Music Monday – Volume Thirty Seven

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1) John Mayer – Dreaming with a broken heart

Beautiful ballad from John’s 2005 ‘Continuum’ album. Great lyrics and I love the fact it’s piano based which makes it stand out from John’s usual guitar sound.

2) Cage The Elephant – Lotus

Heard this when out the other day and really enjoyed it! Reminds me a bit of the Red Hot Chillipeppers.

3) London Grammar – Metal & Dust

I love London Grammar but only got round to checking out their album in its entirety this week. This is one of the stand-outs for me. Love that drum rhythm.

4) London Grammar – Interlude (Live)

Another beautiful song from London Grammar’s début album.

5) One Direction – Stockholm Syndrome

Yes, I know this was in one of the playlists a couple of weeks back and I tend to avoid including songs more than once but I had to include it again. I cannot get enough of this intense, incredibly catchy song. The lyrics are well-written, the drum rhythm is catchy as hell and I love that melody. One of the stand-outs from ‘Four’.

6) Robbie Williams – Deceptacon

A stunning song from ‘Reality Killed The Video Star’. Soft, dreamy and pretty spaced out, I just love the feel of this song. One of Robbie’s most underrated songs.

7) Taylor Swift- Blank Space

Taylor Swift is dominating the charts at the moment and rightly so. She’s delivered an incredible album full of killer songs. Great song.

8) Labrinth – Jealous

Dismissed by many as ‘boring’, I just think this is really quite beautiful. It may not  be the best song I’ve heard but credit where it’s due. There’s some gorgeous chords in this, the lyrics are beautiful and Labrinth’s voice is fantastic.

9) Bing Crosby & David Bowie – Little Drummer Boy

When considering my favourite Christmas songs, I always manage to forget about this classic. Their voices just melt together and it’s a beautiful version of a gorgeous song. Perhaps one of the greatest duets in history.

10) Lawson – Driving Home For Christmas

‘Driving Home For Christmas’ is one of my top 3 favourite Christmas songs of all time. Lawson are one of my favourite bands. Put them both together and you get this level of perfection! Such an awesome version.

Why Band Aid 30 just doesn’t work…

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Just a few weeks ago, the internet was buzzing with rumours that a new incarnation of Band Aid was about to occur for a 30th Anniversary version of the 1984 Charity hit ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’. On the 10th of November, Sir Bob Geldof confirmed the project and five days later a rather offbeat but exciting nonetheless group of artists and bands turned up to a sea of paparazzi and fans at Sarm West Studios in Notting Hill, London. The project attracted much media coverage, ‘Band Aid 30′ trended on Twitter for several days and excitement and curiosity hovered as many waited with bated breath to hear the new interpretation. So why, upon its première (during the results show for The X Factor – a rather strange decision in itself) did it just fall a bit… flat? Here, I look at why.

ba84group750pFirst things first, let’s reflect on the original track. ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ was written by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure in 1984 to raise money for relief of the 1983-85 famine in Ethiopia. The song was inspired by a BBC television report that Geldof witnessed and an assortment of some of the most popular musicians and acts of the era came together to form an eclectic super-group. The song became the fastest selling single in UK Singles Chart history, a record it held onto until Elton John’s 1997 version of ‘Candle In The Wind’ succeeded it. There were around forty musicians involved in the project including Phil Collins, Sting, George Michael, Boy George, Bono, members of Duran Duran, Kool & The Gang and Banarama and many, many more. The song and project was a huge success with record breaking sales, a Live Aid charity concert and many similar Charity super-groups since.

In 1989, the song was re-recorded by a second line-up, recorded as ‘Band Aid II’. This was a Stock, Aitken, Waterman produced version and therefore was understandably a rather cheesy disco affair and a much less memorable and significant effort. Nevertheless, the song reached Number One and featured many big names: Kylie Minogue, Chris Rea, Cliff Richard, Lisa Stansfield and Wet Wet Wet being just some of the names.

a0005086_653113Twenty five years later, Band Aid 20 occurred. This is arguably the second most popular version and featured a diverse range of singers and bands, including Chris Martin of Coldplay, Dido, Beverley Knight, Robbie Williams, Busted and many more. There was also a rather unfitting rap by Dizzee Rascal wedged in the middle eight. This version was again, a massive success and became the biggest selling single of 2004. Whilst a still not quite as impressive as the original, it deserved its success. Many talented artists lent their vocals to the record and a great amount of money was raised for Sudan’s Dafur region. It was refreshing to see a greater amount of females on this version (the original song is noticeably lacking female vocals) and it introduced the song to a whole new generation.

