Music Monday – Volume Twenty Six

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1) Jessie Ware – Imagine it was us

Catchy, irresistible dance track. Love this.

2) Charlie Simpson – Thorns

Great song off Charlie’s début solo album with a catchy, beautiful melody.

3) Charlene Soraia -Caged

Great pop track.

4) Stereophonics – Have a nice day

Such an uplifting, catchy song which is perfect to lift your spirits at the beginning of the day. Always reminds me of the summer and always makes me feel great.

5) Ronan Keating – Life is a rollercoaster

Cheesy Pop at its best. Catchy, uplifting and a fine, fine song. One of my favourite songs of all time.

6) Friendly Fires – Hurting

Such a catchy song with a 1980’s electro-feel to it.

7) The Vamps – Smile

Perfect closing track to The Vamps’ début album. A catchy, feel-good anthem.

8) The Vamps – Lovestruck

A slightly darker track on The Vamps’ début album, this is a great song.

9) Robbie Williams & Brad Paisley – Collision of worlds

A perhaps less known track, this appeared on the soundtrack to the movie ‘Cars 2′. The lyrics are witty and very cleverly written and it’s such an awesome song.

10) John Mayer – 83

A great little song that appeared on John’s début ‘Room for Squares’ that deals with nostalgia and wishing to be a child again. It’s easy to relate to and a fantastically written song.

Music Monday – Volume Twenty Five

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1) Katy Perry – This is how we do

This is so catchy, so cool and such a great, uplifting summer song. One of her best off ‘Prism’ and I’m so glad Katy’s releasing it as a single. Great video too.

2) Tulisa – Young

Whatever you think about Tulisa and N Dubz in general, this remains one heck of a tune. This is uplifting, summery and so damn catchy.

 

3) Take That – It only takes a minute

A massive guilty pleasure, this was a great interpretation of an old disco classic. Its sound and production has certainly been left in the ’90’s but it still sounds awesome and Take That’s version is perhaps the best loved and most known version. Such a catchy chorus.

 

4) Take That – Once you’ve tasted love

One of Take That’s most underrated songs of their entire career. It may have been on their début ‘Take That and Party’ which is undoubtedly cheesy and lacks credibility in places but it remains a great, great album. This song is infused with electro-pop influences and it’s just so well written/produced. Big chorus too.

5) The 1975 – She Way Out

Almost a year later and I’m still just as addicted to The 1975’s début album as I was upon my first listen. ‘She Way Out’ is definitely one of my favourites. It’s repetitive but it’s so damn good, so catchy and has an unbeatable sing-along chorus.

6) Jessie Ware – Tough love

I’ve heard this on the radio for months now and I’ve begun to realise I fall in love with it a little bit more with every listen. It’s soft, understated but remarkably beautiful. So chilled out and a great song.

7) John Mayer – Good love is on the way

A song that’s never appeared on a John Mayer studio album, this has only been included on John’s live albums. It’s an awesome song, however. I love the guitar instrumentation and the lyrics. Very catchy and an awesome tune. Would love a studio version someday.

8) Charlie Simpson – Long road home

I decided to check out Charlie’s new album the other day and was pleasantly surprised. Every song was beautifully written with smooth harmonies and heartfelt lyrics. This is the opening track to Charlie’s second album and it’s a killer opening. Awesome tune.

9) Charlie Simpson – Hold On

Smooth, fluttering harmonies and gorgeous lyrics. Love the guitars in this and the feel of the song in general. Incredibly beautiful.

10) Madonna – Don’t tell me

One of Madonna’s best, I particularly love the stutter-y production on this. It’s smooth, low-key and very summery. I loved Madonna’s music of this era – the country themed songs and minimalistic production.

 

Ultimate Summer Playlist

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One of the aims of my blog is to share my love of music with everyone. I have a section dedicated to playlists for different occasions and events and of course I also publish my Music Monday blogs of 10 songs I’m currently loving every Monday. This year, since June, I have been compiling a list of songs that represent summer for me. I spent ages trawling through existing official summer compilations, amateur Spotify placements and my own iTunes and Spotify collections not just for songs that are about summer but songs that carry a summer-feeling and always remind me of summer through their chord progression, instrumentation, production or sometimes through lyrics.

