Taylor Swift – Blank Space
She is one of the first popstars, and certainly the most famousest, to get to grips with online media in a native way so I have a horrible feeling I’m not really “getting” Taylor Swift on a fundamental level, but this hasn’t stopped me listening to 1989 on repeat because these are killer tunes. I mean, Shake It Off, the first single, is the pop song of the year, isn’t it?
And so here is Blank Space. Problematic things first – the video’s use of The Scorned Woman; a vengeful, suit-ripping, hatchet-wielding Harpy with smeared mascara. Let’s just all take a look at that and wonder about how far we haven’t come in 2014. OK, so there’s that. Yes it’s a parody of media portrayals of her love life and Taylor Swift owns it magnificently but I don’t feel the satire bites hard enough to entirely step outside the stereotype and have any useful commentary on it. It’s a bad thing, and I wish it wasn’t there in many ways. BUT if the flip into unhinged breakdown didn’t happen this video wouldn’t be nearly as great as it is.
I’m sorry to have to do this to one of my other favourite pop stars, but the worn-lightly glamour and mischief on show here makes Lady Gaga look very heavy going indeed. The starts and stops of the music, the looks to camera, the shutterclicks and the spoken lines, the candid egotism with just enough knowingness to fall into rather than out of public favour, it’s all bundled up and presented on an air-light platter. Blank Space is the perfect example of Swift’s dreamily romantic cynicism, building itself around the excitement of someone new to love, someone to fill the blank space, but wondering at the off “how this one ends” and is that blank space on her heart or on a list? I mean, you wouldn’t necessarily twig it if you just listened to the tone but the whole album is this doomily fatalistic – love is treated warily, betrayal is the norm and every relationship is expected to fail from the first kiss, leaving nothing but smudged lipstick and wistful memories. Then again, from another angle it’s just a young woman messing around, not taking anything seriously and carrying her baggage like balloons.
Pharrell Williams – It Girl
Shit Girl more like hahaha ok we’re done here.
Oh, what, really? Fine, I shall review. It’s… for a start it’s five minutes long, which is pushing it for a single, to be honest. I just wanted it to end. The fade out lasts at least a minute and the other four are filled with an extremely pedestrian example of Pharrell’s work. Imagine Rock Star being done by an X Factor finalist. Yeah. DO HAPPY!
As for the video, well, it’s cultural appropriation a-go-go, but at least we know (as if we might doubt) where Pharrell would stand on the GamerGate issue if his publicised allowed him to make a statement. This is a five minute Manga girl avatar, though the 16-bit videogame pastiche is beautifully executed.
McBusted – Air Guitar
I have so much fondness for Busted. McFly not so much, but Busted? Big love. Especially Matt. Some for James. Lol Charlie. So when the two good ones off of Busted teamed up with, uh all of McFly? It is all of McFly? I really actually don’t know. The point is that I am delighted to see them as a musical entity once more because their particular blend of inoffensive pop rock is pretty much directly up my alley, in an entirely nonsexual way.
And you know what is really great about McBusted? They totally sound like Busted! Imagine that, in 2014! And they jump up and down like Busted! And Matt is the main focus of the group AS IS RIGHT AND PROPER. They sing about Jacko and have a halfpipe in the video. Aww. It’s a nostalgia trip for the extremely short of memory. Also, one of McFly is dressed as the kid next door from the Year 3000 video – call that coincidence if you like, but I call it META. McFly have essentially transported Busted into a future in which they are popular despite having logically died many years previously, without any of the bothersome intervening years of raising a profile, recording five further albums or having to work with Charlie. The new McBusted album can comfortably be thought of as the third Busted album, then.
Wretch 32 – 6 Words
Wretch, old son, it’s not going well. Take a look at your Spotify profile. Your most listened to song by a comfortable margin – over 100,000 plays – is Traktor. You know why that is? It’s because it’s fast and catchy, because it stalks and pulses around the dancefloor and because EVEN THOUGH the chorus has “choo-choo” train noises it’s still got an edge to it. Now listen to what you’re producing. I’ve seen more edge on a doughnut; mawkish, sludgy “I’m so blessed”, weedy MOR claptrap. Not even shooting a video in a ghost town can give this any power to haunt the memory. I’m sorry we had to have these words, but I’ve watched you slide into utter irrelevance and I feel bad. Sure, you might say there’s a market for this and I agree there is, but the numbers suggest there’s a bigger market for Traktor. Choo choo!
One Direction – Steal My Girl
Do… Do they follow me around? Can I not get away from these idiots? Ugh, ok fine. So now they’re out at Kirk’s Rock to shoot their new video, emerging into the desert like five Joeys shooting Shutterspeed. I say five but I only counted four One Directions and a Nick Cave, who is totally not in the band. Then The Penguin turns up and implies through the power of AC-TING that One Direction’s hithertobefore uncompromising artistic integrity is about to be shattered. Oh noes! How will they get through this one??
The answer is through sheer force of blokiness. Hurrah, let’s all chest-bump with sumo wrestlers and whatever. Top bants, lads. Top, just I mean the greatest bants. Don’t listen to the lyrics of the song, let’s all just look at the larking about in front of the camer- I SAID DON’T LISTEN well I did warn you. So there’s a bit of woman-as-possession stuff in the lyrics, by which I mean the refrain is “She belongs to me”. And the title… 1D, have you ever done a song that isn’t objectionable? Musically this is a big arm-waving singalong like Midnight Memories, but it’s so badly served by the lyrics that I can’t even look at it. Do they know this keeps happening to them? Do they listen to their own songs?
Cheryl – I Don’t Care
Cheryl, it is clear, does not care – but maybe she should! Maybe she should take a bit more time over her songs, or employ someone to write them who knows what they’re doing because this is a shambles. Now I think of it, all of Cheryl’s solo efforts have been lacking in some way. I seem to have reviewed more of them than I think I have – I simply don’t remember them once they’ve gone on their way. I’ve better recall of One Direction songs. I mean, say what you like about The Directions at least they have a decisive team behind them, funnelling their dreary, entitled shit into solid if unspectacular pop. Without the guiding lights of Xenomania and the Girls Aloud management, Cheryl’s solo career makes Geri Halliwell look like Michael Jackson.
To engage, briefly, with the actual product in question – this is undistinguished pop with an almost retro feel. But not retro in a good, clear, focused way, oh no, this just sounds out of date and the video looks like a J-Lo clip from around 2002. Throwing “fucking” into the chorus doesn’t make it edgy and now. It just looks desperate.