Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Remembrance Tuesday: Ana Ann - Ride

What with yesterday being a Bank Holiday in the UK, this week's Remembrance Monday comes, controversially, not on a Monday, but on a Tuesday. To be honest the whole thing is usually, via the magic of the internet, pre-recorded anyway, so it's not like this couldn't have been posted yesterday.


This song is awful. Ana Ann, pictured right, in a rather fetching bin liner and string combo, could not sing. In fact, such is the implausibility of 'We Ride''s utter shitness, you might, on first listen, think it could be one of those hilarious record industry jokes played out at the public's expense, like Vanilla (whose 'No Way, No Way' was actually quite good), Scouting For Girls or Bono. In reality Ana Ann was dealing in much more Luigi Masi-ish territory - 'i', as they say, 'e', she was being bankrolled by her dad.

So yes, 'We Ride' was absolutely terrible. Have a listen for yourself:

Yes, that is the real song, and yes, that is the real video. It went into the charts like a bullet at Number 24 in February 2002, suggesting that less money was being spent on 'production' so-called 'values', and more on, well, 'hyping the charts' (perhaps).

Ana Ann was signed to LL Records, a company set up by her family, and of which she was the artist on whom the most focus was placed - basically she was the only one they had. By the time 'We Ride' had got itself onto music video channels, olden days internet people had already smelt a rat. "in her box talk (An interview given to video channel The Box) SHE SAID her family invested Money into her to buy her own record company!!! and She's the main act signed to it [sic, sic, sic etc]". Clearly, such revelations didn't stop her in her ascent to the dizzy heights of the Top 25, but perhaps, if you'll allow for some slightly unrealistic projection, were responsible, in part, for the pulling of the scheduled second single, 'I Apologise'. After that mysteriously disappeared, Ana did too.

But fear not! In early 2004 she returned, with the "Official UNICEF Song" 'Children Of The World'. Quite a coup for UNICEF, yes? Well, no. UNICEF had no knowledge of the song whatsoever. On the other hand, Ana had managed to twist David Beckham's arm into appearing in its video, so that was quite a coup for her, right? Well, again, no. Beckham (and it was the real one this time) had no idea that archive footage of him was being used in the clip, and told LL Records to remove him from the video. Oh dear, yes? Yes. 'Children Of The World' made Number 44 and that really was it for Ana Ann in the UK.

She was more popular abroad (apparently), and while her eventual album 'Cosmopolitana' failed to receive a UK release, it did appear in Germany. Seven years lather, though, little evidence of this remains, even in mainland Europe. There's still a horrendous official website, whose Flash interface is probably to be expected given that its last update was in 2006, and a similarly neglected MySpace page that reveals/makes the outlandish claim that "she has graduated from the London Guildhall with a major in International Relations and Modern languages as one of the youngest graduates in the history of this university (19 years old!)". So that's quite nice for her.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Notes On One Direction's 'What Makes You Beautiful' Video

A pop fact for you, and one that cannot be denied (for it is a fact): One Direction's 'What Makes You Beautiful' is definitely somewhere in the region of Quite Good. Equally true, however, is that its accompanying video is 'somewhat lacking'. Judging by some of its YouTube comments ("AAAAHHHHHHH is here!!!!! OMG!!!! I swear im diying") the group's fans are sated by it but, unfortunately, and without wanting to patronise, the more discerning viewer would surely have expected more.

Basically while bits like this

are all well and good in terms of 'making the video relate to the song'...

It could have done with more of this:

In case someone working at Syco is reading this (and why wouldn't they be?), could you please pass on to relevant parties in time for the second single. 'Cheers'.

'Irrefutable' 'Evidence' That Simon Cowell Knows Sod All About Pop Music

'À propos', as the French probably don't say, 'de rien', here is a clip of ex-X Factor contestant Rachel Hylton 'paying homage' to Robyn's 'With Every Heartbeat'. It's not particularly great, but there's an important bit at around 4:37.

