Monday, 27 February 2012

Something You Should Listen To: Frida Hyvönen - Terribly Dark

This is one of the best singles of the year so far.

Frida Hyvönen is a Swedish indie lady. Until recently the only interesting thing about her music was that one of her songs contained the lyric "Once I felt your cock against my thigh". 

But it seems that she has seen the light. For 'Terribly Dark', the first single from her upcoming fifth album, 'To The Soul', she's gone disco. More specifically it's quite Italoish, in a 'classy' and restrained way. Think of a female, 'indie' and 'quirky' version of much of Will Young's last album and you probably have a pretty poor approximation of what 'Terribly Dark' sounds like. To be honest you should probably just listen to it for yourself. The choruses near the end where she sings over herself are really quite something. 

Amazing. Well done, Frida Hyvönen.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Daniel Bedingfield Needs You

Poor Daniel Bedingfield. Once the James Dean of the music scene, his days of huge chart success are now naught but a fading memory. Getting three Number One singles from a quintuple platinum debut album is no mean feat, but while pop's permanence ensures at least some (well, two) of his hits will endure, its ephemerality played a part in making sure he didn't.

But what is he doing now? Well last summer he released, out of the blue, a dancehall track called 'Sometimes You Just Know'. Set to Justus Arison's Overproof Riddim it was one of the most unexpected releases of the year, and also one of the most overlooked. Still, it's good to know that he's keeping himself busy.

The next stage of the Bedingfield comeback operation will see the release of a new EP and video, something Daniel needs a little help towards. Basically he wants you to give him cash money to fund it via PledgeMusic. Allow the man himself to explain.

Besides my new music, the other big news is that I'm working 100% independently now: no label, no manager, no filter whatsoever between you and I. While this is exciting, it also means that I need your support more than ever. With your help, I’ll be able to fund future tours and release new music videos for you all. Here's the deal... Take your pick from the list of exclusives to the right and pledge away. These offerings are super homemade by ME and you won’t be able to find them anywhere else after this campaign. Once you've made your pledge you’ll be ensuring yourself access to all of the backstage & behind the scenes videos, mp3s, photos, notes, etc.

On the one hand expecting his fans to pay his way seems a bit off, but then there is the promise of homemade gifts in exchange... What exactly is Daniel giving away?
  • A pledge of $25 or more will get you a Daniel Bedingfield T-shirt. This seems a bit expensive for a shirt.
  • For $75 or more you will receive a handmade shirt. This still seems a bit expensive.
  • $250 is enough for the chance to "play a series of drinking games" with Daniel over Skype. That might sound a bit odd but he reassures that although "I’ve never played drinking games online before (yeah right), I have a vague 'feeling' it can be just as much fun!" If you can stretch to $750 and can get to LA then you can do this with him in person, which sounds a bit more exciting but still absolutely mental.
  • In return for a donation of just $500 you will receive the opportunity to visit a fish market with the bedroom genius himself and make sushi. "We'll get my sushi chef friends to nip down to the Fish Market in LA with us reeeeally early when the best fish is getting sold. They'll help us choose the best cuts and then we'll meet back up later to make our own homemade sushi for lunch or dinner! Note: Gotta get yourself to LA or London for this one."
  • Also $500, go shooting with Daniel. "Let's go to the LA Gun Club in Downtown LA and spend an action-packed night blowing some paper cutout's brains out with me and my 2 huge bodyguards! What do ya say? A beer or two after might follow... just sayin'... Note: Gotta get yourself to LA for this one." Daniel's commitment to the words 'gotta get' is impressive.
  • The princely sum of $1,000 earns you a night camping. "OK I have a favourite place. A few great people know where it is and will sit under stars and drink beers and let their aches and pains soak into the earth, awakening fresh and rejuvenated. Pledger travel to and from area is additional. Cost reflects price of overnight stay and stuff. Any necessary gear rental is also additional and the responsibility of the pledger."
  • Finally, the ultimate prize for the ultimate Daniel Bedingfield fan: a performance from him in your living room, $2,500. "I'll come all the way to your house and play a concert just for you and anyone else you choose." Sounds exciting. "Cost reflects price of performance. Travel and/or accommodation is additional, the responsibility of the pledger and to be determined once date and location have been set." Oh.
The nice thing about all this is that 15% of any additional profits made after Daniel reaches his undisclosed target will go to a charity called Stop The Traffik. The unfortunate thing is that with only 20 days to go on the drive and with 99 pledges made since it started on February 7 only 41% of the target figure has been donated. What more do people need? The man is offering camping trips!

