by Mr Moth
Nicola Roberts – Beat of my Drum
Nicola Roberts was always my favourite Girl Aloud, in spite of the repeated criticisms slung at her – she can’t dance! She doesn’t smile! She can’t sing! – so when I became aware that she was launching a solo career I can honestly say my heart sank a little bit. “Stick to your legacy, Nicola!” I thought. “Be remembered as the slightly awkward redhead in the best pop band ever, the one with the flat but oddly appealing singing voice!” Mostly, though, I thought “Don’t release a bunch of anodyne shit like Cheryl and Nadine!”
Pleasingly, then, Beat of my Drum is fucking MAGNIFICENT. Instead of working with Will.I.Am (among the worst people to happen to pop in a decade) or Guy [yawn] Chambers, Nicola Roberts turned to Diplo and smaller electropop outfits to create a sound which is more an evolution of the early, feisty Girls Aloud than the sappy torch song attempts of the later albums.
Itchy, scratchy beats drive it along and the chorus is an addictive cheerleader chant, with a lovely effect near the end which sounds like it has blown your speakers out. The Guardian’s music blog recently ran an article about the rebirth of the female monotone and Roberts fits snugly into that pageant – Dev, Ke$ha and, most obviously to my ears, M.I.A. – during the verses. That is, when she isn’t veering off to sing – you know, that thing people said she couldn’t do.
Another thing she was famous for her inability to do was smile. Well, again, Beat of my Drum is out to prove the world wrong, with a jolly, low key video apparently filmed in the local community centre. It’s beautifully cut together, with a real flow that works counter to the stuttering beats of the song. There’s dancing (yes, there really is), there are drums and, perhaps flushed with the triumph of such a full-throttle launch to a solo career, there is smiling.
Avril Lavigne – Smile
Ooh, I could attempt a DJ-style link to this single from the end of that last review. I won’t, unless I just did. Am I totally flannelling in lieu of having anything interesting to say about Avril Lavigne? That doesn’t seem right. I have lots to say about Avril, but where to begin?
Hey, kids, remember Avril Lavigne? Sure you do. She’s built a persona on the gimmick of not appearing to be a very nice person. This is a gutsy move in the saccharine world of popular music, isn’t it? To, from the very first video for the very first single (Complicated, back in 2002) to March’s What The Hell, she has made unlikeability her watchword. Her monster hit Girlfriend in 2007 cemented her claim to “most unpleasant person in a pop video” by actually making her successfully bully herself, surely a feat unique in the annals of music videos.
Now here comes Smile, a title I’m sure we can take with a pinch of salt. Musically it’s same old same old, Avril’s usual brand of punky power-pop masking an only mildly diverting song. I wasn’t bored, but after a few listens neither am I whistling it in the shower. Lyrically, well, she’s still “a crazy bitch” who “does what she wants when she feels like it”, which is a bit tiresome and desperate-sounding.
In the video, she appears to have been locked back in the same white room she shot the vid for He Wasn’t in, interspersed with shots of her wandering the streets picking up broken pieces of glass hearts to make people smile. Only the cruel part of my brain sees the increasingly hard-looking Lavigne with a piece of red glass in her palm and can’t help but think of Logan’s Run.
The Saturdays – Notorious
I had high hopes for this. Not least because the first line is “Don’t hold back”, which is the first line of the best song The Saturdays ever did – the still-brilliant Up – but it’s downhill from there. Sure, the song is a slight evolution of their sound, giving it a harder edge. Of course, this is The Saturdays we’re talking about, so we’re only talking about baking a meringue for a few minutes longer, in terms of hardened edges. And it is hellishly catchy; I found it returning to haunt me in the small hours of the working day, so it works on some level. It’s just, well..
It’s just that something of the B-list clings to The Saturdays. I mean, I’m sure they’re all lovely (maybe not Una), and they look like proper pop stars and all, so it’s probably the S Club association. S Club were never anyone’s favourite pop band, were they? Maybe they were some people’s second favourite. Solid, well-written, professional pop. But you’re not going to have posters around your bedroom of S Club. So it is with The Saturdays. Competent, slick, catchy, well-produced… hey, pay attention!
Yeah, so we also have to deal with the video, which makes no effing sense at all. The Saturdays turn up at their office and do some implausible secretarial work – they want to get a self-inking stamp, for a start – before jacking it in and going to the club. Which, apparently, is in the same building. Wow, I wish our staff facilities were that good. There they dance and sing for a bit, and thus concludes the video. Um. I mean, I know I’m on to a loser looking for meaning or structure or logic in a pop video, but.. what? The two halves of the video are utterly unrelated. It shouldn’t bother me, but it does.
Jason Derülo – Don’t Wanna Go Home
Well, this is marvellous! Looks like we can get rid of Chris Brown, because Jason Derülo is moving in to take his place. I mean, who doesn’t want a man with a sharp beard and a freaking umlaut in his name instead of a wife-beater to be their RnB pin-up boy?
OK, so Don’t Wanna Go Home is a bog-standard “Woo, party!” sort of a song, set in the infamous “club”, given a bit of life by a boop-boop sample from Robin S classic Show Me Love and a lyrical steal from Harry Belafonte’s The Banana Boat Song. That’s not an amazing start, when it comes to pop domination. But it’s not bad. I mean, it’s not a patch on Derülo ‘s sunny earworm of last year, Ridin’ Solo, but it suffices for now. It’s OK. All right, it’s terrible, but there’s an opportunity to do good here!
It definitely walks in Chris Brown territory, most notably in the video, where Jason prances about like a ninny in a manner not entirely unlike Brown in Yeah 3x. I mean, sure, it’s just styling and a smoke machine, but still. COME ON, who’s with me? Ja-son! Ja-son! Ja-son! No? No-one with me here? Fine, I give up. That was a bit weak.
Toploader – A Balance to All Things
OMG, Toploader are back! You remember Toploader! That’s not even ironic, surely you remember Toploader? Dancing In The Moonlight! They danced in that moonlight for us, and we all loved them. Well, ok, love is strong. Liked? Too strong. Were apathetic toward? No, no, I think… oh, yes, they were the most hateful band on the planet.
“Dancing in the Moonlight doesn’t represent us, you know!” they moaned, resentful of the giant, Jamie Oliver-accredited cash cow they were suckling on. “We are proper rock musicians!” Yeah, yeah, sure you are. And The Wurzels are fucking beat poets. Your album is called Onka’s Big Moka. Your guitarist is married to Gail Porter. Forgive the world for not taking you seriously.
Anyway. Times have moved on. Let bygones be bygones. Time heals all wounds. We’re all grown-ups here. Toploader are back, with the single A Balance to All Things, and we should give them a chance. Here, look, I’m listening to it. I am watching the video on YouTube.
Oh, great, now you look and sound like Coldplay. Good job, you wankers.