 You heard right. Simon Cowell just called one of the best songs of the past 10 years/20 years/all time "hideous" and "a cheap piece of rubbish". If ever any further proof was needed to show that, contrary to the belief of many, Simon Cowell knows absolutely nothing about pop music, this is it. It's not a matter of opinion in this case, he's just wrong. Glad we've cleared that up.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Remembrance Monday: Fierce Girl - What Makes A Girl Fierce

Probably the finest gay rap duo to have ever hit the charts, Fierce Girl were Greg Oliver and Scott Pilfold. That's them on the right, from left to right. When they met, fresh out of school, both were working in a Deptford branch of McDonalds, and needless to say a pop career seemed about as out of reach as Gabrielle's love life. Well here's the twist: six years later, they did become popstars. Of sorts.

Presenting a back story of troubled upbringings and a rise through London's alternative gay clubs, and offering soundbites like "Mutya is up there with Kat Slater, she's my idol, I love the girl" in adjoining interviews, Fierce Girl released their first single, 'Double Drop', in August 2004. The music was garish, the vocals essentially shouts, and it was all in all quite good. Disappointingly, it only got to Number 74 in the charts.

It would have been easy at this point to offhandedly dismiss the pair as a failed novelty act, but in February of the following the year their second single, 'What Makes A Girl Fierce', was released. Where 'Double Drop' was a bit of a noisy, glorious mess, 'What Makes A Girl Fierce' was much more of a traditionally structured song - not that this meant compromising on the group's self-described 'Council Pop' sound.

It's an ode to the kind of girls that Pilford and Oliver claimed to admire; with a pre-chorus chant of "Kat Slater is our sister" and an order to "Bring on Mutya, Mutya, Mutya she's the queen of them all" this, of course, meant 'fierce' ones.

Unfortunately, gay council estate bleepity-bloop electro rap, no matter how brilliant, was never going to attract any more than a very niche market, and 'What Makes A Girl Fierce' peaked at only Number 52, an improvement on 'Double Drop', but still low enough to leave it as an unheralded classic, and Fierce Girl as two single wonders.

Sociological bit: Some people might disagree with the implicit fetishising (and explicit: "We're scum and proud of it") of the so called 'underclass' that came with Fierce Girl, but when posh comes to chav 'What Makes A Girl Fierce' was very good indeed, and that's all that really matters, right? Right.

Following 'What Makes...' Fierce Girl sank with little trace. A third single, the oddly gloomy 'Microwave', was scrapped, but was found, along with another unreleased track, on a leaked album sampler. As was appropriate for the time, they also had a MySpace page. It was last logged into two and a half years ago but on it there can be found two other songs from 2006 - a bizarre, reflective, 'This Used To Be My Playground'-sampling ballad called 'Lager Lout Ticket Tout' and the misspelt 'Bermonsay Boys', which is a lot more in the mould of the two singles.

Six years on our protagonists are somewhat elusive. Greg Oliver is never going to be particularly easy to trace (through Google at least), and even with a name that might seem to lend itself more to detection, nor is Scott Pilfold, to whom the only references the internet seems to have are contained in old Fierce Girl articles. They could be anywhere.

Friday, 19 August 2011


This is Bulgaria:

These are currently the Top 10 singles in Bulgaria: 
10 The Saturdays - Notorious
Well who'd've thunk it? The Saturdays are big in the Balkans. Bad news for Parade though :( .
9 Katy Perry - Last Friday Night (TGIF)
Forced 'fun' from caterwauling Katy, you know the drill. Not her worst or most offensive song, but the video, featuring our 26 year old heroine dressing up as a girl half her age, certainly makes up for any lack of the creepy faux-ingenuousness we've come to expect from her. Not only that, but the character she's playing is a stereotypical 'geek', which is fine, because when you've had the most cringeworthy of the recent glut of 'empowerment' videos, no-one was ever really going to believe you weren't laughing behind everyone's backs anyway. Well done Katy Perry.
8 Don Omar and Lucenzo - Danza Kuduro
Danza Kuduro is brilliant and God knows why it hasn't yet reached the UK charts - it's already been Number One in Austria, Italy, The Netherlands, Romania, Spain and lots of other places. If you haven't heard it then listen to it now; it's difficult to describe because there are no obvious reference points (at least not unless you know much about Kuduro and the music of Angola).
7 Katy B - Easy Please Me
It can only be assumed that singles sales in Bulgaria are very low, and that this, and The Saturdays' entry, have come as a result of about five Brits abroad downloading a copy in between 'beverages'.
6 Nicole Scherzinger - Right There
In which Nicole pretends to be from the Caribbean. It's not right, but it's okay.
5 Cee Lo Green - I Want You [Hold On To Love]
This is very good. It's a good job they changed it from the album version because that wasn't as good.
4 Miro ft Krisko and Nevena - Slagam Krai
Finally, some local music. It's Bulgarian hip-pop, and sounds like an amalgam of Major Lazer, Lil Jon, and various recent Balkan Eurovision entries that you've already forgotten. Miro does some singing, sounds a bit like Darius, and then the Bulgarian Pitbull comes in for a few bars. 'Job', as 'they' say, 'is a good'un'.
3 Grafa and Santra ft Spens - Tyalo V Tyalo
More hip-hop. And in the video, segways. Two segways, both ridden by the vocalists: a rapper and a Katy Perry lookalike. There are also some quite good dancers. And another Bulgarian Pitbull. This one actually looks like him too, so is probably the definitive one. It seems to be intended as a parody of something; just of what, exactly, isn't so clear. (Could also be completely earnest, in which case sorry for offending you, Bulgaria.) It's not bad, but as far as Bulgarian hip-hop goes it pails in comparison to 'Slagam Krai'.
2 Jennifer Lopez and Lil Wayne - I'm Into You
'Love controller' is a little more literal than 'disco stick', but not as good a metaphor as 'madness thing'.
1 Aksinia ft Boris Soltariiski and Ku-Ku Bandori - Ne Sme Svetci
Crikey. This is the worst thing in the Top 10. There's a man and a woman singing together to an acousticular backing, and neither are particularly tuneful. It seems to be a 'where did our love go' type affair - not the Supremes song, that's amazing, this is awful - and lots of sorrow and anguish are being drawn out through the lyrics. Presumably it's some kind of catharsis or therapy for them, and if this is what gets pain out of their system then so be it, even if they're effectively just spreading it. Regardless, Bulgarians are lapping it up. Perhaps there's a 'Winner Takes It All' style story behind it? That might explain its success. Either way it's terrible.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Remembrance Monday: X Factor Finalists 2009 - You Are Not Alone

The X Factor is back on Saturday for an 8th (EIGTH) series, and despite what can only be described as an influx of new judges, this is no doubt a Good Thing. So what better way to celebrate than have a look at what happened to some of the X Factor contestants of yore? Well, probably a lot of ways, but for now this will have to suffice.

'You Are Not Alone' was the second X Factor charity single, and raised lots of money for Great Ormond Street Hospital - a great thing that's to be admired, unlike the song itself. It wasn't particularly good. 'But who were the people responsible for this lame Michael Jackson cover?' You're no doubt thinking. 'And where are they now?' Well, as soon as this lazy device to move the piece forward runs its course, your questions will be answered.

12th Place: Kandy Rain 
Awful girl group with an awful name who somehow made their way through 'Addicted To Love', but not the first week, accumulating only 1.5% of all votes. Last year they appeared on 'Snog, Marry, Avoid'.

11th Place: Rikki Loney
Rikki was kicked off at Boot Camp the year before reaching this stage, having been initally told that he was through. The person who replaced him was Liam Payne, who himself got into the live shows the year after Rikki finally made them, not on his own, but as part of One Direction. It's all very confusing. Unfortunately for Rikki, despite gaining a second chance, no one really cared. He's currently hawking his wares as part of G*Mania, a touring Glee tribute group comprised of 10 esteemed pop luminaries including Kavanagh, Andy Scott-Lee and some others that are even less famous.

