Archives for January 2011

The ChartBlog Awards - Part 2

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Fraser McAlpine | 09:46 UK time, Thursday, 20 January 2011

ChartBlog Awards

Get dressed! You're about to be blessed with the best of the a vest...etc...

Most Controversial Review

JLS - 'The Club Is Alive'

Y'know, I still don't really get what all the fuss was about with liking this song. It's clearly better than 'One Shot' or the Children In Need one they did (which came with its own comment storm), and even though it suffers from excessive autotune the tune it actually autos is a rather good one. Naturally, just shrugging and saying "ah well, horses for courses" was never gonna wash with the ChartBlog massive.

Key quote: "If the band are in the middle of doing what they do, and you, the audience, are concentrating on the words they're saying over, say, how they look, what muscles are flexing, which way up Aston is, the beat, the music, the clothes, the bagginess of Ortise's trousers, the hair, the teeth, the twinkly eyes, the voices, or what the song is saying even if the words are not, chances are you're not really JLS's core demographic."

The weird thing is how long the reaction to this one opinion has continued to rumble on, really. I think the idea is that if you like something that someone else doesn't like, then this exposes your soft underbelly, ready for spearing. But if you fail to like something that someone does like, then you're cruel. How this theory has continued to thrive in an era of hateful YouTube comments and snarky Twitter feeds is beyond me, but there it is.

Plus that "hey!", the one that pushed it from a 4-star to a 5-star review, is STILL brilliant. So ner.

Bubbling Under: Paramore - 'Misery Business' HOO-BOY!

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The ChartBlog Awards - Part 1

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Fraser McAlpine | 16:42 UK time, Wednesday, 19 January 2011

ChartBlog Awards

As promised, here's a brief stone-skip over some of the better moments of ChartBlog's four years of glory.

Some of these have been nominated by ChartBlog readers on Twitter. Feel free to nominate your own in the usual place.


Most Ridiculous Froth-On

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

The best song to have been released in ChartBlog's lifetime. Yes it is. Yes it is.

Key Quote: "Stop all the clocks. Everybody put your guitars, synths, drum machines and microphones down. There's no need to put any more music out in 2008, the race to have the Most Bestest Song Of The Year In The Whole World Ever has already been won, and if you continue to take part, you'll be lapped more times than a lone saucer of milk in Catland. "

Bubbling Under: My Chemical Romance - 'Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)'

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End of a ChartBlog

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Fraser McAlpine | 14:51 UK time, Friday, 14 January 2011

ChartBlog scrumple

Hello, I have some news.

Over the last four years, it has been my privilege to write daft stuff about songs; songs which have been in the charts, songs which should have been in the charts, and songs which happily fell short of going into the charts. It has been the most fun job I've ever had.

And, as is fitting for a blog about the charts, it's been a hit! We've not really talked about it before, possibly because it would've been vulgar to crowbar a bit of bragging into a review, but somewhere in the region of five thousand of you smashers have been coming here every day to have a read and a row about pop music. ChartBlog has constantly been in the Top 3 of BBC music blogs, and often in the Top 1. That's right, NUMBER ONE! WITH A BULLET!

Unfortunately, after all of this larking about, it's time for me to move on, pack up my idiosyncratic worldview, dismantle the old wry asides, saddle up the Lyriscope and ride off into pop pastures new.

By which I mean I will soon be leaving ChartBlog, to bang on about music for other people, and that means ChartBlog won't be updated, although it will continue to be archived.

There are some amazing plans for the chart on Radio 1, some really exciting new ideas are on their way, so don't fret, it's all going to be alright.

This isn't even the final ChartBlog post. Over the next few days I'm going to put together a compilation of our greatest hits - best reviews, best interviews, daftest rants - and generally wallow in a bit of nostalgia, partly because I'm a little sad to go*, but mainly as a way of saying thank you.

That's a thank you to everyone who has written things for the ChartBlog, everyone who has taken the time to roll up their sleeves and comment, and most of all, you. Yes you. You have always been the best.

Come and say hello on the internet if you haven't already. We can argue about pop music! Again!

You have all been FIVE STARS OUT OF FIVE.



*On the plus side, it does mean I don't have to review the new Aggro Santos single. *HIGHFIVE*

Everything Everything - 'Photoshop Handsome'

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Fraser McAlpine | 12:53 UK time, Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Everything Everything

Look, let's not mess about. The choice is very clear. Do we want pop music to be thrilling and odd and devious and brainy and joyful and brilliant, or do we want it to be familiar and acceptable and formulaic and stupid and ignorable and...just...THERE as a kind of aural emulsion? Cos I think we all want the former, and if that's the case, there's a few things we need to get sorted.

First, when astonishing pop songs come along, we need to make sure they are treated as the precious things they really are, shown a lot of love, bought, taken to the top table of the charts, and handed the keys to the executive bathroom.

