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Archives for February 2012

I'm in a Boy Band!

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Sam Bridger | 14:24 UK time, Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Following on from last years 'I'm in a Rock n Roll Band!' series for BBC2, which sought to explore and unpack the inner workings of how great rock n roll bands work, 'I'm in a Boy Band!' kicks off a three part series looking into the wonderful world of Pop.

The intention with 'I'm in a Boy Band!' was to use the first hand testament of a cross-generational cast to examine what makes up a great Boy Band and to really get under the skin of the male Pop group experience.

The first challenge we faced was, of course, one of definition. What actually is a Boy Band? For many the term represents something of a dirty phrase. A byword for manufactured and the antithesis of authenticity in popular music. But the truth is never that simple. The concept of 'authenticity' in pop music has always been a shaky one at best in my opinion. From the very start our intention was to open up the definition of the Boy Band and explore the commonality, as well as the differences between, 50 years' worth of what is arguably pops most enduring format.

Whether manufactured, self-formed, a band of brothers or a group of strangers; this meant taking everyone from the Four Tops, to the Monkees via the Jackson 5 and on to the likes of One Direction and JLS and applying the same set of standards and principles in an attempt to find some underlying truths at the heart of the Boy Band experience.

Certain timeless traits began to emerge; the importance of having strongly defined characters, a sense of uniformity, sex appeal, as well as an underlying tension between the desire for self-expression and the need for group harmony.

But as well as exploring these larger topics, our interviews also produced their fair share of amusing insights and anecdotes. Personal highlights include; Merrill Osmond casually mentioning the fact that Chuck Norris was The Osmond's Karate mentor and choreographer, Aston from JLS being ribbed by his band mates for being the 'cute one' in the band and the only surviving member of the Four Tops getting so wound up in describing the glory of harmonising that he uses some language Sid Vicious would have been proud of.

In addition to these stories it was fascinating to hear of the personal challenges involved in leaving a Boy Band and getting to grips with life after Pop stardom. I am very grateful for the frankness and candour of the cast for giving us a genuine flavour of the perennial highs and lows of life in the eye of a Pop storm.

I'm sure some of you will question the inclusion and exclusion of certain acts in this documentary... and quite rightly so! In many ways I feel that is one of the jobs of a show like this - to take a view and to instigate debate. These programmes can never be absolute; they are a mixture research, ideas and an application of the best available material. But I do hope the result is an unapologetic and celebratory look at the world of the Boy Band.

'Boy Band' shouldn't be a dirty word, quite the opposite; it has been the channel through which some of the greatest songs, images, characters and youthful memories have flowed for generation after generation of screaming fans ... and long may it continue to be so.

 

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For more programme information, see: I'm in a Boy Band

The Best Albums of January 2012

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Mike Diver Mike Diver | 11:10 UK time, Friday, 3 February 2012

BBC Album Reviews Editor Mike Diver casts an ear over the best of the bunch from January's raft of new record releases.

Album of the Month

Django Django - Django Django
(Because Music; released 30 January)
Recommended by: 6 Music Album of the Day, Vic Galloway, Tom Robinson, Lauren Laverne

"Smart but not showy, clever but never at the expense of a catchy hook, this is 'indie' par excellence: guitars that ring through the mix like a clarion call from the inspired to take up arms against the dunderheaded legions of lad-rockers; buzzing synths that swirl around like a cloud of friendly wasps; lyrics delivered in mantras, summoning forth similar sermons to those once purveyed by the mighty Beta Band."

Read the full BBC review
Watch the official video for Waveforms on YouTube (external link)

- - -

The best of the rest...

Lana Del Rey - Born to Die
(Polydor; released 30 January)
Recommended by: Jo Whiley, Janice Long, 6 Music Album of the Day

"Born to Die isn't perfect: it slumps slightly towards the end, and the glossy trip-hop production grows wearying on lesser gothic melodramas like Dark Paradise. But it's the most distinctive and assured debut since Glasvegas' eponymous disc in 2008, and makes you desperate to see where she goes from here. Del Rey's defenders can take a break: Born to Die does their job better than they could hope to."

Read the full BBC review
Watch the official video for Blue Jeans on YouTube (external link)

The 2 Bears - Be Strong
(Southern Fired; released 30 January)
Recommended by: Kissy Sell Out, 6 Music Album of the Day, Rob da Bank, Nick Grimshaw

"Be Strong, in short, is superb: a joyous amalgam of disco textures and dancefloor stylings which never fail to bring a big grin to your face. A love letter to the last 20-plus years of dance nation sensations which references the finest moments with a cheery and cheeky approach, this is far from a pastiche. In a just world, this set would sell by the bucket-load. So yeah, follow the bears. You know it makes sense."

