Thursday, 29 September 2011

1998, was there just TOO much great music?

I don't hide the fact that 1998 is by far my favourite ever year for music, perhaps because it's the year that I finally opened my eyes (or ears) to it. Before this year I was only interested in classical music and a couple of random songs. But Cher's Believe changed everything for me - I was blown away by it and tuned into the chart every week to hear it, until I finally got the (cassette) single for xmas! This tuning into the chart weekly became an obsession and of course introduced me to 39 other songs weekly that were new to me. I look back on the charts of late 1998 with great affection, not only do I remember almost every song in there but I LOVE almost every one of them too. Naturally I was regularly starting to tune into the radio at other times too, which was of course playing the general hits from earlier in the year - all of which I also seemed to adore.

Is nostalgia really that strong an emotion or was it just a really great year for music? The charts were packed with everything you could possibly want - pure pop from Steps, B*Witched, Boyzone and Five, Scandipop from Ace of Base, Robyn, Emilia, Meja and Aqua, classic ballads from Aerosmith, Savage Garden, Celine Dion and LeAnn Rimes, alternative greats from Massive Attack, Manic Street Preachers, Catatonia and The Cardigans, acts like Robbie Williams and Madonna at the top of their game and just about anything else you could possibly want. The biggest selling album of the year remains one of my all time top three favourites ever - Talk On Corners by The Corrs. Eurovision was hosted in the UK and spearheaded by the legendary Dana International and the brilliant home entry by Imaani. It was just a perfect year in so many ways.

What then of the 'forgotten classics'? There was so much great music around that some songs were always going to slip under the radar a bit - Sarah McLachlan's Angel for example. And what of Goo Goo Dolls' Iris? Thankfully, despite missing the top 40 in 1998 only to fare a little better the following year, that excellent song is finally about to make the chart splash that it always should have done, heading for the UK top three this weekend thanks to X Factor. I'm a big fan of X Factor, even moreso when it propels deserved long forgotten 'classics' to the heights that they should have reached in the first place - Iris, Make You Feel My Love, Cannonball etc...I can't wait to see what's next, hopefully something else from 1998!

My top 40 from 1998;

1. The Corrs - So Young
2. Cher - Believe
3. Ace Of Base - Life Is A Flower
4. Spice Girls - Viva Forever
5. B*Witched - To You I Belong
6. Energy 52 - Cafe Del Mar
7. Sash! feat Tina Cousins - Mysterious Times
8. Ace Of Base - Always Have, Always Will
9. The Corrs - Dreams
10. Sash! - La Primavera
11. Tin Tin Out feat Shelly Nelson - Here's Where The Story Ends
12. Boyzone - All That I Need
13. Savage Garden - To The Moon & Back
14. Madonna - The Power Of Goodbye
15. Honeyz - End Of The Line
16. Honeyz - Finally Found
17. Steps - Last Thing On My Mind
18. Steps - One For Sorrow
19. Meja - All 'Bout The Money
20. Aqua - Turn Back Time
21. B*Witched - C'est La Vie
22. Lutricia McNeal - Stranded
23. The Corrs - What Can I Do
24. The Goo Goo Dolls - Iris
25. Robyn - Show Me Love
26. LeAnn Rimes - How Do I Live
27. Madonna - Frozen
28. Jennifer Paige - Crush
29. Savage Garden - Truly, Madly, Deeply
30. E-17 - Each Time
31. Emilia - Big Big World
32. Boyzone - I Love The Way You Love Me
33. Celine Dion - My Heart Will Go On
34. Aerosmith - I Don't Want To Miss A Thing
35. Five - Until The Time Is Through
36. Robbie Williams - No Regrets
37. Boyzone - No Matter What
38. Steps - Heartbeat
39. Lutricia McNeal - Someone Loves You Honey
40. Karen Ramirez - Looking For Love

Thursday, 22 September 2011

The tale of Sunday Girl and the perfect pop song...

