Archives for January 2009

Tommy Reilly - 'Gimme A Call'

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Fraser McAlpine | 09:24 UK time, Friday, 30 January 2009

Tommy ReillyThe makers of Channel 4's T4 Unsigned Band show would like us all to believe that what they do exists in a parallel (and significantly cooler) universe to the smoke/mirrors, boom/bust, pantomime dame/pantomime horse nonsense of the X Factor. They've even brought in Alex Bloody Zane, just to really hammer the point home.

His presence says "hey, kids, we're on a proper talent search here. Never mind the showbiz flimflam, this is all about grit. It's about REAL PEOPLE playing REAL MUSIC to OTHER REAL PEOPLE (and Alex James, who is clearly SURREAL PEOPLE)."

The irony of course being that everyone involved in the show is so keen to prove that they exist outside of the rules of normal society - they are really creative, actually - that the very last thing you could ever call them is real.

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Fun With Press Releases No. 21

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Fraser McAlpine | 13:39 UK time, Thursday, 29 January 2009

Press releases

Jem - 'Down To Earth'

"After the release of her debut in 2005, Jem may have been heading down the Portishead or Daniel Day Lewis path of prolificacy..."

What? It's a word. It means 'the degree to which you are prolific'. This sentence is actually slightly sarcastical, if you examinate it with properment. And what this goes to emproverate is that it is perfectly possible to write with ironicacy and eloquencity if you've got the right amount of vocabulariousness.

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Daniel Merriweather - 'Change'

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Vicki Vicki | 11:14 UK time, Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Daniel MerriweatherWhen Fraser asked me to review Daniel Merriweather's new single, 'Change', I pleaded ignorance. What was this song about? Fashion? Greenpeace? Loose coins? Of course, I recognised his name (it's pretty distinctive) and I even knew his face (it's pretty fit), but that was it.

So it was a surprise to me when, as I was casually typing away at my desk and loudly singing along to the radio, a colleague, Chris (he'll want to be name checked), said to me: "Isn't this the song you're meant to be reviewing?"

"No," I said, "This is that train song. I'm reviewing one called 'Change'"
"The 'train' song?!"
"Yeah. 'Ain't nothing on a train'"
I sang along.
"Err, Vicki, its called 'Change'"
"Well, that's weird"
I said, "Why would they call it that? Especially when the chorus is clearly 'ain't nothing on a...' Oh."

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Akon, Reggie and Perfect Egg-Rolls

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Fraser McAlpine | 17:53 UK time, Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Akon & Reggie & Egg Roll

It's a very simple formula for radio magic, just take one silver-tongued presenter, add a cocky pop star with a bag full of food, and throw in a bunch of irreverent questions. And yet - as this chat between Reggie Yates and the mighty Akon proves - it's also a startlingly effective one.

Am I mistaken, or is Mr Reg perhaps a little excited to be speaking to such a major showbiz player? Maybe he was just hungry...

Listen to the interview right here.

These are my personal highlights:

Highlight One
Reggie: "When did music get in the way of brain surgery?"

Highlight Two
Akon: "You do 12 years of high school..."
(If only because it would mean another nine High School Musical films)

Highlight Three
Reggie: "'Scuse me, Loverman..."


Akon is also available in website form...

The View - 'Shock Horror'

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Fraser McAlpine | 11:14 UK time, Tuesday, 27 January 2009

The ViewGiven the extent to which the View dedicate themselves to making their music - in much the same way that a dog dedicates itself to fetching a thrown stick - it would be entirely wrong to give this record a fair-to-middling mark. Any reviewer hoping to capture something about the experience of listening to the band would have to go to the extremes, where they tend to work best, and make his or her judgement based on whether their unhinged racket is something they want to hear more of, or less.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying that the View should be treated as a love/hate proposition, if only because they really don't care what you think either way.

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Fraser McAlpine | 16:57 UK time, Monday, 26 January 2009

Britney Spears - GaggedSo, we were talking last week about Britney Spears smuggling a rude message into her song 'If You Seek Amy', and whether radio stations should feel obliged to play it, even though it's a kind of schoolyard provocation*, and therefore tantamount to bullying (if you really overthink things).

Well, it seems a solution has arrived, in form of a rerecorded version of the song, especially for the radio. Instead of singing "all of the boys and all of the girls are begging to if you seek Amy" and offending crossword puzzlers the world over, Britney will now sing "if you see Amy".

