Archives for February 2010

Steve Aoki ft. [[[Zuper Blahq]]] - 'I'm In The House'

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Fraser McAlpine | 09:54 UK time, Sunday, 28 February 2010

Steve Aoki

I've been on a search. I've looked under the desk, I've looked in the kitchen, behind the fridge, around the back of the telly, in the bath, I've had the carpets up, I've unpacked all the cupboards...frankly if Steve Aoki or (careful typing) [[[Zuper Blahq]]] are in THIS house, they're very, very small: like DUST small.

You'd think they'd be fairly easy to detect, given how immensely freaking LOUD this song is. Even microscopic filter-bass scientists can be fairly quickly discovered if they're making the walls rattle and the pictures fall crash to the floor. And (careful typing) [[[Zuper Blahq]]] is shouting about how many of his mates are here too - "like yo-yo-yo", apparently - but they must all be pretty small too.

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Mumford vs Boyzone - It's A Waistcoat-Off!

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Fraser McAlpine | 09:56 UK time, Saturday, 27 February 2010

Mumford and Sons

Effiency is everything. There's no point wasting time prattling on about the subtle difference in texture and tone between one song and another in these super-hyper-stimulated, low-attention-span, hyphen-hyphen-hyphen times. That may have been the way they did it in the olden days, but kids today want excitement, and freshness, and the wow factor and they don't want to hang around afterwards asking for a hug, daddio, they are GHOST.

That is why we must condense some things into groups, like the Mumford And Sons and the Boyzone, who are so efficient, they don't even need sleeves on their over-shirt-wear. Sleeves are boring. Sleeves are yesterday's news, man. Sleeves will just slow you down.

The wearing of a waistcoat, however, is both efficient and practical. There are little pockets you can use, to keep your snuffbox or fob-watch in. You can hide a full tummy if the buttons are gaping a bit, and best of all it makes you look older and more distinguished than you really are.

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Tinie Tempah - 'Pass Out'

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Fraser McAlpine | 12:40 UK time, Friday, 26 February 2010

Tinie Tempah

There is a bit at the beginning of the video here which looks disturbingly like the sweat of Tinie's brow flying off his face and forming a ring around his head, a bit like the rings of Saturn.

This presents several joke opportunities, which, if you'll indulge me a second, I am about to explore. Reinforce those sides, and here we go:

I've heard of sweat-rings but this is ridiculous... RIMSHOT!

If you like him, you should probably wipe the ring off him... QUIETER RIMSHOT!

What does Tinie Tempah like to do after he's been to the gym? Give someone a ring... EVEN QUIETER RIMSHOT!

What's Tinie Tempah's favourite day of the week? Saturn-day*... NO RIMSHOT!

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Daisy Dares You ft. Chipmunk - 'Number One Enemy'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:06 UK time, Thursday, 25 February 2010

Daisy Dares You

If I could offer one piece of advice to all aspiring young performers, it would probably be "CALM DOWN!". But if I could offer several pieces of advice, and there was a chance my sage wisdom would be heard and acted upon, I would suggest that making an explicit link between the thing you make and the stuff you personally like is probably a bad idea. And here's why.

Daisy Dares You's MySpace has a column of photographs, tributes to performers and singers and bands of the past who have played some part in sculpting the band's mental landscape. Jeff Buckley's in there, so is Buster Keaton and Debbie Harry and Rage Against The Machine and the Smiths and Robert Johnson and Nick Drake and Smokey Robinson, heroes all. And Mr Hudson.

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Gramophonedzie - 'Why Don't You'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:26 UK time, Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Gramophonedzie

I'm detecting a theme here. After the burlesque boom and all the Winehouse wannabes - and Wiley's reworking of that song by White Town that samples that other song from the olden days - here comes dance music's tribute to the era of jazz, swing and blues. And when I say tribute, I mean taking an old tune and hitting it with a massive mallet until it cracks into a million pieces, then putting the bits back together with micro-robots and spraying it gold.

That is simply how dance music likes to pay tribute to things. Can you imagine how messy Fat Boy Slim's funeral is going to be? Loads messy, that's how.

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Chiddy Bang - 'Opposite Of Adults'

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Fraser McAlpine | 13:19 UK time, Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Chiddy Bang

Oh now this is the kind of thing we can all get behind, isn't it? Song titles as crossword clues! You don't even have to know that this is largely based on reswizzled chunks of the MGMT song 'Kids', because you can work it out from the title.