Love U More is one of those pop songs that I seem to love in any incarnation. The 1992 original by Sunscreem, which went top 30 in the UK, introduced this beautiful melody to the world and there have been subsequent covers by both Steps and Basshunter, both of which I absolutely loved! In fact it's fair to say that despite being utterly generic and formulaic, I was addicted to Basshunter's version in summer 2008! And here we go again, this time it's rising electro-pop singer/songwriter Jade Williams aka Sunday Girl having a crack at the song. This is to be her 'proper debut single' for Polydor and will hopefully get the push it needs to at least give it a fighting chance of charting.

The single, due out on 30 October in the UK received its first UK play two days ago on Radio 1Xtra. Naturally I absolutely adore it, I wonder if anybody will ever cover this song in a way that won't appeal massively to me? I very much doubt it, I just love the melody and the lyrics and Sunday Girl's gorgeous warm vocals and sparkling euphoric trance take on the song really make it a cover to cherish. It may not be an original song which is what a lot of her fans would have preferred, but if you're going to do a cover version, you might as well do it in style and Jade shows everybody how its done. You can hear the track in its full glory below;

Sunday, 18 September 2011

It's a red hot love affair!

My current favourite pop obsession then is Red Hot by a Norwegian singer called Lise Karlsnes. Having never heard of her before last week, upon further inspection it seems that Lise is a former member of an electro-pop band called Briskeby who had a top ten hit in Norway in 2000 called Propaganda, which I've embedded below - quite pleasant and clearly ahead of its time actually!

Red Hot though is her first solo outing and takes the best bits of Scandinavian electro pop - the glorious layered 80s influenced production, the BIG chorus, the sorrow bursting from every seam, the stunning outro - it's pop perfection. I've seen it compared elsewhere to Sweden's Vanbot and I'd say that that's a fair comparison - it has that same sort of 'D.I.Y. Robyn' sound to it. Having listened to Propaganda now though, more than anything else it seems to be a natural progression from Briskeby, which is nice for the fans. She does look like a cross between Jessie J and Dragons Den's Hilary Devey in the video though!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Enrique and Pitbull are liking it again!

Following on from their huge smash collaboration last year I Like It, Enrique Iglesias and Pitbull have teamed up once again on the less 'club banger' and more POP song I Like How It Feels. It's got some whistling (the Moves Like Jagger influence?) and is actually a surprisingly pleasant and instantly catchy pop song with a subtle electro backing and anthemic Kings of Leon style 'oh-oh-uh-oh' style chanting. Another nice change of style from Enrique the musical chameleon after a year of club songs and it should go down very well on the radio - has anybody remembered to make a non-Pitbull version for Heart FM?

Monday, 12 September 2011

Tove Styrke = just a bit brilliant, no?

18 year old Tove Styrke finished 3rd in Sweden's Idol 2009 and is already far far better than she should be considering her age. With a quirky electro sound that is closest to that of Robyn, it's interesting to put their early hits side by side. Robyn was releasing pre-Britney bubblegum pop and scoring worldwide hits with the likes of Show Me Love and Do You Know (What It Takes) at the age of 18, Tove meanwhile has bypassed that stage completely and gone straight down the contemporary Robyn route of magnificent top class melodic and often emotive electro pop.

Launching last year with the beat driven Million Pieces, it didn't take long until she unleashed her first pop monster - the glorious White Light Moment, probably my favourite Scandipop song since Agnes' Release Me, which is no mean feat considering that I'd place that inside my all time top ten. Her debut eponymous album was so accomplished that it sounded like something a respected artist might release four or five years into their career. The production was spot on and there was a lot of variety but only a few flashes of melodic brilliance, White Light Moment (why has this not been given a UK push yet? Radio 1 would surely lap it up?) being the standout.

