Archives for August 2010

Alexandra Burke ft. Laza Morgan - 'Start Without You'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:55 UK time, Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Alexandra Burke

Picture the scene: There's a heated discussion taking place in the middle of a record company board room. Execs are hotly debating the release date of a new single, so that it can gain maximum exposure, reach as many ears as is humanly possibly and therefore drive people to the shops - real or virtual - in order to spend, spend, and once again spend.

The song plays quietly in the background, although it clearly has not been made with quiet play in mind, which is proving to be a distraction. It is a boisterous, Caribbean-flavoured thing, boasting a childishly simple, sing-song chorus.

It also boasts a man called Laza shouting incoherently about seizures and propellers, and a relentless skull-crusher dancehall beat, played as if a Troll was attempting to swat a swarm of cocky gnats off the EastEnders drum kit with his fists. It is deliriously happy, to the point of being simple-minded, and conjures up instant images of warmth and sunshiney freedom in everyone that hears it.

And it is this last point which is causing the trouble.

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Alesha Dixon - 'Drummer Boy'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:48 UK time, Monday, 30 August 2010

Alesha Dixon

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.

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Funeral Party - 'Just Because'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:42 UK time, Sunday, 29 August 2010

Funeral Party

Well this is, to quote a Rock Dad cliche, just a massive racket, isn't it? Half the time he's just screaming, there's not much in the way of a proper tune, and what tune there is, you can't really whistle. That's always the sign of proper quality in a song, a tune you can whistle, and maybe play the spoons along to. Stop huffing, you used to love it when I played the spoons!

I mean, yes, you can tell they're trying, and at least they've got proper guitars. You can't deny they really mean it, not like most of that pop rubbish you hear on the radio. All that Drizzly Rapscallion and Dustbin Beaver, that's just childish. But what are they shouting about? You can barely make out the words! He could be singing about tight shoes for all we know. Is that what rock 'n' roll has come to? Tsk! You kids don't know you're born!

Here, let's put some AC/DC on. That's much better.

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Janelle Monáe - 'Cold War'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:00 UK time, Saturday, 28 August 2010

Janelle Monae

This week alone, there are three notable tales of soul heartbreak doing the rounds, three different ways of saying broadly the same thing - you, my man, have done me wrong. Why is this? - in an ocean of similarly-themed songs from last week, and next week, and all the weeks of the year rolled into one.

Beyoncé is releasing the upbeat, funky-as-hell 'Why Don't You Love Me?' as another single from 'I Am...Sasha Fierce'. This brings her running total so far up to, what, seven? Six? Something like that. As is often the case, the way she chooses to express her heartbreak is through the medium of rampaging self-regard - if her nickname for herself isn't The Irresistable Force, it damn well should be - butting up against a stone wall of indifference. She thinks she's amazing, so why doesn't he? It's a mystery to all of us, frankly, although there's something to be said for not being quite so clingy.

Fewer singles, more mystique. It's just a thought.

Meanwhile, Shontelle is making a decent fist of being Beyoncé. 'Impossible' is a very nowadaysy ballad, blessed with a perfectly weighted versal melody, a huge, pleading (if entirely repetitious) chorus, and the kind of production sheen you can see your face in, even if you're listening on headphones. It's quite good, but doesn't linger in the mind at all. Craft over astonishment, y'see.

But, enjoyable as both of these are, the show has once again been well and truly stolen by Janelle Monáe. And here is why...

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Brandon Flowers - 'Crossfire'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:05 UK time, Friday, 27 August 2010

Brandon Flowers

People in hit bands start work on solo material for a variety of different reasons: sometimes it's because they've got ideas for music which will not fit in with the basic thrust of their day job. Sometimes it's because they're not the lead singer, or the chief songwriter, and they've had all these ideas and need to get them out before they begin to feel bitterly hemmed-in by their bandmates. And sometimes it's because the people in the day job band can no longer stand to be in the same room, and need to take a break before they start trying to punch each other's facial extremities off.