10th Place: Miss Frank 
A quite good but also quite ridiculous female trio. Thrown together at Boot Camp, they decided to call themselves Frank, before adding Miss at the start, having decided that 'Frank' sounded a bit too masculine. One of them rapped in Spanish, and presumably still does - according to a reliable source (Wikipedia), she's currently in a duo called 'Scarlet Lowe' with one of the other ex Miss Frankers.

9th Place: Rachel Adedeji
With one of the better voices in the competition, and definitely the best name, 9th place was something of a disappointment for Rachel, especially after coming 1st the week before her exit. Earlier this year she released her debut single 'Follow The DJ'.

8th Place: Lucie Jones 
"Over 3000 people" complained to ITV and Ofcom about Lucie's exit, claiming that it was a fix. It wasn't a fix, she was a bit boring, and is now doing things like 'Les Mis', 'modelling' and 'planning to record her debut solo album'.

7th Place: Jamie Archer 
Self-styled 'rocker' who mistook 'gravelly voice' for 'croaking instead of singing'. Currently performing at a corporate event and/or racecourse near you, sometimes as part of modestly named band 'ARCHER'.

6th Place: John & Edward 
Beter known as Jedward, these Irish twins were one of the biggest success stories of the year, despite having no discernible talent. They've had 3 Irish Number One singles and 2 Irish Number One albums, the first of which going 8x Platinum. And they came 8th at Eurovision. And they might be going in the Big Brother house on Thursday. The bubble will seemingly never burst.

5th Place: Lloyd Daniels
Cute 16 year old afflicted with a lack of a voice. Never mind. Currently 'working on new material' or some such nonsense, but still, 'Cor right lad(ie)s?'

4th Place: Danyl Johnson 
After coming on top of Lloyd the previous week Danyl was the favourite to finish 4th, and did. By and large the public didn't like him, presumably because he was so unlikeable. Simon didn't sign him, and so his musical career never hit the heights he would have hoped for, or probably expected. Last seen in the background on ITV1's hit 'comedy' Benidorm.

3rd Place: Stacey Solomon
Excitable Stacey impressed on the show but labels weren't interested, so she went on 'I'm A Celebrity...', ate some testicles and became the face of Iceland. Suppose it follows. Recently she did sign a record deal, with 'Conehead', with whom she plans to release... A covers album.

2nd Place: Olly Murs 

Winner: Joe McElderry 
Joe never got the success he deserved following his win, mainly because his album was fairly rubbish and had been autotuned beyond recognition. Fear not though, he's back, having won a show where he pretended to sing opera, and will soon release his second album, full of well worn 'classics' of the Smooth FM variety. Just look at the bloody cover. Crikey.

Well that may or may not have been entertaining and/or informative.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Remembrance Monday: Supersister - Coffee

On the 2nd of October 2000 All Saints released a song that was to become their fifth and final Number One: 'Black Coffee'. It was OK, but far from their best, presumably coming from William Orbit's 'maybe' pile for Madonna. Thankfully, the very same week another girl group had the ingenuity to show Shaznay and co exactly how a song about coffee should be done.

That group was Sheffield's own Supersister, whose 'Coffee' was much unlike All Saints' unsweetened attempt in that it was 3 minutes and 32 seconds full of ropey saccharin, and also at least 10 times as good. Here it is:

Supersister were comprised of 'best friends' Eleanor Phillips, Tina Peacock and the wonderfully named Louise Fudge and 'Coffee' was their debut single. It's disco for the embryonic 21st century, packed with strings and brass and all the other elements that Chic implemented to a much higher standard, and, what with the song ostensibly being about coffee, even a cod-Latin bit with references to espresso and Costa Rica. Again, it's only ostensibly about coffee; the lyrics include analogies like "I like my men like I like my coffee; hot, strong and sweet like toffee" and, by extension, metaphors like "I like my coffee with cream". (They mean semen.)

