Archives for December 2009

The Temper Trap - Fader

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:19 UK time, Thursday, 31 December 2009

Temper Trap

It's New Year's Eve, and all over the world people are preparing to gather with their loved ones and see in 2010 with that song about an old Lang and a sign and that funny crossed handshake dance. A lot of people will be making playlists for house parties, and what they will want is a collection of good songs which are neither so distracting that they drive all possible conversation from the room, or so bland that your guests will take over the stereo, or get Rock Band out.

If any of this applies to you, could I humbly suggest that you give this song a chance? It absolutely, definitely will NOT make your party worse, no matter what you're up to, and that's a cast-iron promise.*

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Lostprophets - 'Where We Belong'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:15 UK time, Wednesday, 30 December 2009


I tell you what, if Simon Cowell was looking for a way to capitalise on the events of the last few weeks, he could do worse than consider a song like this for next year's X Factor winner. I mean, you can be fairly sure there's going to be some 'edgier' (for the X Factor) stuff going into next year's show - and yes, there will BE a show, despite what the more carried-away Rage fans may claim.

And what better way to bring the alternative and the mainstream together than a song which is nothing short of a rocked-up, pimped-out re-telling of some of Maroon 5's most epic musical ideas - 'She Will Be Loved' looms quite large - only with lyrics about a long road travelled, a hard battle won, a new page turned and a brave future ahead?

OK, so LOTS of better ways, but this will do for now...

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The Saturdays - 'Ego'

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Grant | 10:24 UK time, Tuesday, 29 December 2009

The Saturdays

(Grant as Roy Walker) Hello Chartblog fans! Mice at the ready, fingers steady, let's get ready to play... Chartblog Catchphrase! Here we go... Mr. Fish is the manager of a girl band called The Saturdays. He dresses them just like his favourite group Girls Aloud, and makes them record music that vaguely resembles said girl group, in the hope of chart success. Mr. Fish releases the band's catalogue, but no single has yet to reach the number one spot. Never-the-less, Mr. Fish perseveres and releases more singles...

Chartblog Vicki: 'Oh, Oh, is it... If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again.'

Sorry Vicki. It's good, but it's not right... And in my very long-winded way of going about it, that pretty much sums up 'Ego' by The Saturdays... It's good, but it's not right...

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Wiley ft. Chew Fu - 'Take That'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:28 UK time, Monday, 28 December 2009


Pop songs have many different jobs. Some are there to be a balm for the soul, some make you feel frisky, some are there to make you think, some are a vent for rage or frustration. And some are there simply to WAKE YOU UP.

This achieves that last goal admirably. Imagine the kind of productivity spurt you'd have if you set this as the alarm sound on whatever impressive alarm clock technology you have in your bedroom? You'd be up and dressed and halfway down your things-to-do list before Wiley gets to mention the Bedford nightclub in which he spotted one of Take That.

And I mean the FIRST time he mentions it, not the second. That's how effective a wake up call this is.

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The Art Of Xmas Parties - With Mini Viva

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:39 UK time, Sunday, 27 December 2009

Mini Viva

A funny thing happened at the beginning of this interview. It took place on the day after Ellie Goulding was announced as the winner of next year's Brit Award for Most Likely Best Newcomer Unless Anyone Really Amazing Comes Along (note: must check title), and as Mini Viva - they of the brilliant 'I Wish' song - will probably have been in the running themselves, I wanted to find out their reaction to the news.

In hindsight, I should probably not have suggested that they throw the phone down, as we shall see. Don't worry though, it gets proper Christmassy before too long, and I'm sure they didn't mean it. No, really, VERY SURE INDEED.

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A Christmassy Chat With James Morrison...

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:10 UK time, Friday, 25 December 2009

James Morrison

When we think of the traditional olde worlde Christmas, with a log burning in the fireplace, and stockings hung with care, and a big real wooden tree next to it, covered in tinsel and glass baubles and nothing made of plastic (except the tinsel) and maybe oranges spiked with cloves and hung from ribbons on there too...well it's a long way from the life of your average pop star, isn't it? I bet Lady GaGa has a Christmas tree made of something pretty startling - like the King of Belgium - with griffin-skin ornaments and an actual real angel at the top.

So thank goodness for dear old James Morrison, a man who knows the value of the old ways, and always keeps a lucky sixpence in his Christmas pud.

I caught up with him a couple of weeks back, to find out how the modern world of 2009 has treated him, and, if I'm honest, also to remind him that he lives in 2009 in the first place.

