Archives for December 2008

2008's Finest Five - Fraser McAlpine

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:16 UK time, Wednesday, 31 December 2008

CDs

My turn now. And I can't help but notice how all of our lists are dominated by female performers. I'd be tempted to suggest that this means that 2008 was officially The Year Of Women In Pop, but then that would mean 2009 would have to be The Year Of Some Other Arbitrary Thing In Pop, and we'd have to ask all the girls to pipe down. Plus it's more than a little bit condescending to lump all women together as if they're the same, so let's not go there.

Speaking of which...

The Ting Tings - 'That's Not My Name'

11 months on from writing about how this song had taken over my head, it's still there, and I doubt it's going anywhere any time soon. Built on loops, but played live, put together as a round (like London's Burning) but half sung, half yelped, and straddling the line between addictive/annoying in the manner of all great pop music ever.

(Here's the Jools Holland performance that kicked the whole thing off...)

The bit where Jules the drummer changes rhythm at the end - making the whole song seem to shudder and lift off the ground - actually brought tears to my eyes at Radio 1's Big Weekend. That's the power of perfect pop, my friends.

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Keane - 'Perfect Symmetry'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:11 UK time, Monday, 29 December 2008

KeaneIt's become a cliche of Keane reviews that you have to, at some point, refer to Tom Chaplin as a choirboy, and until fairly recently I assumed this was just because of his round little face, his easily-reddened cheekular area, his high, pure voice, and the fact that you can picture him in a cassock in a way which is just not true of, say, the lead singer out of the Pigeon Detecives.

But, since Terry Wogan launched his second ever attack on the Top 10, with a special guest star in tow, and Tom got himself a nice smart haircut, a new interpretation of the choirboy mantra has emerged. Look...

Tom Keane vs Aled Jones

Spooky, eh?

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2008's Finest Five - Hazel Robinson

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Fraser McAlpine | 12:57 UK time, Saturday, 27 December 2008

CDs

And now it's Hazel's turn - Fraser

This year, my life has seen some huge changes. I accidentally became an adult, spent a total of about 70 million years on the phone to various customer services departments and enjoyed a lot of the year face down in my keyboard, dribbling lightly into something mysterious called 'mydissertation.doc.' Somewhere in the middle of all this, I found time to send some really late reviews and listen to post-rock. And here's what was really, really good this year, in my world:

Cyndi Lauper - 'Into The Nightlife'

Firstly, a song from an album by a lady who, to me, is basically roughly equivalent to God. You know people who go on and on and on about how only Morrissey / Paul Weller / David Bowie understands them? I sometimes do that with Cyndi Lauper. She is the most awesome lady ever and deserves constant adulation, not least because this late in her career she's released 'Bring Ya To The Brink,' an album full of edgy electropop and beautiful, blissy anthems.

(Here's the video)

This single, 'Into The Nightlife' perfectly summarises the album; all tough bloops and bassline seguing into shimmering synths and so much in love with sound.

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Happy Christmas!

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Fraser McAlpine | 09:59 UK time, Thursday, 25 December 2008

Here's your present - and a perfect way to revive those sprout-addled wits - a Top of the Pops game!

Have a smashing Christmastime, ChartBloggers!

Fraser

2008's Finest Five - Steve Perkins

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Fraser McAlpine | 11:08 UK time, Tuesday, 23 December 2008

CDs

2008 has been a rum old year, hasn't it? Bookended by X Factor winners whose impact could not be more different, and stuffed full of random pop thrills from unexpected places. Luckily, your friendly neighbourhood ChartBlog has been on hand to document the highs, the lows, and the wobbly middle bits of a confusing year. And as an extension of this service, the ChartBlog review team have come up with their personal Top 5 Songs Of The Year, starting with Steve Perkins.

Go to it, Stevie! - Fraser

Sugababes - 'Denial'

I feel the need to leap to the defence of this song, because it's one of my favourite tracks off 'Change' and yet has developed something of a reputation amongst pop-pickers as a rubbish song and a terrible single choice (actually, given that it only got to No.15, that second point may indeed be valid).

