dirty martini

old music for new people

britain’s got talent April 19, 2008

there is more to the uk than leona, joss and amy.

i’m not getting into estelle’s rant about whether white girls can claim soul. i’ve barley heard adele or duffy but from the snippets i haven’t managed to avoid, i would think we’re in danger of confusing soul, which they may well have a claim on, with r&b, which is the category estelle et al would fall into.

but her point about the under-represented existing soul/r&b artists in the uk is true. some – beverley knight, jamelia – are often persuaded to stray into pop territory to raise their profile. i would say there’s a huge talent chasm between those two however. somehow i don’t think anyone will be talking about jamelia in a few years, no matter who she’s slating. bitter 30 something brummie with cheating footballer husband – now that will not be a good look.

download here

corinne bailey rae – young and foolish

craig david and kano – this is the girl

estelle – 1980

keisha white – out of my hands

lemar – someone should tell you

lisa maffia – bad girl

nate james – universal

taio cruz – backseat love

terri walker – flirtin’

winta gordon – surveillance

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guilty pleasures March 9, 2008

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ok so i’ve just been watching z list music acts covering their ‘guilty pleasure’ songs.

i’m not sure how embarrassing liking terence trent d’arby is, i mean he’s not exactly milli vanilli, but i enjoyed craig david the most. of course thanks to bo selecta many people now in fact feel embarrassed to listen to craaaaaig daaaaavid.

anyway, here are mine. none of them fit with the rest of my music collection. i make no apologies.

further proof of my bad taste can be found in the songs i turn down on my ipod, songs i use to annoy people on the tube and songs i used to taunt old people on the bus.

download here

a-ha – you are the one

well, back in junior school you didn’t like certain type of music, you either like it or you didn’t. perhaps unsurprisingly there was something melancholy about the norwegian boys. good job they weren’t from finland.

belinda carlisle – i get weak

MOR rock has never been my thing but there’s something i like about belinda. this has always been my favourite of hers.

billy joel – tell her about it

one of my first tapes was billy joel, except my mum kept nabbing it. i love how steve in sex and the city is a billy joel fan and i love how he asks the russian if he ‘knows any billy joel’ to play on his thousand dollar piano.

kylie minogue – hand on your heart

most girls my age were kylie fans but lets face it this was more to do with neighbours than her singing voice, which is terrible. like a cat singing through a funnel.

lisa loeb – stay

sensitive 90s twanging bypassed me, mainly, but i loved reality bites. its so worthy and look-at-me-i’m so-understated…but i love it.

phil collins – two hearts

the soundtrack to buster featured the four tops and this song was written in a similar vein to ‘loco in acapulco’. but they had to let phil sing it cos he was the main character. liking phil has never really been cool but loads of people do, anyway.

robbie nevil – c’est la vie

sunny ‘things aren’t so bad’ pop that was huge in the late 80s. i usually hate these songs but this really reminds me being about ten.

talk talk – it’s my life

sounds like it should have been in a john hughes movie. just sounds so 1985.

talking heads – once in a lifetime

back in the good old days on mtv europe, this used to be part of the intro for mtv’s greatest hits, along with inxs. i loved the early 90s mtv – 3 from 1, pulse with swatch, party zone, yo mtv raps, soul of mtv…fruit of the loom ads and ads for frightening german techno compilations…

soup dragons – divine thing

i can’t relate to wanting to be the indie girl the soup dragons are singing about cos she was probably had that mousy hair gone pink from trying to dye it red, doc martens and lumberjack shirt. so not me. but i almost wish i could stand to dress like that for the sake of this song.

stone roses – she bangs the drums

a friend who was into the whole madchester scene pointed out that it was all quite dancey. so i listened again. i now have a grand total of 15 baggy anthems on my ipod. well they did play them at the hacienda.

whitesnake – is this love

80s hair rock is the staple playlist of o’neills and chicago rock cafes the nation wide. i hate it. but not this.

