Pixie

Isn’t Pixie Lott a brilliant pop star name? Coming out of Mercury Records in 2009, Pixie is a 17 year old singer songwriter who was plucked from stage school and sent to American to make amazing soulful pop with the likes of Darkchild and Babyface. Is this a formula for an instant diva?

Pixie’s songs have an instant American hit quality to them, with the Ryan Tedder-eque ‘Without You’ a reminder of something like Jo-Jo’s brilliant ‘Leave Get Out’. The soulful ‘Mama Do’ sounds like it was originally destined for Mutya (are Mercury re-using a song perhaps?), ‘Boys and Girls’ is super cute and ‘The Fall’ showing off a less annoying version of Natasha Bedingfield. 

Interesting to keep an eye on, there are big bucks behind this project and you’ll no doubt be hearing her all over the radio come summer. File next to Leona rather than Amy.

Listen to Pixie on her myspace (def. Mama Do!)

(props to Ben!)

Review: Sugababes – Catfights & Spotlights

Pop groups rarely make it to six albums, but Sugababes have managed just that.  Sometimes described as a brand rather than a band, their distinctiveness has faded through the years – culminating in the personality-free, but very successful ‘Change’.

Uninteresting lead single ‘Girls’ aside, ‘Catfights and Spotlights’ could be the album to make us fall back in love with them. We wouldn’t normally praise an album so ballad-heavy, but if there’s one thing the these girls can do well, it’s a killer ballad, the likes of ‘Stronger’ and ‘Too Lost In You’ still sending shivers up our spine. The Karen Poole penned  ‘Sunday Rain’ is an epic tearstained tale with a nod to Sam Brown’s ‘Stop’, while Klas Ahlund (who produced Robyn’s album) introduces quirky sounds and swelling strings on ‘Every Heart Broken’. Newest member Amelle has finally found her position within the band, her smoky voice adding a dangerous edge on the haunting ‘Side Chick’ and self-penned ‘Beware’.

The tempo lifts only occasionally and even then it’s somewhat forgettable. While ‘Hanging on a Star’ could be a Dana Dawson B-side, second single ‘No Can Do’ will certainly bounce its way into the heart of your favourite radio station.

The girls claim they’ve grown up and ditched pop. Not at all – they’ve just added some Motown horns and a twinkling of eighties funk. The result is an album that sounds the most like the Sugababes since ‘Angels With Dirty Faces’. We’re glad you’re back.

Originally published at Orange Music

First Listen Review: Girls Aloud – Out Of Control

A new Girls Aloud album is a surefire way to put a smile on my face so I was super excited to receive their new album Out Of Control this week. I’ll be reviewing it for the BBC later, but here’s my first listen thoughts.

Overall you might be a bit disappointed if you’re a fan of the ‘Girl Overboard’ and ‘Biology’ side of the girls. They’ve cut back on frantic-ness and replaced it with gorgeous, soaring electro pop that’s just as good.

1. The Promise – It’s so exciting that they’re about to have their 4th #1 with this song. You’ve heard it though, although the album version has a longer intro and a repeat to fade ending.

2. The Loving Kind – This is a collaboration with Pet Shop Boys and the first of quite a few synth ballads. Being a GA & PSB collaboration it’s kind of a disappointment as it should be amazing. It has an epic verse but then the chorus doesn’t quite cut it. There’s no great hook.

3. Rolling Back The Rivers – Starts with a really strong big vocal almost acapella. I have no idea who is who though when they sing. Then when the music kicks in it sounds a bit like ‘Somethin’ Stupid’. It’s really smooth sounding and makes me roll my shoulders all about. Has a great ‘a-wooooo’ sound.
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Review: Ladyhawke – Ladyhawke

Want to be the coolest kid on the block? Next time you get asked who you’re loving, Ladyhawke is the answer. Wobbling on that titchy kerb between underground and mainstream that the likes of MIA hover, twenty something New Zealander Pip Brown is the latest cool female chick to release some amazing pop music that will unfairly sell about 700 copies.

Signed to ultra hip label Modular, Ladyhawke has taken the best bits of the 80s and re-imagined them for 2008 with the likes of Stevie Nicks and Cyndi Lauper all in the mix. There’s a dance feel to most of the album with the Pascal Gabriel produced ‘Magic’ pounding it’s way into your brain –  it’s powerful chorus reminding us of Ladytron’s criminally ignored ‘Destroy Everything You Touch’. This and the similarly urgent sounding ‘My Delirium’ are stadium sized pieces of pop rock that make you want to hit the dancefloor and own it.