Friday, 10 February 2012


You know what's good? The hyphen in Toni Braxton's 'Un-Break My Heart'. It'd be nice to think its inclusion was a purely artistic one, reflecting the drama in the song itself - specifically the pauses in Braxton's wrought cries of 'un-break' and 'un-do', but chances are it's not something anyone involved in its composition or release gave thought to.

Intentional or not, it also makes it look a bit archaic, lending the air of the classic the song by now is from the outset. Madonna's 'The Power Of Good-Bye' did the same to similar effect. Just one small use of punctuation in a title can go a long way to improving the song's whole 'package'. Grammar in general is an important thing when it comes to titling a song.

Ever fastidious with every aspect of their music, Pet Shop Boys probably know this best. Take for example this excerpt from a conversation between them documented in issue 18 of their Literally fanzine. Neil and Chris are discussing Oasis' then brand new 'D'You Know What I Mean?'

"And what happened to the question mark?" Chris queries.
"When I stop doing this," Neil announces, "I'm going to probably devote my life to defending punctuation."
Chris asks Neil the difference between a colon and a semicolon, and Neil explains at some length.
"I've got the Oxford Concise Book Of Grammar," Chris says.

Obviously they were wrong because 'D'You Know What I Mean?' does contain a question mark but that criticism is emblematic of their attitude towards the intricacies of presentation. A Pet Shop Boys song title never omits a question mark - 'How can you expect to be taken seriously?', 'Can you forgive her?', 'What have I done to deserve this?'. You get the idea. Other than it being grammatically correct, it also looks a lot better.

What can also be noted in those examples is their length - Pet Shop Boys titles are often very long, a tendency in stark contrast with their equally distinctive custom of single word album titles only - as well as the fact they are intended to be spelt as if they were sentences (this also seems to be the root of the question mark thing), with only the first word capitalised. Fundamental PSB behaviour, and it sets them apart.

Nonetheless, good song titles can come in many guises. Even though Tennant and Lowe seem to have perfected their own formula there are many features that they don't (and some they would never) utilise. Here is a 'definitive' (not definitive) list of good ones:
  • Verbiage - see 'You only tell me you love me when you're drunk', 'I wouldn't normally do this kind of thing'...  Basically about half of Pet Shop Boys' discography
  • Question marks (inclusion or exclusion) - see 'Will You Love Me Tomorrow?', 'Do You Really Want To Hurt Me'
  • Hyphens - see 'Un-Break My Heart', 'The Power Of Good-Bye'
  • Evocation of explicit scenarios - see 'Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors', 'Dancing On My Own'
  • Explicit evocation of mysterious drama - see 'Love Don't Live Here Anymore', 'I Can Never Go Home Anymore'
  • General drama - see 'It Will All End In Tears', 'Writing's On The Wall'
  • Longing - see 'I Wanna Love Him So Bad', 'Be My Baby'
  • Assertiveness and directness - see 'I Would Die 4 U', 'I Feel For You' 
  • (Parenthesisation) When used well - see 'You Are Loved (Don't Give Up)', 'Where Do I Begin (Love Story)'
  • Clever sounding nonsense - see 'A Whiter Shade Of Pale', 'The Age Of The Understatement'
  • Not sounding like a song title - see 'The Diary Of Horace Wimp', 'The Book Of Love'
  • Including the word 'melody', or 'ballad' - see 'Unchained Melody', 'The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan' (actually this one's quite hard to pin down, but 'Unchained Melody' is an incredible title, even after you find out why the song's called that)
  • Speech and quote marks - whether used for archness - "Heroes" - or weirdness - 'Are 'Friends' Electric?'
  • Exclamation marks - see 'Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)', 'Stop! In The Name Of Love'
Many of these elements cross over, many would never ever work in conjunction, and there's a wrong and right way of going about each one. Oh and there's probably obvious ones missing and the example titles might not be the best choices you could think of. To be honest it's not really the best list in the world but there we go.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

A Song Hasn't Been Added To The Radio 1 Playlist

And that song is Madonna's 'Give Me All Your Luvin''.