This is clearly much better because now the innocent interpretation of the line will make as much sense as it ever did (ie: none), and the dirty version will have Britney singing "F. U. C. A." instead of, er... *blushes*

Which is palpable nonsense, but not actual obscenity.

To get a full perspective on the ramifications of such a change, I spoke to Steve Perkins, ChartBlog's Britney correspondent, and he said: "I do not approve. "All of the boys and all of the girls are begging to F.U.C.A. me?" RUBBISH. JUST RELEASE 'AMNESIA', ALREADY.

There. I think that's all sorted out now. *dusts hands*

*It's not unlike that game where you go up to a girl and say "are you a pig?" and when they say no, you sneer at them and go "Uhhh! You're not a Pretty Intelligent Girl!", and then run off.

Ida Maria - 'Oh My God'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:40 UK time, Monday, 26 January 2009

["Hey Hazel," I said, hopefully, "do you wanna take a crack at the new single by Ida Maria? It's a re-tweaked version of her UK debut, and I think you'll really like it..."

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear... - Fraser]

Ida MariaIt's worth reiterating at the start of this review that reviewers' opinions are subjective and all their own and you may not agree with them. Fraser, I know, isn't going to agree with me about this one and like him, many people clearly enjoy the musical works of Ida Maria. Equally, there must be at least a few other people who, like me, want to throw things out the window at the sound of this song.

I'm sure she's a lovely lady and has the best possible musical intentions. What I'm not sure of is why, of all the mind-bogglingly amazing music across all genres (from black metal to electropop) that comes out of Norway, anyone in their right mind is championing something that sounds like a rubbish version of 'Apply Some Pressure' by Maximo Park (and I LIKE Maximo Park).

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ChartBlog Goes To Sound

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Fraser McAlpine | 16:37 UK time, Friday, 23 January 2009

Sound sign

It's been a while since I got out my trusty ChartBlog travel pad and gossip pencil, and left my desk for a rummage around the world of showbusiness, to see if I can't rustle up some interesting observations about pop stars and what they are like in the bits of their day job when they are not actually performing.

As you will see if you read this, the issue of whether I can or cannot rustle up these facts may prove to be a thorny one. Nevertheless, I can EXCLUSIVELY REVEAL that I did go to the filming of this week's Sound (starring the very lovely Nick 'Grimmy' Grimshaw, and Annie 'Annie Mac' Mac), and that their special musical guest this week was Lily Allen.

I have no photos of any of these people to prove this is the case. But it did.

Now, who wants to know what happened?

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Tinchy Stryder ft. Taio Cruz - 'Take Me Back'

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Fraser McAlpine | 18:40 UK time, Thursday, 22 January 2009

Tinchy StryderTinchy Stryder - Crazy Name, Crazy Guy, right? Straight out of the mean streets of Middle Earth. A grime Hobbit, complete with the big hairy feet and trail of mutilated Orc flesh in his wake, but surprisingly compact in real life. And I'm not just being flippant, his real name actually is Kwasi, so, y'know...

AND Tinchy Stryder is an anagram of 'Dry Thy Cretins', or 'Cry Trendy Hits'. Which are both the kind of statements which would pass for a manifesto, if you had to write a manifesto on Twitter, in a hurry, using a very small keypad.

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Ever Had A Dream Come True?

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Fraser McAlpine | 12:45 UK time, Wednesday, 21 January 2009

S Club 7

Imagine you are one of the former members of a well-regarded (but no longer with us) pop band. You've had the dream ticket, where some of your hits are still being played and remembered fondly (unlike, say, A1), and you came out of a hit teen TV show, so a lot of people grew up with you, which means you're with them forever, sort of.

But, the pop career has come to an end - either because you were never really solo star material or you've already done reality TV and failed to endear yourself to the public at large (to say the least). So what do you do to pay the bills?

Well, have you thought about getting the band back together? It worked for Take That, after all. And Boyzone. Why wouldn't it work for you?

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The Days - 'No Ties'

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Fraser McAlpine | 17:59 UK time, Tuesday, 20 January 2009

The DaysY'know, the most unsettling thing about watching TV shows like Channel 4's Unsigned Act thing - apart from the yawning gulf between what bands are like when they play music to enjoy themselves and what bands are like when they play music in order to get a record deal - is that it shows you what life might be like in an alternate reality.