More intimately, the likes of former single ‘Back of the Van’ and the funky ‘Paris Is Burning’ show off Pip’s knack for writing instantly memorable lyrics.  ‘Dusk Till Dawn’ is like catching Peaches on a happy day, with it’s pulsating beats and bells oozing unnerving East Berlin vibes, while ‘Professional Suicide’ mashes CSS style guitars and drums with a hypnotic vocal.

Ladyhawke‘ is a rare case of the real thing living up to the hype. This shouldn’t be an album just for bloggers to swoon over, it’s good enough and mainstream enough to be huge.

Originally published at Orange Music

Review: Katy Perry – One Of The Boys

You know when you go a club, make eyes with a boy and then he gets distracted by some hussy who’s snogging other girls just to get the boys? That’s Katy Perry all over. With her pin-up looks and in your face attitude, she’s captured the attention of an massive audience hitting #1 in 20 countries.

Although initially compared to Lily Allen, there’s none of her cheekiness and wit. Instead ‘One of The Boys‘ falls neatly into your CD collection somewhere near Avril and Pink. Expect a straight mixture of all out rockers  and ‘woe is me’ angst ballads that will warm the heart of any teenage door slammer.

‘Hot N Cold’ is the best of the hard hitters. With pop anthem producer Dr Luke behind it, it’s a shout-a-long romp that’s far superior to the all conquering ‘I Kissed A Girl’.  The lyrically stupid ‘Ur So Gay’ might be irresistibly catchy but is full of face scrunching gay stereotypes, and while the likes of eyeliner anthem ‘Self Inflicted’ and ‘If You Can Afford Me’ are musically dull we’re sure her young audience will be able to empathise with her boy problems.

At fault is Katy’s insincerity. She thinks she’s like, ‘oh my gosh soooo alternative’, promising that she ‘belch her way through the alphabet’. Ultimately, though the ideas might be there, ‘One of The Boys‘ just feels like a very cleverly thought out idea. Calculating, corporate pop at it’s most effective.

Originally published at Orange Music

Review: Pussycat Dolls – Doll Domination

For a group of dancers, turned singers, the first Pussycat Doll album had a surprising number of workable singles on it. Now back to prove it wasn’t a one-off, ‘Doll Domination’ reads like a who’s who’s of urban pop. Darkchild, Cee-Lo, Lady Gaga and Missy Elliot are just some of the impressive names that have worked on this album.

Surprisingly it’s the midtempo songs that seem to stand out. There are of course some dancefloor stompers that shine with Snoop Dogg popping up on the vocoder heavy ‘Bottle Pop’ and New Kids on the Block (!!) going space electro with them on ‘Lights Camera Action’. Unsurprisingly nothing can compete with Timbaland’s trademark clean beats and he steals the show with the hypnotic, Middle Eastern vibes of ‘Magic’.

Proving that he can do the ballads just as well, old Timba has also conjured up gorgeous 2nd single “I Hate This Part”. Bizarrely “inspired by Sting”, according to Nicole, it’s melancholic piano is haunting.  Similarly ‘Hush Hush’ produced by label boss Ron Fair is an epic ballad promoting the Dolls as strong women who “never asked for help” from their men. Unnecessarily long with 18 tracks on the album, there must be some duffers and this falls mainly down to a disappointing R Kelly duet on the dull “Out of this Club”.

Closing with a cover of “Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps” as a nod to their cabaret past, Doll Domination is a surprising listen. Who ever could have dreamed they would end up being queen of the ballads?

Originally published at Orange Music

Ben Folds – You Don’t Know Me

‘You Don’t Know Me’ is the super cute first single from the new Ben Folds’ album ‘Way To Normal’. It’s jaunty, bouncy and makes me think of something you might hear on Avenue Q / Sesame Street (this isn’t necessarily a bad thing). A duet with Regina Spektor, it’s the kind of pairing that geeky indie kids everywhere will be swooning over. It’s impossible not to go all gooey particularly with the little talky breakdown bit towards the end. I heart Regina’s “say it!”. The official video sucks so I want you to watch this sweet fan made one instead.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRgQns-TJGM[/youtube]

Review: Katy Perry @ Water Rats

‘I want you to pop my cherry!’ shouts Katy Perry, at this her first ever UK gig. Knowing exactly how to drive the teenagers packed into London’s tiny Water Rats wild, she’s even more wide-eyed and coy than she looks on TV – her vampish dress showing off, as one punter put it, ‘a great rack’.