I split my playlist into lots of sub-categories for different genres but decided I would publish a list of definitive songs. I will publish my Summer Songs by genre over the coming weeks but for now, here’s my ultimate collection of summer songs. These are the songs that instantly make me think of summer or sound perfect in the sun. There’s some old-school R&B, cheesy pop, guilty pleasures, acoustic, indie and some dance/electro-pop. I have probably forgotten many that represent summer for me but I think I have managed to include pretty much all my best ones. These are the songs that make my summer. I hope this playlist will either introduce you to some new favourites, remind you of some forgotten classics and most importantly, I hope to have created a great soundtrack (or helped form part of it) for your summer.

 

[Apologies for two of the songs being crappy karaoke versions/imitations but they're not available on Spotify - these are Rizzle Kicks - 'Tell her' and P!nk's 'Feel good time'.]

 

 

Music Monday – Volume Twenty Four

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1) Mark Owen – Stars

Mark Owen’s solo career is massively underrated. All of his four solo albums have been fantastic but have achieved only moderate success. 2013’s ‘The Art of Doing Nothing’ is probably his best and lead single ‘Stars’ is a masterpiece. Unusual chord structure, electronic sounding, fantastic instrumentation, beautiful vocals and thoughtful lyrics. SO good.

2) Mark Owen – Giveaway

The opening track to ‘The Art of Doing Nothing’. Haunting introduction, Mark’s echoing vocals and a fine way to open the album, building into a catchy track.

3) Demi Lovato – World of chances

I discovered John Mayer had co-written this song with Demi for her 2009 album so decided to check it out. It’s a beautiful song and I can hear both artist’s influences stamped all over it. Such a great track.

4) Republic of Loose – Comeback Girl

Catchy as hell with minimalistic instrumentation. Great summer track.

5) Take That – When we were young

Beautiful song that deserved to fare better in the UK singles chart. A song that returned Take That back to their pop-rock style after the whirlwind that was 2010’s ‘Progress’, it’s warm, heartfelt and beautifully performed.

6) Take That – Happy Now

One of my all time favourite Take That songs and one of the best from their career. An amazing backing track from Gary Barlow with paranoid, robotic and dark verses before a disco, Bee-Gee-esque chorus that’s catchy as hell. It’s an incredible piece of electro-pop with well-written lyrics and the blend of the dark verses with the optimistic, catchy chorus works fanatically and makes it stand out amongst other songs of a similar genre.

7) Take That – What do you want from me

Haunting, heartfelt and emotional. Mark Owen puts his heart and soul into this and Stuart Price’s production is incredible. Awesome song.

8) Michael Jackson – Scared of the moon

Out-take from the ‘Bad’ album which appeared on the 2005 box set; ‘The Ultimate Collection’. It’s simple with just Michael’s voice, a piano and strings but it is absolutely stunning. Michael & Quincy Jones were right to leave it off ‘Bad’ as it simply wouldn’t have fit but it’s an incredibly beautiful song nonetheless.

9) John Mayer/Lawson – Gravity

John Mayer’s signature tune, this is absolute perfection. Silky smooth, Blues-infused and with minimal but heartfelt lyrics. It’s a song John tried to write for a long time before finally getting it right. Lawson are one of my favourite bands who also admire John. They have performed a cover of this song a couple of times, both live in concert and on a live-stream. Their cover is absolutely beautiful so I am including it below too.

10) John Mayer – Wheel

Understated, soft closing track to 2003’s ‘Heavier Things’. It’s a beautiful song with fantastically written lyrics and it has the ability to leave you heartbroken. Gorgeous track and the perfect way to end an album.

Music Monday – Volume Twenty Two

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1) Hot natured – Benediction

Such an awesome club track that I keep hearing on the radio. The bass line is great and the whole song is very 90’s. Absolutely loving this right now.