Bearing in mind that 1) this doesn't sound unlike the Killers, and 2) it's by the lead singer of the Killers, and 3) he's their lead songwriter, and 4) being hemmed-in can't be the issue (see 1), would it be too much to wonder if Brandon's journey into the solo zone has something to do with that last, fightiest option?

Actually, stuff it. I'm just going to go ahead and assume it. We're never going to really KNOW, are we? They can SAY it's because this was supposed to be a new Killers album but they were all too tired to make it, but we don't KNOW they weren't tying each other's shoelaces together and putting clingfilm on the loo, do we?

Right then. Fisticuffs it is.

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Kanye West - 'Power'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:04 UK time, Thursday, 26 August 2010

Kanye West

Oh interesting! The last time Kanye worked up a beat which was so heavily reliant on noises which can be made by the human body - voices and handclaps - was 'Jesus Walks'. All the voices were male, and the song was about surrendering yourself to a higher power. It was expressed in quite firm, almost brutal terms, and framed within the argument that Kanye himself had to battle in order to express devotion to his deity within the strictly secular world of bad boy hip hop. And it was delivered with fire and passion and impeccable logic.

It is also, to a lot of people, the best thing he ever did.

This time, the chanting voices are all girls, and the the higher power seems to be Kanye himself. All humility has been surrendered in order to settle some scores, to redress the balance back in his favour, to put to rest the idea that he's gone a bit too far in recent times - the vocoder album, the awards ceremonies. But in order to do it he has had to go back and remind people that this is what they liked about him in the first place, so you could call it a return to his older ideas, or even a retreat.

21st century schizoid man indeed...

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Katy Perry - 'Teenage Dream'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:25 UK time, Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Katy Perry

When I was a child, we didn't always have a lot of biscuits or chocolate in the house. There wasn't a total ban on biscuits or chocolate, but sometimes there weren't any, and sometimes there were. I don't recall feeling an absence of biscuits or chocolate in my life, nor do I recall taking them for granted, or that I had a right to expect biscuits or chocolate whenever the urge took me.

As such, I tend to think I've a fairly healthy relationship with biscuits and chocolate. I don't feel the need to tell everyone that I like to eat biscuits, or put pictures of myself tucking into a box of chocolates as if to say "SEE MUM? I'm FULLY GROWN NOW AND CAN EAT WHAT I DAMN WELL PLEASE!". In fact, this is probably the first time I've mentioned whether or not I even like biscuits or chocolate in a public place, and it's not as if I haven't had the opportunity.

Having seen the cover of Katy Perry's new album, I think it would be fair to assume - even if we didn't already know - that certain things were kept under such a tight lock and key that she just HAS to show EVERYONE that she is FREE to DO WHAT SHE LIKES NOW.

And no, I don't mean eat biscuits. Or chocolate.

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Kano ft. Michelle Breeze - 'Upside'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:34 UK time, Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Kano

It's always a good sign when you resent having to turn a song off in order to write about how brilliant it is.

Frankly there's a whole ocean of enjoyment still to be wrung out of 'Upside' and I'm keen to get started. So I'm going to have to keep this brief. C'mon, read faster!

Let's just assume I've said something sharp and daft here about the grammar in the chorus, and how leaving the line "you don't know which way is upside" unfinished until the final chorus is just begging all the would-be Lynne Trusses on any dancefloor to shout "DOWN!" every time that line comes around.

And let's assume I'd have then gone on to conjure up some scenario at the annual Christmas party of the 'Grammar Is One National Greatness Mankind Always Destroys' club (blah blah acronym blah), where they only play songs which are grammatically correct - with the result that it's a really, really short Christmas party.

Haha...yes...a crazy scenario indeed...HURRY UP!

