Another month goes by, and MrMoth once again plunges into the crystal clear waters of pop music and emerges with pearls for your delight and wonder.
Kylie – Into the Blue
Is there any point to Kylie releasing music these days? Like Madonna, although Madonna can still find collaborators to bring something interesting to the table, her pop stardom feels played out. She’s been pretty much everything she is ever going to be. The last interesting song she put out was Kids, which was driven by Robbie’s peak charisma explosion. The music now feels like a sideshow. Ok, then, so what does she do if not music? I can’t answer that, but pretty much “Just be Kylie” will do. Turn up on TV talent shows. Do knowing cameos in comedy sketches. Launch a perfume every so often. That’ll be fine.
I mean, listen to this. You’re not going to give Kylie a terrible song and, lo, it is not terrible. But it’s quantatively no good, either. It has no spark, no edge, no danger, no fun. It is beautifully produced, inoffensive mid-range power-pop. The video looks like an sequence of adverts; perfume, high-end department stores, clothes shops, all cut together with a half hearted narrative. Like Kylie herself, the music and the video are polished, poised, sheened with beauty and completely inert.
Chlöe Howl – Rumour
“I’m just trying to work out/How to be like myself.” Well, good luck with that, let us know when you’ve got it. At the moment, see, you’re basically Shoreditch Kate Nash. Hey! Yes! No, Kate Nash is totally still a relevant name to drop. I reviewed one of her singles in a previous Mostly Pop, and Mostly Pop is only about the coolest, most up to the minute stuff. This is one of those “I’m telling stories here, vignettes if you will” sort of songs, though the snapshots of life feel forced and overly neat, like The Streets via a set of Instagram filters.
Musically, this is bordering on interesting (if you ignore Howl’s grating Nash vocals). Drum n bassy, Dark Pop sounds are the order of the day here. I don’t know if Dark Pop is an actual genre, but you know it when you hear it. You can tell because it gets an exciting, primarily slo-mo, video where the singer is aligned against some sort of terrifying power – in this case CHESS BASTARDS. Yes there’s some kind of dystopian shit going on here, with people playing chess with gags on and then the Chess Bastards kill the loser or something, and there’s a head Chess Bastard, who, it turns out, isn’t as good at chess as all that. Have to wonder why he chose chess in the first place if he’s a rubbish chess player. “I am the OVERLORD of this chess-based society and I declare losing at chess a CAPITAL offence. Now. How does the horsey move?” I worry, though, that this is basically Chlöe Howl coming out against Kasparov, implicitly declaring herself pro-Putin. This isn’t the time for that sort of thing, Chlö. Not the time.
Lily Allen – Air Balloon
After the return with a bang of Hard Out Here (I’m sort of ignoring Somewhere Only We Know because reasons), this is a very different Lily Allen single. Very! It’s all sparkly and twinkly and handclaps, fingerclicks, piano plinks. The singsong verses whooshing into the swooping chorus, not a bit of it makes any sense and it doesn’t matter. I’m absolutely pro. There are comparisons to be made with MIA’s Paper Planes, but the light touch of that song offset its darker edges. This is all daylight.
The video is appropriately sunny and breezy, making little from actually quite a lot. It was shot on location in Africa, but who can really say why? The quality of the light? The camera glides effortlessly between intimate-feeling close ups and horizon-catching pull-outs with nothing more to show than the astonishing landscape before taking off into space for a curious sequence with a giant space-crucifix. Again, why? It feels like a big statement to make for such a small scale song. Then again, why not? You can tie yourself in knots trying to analyse something that wasn’t made for analysis.
Of course, since I first watched the video with an eye to reviewing it she’s only gone and released another one. Slow down, pop. I can’t keep up.
Tensnake ft Fiora and Nile Rodgers – Love Sublime
Look, I know we all love Nile Rodgers now; international treasure, disco pope, guy who made Get Lucky and all that. But. Remember when Chic were a bit of a joke? When Good Times was used on Harvester adverts and it seemed like, yeah, that’s right, they’re both naff. I’m just saying that it could happen again, especially if this is allowed to continue. Clearly Mr Rodgers enjoys his work, and will basically do whatever just to have some music to make, but this is genuinely rubbish. Pedestrian and plodding, the classic riff style just sounds like an endless muzak loop.
Still, he looks happy in the video, strumming away on the telly. Let me know if you’ve ever seen him look less than happy, mind, because that might be the harbinger of the apocalypse. “Why is the sky glowing red?” “Nile Rodgers was pictured playing the guitar and frowning.” “Hold me.” Also, just to finish this off, what is with the splats in this video? Like someone had an idea and forgot to tell everyone else making the video so there are just… splats. In there. No reason. Splat. Maybe they saw Nile Rodgers looking worried.
Iggy Azalea ft Charli XCX – Fancy
Can’t argue with this. Big, loping bassline – check*. Twangy rap – check. Hell of a hook – check. Video paying homage to Clueless – Check.
There’s a point to be made about how it would be mostrously unfair if Iggy Azalea becomes a bigger star than her more interesting, more vital semi-namesake Azealia Banks, though it may be inevitable. In terms of influence, Banks will almost certainly outperform Iggy, so in the long term it may not matter. Of course, this could signal the slow repositioning of Azalea from “Sassy rap outsider” to “Pop star with a slightly unusual delivery” so it could be apples and oranges. The comparison is invited just by timing and nomenclaturial coincidence, and may mean nothing.
As for Charli XCX, well, no amount of superstardom is enough.
*I’m not about to say it sounds like the will.i.am/Miley track I spent January avoiding, but it does.
George Michael – Let Her Down Easy
Expect this to kill at the Winter Paralympic Closing Ceremony.
Arctic Monkeys – Arabella
I admit I took my eye off Arctic Monkeys after their first two singles. And I suspect they were content for that to happen, as they’ve built quite a head of steam over the last few years to make a real charge at significance beyond their “Fastest selling single” blip-fame, outside their NME frame.
Well, hello again, then. You’ve still got a terrible sixth-form band name, but this is pretty cool. There’s a languid, sleazy groove here that snakes along between occasional scratchily melodic outbursts. The NSFW video has a charged sexuality that almost approaches adult (as much as the juvenile medium of a pop video ever can) and it all hangs together as a package; a band confident in themselves. I may be giving them too much credit, but how often can you accuse me of that?
Little Mix – Word Up
Stealth-pilot-for-Brittas-Empire-reboot video aside, this is so far beyond comment I am actually going to just embed Cameo’s mighty original and let you revel in the glory of that instead because fuck it. Fuck everything.
From the opening moments – CAMEO ASSEMBLE! – to the closing – Geordi off of Star Trek handcuffed to a super-intense woman – it’s sheer joy. Sure, sure, red codpiece but so much more! Please, enjoy every second to its fullest. Pop music at its absolute best.