2) Tom Misch – Memory

Another track I heard on the radio that I am loving. Very chilled with lots of summer vibes through the downtempo beat, gentle strings and steel pan-like sounds. Love its changes in direction too – it changes direction multiple times but keeps its flow. Great guitar solo towards the end.

3) Adam Levine – Lost stars

I saw ‘Begin Again’ at the cinema, hence these next four songs. They’re all written by one of my favourite songwriters, Gregg Alexander, who’s behind some big hits (You get what you give, Life is a rollercoaster, Lovin’ Each Day, Inner Smile). This song is the lead promotional track for the film and it’s a gorgeous song.

4) Adam Levine – A higher place

Another from ‘Begin Again’, in the same vein as writer Gregg Alexander’s previous work for Ronan Keating. So catchy and Adam Levine’s voice is to die for.

5) Keira Knightley – Like a fool

A sweet song also from ‘Begin Again’. It’s simple but it’s beautiful.

6) Keira Knightley – A step you can’t take back

I could have included the whole ‘Begin Again’ soundtrack in this week’s blog but I wanted to keep it diverse plus I have been loving a lot of songs this week. This is played a few times in the film and it’s beautiful. I love the way it develops and builds.

7) 2Pac, Roger Troutman & Dr Dre – California Love

Heard this on the Nixtape last Friday and was reminded of what an absolute tune it is. SO catchy and just an all-round awesome hiphop track.

8) Counting Crows & Vanessa Carlton – Big Yellow Taxi

I know this is going to be controversial but I actually prefer this version to Joni Mitchell’s original. Don’t get me wrong, I adore Joni Mitchell and her version is obviously great but I love this interpretation more. It was fantastically adapted for the 21st Century and I love its pop-rock feel. Vanessa Carlton’s little ad libs and backing vocals make it even sweeter. One of the greatest covers of a song ever.

9) Babyface – Shower the people

I’ve always adored Babyface as a writer and equally, I have loved his solo career. His cover of James Taylor’s ‘Fire and rain’ is one of my favourite songs/covers ever. This is another cover of a James Taylor track off the same album on which Babyface covers his favourite songs. This is a song I managed to miss but it’s so beautiful. The original is just as great but Babyface’s harmonies and interpretation is smooth, sophisticated and fantastic. Can’t get enough of this right now.

10) Rizzle Kicks – Tell her

Love these lads – their energy, charisma and their uniqueness. This song is so catchy, something very 1970’s about it. Awesome song.

 

Music Monday – Volume Twenty-One

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1)      Beady Eye – The morning son

So dreamy and such a beautiful song. Liam Gallagher is awesome.

2)      The 1975 – Intro/Set3

Understated opening track to their ‘Sex’ EP. Smooth and jittery, building up to an awesome R&B track. Got a great groove and some sick beats.

3)      Take That – Today I’ve lost you

Somehow this beautiful and underrated track managed to escape my iTunes. After coming across it again on Spotify, I have fallen head over heels back in love with it again. It’s so soft, so stunning and Gary Barlow’s vocals are silky smooth. A perfect Barlow-ballad.

4)      Pharrell Williams – Fun, fun, fun

Pharrell is just a genius. After watching ‘Despicable Me’ I was reminded of what a truly great, uplifting song this is. The harmonies are amazing and I love the summery, happy feel of the song.

5)      S Club Juniors – Automatic High

Massive guilty pleasure – both the pop-group and the song! Reminds me of being very young. Irresistibly catchy.

6)      Prince – Better with time

Such a beautiful, romantic little song.

(Not available to share due to Prince being highly irritating and not allowing much of his music to be on YouTube)

7)      David Archuleta – Crush

Someone reminded me of this song again recently and how damn good it is! Reminds me of being fourteen and listening to it over and over again. Bit of cheesy pop at its best. Lyrics are easy to relate to. One of the best chorus’ in a pop song ever.

8)      Kelly Rowland – Daylight

Really underrated Kelly track. So damn catchy and uplifting.

9)      Stardust – Music sounds better with you

Bloody repetitive but SO damn good. Catchy as hell. One of the best dance tracks ever released.

