Archives for May 2010

Stornoway - 'Zorbing'

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Fraser McAlpine | 09:54 UK time, Monday, 31 May 2010


Dammit. I hate to be so easily pigeon-holed as a listener.

In an ideal world, I'd be able to fend off the advances of this song. I'd be making snarky claims about Mumford and Sons and helium. I'd be inventing a joke about the folk bandwagon, and how, because folk is all about the olden days and waistcoats and moustaches, right, it's more of a band-stagecoach, yeah?

I'd be prodding the lyrics and singling out the references to having "started uni" and "the streets of Cowley" for derision and outright mockery. I'd be posturing about this being a re-release (THE NERVE!). Those hats would get a shoeing too. I'm hard like that. Sometimes.

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Ask Usher

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Fraser McAlpine | 11:40 UK time, Sunday, 30 May 2010


OK, here's the deal. Next week we will be interviewing Usher. Yup, THE Usher.

I believe the phrase you are looking for begins with an O and ends with a MG.

Now, this is the kind of experience which should be shared, so we'd like to throw this open to everyone. If you have a question you would like us to put to Usher, just whack it in the comments box below, and we'll do our level best to ask as many of them as we can.

Easy peasy!

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Eminem - 'Not Afraid'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:28 UK time, Saturday, 29 May 2010


It's got to be one of the hardest things about trying to make big changes in your life, to drop all the silly defenses you've put up, the security blanket/hard shell that always stopped you from exposing your weak underbelly to the predators.

Everyone does it, a sharp tongue, a big pair of fists, fierce makeup, confident clothes, pre-emptive tears...or in Eminem's case, writing a bunch of songs about which female celebs he'd like to make out with and telling the world off for getting on his case all the time.

Attack, defend, attack, defend...and yet all anyone really wants from the man is a little honesty.

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Sean Kingston & Justin Bieber - 'Eenie Meenie'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:55 UK time, Friday, 28 May 2010

Justin Bieber

In the '50s and '60s, they used to talk about a generation gap; a breakdown of communication between parents and their children, over issues of political belief, social change, and most of all, musical taste. It got so severe the two sides simply did not know how to talk to each other, each believing that the other had no idea about how the world really worked.

Dad would have his big band jazz, mum would have her crooners, and the kids would be rocking out to Elvis or the Beatles, and it was as if a giant glass wall existed between the generations who'd been involved/aware during World War II, and the ones who had not.

I'm not saying it's the same nowadays, but there are a LOT of people over a certain age who have spend their days on the internet opening wondering who the hell this Justin Bieber person is, and another LOT of people who are UNDER that same age, and they spend their time shouting at the first lot for revelling in their own ignorance.

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Iyaz - 'Solo'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:26 UK time, Thursday, 27 May 2010


There now follows a diary of musical experience, based on personal reactions to a pop song over time:

Early Thoughts
Oh come on! This is just as bad as Sean Kingston! The music has no weight to it. It's all whisper-soft and cheap and brittle. It's like lift music, or a home keyboard's demo button, or something. AND they've nicked the chorus off Janet Jackson, so the strongest melodic hook in the entire song comes from an older song which was better produced and better sung in the first place.

OK, granted, not everyone is going to remember this, and of the people that DO, only a small percentage are going to care. I'm probably only using it as a stick to beat Iyaz with because the song as a whole hasn't sparked much of a reaction. But this makes me IRRATIONALLY ANGRY, and therefore I feel JUSTIFIED and VENGEFUL.

Don't panic, it'll pass...

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Dizzee Rascal - Dirtee Disco

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:07 UK time, Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Dizzee Rascal

Man I love Dizzee Rascal. I mean I REALLY love Dizzee Rascal. The dude's a dude, dude! You'd have to be the killjoy of all time - or, yes, someone with a legitimate grudge - to feel any differently, surely? He's a talented, articulate pop star with something to say and the means to deliver it, so that's all great for starters. But he's also incredibly good at winding up hipsters. And as we all know, winding up hipsters is, if not our sole reason to be allowed to draw air into our lungs, probably the most important thing we will ever do.

NOTE: This does not apply to anyone who works in the fields of medicine, education, governance, diplomatic relations, finance, care, the law, public transport, journalism, [something important I've forgotten]...or the emergency services, armed forces, service industries and the cafe at the Natural History Museum in London.