Fast forward another ten years and we now have Band Aid 30. Judging by the list of participants alone, it’s relatively impressive. There are big names involved – One Direction, Ed Sheeran, Rita Ora, Ellie Goulding, Paloma Faith, Chris Martin and Bono again, Olly Murs and others. Then there’s some quite frankly bizarre participants. We have Sinead O’Connor (who we still don’t forgive for subjecting us to one of the most over-dramatic songs of the 90’s) who is an odd choice considering the rest of the artists are generally new to the Pop World. We also have YouTubers Joe and Zoe Sugg (an attempt to be even more ‘down with the kids’ maybe?!) and Angelique Kidjo – no, I hadn’t heard of her before this either. It’s far from an awful list of singers – there’s some very talented names in there and some popular artists to help publicise it. At the same time, it feels a bit thin on the ground. There’s just 26 artists involved – the least amount to ever participate in a Band Aid single. The worst thing is it actually shows in both the song and the video. It feels pretty empty, almost as if it was a last minute thing and these are the only artists they could get.

Then let’s look at the song itself – the production, vocal performances and these new lyrics that everybody appears to be slating. This version is produced by Paul Epworth, an established producer who has worked with the likes of Adele, Paul McCartney, Bruno Mars and many others. The instrumentation and production is perhaps most like the original which is a positive. It begins relatively low-key with just a synthesiser and vocals before a drum machine kicks in. It’s pretty trendy and more computerised than Band Aid 20’s version. It works, though. Band Aid 20 had a more live feel to it but Band Aid 30 appears to capture the same feel as the original.

PX10919162Band-Aid_3108490bThe song opens with One Direction – not perhaps the greatest of choices. I have no issue with them vocally in the slightest but it just doesn’t feel right to have a band singing in unison for that well-known opening line. It’s a one man job! They would have been better lending their vocals to another part of the song. Chris Martin would have been better opening the track as he did for Band Aid 20. I have absolutely no issue with Ed Sheeran, Rita Ora, Sam Smith, Paloma Faith, Olly Murs and Angelique Kidjo’s parts. Their voices suit the song and each deliver their line powerfully. Then everything goes a bit ‘Hey, we’re trying to be a bit Indie here’. There’s that bloke from Elbow then the frontman from Bastille. Both have alright voices but it just doesn’t quite fit in with the record. Then we come to everybody’s favourite man of the year Bono,  (hey, at least we haven’t had this record plonked into our online music collections…) ah finally – a voice that fits… but wait, what’s that?! They’ve changed the bloody line! Just as you’re preparing to scream along to ‘and tonight thank god it’s them instead of you’, we have ‘Well tonight we’re reaching out and touching you’. It does NOT work. It sounds odd and it’s a weak lyric. Then there’s Seal. I love Seal’s raspy vocals and he is one of my favourite artists but again, we have new lyrics which completely ruin the song. ‘Bring peace and joy this Christmas to West Africa’ – it sounds like an extract from a poem written by an eight year old. Then Ellie Goulding manages to absolutely murder her line in the song. I still have absolutely NO idea what she is warbling about but all I know is she completely overdoes it in every way possible. Then there’s the song’s ultimate lowpoint in which the weirdest vocal in song history is delivered by Sinead O’Connor. It’s something between a whisper and a panting creature but whatever it is she’s trying to achieve, she should never attempt it again. Ever. The famous climax works though. Then again, it’s hard to go wrong with that irresistible ‘Feed the world’ refrain when  it’s sung collectively.

Basically, it just all feels a bit of a mess and like nobody could be bothered. Some artist’s voices just don’t fit the song, and others deliver their lines in such a way, they’ve managed to create a language of their own. The new lyrics, said to be added to make the song more ‘relevant’ to the current Ebola crisis are clumsy and patronising. The editing of the video is sloppy, not like previous efforts and the song just falls completely flat on its face this time around. Even Emeli Sande, who lent her vocals to the track, has since criticised it. She suggested that it’s time for a brand new song and I can’t help but agree with her. ‘Do they know it’s Christmas’ is a fine song but there are only so many interpretations of it possible before it begins to become a far inferior version of the well loved original.

I’m all for Charity records and super-groups. I’m all for raising money towards the Ebola Crisis but I think it’s about time we now retire ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ and let the original do the talking.

