announced Thursday 21st April 2016; with less than a day's sales, Purple Rain rushed up to #65. David Bowie's Heroes outcharted itself at #12 with less than four days' sales (news of Bowie's death broke Monday morning), Motörhead's Ace of Spades outcharted itself at #13 with less than four days' sales (news of the death of its lead singer Lemmy broke Monday evening). Both might have gone top ten had they died two days earlier or five days later (and I do realise how morbid that sounds) but at least their public relations were honourable; withholding the news was frankly gristle-grabbing. Let fans grieve at their leisure, not yours. (Incidentally, Heroes, Hallelujah and Purple Rain were repopularised in varying amounts following performances on The X Factor. I wonder what they'd do to Ace of Spades?)
|New peak/previous peak||Floundering||Absent|
||Cool Girl (Tove Lo)
All Goes Wrong (Chase & Status)
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