(Here's the video)

And while it's no 'Overload' or 'Hole In The Head', I think this song gets a raw deal - in an age where the Sugababes are on autopilot most of the time (see: 'About You Now', 'Change' and most certainly the wretched 'Girls'), the "how can a flower bloom just over a day and a night?" line in this is sung in such a beautiful and heartfelt way that it gives me shivers every time, and the bittersweet chorus is the cherry on the cake. And, most importantly, it is not any kind of cover of the song from the Boots advert.

Pull yourselves together, ladies!

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On The First Fray Of Christmas...

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Fraser McAlpine | 14:57 UK time, Sunday, 21 December 2008

The Fray

Christmas may be a time when everyone comes together, but it is also a time when you realise that everyone's family is slightly different from yours. Some people put pillowcases at the end of their beds, some put stockings around the fireplace, and some put a carrot and mince pie out for Santa and Rudolf. But not everyone does. People have strange habits, after all.

So, here's how Joe out of the Fray likes to celebrate Christmas. Complete with gift-wrapped leftovers, apparently...

Oh, forgive the slightly extended length of this interview. It's almost entirely due to me having to explain the concept of Christmas crackers to someone who has no idea what they are, without being able to draw them, or make expressive getures with my hands.

Seriously, how would YOU do it?

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Sugababes - 'No Can Do'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:35 UK time, Saturday, 20 December 2008

SugababesIn any long-term chart career, there are going to be highs and lows. There are going to be times when everything you say, every note you sing and every outfit you wear are seized upon as icons for the modern age, and then there are going to be times when you are just another pop act putting another single out, and there is nothing you can do to make people look pleased to see you.

Or, to put it another way. When you are up, you are up. And when you are down you are down. And when you are only half-way up...that's the time to complain about shoddy promotion on your album, and threaten to boycott the Brit Awards.

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Geraldine - 'Once Upon A Christmas Song'

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Fraser McAlpine | 11:26 UK time, Friday, 19 December 2008

(Never mind all the nonsense around 'Hallelujah', Hazel Robinson has a bone to pick with an entirely different TV talent show winner...)

GeraldineThere are two essential elements to a satire:
1. It must be witty.
2. It must not be, in itself, hypocritical or else it runs the risk of being awkward self-parody, therefore missing its intended target, and turning on itself...

PAGING PETER KAY, PAGING PETER KAY...

This is, you see, a parody of naff Christmas songs, as performed by a parody X Factor winner. The song is intended to satirise the rubbish festive songs that get rolled out every year to make various people pots of money, being sung "again and again" as we all do the same things every year, for some reason.

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How To Destroy...James Morrison (Again)

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Fraser McAlpine | 16:41 UK time, Thursday, 18 December 2008

How To Destroy James Morrison (Again)

NOTE: As any concerned parent will tell you, it's a very bad idea to play in the street. Especially if you're not keeping an eye out for traffic. All sorts of terrible things can happen.

In fact, don't be surprised if this cautionary little tableau doesn't catch the eye of some Minister For Traffic Safety, and then end up being used as a poster to help make the roads a bit safer.

You'll see it splashed up anywhere The Youth like to congregate, in schools, 6th form colleges, youth clubs, at bus stops, in a big circle around one boy on a scooter, on a bench outside the off-license, on the swings...

And they will take this message to their hearts, and they will be careful in future. They will always look both ways before crossing the road, they will look and listen in each direction before they cross, they will follow the Green Cross Code, and everyone will be safe.

And then the sacrifice of one raspy pop singer (for the second time, unlucky fella) will seem to have been somehow worthwhile, even though he was quite good and people seemed to like his music rather a lot.

Still, as Oscar Wilde very nearly once said: "We are all of us in the gutter, but some of us are looking at th...YE GODS, THAT WAS CLOSE!!"

How To Destroy Other People...

P!nk - 'Sober'

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Fraser McAlpine | 15:34 UK time, Wednesday, 17 December 2008

PinkWhoo! Yeah! That's right! It's Christmas, baby! Party-time! We are going to go CRACKERS! Or at least, it WOULD be party-time, and we would go crackers, if only there was someone who could, y'know, take the party, and, kinda...get it started, yeah? Someone who doesn't give a stuffing flip about The Rules, someone who could lead us all - Pied Piper-style - into an endless rolling orgy of bad behaviour, celeb-spotting, girls using the boys' toilets, elephant-riding and stuff-breakery. Someone for whom attitude is key, and authority is the devil.