 

‘…sounds a bit like prince…’ January 4, 2008

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 as a new artist, or even as an established artist, one of the greatest endorsements is to be labelled as sounding ‘a bit like prince’.

the saving grace of lazy journalists everwhere, these few words can rescue a flopping album, even if they are only bestowed upon one or two tracks. now that prince himself is more rock-fixated, the promise of just one or two scraps reminiscent of his 80s prime can be sufficient to spark interest amongst the musical cognoscenti.

to a lesser extent, this peculiar brand of retro copycat hype has previously been applied to artists lauded as the new ‘stevie wonder’ or ‘madonna’. there isn’t going to be a new prince, and it turned out out that those artists were similarly irreplaceable. the excitable, yet totally unreal, music journalism of the the late 90s has given way to a more considered approach.

we don’t need a new prince – clearly the man has produced gargantuan amounts of music and yet more could be unleashed at any point (please). the accessibility of retro music means that we don’t need rafts of exciting new artists – gone are the days when you had to pay a premium to get hold of music that was no longer in the charts.

we just need a few new songs every now and then. and they should sound as much like ‘when doves cry’ as possible.

download here

alicia keys – like you’ll never see me again

debuted with an album containing a prince cover – a b side no less, to show her fan credentials.  on this track, not only the production, but the vocal style and lyrics ooze purple. a lesser artist could be accused of bandwagon hopping but alicia has already proved herself.

chris brown – take you down

chris brown, however, has clearly been advised that the tumble tots r&b will only take him so far and is trialling a new, more adult musical direction – prince. job one should have been to work on that childish feature in his voice that makes him sound like he’s not old enough to form singular vowels – evidence: ‘you make me say yeeeeeoooooaaaaaawwwwww’. shit, my cat forms better vowels than that.

the dream – fast car

i like what i’ve heard from the dream so far, which isn’t a lot. but this and album track ‘nikki’ do reek of ‘obligatory prince-esque production’ to hook gullible and lazy journalists and perk up enthusiastic but clueless PR. basically this is ‘little red corvette’ not-so-updated for the 00s.

erykah badu – honey

an interesting detour for ms badu. i love her music but neo-soul artists can often fall into the dull and worthy trap, making their albums unlistenable by the time they get to their fourth outing.

justin timberlake and beyonce – until the end of time

the influence is slightly more subtle here, but those ‘when doves cry’ instruments are there, just slower, and the overall vibe is classic prince slow jam.

kevin michael – liquid lava love

like robin thicke with a curly afro and arguably more soul. expect big things from this one.

ne-yo – sex with my ex

ne-yo got a lot of stick for allegedly being gay. then when he fathered a child, he got a lot of stick for being ugly. now he’s getting a lot of stick for churning out a raft of soundalike tracks for the artsts he produces for. with all this abuse perhaps he’ll soon have more in common with craaaaaaig david.

p diddy and keyshia cole – last night

an absolute, straight in your face ‘erotic city’ ripoff so blatant that you can’t really argue. as ever, diddy’s montone adds little to the proceedings.

ryan leslie – i-r-i-n-a

ryan leslie’s productions have more than a whiff of purple about them but his own album was fairly narrative and self-celebratory which isn’t prince’s style. prince’s lyrics are cute and playful and focus on the subject rather than the protagonist and so i’m talking production similarities here – there’s no parallel in terms of subject matter, although this is the closet r-les gets to purple greatness.

snoop – sensual seduction

the video and lyrics are classic prince, but the production?  not like anything i’ve heard from prince, but perhaps i’m missing something. the synths are straight out of early 90s chillout, i’m pretty sure they’re too floaty and random for the machine funk of the 80s. nice combo though, me likey.

sterling simms – nasty girl

sterling jumps right back to late 70s prince while everyone else tries to recreate the 80s.

van hunt – hot stage lights

i only just listened to van hunt after hearing his name for years. and now i have a new musical crush. the only good thing about discovering artists late is that there is usually plenty of material to whet your appetite.

