Last night, the England Swings show played the following songs :
Futureheads - I Can Do That (The Chaos)
Bromheads - Fan Of the Vagrants
English Beat - Sooner Or Later (Special Beat Service)
Three Blind Wolves - Black Bowl Park
Yolanda Be Cool & D-Cup - We No Speak Americano
Male Bonding - Year's Not Long
Radiohead - Paranoid Android (OK Computer)
Led Zeppelin - Going To California (Led Zeppelin IV)
The Fab Four Freakout :
Beatles - I Got a Woman (BBC Saturday Club)
Beatles - Piggies (The Beatles)
Beatles - And Your Bird Can Sing (Revolver)
Beatles - And I Love Her (A Hard Day's Night)
Two Door Cinema Club - Costume Party
Keane - Inshin Denshin (You've Got To Help Yourself) (Night Train)
Alma Cogan - Bell Bottom Blues
Edmundo Ros - London Is the Place For Me
Fake Blood - I Think I Like It
King Charles - Love Lust
Manfred Mann - Semi-Detached Suburban Mr. James
Paul & Barry Ryan - I Love How You Love Me
...and this week's top 5 songs in England :
5). Eminem - Not Afraid (re-entry)
4). Example - Kickstarts (-1)
3). Shout For England - Shout (-2)
2). K'naan - Waving Flag (non-mover)
1). Katy Perry - California Gurls (new)
TOP 5 ANALYSIS and REVIEW
The top 5 still has two World Cup anthems in it, but I'm thinking that that particular horse is played. We do have one new entry, straight in at the top position. We'll come to that in just a bit.
Meanwhile, the middle-aged phenom that is Eminem continues to surprise with "Not Afraid". Here's the surprise : the song entered at number 5 in England on May 30. It dropped out of the top five, only to come back on June 13. It then dropped out again, and we thought we were done with it.
No. Here it is back again at number 5, making it three weeks at that position, but not consecutive. The boost this week may have been due to the album "Recovery" being released; the album has subsequently gone to UK number 1 on the album charts.
I expounded a theory two weeks ago that perhaps the British public likes the song so much because it's actually rather optimistic : there's a whole sub-genre of British pop that talks about silver linings and trying your best, and this song fits into it, as angry as it sounds.
The song has also had a rebound in the USA, ending up back in the top ten after dropping out.
As for me, I'm having to give props to the staying power of the tune, but I still think it's an issue of a performer past his best and trying too hard. I give it a 5.5 on the England Swings sclae of 1-10.
Many people might tell you that the song at number one this week is a summer anthem - and perhaps it is - but Example has gone it better with "Kickstarts". Quavery synth riffs, a perfect vocal partially rapped and partially sung, and a thrumming rhythm send the song to the upper echelons of "great songs to soundtrack a summer day". The song drops from 3 to 4 this week, but here's hoping it'll stick around a bit longer. I give Example an 8.5 on this one.
Now here's the overly optimistic World Cup anthem with the overused Dizzee Rascal and comedian James Corden. The more I listen to it, the more I'm convinced that Dizzee knocked it off in about five minutes from writing to performing, because it sounds that way. It's ultra-produced, with crowd noises, entire macho choruses doing the "shout" part, and lyrics such as "don't hog the ball", I won't be unhappy to see the back of it.
And here's hoping Dizzee has a nice long break. How did he go from innovative beats and a unique sound a couple of years ago to this? Hopefully he's made enough money now, and can go back to being a musician.
I give "Shout" by Shout For England a 4.
The one World Cup anthem I haven't minded hearing through all this is K'naan's "Waving Flag". The British public apparently agrees, because the song stays a non-mover at number 2 this week. Tribal drumming, massed chorus vocals (and they sound authentic here, unlike the previous song), and the irresistable chorus ("when I get older/I will be stronger/They'll call me freedom/just like a waving flag") make for a thoughtful and smart anthem. When the whole shebang is over, I'm hoping K'naan will sing it live again on the field.
I like it. I give it an 8.
Already number one in America, the Katy Perry (assisted by Snoop Dogg) banger "California Gurls" bursts through to the top in the UK as well this week. It's a simple song with a good chorus that mentions Daisy Dukes (and I thought that was a Southern thing?) and popsicles. The Dogg contributes a few superfluous verses. As an aside, one of the highlights of the week is the new video he's made for "True Blood"; just hearing the man pronounce "Ssssookie!" is worth watching it for.
But back to the song - summer anthem? Well, yeah - it's not the best one ever, but it's adequate. The song gets a 7.
Drake - Thank Me Later
The Great Rap Hope released his first "real" album last week, and we've listened to it. Several times.