But who can we ask? Fergie, the humpy-bumpulator? No.

Britney, the me-piecing baby-baby lady? No.

P!nk? Princess Shouty? Lady Wild of Unconventionalshire? The Hound of the Basketcase?

Could be...

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'How To Impress The Boys' By Alesha Dixon (Aged 16)

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Fraser McAlpine | 14:05 UK time, Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Alesha DixonIf you recall, a short while ago I had a nice chat with Martin, the singer with Boys Like Girls, and we talked about that special time in a young man's life when he, a boy, realises that he likes girls. It has been put to me that this one-sided view of things cannot be allowed to stand, and so, in the interests of balance, fairness and general all-round pleasantry, we had to go out and get the female perspective.

And who better to provide this than Alesha Dixon - she of the aggressive anthem to men doing the housework 'The Boy Does Nothing'?

That's right, no-one!

Granted, we wandered off the point a fair bit, especially in the section about sexy musical instruments, but otherwise, balance is restored and life can go back to how it was.

Don't you just love a happy ending?

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Alexandra Burke - 'Hallelujah'

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Fraser McAlpine | 12:44 UK time, Monday, 15 December 2008

Alexandra Burke

Once again, ChartBlog's very own X Factor correspondent - Steve Perkins - gives his view of the winner's song. A song which adds even more baggage to the X Factor champion's situation than usual, as it is something of a modern classic. But can she carry it off? Over to you, Steve... - Fraser

Gosh, it really doesn't seem like a year ago that I volunteered to review the X Factor winner's single for 2007, only to discover it would be Leon Jackson and that I would be set upon by angry Leon fans when I came to the conclusion that it wasn't very good. Now, 12 months down the line, one underwhelming single and underperforming album later, at a point where he's been outsold by the runner-up despite having released his own album nearly a month earlier, to the extent where several people connected with the show have suggested that the wrong person won, I'm not going to sit here and say I was right, but... (I know it's a can of worms, but I just can't help myself.)

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Anyone Want Some Festive Mash?

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Fraser McAlpine | 12:57 UK time, Sunday, 14 December 2008

KIngs of Leon / Wizzard mash-up

Who wants to play a little Christmas game, just to get the festive season off to a fun start?

OK, here's what we're going to do. If you remember a couple of months back, we attempted to reduce the Top 40 down to a meagre 17 songs in order to beat the credit crunch. Well, this game is a little bit like that, only Christmassy, and I'm not doing it all for you.

The name of the game is Christmas Mashups, and what you have to do is take the name of a Christmassy song, and the name of a recent pop song, and fuse them together in an entertaining way.

Your choices don't have to be taken from this week's Top 40, although if you listen to the Chart Show this Sunday, you'll probably get a good idea of the kind of thing we're after.

Or, if you can't wait, here's a few examples I baked earlier, and sprinkled with nutmeg.

Kings Of Leon & Wizzard
'I Wish I Could Have Sex On Fire Every Day'

The Brenda Lee & Guru Josh Project
'Rockin Around Infinity'

The Pogues & Daniel Merriweather ft. Wiley
'Fairytale Of Cash In My Pocket'

Katy 'Bandaged' Perry ft. John Lennon & Yoko Ono
'I Kissed A Little Drummer Boy (War Is Over)'

Mariah Carey & Miley Cyrus (ft. Various Artists)
'All I want For Christmas Is 7 Things - Grace, Issues, Girls, Delirium, Rain, My Parade, Rehab & A Ring On It'

OK, over to you. And remember, the best of these may end up being read out on Radio 1.

And the worst.

And probably some of the mid-level ones too...

Rage Against The Machine

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Fraser McAlpine | 16:45 UK time, Friday, 12 December 2008

A Brit AwardThe idea of giving people pre-emptive BRIT Awards is still a very controversial one, and not really something that works. I mean you don't get referees who call the results of a football match before it has been played, you don't get literary prizes handed out based on which author a panel believes will come up with an amazing novel (given sufficient time, inspiration and a really clever thesaurus), and you don't give a tip in a restaurant based on the idea that when your food finally arrives, you know KNOW you're going to love it.