OK, technically it should be '10 Down: Opposite Of Adults (4)', but that would just be confusing if you didn't have the rest of the crossword to hand. I don't even know if there IS a crossword, but at least we now have a clue for it. A clue we can add other clues to, right?

3 Across: Cloywit serenades urban night birds (anag - 3,4)

or

4 Down: Cheryl Cole's ripcord adventure (9)

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Gabriella Cilmi - 'On A Mission'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:39 UK time, Monday, 22 February 2010

gabriella_cilmi_600.jpg

Well, Jools Holland isn't going to like this AT ALL, is he?

Gabriella's defining hit to date, 'Sweet About Me' was a gentle swinging meander around the Real Music playpark, where she got to impress everyone with the surprising maturity of her voice, and play some new music which sounded a lot like old music. It was a pretty little pop song dressed up in its mum's clothes and make-up, and getting away with it on sheer charm.

Which is fine if you want a pat on the head, but being precocious is no fun if you can't let your hair down and get a little stupid from time to time, right kids?

Right. Well this is Gabriella's moment.

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Wiley ft. Emeli Sandé - 'Never Be Your Woman'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:00 UK time, Sunday, 21 February 2010

Wiley

In these globally conscious times - where wasting precious resources on trivial things would be a shooting offense, if we could only spare the bullets - everyone loves a good recycler. Music is no different, in this regard. You can recycle old sounds, or old guitars, old ideas, old clothes or old poses. You can re-use the swagger of an olden-days singer or the hairstyle of some rock grandad or other. It's all there for the taking.

The trick is to find something which hasn't been recycled so often it loses its original shape and starts to get a bit baggy at the seams, so you end up having to basically remake the whole thing from scratch (Glee people, I am looking at you).

Credit to wiley old Mr Wiley then, for finding a sample of a late '90s hit which itself contains a sample of an old song from the past. This is therefore double recycling. He can basically drive a Hummer into a panda now, and he'll still be ahead of most of us.*

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Jason Derulo - 'In My Head'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:02 UK time, Saturday, 20 February 2010

Jason Derulo

The follow-up to a smash hit debut is often tricky. Do you provide more of the same, to consolidate your fanbase and establish your sound, or stretch out a bit, to encourage people who weren't bowled over the first time? The former is less risky, but could pigeon-hole you as a certain type of artist, and the latter could do nothing but ensure you the status of a one-hit wonder.

So, it's kind of admirable that Jason has not just stuck out another slow jam, or gone in search of another astonishing a capella sample, like the Imogen Heap one in 'Whatcha Say'. He could, for example, have nabbed a slice of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana - the X Factor 'dramatic montage' music - looped it, whacked in a couple of verses about a girl he has done wrong and some handclaps and bishbashbosh, another global hit.

As it is, moving on shows a certain amount of backbone, and backbone is all that separates us from the lobster and his kin.

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Leona Lewis - 'I Got You'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:02 UK time, Friday, 19 February 2010

leona2.jpg

She might not exactly be Katie Price in the showbiz personality stakes, but things really do seem to change around Leona Lewis in a quite startling way. Which just goes to show what a big talent can do to people.

When she first did her version of Snow Patrol's 'Run' for the Live Lounge, it felt like a challenge. Here was this defiant reality TV pop star, the girl who turned X Factor's boasts of finding real talent into *cough* reality, singing a well-loved indie song as if it was a Westlife ballad. AND making more than a decent fist of it. I mean, not only HOW DARE SHE? But also, HMM IT'S QUITE GOOD, ISN'T IT?

By slowing it down, puffing it full of warm air and setting it free to waft over a wintry nation, Leona made it her own, without killing what people liked about it in the first place. It was, and remains, a Good Cover Version.

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Muse - 'Resistance'

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Fraser McAlpine | 09:55 UK time, Thursday, 18 February 2010

Muse

Ages ago, I wrote a thing about Lady GaGa's 'Poker Face', in which I was thinking about how deftly she pinches ideas from those areas of pop music's past which whiff distinctly of cheese. And, more importantly, how she transformed those ideas into something fresh and new and brilliant because, under the crust of cultural disapproval, they're still good ideas.

Muse are the rock equivalent. They seem to be capable of awakening the ghosts and clichés of daft old pomp rock - this song, for example, could serve as a kind of sequel to an '80s frill 'n' spandex thing like 'The Final Countdown' by Europe - and, magically, NOT BEING RUBBISH.