 

let battle commence September 16, 2007

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wow, looking at this autumn’s release schedule you’d think people still bought cds. i’m joking…

 anyway, here are some of the more anticipated albums due over the next few months.

download here 

leona lewis – bleeding love

album due november

well, this isn’t going to halt those mariah comparisons, and it’s a canny move much like mariah’s debut ‘vision of love’. midtempo, not too r&b, not too MOR, not too pop. i think she’s done the right thing, and watching the new series of the x factor, and hearing them say they’re looking for someone even better than leona this year could prove tricky.

mya -walka not a talka

album due…who cares?

apparently some people still care about mya’s album getting pushed back for the hundredth time. why? she’s crap. she can’t sing and even lumidee has had better songs than this. she’s a hook singer, at best, or perhaps a victoria beckham. as in, the one who doesn’t get to sing much in a group with at least four others.

teedra moses – take my love away

album due…once you’ve forgotten her real age

i really like teedra moses but i just checked her wiki and it says she was born in 1980. um, i remember reading that she was born in 1973 like her ex-husband, and then elsewhere that her management try to cover up her age, hence the delay in this album. must be annoying when they are people like me with an eye for detail.

keyshia cole – shoulda let you go

album due…late september

i like keyshia. i don’t think she’s the greatest singer but i do get the mary comparisons. the only criticism i would put forward is that so far her material doesn’t appear to have moved on that much. not necessarily a bad thing.

craig david – 6 of 1 thing

album due november

at one point it looked like bo selecta had killed his career but craig is back looking better than ever. the collaboration with kano won’t hurt. he appears to have stopped referring to himself in the third person as well. which is why avid merrion picked on him in the first place no doubt. i did laugh a lot at that ”wack’ is american for ‘shit” line…

alicia keys – no one

album due november

well, ‘no one’ is both vintage alicia and also a slight departure in terms of vocals, so its the best of both worlds so far. she’s going to sell whatever as she’s tapped into most markets, and inhabits that rare space of cool and commercial.

ashanti – you can’t deny it

album due december

irv gotti’s recent revelations and the resulting fallout may push this back further. clearly she’s keeping schtum so the inc don’t let her flop. i don’t understand the hatred some feel towards ashanti, she’s just kind of there. been in the right places at the right time i suppose.

chilli – gliding

album due january

why someone like chilli would need akon to steer her career is beyond me. in a sea of faceless, talentless r&b girls, I’m sure someone with a tlc pedigree and a usher-related story to tell could find a better deal. luckily it turns out none of it was true. she is getting on a bit now though.

d’angelo – really love

album due ?????

anything from d’angelo is welcome. the downside of the digital age is that so many quality artists struggle and have to wait so long for some backing. by the way, maxwell’s record label, i’m walking to you too.

jennifer hudson – special

album due early 2008

well ok this one has been pushed back too but she has been slightly busy. can’t wait for the satc movie. time will tell whether her big personality draws her into more and more film roles and away from the recording studio. and as she blew away beyonce in dreamgirls, i wouldn’t fancy the chances of anyone releasing at the same time.

jill scott – hate on me

album due late september

i like the bigger sound she’s going for here. the laidback neo soul is nice but this sounds fresher. i wonder what made jill more successful than angie stone in the end? both are on a level talentwise but jill seems to have come out on top.

lauryn hill – lose myself

album due…about 8 years ago

ok so she didn’t want to do another ‘miseducation’ and that’s her choice. creative and personal freedom is all very well and good but she doesn’t exactly look happy as the freakshow she’s turned into. don’t hold your breath, judging by this track it might not be worth it anymore.

mariah carey – love

album due november

well, how to follow the career saving ‘mimi’? hooking back up with longtime collaborators bone thugs’n’harmony is a start. i don’t doubt the album will be quality, i just hope she continue to keep the ballads to a minimum. and starts to acknowledge the fact that she’s pushing 40 and puts on some clothes and stops singing about ‘boys’.

teairra mari – missing you

album due…when she gets a deal?

better than rihanna in most respects, she fell down on likeability. jay-z totally misread the market on this one – disliked by parents as a bad influence, feared by her peer group as more experienced and annoyed the fuck out of those older and wiser by acting like she knew it all. she can sing though and with the right image and material should make a comeback.

trey songz – wonder woman

album due october

trey occupies an interesting space as a bad boy with eloquence. hopefully this contradiction in marketing terms can be overcome as his debut was solid but flopped badly.