And yet, last year Adele won the first Critics' Choice BRIT Award, and you can't really deny that it set her up for a pretty good year. She hadn't released a single properly at the time the award was announced, but it's not as if the panel were WRONG about her. It's more that when she picks up awards that she has actually earned at the 2009 awards, it'll be strange, as she's already got one. Wouldn't that devalue the first one a bit?

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Basshunter - 'I Miss You'

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Fraser McAlpine | 09:36 UK time, Friday, 12 December 2008

Basshunter - 'I Miss You'Should an alien spaceship decide to land on Earth between now and Easter, and demand to know what this strange frequency-manipulated sound phenomena called 'popular music' is, and how it works, it might be worth playing them this song. And no, not because we want to start an inter-planetary war right away. We've got Rick Astley for that, after all.

No, the reason why this song could be in the running where a bigger (and, let's be frank, BETTER) one may lose out, is because of the way it manages to condense many different musical threads within a short space of time. It could act as a kind of contents page for contemporary music, so that our nine-fingered snot-beast guests will be able to identify which sound they identify with the best, and then music experts can go off and fetch more music which suits their purple palate.

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Fearne & Reggie Get The X-Factor...

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Fraser McAlpine | 12:27 UK time, Thursday, 11 December 2008

...oh sorry, did I not finish?

What that should say is 'Fearne & Reggie Get The X-Factor Winner on this week's Radio 1 Chart Show, and they're bringing the CD of their winning song - a version of Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah' - with them'.

It will either be these people

JLS

Or this person....                             Or this person.

Alex and Eoghan

We'll all find out who it is going to be on Saturday night's X Factor final. And then we will find out what their first 20 hours as champions will have been like, live on Radio 1, between the hours of 4 and 7pm, on Sunday.

Is it too late to put a vote in for Rhydian?

The Wombats - 'Is This Christmas?'

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Fraser McAlpine | 17:37 UK time, Wednesday, 10 December 2008

The WombatsINDIE CHRISTMAS SONG CHECK-LIST:
Sleighbells - TICK!
Stuff about snow - TICK!
Heart-warming brass band - TICK!
Slightly cynical lyrics about shopping - TICK!
Suggestion that things aren't quite up to the Christmasses back when we was kids - TICK!
List of things which always happen at Christmas, including TV and burned Christmas dinner - TICK!
Fence-straddling indecision over whether to celebrate along with The Sheeplike Masses or be Original Thinkers And Therefore Above Such Things - TICKITY-TICK!

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Glasvegas: "We Can Be Respectful To The Baby Jesus Even If We're Dressed In Black..."

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Fraser McAlpine | 16:29 UK time, Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Glasvegas - plus special guest

Your English teacher would call it 'juxtaposition' - the banging together of two very different things, to look at the pretty sparks. The bigger the difference between the two things, the better the light show.

This is why there is much more interest in the fact that doomy old Glasvegas have made a Christmas record than in the Wombats effort. Glasvegas, for all they are about finding shiny things in very dark places, are not the most obviously Christmassy of bands.

This is why 'A Snowflake Fell (And It Felt Like A Kiss)' is such a lovely thing. It's unexpected, drenched in pretty reverb like a carol service, and was recorded in Transylvania, which is juxtaposition squared, covered in wrapping paper and tied up in a great big bow.

So, a perfect time to talk to the band's standy-up drummer Caroline about her plans for this year's festivities, right?

Right. Here we go then. You join us as Caroline and I are working out who is talking to whom, due to a mixup with phone numbers...

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Kaiser Chiefs - 'Good Days Bad Days'

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Fraser McAlpine | 09:21 UK time, Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Kaiser ChiefsAre the Kaiser Chiefs all right? I'm not asking that in the sense of one of those weird internet pop up adverts which inexplicably asks you "DO YOU LIKE LEONA LEWIS? YES/NO" as though anything is ever that straightforward, but I can't help feeling they seem a bit out of sorts these days. A bit tired, maybe. Listening to this single gave me an odd urge to nip round and offer to make them all a cup of tea while they put their feet up.

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Chart Report - 08/12/08

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Fraser McAlpine | 12:07 UK time, Monday, 8 December 2008

Top 5 High 5 - 8th December 2008

All you need to do is answer 'High 5!' if you approve of this week's Top 5, and 'Denied!' if you don't.