10)   MN8 – Dreaming

One of the soppiest, cheesiest but most beautiful romantic songs by a boyband ever. Not many would be familiar with this song but it’s gorgeous.

Why “Rudebox” is a bloody awesome album

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When I am asked, from time to time, my favourite Robbie Williams album, I confidently reply ‘Rudebox’. The response is often one of confusion. “But that song is awful!” “But he didn’t work with Guy Chambers on it!” “But he *gasps* RAPS on it!”. Yeah I know. Somewhere after Rudebox, ‘Escapology’ and ‘I’ve been expecting you’ follow closely but Rudebox is my favourite and here’s why.

‘Rudebox’ was released in 2006, just a year after Williams’ previous release, the rather uninspiring ‘Intensive Care’ (the singles were phenomenal, the album itself just fell a bit flat). Released around the same time as the newly reformed Take That were releasing their first album of new material in over ten years, the incredible ‘Beautiful World’, there was a lot of pressure on ‘Rudebox’. From this fact alone, this album was always going to have a tough ride. The press wanted a battle – Williams vs Take That. There needn’t have been one as both albums are completely different, opposite, in fact. They are both my favourite albums by each artist. ‘Rudebox’ was a journey into new territory for Robbie, venturing into electronica, techno and a little hip hop. When Williams’ image hardly represented this image and brand, of course there was going to be a bit of an unsettled response. Robbie Williams doing techno?! Robbie Willams rapping?! It may sound bizarre but if you give it a chance and don’t take the album too seriously, it works.

The album was the subject of great controversy before and during its release. Ex Take That manager Nigel Martin Smith threatened legal action over ‘The 90’s, in which Robbie accused his ex-manager of pocketing profits: (“Either you’re a thief or you’re shit, which one will you admit to? Such an evil man, I used to fantasise about taking a Stanley knife and playing around with your eyes.”) Martin-Smith demanded the song be removed from the album although, thankfully, it remained on the album, slightly modified with an instrumental break replacing the offensive lyrics. Ashley Hamilton claimed he had co-written ‘She’s Madonna’ but had not received any writing credit. It is not known what came of this in the end.

A still from the music video for 'Rudebox'

A still from the music video for ‘Rudebox’

Unfortunately, most people judge the album by lead single ‘Rudebox’. ‘Rudebox’ is, safe to say, not Robbie’s best work. In fact, it’s pretty awful but it’s so awful, it’s good. With lyrics such as ‘TK Maxx costs less, Jackson looks a mess’ and ‘sing a song of semtex, pocket full of durex, body full of mandrex’, it’s a wonder it ever received airplay with its seemingly blatant product-endorsement. That said, it oozes charm in a way only Robbie can convey. It’s genius but hideous both at the same time.  The issue is, ‘Rudebox’ should not have been the lead single, the song to represent the album. It was received so poorly (yet still performed well on the UK singles chart) that many didn’t bother listening to or purchasing the album, expecting it to be in the same vein as its lead single. Whilst the majority of songs share the same electronic roots as ‘Rudebox’, there are many much more worthy songs and potential single choices on the album.

 

“It has become something on which I’ve found myself. This is the right direction for me personally, this is what it is. I saw the whole Robbie thing coming to a close as it was, I couldn’t make another album like the ones I’d made, and this has just opened up a thousand other doors. What I am excited about now is making more music. I love all the stuff on the album, I love Rudebox, it’s a favourite song of mine. I don’t know what’s gonna happen now, I’m excited about getting it out there, but I’m more excited about making more.”

