Playlist, Top 5, and Album Review : July 20, 2010 - England Swings - The BEST music from the UK
I'm a day late getting this written this week; but (to coin a cliche) better late than never!

Here's the playlist for Sunday's show : 

Dinosaur Pile-Up - Birds and Planes
Frank Turner - Try This At Home (Poetry Of the Deed)

M.I.A. - It Takes a Muscle (/\/\ /\ Y /\)
Brian Eno & David Byrne - Mea Culpa (My Life In the Bush Of Ghosts)

Orphan Boy - Popsong
Scouting For Girls - Famous (Everybody Wants To Be On TV)

T Rex - Jeepster (Electric Warrior)
Dave Clark Five - Can't You See That She's Mine

The Fab Four Freakout : 

Beatles Vs. James Brown - James Brown Can Work It Out
Beatles - Dig a Pony (Let It Be)
Beatles - All Together Now (Yellow Submarine)

Marina & the Diamonds - Oh No! (The Family Jewels)
XX - Islands (XX)

Michael Holliday - Hot Diggety
Rolling Stones - (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction
Kevin Ayers - See You Later/Didn't Feel Lonely (The Confessions Of Dr. Dream)

Hoosiers - Choices

Tired Pony - Dead American Writers (The Place We Ran From)

Taio Cruz - Dynamite

...and this week's top 5 songs in the UK : 

5). Professor Green ft. Lily Allen - Just Be Good To Green (new)
4). Katy Perry - California Gurls (-2)
3). Eminem ft. Rihanna - Love the Way You Lie (+1)
2). Yolanda Be Cool & DCup - We Don't Speak Americano (+3)
1). B.o.B. ft. Hayley Williams - Airplanes (+2)


This week is a bit unusual in the top 5, because the list consists mostly of risers. The charts move quickly in the UK (as compared to their glacial American counterparts), and whereas it's not uncommon for one song or so to rise from within the top 5, this week we have three out of the five songs in that situation. 

We also continue to have a massive crossover with the American top 5. Three songs (the same songs as last week, actually) can be seen in the top 5 charts from both countries. Again, one or two is common. 

So let's look at them :

Professor Green manages to score a second top 5 hit this year with "Just Be Good To Green", which is the only new entry this week at number 5. 

I have to admit, I'm not seeing the attraction here. Green's music is neither interesting or innovative in any way. Once again, he's taken a popular song from the past and added nothing of any consequence. His rapping style sounds whiny. Even Lily Allen doesn't sound like herself here. 

In this case, the song is "Just Be Good To Me", already remade once as "Dub Be Good To Me" in the 1990s. Green has managed just to make the song sound sloppy and shambolic. On the England Swings scale of 1-10, I give it a 3. 

Katy Perry is still holding onto the number one position in America with "California Gurls", now in its sixth week. There's no denying that the song is anthemic and hooky, and that Katy - along with Snoop Dogg - has put together a summer monster. On top of all that, the song is just FUN, with all sorts of little Easter eggs in it, including giggles and car horns. 

That said, the song is beginning to wear out its welcome. Thank goodness the UK had the sense to keep it at number one for only two weeks. I'll give it a 7 this week. 

At number 3, Eminem and Rihanna have the tale of dysfunction called "Love the Way You Lie". I've said it before - Eminem is floating on the edge of irrelevance, and this just may be his last balancing act. Depressing in intent and execution, the song mopes and grumbles along, with Em doing his best ticked-off vocal. Musically, there's not much going on here, with clicky drum patterns, vague keyboard and guitar orchestration, and not much else. I'm giving the song a 5. 

Yolanda Be Cool and DCup manage to climb three places to number 2 this week with "We Don't Speak Americano", and I'm happy to see it. The song - for those of you unfamiliar - adapts a 1950s Italian pop song by Renato Carasone, using the now-common cut-up technique, and adding a club beat. Again, here's a song that's fun to listen to, about as far removed from the tunes it's sandwiched between in the top 5. I've got the feeling that the trend of adapting really old songs like this is just getting started. I give the song an 8.

Rising two places, the B.o.B. song "Airplanes' has now managed something in the UK that it hasn't been able to achieve in the USA - it's reached the number one position. It's been stuck in second or third place for weeks now in America. 

Hayley Williams of Paramore does the refrain "Can we pretend that airplanes in the night sky/Are like shooting stars/I could really use a wish right now". Do we have a comment on light pollution here? No, instead it turns into a whine about how B.o.B. wishes he wans't rich and famous with all the problems he's been having. 

Okay. That's believable. 

Bobby Ray is probably the American counterpart of the moaning stars of British grime, like Tinchy Stryder. He's doing a pop adaptation of modern rap, but he doesn't have the flow to make his material that interesting. Therefore, he just comes off as insincere and a bit silly. I think I mentioned before that he just seems like a guest star on his own songs, and that holds true here. You won't remember the rap from the song; you'll just recall the Hayley Williams chorus. 

I give B.o.B. a 6. 


M.I.A. - /\/\ /\ Y /\

M.I.A. represents the future of music. Incorporating world beats and using the studio as her main instrument, she unlocks the potential of what CAN be done nowadays, and she does it. 


If you've heard this album, you'll probably be one of the first to notice that the previous record, "Kala", was just better. On Maya (let's agree not to type out all those forward and backwards slashes each time), we've got considerably less use of music from all over the globe. It's been replaced with nearly industrial beats and lots of noise. Witness the first full track, "Steppin Up", which assails the listener with power drills, motors, and filtered vocals. 


"XXXO" is the single, which has not achieved anywhere near the influence of "Paper Planes". It's also the second song on the album, and - even with the aural attack of the first tune - Maya sounds just the least bit . . . bored. Never the best singer, she tends to adopt a laconic semi-rap style on this album, and it's beginning to wear out. The chorus of "XXXO" sounds a bit less laid-back "You want me be somebody that I'm really not" has a bit of energy behind it. I also think that it's indicative of how M.I.A. approaches language and lyrics - if there's a word in the way, even if completes a sentence properly, then just drop it. I've got to have a modicum of respect for that. 

"Teqkilla" is chicken-scratchy and a bit overlong. "Lovalot" is better, with a sinuous rhythm, but here she's gone back to her style of barely rapping. 

We get to some really good stuff with "It Takes a Muscle". A mutated reggae tune, it has an irresistable chorus which, through some studio trickery, is perfectly effective. 

Some other highlights : "Born Free" was the first track released from the album, along with it's controversial video. It's not the easiest song to listen to, beginning with a marching-band-gone-insane drum, and basing the rest of the tune on manic drums and bass. A few listenings make it less impenetrable. "Tell Me Why" has an intriguing chopped-up choral accompaniment. 

Other than the above, the rest of the album has some innovation, but M.I.A. seems to be having difficulty striking a balance between making her material accessible, and following her own muse of oddity. I suppose that's the prerogative of someone who is as much of an original thinker as she is, but it's rather hard on the listener. 

I still think that M.I.A. is the future of modern music. She continues to push boundaries, but sometimes she's well over the border. I don't want to see her go the way of Dizzee Rascal and fall completely into sold-out pop music, but I would also like to see her reach a wider audience by just toning it back a bit. 

I'm giving this album a 7 on the England Swings scale of 1-10. 

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