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Aggro Santos - 'Saint Or Sinner'

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Fraser McAlpine | 09:59 UK time, Monday, 23 August 2010

Aggro Santos

Now some of the fuss around 'Candy' has died down, and Mr Santos has packed away his celebrity guest, it's time to take a step back and have a think about what kind of artiste this young fella is turning out to be. Is he a new Jay-Z? Could be straddle the pop world like a colossus? In years to come, will this come to be looked up as the moment when we all realised that someone special and astonishing had arrived in our midst, and therefore we should all give thanks?

Maybe if we take both of his songs side by side, we can get some understanding of what he is about, his likes and dislikes, his special skills etc. We already know he can speak more than one language, for example.

After some close examination, I can reveal that he's clearly very interested in girls, and not so bothered about things which are not girls - apart from his website, and Facebook, and raving, and drinking and having a good time. Other than that it is mainly girls. He especially likes girls who dress stylish, and people who are nice to the Irish (note: must check lyrics).

Yep. He's turning into the very thing the world needs most - Pitbull Junior.

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Katy B - 'Katy's On A Mission'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:37 UK time, Sunday, 22 August 2010

Katy B

Oh nicely done! No sooner had I finished moaning about all of those would-be club bangers which are just about that slightly randy feeling of being in a club, here's the next phase. The club banger which is about having a few relationship issues - with a DJ, no less - and how the music is the only thing that makes this sorry situation bearable.

Straightaway, the supply of silly macho leering has been cut off, staunched by a bandage made of pure paranoia. It doesn't matter how transformative the music may be, it doesn't stop the feeling of impending doom that comes even at the moment Katy has finally let the bass carry her away one more time.

So, rather than being a club song about a club, it's a club song about how some things only make sense in a club situation. A subtle refinement, perhaps, but an incredibly welcome one.

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Olly Murs - 'Please Don't Let Me Go'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:26 UK time, Saturday, 21 August 2010

Olly Murs

What's that expression about poking a sleeping tiger? In the wake of last year's Christmas Rage Against The Machine campaign, news reports are trickling out that this year's X Factor innovation is the ability to download that week's performances immediately after each show.

This will have an immediate impact on the chart, of course. The show already tends to boost sales of the songs the contestants perform, with high chart placings for at least one old classic every week: in much the same way that Glee basically stapled Journey's 'Don't Stop Believin' to the Top 30 and left it there all year. Now, rather than give that money away to people who just happen to have recorded those songs in the first place, the show is going to make sure they get it for themselves.

Sorry, that's too cynical. What I meant to say is this: now the show is offering fans the chance to buy recordings of the performances they love, rather than having to try and recreate the magic, puppet-style, using a hit from the olden days and a printout.

The knock-on effect could be disastrous. Middle-ranking pop and indie performers are going to struggle to get their traditional No.19 hits, because they'll be knocked down to the low 20s. And what of the people who actually prefer to go and buy the original versions of songs they've seen on the X Factor, especially if those songs have been badly mauled. So there'll be even MORE of a bunfight in the lower 30s, with two versions of the same song battling over the coveted No.35 spot.

In short, it will be just like Glee all over again. And the Rage people are going to be all "oh no you didn't!" and the X Factor people are gonna be all "you'd better believe it, buddy!" and the everyone else people are going to be all "oh man, I am MOVING TO THE MOON."

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A Slightly Fiddly Chat With Ellie Goulding...

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:18 UK time, Friday, 20 August 2010

Ellie Goulding

What you are about to read is a true, full and frank account of a conversation between myself and the pop star Ellie Goulding. A conversation which was interrupted several times, by events beyond either of our control, and which possibly became a little confused here and there as a result. She rallied rather better than I did, it's fair to say.

If you find yourself getting a bit lost, can I suggest you hang on until the end, because that last bit, about critics and artists, is a DOOZY. And the rest is clearly a result of two people having One Of Those Days in parallel, while attempting to discuss literature and the arts.

Read on, if you dare...