Let's take a moment and talk about the state of hip-hop in America right now. Gangsta is well over, with even Eminem reducing himself to middle-aged musings and 50 Cent playing anorexics in movies. The misogyny of the past has now morphed into female worship (it's all Ne-Yo's fault). Eurotechno has had an influence on the music, with everyone from Flo Rida to Usher adapting synthesizers to their sound. Rap has become bubblegum pop in some respects, and that's actually a good thing. Instead of throwing together a shambles of basic beats with flow, today's performers actually have to be clever.
And along comes Drake, who can not only rap with a fair sense of flow, but he can sing, too.
Along with Kanye West, Kid Cudi, and several others, rap has finally become an adult rather than an adolescent with ADD. It's less about shock now, and more about doubt.
Drake exemplifies all this. There's a lot of worry on this album - worry about his woman, worry about his fame, and worry about how good he is.
He probably shouldn't worry. He's pretty good.
He doesn't even need the huge panoply of guest stars on this record; they actually add very little to it. Opener "Fireworks" (and it's a shame the charts in America don't move fast enough to make this a hit for Independence Day) has Alicia Keys, but she's relatively subdued.
Most of the guest shots are pushed toward the middle of the album. We've got Nicki Minaj (become a hitmaker in her own right now) on "Up All Night". The song is in some ways old-school rap, with minor chords giving it a sense of menace, and a fair amount of obscenities. "Fancy" can be classified in the same vein. T.I. and Swizz Beatz guest here, and it uses a sample that's fairly repetitive and obnoxious. It should be noted, though, that it's becoming an anthem, with #youfancyhuh turning up on Twitter as a topic of disicussion.
"Shut It Down", featuring The-Dream, is the sort of thing that Drake does best. It's the ultimate in modern R&B, with Drake's silky voice skittering over synth chords.
We've also got guest vocals in subsequent songs by Young Jeezy, Jay-Z, and even Lil Wayne. Of these, the Weezy vehicle "Miss Me" is the most interesting, with more smooth vocals, and a filthy but funny rap by Wayne.
It's without the guests, though, that Drake shines. There are already two bonafide hits from the album, both without any help. "Over" is a rumination on fame that starts with "I know way too people here/That I didn't know last year/Who the f--- are ya'll?" and uses strings and guitar to create drama. And the next-to-last track is the amazing "Find Your Love", with a drum riff that sounds stolen from La Roux, and an ultra-smooth vocal complete with "Hey Hey Hey"s. I'm not sure if the track was created to be a bit of crass commerciality in the midst of all the authenticism, but it works.
The last track is the ironically named "Thank Me Now", produced with swooping, faded-in strings courtesy of Timbaland. It's sonically interesting, and the lyrics are yet another doubt-fest about fame. It's only a matter of time before Drake and Lady Gaga get together, I think.
"Thank Me Later" represents the graying of rap in America. Even though Drake is relatively young, he has his finger on the pulse of modern rap, and he's produced an album that - while it gives homage to past forms and stars of the genre, has managed to advance things into the future.
I give Drake an 8 on the England Swings scale of 1-10.
We play music this week that stretches from about 1952 to this week. We're the England Swings show, bringing you the best, brightest, newest, and coolest music from the UK each Sunday at 6:00 p.m. ET, and you can find us : In Northern Virginia : Cox and Verizon digital cable channels 37 and 837 In Reston, Virginia : Comcast channel 27 Anywhere else in the world : http://www.fcac.org/webr This week, we've got new tunes from the Futureheads, Male Bonding, and Keane, as well as older songs from Alma Cogan, Manfred Mann, and Led Zeppelin. We've also got our regular features : The Fab Four Freakout : The Beatles do Ray Charles! UK Music News : A report from Glastonbury Top 5 Countdown : the top selling songs in England TODAY, with a new number one! Do I need to tell you that it'll be a great show?! Tune in and hear some of the best music the world has to offer!
Happy Summer Solstice! Here's what we played on the show last night :
Hadouken! - House Is Falling (For the Masses)
I Blame Coco - Self Machine
Aeroplane - We Can't Fly
Troggs - With a Girl Like You
Rusko - Hold On (OMG)
Pixie Lott - Turn It Up (Turn It Up)
World Cup Special :
Englandneworder - World In Motion
Fat Les - Vindaloo
The Fab Four Freakout :
Beatles - She Came In Through the Bathroom Window (alternate version)
Beatles - Norwegian Wood (Rubber Soul)
Beatles - I'll Be Back (A Hard Day's Night)
Alan Pownall - Colourful Day
Jade Warrior - Waves (Excerpt) (Waves)
Father's Day Special :
Nizlopi - JCB (Half These Songs Are About You)
Chicory Tip - Son Of My Father
King Crimson - Catfood (In the Wake Of Poseidon)
Robyn - Cry When You Get Older (Body Talk Part 1)
...and this week's top 5 tunes in the UK :
5). Tinie Tempah - Frisky (-3)
4). Kylie Minogue - All the Lovers (new)
3). Example - Kickstarts (new)
2). K'naan - Waving Flag (+1)
1). Shout For England - Shout (non-mover)
TOP 5 ANALYSIS and REVIEW
As the World Cup continues, England's chances are dimming. All of it depends on the game they play this Wednesday, and it will have an effect on the charts in the weeks to come. If they lose, we can expect all of the World Cup anthems to dive, including the two songs at the top of the chart. If they win, there will be more to come.