Her debut album isn’t out yet, but this crowd know every word. Undoubtedly a show-woman, Katy’s bright blue eyes flash round the room wildly as she spends every moment trying to shock whether it be burping into the mic, begging the audience to ‘touch her boob’, telling us about her sexual exploits or peppering her lyrics with swearing.

Ripping into boys is a major theme. ‘If You Can Afford Me’ tells them off for expecting too much in return for dinner, while the unashamedly cruel ‘You’re So Gay’ disses her ex for being too metrosexual. Named as her ‘sing-along anthem’, her casual use of ‘gay’ as a derogatory term is reprehensible.

While the insincere rocky ballads show off her Alanis-esque voice, it’s the poppy ‘Hot N Cold’ that we enjoyed the most. A song almost too good for Perry, it’s a pulsating pop rock anthem that P!nk would kill for.

Katy disappears briefly off stage for a mock call to her super Christian mom. ‘I just want to make one thing clear, she was really f**king hot!’ she shouts, before launching into a rocked up version of bisexual shock-a-thon ‘I Kissed A Girl’ complete with head thrashing guitar breakdown.

Katy Perry, obsessed with bodily parts, sexuality and acting all alternative, is the perfect pin up for 15-year-olds who find emo too dark. It’s calculated corporate quirk and as that alone, is very good at what it does.

Sugababes – Catfights and Spotlights – Initial Thoughts

I’ve steadily been going off Sugababes with each album. Whereas once they had funk and attitude they seem to have drifted into ‘could be anyone’ territory. Live they’re lifeless and need some bite adding.

Now the as yet untitled album number 6 zooms into horizon. We’ve all heard the single ‘Girls’ and yet again it leaves me thinking ‘meh’. Today I stood in a field 10 000 miles from human contact and was allowed to listen to 5 other album tracks. This are the half formed thoughts I scribbled down:

No Can Do – A super summery song that could have been a Jackson 5 hit. Very 80s funk. Cool layered vocals at the end.
Best line: ‘Don’t try and call me on the telephone’ (obv this is a rubbish best line but it’s the only thing I wrote down’

Murder One – Unfortunately not a song based on the greatest crime tv series of the 90s. It’s a delicate piano ballad that starts with Heidi before a drum machine kicks in. There’s a couple of nice key changes. Best line: ‘Every heart that’s broken is a murder one’.

You On A Good Day – Doesn’t particularly go anywhere but has a fun, bouncy 60s beat with a proper old school girl group feel to it. Some quirky sounding Supremes-esque instruments and nice harmonies.
Best line: “I want it, I hate it, I need it, want it, want it.”

Hanging On A Star – What a lovely song name. Starts with Salt N Pepa esque ‘Tell Me Baby, Baby’ with a softened singing repeater. Again there’s a funky 80s feel. It’s the type of thing I might have expected Dana Dawson to sing (and yes I know she was 90s!). Obviously Heidi has an amazing middle bit.
Best line: “Hanging on a star, I was waiting to fall in love”.

Sunday Rain – Here’s the big Sugababes ballad of the album. It starts with haunting ooohs, then there’s trumpets and a gorgeous swelling wall of sound. Undoubtedly the winter single. It’s got a Sam Brown ‘Stop’ feel to it. Best thing so far
Best line: ‘You give all your heart and get nothing to show.’

Sunday Rain wins!

[edit: the title has now been revealed by PopJustice.

Uh Huh Her

Uh Hur Her are Leisha Hailey and Camilla Grey. They’ve just released their debut album ‘Common Reaction’ and it includes the brilliant ‘This Is Not A Love Song.’ Sounding just like it could be a cut from Goldfrapp’s ‘Supernature’, it’s a slice of electro pop goodness. I’ve not heard the full album yet, but nothing else so far lives up to this. They’ve got a massive gay following thanks to Leisha’s role in The L Word (and as a former gf of K D Lang) so I hope this goes down well at Miss-Shapes.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQ9iPPfOMvM[/youtube]

They play a live date in the UK at Koko, London on November 18.