Here's that Top 5 once again in talkywordingform...

1: Leona Lewis - 'Run'
2: Take That - 'The Greatest Day'
3: Britney Spears - 'Womanizer'
4: Katy Perry - 'Hot 'n' Cold'
5: The Killers - 'Human'

The Top 40 is also available in website form...
And Listen Again form...
And don't forget the Chart Show Podcast.

Snow Patrol - 'Crack The Shutters'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:05 UK time, Sunday, 7 December 2008

Snow PatrolYou can blame seasonal affective disorder if you wish, but I've been mentally calling this song 'Shut The Crackers' ever since the Snow Patrol album first arrived on my desk. And now it is being released as the band's big stab for Christmas No.3 status (after the X-Factor winner and whichever old school festive classic takes the public's fancy this year).

The thing is, when I first realised this, I thought "oh yeah! They're putting out their Christmas song in time for Christmas, how fitting..." without taking the time to remember that it's only ME that thinks the song is about those little bang-tubes you keep on your Christmas dinner table. As far as Gary Lightbody and co are concerned, it's a song about windows...and not Microsoft windows either. Real ones.

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Chipmunk - 'Beast'

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Fraser McAlpine | 09:32 UK time, Saturday, 6 December 2008

ChipmunkWhoo! Nice video! They say the best things are always the most simple, and what could be simpler than shooting a black-and-white video against a white background? No need to worry about it being boring either, just throw in a few inky swirls here and there, twirl the cameras around a bit, and you've something that feels sumptuous to watch, and serves the song rather well. Well done everyone!

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Perfect Playlist: It Started With A Kiss...

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Fraser McAlpine | 16:14 UK time, Friday, 5 December 2008

Lord Kitchener - Your ChartBlog Needs YouAfter the fight-tastic success of our last Perfect Playlist outing, it's time we put a little bit of love back in the room. Although we don't really want things to get too graphic, so maybe what we need is to try and develop a list of songs which represent a really innocent (but still pretty amazing) version of smoochylovestuff. OK?

Which can only mean one thing. I want the song you had your first big kiss to.

I don't wish to know much about what happened DURING the kiss - we've all got imaginations, thank you very much - but I want the song which you think of when you remember this momentous event in your life.

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Ladyhawke - 'My Delirium'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:13 UK time, Friday, 5 December 2008

LadyhawkeIt takes a certain amount of nerve to put a single out this late into the Christmas season without a single solitary sleighbell or festive reference, don't you think? Especially a song which definitely does not offer goodwill to all men, or look back on the past year with affection.

In fact, if you're the man who has been interfering with Phillipa 'Ladyhawke' Brown's delirium, the very last thing she is offering you is goodwill. Quite the reverse, in fact.

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Boys Like Girls On Boys Who Like Girls

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Fraser McAlpine | 17:37 UK time, Thursday, 4 December 2008

Boys Like Girls - Martin

If you are going to call your band something like Boys Like Girls, you should really expect to be asked a lot of questions about boys, and girls, and liking. That's just how interviewing works, and we pop writers are an incredibly literal bunch.

The Enemy will get questions about their enemies, Snow Patrol will get questions about St. Bernards, and the Ting Tings will get questions about...er...pandas?

Anyway, the good news is that Martin, the lead singer of Boys Like Girls, is a very amiable man, who is happy to make any old stuff up answer my questions frankly and without irritation. Even ones about his formative years.

Be warned...he talks INCREDIBLY fast!

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Boyzone - 'Better'

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Fraser McAlpine | 09:40 UK time, Thursday, 4 December 2008

BoyzoneBlimey, no need to trouble the Trades Descriptions people with this lot (apart from the slightly unsettling boyband name), is there? They're Boyzone (tick!) and they are better (tick!), to quite a startling degree, and it's not just nostalgia talking.

I don't know if it's the lack of superdense pop lacquer on their comeback material, or that 'Love You Anyway' won them a heap of brand new friends, but suddenly the idea of a Boyzone ballad doesn't immediately cause nervous palpitations.

OMG, is this what maturity feels like?

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On Listening To 'Run' By Leona Lewis...