 

00s brit soul – national identity June 3, 2007

finally, after the copycat 80s and highs and lows of the 90s, british soul was ready to take on its own identity.

one of the first ways in which it achieved this was by redefining soul. house and garage were big business in the 90s, but the urban clubs and superclubs rarely mixed. typically, r&b was a smaller room adjacent to the the cheesier, townie clubs and didn’t even get a look in at cream, renaissance and the ministry of sound.

 

the speed garage scene that took off in the late 90s eventually slowed to a two step beat, and created a completely new sound. r&b vocals were married to stuttering, club-friendly beats and for a few years, between 1999 and 2002, uk garage was the sound of young UK.

 

after the inevitable drop in demand, uk hiphop and r&b were faced with a decision. either they could continue to emulate their US counterparts or they could use elements of uk garage to make their output distinctly british.

now we have traditional soul, copycat r&b, grime and some artists that defy classification and confuse the hell out of the yanks. we’re back in business…

 

twelve very different uk tracks from the 00sdownload here


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

lemar – if there’s any justice

the only good thing to come out of the dull fame academy, simon cowell surely wishes he’d been able to get to lemar first. lemar, like girls aloud, has truly transcended his reality show beginnings and is pretty much the best current british male r&b act.

 

 

misteeq – why

south london girl band who leveraged links with the so solid crew to create a successful career in the early 00s. swiftly shook off their uk garage roots by the time they reached their second album in 2002. the group split largely due to their label, polydor, sinking after investing way too much in tone deaf victoria beckham. that’s got to hurt.
 

unklejam – love ya

relative newcomers who have been blessed/cursed with the ‘sounds a bit like prince‘ tag. time will tell if there is more to them than this track, but the odds are in their favour with the hype reaching all corners of the globe right now. another myspace success.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

sadie ama – so sure

shola’s little sister had a valuable induction into the industry at an early age, and she’s making some good choices production-wise, collaborating with the likes of kano and terror danjah amongst others. looks and sounds exactly the same – with shola expected to relaunch anytime soon, could be interesting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

conner reeves – oughtabelaw

irish soul boy who first came to prominence in the late 90s. this track from last year deserved way more attention. possibly one of the breed of artists that has suffered greatly from the download revolution as his image doesn’t quite fit his music. i always think people navigate this poor fit by just grabbing the audio.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

emmanuel and terri walker – flirtin’

always tipped to break through. hopefully it will happen for her before she is talked into a beverley knight-style commercial compromise. this track is from emmanuel‘s 2006 project that featured numerous british soul artists on his productions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

keisha white – open like so

came through around the same time as keyshia cole, and is far more talented, but received about 5% of the promotion. so, keyshia collaborates with p diddy and is set to release her second album whilst keisha‘s future is unknown. harsh. a good example of why leona lewis has been whisked off to the us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

nate james – universal

actually received some promotion around his debut in 2005, and it did ok. i’m going to be lazy and say he’s a hybrid of stevie wonder and lenny kravitz and worthy of your attention. hopefully an association with next big thing, sway, will catapult him back into the limelight.

 

 

 

 

 

craig david – seven days with mos def

back in 2000, referring yourself in the third person was even more ridiculous than it is now. the ensuing bo selecta parody may outlive his music in the nation’s consciousness if he doesn’t pull his finger out soon. craig, unfazed, still refers to himself in the third person when appearing on mtv cribs showing us how all his cash has enabled him to construct a state of the art pulling den. no women in sight though, and you can’t swing a jocasi bag round london without hitting someone he’s tried it on with.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ms dynamite – fall in love again

made a good contract choice and got the promotion other uk artists would kill for. this resulted in numerous awards for her debut album which, although nice enough, sounds dated only five years later. this track, from her largely ignored second album, will hopefully age a bit better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

spl2rge – scuse me

like unklejam, appear to be on the verge of big things, promotion notwithstanding. i never hold my breath on these things anymore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

taio cruz – i just wanna know

mario soundalike who can’t be accused of trying to create a british identity. which is fair enough. we don’t want to end up like the irish, who have to be irish all the time.