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Jay Sean ft. Sean Paul & Lil' Jon - 'Do You Remember'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:01 UK time, Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Jay Sean

When the charts were first changed to include download sales, certain cultural commenters thought this would be bad news. They fretted that most songs would appear one week, then disappear the next, because they'd been on a popular TV show or something. Or that old, popular acts like the Beatles would dominate the Top Ten every week, or that every time a new hot album came out, all the tracks would chart, and there would be no room for genuine one-off hit singles which are just singles.

Of course, with notable exceptions, most of this turned out to be just a load of horse-hickey. In fact, if you're the kind of person who still pines for the olden days, you'll be pleased to know that one of the most positive effects of including downloads has been the return of songs which slowly creep their way up the chart.

This is a prime example. No.52 a few weeks back, then No.23, then No.15, then No.13...and it's not even in the shops yet!

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Rihanna - 'Rude Boy'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:02 UK time, Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Rihanna

For an actor, it's important to show you can pretend to be more than one sort of person in your work, or people will suspect you're just being yourself and reading out loud. It's called 'range'.

For a pop singer, this still applies, but only in the sense that you can convincingly perform songs which are fast or slow. Rihanna has recently made something of a trademark of the fact that she doesn't have a lot of range. As a result, her songs - or at least, the songs she's put out since 'Umbrella' lifted her into the fame stratosphere - don't tend to vary in tempo too much.

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Ellie Goulding - 'Starry Eyed'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:23 UK time, Monday, 15 February 2010

Ellie Goulding

There are times when pop music seems to be balancing on a pin, like the needle on a compass. To one side, there's sex, and on the opposite side, innocence. At the top is experience, and at the bottom, fantasy. And the needle points at different places depending on who gets to hold the compass and where they are in life.

Most pop stars, it is fair to say, would see the needle swish around the border between sex and fantasy: like Girls Aloud, for example, or Lady GaGa. The Enemy would cause a more emphatic result - an unquavering thrust towards experience over all things.

But Ellie Goulding - dear, sweet, SUPERSTAR IN THE WAITING, OR YOUR MONEY BACK Ellie Goulding - is of a rare breed. At the moment, she's all about the innocence and the fantasy. More so the former than the latter, and that is probably why people are getting quite so excited about her.

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Sugababes - 'Wear My Kiss'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:22 UK time, Sunday, 14 February 2010

Sugababes

Sometimes it's the things you don't say which carry the most weight.

On a recent TV interview the three 'Babes were quite happy chatting away about how long Jade's legs are in proportion to her body, or about the feminist implications of singing a lyric like "I'm just a pretty little thing that'll make you wanna sing". But when asked to give a general outline of what this song is, and what it's about, the only word they could collective muster - and this was with a LOT of thought and uneasy body language - was "uptempo".

And I'm here to tell you, it's hardly Gallows in the velocity stakes, so they even got THAT wrong.

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Cobra Starship - 'Hot Mess'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:22 UK time, Saturday, 13 February 2010

Cobra Starship

OK, class, I've got a project for you. We need to get this song to a place in the charts which is directly adjacent to either 'Tik Tok' or 'Blah Blah Blah' by Ke$ha, preferably one place higher. Then, rather than being a countdown of unique, distinct blocks of sound, the chart rundown becomes a kind of narrative, as the songs start to talk to each other.

First the drunk girl enters the bar, knocking drinks over and picking a fight with the sleazy guy on the high stool. She takes her drink, downs it in one and sashays the hell out of there, leave a trail of chaos in her wake, and all eyes on the toilet paper stuck to her shoe.

Then, just outside the front door, a group of impressed kids attempts to catch her eye. Their leader looks her up and down, before going down on one knee and singing this song.

Kinda brings a tear to the eye, dunnit?

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The Courteeners - 'You Overdid It Doll'

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Fraser McAlpine | 09:09 UK time, Friday, 12 February 2010

The Courteeners

When you get right down to it, which is more important to the people in an indie band: to be loved by a lot of fans now, or held up as an example of greatness by music critics in years to come? You can't have both, see - with certain notable exceptions - and the answer is probably not as straightforward as it may seem.

