Alesha Dixon - 'Drummer Boy'
OK, quick discussion topic: what's the best way to tell if you like a song which sounds, on first listen, like a bit of a dog's breakfast?
Is it that you find yourself still pondering it, some minutes after it has finished? Is it that you find you have to immediately go back and listen again? Or are you so overwhelmed that you have to go and put something familiar and soothing on instead? Is it that it makes you laugh? Or cry? Or be sick?
For me, it is simply whether I find I have turned the volume up all the way through the song, all the better to pay closer attention to what is going on. This is so that I can try and divine the heartbeat of the thing, to work out what the people who wrote it think is good about it. To do this you've sometimes got to wade through some of the production murk and ignore the more bizarre bits.
With this song, I ran out of up to turn it before the second chorus. By the end I couldn't tell if my internal joyclaps were enjoyment or relief that the ordeal was finally over.
(Here's the video. I think you need a better painter too. This one is messy.)
I have since revised my opinion and am delighted to report that it is enjoyment all the way.
The great thing about this is it is proof that we've got the bonkers Alesha back from the evil clutches of Those Who Would Seek To Capitalise On Her Strictly Success By Making Her Into A Fully Rounded Family Entertainer. It's time to celebrate her mad brilliance. She was mad and brilliant in Mis-Teeq. Her early solo singles - 'Lipstick' and 'Knockdown' - were both mad and brilliant. Then she had a brief - or possibly ongoing, it's hard to tell right now - dalliance with mainstream success, and apart from 'The Boy Does Nothing', the madness and the brilliance was in less abundance, and this felt like a shame. But now it is back.
OH BOY IS IT BACK.
Listen to the blessed thing! It's all over the shop! Ten million drummers giving it the full paradiddle apocalypse, and I'm not even sure if all of them are playing in time. Meanwhile Alesha is singing some bits and shouting some bits and going "whaaat?" in a manner which will NOT delight Arlene Phillips fans. She's got some nice harmonies to do, and there are fragments of a complete song being kicked about, but nothing is being treated with due respect. It's fantastic!
Yes, Destiny's Child and High School Musical (and the movie Drumline, from which this is sampled) have beaten her to the marching band drummer gimmick, but they were concerned with respectfully putting that sound into a different musical context. Alesha and her gang just want to rudely plonk themselves on top, fire up the synth brass, and blow off in everyone's faces.
And best of all, there is no possibility that you could confuse this song with anything else in the charts this year. And for that reason alone it deserves top honours.
Not that Alesha cares. She's way too busy throwing toy spaniels into a bucket of gravy with her face, or something.
So Feminine says: "The colourful, foot-stomping new hit, 'Drummer Boy'... is unlike any other record you'll hear this year."
Madnews says: "I have never rated Alesha as an artist and never well. Her music just does nothing for me. But she seems like a nice woman.."
Kid With The Specs says: "The song has completely grown on me and is very different from everything Alesha has done before."