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Everything Everything - 'MY KZ UR BF'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:44 UK time, Thursday, 19 August 2010

Everything Everything

So, we all know Hurts are reissuing 'Wonderful Life', right? This is largely because their album is imminent, and people are really going for their wartime chic and their doomy synthpop and their general air of bookish sheep in steely wolves' clothing. For them to reissue one of their defining moments (so far) makes a lot of sense. It's not a very haughty thing to do, and that seems a little out of character, but I'm sure we'll all muddle through.

In the meantime, this astonishing collective are also re-releasing an early single, in order to promote their album - it's called 'Man Alive'. And, sad to say, they seem to be getting only a fraction of the response that their fellow synthpoppers are.

For the LIFE of me, I cannot see why this should be the case.

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The Pretty Reckless - 'Miss Nothing'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:15 UK time, Wednesday, 18 August 2010

The Pretty Reckless

Suppose someone gave you a massive whacking hammer - y'know the kind of barrel-headed mallet with frayed extremeties that you'd see on an old Tom and Jerry cartoon. Suppose they gave you this on the understanding that you would use it sparingly, because of the damage such a mighty weapon could inflict if thrown around willy nilly. Suppose you took this responsibility very seriously, as much because you don't want to have to pick up the mess afterwards as anything else.

The question is, what if Tom the cat was just BEGGING to be whacked? What if he had a great big red and white target on his head, a mouthful of your packed lunch/uncle Bob, and a contemptuous sneer on his lips? What if he were prodding you in the chest, demanding that you go ahead and do it, that he can definitely take it. Would you?

I should add, for the purposes of this little moral play, the part of Tom is being played by Taylor Momsen, and the part of the whacking hammer is being played by Courtney Love.

As for me, I'm trying really hard not to let rip.

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Taio Cruz - 'Dynamite'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:38 UK time, Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Taio Cruz

OK, that's it. I'm officially TIRED of songs about what it is like to have a nice time dancing in a club with a sexy lady. It's a snake-eating-its-own-tail lyrical trick in any case, writing a song describing a club, so that it will go on to be played in a club, so it looks like you could've written the song about the very club in which it is being played.

We're running dangerously close to having club nights which play nothing but songs about being in a club. Surely this will mess with people's heads? Why not go the whole hog and namecheck the bouncers? You could do a special version for every club in the world, with a shout-out to everyone there on the night: hen parties, stag dos, the lot. That'd really shake things up.

Hell, put a mirrored-wall in and you've taken self-appreciation to dangerous, possibly even near-fatal levels. They'll all be copping off with themselves! While they watch! And singing about it!

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Sky Ferreira or Inna: Which 'One' is 'Amazing'?

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:08 UK time, Monday, 16 August 2010

Inna and Sky Ferreira

In music, sadness and dancing seem to go together like peanut butter and marmalade: a combination which shouldn't really work, but serves to do nothing but bring out the best in both elements.

Electropop has always known this, which is why so many of its best songs are also the most heartbreaking. And yer silly holiday dance pop has the sadness running through it like the lettering in a stick of rock. Inna and Sky Ferreira know it too, AND their two songs also compliment each other rather nicely.

So it is for THIS REASON ALONE - and not because there seem to be too many noteworthy songs around at the moment - that we shall examine their respective worthinesses together. OK? NOT because of space.

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Roll Deep - 'Green Light'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:38 UK time, Sunday, 15 August 2010

Roll Deep

Ah I see what's going on here. This is less a song - in the sense of something one can enjoy while sitting in a comfortable chair, sipping something fizzy and luxuriating in the sensory delight - and more a SONG - something one can use as a soundtrack to dancefloor fun - it's a LOT of fun - including acting out the lyrics, pointing at people you fancy and mouthing the words, and generally using as a script for flirting.

You can also then use it as a kind of memory trigger, once you're in that chair and you've got your pop, cos every line will trigger a visual image - that club, that boy, that girl and What Happened Next - some of which will maybe provoke a smile, others a grimace. It's all there to be played with.

Of course, if you don't use it for the purpose it was designed, it's not really going to work very well.