Here's what happened.

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Julian Casablancas - 'I Wish It Was Christmas Today'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:43 UK time, Thursday, 24 December 2009

Julian Casablancas

It started in the weirdier ends of the American alternative fraternity. Melancholy artists like Low or Sufjan Stevens (ask a snooty music buff) would put out funny little Christmas songs as a way to show their warm, fuzzy underbelly and escape from the weight of their own seriousness.

This is because no-one ever likes to think of themselves as being weighty and heavy-hearted all the time, not even him out of Editors, so throwing yourself back into the excitement of your childhood is a good way of dropping the 'tortured artiste' mask for a bit. Also, Christmas hymns can be pretty melancholy too, so while there's a spiralling double-helix of irony/sincerity about the whole endeavour, it tends to be a win-win for all concerned.

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Paloma Faith - 'Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful?'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:46 UK time, Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Paloma Faith

Truth please.

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The Age Of Rage

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Fraser McAlpine | 12:16 UK time, Monday, 21 December 2009

Zac De La Rocha and Simon Cowell in Santa hats

ChartBloggers, you join me at a sombre moment. This has not been a good weekend for me, and to be frank, reality TV is to blame. You see, I have backed the wrong horse, I've put my money where my mouth is, and it has all backfired horribly.

Yes, I had Ricky Whittle in the Strictly Come Dancing office sweepstake, and even though he is CLEARLY a better dancer than Chris Hollins, the public vote did not reflect this. OH UNIMAGINABLE WOE! There's now a gap in my pocket where there could be SIXTEEN WHOLE POUNDS, and it is all thanks to THE PEOPLE.

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Cheryl Cole - '3 Words'

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Vicki Vicki | 10:10 UK time, Monday, 21 December 2009

Cheryl Cole

When I was in year 7, we were asked to write a song for our music class. Everyone's was pretty good, but mine (even if I do say so myself) was really rather something to behold, featuring the lyrics: "Take me up to the sky, oh baby/take me up where the eagles fly". I know. Deep, right? One of the proudest moments of that year and indeed of my LIFE for me was when we were chosen to perform it in assembly with just a bongo drum that none of us knew how to play for accompaniment.

Why do I bring this up now? Well, other than to prove my incredible song writing credentials to the world ("music's always been my life, y'know, even from like the age of 12"), it's because for all the haunting effects and dark undertones of '3 Words', at the end of the day it does sound like something you could have made up when you were at school, doesn't it?

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Beyoncé & Lady GaGa - 'Video Phone'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:06 UK time, Saturday, 19 December 2009

Beyonce & Lady GaGa

Time for another special guest review from Kay Smith...

Let's be honest - Beyoncé's got a lot more competition nowadays, hasn't she? Before there was the other two girls, y'know, Kelly and whatsername... the other one, and Madame Knowles took centre stage, and her rare beauty, powerful voice (and father/manager) always ensured that she was the one everyone would be talking about.

Now Beyoncé's faced with fresher talent such as the edgy and beautiful Rihanna; the outrageous and daring Lady GaGa; and big, big voices like Leona Lewis and Jennifer Hudson. Yeah, she's always had some competition from other strong female singers / performers, or 'divas', if we must, but there are more of them around now.

Not that this is a bad thing, and nor am I saying that the hugely talented Beyoncé isn't good enough anymore. In fact, I think stars like Rihanna have made Beyoncé up her game a notch, followed by GaGa, who then stormed in and set the whole 'diva' thing on fire, before shaking up the ashes and chucking them into the wind, while giggling hysterically.

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Santaio Cruz Is Coming To Town...

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:41 UK time, Friday, 18 December 2009

Santaio Claus

As the last few doors are clawed off advent calendars, and panic that you won't get everything done before the big day starts to keep you up nights, it's always nice to have a little sit down and take stock of the passing year before it draws fully to a close. Maybe with a hot drink, and a biscuit.

So, with that in mind, I asked Taio Cruz to offer some of his personal highlights of 2009, the year in which he developed a taste for a chart-topping hit, and then gorged on them like a hungry child with his face in a cake.

As you can see, he was only too happy to oblige (eventually)...

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Passion Pit - 'Little Secrets'

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Grant | 11:33 UK time, Thursday, 17 December 2009

Passion Pit

Every year I feel myself maturing musically. This doesn't mean I get any better at singing, or dancing, or indeed being able to play any musical instrument whatsoever (apart from the Vibraslap). It just means I start to understand what I think is important to appreciate and value from the music I buy... basically what trend I'm going to follow like a chart sheep.

