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Music Monday – Volume Sixty Five

‘Music Monday’ is a weekly blog in which I compile a list of ten songs I have been enjoying in the past week. This edition features Robbie Williams, The Weeknd, Kings of Leon amongst others.

1) JoJo – Save My Soul

JoJo is best known for 2005 smash R&B hit ‘Leave (Get Out)’, released when she was just fifteen years old. Since then, she took a hiatus and returned a five years ago but with limited success. ‘Save My Soul’ is a powerful and emotive ballad from her latest EP ‘III’ with a soaring melody, crashing percussion and haunting piano chords. Stunning.

2) Tove Lo – Talking Body

Sensual and seductive synthpop song by Swedish recording artist Tove Lo. A fine pop track; catchy with an easy sing-along chorus.

3) Steve Angello – Wasted Love

Epic dance track with the Coldplay-esque euphoria. Dougy, lead singer of The Temper Track lends his vocals to this powerful and uplifting song.

4) Daniel Bedingfield – Never Gonna Leave Your Side

This was always a little inferior compared to Bedingfield’s other famous ballad, the gorgeous ‘If You’re Not The One’. It’s a beautiful song nevertheless and a lovely pop ballad.

5) Richard Marx – Right Here Waiting For You

Slushy and sentimental ’80’s power ballad, a little cheesy but gorgeous nonetheless. One of the most beautiful ballads in pop history, evident from its extensive list of covers.

6) Kings of Leon – Use Somebody

A plea for help but refreshingly presented in an alternative rock format instead of as a ballad. An epic, emotive track full of stadium-rousing ‘oh’s’, wailing guitars and Caleb Followill’s raspy vocals. Still as good now as it was upon release back in 2008.

7) Robbie Williams – Different

One of Williams’ most underrated singles of his career. Co-written by Gary Barlow and Jacknife Lee, it’s a haunting and powerful pop-rock track aching with sincerity. Williams’ forte has always been the ability to put his heart on his sleeve and channel this into well-written lyrics. This deserved to fare SO much better on the UK chart.

8) Justin Bieber – What Do You Mean?

Bieber appears to have made it through his rough Britney-esque meltdown and has returned triumphantly with his best music yet. ‘I Need U’, a collaboration with Diplo and Skrillex was an incredible comeback and ‘What Do You Mean’ continues Bieber’s new electronic-dance-music sound. ‘What Do You Mean’ uses minimalistic instrumentation and gentle, funky production built up of squeaky, steel-pan-like synthesisers, skippy percussion and Bieber’s gentle vocal.

9) The Weeknd – As You Are

Dark, powerful and catchy track from The Weeknd’s (real name Abel Tesfaye) third and current album ‘Beauty Behind the Madness’. Canadian Tesfaye has been in the industry for a while but is only now finding worldwide success, aided greatly by ‘Earned It’, featured in this year’s Fifty Shades of Grey movie. Tesfaye is a pioneer of the ever-developing PBR&B (an alternative version of R&B music) and ‘As You Are’ is a strong demonstration of this. With slamming 80’s-styled percussion, echoing vocals and gentle synthesisers, it’s an explosing and haunting track. Incredible song.

10) The Weeknd – I Can’t Feel My Face

It’s easy to dismiss this song at first with it’s slightly deranged lyrics but it is also unmistakably catchy with its funky guitar riffs and heavy percussion. Very MJ.

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Jess Glynne – I Cry When I Laugh Album Review

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It feels as though no week in the past year has witnessed Jess Glynne absent from the UK singles chart. She has quite literally been everywhere, showcasing her rich soulful vocals with a multitude of friends in the industry; Clean Bandit, Room 94, Tinie Tempah and now, on the album, Emeli Sande. Indeed, it is likely Sande is responsible for Glynne’s never-faltering presence in the music industry; she too once was everywhere. Glynne should be cautious – Sande’s current absence from the industry lead to a sigh of relief from most of the general public who needed to recuperate from Sande’s over exposure (we’ve heard quite enough of ‘Read All About It’, thank you very much).

Those in camp Glynne have certainly been exceptionally savvy in generating a buzz for the album; the build up to its release has taken well over a year, beginning with the release of quirky ‘Rather Be’ with Clean Bandit last year. Since then, Glynne has taken a musical apprenticeship with a range of music industry acts, scoring five UK Number One and two top ten singles. Unfortunately, the album itself is a mixed bag of successes and weaknesses.