Her profile though has remained high throughout the year with further singles. High & Low got a polish and a single release earlier in the year and more recently we've had two new singles, one which can be assumed to be the first from her second album, Call My Name, and then a collaboration with Caotico called (Fuck My) Brains Out. Both are thoroughly brilliant, slotting in behind White Light Moment as my 2nd and 3rd favourite things that she's done to date respectively, the former being a spunky electro singalong, the latter being a surprisingly charming and jolly collaboration, considering its lyrical content! Will she ever top her second single? It's hard to say as it's like asking if Lady Gaga will ever top Bad Romance. It's incredibly unlikely but the second album has the potential to be incredible looking at the evidence presented so far. Similar production to the debut but more big melodies and I'll be very happy indeed. Lets just hope that she didn't peak too soon because she has the makings of an international star.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Birdy helps the people

15 year old Jasmine Van den Bogaerde aka Birdy has already won a legion of fans this year for her emotional piano ballad takes on recent indie songs. Her take on Bon Iver's Skinny Love had decent chart longevity and eventually peaked at #17 in the UK whilst The XX cover Shelter went top 50. Her Live Lounge version of Ed Sheeran's The A Team was also haunting. Cherry Ghost are the next to get the cover treatment - the 2007 indie rock hit, which reached the top 30 in the UK, has once again been Birdied and sounds even more glorious than ever before. Her delicate yet incredibly mature vocals and the stripped production bring the melody right out of the original and transform the track into a genuine tear jerker. The single is apparently due out on October 3rd and has really whet my appetite for the album which will follow shortly after.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Flashback: UK top five 24/05/1997

Being the chart obsessive that I sadly still am, and have been for the best part of my life, here's a new feature where I'll select various past UK top fives and endeavour to give them some context and of course write my own thoughts about them. Lets start with one from May 1997, Labour had just gone into power, Cool Britannia and Girl Power were the terms of the time and I was 10 and at primary school, yet remember all five of these tracks perfectly.

1. Olive - You're Not Alone (1)

This was the second week at the top for British duo Olive and their famous dance anthem You're Not Alone. Not one of my personal favourite 90s dance anthems but I appreciate it a lot more now than I did back then. It's had various covers since, an ATB one that sounded exactly the same and then one by Tinchy Stryder which also kept the chorus more or less in tact. Sadly Olive never graced the top ten again after this moved down the listings, but no doubt they still make some money from continued airplay and its tracklisting on every respectable 'best of the 90s' compilation going!

2. Sarah Brightman & Andrea Bocelli - Time To Say Goodbye (NEW)

Does anybody else miss the days when a song like this could become a hit? The late 90s were an incredibly varied landscape chartwise and after going on to huge success in Germany, becoming one of the biggest selling singles of all time there, classical crossover track Time To Say Goodbye got a UK release and heavy Radio 2 play and smashed in at #2, staying inside the top five for five weeks! The closest we got in 2011 was Ludovico Einaudi going top 40 for a week with I Giorni thanks to a Greg James campaign...More recently, the song has been covered by Joe McElderry on his #2 album Classic.

3. Katrina and the Waves - Love Shine A Light (13)

Another song that it's impossible to imagine being a top three hit now, 80's one hit wonders Katrina and the Waves returned to the spotlight in early 1997 having been chosen to represent the UK at Eurovision. The uplifting song, with an almost contemporary prayer-like quality (I SWEAR I remember singing this at church when I used to go weekly as a child), swept aside the competition and became an easy win for the UK, and indeed our last of five. Everything seemed to be going right for the country in 1997, and even the Eurovision wasn't immune to this feeling. Bouncing up from #13 to capitalise on its success, has there ever been a more eclectic top three than this, seriously?

4. No Mercy - Please Don't Go (NEW)

The follow up to the huge, classic hit Where Do You Go, the latin American trio followed that up with another instant top five hit. It followed the usual 'inferior near carbon copy of past hit = diminishing returns'. This followed the exact formula of its predecessor and duly dropped out of the top 40 after four weeks...they may as well have been a one hit wonder.