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Blood Red Shoes - 'Heartsink'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:37 UK time, Saturday, 14 August 2010

Blood Red Shoes

It is maddening to feel that you are selling yourself short. To know that you're built for better than the reality you have provided for yourself. To look about you at the ordinary people living their ordinary lives in what appears to be a permanent state of contentment, and be aware that you, with your extra depth, intelligence and maturity, should not be among them. Yet you are, and you've no-one to blame but yourself. How positively GHASTLY.

Of course, if you needed a way to vent this frustration, you could do worse than write yourself a nice finger-pointing song about the despair of being forced to exist in a place which does not recognize or cater for your advanced needs.

It's going to have to be a particularly furious kind of song though. Your Mumford strum wouldn't really get that small-town suffocation across - even though a lot of ye olde folke music comes from a very similar impulse, if you think about all of those songs about working and jobs.

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Chase & Status ft. Mali - 'Let You Go'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:37 UK time, Friday, 13 August 2010

Chase and Status and Mali

Easy there, champ! Break-ups are traumatic at the best of times but there's no need to act the vengeful stalker, just because things have reached an end point that you weren't expecting. I mean you might not realise, in the heat of the moment, but you're coming across a little aggressively.

You also seem to believe that you have no part to play in the sad demise of your own relationship, while also claiming that even when it did work, it was only by an effort of your will and your will alone. The same will which you now intend to inflct upon your ex with scant regard for his or her feelings in the matter. They try and bring things to a close, you bellow as loud as you can about the lengths you will go to, in order to ensure that they cannot.

If you're trying to convince them not to go, it might have the opposite effect, you see. It's not what your former loved-one wants to hear to reassure them that everything is going to be alright. It's more...what's the word...ah yes! Terrifying.

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One Night Only - 'Say You Don't Want It'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:35 UK time, Thursday, 12 August 2010

One Night Only

School Sports Day: The only athletic tournament - outside of Total Wipeout - which features disciplines that are designed to make spectators laugh AND create a sense of equality between all contestants, no matter how sporty. Limber up all you like, speedy kids, unless you can keep that egg on that spoon, you ain't going nowhere.

I mention this because this is a bit of a three-legged race of a song. For all that it surges forward, rightly confident of victory and bubbling over with the fun of itself, there is still something ungainly about the way it lurches across the ground.

Which, of course, only adds to the fun.

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Devlin - 'Brainwashed'

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Fraser McAlpine | 08:02 UK time, Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Devlin

Honestly, some people can be so NEEDY.

I mean sure, if you're going to be a pop star, it helps to have the kind of self-regard which occasionally finds you checking out your reflection in the taps on the sink. But to actually BEG your audience to remember who you are - even to go to the lengths of spelling out your name* - and then brag that anyone who does actually bother to do this is clearly being brainwashed by your astonishing talent...

Well that doesn't just take the cake. That takes the cake, the cake-dish, the cake-slice, the table-cloth AND the pretty little seaside teashop.

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Klaxons - 'Echoes'

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Fraser McAlpine | 16:27 UK time, Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Klaxons

It's probably not worth asking why it has taken the band quite so long to come back, is it? Not when they've returned with a song which sounds pretty much like everything else they've ever done. I mean, you can't blame them for being them. Klaxons are clearly not the kind of band who spend ages in the studio pushing away at the outer reaches of possibility within the field of recorded sound.

Oh sure, they TALK like that's what they do, their lyrics READ like that's what they do, and they DRESS like that is what they do, but they don't. Or at least, if they do, their record company would rather they did not, and have taken steps to ensure this is the case.

They had that one good idea - about fusing old rave music with indie and science fiction - and they recorded a whole album which explored this idea, and then they went away to have fun, recorded and ditched a whole album of songs, and now they are back.