So, all in all, it was camper than a Su Pollard convention, and despite only reaching a peak of 16 was to find a significant flagbearer just under a year later in Big Brother winner Brian Dowling, who regularly sang it around the house. With his help (presumably) Supersister's belated second single was propelled to the respectable, if not exactly dizzy, heights of Number 36 that August; the group even enjoying a high profile appearance at G-A-Y with Dowling as their fourth member. Sadly, despite that, shows with Hear'Say and Steps, and Christmas light switch-ons in Birkenhead, Wrexham and Chester, the trio couldn't maintain such high levels of success, with third single, 'Summer Gonna Come Again', making only Number 51 in November. Fourth single, 'I Just Came To Dance', was never released (it ended up as an S Club 8 album track) and a planned album, 'Lip Service', was also scrapped.

So that was the end of the pop road for our three heroines. Fudge later got stuck in to a college course in order to open a hairdressing salon in Sheffield, but hasn't deserted music entirely. Earlier this year she (seemingly under a married name) provided vocals, along with Peacock, for Duane Eddy in Sheffield, which is an absolutely mental proposition, but really did happen. God knows about the other one.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Dale Winton Does Whigfield

Deserves a post of its own, to be honest.

  • Dale's joyful finger-clicking at 0:30
  • Dale's fist pumping at 0:53
  • Dale looking confused at 1:32
  • Dale's hip hop dancing at 1:39
  • Dale from 2:31 to 2:50 (Especially at 2:35, probably the very best part)
  • The barely noticeable fake snow and two balloons from 3:07 (It was released at Christmas, you see)

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Real Music: Ed Sheeran

Ed Sheeran, it seems, is 'the next big thing'. And well done to him for this, because to earn that status he's plugged away incessantly from the age of about 5 (or something), and that's somewhat laudable. On the other hand he needs a slap, because his new single is possibly the worst piece of sanctimonious drivel put to record this year. 'You Need Me, I Don't Need You' is its name, and the arrogance of that title perfectly encapsulates the level of sheer wankery in the lyrics. Nearly every word Sheeran raps is dedicated to attempting to reinforce a pathetic notion of 'authenticity' with a level of desperation that suggests a man that's not only rather too eager to make some kind of point but one that also knows he's unlikely to be believed.

See, I’m true, my songs are where my heart is
I’m like glue, I stick to other artists

Those are some groundbreaking metaphors and similes for you right there. Although if Ed really craves respect, at least by "sticking to other artists" he's going the right way about it. Right, Geri?

See, I’m real, I do it all, it’s all me
I’m not fake, don’t ever call me lazy

It would obviously be unfair to call someone who has gigged relentlessly over the past few years lazy, but still, piss off.

I sing and write my own tune
And write my own verse, Hell
Don't need another wordsmith to make my tune sell
Call yourself a singer-writer, you’re just bluffing
Your name’s on the credits and you didn’t write nothing
I sing fast, I know that all my shit’s cool
I will blast and I didn’t go to Brit School

So you write your own songs? Well we've established that, but it doesn't stop this one being shit. ('Props' for acknowledging that it is shit though.) And if 'not going to Brit School' is now a way of proving your supposed worthiness, then 99% of the world are Bob Dylan.

And I won’t be a product of my genre
My mind will always be stronger than my songs are
Never believe the bullshit that fake guys feed to ya
Always read the stories that you hear on Wikipedia

For such a fantastic lyricist, this bit (and it's not the only bit) makes very little sense. How can someone be a product of their genre? What does that mean? If the 'fake guys'' stories are at least a bit more coherent than Ed's then they're going to be a lot easier to believe, to be honest. And since when did Wikipedia have stories on it? Especially ones that you can both read and hear. The bit about the songs not being very strong is refreshingly honest, though.