Secondly, putting up with things which only work on paper is no longer acceptable. To have a passionate relationship with something means you sometimes have to be let down. Why not admit it? Some songs offer to take you somewhere amazing, and then leave you on the pavement in the rain, throbbing with irk and wanting to hurt it like it has hurt you.

I don't mean physically, of course, tripping up a pop star just because their third single isn't quite as good as their second is a little mad. But it's just as mad to pretend that a song is good just because it's a hit record. That implies that other songs, songs which are not hits, are not as good.

We can't allow that idea to prosper, or Everything Everything, a troupe who really should be a global household name by now, might decide that they're not as wonderful as they clearly are, and give up in the face of continuing public support for *insert name of least favourite pop act here*.

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Adele - 'Rolling In The Deep'

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Fraser McAlpine | 13:26 UK time, Tuesday, 11 January 2011


For someone who is straightforwardly, transparently, a massive talent, Adele's records aren't half troublesome at times. Her earliest successes seemed to come coated in a thick layer of brushed-on egg-yolk production (or, more accurately in the case of 'Chasing Pavements', a thick layer of Eg White production), to the extent that the raw astonishment of her voice sometimes got buried underneath the swooping avalanche of immaculate perfection.

It was, at times, a bit like watching a tiger in the zoo. You're perfectly aware that there's a beast in your presence which is possessed of huge reserves of power and beauty, but something very human and restrictive keeps getting in the way.

The exception to this, obviously, is 'Make You Feel My Love': a song which, in its simplicity and power, doesn't so much free the beast as smash the zoo down; destroy the entire town around it, grow a rain forest, develop an eco-system, release the tiger; and then run for the hills.

The question is, does Adele's comeback single seek to re-capture that tiger, or send David Attenborough (or Steve Backshall, if you're more of a CBBC fan) with a camera crew, ready to watch it tear a deer to pieces?

(Bambi, you might want to stop reading around about now.)

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My Chemical Romance - 'Sing'

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Fraser McAlpine | 14:36 UK time, Friday, 7 January 2011

My Chemical Romance

Sometimes, when settling down to listen to a hot new waxing by a world-beating band or singer, it helps to forget that you already know and love songs they've done before, or that you have some idea of who they are and what they do. It's especially helpful to let go of what kind of genre field you assume that they operate within.

In the case of My Chemical Romance, it's a good idea to put amazing bratty brilliance like 'Teenagers' and 'Na Na Na' to one side, so you don't wind up letting the momentum of your approval steamroller all over their new ideas. Nobody wants that, and your taste will always win out in the end anyway.

A useful trick is to imagine listening to the song as if you're a visitor from an alien planet, attempting to make sense of the bangs and huffs and scrapes, and trying to work out what this human thing called 'pop' may or may not be.

Incidentally, I said 'pop' and not 'rock' for a very good reason. As we are about to find out...

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Bruno Mars - 'Grenade'

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Fraser McAlpine | 12:51 UK time, Thursday, 6 January 2011

Bruno Mars

Mashup fans, I've a job for you. Someone needs to put the "na na nah" refrain from Kylie Minogue's 'Can't Get You Out Of My Head' under the verses to this song. It would please me, it works musically (same chords, y'see), and best of all, it would actually give the lyrics a bit of balance.

Here's Bruno tearing his heart out, dropping that cocky ladies-man thing which over-sweetened 'Just The Way You Are' and pleading with his girl not to dismiss the depth of his feelings.

Of course, it's still the same basic message, isn't it? Both songs want to impress upon someone the desperate passion that Bruno feels towards them. And why not? People love to hear that stuff and Bruno's a very giving man.

First he bestows upon his victim chosen one the gift of compliments. He thinks you're amazing, you shouldn't put yourself down so much, you're perfect just the way you are, just to be around you is to know that life can hold no greater thrill, and this is something he will always feel, even when you're old and saggy. After all, he'll be old and saggy too.

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The Joy Formidable - 'Austere'

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Fraser McAlpine | 13:28 UK time, Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Ah, January; let the purging begin.

We've spent all of December cluttering up the house and mind with all sorts of stuff - hidden carrier bags of presents, shopping lists, wrapping paper, cards, decorations, Matt Bloody Cardle - all or some of which are lovely in their own way, but after a while, they just build up into a big mess.

Time to have a bit of a sort-out, a bit of a recycle, a bit of a decks-clear. It'll feel a bit brutal at first, stripping back the layers of shiny, ribbony stuff and exposing the cold, clear surfaces beneath, ready for use. But it's also kind of exciting. What kind of fresh wonder will fill this space? What joy will it bring? What day do the recycling men come around?

This applies just as much to music as it does to houses and the mind. Sometimes you just need to clear everything out, put valuable stuff away, and start again.

This is the aural equivalent of taking a massive shovel to everything festive and Christmassy, and dumping the lot in a skip, ready to face the year ahead with a clean slate, a new diary (and a massive shovel).

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