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Rihanna ft. Young Jeezy - 'Hard'

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Fraser McAlpine | 12:44 UK time, Monday, 9 August 2010

Rihanna

"That Rihanna rain just won't let up"

Tell us about it, girlfriend! It's starting to seem like every month or so, there's a new jam from 'Rated R', or an astonishing collaboration from someone else's album starting to wander up the charts, all cocky, like it owns the place. As it rises, it tips a confident wink to its song-mates - 'Te Amo' to the left, 'Rude Boy' to the right, 'Russian Roulette' at the back - before leaving them behind and strolling, cool as you please, right the way up to the Top 10.

This song is already on its second go at it, even though it isn't officially 'released' released until next week.

And because Rihanna hits are stick-around hits, there can't have been many weeks in 2010 where our - what, Top 40? Top 30? Top 20? TOP 10!? - hasn't featured one of her songs. And she hasn't officially put out 'Rockstar 101' over here yet, and Slash is on that.

People love Slash. He's got a funny hat.

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And Now A Brief Look At The Headlines With Rochelle Saturdays...

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:03 UK time, Sunday, 8 August 2010

Rochelle Saturdays

Good evening, and here is the news:

Popular girl-group the Saturdays have recently announced they are releasing a new mini-album with the title 'Headlines'. It will be a collection of eight songs, three of which were available on their previous, full-length album 'Wordshaker' - albeit in a remixed form. A fourth is their current single 'Missing You'.

A spokesperson for the band - Rochelle Wiseman - told our reporter that the decision to release this music now was taken because the songs are "so current". They then went on to talk about the news in general, with particular emphasis on so-called paparazzi photographers, and groins.

Here's the interview in full...

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DJ Fresh - 'Gold Dust'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:09 UK time, Saturday, 7 August 2010

DJ Fresh

Sometimes the brightest gems are right in front of your eyes, hiding in plain sight. Or just obscured by people who know they are there, but have forgotten to tell you.

With this song, and its fantastic video, I will admit that my attention was miles away, probably raking through some slower, drabber, less fun things (ie: ANYTHING ELSE). I had no idea something this ker-ay-zee, this life-affirming, this astonishingly chipper was released across on my beloved internet just seven days ago, until a friend dragged me over to look at what he called "the skipping video" on his phone.

Yeah, that's right, a skipping video. I mean how impressive can a video which features people either successfully or unsuccessfully jumping over a moving rope actually b...oh my LORD have you SEEN THE SKIPPING VIDEO? YOU'VE GOT TO SEE THE SKIPPING VIDEO! THE SKIPPING VIDEO IS AMAZING!

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Kele - 'Everything You Wanted'

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Fraser McAlpine | 09:35 UK time, Friday, 6 August 2010

Kele

I think it was that Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly single that finally did it.

I'd been struggling a bit with Kele's 'new' 'urban' 'direction', not least because anyone who'd been following Bloc Party's trajectory could've seen it coming a mile off, whether under his name or the band's. This is apart from what I just had to admit were my usual reservations about his voice - yelpy, whispery, occasionally annoying - and tunesmithery - yelpy, monotonous, occasionally fantastic.

Then, biffing around town one day, the Get Cape single popped up on a random playlist, and, without checking what it was, I assumed it was Kele's latest. You have to admit their voices aren't a million miles apart, sonically speaking. "At last!", I said to myself, "he's put some fun into his songs! The words sit comfortably within the music, because they all rhyme and stuff, and they're FUNNY! Oh THIS must be what he means when he tells the press how happy his new music has made him..."

Sad faces all round once the penny dropped.

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Tinchy Stryder ft. Jodie Connor - 'In My System'

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Fraser McAlpine | 11:33 UK time, Thursday, 5 August 2010

Tinchy Stryder

There's a thing in music called a pedal point, which - put simply - is when a note drones on for a very long time, while the rest of the music changes around it. It's usually a bass note, allowing the chords above it to shift about, sometimes dissonant, sometimes resolved. Or to put it into visual terms, it's a bit like nailing a cloud to the sky on a windy day, it can still flex and wane, but only around that one fixed point.

