Playlist, Top 5, and Album Review : June 7, 2010 - England Swings - The BEST music from the UK
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)


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 "" 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.

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