Wednesday, 29 August 2012

The Singles Bar: 30/07/12

At Singles Bar HQ, fewer than forty miles from the Olympic Park, we’ve been celebrating the finest athletes in the world pushing their bodies to the limit of human endeavour in the only way we know how – sitting in front of the television all weekend and roaring advice to these finely honed specimens while we hoover up junk food. Of course, the real story for music fans was the fantastic medley in the opening ceremony (we also loved the NHS tribute, artistic, Socialist, lentil-munching, yoghurt-knitting leftie liberals that we are) which ran from The Beatles to Tinie Tempah via Bowie, Blur and more. All of which makes this week’s selection that much more of an ordeal…

Drake feat. The Weeknd – Crew Love

Never knowingly short on confidence, Drake recently told The Jewish Chronicle that he was “the first person to successfully rap and sing” (which, as Popjustice pointed out, cruelly ignores Alesha Dixon’s contribution to the world of music). However, on Crew Love, Drake hands melody duties to The Weeknd, and the two poster boys for solipsistic, minimalist, first-world-problem rap certainly don’t disappoint. He may not be the first to rap and sing, but Drake deserves some credit for taking music so uncommercial into the mainstream. It doesn’t have traditional choruses, it doesn’t rely on bells and whistles, and it’s defiantly simple. Crew Love, while lyrically a little on the generic side, is another great track from Drake, and maybe it’ll push The Weeknd to more sales-based success too. 7/10

A$AP Rocky – Goldie

A$AP Rocky and his crew won plenty of friends, admirers and column inches last year with their Southern-influenced hip-hop tales of purple drank on the LiveLoveA$AP mixtape, and now it’s time for the official releases. Like the mixtape, Goldie suffers from paucity of ideas in places, and it’s an almost stream-of-consciousness flow that’s simply one long verse with a repeating woodwind (piccolo?) riff that’s gratingly twee after a while. Rocky’s style is great, and he’s certain to be around for a long while yet, but it doesn’t get the juices flowing in anticipation of his debut album. Goldie shows promise, but it’s perhaps a step back from the man who brought us Peso et al. 6/10

Wiley feat. Ms D – Heatwave

Wiley recently claimed to The Guardian that he “could have been as big as Tinie Tempah” and “anyone from [the grime] scene can play the O2 if they make the right music.” Sour grapes, perhaps? While Wiley’s seen his contemporaries from the early days of grime, most notably Dizzee Rascal, storm to success in recent years, Wiley’s remained on the outside, with little more than the odd critical ovation to his name. Those who know Wiley might point to his profligacy, unpredictability and, ahem, use of relaxing substances as more pertinent reasons as to why he’s not bothering the traffic systems of North Greenwich. Strange then, that Heatwave is Wiley’s most blatant bid for commercial success than his last big chart hit, Wearing My Rolex. Wiley’s never dull and his flow and rhymes are engaging and propel the song along on a pulsing rhythm, but Ms. D’s contribution, a chart-friendly, facile ode to partying, drags the track down into a less exciting realm, and the overriding feeling in this track is one of unfulfilled promise. 5/10

Yolanda Be Cool feat. Crystal Waters – Le Bump

Yolanda Be Cool are the artists behind the irritatingly ubiquitous monster hit, We No Speak Americano, so please try and contain your excitement at their return. Here, they’ve teamed up with Crystal Waters, best known in the UK for her classic earworm Gypsy Woman (La Da Dee La Da Da). Like We No Speak Americano, there are annoying brass riffs and a bizarre fetishisation of big band music. That’s all that really separates it from a million other Europop smashes of the past two decades or so and, without a memorable hook to speak of, is likely to disappear from your mind the second it finishes. The same can’t be said of Gypsy Woman (La Da Dee La Da Da) though, which I’ll now probably be humming for the next fortnight. 2/10

Parade – Light Me Up

Girl group Parade scored a Top 10 hit last year with the frankly dismal Louder before seemingly disappearing without a trace. Usually, in these situations it signals the end of a career altogether (yes, you Girl Thing, and you Girls@Play, and whither Precious?) but against all odds, Parade are back. And to be perfectly honest, it's a good job they are, because Light Me Up is a huge-sounding record which doesn't exactly reinvent the wheel but does pure pop in an unabashed, full-force way that a lot of groups could learn from. The Saturdays had better watch their backs because if Light Me Up gets any decent airplay and Parade have got a few more songs like this up their sleeve, they could well be going places fast. 8/10