Musically, ‘I Cry When I Laugh’ is a joyous affair, full of bouncy house tracks, R&B jams and funky soul numbers. It’s all very 90’s. Glynne’s inability to strip any of the tracks of hand-claps makes it all rather uplifting and soul-stirring; at times the listener might question if they are listening to an album or attending a church service. Lyrically, however, the album tells an alternative story. Much of the album’s material discusses heartbreak or unstable relationships. The contrast between lyrical and musical content is one of the album’s strengths, a refreshing take on a heartbreak album.

The album utilises a range of genres, the main being R&B. Pleasant album opener ‘Strawberry Fields’ (not of any relevance to the track by The Beatles) is a leisurely R&B jam which signifies what’s yet to come. ‘Gave Me Something’ follows suit with house-styled piano riffs and catchy hip-hop beats layered with hand claps. ‘Ain’t Got Too Far To Go’ on the other hand, is a fun pop track with squeaky violins and honky-tonk piano chords, hip hop beats, football chants and gospel-influenced harmony layers. ‘Why Me’ continues the R&B thread, featuring Boyz II Men-esque backing vocals, although this is bought up-to-date with its unsettled dub-step percussion. The influence of Prince is conspicuous on ‘You Can Find Me’, one of the album’s stand-out tracks featuring giggling synthesisers, the return of gospel session singers, slamming beats and funky bass riffs. It’s a ‘Raspberry Beret’ for the modern generation.

Elsewhere, the album remains loyal to Glynne’s signature dance-pop/house sound she became famous for. Singles ‘Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself’, Huge dance smash ‘Hold My Hand’ (still an enjoyable listen), ‘Real Love’ (a victim of exposure) and ‘Right Here’ are all powerful, catchy dance hits that have become radio airplay staples. Disappointingly, other hits ‘Rather Be’, ‘My Love’ and huge summer banger ‘No Letting Go’ are reduced to bonus tracks, a cheap marketing technique to encourage fans to invest more money and purchase the deluxe version of the album.

The main issue with the album is it avoids providing much scope. Only two ballads are present, ‘Take Me Home’ and ‘Saddest Vanilla’, a duet with Emeli Sande. Both are pleasant enough but avoid any real emotional depth. The album’s up-tempo, in-your-face nature, whilst an admirable approach, becomes a little intense, monotonous and excessive half-way through and cries out for more variety. The album therefore works more effectively in small doses than as a full album listening experience. The over-exposure of most of the singles also mean these all fall rather flat, bogging the album down.

‘I Cry When I Laugh’ tries painfully hard to impress and in places it does. It’s all a lot of fun, tinged with elements of gospel music and 90’s house, it’s just all a little intense as a whole and becomes somewhat intolerable as a complete album. Nevertheless, its bold and optimistic ambience is to be admired. What it lacks in scope it makes up for in spirit.

Rating: 3/5.

‘I Cry When I Laugh’ is out now on Atlantic records.

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Carly Rae Jepsen – Understated and Underrated Pop Princess.


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The rise of Carly Rae Jepsen has been somewhat remarkable. The Canadian sweetheart first came to prominence on Canadian Idol back in 2007, finishing a respectable third. Of course over the years, the Pop Idol has become largely overshadowed by Simon Cowell’s replacement international franchise X Factor which currently runs in thirty four countries over the world. Despite this, the ‘Idol’ franchise continues to run in some countries simultaneously. Whilst such programmes often produce successful acts, they rarely become superstars in anywhere else but their home country (though Leona Lewis & Kelly Clarkson have both proved to be an exception to the norm.) So when Rae-Jepsen placed third in 2007’s Canadian Idol, chances of worldwide success appeared slim. After all, when has a winner of Canadian Idol ever become the next big thing over here in the UK? Exactly. But somehow, gentle and unassuming Carly cracked the big time.