It's not often sporting events have much of an effect on the music world, but I think we can rank the 2010 World Cup as one of the most influential. We've got a couple of new entries in the top 5 this week, but they had to go up against two anthems, and they lost. Let's run it all down :
At number 5, Tinie Tempah drops from number 2 last week with "Frisky". Such an innocent word, that - "Frisky". I had a cat named that once.
The song, though, is smart and urbane, and probably deserved better than it got. There are all sorts of what are becoming trademark vocal effects in this TT song. It's catchy and clever, and like "Pass Out" before it, there are several little things that begin to pop out at the listener over several listenings. My favorite line this week : "Would you risk it for a chocolate biscuit?"
On the England Swings scale of 1-10, I give the song an 8.
Well, she's back. One of the true bonafide stars of British music has returned, and she's not even British. Since the 1980s, Kylie Minogue has had ten number one songs in England. Her new song, the first release from new album "Aphrodite", is called "All the Lovers", and it's a slow synth based stew with bated breath and a soft chorus worthy of Dido. It's a good song, but not a great one.
How long can she keep this up?
I'm giving the song a 7 this week. Kylie's hitmaking capabilities have diminished in recent years, so I'll be surprised to still see it in the top 5 next week. Unless, of course, England loses their game on Wednesday.
Example returns to his highest charting point ever with the brilliant "Kickstarts". Low key and a bit motorik, the song is immediate - the first "stop-start" part pulling the listener in. We've got synths, of course, and this time they're high-pitched and tremulous. There's a rap, and a great vocal. All in all, this is a classic. I give it an 8.5 on the scale this week.
There are two World Cup anthems at the top of the chart this week. At number 2, K'naan goes up a space with "Waving Flag". The song works as a catchy tune, an anthem, and a singalong. What more could you want from a song? The lyrics are inspirational, and not syrupy. Backed with the "oh-oh-oh-oh" part, and the primitive marching band drumbeat, it's gorgeous. I give it an 8.5.
As for the chart topper, I wish I could say the same. Dizzee Rascal has a hand in everything nowadays, doesn't he? I'm beginning to suspect he's overextended himself - first with the less-than-sublime "Dirtee Disco", and now with "Shout".
If you haven't heard it (and you'd have to be, y'know, American not to have), it's based on the old Tears For Fears song. It takes a while to get there, though, and first you have to listen to Dizzee squeaking his way through through several verses. When the "Shout, shout, let it all out" part comes, it's got a counter-shout of "Come On England!"
It all sounds a bit thrown together and cheap, really. I've become less impressed with the song over time, and I give it a 5.
Robyn - Body Talk Part 1
A confession : I'm convinced that the 2005 album that Robyn did - conveniently named "Robyn" - was one of the best albums of the 21st century so far. There's not a dud there, from "With Every Heartbeat", to "Be Mine" to "Handle Me". Robyn showed all the others how it could be done with that album, and - while it was not a hit in the USA - it's influence continues to be there for everything from Lady Gaga to Ke$ha.
So I was looking forward to "Body Talk Part 1", and now that I've absorbed it, I can say -
It's pretty good.
It's not quite as good as "Robyn", no, but it'll do for now. Robyn's still got some of the best songwriting and hook skills going, and perhaps this time America is ready for her. There's some wonderfully clever and fiendishly twisted songs here.
It's a short and sweet record, with only eight songs on it. That's because Robyn promises us two more albums this year.
Impressions : nearly every song is synth based, and the synths are used in visceral, penetrating ways. There's very little else, and that makes me downgrade the record a bit. After all, there was a lot of versatililty on the last album, and that seems to have vanished here for the most part.
But let's discuss the songs :
"Don't F---ing Tell Me What To Do" kicks off the record, and is a list of spoken word things that are "killing me" according to Robyn. Backed by deep synths and a "toot-toodle-o" riff, the title eventually takes over the words, run through a filter and letting the synths repeat behind it. Cute!
In "Fembot" the synths get choppy and the more familiar Robyn vocals - double-tracked, filtered, and in both left and right positions - come in. There are all sorts of Easter Eggs in the song as well, and it does a good job of keeping one's interest.
"Dancing On My Own", the first single from the album, is next, and has one of the best synth lines in recent memory : it kicks in immediately and stays for most of the tune. It's DEEP and relentless. Listen, if you can, on a stereo system or headphones that reproduce bass well - it's scary.