*dusts off hands*

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David Guetta & Chris Willis ft. Fergie & LMFAO - Gettin' Over You

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Fraser McAlpine | 08:53 UK time, Tuesday, 25 May 2010

David Guetta

OK, now this is getting silly. It's fine for friends to help each other out, and clearly if a pop star is helping another pop star, they're going to want a credit...but FOUR NAMES? In a ROW? That's just a recipe for bad filing.

And have you seen how they're divided into two camps? There's David and Chris on one side: they're clearly the people who MADE this thing, they're the creative geniuses. And then there's Fergie and LMFAO, who just FEATURE on it. They're the hired help.

Oh sure, they're the voices you hear for twelvety-threen percent of the song, but that's because they FEATURE quite HEAVILY. The powerhouse behind the throne, the people who make it all happen, that's yer Guetta/Willis axis, and don't you forget it.

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Rihanna - 'Te Amo'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:55 UK time, Monday, 24 May 2010

Rihanna at Big Weekend

Say what you like about Ms Fenty and her apparent lack of an easily-understood public persona, but as anyone who was at Big Weekend will attest, she can SURE put on a unique show.

I mean to say...Look at this! Just LOOK at it! There are dancers in German WWII helmets - with WWI spikes coming out of the top - dancing about and carrying pink rifles. And that's just the first song. Pink rifles though! It's like war, only for girls!

As for the music, well, she's stripped out the icy robotic central nervous system of her songs and replaced it with a hot-blooded, meaty rock band, including Nuno Bettencourt on widdy-widdly guitar. I know!

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Don't Watch This...Watch That!

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:49 UK time, Saturday, 22 May 2010

Big Weekend

Hello! Just a quick note to's Big Weekend. This means everyone's in Bangor having the BEST TIME of ALL TIME, and generally kicking up a ruckus.

Which leaves me wondering how best to mark the event. A special website devoted to the goings on? Well there already is one. Carry on as usual? I was gonna say something about Rihanna's 'Te Amo', but what could I add to the fact that she's performing it in front of a bazillion screaming fans in Bangor this Sunday night, beyond saying it's a nice song, she's a nice pop star, and by the way, you should totally check out the Big Weekend site.

You should, by the way, totally check out the Big Weekend site. And then join me back here on Monday for more of the same old nonsense.



Chiddy Bang - 'Truth'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:15 UK time, Friday, 21 May 2010

Chiddy Bang

"Is anybody there?" shouts a worried Chiddy, while something slowish - namely Passion Pit's 'Better Things' - plays far too fast in the background, "I mean I hope somebody out there can hear this right here. Just listen..."

It's a curiously insecure way to start an upbeat pop song, donchathink? It's more the sort of thing you'd expect from a guerilla radio station, broadcasting from the middle of the end of the world, or a last transmission from an abandoned spaceship, set to music, because it's in a sci-fi musical. A hip hop sci-fi musical, no less.

And it raises an interesting philosophical question: if a rapper busts rhymes in the forest and there's no-one there to hear him, can he still boast?

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Owl City - 'Umbrella Beach'

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Fraser McAlpine | 03:01 UK time, Thursday, 20 May 2010

Owl City

A confession: I'm writing this at 3am. I had to. See, I read this interview with Adam Young on the BBC Slink site, in which he explains his battle with insomnia, and how it has affected his working life, and it seemed like the best way to really appreciate his work - or at least, gain an understanding as to why his work is the way it is - would be to try and go to the wellspring of his inspiration. Lack of sleep is the key.

Now, I'm someone who normally finds Owl City's output to be a little whiny, a smidge twee, a trifle over-reliant on autotune. To such an extent that, by the end of one solid listen to the album, I was desperate for some red meat, some AC/DC and a fight with a bear.

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Muse - 'Neutron Star Collision (Love Is Forever)'

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Fraser McAlpine | 12:31 UK time, Wednesday, 19 May 2010


If you'll forgive (yet) another gross oversimplification of the way things are, the job of every songwriter is to create an alternative world for their audience to visit. This is what people need music for. They can visit it wholeheartedly, as an escape, while shutting their eyes to hide any clue that they currently already reside in a perfectly functioning plane of reality, or they can try and lay it over the top of their daily life, so reality acts as a kind of facial background to music's drawn-on-moustache.

There is also some difference as to what kind of moustache the songwriter wishes to draw. Some try and keep things as close to the real world as possible, carefully detailing each hair and follicle, so that the only difference between the two planes of existence is the moustache itself. Others draw on a cartoon moustache, specs, a false nose and then change the colour of the sky.

Muse, it's fair to say, would also add chrome antlers and some scaly green bloodshotting to the eyes.