This is what is going to happen next:
  • The mainstream media will pick up on it.
  • Mail Online will run a piece questioning whether Madonna has 'lost it'. It will feature sexist overtones, 600x800 pixel photos of her 'veiny arms' and 100 sniping comments from the likes of 'Barry, Ex-Pat in Spain'.
  • The Guardian will run a counter-piece asking if this has anything to do with ageism and more specifically sexism - Brian May and Mick Jagger are currently on the A List, so why hasn't Madonna been added? Her last two comeback singles went straight to the A List after all, and that's quite a rare occurrence. It will also have a dig at the Mail article. Comments will flood in complaining that 'The Guardian should only cover stories on real musicians, like Bob Dylan and Led Zeppelin'. Or something.
  • A Radio 1 spokesman will offer up a line about 'demographics'.
  • Mail Online will realise that a) they don't like the BBC and b) ageism aimed at females is, bizarrely enough, one of the sticks they've used to beat them with in recent times. Then they will experience cognitive dissonance when remembering that c) they don't like Madonna either, before settling on their original editorial stance.
  • The Guardian will then run another, more light-hearted piece, listing other occasions on which Radio 1 has 'snubbed' older artists. 
  • Some people will suggest that maybe it wasn't added because 'it isn't very good'.
  • Cliff will chime in.
  • It will be discussed on Loose Women.
  • Radio 1 will add it to their playlist next Wednesday.

Remembrance Wednesday: Mad Donna - The Wheels On The Bus

Yes, your eyes do deceive you. Madonna has never released a cover of 'The Wheels On The Bus'. Mad Donna, on the other hand, has.

Who exactly was behind Mad Donna is unclear (there's some nonsense on their background here), yet whoever it was, they had an inspired idea: to get a Madonna impersonator to sing a nursery rhyme over 'Ray Of Light'. It went a little like this:

It was released in April 2002 (by comedy dance label All Around The World, no less) - either around the height of the whole bootleg 'thing', or three years after the point 'Ray Of Light' was still ripe for parody, depending on your generosity. Regardless, it was a time when any song with just a modicum of promotion could reach the Top 40, and 'The Wheels On The Bus' duly went in like a bullet at Number 17.

This prompted a rather bizarre Top Of The Pops performance. The gimmick now had to be represented physically, and how could that be easily achieved? With a 'band' made up of four Madonna lookalikes, performing to a largely uninterested and mainly baffled crowd.

Following that the track managed another two weeks in the lower reaches of the Top 40, a fortnight that, unsurprisingly, represented the last the world was to see of Mad Donna. If you're hankering for more, there was a b-side, 'Hush Little Baby', set to 'Don't Tell Me'.

It's not as good. Anyway, as you might have noticed 'The Wheels On The Bus' didn't exactly set the wheels (!) of a lullabye-set-to-not-quite-contemporary-pop-hits fad in motion (although another Madonna appropriation, Mad'House's 'Like A Prayer', did go on to be a bigger hit later in the year). Whether that's a good or bad thing is up to you (it's a good thing), but legacy or no legacy it did get a 3/10 from Drowned In Sound, and that's two points more than Calvin Harris got for his debut album, so it's swings and roundabouts.

Friday, 3 February 2012

A Little Mix And Biffco Thing That Might Be Interesting (Or Not)

Look at this thing. It is a picture of a playlist created on Spotify by Brighton based hitmaker Richard 'Biff' Stannard. In case you didn't know, he is working with Little Mix. The playlist is called 'LIL MIX'. Draw your own conclusions.

Other points to note:
  • This might not be something you're supposed to see.
  • Although hardly anyone will see it here, and it's not like it's a leak of their debut single or anything, right? Right.
  • Not really sure what it's meant to represent anyway.
  • But still.
  • In fact doesn't he also work on the X Factor tour (subs please check)? Could just be preparing covers for that. Oh well.
  • There was a shorter playlist called 'AMELIA' too, but it's been made private (that is to say it's not listed and can only be accessed if you have the link to it).
  • The Little Mix one is private now as well, so maybe it was meant to be secret.
  • And there we have it.