Not in a Philip Pullman, Dark Materials sense, where evolution is run differently and some animals have wheels, the really freaky stuff happens when you see the effect last year's musical influences are having on this year's bands. Like the band who demonstrates what the Kooks would be like if their singer had been born with a better voice, but was worse at songwriting. Or another band who come on like the Ting Tings and then play like 50 Cent.

It plays havoc with your reference points, and can be terribly confusing.

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Kardinal Offishall's Advice For Young Rappers

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Fraser McAlpine | 17:57 UK time, Monday, 19 January 2009

Kardinal OffishallNever let it be said that Kardinal Offishall is just making it up as he goes along. The man's got plans, he's got schemes, there are campaign strategies and a great big war room, complete with a map of the world, and coloured pins to represent every single person who he was won over with his mad rapping skills.

Don't believe me? Well, that's probably a good idea, but it's definitely true that he has a very clear idea of what is expected of an up and coming rap star in this day and age, particularly one who hopes to makes as big a splash as his mentor Akon.

So, if you've ever entertained the thought that you have something to offer in the microphone skills department, it would probably be a good idea to cock an ear to what Kardinal has to say. Luckily, I have interviewed him, just for such an eventuality...

And if you haven't, well there's some information here about his next single, which uses part of 'The Tide Is High', although not the part that Atomic Kitten shoe-horned into the song when they had a bash at it. I wonder why..?

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Lily Allen - 'The Fear'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:17 UK time, Monday, 19 January 2009

Lily AllenTo say this single has been eagerly anticipated is a bit like saying Simon Cowell has got a few quid in the bank - I've been following the genesis of Album No.2 on the internet as it's been through its various title changes and various potential lead singles that the actual act of sitting down to listen to the official lead single actually made me slightly fearful. What if it didn't live up to expectations, eh? What then?

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TV On The Radio...No, Really!

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Fraser McAlpine | 09:30 UK time, Sunday, 18 January 2009

Switch LaptopNew and exciting developments in technology have arrived here at Radio 1, of the sort that may change the way you enjoy the radio forever more. So, y'know, strap yourselves in, because The Future has arrived, and you may need to mind your toes, as it is wearing pretty big boots...

OK, that's possibly overstating the case. But if you tune into this Sunday's Switch With Annie & Nick on Radio 1, you won't have to use your imagination to create pictures in your head, based on the things you can hear, because you will be able to see everything! Right before your very PC screen!

As part of Radio 1's Visualisation week, Switch will be getting the full multi-camera experience, which means that you'll be able to see everything in real time, as it actually happens.

So, in order to make the most of it, they've organised a sumo competition between Grimmy and Annie.

That's right, the twin giants of Planet Switch will be fighting each other, for your entertainment. While Daniel Merriweather looks on, terrified.*

If you can think of a better way to spend your time between 7 and 9pm, we shall all just have to deal with it as best we can. But you're wrong!

For an example of the kind of astonishing entertainment you can expect, here's what happened when Will Smith met up with Chris Moyles, earlier in the week.

*Or pleased. You'll have to watch to find out.

Fall Out Boy - 'America's Suitehearts'

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Fraser McAlpine | 11:33 UK time, Saturday, 17 January 2009

Fall Out BoyFall Out Boy's new album, 'Folie A Deux', is very, very good. I know this is true because myself and Fraser had a discussion about this very thing, only the other day and also because when I heard this was the new single, I immediately thought "Aw, rubbish! It could have been 'Headfirst Slide Into Cooperstown On A Bad Bet' or '(Coffee's For Closers)' or 'She's My Winona' or 'What A Catch, Donnie' or 'The (Shipped) Gold Standard'" and then thought about it a bit more and realised that although all of those songs are technically better than this, this is still a four-star song.

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Jay Sean - 'Tonight'

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Fraser McAlpine | 17:56 UK time, Friday, 16 January 2009

Jay SeanOK, before we get into talking about the relative merits of the song itself, would you mind taking a quick look at the video? It's just there are some interesting things going on here and we're going to need to think about them a bit. Don't worry, it won't take long, and it could be beneficial. In fact, the future of popular music as we know it could well depend on our scientific findings.

Although, to be fair, it probably will not.