And here we go on this song with one of Robyn's recurring themes : getting one's heart broken in the club. The partner goes off with, or pays attention to someone else, and the singer suddenly finds herself all alone surrounded by crowds. There's no jealousy, like in a Kate Nash song, there's just a crushing loneliness that only Robyn seems to be able to do.
"Cry When You Get Older" is another brilliant piece, with swooping synths and perfect pop vocals. The theme of heartbreak continues here : "She said, 'there just must be more to life than this/He said, 'Be careful because you might just get your wish". Yup. She nailed it.
We continue with special effects and swirls and chops on "Dance Hall Queen". We get a slight reggae feel and all sorts of interjections into the main tune. Again, Robyn keeps interest by adding in little tricks and treats with each second.
Oddity composers Royksopp get pulled in for "None Of Dem", adding in ghostly pulses and thumping rhythms to the tune. It's the synths again that carry the tune, along with Robyn's vocals.
The last two tracks finally begin to bring in some of the variety that we'd expect. "Hang With Me" is piano and vocals, with strings added somewhere toward the middle. It's a pretty ballad, but it's not as transcendent as some of Robyn's other songs.
We end with a Swedish lullaby called "Jag Vet En Dejlig Rosa". This is almost acapella, with occasional resonant electric piano. It's nice, but it's interesting that the two least interesting tracks on the album divert from the synths/pulse/vocals pattern.
So I guess we wait for Part 2 . . . ?
I give "Body Talk Part 1" an 8 on the England Swings scale of 1-10.
We have so many special features on the show today that there's hardly room for a show! Just look at what's coming your way this evening : New songs from Hadouken!, I Blame Coco, Aeroplane, and more! Older tunes from the Troggs, King Crimson, and more! A tribute to Father's Day, with at least one song that will bring a tear to your eye. More World Cup songs! There's an endless supply! The Fab Four Freakout : Beatles tunes! UK Music News : Musical director for the 2012 Olympics chosen! Top 5 Countdown : Who will be the UK Number One this week? The England Swings Show : Presenting the best, brightest, newest, and coolest music from the United Kingdom! When : 6:00 p.m. ET Where : In Northern Virginia : Cox and Verizon digital cable channels 37 and 837 In Reston, Virginia : Comcast channel 27 Anywhere else in the world : http://www.fcac.org/webr . . . and Happy Father's Day to you, your dad, and everyone else!
Read more: http://forums.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=forums.createreply&PostID=70491943#ixzz0rPEDuQLn
Janelle Monae - The ArchAndroid
Okay, let's say you take modern R&B, and you cross it with science fiction tropes. You frequently filter voices so that they take on a robotic cast. What've you got?
Well, maybe Parliament/Funkadelic circa 1976.
Now take all that, and use the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper as your template.
Now you've got a magificent new album by Janelle Monae, called "The ArchAndroid".
The Pepper influences are there at the very beginning, where an orchestra tunes up playing nearly the same notes as those on the earlier album. After playing through a full and gorgeous orchestral piece, we jump right into "Dance Or Die", and the true intent of the album begins to become evident. Fast paced and hooky, the song zips by in a flash of funky guitars and lightning vocals.
That's just the beginning. There are so many highlights on the album that it's hard to pick them all out.
The first section, which features songs transitioning to other songs (much like the beginning of Sgt. Peppers, come to think of it), continues the groove through "Faster" and "Locked Inside", making an indelible piece of continuous music that wouldn't be the same if the songs were separated. That makes it a nice touch, and a monster beginning.
All of a sudden, "Sir Greendown" is next, adding a 1960s vibe to the proceedings, with a tinny organ, acoustic guitars, and lots of reverb : it reminds me of such early classics as the Surfaris "Image Of a Girl". The organ reverb continues into "Cold War", but then a beat kicks in and carries it into another realm. We move on to "Tightrope", which features Big Boi but sounds more like Andre 3000's "Hey Ya", with a galloping drumbeat and soul vocals.
As you can see, we're less than halfway through, and we've already done some travelling. It's difficult, in prose, to describe the diversity here, but suffice to say that even though the musical styles are all over the place, there's a continuity among the tunes that's attractive and tight.
Backwards vocals (hmm, also explored by the Fab Four) in "Neon Gumbo" usher us another new section starting with "Oh Maker", which is a mellow and tuneful song that could've been written by Paul McCartney, if he was channeling Corinne Bailey Rae, and had recruited Carlos Santana on guitar. "Come Alive (War of the Roses)" is punky, with fuzz guitar, rock guitar, and appropriate screaming from ringleader Monae.
And she continues as a ringleader, marshalling us through the psych-prog of "Mushrooms and Roses".
