Mostly Pop April 2013

Azealia Banks, yesterday.

Hello! Mostly Pop here again. This month we have artists looking back, looking forwards and some just staying right where they are, unable to do anything but repeat their horrific mistakes over and over. So prepare to dance like a fool, tap your foot like someone’s Dad and, if you’re anything like me, curl into a corner, gibbering at the shock of the genuinely new. How do you feel about disarranged body parts and pleather gimp cows? Nervous?

Azealia Banks
Yung Rapunxel


I have to say, I was only vaguely aware of Azealia Banks via repeated mentions on The Tweeter and such. She had, I think, repeatedly argued with Nicki Minaj, at which point I mentally bracketed her in that genre of rap and moved on. I WAS SO VERY WRONG.

Listening to Yung Rapunxel feels like standing at the edge of a pit filled with the horrors of ageing. I’ve said a few times that I find it weird doing this in my mid-thirties, reviewing music aimed at people 20 years my junior, but this is the next level of weird. This is the music teenagers listen to in order to freak out their parents, this is the plot of Footloose condensed into three and a half minutes, this is music designed to terrify the older generations. It’s a screaming, smashing, blazing, crying vortex of part-rap, part-busted sampling, part-arthouse experimentalism.

The video doesn’t disappoint either, mirroring the early-morning-in-hell feeling of the song to an alarming degree. If you’ve read the Sandman books, you’ll already be gibbering about the Corinthian by the time birds start flying out of people’s brains and it doesn’t give you an easy ride from there. This is pop being smashed to tiny and uncomfortable pieces. Remember when you first heard grime? How it just felt wrong somehow? Like there was something different happening? Here we go again, and in a few years this will sound, just normal. But right now it’s something vital. ft Justin Bieber

Well, this transition is like walking out of an avant-garde gallery and immediately stepping in dogshit. Sure, it’s not pleasant but it is reassuringly mundane and no owls have flown out of any faces. Instead, is back doing his usual thing (ie sounding exactly like he’s sounded for the past decade) only this time his partner is Justin Bieber, fresh from desecrating a memorial with photocopies of his arse or whatever. Only he’s not really there, he’s just a hologram. The real Justin Bieber is off recording one of his concert tours over the Zapruder footage while Mr pisses about with Poreotix to marginally amusing effect. Side note – Justin is singing the Fergie part of this song, and my god it makes you pine for Fergie. There, that’s another new experience for today.


Totally wrong of me, but I already love this. I was fairly scathing about Gangnam Style – a novelty hit that felt uncomfortably like the world laughing at silly foreigners – but it has grown on me like a fungus, and my review feels unnecessarily churlish now. Gentleman is what you might call more of the same. You might call it that, if you were being polite. Actually identical is how I would describe it, because I’m being honest. Still, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing – yes, it will yield diminishing returns and I don’t expect this to be the phenomenon that Gangnam Style was (mainly because it has no power to surprise), but it’s a ridiculously catchy, unabashed floor-filler AND it has another stupid dance.

Ah, yes, the dance. Which can only mean we’re talking about the video. It was Gangnam Style’s breathlessly stupid video that caught the world’s attention as much as the squelchy bass of the song, with much what we might term ‘larking about’ and of course that dance routine. For while you couldn’t move on the internet without someone doing the Gangnam Style horsey dance (This was a particularly difficult time for pornography). Will the Gentleman dance catch on in the same way? Doubtful, though the ‘thoughtful chin holding’ move should, by rights, be an instant classic.

Beyond the dancing, I’m ridiculously tickled by the concept for the video, which is “Psy is a dick” – here’s Psy pulling someone’s chair away, here’s Psy farting in his hand and throwing it in someone’s face, here’s Psy nicking the ball off some kids in the park and scoring an easy goal. It’s like he’s in Blink 182 circa 1999, and I’m afraid to say it actually caused me to laugh more than once. Having said that, it is structurally identical (as with the song) to the previous video. Psy dicking around. Dancing. Psy meets pretty lady (who is styled in a slightly edgier manner than the other women in the video) at about the halfway mark. Massed dancing, with aforementioned pretty lady as his partner. More goofing about. Song ends. Song comes back for a bit over out-takes from video. IT IS THE SAME. And you know, that’s fine. So is every episode of Blackadder.

Little Mix ft Missy Elliott
How Ya Doin

I can’t entirely hate this. I AM VERY SORRY. Yes, yes, X-Factor, avowed nemesis, Little Mix, terrible non-band, everything wrong with the world, but the wholesale commitment to recreating a sort of En Vogue/Eternal/SWV early-90s sound is to be applauded, I think. Maybe I’ve gone soft in the head. It’s a fairly terrible song, riffing on both Curiosity Killed the Cat and, by extension, De La Soul – which could be dangerous territory if anyone gave a shit about De La Soul these days, which I’m pleased to announce they do not. Fairly terrible, but not entirely!

I also enjoyed the Def-II-through-a-backwards-telescope stylings of the video, too, even if the band sort of got in the way and it contains the most breathtakingly blunt product placement I’ve ever seen. Of course, I also gave the thumbs-up to Stooshe’s similarly-presented cover of TLC’s Waterfalls which the band themselves have disowned, so honestly why are you even reading this? I am clearly a terrible judge of quality. I *can* say with confidence that ft. Missy adds nothing and really, as the creator of stone-cold classics like Get Ur Freak On and Gossip Folks, she should get back to doing her own work and stop fting so much. No good comes of only ever fting.

Amelia Lily
Party Over

The second Amelia began singing, I started checking my phone. To say this is of no interest would be to insult uninteresting things, like the user agreement for a Java update or Asda scones. One can perhaps find a quiet beauty in a mass-produced breakfast snack, divine lyricism in Java’s bludgeoning prose. Not so Amelia Lily’s Party Over. Is the time-travelling broken iPhone in the video a sufficiently quirky gimmick to provide something for the brain to latch on to? Sadly, no. All the time-travelling broken iPhone provides is a window into various states of tediously beige partying, during which no-one appears to have anything approaching a genuinely good time. It might not even be an iPhone. Maybe it’s a Galaxy S4. I don’t care. The very fact that product placement drives this narrative fills me with ennui. I am slipping, I am fading fast. And then it ends, abruptly, bathetically. A foot stamping on a smartphone, forever. And this from Xenomania. Thanks be to whatever ancient, twisted god of death and renewal is responsible for Azealia Banks.

About Thom Willis

Thom is the curator of #microwrites - - and writes his own stories for He lives in London because, given the choice, who wouldn't?

8 thoughts on “Mostly Pop April 2013

  1. Thanks. Fucking thanks. Thanks very very fucking much. I was enjoying this article and now, thanks to you, my kids have discovered PSY. Remember, these are kids who have subjected me to Call Me Maybe more than 2000 times.

  2. “Mummy! We’re doing I’m A Gangnam Star! Do you want to watch it?”

    I’m just going to keep commenting as long as this lasts. Why should I suffer alone when it’s your fault? Okay, sure, you probably think they might have been exposed to it sometime last year. But I was careful, see?


  3. Yung Rapunxel has joined hair dryer and hoovering in the ranks of “magical ability to make my daughter fall asleep in seconds rather than minutes” noises.

    Personally I like it. Interesting and as you say aggressive. Kinda made me think of Missy Elliott. Not sure if that comparisons fair, but it’s who I thought of in terms of the impact of new and personality.

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