In this song, breaking with centuries of musical tradition, Tinchy Stryder takes the role of a human pedal point. What he has to say is said simply, and repetitively, usually in sentences that end with a rhyme for the word "that", but it's all delivered over an astonishingly varied musical landscape. Everything changes around him - within certain parameters, it doesn't suddenly go METAL, for example - and yet he remains constant.

Same hoarse tone of voice, similar words, one thing to say, saying it over and over. And over. Again.

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Ellie Goulding - 'The Writer'

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Fraser McAlpine | 09:15 UK time, Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Ellie Goulding

I love it when a song deliberately tries to throw you off the rhythmic scent when it starts. If you've ever heard 'Cecilia' by Simon and Garfunkel, or 'Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Monkey' by the Beatles (both highly recommended, if you have not) you might be familiar with the rising sense of tension that comes from KNOWING you're hearing it wrong - that you can't quite anticipate when the singing will start, and what rhythm you're supposed to be clapping along to. Then there's the desperate hope that you can sort it out in your head quickly, because as soon as the singers do arrive, you'll be all wrong-footed, hot-faced and foolish.

It's like a very short crossword puzzle which resets itself every time the song starts.

This has that very same kind of introduction. The way the piano strikes up over the sparkling seabed of synths, the way everything reverberates and pulses, well it's an effort of will to remember to count in threes instead of fours, so that when Ellie starts singing it all makes sense.

Granted, it might just be me that has this problem.

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Ne-Yo - 'Beautiful Monster'

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Fraser McAlpine | 15:02 UK time, Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Ne-Yo

Getting the words right in a song situation is harder than it seems. While a lot of people claim not to listen to lyrics, or even care if they're rubbish, the ideal state of being for a good pop song is one where all the words fit all of the melody - right down to the way the stressed syllables in each word match the rise and fall of the tune. Oh, and they can't be stupid either.

The ideal situation being words which can handle a bit of close examination, and which don't stick out like a nail in a peach.

Listen to the verses in this song. Not only are they well sung, beautifully produced and all that, those words are close to perfect. Ne-Yo says what he has to say slowly, deliberately, and clearly, and every word is balanced and measured against the melody which carries it. He even has time to throw in a few Michael Jackson hiccups here and there.

Shame the chorus is quite so casually unfriendly to women in general, but you can't have everything.

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Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly ft. Shy FX - 'Collapsing Cities'

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Fraser McAlpine | 18:14 UK time, Monday, 2 August 2010

Get Cape Wear Cape Fly

Sam Duckworth is one smart cookie. Clever enough to give himself an arresting performer name, so's not to get lost among all the winsome singer-songwriter Bens and Toms and Seths and Franks. Canny enough to be outspoken in an era when your average pop star is too worried about being loved by everyone to even consider venturing an opinion, even on a topic that we're all pretty much agreed on.

And he's wise enough to accept his place in the general scheme of things without developing diva tendencies. Or rather, to be seen to accept his place in the general scheme of things -relatively lowly after that second album - and then go off and cook up something amazing, just to shake things up.

This then, is the amazing thing. The second of the year's big excursions into UK urban music from well-established indie stars, and by some distance the most fun.

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The Saturdays - 'Missing You'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:39 UK time, Sunday, 1 August 2010

The Saturdays

A controversial song, this. And one which has cause more than a few ripples since it first escaped onto the internet a few weeks ago. People have been quietly asking each other if they've heard it, and if so, what they think, as if there needs to be a common agreement as to whether it is good or bad.

Something hidden deep in the song's DNA is engagingly bad, or worryingly good, and it's got everyone's quality alarms jangling like a wind-chime in a hurricane. And it's not just about the song. People are now wondering whether, if it IS bad, it represents final proof that the band who gave us the (still) amazing 'Up' have lost their way as a potent pop force.

So, before we find ourselves in the middle of a pop vigilante mob, setting fire to the Sundays' lawn by mistake, let's have a good look at this thing, and see if we can't get to the root of the problem.

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