It's a dilemma which does not occur in any other field of music. Metal bands would plump for the fans without even stopping to think about it. Dance music doesn't tend to exist in the same part of the brain as the written word in any case, so both sides tend to leave each other well alone. And pop acts are well used to critical barbs from rocksnobs, having had to suffer years of deadening prose about the vacuous nature of their day job, which always seems to include a reference to wet knickers, even though a) it's a massively tired old cliche and b) srsly...ICK.

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Demi Lovato - 'Remember December'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:11 UK time, Thursday, 11 February 2010

Demi Lovato

One of the best things that can ever happen to a music fan is to be forced to listen to something they have certain (ie low) expectations of, only to have their prejudices torn away like a plaster off a hairy arm - quickly, brutally and with much wincing.

It happened when Girls Aloud's first single wasn't a rubbish ballad, for example. It happened for me the first time I heard 'Fly On The Wall' by Miley Cyrus (srsly. It's AMAZING), and now here's a new song by madam out of Camp Rock. Surely lightning can't strike three times on the same pair of ears, can it?

Oh. Seems it can. Yikes!

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Kasabian - 'Vlad The Impaler'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:46 UK time, Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Kasabian

Ah, I hear the rumble of fuzzbass, I sense a wah wah on the horizon. There are echoed thumps and breezeblock beats, and a shouting man with two voices is howling gobbledygook from the top of a photogenic rock in a desert location, while a girl with a beard plays a guitar which no-one can hear. It's Kasabian time again!

This not, as you may imagine, a song about a vampire antelope (impala, geddit?). It's one of those Kasabian songs where, for a chorus, Tom Meighan is invited to shout something cheesy, and then repeat it a few times. As is often the case, it's another order, translated into Classic Rockspeak, a demand that we all cool out, or get higher, or come on and feel a noise. In this case, we are all to stop what we're doing and "get loose", pronto.

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Lemar - 'The Way Love Goes'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:15 UK time, Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Lemar

OK, I give in. King Cnut had to find out his limits the hard way and so, it seems, do I. If a man with a singing voice of as unmistakably high a quality as Lemar's can resort to a bit of autotune, everyone else might as well opt for a robotracheotomy and have done with it.

At least he's using it well, following the Cher model, where you slightly and subtly androiderise your all-too meaty voice so that it sits better among the unyeilding electronica. It's a bit like having a USB port soldered into your neck. Slightly painful, but a useful way to get two different operating systems to interface effectively*.

The other model is to use it as a kind of robo-polyfilla, where all vocal cracks are given a smooth metallic outer coating because the voice inside would simply collapse without it. If asked, all singers and producers will claim that this model does not actually exist, and that they are all dabbling with this hot new production technique for genuine artistic reasons. And because everyone else is.

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Enter Shikari - 'Thumper'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:47 UK time, Monday, 8 February 2010

Enter Shikari

Well, this is one song which is NEVER going to appear in Glee, isn't it? Not least because it's a blimming racket - in the best sense of the phrase - and because Rou has taken to punctuating the rowdiest sections with a howled cockney warcry "oi-OI!".

Even the cruel jock with the mini-mohican is gonna struggle to get that across in a performance situation, unless it's part of a montage sequence depicting a punishing method acting exercise, so that he can get into character to play the chimney sweep in a production of Mary Poppins. And even then, the producers would probably go for 'Parklife' first.

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DJ Zinc ft. Ms. Dynamite - 'Wile Out'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:07 UK time, Sunday, 7 February 2010

DJ Zinc

Ever heard of Cosmic Ordering? It's a kind of events shopping list thing that Noel Edmonds likes to talk about. He claims that he willed his return to TV glory on Deal Or No Deal just by thinking really hard about how much he would like it to happen. There may have been some writing down too, but essentially all you have to do is think about something you want, and REALLY WANT IT HARD, and it'll happen.

An example: just the other day I was thinking how sad it was that Lily Allen was no longer on Twitter. The very next day, she came back. I KNOW!

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You Me At Six - 'Underdog'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:46 UK time, Saturday, 6 February 2010

You Me At Six

Sad news: apparently Fall Out Boy have actually fallen out, so badly that they're no longer sure if they want to get back together again. While Patrick Stump puts together his solo album, Pete Wentz doesn't think he wants his old job back, and in the meantime, Mark Hoppus from Blink 182 has been accepted as the band's new bass player.

Except he quit, just as suddenly as he arrived. And John Mayer, the US-only rock star who only hits the headlines over here when he's going out with someone like Jennifer Aniston, now claims that HE is the new bass player in Fall Out Boy.