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N-Dubz ft. Bodyrox - 'We Dance On'

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Fraser McAlpine | 13:15 UK time, Tuesday, 18 May 2010


Here's a question I never thought I'd ask: has anyone reading this ever been brought to actual tears by an N-Dubz song? I don't mean in a snarky sense, y'know like someone would overdramatically claim that the 'Dubz are so appalling that it makes them WEEP for the FUTURE OF MANKIND ITSELF.

No, what I'm asking is whether you have ever found yourself misting up while listening to 'Ouch' or 'I Need You'. Genuine misting, OK? Proper actual tears of unadulterated melancholy (or, at a push, ecstatic joy). Anyone?

Well if you haven't, maybe now is the time to start...

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How To Make The Top 40 Beautiful...

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Fraser McAlpine | 11:15 UK time, Monday, 17 May 2010

The Love 40

Charts, eh? They're a pickle. On the one hand, they're a fantastic way of explaining what is going on in the world of music at a single point in time, but on the other, they can be quite a dry list, closer to statistics than music appreciation. And you can't extrapolate too much information from a single Top 40, or look at the way a single song has moved around over several weeks without making the whole thing damn-near impossible to read.

Or at least, you couldn't until now. Radio 1 have been working on a new way of visualising the chart, one which includes the passing of time AND your individual passion for certain songs.

Interested? YES YOU ARE. Pop open a browser and feast your senses on The Love 40.

(And then read on for further instructions)

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Christina Aguilera - 'Not Myself Tonight'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:32 UK time, Sunday, 16 May 2010

Christina Aguilera

I do love a self-defeating song title, me. I loved it when One Night Only released a song called 'Just For Tonight' (reiterated their band name); I loved it when Paul Weller released the most generically Paul Wellery song of his entire, massively varied back catalogue, and called it 'The Changingman'; and now I love that Christina Aguilera has released a song which deliberately encourages us, her audience to think back to the days when she was the girl who put the rrs in dirty, and called it 'Not Myself Tonight'

I mean, clearly you ARE yourself tonight, dearie. Your old self. We know. We've seen it before.

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Edward Maya & Vika Jigulina - 'Stereo Love'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:47 UK time, Saturday, 15 May 2010

Vika Jigulina

When it comes to instruments which polarize listeners, the accordion must rank just behind the didgeridoo and just ahead of the human voice (all down to personal taste, y'see) as one of the single most divisive noises of all time. If not quite the full Marmite*, it is certainly a roll-mop herring, dipped in semolina, and sprinkled with sprouts.

Some people love them, and will claim that it is possible to create a whole one-man orchestra of tones and melody from the wheezing beasts. Others simply hear the sound of dying sheep, doing a polka, in hell. And there is no convincing either side that they've got the wrong end of the stick.

This is going to do nothing to change matters.

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Ellie Goulding - 'Guns and Horses'

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Fraser McAlpine | 11:56 UK time, Friday, 14 May 2010

Ellie Goulding

As any mountain climber will tell you, after a vertiginous ascent, you need to find a plateau to rest on, before you can resume the climb. It's just a brief period of consolidation, to make sure your equipment is all still working correctly and you've got enough crampons to make it to the summit.

This is very much Ellie Goulding's consolidation single. It's got enough of what people liked about her breakthrough hit to maintain interest and drive clicky fingers towards the all-important 'download album' button, and there's a bit in it which hints at future treasures.

Allow me to explain...

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LCD Soundsystem - 'Drunk Girls'

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Fraser McAlpine | 17:29 UK time, Thursday, 13 May 2010

LCD Soundsystem

Sometimes you just KNOW when something is right, within seconds of your first experience of it. It arrives through a sensory organ - the eye, the ear, the skin - tickles the crikey synapses, engages the yikesial cortex and generally causes havoc among the whoah! centres of the brain.

It helps if the thing you're experiencing carries echoes of other things you have experienced which had a similar effect at first, and then grew to even bigger heights of brainial stimulation. But it has to bring its own visceral thrill too, and no amount of standing in front of a much-loved good thing and pointing at it can achieve that.


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Alexandra Burke ft. Pitbull - 'All Night Long'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:10 UK time, Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Alexandra Burke

Right, this is a pickle. As a result of prolongued exposure, I am going to have to be extremely nice about a song which features Pitbull, and for once, I don't mean it in a kind of half-shrugged "well this is perfectly fine for now, passes the time agreeably, but I probably won't play this at an important family gathering" sort of way. I mean it in a "blimey, I'm enjoying this song so much I'm going to play it again as soon as it stops, AND tell my friends about it" kind of way.