Everyone stop and enjoy now "Suite III Overture" (Suite II was at the beginning of this album, and Suite 1 appeared on an EP Ms. Monae did earlier). The orchestra stays for the extended "Neon Valley Street", which stays an old-fashioned torch song driven by strings and organ, until the intrusion of android vocals adding a rap in the midst of all. Seamlessly.
Oddity band Of Montreal helps out on "Make the Bus", which is funky and, um, odd. "Wondaland" finds Janelle singing in a higher range (and she has an amazing versatile voice to be able to carry off what she does on this album). The song is one of the best on an album of superlatives, featuring an irresistable hook and a general feeling of happiness. Nice.
"57821" gives us acoustic guitar and massed choral voices, sounding pastoral and based on folk - it's a nearly perfect imitation of Fleet Foxes, as a matter of fact. And that's meant as a compliment.
We finish with two long pieces, both distinctive in their sound and worth their length. "Say You'll Go" is a gorgeous ballad, jazz-inflected and pretty."BaBopByeYa" begins with orchestral meanderings that sound like a soundtrack for a suspense film, and when the bass drum kicks in, it's magnificent. The song slowly slides into a jazzy groove that is both old and innovative at the same time. The mood of the song continues to morph over time, but stays consistent and fascinating.
I've spent so much time describing the album here, but I've just begun to scratch the surface. Just let me say that if you appreciate diversity in musical endeavors, this is for you. Actually, there's something here for nearly everyone. The record is dense, beautiful, and it represents a step forward for music in the 21st century. I began by comparing it to Sgt. Peppers, and - while I don't think it will ever have the influence of that album; the music audience is too fragmented nowadays for that - I think it's a valid point of comparison. This is genius.
I give "The ArchAndroid" a 9.5 on the England Swings scale of 1-10.
It was a special day yesterday, and the England Swings show aired twice during the course of it. Why, you might ask? Because our annual "Celebrate Fairfax!" event was on this weekend, and if you stopped by to see KC and the Sunshine Band, or Carolina Liar, or even country singer Jimmy Wayne, you might have seen the WEBR radio producers doing a remote live broadcast from the Fairgrounds at our Government Center here in semi-urban Fairfax County, Virginia. All of us signed up for slots, and mine was at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday. Here's what I played, hoping the bring the best, brightest, newest, and coolest music from the UK to the masses of people passing by and stopping in :
Taio Cruz - Break Your Heart
La Roux - Bulletproof
David Guetta - Getting Over You
Tinie Tempah - Frisky
Robyn - Dancing On My Own
M.I.A. - XXXO
Alexandra Burke - All Night Long
Biffy Clyro - Bubbles
Kate Nash - Paris
Scouting For Girls - This Ain't a Love Song
Rox - My Baby Left Me
Gorillaz - Stylo
Plan B - She Said
Most of this would have been unfamiliar to Americans, and that's exactly why I played it. As you can see, I also tried to play songs that had a big beat. It was fun to see the visceral reaction as people walked by and would start moving to the beats. I got a lot of positive comments from fairgoers!
It was 90 degrees in the shade there, hot, humid, and hazy, but it was a lot of fun. If you were listening earlier or later, you might have heard me make guest appearances on Mickey Bo's Rock 'n' Roll Revue, or Doug Goffus's show.
After stuffing myself on jambalaya and fresh-cut fries, plus massive amounts of lemonade, I was off to the WEBR studios to do the "regular" England Swings show at 6:00 p.m. We had a flawless transition from the live remote broadcast to the studio, and here's what I occupied the next couple of hours with :
Sound Of Guns - Architects
Turzi - Baltimore (B)
Focus - Hocus Pocus (Moving Waves)
Everything Everything - Schoolin'
Russ Ballard - Voices (Russ Ballard)
Brian Eno - Cindy Tells Me (Here Come the Warm Jets)
Wu Lyf - Heavy Pop
N-Dubs ft. Bodyrox - We Dance On
The Fab Four Freakout :
Beatles - Three Cool Cats (Decca audition)
Beatles - Doctor Robert (Revolver)
Beatles - Matchbox
Beatles - Good Day Sunshine (Revolver)
Foals - Spanish Sahara (Total Life Forever)
Katie Melua - Red Balloons (The House)
Shakin' Stevens - Oh Julie
Police - Message In a Bottle (Reggatta De Blanc)
Badfinger - Day After Day (Straight Up)
...and this week's top 5 tunes in the UK :
5). Eminem - Not Afraid (re-entry)
4). David Guetta - Getting Over You (-3)
3). K'naan - Waving Flag (new)
2). Tinie Tempah - Frisky (new)
1). Shout For England (Dizzee Rascal & James Corden) - Shout (new)
TOP 5 ANALYSIS and REVIEW
World Cup fever took over the top 5 this week, as two new songs addressing the competition wind up high in the chart, and a new performer has a second hit. There were three new entries altogether, last week's number 1 dropped precipitously, and a re-entry matched its peak of a couple of weeks ago. Let's run 'em down :
In the USA, Eminem's "Not Afraid" entered the charts at number one, and then dropped out of the top 10 after two more weeks. That's usually the domain of novelty records, or artists that have a limited buying base like, say, Miley Cyrus. It doesn't compare to Em's hits from earlier in the century, which hung around the top ten for weeks on end. This one had a buzz that turned into a sputter.