That's what the internet at large - and Twitter in particular - has told us this week. And you know what? It's all lies.*

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A Friendly Chinwag With Marina Diamond...

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:43 UK time, Friday, 5 February 2010

Marina and the Diamonds

Some people love their job, some people hate it. By and large it depends on what the job is, whether it's a job which you personally get a lot out of and whether you feel like it's making good use of your time here on Earth, or just a way to pay the bills.

Marina Diamond, it is fair to say, loves her job. And why shouldn't she? She's hotly-tipped, she gets the biggest dressing up box in the world to play in, she can do funny voices in her songs, 2010 is looking like the year in which her music - like the mighty 'Hollywood' - finds its audience and best of all, she's got ME on the PHONE!

OK, so that last bit is more of a work-related stress than a perk of the job, but still...

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Thoughts About Pop Stars Making Records For Haiti...

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Fraser McAlpine | 15:32 UK time, Thursday, 4 February 2010

Simon Cowell, the Haiti single cover and Cheryl Cole

Ever since Band Aid, there has been an expectation that pop stars (currently famous pop stars, mind you, not the older ones like H from Steps) should roll up their sleeves and DO something in a situation of sudden need like the Haiti appeal, or risk public outcry. It may not be the thing which will make the most difference, but it is the thing which will get the most attention. This is just how things are.

There are benefits, such as increased public awareness, and a sense of communal effort - and drawbacks - in that it's a bit ripe being encouraged to donate by a moneybags like Simon Cowell. Or Bono and the Edge and Jay-Z and Rihanna. Or Quincy Jones.

All of which generates the kind of moral maze that bloggers and Twitterers LIVE for. Everyone's got an opinion, my friends, and here's mine...

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Ke$ha ft 3Oh!3 - 'Blah Blah Blah'

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Fraser McAlpine | 12:10 UK time, Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Ke$ha

In the early years of the 20th Century - the heyday of the music hall - singers would often try and titillate their audience with songs about sex, nakedness and general sauce. These were extraordinarily popular, as the people then were much like people now - always in favour of a mucky laugh set to music. Of course, they had no 'say anything' internet, no sweary films, no rock 'n' roll and a media whose view of public disgracefulness of this sort was close to that of the strictest headmaster in the world.

So, without using any of the words, the way entertainers got their message across was to use innuendo. They'd write a song about, say, a yoyo. or a stick of rock, and with nothing but a cheeky wink, and the clear impression that nobody would bother to write about something that silly unless it had a hidden meaning, a very clean sort of filthy song would ensue.

Ke$ha, it's fair to say, does not feel the need to hide behind such tricks.

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Jedward ft. Vanilla Ice - 'Under Pressure (Ice Ice Baby)'

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Fraser McAlpine | 11:42 UK time, Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Jedward

TV talent shows are built upon a gaping hole in their own internal logic. And they know it.

The flaw is this: even though the focus of the show is the singing, being a pop star is not about being able to sing. I've said this before, because it was true then, and it's still true now. It's useful if you can sing, being able to sing will get you a certain distance towards being a pop star, but it's not the golden ticket. The golden ticket is, for want of a better word, charisma. It's the ability to make people want look at you, and think about you. They don't even have to LIKE you.

Why else would the TV show be called The X Factor? What they SAY they're looking for is amazing performances in the field of singing, what they're ACTUALLY looking for as performances it is impossible to tear your eyes and ears away from in case your brain suddenly falls out of your face like rice pudding squished under a fork.

And if we were all honest about this, we could maybe admit that John and Edward might just be the best pop stars the X Factor has ever unearthed.

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Erik Hassle - 'Hurtful'

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Fraser McAlpine | 11:05 UK time, Monday, 1 February 2010

Erik Hassle

Look at that face! How much hassle could a li'l fella like that really BE? I mean REALLY? Oh sure, I bet he's a bit stubborn from time to time. I bet he doesn't come down to breakfast the first time he's called, and won't wear the nice jumpers his nan sends him for Christmas (note to self: must check if they have jumpers and nans in Sweden. And Christmas, come to that). And it's almost a foregone conclusion that he doesn't wear sensible shoes with a supportive instep.

But c'mon...HASSLE? If that little scamp stopped me in the street and demanded all my worldly goods in exchange for my life, all he'd get for his trouble is a strawberry lollipop and a tousle on the head.

Let's hope his music is a bit more troublesome, or we might be looking at a total rebrand before he's even got properly started.

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