5. The Cardigans - Lovefool (2)

Swedish band The Cardigans had released this pop anthem a year before, peaking at a criminal #21 in the UK. After being included on the soundtrack of hit film Romeo & Juliet it was re-released and managed a far more deserving #2 peak this time around. A smiley anthemic indie-tinged pop anthem, like much of their 90s output, it's not my absolute favourite song of theirs - that accolade would go to the Gran Turismo singles My Favourite Game and Erase/Rewind, but it provided the commercial breakthrough that they needed. Shockingly, in the land of underrating their own talent, Sweden (hi domestic #9 peak for Agnes' international smash Release Me) it only got as far as recent years it's been brought back into the spotlight by, of all people, Justin Bieber, who interpolated the chorus in his single Love Me.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Fancy another huge hit Wretch 32...? about making Hush Little Baby your next single then!?! Black and White is a really good debut album from the Tottenham born rapper although the singles are generally the highlights, Traktor in particular remains amazing. There are however a few decent collaborations tucked away - Don't Be Afraid with Delilah and Anniversary (Fall In Love) with Alex Mills but my easy highlight of the entire album, although I may be biased due to recent Ed Sheeran obsessions, is Hush Little Baby featuring the man himself. The excellent production sounds like a more accomplished take on some of the great songs on Ed's Loose Change EP, namely Sofa and One Night and his vocals on the chorus are as stunning and affecting as ever. Wretch's verses are suitably hard hitting and relevant and this just has smash hit written all over it!

Friday, 2 September 2011

Sun rising for LA based Australian singer...

Australian singer/songwriter Katie Cole has been recording music and living in LA hoping for her big break but BBC Radio 2 in the UK have quickly got on board and playlisted her single Sunrise, providing massive exposure for the rising star. A guitar driven intro leads into a cheery and uplifting song with echoes of Sheryl Crow and Kelly Clarkson. Yet it's a brilliant way to launch her career, instantly catchy and infectious - perfect for daytime radio.

A number of her songs are already available to download in the UK for anybody that's interested - her Lost Inside A Moment EP is particularly strong, featuring this single as well as Always and the title track that should appeal to fans of Delta Goodrem, Natalie Imbruglia, Sara Bareilles, Vanessa Carlton and other 00s adult contemporary pop singers. Breakout meanwhile is a lot more dramatic with sweeping strings and a darker melody, but still incredibly immersive. All in all though Katie has shown a lot of potential and I can't wait to hear what's yet to come!

Thursday, 1 September 2011

But now you're suddenly like a stranger...

After 10 years away it's easy to forget how much of an impact Steps had on the British pop scene. Between 1997-2001 Claire, Faye, H, Lisa and Lee ruled the charts with their brand of Europop crossed with a sort of UK take on schlager. The likes of Last Thing On My Mind, One For Sorrow and After The Love Has Gone were particularly ABBA-esque. They scored 14 consecutive top five singles in the UK and their Gold: Greatest Hits collection (another nod to the great Swedes!) topped the charts for three weeks here. So news of their 'Ultimate Collection' to commemorate their reunion of sorts - getting back together for a Sky Living documentary, although there *may* be more to follow if the reaction is good - was a moment to cherish for Steps fans.

However although singles that were missing on Gold have been added, the only 'new' track is a cover of Dancing Queen, just to really hammer the point home. This did of course appear as part of their 'Thank ABBA For The Music' medley with Tina Cousins, B*Witched, Billie and Cleopatra so one would assume that it will sound a lot like the segment from that. Either way, we'll be buying it for the bonus DVD of music videos and cross our fingers that we get a proper new album and tour next year! It's been far too long...

We're back!

Happy September, it's time to restart the blog and first apologies for such a long absence. A lot has happened in the music world since the last post, not least the returns to relevance for Jennifer Lopez, Nicole Scherzinger, Will Young, Maroon 5 and Christina Aguilera - congratulations to all! And how could we not mention Ed Sheeran going from cruelly snubbed 'Sound Of 2011' casualty to the biggest new artist of the year (well, maybe after Jessie J!). Now it's time to look at what traditionally the most exciting quarter of the music year has to offer so join me once again, get involved with your comments or send me e-mails of suggestions what I should include and I'll see what I can do! For now though, enjoy the pretty new banner which encompasses the essence of what this blog is all about!