It's usually when people start asking what CDs* I want for Christmas, I start to plan out what musical journey I'll take that year. For me, 2009 was the year of R'n'D music (R'n'B/dance), which didn't work out to be that good a trend to follow, or possibly a trend at all. But I'm more confident 2010 will be different. This can't go wrong. 2010 is definitely going to be the year of HappyMusic© and Passion Pit are going to be one of the groups leading the way.

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Joe McElderry - 'The Climb'

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Fraser McAlpine | 12:06 UK time, Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Joe McElderry

Here's ChartBlog's resident X Factor expert - Steve Perkins - on the song of the show of the controversy of the moment.

Well, this is a bit of a novelty - it's not often I review the same song twice in the space of a year, unless I'm having a particularly forgetful spell. And interestingly, when I reviewed the Miley Cyrus original (and wow, I really didn't think I'd be using the phrase "the Miley Cyrus original" for at least another five years), I mentioned that it sounded rather like the sort of song they give the American Idol winner to perform.

Okay, so I said American Idol rather than X Factor, but hey, that's too close to be a coincidence, right? Mr Cowell, if you're reading this, I expect either payment for my services or to be credited as 'creative consultant' on series seven. (Or even better, let me replace Louis Walsh on the judging panel. G'wan. Please?)

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Mini Viva - 'I Wish'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:43 UK time, Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Mini Viva

Pop music is becoming more and more of a cut-throat arena for performers. Now that downloads have destroyed the CD single market AND the idea that an album is anything more than a convenient way to lump a bunch of songs together in a folder, and everyone follows their immediate instinct to buy the song which is earworming around their head, the pressure is on to make songs which GRAB the attention and NEVER LET GO.

And, moments of genuine astonishing inspiration being as short in supply as they ever were (ie. very) this leaves Johnny Pop Star with a limited number of options when it comes to making their potential chart smash stand out from the crowd.

They can make their song louder, weirder, more shrill, more NEEDY than everyone else's, or they can make it BETTER. One's relatively easy, the other's much harder.

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Thoughts About Rage Against The Machine vs X Factor

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Fraser McAlpine | 17:42 UK time, Monday, 14 December 2009

Zac De La Rocha from Rage Against The Machine and Simon Cowell

First of all, I should throw my hat into the ring and explain that I do not mind who is Christmas No.1. The concept of a festive chart-topper being an icon of a golden age, a holy institution that needs protecting from the dead hand of commerce is not one I can ever remember happening. It has always been dominated by the biggest forces in popular music - because it's the No.1 selling single for that week, duh! - and a target for cheap cash-ins and novelty nonsense.

Just because the biggest force in popular music used to be the performers, and it's now the TV execs who make the show that finds the performer is neither here nor there, nothing has actually changed, and therefore nothing is likely to change 'back' to how it was before. It wasn't like that before, so how could it?

And the hallowed Christmas No.1 only works as an embodiment of the spirit of Christmas because Christmas itself does contain a lot of excitement about stuff which, if you look at it with a vinegary eye, is just disposable and shiny, much like pop music itself. It's a perfect fit.

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Chipmunk ft. Talay Riley - 'Look For Me'

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Fraser McAlpine | 12:32 UK time, Sunday, 13 December 2009


I'm a bit of a sucker for songs which essentially say "hey you, are you down in the dumps? Life not treating you well? Oh dear. I expect I could do a thing or two to help you out, if you like, cos you're a smasher, you really are".

There have been a few down the years - 'You've Got A Friend', 'Everybody Hurts', 'Lean On Me', probably one by Travis - all saying roughly the same thing, and they always cut through and cause involuntary swelling in the chestal region, a moistening of the eyeward area, and a tightening of the throatal membranes. It's like an allergic reaction or something.

Christmas is, of course, a perfect time to release another one.

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Shakira - 'Did It Again'

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Fraser McAlpine | 12:28 UK time, Saturday, 12 December 2009


One of the most reassuring things about a new Shakira song is that she's reliably eccentric when it comes to her lyrics. We've all got our favourite examples, haven't we? And while 'Did It Again' is admittedly no 'She Wolf' (the line "darling it is no joke, this is lycanthropy" is one of my pop highlights of the year), it's good to see that even when tackling more conventional subjects like no-good men, Shakira still makes an effort to approach the whole subject a bit differently.