Yes, the same Pitbull who had that unsavoury song about making love in a hotel room. How can I ever look myself in the ears again?*

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B.o.B ft. Bruno Mars - 'Nothin' On You'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:12 UK time, Tuesday, 11 May 2010


Interesting fact: This wasn't originally suppose to be a B.o.B song: it was written with Lupe Fiasco in mind. The idea was that Lupe would provide a cerebral spin on Bruno Mars's sighing claims of eternal devotion, some kind of crossword-puzzler's version of romance, possibly including anagrams, palindromes and other dazzling forms of wordplay.

It took an intervention from the-man-we-should-all-just-go-back-to-calling-Bobby-Ray's producer to change the direction of the tune. So now it's Bruno that takes the high ground - emotionally and musically, while Bob provides the physical heat and grit. He's all accent and silliness, half-shouting his lines about Wonder Woman, paying taxes, and having a bit of a coy joke about Mr Fantastic's stretchy body-parts.

It might not be educational, but it's a hell of a lot of fun.

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The Pretty Reckless - 'Make Me Wanna Die'

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Fraser McAlpine | 15:01 UK time, Monday, 10 May 2010

Pretty Reckless

A hyper-dynamic, dramatic rock band with a dark-voiced lady singer who is also a Hollywood actress will draw comparisons. There's Paramore for starters, or Hole, just because y'know, girls and guitars, all the same, right?*

A better point of comparison might be 30 Seconds To Mars, if you factor the Hollywood career in and imagine Jared Leto is a girl, which is surprisingly easy. Thankfully, neither of these are damning associations in this day and age.

Not that Taylor Momsen (out of Gossip Girl) - a 16-year-old who could give Daisy Dares You a run for their money in the "I AM NOT A POP STAR I AM A ROCK STAR" stakes - has a problem dealing with scary comparisons. Not if her recent "I don't wanna be Courtney Love, I wanna be Kurt Cobain" quote is anything to go by...

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Hurts - 'Better Than Love'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:19 UK time, Sunday, 9 May 2010


Well, after several hours of listening work, and several more spent in silent cogitation and analysis, and a good night's sleep, I can exclusively reveal...that this isn't very rubbish at all, is it? Far from it. In fact, there's probably a gag to be made about how listening to Hurts fails on one key criterion, namely that it doesn't Hurt, and therefore the band's name is a lie...

...but the joke actually WOULD Hurt, which would ruin the internal logic a smidge.

In any case, I get the impression that jokes aren't really a very Hurts sort of a thing. The writings of Franz Kafka, yes. The ballet, yes. Cufflinks and silk scarves, OH DEFINITELY. But not jokes. Unless they're very dry jokes, the kind you don't so much laugh at as snort lightly, like the last dusty breath from a mummy's tomb.

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Jason Derulo - 'Ridin' Solo'

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Fraser McAlpine | 09:58 UK time, Saturday, 8 May 2010

Jason Derulo

Wait wait wait...what's that you say you're doing, Jason? You're riding "tholo", are you? Really? "THOLO"?

Is that the name of your racehorse? Your skateboard? Your bike? It's your bike, isn't it. That's what all the stuff about you getting on your 'ride' is all about, isn't it? You've got some immaculate 10-speed racer, and an axe to grind.

Hey, we're not here to judge. We've all been there. You've had a bust-up with your girlfriend, probably over the amount of time you spend grooming yourself in the bathroom/wardrobe mirror/hall mirror/kettle reflection, and now you just want some time to get your head together. Why not go for a nice bike ride?

Thee if you can get yourthelf thorted, get thome ecktherthithe.

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Fyfe Dangerfield - 'She's Always A Woman'

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Fraser McAlpine | 11:30 UK time, Friday, 7 May 2010

Fyfe Dangerfield

Here's a quick (and patchy) history lesson for you all:

Once upon a time, you could guarantee to get a song into the charts because it was in a TV commercial - usually one for jeans - and people hadn't heard it in ages. Then you could guarantee to get a song into the charts because it was in a TV commercial and no-one had ever heard it before. Then there were a LOT of songs in TV commercials, so you couldn't guarantee anything would get into the charts.

Then the charts started to become dominated by download sales over CD sales, which meant releasing songs from TV commercials was a lot easier to do. Then advertisers realised that interesting covers of classic old hits really fires up the public's imagination (hello Glee!), and now some songs from TV commercials get into the charts and some do not.

This song is doing quite well. It is currently being used in a TV commercial.