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When Is Swearing Not Swearing After All?

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:31 UK time, Thursday, 15 January 2009

Britney Spears - Gagged

Media Studies students, prepare to copy and paste your heart out...

One of the trickiest aspects of broadcasting - whether on TV, radio or in a webular fashion - is when people who are not your target audience get to experience the thing that you do, and pass judgement on it.

For example, if I write something for ChartBlog, it's on the understanding that the people who like ChartBlog will broadly get what I'm on about, and trust that I won't lead them into areas that will make them feel uncomfortable, or scared. That's the basic idea on which all communications work, and goes tenfold for the broadcast media.

The trouble is, it's hard enough to work out what those areas may be for an audience of like-minded people who broadly approve of what you do. It's practically impossible if you have to factor in their younger siblings, parents, and people who are not only hostile to your work, but also the people you work for, for reasons which are nothing to do with what it is that you're actually doing.

It's OK though, I've got broad shoulders, I can take it. In fact I only mention this because it adds a certain amount of perspective to the (not particularly huge) row which is brewing in the States over the next song Britney Spears is going to release from her current album 'Circus'.

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Girls Aloud - 'The Loving Kind'

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Fraser McAlpine | 11:14 UK time, Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Girls AloudIf you believe the bloggarel, Girls Aloud stand accused of having made a more mature album, reflecting their status as pop royalty, and the passing of the years. This, as with a lot of things people say on the internet, is cack. One of the last songs on 'Out Of Control' contains a mooing noise for God's sake!

And just because when I first heard the album I mistook this one for kind of boring and therefore didn't bother with the rest of it for about a week doesn't mean I'm about to be completely inconsistent.

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Franz Ferdinand - 'Ulysses'

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Fraser McAlpine | 09:26 UK time, Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Franz FerdinandIt says something about just how narrow-minded and conservative the indie mindset can be when it still counts as revolutionary for a guitar band to consider using synthesizers as a way of pepping up their new songs. And not in a Crystal Castles art terrorist kind of way either. No these are just your common or garden pop synths, of the sort you might hear on the songs of 'manufactured' 'pop' 'puppets' like the Sugababes or something.

Not that it's a bad idea - synths are brilliant, just like guitars are brilliant - it's just the hyperbole that comes with it that's bizarre. Franz get the credit for being forward-thinking pop boffins, just for thinking outside of a ridiculously small box. A box which only exists within the pages of the NME, and even then, only for fans of a certain type of band.

As self-reinvention goes, it's hardly David Bowie, now is it?

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How To Have A No.1 Hit Single Using Pizza...

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Fraser McAlpine | 16:11 UK time, Monday, 12 January 2009

Beyonce, plus pizza

Songwriters! If you've ever been stuck for inspiration and wondered how to jump-start your muse, why not just take a walk to your local pizza parlour, grab a bite to eat and settle down with a pen and a pad. That's how it worked for BC Jean, the lady who came up with the idea for Beyoncé's smash hit 'If I Were A Boy'. All it took was the idea of some lunch, a chance comment to her writing-partner Toby Gad, and the rest is cash in the bank.

Now, I know what you're thinking, how hard can it actually be to come up with ideas for Beyoncé songs, seeing as they are almost all about the essential rubbishness of boys? It's a fairly well-trodden path after all (despite what seems to be a very solid relationship with Jay-Z).

This is where the pizza comes in.

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Bryn Cristopher - 'Fearless'

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Fraser McAlpine | 09:59 UK time, Monday, 12 January 2009

Bryn ChristopherIt's a bit cold outside at the moment, isn't it? I've been trying all kinds of techniques to try to help me keep warm - I've been putting extra jumpers on, making draft excluders out of spare carrier bags, all that sort of thing. It's quite considerate of Bryn Christopher, in these circumstances, to do his best to help us stimulate the circulation by releasing a midwinter tune that easily merits the term 'heart-warming'.

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Extremely Late Christmas Leftovers...

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Fraser McAlpine | 15:09 UK time, Thursday, 8 January 2009

Yes, yes, so twelfth night has been and gone, all the decorations are down and we're stuck in the middle of what feels like another ice age (only without the cartoon sloth). But what if there was a lost festive nugget from the pre-Christmas age that you should really unwrap, but you'd only just found it down the back of the virtual tree?