Or at least, I assume it's an effort. It might just be what she is like...

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Chuckie & LMFAO - 'Let The Bass Kick In Miami Girl'

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Fraser McAlpine | 11:49 UK time, Friday, 11 December 2009

DJ Chuckie

Of all the trends to hit the 2009 music world, the one I'll be gladdest to see the back of - gladder than even autotune, which is saying EVERYTHING - is that thing of using a certain word as the hook for your club banger - the female dog one - and then replacing it with "girl" so that your song can get played on the radio/TV.

*looks pointedly at Akon/David Guetta*

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Bandito - 'Rockin' At The Disco'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:53 UK time, Thursday, 10 December 2009


"Fraser," said the nice friendly PR person, "y'know how you did that interview with Basshunter and you got on OK with him?"

"Er, yes", said the astonishing and charismatic blogger, slightly warily.

"Well, you should really check out this great new single from Bandito, cos it's like a junior version of Basshunter..."

That's right, you read it here first. A junior version of Basshunter. Basshunter for even YOUNGER people than the people who currently enjoy his work. The kind of Basshunter whose songs are uncluttered by adult concerns and difficult-to-pronounce long words. The kind of Basshunter who maybe spells out some of the words in his song, so that his audience doesn't get all confused and have to have a bit of a sit down with a biscuit and a cup of squash.

You've heard of teenagers, you've heard of tweenagers, you've even heard of ten-agers, well keep going until you hit nappy, and you're nearly there.

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Pixie Lott - 'Cry Me Out'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:31 UK time, Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Pixie Lott

Am I the only person who is slightly unnerved by really talented children? Surely not. There's just something about the way prodigious talent manifests itself at a young age which is at one and the same time impressive, but can I put this?..somehow AGAINST THE VERY FABRIC OF REALITY AS WE KNOW AND UNDERSTAND IT.

Child actors can get away with it better than child mathematicians, because even non-prodigious kids do like to pretend to be other people. Child singers, on the other hand, are more unsettling than either, especially if they're REALLY good, cos the voice normally takes a while to develop and the ability to hold a tune is among the last of your vocal qualities to arrive.

Also, most music demands an understanding of things which are not normally within a child's frame of reference - intense longing (and not just for sweets), passion, loss, fury, betrayal - so even if you can hit the notes, selling the emotion of the song is another thing entirely.

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Janet Jackson - 'Make Me'

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Fraser McAlpine | 11:00 UK time, Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Janet Jackson

Grief makes people do funny things. Grieving in the public eye is even worse, because no matter how you choose to handle it, there will always be someone writing some snarky column somewhere about how undignified you are. They will probably trot out some variation on the phrases "is that what [person who died] would want?" or "barely in his/her grave", or even throw the word "spinning" in there, just to really stick the boot in.

In the case of Janet Jackson and her brother Michael, there's even less chance of telling right from wrong, because everything is viewed through the prism of massive celebrity and a voracious entertainment industry which is more than willing to turn a tragedy into a business opportunity.

Or, to put it into simple terms: "Hey, everyone, Janet Jackson has a new greatest hits CD out! And she's done a new song! A song which refers to Michael a bit! Come see!"

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3OH!3 feat. Katy Perry 'Starstrukk'

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Vicki Vicki | 09:55 UK time, Monday, 7 December 2009


If there's two things you might deduce from looking at my past reviews, it's that a) although I like to think I have a fairly diverse music taste, if I'm reviewing an emo/electro tune I'll probably end up liking it and b) I always manage to make the opening paragraph about me.

Well, ENOUGH'S ENOUGH! NO MORE! Things around here are going to change and I will not pander to this format I have created for myself any longer, I tell you!

*Looks at what I have written for the opening paragraph*

Ahhh, crap! Okay, it may be too late for b), but it's certainly not to late to change a)... is it?

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Mumford and Sons - 'Winter Wind'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:50 UK time, Sunday, 6 December 2009

Mumford and Sons

If the anti-PC brigade were correct, and there was actually such a thing as 'winterval' - there isn't, but don't let that spoil the spluttering - this would make an amazing Christmas carol equivalent. It's quietly optimistic, pleased without being smug, melancholy but uplifting. It is sure of itself, but only because all the lessons learned have been hard-won, and generally reflective of times gone by.