In England, though, the song has actually risen a bit this week to re-enter the top 5. This seemed to be spontaneous, in that Em didn't perform on Britain's Got Talent or any other shows. Usher, after reaching number one weeks ago and then dropping, rose back to number 6 this week after his BGT appearance, so that's understandable.
So why Eminem? As I noted when the song first came into the British top 5, he's now a middle-aged angry man, and much of his youth appeal is gone.
It could be that this is just a song that appeals to the British psyche. And if you listen closely, the song is not so much angry as inspirational. That puts it in the same category, in some ways, with all those countless songs about empowering yourself and looking for rainbows that have been huge British hits over the years. I'm thinking that people realized that it was a fun song to sing along with, and began buying it again in numbers.
If you haven't heard it, it's an almost-shouty song all about, well, Eminem. He talks about his rehab experience, and how he plans to go on making the same sorts of songs he's always made, and continue regaling his audience with more of his songs about himself.
The track has grown on me, though, and while I'm still not singing along that much, I'll give it some respect with a 7 on the England Swings scale of 1-10.
David Guetta, faced with some stiff competition, drops way down to number 4 this week from the top position.
That's a shame, really, because the song is good. We've got Fergie reprising a line from "I Gotta Feeling", LMFAO rhythmically rapping, and Chris Willis wailing, all backed by Guetta-ized synths and a killer beat. To top it all off, we've got a straight-to-the-point chorus with "I'ma party, and party and party...". It all is a bit quirky, and a bit fun, and very catchy. I'm giving it a 7.5 on the scale.
Somalian performer K'naan, after a recent collaboration with Keane, of all people, brings the first of the World Cup songs with "Waving Flag", and guess what? It's anthemic and way cool and just a perfect accompaniment to watch Germany kick the crap out of Australia (or your game of choice). K'naan opened the World Cup concert with this song, and that probably boosted sales at the last minute.
The song is irresistable; I can almost guarantee you'll like it if you haven't heard it. I'm giving it an 8.5.
Pity poor Tinie Tempah, who could have had another number one under his belt if it wasn't the opening week of World Cup. His new song "Frisky" comes in at number 2 instead. While not quite as clever as "Pass Out" from earlier this year, it's got all those SFX that are becoming a TT trademark. There's another deep male chorus, this time going "boom!" instead of "ooommm". Although it's almost as if the song never quite gets going, it's pretty darn good. I'm pretty sure that the man's got a future. He's got ears. A pair of them, most likely. I give the song an 8.
Rush-recorded, rush-released, and just in time, Shout For England (which is Dizzee Rascal and comedian James Corden) tear up to the top of the chart with "Shout". Based on Tears For Fears song of the same name, the song has a series of effects and choral voices, all with Dizzee squeaking as usual over it all. It all sounds a bit . . . hurried, but you've got to give props to them for rising to the number one position after waiting until last Wednesday to be released. It's not a great song, although it works well enough. I'm going with a 6.5.
And with that, I'm going to wait a bit before doing the album review - the heat here in Virginia is finally breaking and that means a mean thunderstorm is brewing. I'll have to sign off until it's all over . . . back soon!
Today, we'll be broadcasting LIVE from Celebrate Fairfax at 1:00 p.m. ET, and we'll be doing our regular show at 6:00 p.m. ET. Both shows will feature the best, brightest, newest, and coolest music from the UK! Going to the Fair? Stop by and see us at the FPA booth on the main walkway! You can listen : In Northern Virginia : Cox and Verizon digital cable channels 37 and 837 In Reston, Virginia : Comcast channel 27 Anywhere else in the World : http://www.fcac.org/webr Come and Celebrate with us!