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Music Monday – Volume Thirty Six

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1) The Beatles – Across the Universe

Such a pretty little song. Love the lyrics and the melody in this one. “Nothing’s gonna change my world…”

2) The Beatles – Blackbird

I am obsessed with this song right now. It’s a song I’ve always been aware of but I’ve only grown to appreciate it fully this past week where I have checked out pretty much all of The Beatles’ discography. It’s an interesting song musically and simplistic instrumentation-wise. Love it!

3) The Beatles – Magical Mystery Tour

Just an all round brilliant song!

4) John Mayer – Come back to bed

John refers this as an early version of his signature song ‘Gravity’ which makes sense rhythmically. I’m not sure I’m keen on that analogy however because it feels like John has therefore dismissed this beautiful and fantastic song because he wrote something similar and better a few years later. Awesome lyrics and a great chilled-out feel.  Also love the way it builds. “Don’t hold your love over my head”. 

5) Lawson – Taking over me

One of their best and it still sounds awesome two years later. SO catchy and such a feel-good song.

6) One Direction – Night Changes

Beautiful, low-key second single from new album ‘Four’. The below video is for a stunning live acoustic version.

7) S Club 7 – S Club Party

There ain’t no party like an S Club party! They received a mixed reaction when they reunited at BBC Children in Need on Friday night but overall they caused a lot of fuss and excitement. Still an irresistible pop track!

8) Take That – Patience

The song that had a massive contribution to Take That’s massively successful comeback, this song is still just as powerful eight years after its release. Amazing lyrics, an irresistible chorus and an awesome song.

9) Wild Beasts – Reach a bit further

Hauntingly beautiful song. Love the moody feel to this track.

10) Gabrielle – Dreams

One of the best songs from the 90’s, this is 90’s R&B at its best. Just an all round fantastic song and Gabrielle has one of my favourite female voices ever.

Music Monday – Volume Thirty Five

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1) Annie Lennox – I cover the waterfront

Annie Lennox’s latest album is a jazz/soul cover album, full of songs from the Great American Songbook. Every track is simplistic and exceptionally beautiful. Her powerful voice suits every song, this one included.

[Not on YouTube]

2) Annie Lennox – Summertime

A mellow, piano-based version of a classic song. Love this.

3) One Direction – Ready to run

Don’t be fooled by the almost identical guitar riffs and verses to ‘Story of my life’, this song is far superior. Once it develops, it turns into a powerful stadium-rock driven song. Absolutely love the middle eight on this! Great harmonies too. ‘Four’ is going to be an amazing album.

4) The 1975 – Medicine

Simplistic and a little repetitive but absolutely stunning. Sometimes a minimalistic song is the most powerful and this proves it. Written and recorded for Zane Lowe’s re-score of the movie ‘Drive’, this has a gorgeous synthesiser based introduction and outro, with wailing guitar arpeggios and Matt Healy’s voice melting over the wavy production.

5) The 1975 – Milk

A song about addiction with the incredibly catchy ‘She’s doing it all of the time’ refrain. Love the power and catchiness of this awesome song.

6) Wretch 32 – 6 words

Apparently this song is inspired by Take That and Coldplay records. I do see the influence despite it still being unmistakably Wretch 32. On this record he attempts to sing – he doesn’t have the strongest of voices but it works. It’s an awesome track.

7) Tom Odell – Real Love

A cover of the John Lennon/Beatles song for this year’s adorable John Lewis advert. This is the first time in years where I feel like the cover hasn’t butchered the original! Great job, Tom.

8) One Direction – Stockholm Syndrome

I shouldn’t have technically heard this because the album isn’t out yet but it was leaked and I am hooked. SO edgy, so incredibly catchy and I just can’t get enough of this right now!

[Not on YouTube yet]

9) Katy Perry – Double Rainbow

Underrated and absolutely stunning song off Katy’s Prism album. Beautiful lyrics.

10) Madeleine Peyroux – I’ll look around

Absolutely stunning rendition of a jazz classic. Jonathan Waugh (saxophonist for The 1975) tweeted this so I gave it a listen and have been hooked ever since. Gorgeous. Got an Autumnal feel.

Music Monday – Volume Thirty Four

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1) Seal – Silence

Such an incredibly beautiful song. I once used this in a drama performance I did and so it gives me lots of fond memories. The acapella introduction proves how amazing Seal’s voice is and I just love the chord progression and the way it builds.

2) Seal – You get me

Pretty song off Seal’s amazing ‘Commitment’ album.

3) Alt-J – Hunger of the pine

One of the most haunting songs ever. Love the moody, melancholic feel to this song and the sample of Miley is genius.