It's also in waltz time*, a bit like 'Away In A Manger', and lends itself well to massed harmonies, just like 'Silent Night'. And it's less sweary than 'Fairytale Of New York' while still being authentic real music, played by real musicians in a real band, so the kiddie rocksnobs will be pleased.

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Alicia Keys - 'Doesn't Mean Anything'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:14 UK time, Saturday, 5 December 2009

Alicia Keys

I would hate to work in a CD shop right now. Every day, you'd be putting amazing new music out on the shelves, enjoying the fact that your passion and your paypacket come from the same place, and not even really minding that it's Christmas time and therefore the queues start to snake all across the shop before you've even had your morning tea break.

But over there in the corner, where the CD singles sit, mournfully, in between one massive wall of Wii and X-Box games, and another massive wall of DVDs, there's bound to be a snickering bunch of kids, sometimes all boys, sometimes a young couple, sometimes two girls with a haughty demeanour. They've spotted something, and it's making them point and giggle....

"Look! Look! 'Alicia Keys Doesn't Mean Anything'...HA! She DOESN'T MEAN ANYTHING, yeah?"

It is at this point that you count your blessings that you don't live in America, cos otherwise the high-fiving might well send you over the edge...

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Robbie Williams - 'You Know Me'

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Grant | 10:34 UK time, Friday, 4 December 2009

Robbie Williams

Finding the right choice for your second hit single is a tough nut to crack. Often, after reasonable chart success from their first release, many artists unleash their second into the public domain claiming... 'This really is my type of music. If you like this, you'll love the album'. These so called 'artists' usually disappear from the chart radar within weeks, destined to play the rest of their lives in pub basements, with 30 fans paying 3 quid entry to hear their one-hit, and wonder what happened. It's a pet peeve of mine: Pretentious 'artists' using one commercially successful song to pave the way for utter musical slobber. Wait for it Robbie fans, the verdict's coming...

Yes. Of course Robbie 'megastar' Williams is in a different league. Sure, he's been experimental at times (that tracksuit in 'Rudebox'), and been guilty of 'making his type of music', ignoring his fans. BUT as second-single-into-a-big-comeback releases go, this is actually as perfect a choice as he could have made.

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All Time Low - 'Damned If I Do Ya (Damned If I Don't)'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:14 UK time, Thursday, 3 December 2009

All Time Low

Look at this picture. See matey at the front there? See his snarky expression? That's the pop punk face. That facial arrangement alone, right there, defines how the band sound. If you didn't know what kind of band All Time Low were, and the name wasn't already a pretty huge clue, this picture would be all anyone would ever need to work it out.

That's not a criticism, by the way, everyone does it. Metal bands do that "GAAAHHH! SATAN HAS NAILED MY FOOT TO A MIGHTY HEDGEHOG!" face, girlbands suck imaginary lollipops, rappers furrow their brows like they're trying to work out the square root of mulligatawny soup, indie bands stare blearily as if they've been up all night finishing a history essay and pop punk bands pull that kind of quizzical half-sneer.

It's like a trademark or something. It says: "dude, chillax! I'm, like, ironic and junk? Even the stuff I care about, I DON'T care about, yeah?"

It's up to you to decide whether you care about that or not.

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Lily Allen - 'Who'd Have Known'

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Fraser McAlpine | 17:04 UK time, Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Lily Allen

So, the smoke's clearing and the noise is dying down. Lily's walked away from the internet, refuses to interact with the people who were calling her names, or indeed anyone who isn't right in front of her face or on her phone, and has claimed she's giving up music too.

Personally, I don't care if she never looks at Twitter ever again, but if she's serious about the music thing, that's awful. Cos no matter what you may think about the things she says about the hot topics of the day, as a living, breathing, songwriting, singing, sentient Pop Star, Lily Allen is pretty hard to beat.

We need more of her kind, not less, and frankly, Kate Nash and Pixie Lott aren't quite up to par.

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Susan Boyle - 'Wild Horses'

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Fraser McAlpine | 13:46 UK time, Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Susan Boyle

Now that the public have been allowed to vote on whether they think SuBo is here to stay or not, using their actual money (and let's be clear here, LOTS of it), we've decided to bring in a fresh judging panel, taken from industry experts, to cast their view of her first musical efforts in a proper Britain's Got Strict Factor style. This is the very last thing she will expect.

Now, it would be entirely wrong to suggest that the industry we have pulled our panel from is anything to do with music, but they are, in their own way, all experts. Simon Cowell is going to be QUAKING in his BOOTS, I tell you.

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