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Fraser McAlpine | 17:09 UK time, Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Leona LewisI always thought I agreed with the idea that nothing is really sacred in music. You can cover any song you like, sample any piece of music you want, and people should judge the result on its own merits. It's not as if a bad cover really diminishes the original in any sense (or at least, that's what I used to believe).
When P Diddy sampled Led Zeppelin's 'Kashmir' and made it into 'Come With Me', I did not flinch. When Mary J. Blige ripped apart 'One' by U2 and remodelled it in her own image, I was too busy dabbing my eyes to register any protest whatsoever, and when the Ting Tings gamely had a crack at 'Standing On The Edge Of Control' by the Gossip, I was ready with a post-match slice of orange and some calm words of faint praise.

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Gym Class Heroes ft. Estelle - 'Guilty As Charged'

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Fraser McAlpine | 09:59 UK time, Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Gym Class HeroesHello! Welcome to the introduction! Stop what you are doing, and listen! We've got the trumpets, we've got the fanfare, we've got the musical super-drama - the like of which you would normally expect to hear in a straight-to-DVD children's film, with an evil genius unveiling his super-robot-zombie and cackling demonically while he rubs his poor chapped hands (due to excessively cold and damp working conditions in the lab) - and most importantly, we've got your attention.

Are you ready to start the song?

I SAID ARE YOU READY TO START THE SONG?

Good. Then let's begin...

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How To Destroy...T.I.

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Fraser McAlpine | 16:34 UK time, Tuesday, 2 December 2008

How To Destroy TI

NOTE: We live in very sensitive times, and the BBC would like me to point out that playing with matches is a very bad idea. In fact, here's some information about how best to protect the young people in your life (or indeed, yourself) from fire.

We would also like to say, for the record, that you should only attempt to destroy T.I. if you absolutely HAVE to, if you can somehow cram him into a proper fireplace, and if you have a bucket of water handy, in case of accidents.

How you achieve this is up to you, but please don't go and fetch the matches if you are too young to do so, and even if you're not, just wait until you are absolutely sure that you will need them. It's fine to destroy T.I. - presuming of course that he has done something horrendous and deserves to be destroyed - but it would be awful to destroy your home in the process, now wouldn't it?

How To Destroy Other People...

James Morrison ft. Nelly Furtado - 'Broken Strings'

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Fraser McAlpine | 09:25 UK time, Tuesday, 2 December 2008

James MorrisonThere's a minor gripe I need to get out of the way first, so to apologise for starting with negativity, I shall lace it with a compliment: I like James Morrison. I like his voice, I like his songs - he's that rare breed of guy-with-guitar who doesn't irritate me in any way, and 'You Give Me Something' still gives me goosebumps when I hear it. However, let's talk about those album titles: I was willing to overlook 'Undiscovered', despite it being a bit cloying as first album titles go, because it did at least make a lick of sense when heard in the context of the title track. But 'Songs For You, Truths For Me'? No no no no no. That will not do at all. Get back to album-naming school and don't come back until you've learned something, Morrison.

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There Go The Girls...

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Fraser McAlpine | 17:20 UK time, Monday, 1 December 2008

Sugababes

If, like me, you've noticed that 'Girls' by the Sugababes seems to appear whenever you turn the television on, either in adverts or as backing music to a news report about bras or on Divas II or...well it's on telly a lot, is my point...you may find this news story a little bewildering.

Apparently, sales of the band's latest album 'Catfights & Spotlights' haven't been as brisk as the girls might have liked - it peaked at No.8 and has already dropped out of the Top 40 - and rather than blame the credit crunch, this has provoked the band to suggest that it's due to a lack of public awareness that there is even Sugababes product in the shops.

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Kings Of Leon - 'Use Somebody'

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Fraser McAlpine | 09:37 UK time, Monday, 1 December 2008

Kings Of LeonMedia Studies undergraduates! Students of popular culture! I might have an idea for a killer thesis, if you're willing to do a bit of research (and don't mind opening a Bible, I know some of you are touchy on that subject). It goes a little something like this...

You're familiar with the Biblical story of Samson, the Jewish Superman whose personal kryptonite happened to be having his hair cut, yes? Well, there's a parallel with the Kings of Leon, in that one or more of them seems to lose a chunk of hair every time they put a record out.

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