The playlist from last night's show :
Klaxons - Flashover
Chemical Brothers - Swoon
Traffic - Dear Mr. Fantasy (Mr. Fantasy)
Field Music - Let's Write a Book (Measure)
Kate Nash - Kiss That Grrrl (My Best Friend Is You)
Miike Snow - The Rabbit
Queen - '39 (A Night At the Opera)
Chaka Demus & Pliers - Twist and Shout
Paula Seling & Ovi - Playing With Fire (Eurovision - Romania)
maNga - We Could Be the Same (Eurovision - Turkey)
Lena - Satellite (Eurovision Winner - Germany)
The Fab Four Freakout :
Los Yaki - Bungalow Bill
Beatles - No Reply (Beatles For Sale)
Beatles - Across the Universe (Let It Be)
Mumford & Sons - Roll Away Your Stone (And Then We Saw Land)
CocoRosie - Lemonade (Grey Oceans)
Eagles (UK) - Post Horn Gallo
...and this week's UK Top 5 :
5). Aggro Santos ft. Kimberly Wyatt - Candy (re-entry)
4). Dizzee Rascal - Dirtee Disco (-3)
3). Jason DeRulo - Ridin' Solo (+1)
2). B.o.B. - Nothin' On You (non-mover)
1). David Guetta ft. Chris Willis, Fergie & LMFAO - Getting Over You (new)
TOP 5 ANALYSIS and REVIEW
Well, that was a surprise.
Rising from just under the top 40, David Guetta performs the amazing feat of rising 40 places to number one in the UK this week. He had some help with it; we'll discuss it in a bit.
I'll note that the "urban" nature of the top 5 this week is broken only slightly by Mr. Guetta. We have an "urban" re-entry, and several "urban" songs that have stuck around in the chart.
I'll continue to contend, for all the naysayers and "the charts aren't what they used to be!" folks out there - it's not the audience that's changed, it's the music. What was considered urban in the past never did very well in the UK charts, because it was mostly the bailiwick of American gangsta rappers and slow jammers.
That's changed. Urban music has undergone a metamorphosis in the last few years in the USA as well as the UK. The entire genre has moved much closer to Euro-techno and a particularly British form of R&B that's melodic and poppier. Y'all didn't complain when Craig David was storming the charts, or Lemar, did you? I'll maintain that a lot of what you hear nowadays - including most of this week's top 5 - is directly influenced by the kinds of acts mentioned above.
As for grime, yes! It's gone mainstream! It's gone SO mainstream that most wouldn't even recognize it as grime anymore. Remember when Dizzee Rascal was doing impenetrable (but critically acclaimed!) beats a few years ago? All he's done recently is to figure out how to incorporate pop into what he's been doing for years. You've got to admire that; it may be a compromise on his part, but it's dragging the money along with it. He ain't no dummy, is he?
So stop moaning. Perhaps the charts have gone more urban, but that's because urban has changed enough so that it's mainstream.
To top it all off, there's an American echo effect, with performers such as Iyaz and Jason DeRulo doing well, and that's not to mention two British acts (Taio Cruz and La Roux) in the American top ten this week. This is a time that seems to be GOOD for British music, if you think about it.
So, all that said, let's look at this week's top five :
We've got a re-entry at number 5 this week, with Brazilian-born, London-raised Aggro Santos returning with "Candy". It's got all the buzzwords such as "dot.com" and "Facebook" in it, as well as Kimberly Wyatt (formerly of the Pussycat Dolls) crooning over a whistly synth The best part : Aggro breaks into Portuguese around the middle of the song, giving it a Latin flavor while a near-reggaeton beat takes over the background. The song is simple to the extreme, repetitive but not forgettable. On the England Swings scale of 1-10, I'm giving it a 7.
Dizzee Rascal takes a vertiginous dive from number one to number four this week with the ridiculous "Dirtee Disco". Without the SFX of songs like "Bonkers", this doesn't rank as one of his best. We've got some chopped up strings and a Staples Singers sample to hold it all up, but . . . still . . . the whole Dizzee saying "Disco, disco, disco, disco!" thing cracks me up. The lyrics are a club soda of cliches (although, come to think of it, Dizzee has never really had profound lyrics). Still, a disco-based song in the top 5 in 2010? You've gotta give him so props. I'll give it a 7 as well.
Floridian Jason DesRouleaux (yes, that's his real name) is still ridin' high with "Ridin' Solo", which I still contend is the best of his hits so far. Americans are slowly picking up on it, and it's beginning a slow crawl up the charts in the USA. Here's my prediction : the song has it's s**t together enough to at least make the American top ten, and I think it may (eventually - July? August?) make it all the way to the top.
My favorite part, of course, is where the entire backing instrumentation drops out and leaves a drum and Jason's vocals. An old trick, but a tried and true trick. I give the song an 8.
B.o.B. is indicative of the new urban milieu, incorporating Beach Boys harmonies, a honey-voiced vocalist (Bruno Mars), and a . . . hmm. Rather annoying rap. Still, it works, for the most part. Again, it's a very British sounding song - without the rap, it could pass for Westlife. "Nothin' On You" has maintained its position this week at number two, while in America the song has dropped to number 7.
Hey, the song even mentions London. I give it a 7.5.