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Sub Focus ft. Coco - 'Splash'

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Fraser McAlpine | 17:51 UK time, Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Sub Focus ft Coco

See now THIS is the kind of thing I was after from Pendulum the other day. Thick, sludgy drum'n'bass with a creamy, rocking chorus and a sparkling, colourful pop sheen on the top. A sonic trifle, in other words.

'Splash' hits hard and heavy with the same doomy, apocalyptic sense of oncoming badness. Coco pretending to be a lone voice howling against an oncoming storm perfectly, and, y'know... it's a lot more pleasant on the ear. And not as annoying. Or repetitive.

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Aggro Santos ft. Kimberley Wyatt - 'Candy'

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Fraser McAlpine | 17:41 UK time, Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Aggro Santos

"What's this?", thinks the handsome and talented writer of blogs, as he plucks a CD from his groaning desk, "a hot new chart waxing from some dance producer, I'll be bound. But wait! 'Candy'? That's a song by Paolo Nutini, isn't it? A RECENT song by Paolo Nutini. Hmm..."

And with a thoughful air, he gets up to check the calendar on a nearby wall, absent-mindedly tapping a pencil on his teeth and sighing as though befuddled.

"According to this, we're not due a Paolo Nutini dance remake for another...TWO YEARS. Has there been some interference in the popality vortex? Has someone torn a hole in the fabric of the charts? Is this the beginning of an invasion by hostile aliens, intent on taking over our musical world?"

There is a pause, as the great man mulls things over. And then:

"Oh, it's not the Paolo Nutini song after all. Silly me..."

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A Slightly Swoony Chat With Sophie Ellis Bextor

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:23 UK time, Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Sophie Ellis Bextor

Pop is a young person's game. You have to be at your physical peak of stamina, attractiveness and ability to even THINK about being a pop star, and even if you are not and you somehow trick your way in with, y'know, talent and stuff, it takes a very special kind of person indeed to stick around for any length of time.

Sophie Ellis Bextor is just such a person. She's been making people go a bit silly with her music/looks/haughtiness combo since 1997, first with the indie band theaudience (clever spelling, yeah?) and then on her own. And it's the same sort of music/looks/haughtiness combo which a certain Lady GaGa has more recently been using to take over the entire world.

SO, it's likely she's picked up a few nuggets of wisdom along the way, right?

Let's find out together....

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Drake - 'Over'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:35 UK time, Monday, 3 May 2010


Modern hip hop is a strange beast, is it not? Still a divisive force among music fans, still pushing at the outer reaches of what is sonically acceptable, and still scaring the bejesus out of anyone who wishes to take each lyric at face value. And it has made even stranger beasts of the rappers who would be kings.

Once upon a time, your rapper's main job was to express one thought, in a kaleidescopically different series of ways, and that thought was "I AM BETTER THAN YOU."

He (or she) could do it scarily, or thuggishly, or funnily, or happily, or grumpily, or bashfully, or even dopily, but that's really all he had to try and say.

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Biffy Clyro - 'Bubbles'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:27 UK time, Sunday, 2 May 2010

Biffy Clyro

I've come to a startling realisation, one which explains my relationship with pop music and why it sometimes becomes a little strained. Wanna know what it is? It's this: the majority of songs aren't fast enough.

I don't know if this is a result of some glandular thing, where my pancreas is so determined to keep my sugar levels at fizzykid levels that it just can't process slower, less immediate pop thrills, or just a simple matter of personal taste, but I really would rather most pop songs picked their feet up a bit, slouched a bit less, and generally acted in a more lively and eager-to-please fashion.

Biffy Clyro, who occasionally sound more than a little stodgy and slothful to these ears, have thoughtfully provided just the example I need to illustrate this.

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Foals - 'This Orient'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:06 UK time, Saturday, 1 May 2010


I love it when musicians try really, really hard to make music which angular and awkward and gawky and strange, and they put their heart and soul into taking routes which are not only not well trodden, but which might not actually exist at all. I love this because it's a contrary impulse to the act of making music in the first place, which is to try and communicate with people, and I love it because sometimes, just sometimes, what they come back with is something which is massively accessible and (whisper it) actually quite poppy.

The Horrors are always good value in that respect. They talk a very confrontational kind of talk, they dare people to enjoy what they do, and yet what they actually do - the dressing up, the big yearning soundscapes, the pretty songs - is very loveable.

Foals, while never claiming to make deliberately difficult music, are another band who seem to happen upon their best ideas as if by accident, while looking for something else entirely.

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