Read the full BBC review
Watch the official video for Work on YouTube (external link)

The Maccabees - Given to the Wild
(Fiction; released 9 January)
Recommended by: 6 Music Album of the Day, Zane Lowe, Jo Whiley, Radio 1 Review Show, Victoria Derbyshire

"Whether Given to the Wild provides the hoped-for kick up the festival billings this summer remains to be seen - at times the obsessive shading masks a lack of melodic punch - but its makers are right to be proud of it. If only all bands had the guts and honesty of The Maccabees, maybe they'd get round to making third records as good as this."

Read the full BBC review
Watch the official video for Pelican on YouTube (external link)

Chairlift - Something
(Young Turks; released 23 January)
Recommended by: Rob da Bank, Nick Grimshaw

"Far from being the expected hook-shy mope, Something does what so many of us fail to do when romantic endeavours go arse-over-tit. It offers a confident, head-held-high reappraisal of the band's MO, with the newly-promoted Wimberly a more than capable foil for Polachek's songwriting smarts. In producing a focussed follow-up that completely transcends its litigious backstory, Chairlift have summoned a watertight case for the defence with their second LP."

Read the full BBC review
Watch the official video for Amanaemonesia on YouTube (external link)

Leonard Cohen - Old Ideas
(Columbia; released 30 January)
Recommended by: Jarvis Cocker, 6 Music Album of the Day, Bethan Elfyn

"As with any album to which Leonard Cohen puts his name, Old Ideas is a work which displays great finesse. The music presented is gentle, even fragile, with backing vocals and instrumentation similar to that heard during his brace of UK concerts four years ago. But as ever, it is the author's sense of poetic balance that renders this release as being a work of art."

Read the full BBC review
Watch the official video for Show Me the Place on YouTube (external link)

Portico Quartet - Portico Quartet
(Real World Records; released 30 January)
Recommended by: Jamie Cullum, Gilles Peterson, Late Junction

"Everything still sounds familiarly Portico Quartet, only fresh, forward-thinking and a little bit tougher. Their arrangements and wide-open ambience remain sparse, but, on InterRailing-inspired Window Seat, are paired with drifting synths; elsewhere, Ruins and Steepless carry the Radiohead gene always present in their improbably tuneful experiments. As journeys go, this one's endlessly absorbing."

Read the full BBC review
Watch the official video for Ruins on YouTube (external link)

First Aid Kit - The Lion's Roar
(Wichita; released 23 January)
Recommended by: Another Country with Ricky Ross, Tom Robinson, 6 Music Album of the Day, Rob da Bank, Loose Ends

"Johanna and Klara Sodenberg's close harmonies charm unaffectedly, pitched in the mix like the faint voices of songbirds echoing through a woodland scene, and it's difficult to imagine anyone topping this collection in 2012. Sat neatly between Laura Marling's trauma, Alessi's Ark's florid scenes and Joni Mitchell's spot-lit thoughts, First Aid Kit's second album lines them up as the band most likely to cross over into the big time."

Read the full BBC review
Watch the official video for The Lion's Roar on YouTube (external link)

Laura Gibson - La Grande
(City Slang; released 9 January)
Recommended by: 6 Music Album of the Day, Another Country with Ricky Ross, Bethan Elfyn

"Her voice, which has always been pretty, in a vintage, timeless kind of way, reaches new levels here. On songs like The Rushing Dark, call-to-arms Time Is Not and measured, graceful closer Feather Lungs, they add to the record a wonderful old scratched-vinyl quality. This gem of a long-player - both sleepy and steely, mystical yet rooted in very real and universal themes - deserves all the plaudits that will hopefully meet its release."

Read the full BBC review
Watch the official video for La Grande on YouTube (external link)

Errors - Have Some Faith in Magic
(Rock Action; released 30 January)
Recommended by: Marc Riley, Huw Stephens, Vic Galloway, Tom Robinson

"Have Some Faith in Magic is impressively characterised by its very organic design. It sounds as if it's the work of human trial and error, rather than a series of computer-coded phrases and melodies, and it's this fragility that really has it standing out as the work of a band hitting its peak. This is, easily, the Scottish 'post-electro' band's most composed, defined album to date."

Read the full BBC review
Watch the official video for Pleasure Places on YouTube (external link)

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