Here's David Guetta, and this time he's brought along a busload of buddies! There's Fergie waving from the back seat! Former gospel singer Chris Willis is loading in the luggage. And is that LMFAO on the roof?!
What an odd song they've put together. Originally done with just Willis, Guetta has added in Fergie and LMFAO and re-released it. It's a stuttering, swooshy mess of a tune, with the vocalists trading off lines. Guetta provides bloops and bleeps until the familiar chord progression from "I Gotta Feeling" intrudes (he produced that as well, you know). The chorus is directly ridiculous : "I'ma party, and party, and party...". Fergie reprises her processed vocal for a moment. It all ends in an echo.
It's almost overwhelming. But I'll try to recover enough to give it a 7.5.
Urban music? Where? Can you imagine Ja Rule making it in this atmosphere?
Katie Melua - The House
Pity poor Katie, but don't bar the door. There's some interesting stuff going on here.
Katie Melua : out of nowhere easy-listening diva when "The Closest Thing To Crazy" came out back in the early days of the century. First album "Call Off the Search" seemed to tip her for international superstardom, and by the time of her second set of songs, she was the best-selling female artist in the UK. By the third album, the shine had worn off a bit, and it was beginning to seem samey-same; how long could she continue to tread the soft-rock road?
Not much longer, as it turned out. Her longtime producer Mike Batt was out, and all of a sudden we've got this new album produced by - William Orbit?! Of Madonna fame? How'd that happen?
So the intent was to toughen up Katie a bit, and make her more attractive to a younger audience. This was a noble and needed goal : the last time I saw her (and I've seen her twice in concert), the grey heads in the audience outnumbered even the middle-aged folk. Katie had become a singer for seniors.
Does the new album succeed?
Based on sales, the answer would have to be no. Lead single "The Flood" barely tapped the top forty, and while the album managed a top 5 placement, it didn't last long.
Based on the music, though, it's not all bad. It does represent a step forward, but it's a baby step. The old Katie is still there, most of the time; there's just a slight edge to her nowadays.
Witness the leading track "I'd Love To Kill You", which doesn't express the usual heartbroken lady kind of lyrics Katie does so well. "I'd love to kill you as you eat/the pleasure would taste so sweet" is a milder example. The thing is, the whole thing is backed with a soft acoustic guitar and strings, making it sound like an outtake from "Pictures". Whereas we don't have the same atmospheric words of, say, "Nine Million Bicycles", we've got the music from it. Made to shock, this is, but it actually comes off as a bit repulsive.
Lead single "The Flood" is a success, and should have been a bigger hit. Old Katie is present for much of the song, but then Orbit-production kicks in after Katie delivers a gorgeously-sung chorus, with a disco-beat, doubled vocals, and a funky guitar.
The most successful songs on the album, though, are the ones that showcase Katie's vocals. There's no doubt that as she's matured some, her voice has gotten better and better.
"Red Balloons" is beautiful, with thrumming background vocals, more acoustic guitars, and a pretty, typically-Katie verse. I'd like to see this be a single, but I'm betting they don't have the guts for it. "The One I Love Is Gone" is a slide-guitar, bluesy paean to lost love. In other words, it's what Katie does best.
Can Katie rock out? Um. Not very much, but "A Plague Of Love" is the closest she's come. One thing she can do is a pretty fair Tori Amos on "Twisted", which has a nice tension to it.
Title track "The House" starts like Enya, ends up with a myriad of strings, and has a perfectly sung vocal. What more could you ask for from the lady? It's shore purty, it is.
I think Katie's got it in her to finally break through and break into a true international (that is, American) audience. This album won't do it, but it shows that she's willing to play around a little with her sound, and holds promise for the future.
In concert, she's so darn nice that once you've seen her it's difficult to wish her anything but the best. Keep going, Katie - you'll get there eventually.
I give "The House" a 7.5 on the England Swings scale of 1-10.
What's new this week on the England Swings show? Well, there's a new song by the Klaxons. There's also one by Miike Snow. Oh, and some Field Music! There's also a extra special feature about Eurovision Song Contest 2010 this week. We'll be playing the two runners-up, as well as the winner of the contest. There's older stuff, too, so those of you over 21 can also find something to like! There's Traffic, and Queen, and even Chaka Demus & Pliers! That's just a small sample of what we'll be playing. We have usual features for your listening enjoyment as well : The Fab Four Freakout : with a cover of one of the least-covered Beatles songs UK Music News : Guess who's making a World Cup record? Top 5 Countdown : with the best-selling songs in England as of right now! You can hear us at 6:00 p.m. ET in the following locations : Northern Virginia : Cox and Verizon digital cable channels 37 and 837 Reston, Virginia : Comcast channel 27 Anywhere else in the world : http://www.fcac.org/webr For the show that brings you the best, brightest, newest, and coolest music from the United Kingdom - tune in!