carly 3As is often the case, success was not immediate; début album ‘Tug of War’ was released on a tiny independent label with no mainstream release until three years later when she began working on her follow-up album. It was the writing of one song that changed everything. That song is of course ‘Call Me Maybe’. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, ‘Call Me Maybe’ was written by Jepsen with Tavish Crowe as a folk song until Josh Ramsay transformed it into a teen dance-pop track. The song’s eventual success was largely the responsibility of Justin Bieber who tweeted the song to his millions of Twitter followers before increasing its popularity even further a month later when appearing in a viral video in which he lip-synced the track along with Selena Gomez and Ashley Tisdale. Perhaps this isn’t surprising when Bieber himself is considered a teen-bopper by many and isn’t exactly swimming in credibility. Nevertheless, Bieber’s assistance resulted in the snowball effect in which the song was picked up by radio stations and music channels worldwide, on heavy rotation which resulted in it becoming a Number One hit in eighteen countries; an impressive feat. It was nominated for two grammy awards and won MTV’s ‘Song of the Year’ award in 2012. Rae-Jepsen’s grip on the world was only reinforced later that same year upon the release of her second album ‘Kiss’, released to overall positive response.

This year, Jepsen returned triumphantly with the exceptionally catchy ‘I Really Like You’, accompanied by a comical music video starring Tom Hanks. It became another hit in Jepsen’s back catalogue and follow up ‘Run Away With Me’ has also been soaring high into the music charts in multiple countries. Both singles, whilst remaining faithful to Jepsen’s signature pop-sound, have hinted at a more 1980’s synthpop sound, adding an extra layer of depth. No wonder then, that forthcoming album ‘E-M-O-T-I-O-N’ (released in the UK on the 18th of September) is one of the most highly anticipated albums of the year. The pop world is all about 1980’s synth/electro-pop so the release of ‘E-M-O-T-I-O-N’ has been impeccably timed.
carlyraejepsen5Whilst Jepsen’s commercial performance has been hugely successful, she remains a greatly overshadowed artist in the fickle world of pop music. In an industry that increasingly objectifies women and removes the focus from vocal and artistry talent, placing it on personality, controversy and appearance, many women become lost in the haze of the music industry. Rhianna, Beyonce and Taylor Swift tend to dominate for their colourful personal lives and vibrant fashion sense. Indeed, they each also have extensive collections of hits and are largely talented but the emphasis is equally placed on matters other than the music. It is somewhat refreshing then, that Rae Jepsen seemingly avoids association with controversy is also refreshing in an age where disputation is the main attraction in pop careers. No matter the opinion of the most cynical music fans, her talent to write catchy and memorable pop hits cannot be denied. ‘Call Me Maybe’ undoubtedly became bloody irritating after a few weeks but it remains one of the best hits in Pop History. Furthermore, her sultry, squeaky and quirky vocals make her refreshing to listen to in an industry dominated by auto-tune and instinctive vocals.

The longevity of a pop career can never be guaranteed in a rapidly changing industry. Nevertheless, if her musical output remains as strong as is currently the case, understated and underrated pop princess Carly Rae Jepsen can expect a very long and fruitful music career.

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Music Monday – Volume Sixty Four

1) Chris Brown – Your World

Verging slightly on Beiber territory, on paper, this shouldn’t work but it somehow does… It’s easy to see why this didn’t make the main tracklisting for Brown’s album ‘Fortune’ (it only appears as a bonus track on the Japanese edition) – it’s a little on the cheesy side but it’s a pretty little R&B track.

2) Liberty-X – Holding on For You

Slushy pop ballad from one of the UK’s best and most underrated pop groups. A beautiful melody leads the track, lined by tight harmonies and catchy production.

3) Razorlight – America

A song too easily forgotten until its occasional re-play on the airwaves. Gentle dreamy verses escalate into a huge stadium-anthem chorus. Irresistibly catchy; one of the greatest indie-rock songs ever recorded.

4) Rita Ora and Chris Brown – Body On Me

Steamy and sensual R&B track with crashing beats and a rousing chorus. It’s a massive track; another success in both artists’ ever-increasing discography. One of the hottest tracks currently around.

5) Sigala – Easy Love

The song of the summer. Cleverly sampling massive Jackson 5 hit ‘ABC’, it’s a huge dance track full of house-tinged piano riffs and synthesisers mimicking steel pans, not too dissimilar to Duke Dumont’s huge 2014 summer hit ‘I Got U’. It’s impossible for this song not to leave the listener with a huge grin on their face.