M83 – OK Pal

M83 breaking into the UK Top 40 singles chart still feels a bit like a dream that didn’t happen and the more I hear of M83, I can’t believe they’re so critically acclaimed. This isn’t to say the work of Antony Gonzalez is bad, far from it, but M83’s style is so kitsch, is so in thrall to music that’s often not fondly remembered, and is so openly pop-focused that it’s the kind of thing that’s normally met with a sneer by earnest, beardy, Appalachian woodsman-loving hipper-than-thou folkie types. However, anyone not letting M83 into their life is missing out, because OK Pal is life-affirming, uplifting music that seeks the beauty in the world, amplifies it and then chucks a load of star-sprinkled synths all over the top of it. It’s a rich chocolate cake of a track, maybe a little rich over a whole album (and don’t forget M83’s last was a double) but utterly fantastic over four minutes. Stick it on repeat, lose any notion you may have of what tastemakers say you should be listening to, and if you’re wondering what’s putting pressure on your cheeks, that’ll be the massive grin spreading across your face. 9/10

Rumer – Sara Smile

The last time Rumer, aka Sarah Joyce, turned up on the Singles Bar, I questioned the point of her career (although I hope I was a bit nicer than that about it) but said she had a decent voice. Well, now she’s put her voice to good use with this cover of a Hall & Oates track. Her velvety, Karen Carpenter-esque croon works well with the jazz-flecked blue-eyed soul of the original and serves to remind you what a great song this is. The production is a little muddled – Muzak backing vocals and a little too much going on in the instrumental breakdown, perhaps – but Rumer steers this ship well all told. It doesn’t improve on the original in any way though, so again, it’s difficult to see the reasoning behind this. But then maybe that’s my problem and I should just concentrate on whether her records are any good or not that try and solve any existential questions through the medium of a mildly successful singer. 5/10

Chemical Brothers – Theme From Velodrome

So, Theme From Velodrome is the official song of the London 2012 Olympics. But hang on, isn’t that Muse abomination the official song too? And I’m sure I heard Dizzee Rascal was doing one? That’s not to mention that awful Mark Ronson and Katy B thing that turned up endorsed by a certain teeth-dissolving soft drinks company. Seems like the organisers want to have their cake (made by the official bakers of the London 2012 Games, natch) and eat it. Theme From Velodrome starts off with epic synths before a Kraftwerkian “VEL. O. DROME.” looms over the top and Orbital-style synth patterns pepper the building beats. The whole thing gives a real sense of intensity and cumulative endeavour, though it’s not surprise a track with such an obvious motorik motif and repetitive riffs should be associated with cycling. It’s a defiantly non-commercial choice from the always-interesting Chems (though a radio edit is available) though it remains to be seen whether Sir Chris Hoy and Vicky Pendleton whizz their way round The Pringle (that’s what they’re calling it) to this, but either way, it’s a brilliant song, ravey yet still cerebral. Dance’s love affair with cycling continues. 9/10 – SINGLE OF THE WEEK

Far East Movement feat. Cover Drive – Turn Up The Love

Obviously it’s wrong to be against people by name alone but consider this. Far East Movement are Kev Nish, Prohgress, J-Splif and DJ Virman. Cover Drive have a member named Bar-Man. Sometimes it’s difficult to do the right thing. Responsible for a handful of genuinely awful singles between them, the two quartets join forces which, on paper, looks tragic for anyone in the possession of functioning ears. Both groups attempt to stamp their particular styles on this track, so Cover Drive’s Caribbean-influenced pop meets Far East Movement’s boneheaded club rap. It’s a trick that’s been done relatively seamlessly before, but these two make it look like a combination that’s about as well-suited as cod and custard. A pretty sorry exercise with *counts on fingers* precisely no redeeming features. 0/10

Calvin Harris feat. Example – We’ll Be Coming Back

The two artists who rival Rihanna for sheer output come together presumably in a concerted attempt to save effort and only do half a track each. Their musical styles are so similar that it seems strange they decided to work together at all. They’ve clearly suffering from dance music fatigue (I know the feeling) because this is barely a track at all. It’s more like a mechanically recovered Calvin Harris or Example song, with tired keyboards, a lazy tempo and an uninspired vocal. Boring, boring, boring, this has got contractual obligation written all over it (the song, not this column, how dare you even suggest that). 1/10

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