‘A young singer-writer like a Gabriella Cilmi’

I’ve done around about a thousand shows
But I haven’t got a house plus I live on the couch

Have you mentioned this before Ed? Because that sounds familiar. Not sure that the fact that you haven't got a house and you live on a couch is particularly relevant to the previous line (perhaps he's stocking up on indie points), but let's not let something like that mar an absolutely appalling song.

Plus I keep my last name forever keep the genre pretty basic
Gonna be breaking into other people’s tunes when I chase it
And replace it with the elephant in the room with a facelift
Into another rapper's shoes using new laces

Presumably not understanding this bit makes you a philistine, because it's so deep, man. (Or it could just be nonsense.)

According to the MySpace and YouTube videos

When Cher Lloyd talked about people 'tweeting' and 'YouTubing' her it was cringeworthy, but at least those lyrics were probably taken from some committee's flipchart, attempting to play to her intended audience. When you do it you just sound like an idiot, especially if you wrote it yourself.

I’m always doing shows, if I’m not I’m in the studio

Alright, we believe you Ed!

These, of course, are only an editorialised selection of the lyrics. There is plenty more self-aggrandising (yet still unremittingly self-conscious), illogical, badly written nonsense elsewhere in the song, too.

In summary, Ed Sheeran: a grade A tosspot, though probably lovely in real life. He goes here.

Here is the video. It was probably made on a budget of 50p and bag of twigs, it's just so darn Real.

 (Actually this might all be a bit harsh, and he is quite talented too. Oh well.)

Monday, 1 August 2011

Remembrance Monday: Omero Mumba - Lil' Big Man

It's summer 2002 and Samantha Mumba is a bona fide star. Over the past two years she's had five Top 10 hits - one of which going Top 5 in America - and a platinum album. The only problem is that she hasn't released anything since last Christmas, and although her second album will surely be just as, if not more, successful than her first, there's currently a bit of a dearth of Mumba in pop. It's a gap that has to be filled. 'I wonder if any of Samantha's family are similarly musically talented', thinks someone at Polydor. 'Everyone loves a bit of Mumba, so perhaps we could find another one to plug the gap while she's away.' What a genius idea.

Step into the breach one Omero Mumba, Samantha's 13 year old brother, who fancied himself as a bit of rapper. No one was going to tell him he wasn't very good, but what did that matter anyway? This was going to be the start of a great pop dynasty. The Mumbas could easily be the next Jacksons, or, at the very least, the next Five Star. All that was needed was a debut single that would capture Britain's hearts and minds, just as Samantha had.

'Lil' Big Man' was that single. Or at least it was supposed to be. An oddly celebratory affair for a first release, it featured Omero rapping about "MCing shows with 'N Sync" and being "all up in the movie screen" (He was also afforded the privilege of featuring in a remake of 'The Time Machine' with his sister.) Despite revelling in the trappings of his sudden fame, there was also time for reflection on its pitfalls. At the end of the day, Omero was still only "the kid that be bubblin' from Dublin" who was ultimately "scared of missing out on my childhood", which is quite a sad lyric really. Throw in some contemporary references ("Surely looking good though like 3LW", "Shake your bon bon") and you have a surefire hit. A surefire Number 42 hit, to be precise.

So unfortunately Omero couldn't replicate his sister's success. In fact, neither could she. Her second album never came out and she instead turned to acting, or to give it its proper title, 'acting', starring in blockbusters like 'Johnny Was' with Vinnie Jones, Lennox Lewis (!) and Roger Daltrey (!!). She has flirted with a return to music, least notably in 2009, when she featured on Bruneian popstar Hill's single 'Stay In The Middle'. The video for 'Stay In The Middle' was directed by Omero, and won the third place award for 'Most Mindblowing Video' at the Asia Pacific Voice Independent Music Awards. So that's something to be proud of. If YouTube comments are anything to go by - and conventional wisdom suggests they are - 'directing' is now Omero's trade, although there are no signs of him having actually directed anything other than that video. On the plus side he's apparently in LA and is still only 22, so there is definitely time for him to make his name yet.