6) Stylo G & Gyption – My Number One

Catchy reggae track. Depends on mood for the enjoyment of this one but it’s a great summer song.

7) Jess Glynne – You Can Find Me

Brilliant Prince styled track full of punchy percussion, gospel layered vocals, funky bass and 80’s synthesisers. SO good.

8) Galantis – Peanut Butter Jelly

It’s hard to determine if this is meant to be taken seriously or as a novelty track. Either way, it’s an impossibly catchy dance track full of sweeping 60’s styled strings.

9) Robbie Williams – Nan’s Song

Beautiful acoustic ballad which closed Williams’ best album ‘Escapology’. Williams croons about the loss of his grandparent, aching with sincerity. One of very few tracks Williams wrote alone, its a well-written and lovely track.

10) Michael & Janet Jackson – Scream

Aggressive and explosive electro-rock track by two of the Jackson siblings. Both Jacksons more or less spit the lyrics in assertion as they demand the press to “Stop f*****g with me”. The fury in the track is understandable considering it was Michael’s first single release since his 1993 child molestation allegations. Awesome, powerful track.

Changes to this blog…

Howdy, followers!

I’ve made a few minor changes to this blog to hopefully make it a hundred times better! I have decided to dedicate this blog solely to music from now on so any personal posts about my life/uni etc. will no longer be featured here. I have set up ANOTHER blog for all of that which you can view here.

My other blog is in its very early stages at the moment so please be patient. I am having to transfer my personal blogs from this one over to the new one. It is also worth noting that if you are interested in viewing my posts on there, you may have to follow that blog in addition to this one to receive notifications of new posts.

I have also given this blog a little make-over and am considering changing the theme once again shortly… But I am proud of its format and of my number of followers etc so thank you all for reading!

Love

Marc

PS HERE’S THE NEW BLOG LINK AGAIN: https://marcyboywrites.wordpress.com/

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Music Monday – Volume Sixty Three

  1. Selena Gomez & A$AP Rocky – Good For You

Moody and seductive, Gomez is pulling out all the stops to emphasise her new-found maturity. It never quite reaches its full potential; it’s crying out for a huge climax towards the end of the song but with its provocative message and the inclusion of A$Ap Rocky’s rap, it’s a step in the right direction of producing more grown-up music.

2) Jack Garratt – Weathered

Jittery with fierce beats, grunge-y guitars and a silky smooth vocal delivery from Garratt. It’s a huge song with fantastic production.

3) Jennifer Lopez – Play

Throwback to when J-Lo was still producing GOOD music. Drawing upon Prince and Madonna for influence, it’s a catchy and funk-driven dance-pop track with squeaky synths and slamming beats. One of the best pop tracks from the noughties era.

4) Leona Lewis – Fire Under My Feet

Explosive comeback single for 2006 X Factor winner Leona Lewis. Unfortunately, the lead single from Lewis’ forthcoming album has fallen under the radar due to slack promotion from new label Island/Def Jam. With stomping percussion layered with hand claps and moody piano chords, it’s Lewis at her best.

5) Chris Brown – Don’t Judge Me

Sombre, sulky and aching with sincerity, this is Brown at his best. The lyrical content is straight from the heart and Brown croons passionately over stuttering percussion and remote production.

6) Mark Owen – Makin’ Out

Much of this blog discusses how underrated I consider Mark Owen’s solo discography to be but I shall continue to reinforce my point! Quirky rock-fuelled track from Owen’s 2005 album ‘How The Mighty Fall’, this single was only a moderate success and deserved to fare far better. Brilliant lyrics and powerful vocal delivery from Owen as always.

7) Taylor Swift – Bad Blood

The album version is far superior to the single version with Kendrick Lamar although Lamar’s rap does not particularly detract from the power of the song. Fierce.

8) Taylor Swift – Style

Still one of Swift’s best singles of her career so far. Moody and sultry with funky 80’s styled guitars and crashing percussion.