4) Susan Boyle – Enjoy the Silence

Stunning cover of the song by Depeche Mode. I actually much prefer Su-Bo’s version. It imitates the approach Michael Andrews and Gary Jules took to covering Tears for Fears’ ‘Mad World’ by turning a 1980’s electronic/synthpop song into a stunning ballad. Amazing.

5) Nicole Scherzinger – Run

Beautiful ballad from Nicole’s new album.

6) Seal & Heidi Klum – Wedding Day

Catchy number from Seal’s ‘System’ album. Features vocals from then-wife Heidi Klum. Great song.

7) Union J – You got it all

This is one of few songs I’ve remotely liked by this boyband. It takes a few listens but it’s definitely a grower and it’s very pretty.

8) Phil Collins – Look Through My Eyes

I saw somebody mention the soundtrack for Brother Bear on Twitter the other day which reminded me of this song Phil Collins wrote and recorded for the soundtrack. Fantastic song.

9) Ryan Adams – Gimme something good

Heard this and loved it a while back but forgot about it until this past week. Ryan Adams is so talented and this is such an awesome song.

10) Stevie Nicks – Has anyone ever written anything for you?

Stunning ballad which closes Stevie’s ‘Rock a Little’ album. It’s very ’80’s’ but it’s also very beautiful. Love that long ending.

Music Monday – Volume Thirty Three

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1) Rae Morris – Closer

SO good. Beautiful piano instrumentation and I love the beat.

2) Avicci and Robbie Williams – The Days

I usually can’t stand Avicci but this song is awesome. I’m not just saying that because Mr Robbie Williams is on it, it’s just a great track. Love the acoustic guitar with the electronic instrumental and Robbie sounds great on it! Got a very Autumn-y feel about it.

3) Ella Henderson – Rockets

Fantastic, catchy pop track on Ella Henderson’s amazing début ‘Chapter One’ album.

4) Ella Henderson – The First Time

Love the old-school feel to this song. Great track.

[Not on YouTube yet]

5) Ella Henderson – Five Tattoos

Stunning piano ballad. Beautiful.

6) Jessie J – Seal me with a kiss (ft De La Soul)

Catchy number off Jessie’s fantastic ‘Sweet Talker’ album.

7) Jessie J – Keep us together

Have loved this ever since Jessie debuted this on the TV special ‘Live at Edinburgh Castle’ this summer. Such a catchy, great song. Glad she’s returned to form with her latest album.

8) Seal – Best of Me

Been loving Seal’s ‘Commitment’ album recently, especially this song. Love the concept and the acoustic-feel of this song. Can’t get enough of this right now.

9) Seal – All for love

Dramatic, beautiful song off Seal’s ‘Commitment’ album.

10) Spring Awakening OBC – Touch Me

Beautiful song from one of my favourite musicals: ‘Spring Awakening’. Love every song from this musical but this definitely one of the stand-outs for me. SO powerful.

A reflection…

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I was feeling all reflective and thinking about my friendship with somebody and so I decided to write this brief little reflection about this song.

It’s funny how times and feelings change. This song is incredibly personal and it means a lot to me. When I uploaded it, I received some of my best feedback for any of my songs which I am entirely grateful for. I wrote this at around Easter last year, a few months after me and a person I was really close with fell apart. As a sense of closure I wrote this song to deal with the gaping hole that person left.

Our relationship was an odd one. We weren’t a couple or anything but we were two people who were polar opposites and a bit lost for a while who found each other. Being opposite was a small part of what made us so ‘toxic’ and whilst we were in one sense a great comfort to each other, in another we messed each other up a lot. It was a weird time for both of us and despite the way things turned out at the time, I am eternally grateful for that closeness we shared.

When we fell apart I felt both optimistic and lost at the same time. I felt optimistic because as things had become more and more difficult towards the end, I knew now we could be free without each other. But then I felt lost because I’d lost someone I talked to every single day and someone who meant the world to me. In the end I think it was for the best. We needed time out and that was that. The song kinda reflects that – I think musically it’s pretty bright despite it being mid-tempo but the lyrics are darker.

I can’t actually remember the ins and outs of how I wrote this song but I believe it was one that wrote itself in my head if I can remember correctly. Lyrically, I think it’s probably one of my favourites and the song pretty much explains everything.

Earlier this year, in a bizarre turn of events, we both tracked each other down again, both realising we missed each other. Things move on in a year and lots had happened but slowly, we’ve rebuilt all of that friendship we once destructed. I don’t regret what I said through this song but I certainly look at things a different way now, especially after talking to each other about things. It makes me happy knowing things have moved on from this song.

It just goes to show how different everything can look in a year.