That's right, you just tear off the paper and get stuck in, right?

This is what it sounds like when Fearne and Reggie from the Radio 1 Chart Show give each other (and producer Laura) presents while the Sugababes rehearse an acoustic version of a Christmas favourite in the background. It manages to contain things which are both sublime AND ridiculous.

It's up to you to decide which is which...


Fearne and Reggie are attempting to talk to the technicians in the BBC's Maida Vale studios, where the Sugababes are. They are NOT claiming to be made of ale. That would be very messy.

That's right, Reggie got a knee-mug for Christmas.

This little slice of audio magic was not created using clever studio trickery (beyond the clever studio trickery used to record it in the first place). Quite why anyone would waste their time faking up the sound of Reggie grunting in the style of what I like to call 'The Rapper's Agreement'* is beyond me, but it's best to be clear.

The Bespoke gift Fearne got Reg is a keyring in the shape of a luminous gun.

Although you can't hear it happen, Fearne did get some presents too. Reg got her a cake dish in the shape of a skull, for gothic birthday parties.


*'The Rapper's Agreement' - the positive noises made by a rapper when a song has begun but there is no rapping required as yet. Commonly features the words "yeah!", "uh!" and "uhuh!"

Kid Cudi vs. Crookers - 'Day 'N' Nite'

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Fraser McAlpine | 13:46 UK time, Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Kid CudiAll you can ever really ask of a song is that it manages to stand out in a crowd. In some respects, this is actually more important than whether it's a good song or not, as there are no end of solid, well-performed, easy-on-the-ear songs being released all the time. If there is nothing about them which is provocative, ticklish, different or unsettling, there is nothing for the brain to interact with.

Unfortunately, there is a short cut which circumnavigates all of this, reduces your work-load by a huge margin, and possibly even brings you out ahead of the pack, and that is to make your magnum opus a) moronic and b) irritating.

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Lady GaGa ft. Colby O'Donis - 'Just Dance'

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Fraser McAlpine | 14:26 UK time, Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Lady GaGaIf I can offer you one piece of advice when it comes to the listening and enjoyment of music in all it's many forms, it's this. NEVER do your research. If you went off and read the bare facts about how Lady GaGa came to be singing this song, and who for, and how it came to be the way it is before listening to it, it would almost certainly destroy it.

This is because, on paper, it's just another one of those Akon-affiliated mid-tempo dance-hop tunes which rely on his heavily-reverbed squeal and lyrics about going crackers in a night-club situation. He does about 23 of them before breakfast every DAY, after all.

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Chart Report - 04/01/09

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Fraser McAlpine | 16:43 UK time, Monday, 5 January 2009

Top 5 High 5

What with Christmas and everything, it's been a little while since we Top 5 High 5-ed, which is probably no bad thing, given the intensity of feeling there was surrounding Alexandra and her 'Hallelujah' cover. The shouting was really quite fierce for a while there.

Now we've all had a chance to calm down, how is everyone doing? Would you like to slap the screen in approval or slap the faces of the individuals in the Top 5?

Here there are in talkywordingform, in case you don't recognise the hitmakers in question:

1: Alexandra Burke - 'Hallelujah'
2: Leona Lewis - 'Run'
3: Lady Gaga ft. Colby O'Donis - 'Just Dance'
4: Beyonce - 'If I Were A Boy'
5: James Morrison & Nelly Furtado - 'Broken Strings'

Be warned though, the more people shout about Simon Cowell ruining the race for the Christmas No.1, the more tempted I am to go back through the list of previous festive chart-toppers and point out that it had already been comprehensively ruined by Westlife, the Spice Girls, Bob The Builder and so on.

So, are we happy or are we sad?

The Saturdays - 'Issues'

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Fraser McAlpine | 11:20 UK time, Monday, 5 January 2009

The SaturdaysHow I would love to have been an invisible spectator (and inaudible...and unsmellable, for that matter) when the chorus to this song was first being put together. Someone has clearly taken a shine to the expression "you've got issues", which came out of a boom in psychotherapy in the '70s, and is used to describe those mental injuries that come with extreme emotional situations, and which you just can't shift, so they become part of your personality.

So, to say you and your heart have got issues is a perfect shorthand for being massively unlucky in love, and therefore perfect for a pop song.

The trouble is it's a swine to find a decent rhyme for.

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