9) Take That – Today I’ve Lost You

One of the most underrated songs of Take That’s career. Originally written as the follow up to 1995’s massive hit ‘Back For Food’, Barlow saved this one (many other songs written for what would have been Take That’s follow up album to ‘Nobody Else’ appeared on Barlow’s debut album ‘Open Road’) and it was recorded for the band’s 2005 Greatest Hits compilation. Barlow’s gentle vocals trickle over a soft and organic backing track, comprised of soft guitar strums and piano chords, sweeping strings and an awesome guitar solo. It’s a shame this was never taken further and released as a single; it’s a beautifully written and performed song.

10) Gary Barlow – My Commitment

Schmaltz-y love song from Barlow’s début solo album ‘Open Road’ which screams ’90’s!’ with its heavily programmed drum machine and glittery pianos. Co-written with songwriting legend Diane Warren, this is a beautiful ballad with a lovely message.

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Music Monday – Volume Sixty Two

1) Adam Lambert – The Original High

Impossibly catchy synthpop title track of Adam Lambert’s latest album. Full of thumping beats, squealing synths and a flawless vocal from Lambert, it’s a perfect summer track.

2) Disclosure & Sam Smith – Omen

Disclosure & Sam Smith already proved to be a dream formula with 2013 house hit ‘Latch’, both catapulting each other to fame. As Disclosure prepare to release their sophomore album later this year, second single ‘Omen’ attempts to regain some of the magic ‘Latch’ contained and it doesn’t do a bad job in the slightest. Smith’s vocals are raw with sincerity as always, crooning over Disclosure’s usual scatty production. Not quite as good as ‘Latch’ but a fine follow-up nonetheless.

3) Nicki Minaj – The Night Is Still Young

Nicki Minaj’s musical and artist output is certainly intriguing. Hits such as ‘Superbass’, ‘Fly’ and ‘Pound The Alarm’ were tolerable catchy music hits whereas ‘Anaconda’ slipped into the ‘utter garbage’ category. Still, she is a highly successful and interesting artist who clearly has a strong following. ‘The Night is Still Young’ is her latest release and whilst described by many as a dance-pop song, it borders on becoming a ballad with it’s relatively slow tempo. It’s a great song, however, more so musically than lyrically but certainly one of Minaj’s better efforts.

4) Carly Rae Jepsen – Run Away With Me

One of the most underrated females in Pop, Carly Rae Jepsen has a unique talent in being able to co-write effortlessly catchy and clean pop hits, suitable for audiences of all ages. With her seductive, airy vocals and synthpop hits, Rae Jepsen has carved herself a sucessful global career yet still seems to be largely ignored compared to other female artists such as Taylor Swift and Beyonce. ‘Run Away With Me’ is the follow-up to awesome lead single ‘I Really Like You’. Both singles are from Carly’s forthcoming album ‘Emotion’ and is produced by Shellback with assistance from Mattman & Robin (the producers of ‘Higher than Higher’ by Take That and Adam Lambert’s ‘The Original High’. It’s another fun synthpop track, a little bit 80’s with squeaky synths with shuffling percussion and powerful vocals from Rae Jepsen. One of the best songs around at the moment.

5) John Newman – Come and Get It

The British northern-soul crooner is back with massive hit ‘Come and Get It’, a catchy soul-funk track co-written by John himself with pop pioneer Greg Kurstin. It’s a huge song with powerful vocals from Newman.

6) Jessica Simpson – With You

It may be incredibly cheesy and lack credibility but ‘With You’ is pop music at its best. Pretty pop track.

7) Tame Impala – Cause I’m a Man

Gentle, dreamy psychedelic summer track by Australian band Tame Impala. Reminiscent of slow-disco hits from the 1970’s, this is a breath of fresh air in the current state of the music industry. One of my absolute favourite songs currently around.

8) Blonde ft Alex Newell – All Cried Out

Awesome track of the deep house genre with 90’s house piano riffs and incredible powerhouse vocals from American singer/actor Alex Newell.

9) George Ezra – Barcelona

Soft f0lk-styled track; the latest single from George Ezra’s incredible album ‘Wanted on Voyage’. Ezra’s rich, wise-beyond-his-years vocals really are distinctively beautiful.

10) One Direction – Drag Me Down

The killer new single from the much-loved Boyband; the first without Zayn Malik who departed the band earlier this year. It’s not as good as ‘Steal My Girl’ (lead single from the band’s last album ‘Four’) but it proves the continuity of the band’s maturer sound.