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)


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. 

Leave a Reply.