- Robbie Williams speaking of the album prior to its release

Robbie in drag for the 'She's Madonna' music video

Robbie in drag for the ‘She’s Madonna’ music video

The western-techno suffused ‘Viva life on Mars’ is catchy and far more credible than ‘Rudebox’. It’s a song that could have fit (slightly re-worked) comfortably, on another Williams album. ‘Lovelight’, a cover of a Lewis Taylor track glistens. Mark Ronson’s R&B infused production, Robbie’s fluttering falsetto and the limited instrumentation gel together beautifully to create a cover far superior the original and a fine R&B track. ‘She’s Madonna’ is a genius techno track co-written and produced by The Pet Shop Boys and is a tongue-in-cheek dig at Guy Ritchie (Ritchie reportedly uttered the words ‘but face it, she’s Madonna’ when informing his previous girlfriend he was leaving her for the famous megastar). It’s an amazingly underrated track and one of the highlights on ‘Rudebox’. The accompanying video of Williams in drag was just as amusing as the song’s conception and is something that only Williams would be able to pull off. ‘The Actor’ is apparently an expression of Robbie’s dissatisfaction with and annoyance of egotistical actors in America. Then there’s ‘Never touch that switch’, a funky-as-hell techno track that creates an aura of paranoia and forbidden activities. Squeaky synthesisers, a punchy bass line and a soft rap, it’s daring and it’s bloody cool.

The trendy and rather futuristic music video for 'Lovelight'

The trendy and rather futuristic music video for ‘Lovelight’

‘Keep on’ and ‘Good doctor’, two more electronic songs in which Robbie raps, similarly to ‘Rudebox’ are less credible but just as witty and catchy. ‘Keep On’ features Robbie crooning ‘hotel, motel, holiday inn’ and features backing vocals by Lily Allen. It’s actually one of my favourite tracks off ‘Rudebox’. ‘Good Doctor’ is a comical insight into Robbie’s prescription drug addiction at the time (he checked into rehab just months later). This track is perhaps where Robbie’s rapping works best. The lyrics are ingenious and the rhymes are wondrous.

 

Two of the highlights on ‘Rudebox’ are two songs called ‘The 80’s’, and ‘The 90’s’.  These tracks are two bookends documenting Robbie’s attitudes of being a teenager growing up in the 1980’s and his time in Take That during the 1990’s. Some of the lyrical content in ‘The 80’s is questionable and a little cringe-y (“Me so horny, me so young, and I still get my washing done. Auntie Jo died of cancer, God didn’t have an answer, rhythm was a dancer…”) but it still works well. ‘The 90’s’ is far superior, however. Another of my favourites from ‘Rudebox’, it’s catchy, frank, and witty in a way that makes Williams as loveable as he is. By the line ‘and the truth be told, I wasn’t fit enough to stay, so I put my head down and walked away’, you are left with much more sympathy than you could ever feel for Williams in any of his anti-Take That interviews. Whilst he may still be slightly pessimistic about his time in the boyband, there’s some acceptance of responsibility and we understand more how Robbie must have felt.

The covers work well too, ‘Louise’, a cover of a song by The Human League, is exceptionally faithful to the original with glossy, electronic production by William Orbit to bring it into the 21st century. ‘Kiss me’, a cover of Stephen Duffy’s 1980 track, also works well and lifts the album back up after the rather lacklustre ‘Burslem Normals’. ‘We’re the pet shop boys’, another cover isn’t as successful & ‘Bongo Bong and Je Ne T’aime Plus’ is a slightly weird affair. These three tracks are the only ones which could have been perhaps cut from the album.

The album comes to a close with a stunning version of a song called ‘Summertime’. The song had appeared a few years earlier during the credits of ‘Mike Bassett: England Manager’, but thanks to a make-over by William Orbit, the song is greatly improved and has a fantastic smooth, summery feel to it.

 

Since Robbie’s triumphant return with the ‘Take The Crown’ and ‘Swings both ways’ album, he has been less than complimentary about his 2006 effort (although he did defend parts of it in a blog entry in 2013). It saddens me that Rob would dismiss his album in such a way when in all fairness, it’s a bloody good album and so much work must have gone into it. I understand it’s not a conventional Robbie album and perhaps at times it lacks credibility. But what it lacks in credibility it makes up for in charm, charisma, boldness and an enjoyable listening experience. Every artist needs to diversify in their career to remain relevant and to explore new territories to avoid losing their appeal. And that’s why I defend ‘Rudebox’ and that is why it remains my favourite Robbie Williams album.