Music

Hidden Gems 3

Bahamas – All The Time

This song is great to listen to while relaxing, it pretty much epitomises easy listening. It’s simple construction means it pretty much suits any kind of mood or weather plus you can pretty much make it about what you want. Unbelievably, this song failed to even place on the alternative chart of Bahamas’ native Canada.

Bleachers – I Wanna Get Better

Bleachers is a one-man music project founded by Fun. member Jack Antonoff. The 2014 album Strange Desire is a great example of the current trend of 80s throwback music. Along with fellow singles ‘Shadow’ and ‘Rollercoaster’, ‘I Wanna Get Better’ really stands out as an irresistibly catchy anthem.

Kim Cesarion – Undressed

Okay, so this one is a bit of a guilty pleasure. When I first heard this at the start of last year, I was expecting it to rocket to the top of the charts in the UK that Summer, much like it had in Australia but nothing ever came from it. It’s just, in my opinion, a very good pop song.

Angus & Julia Stone – Grizzly Bear (Synapson Remix)

Originally a bluesy folk song from Australian brother-sister duo Angus and Julia Stone, Synapson has transformed the track in to an instantly memorable song. Maybe, that’s a bit harsh – the original song isn’t bad either, in fact, I can barely sum up what I love so much about this remix, but I’m willing to sit through all six minutes so it must be quite good. Oh, and the song isn’t actually about a grizzly bear, at least I hope it isn’t..

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros – Home

I’m starting to think people maybe just don’t like folk music because this song is exceptional. It probably sounds familiar, as it served as the soundtrack of a Peugeot advert from 2014. The song is a five minute nostalgic story set to the sounds of a Summer’s evening, I almost get a sunburned neck listening to it. It was also featured on Modern Family when Cam and Mitch finally wed, just in case you didn’t already love it.

Foals – My Number

Okay, so this is a bit of a cheat seeing as it actually did reach 23 in the UK singles chart. Nonetheless, it’s an upbeat, infectious indie song perfect for Summer. I like Summer, okay?!

Justin Timberlake – That Girl

This is another song for Summer, if anyone is having any summer parties and they want me to DJ then clearly I’m the guy to ask, no, just kidding. Anyway, I digress, this is a chilled out summery song like much of the others, it’s arguably the best song on 20/20 Experience, scratch that, it’s easily the best (sorry Suit & Tie), so show it some Southern love.

The Walkmen – Heaven

The only thing to go right in the How I Met Your Mother season finale. God, I need to get over that. Regardless, this is such a ‘grower’, it’s not summery but it is nostalgic, I’m predictable I know but it really is infectious and I’m sure you’ll love it like I do.

 

The X Factor USA: Top 16 Evaluation

The X Factor USA’s live shows are rolling around in just two weeks and given the rapidly declining standards of my country’s edition, I am truly grateful. Once more, the Stateside version has produced 16 top class acts. Here is how they are shaping up going in to the final rounds.

Kelly’s Over 25s

Rachel Potter

Can she sing?
Yes, very well in fact. Rachel surprised everyone at her first audition with her impeccable high notes. The Four Chair Challenge didn’t go as well for her and she was put through based on her first audition.

Does she have the ‘X Factor’?
Hmm… this is debatable. She can definitely sing and she was likeable in her first audition and the country market in the US is huge but she did herself no favours by rattling off excuses in her second performance. I think Victoria Carriger would have been better received by voters.

Jeff Gutt

Can he sing?
He’s actually got a great voice. It’s very much suited to rock ballads but he can sing, he was unlucky not to have made it to the live shows the season before.

Does he have the ‘X Factor’?
Not really. Sure, he’s likeable as a good singer and being a single father supporting his son but he doesn’t look like a star and he doesn’t have much charisma. He could do well from this but I can’t foresee him being a global star.

James Kenney

Can he sing?
Another yes, here. He’s not a strong a singer as Jeff but his voice is soulful and unique within the competition.

Does he have the ‘X Factor’?
Not really. Sure, he’s likeable as a good singer and being a single father supporting his son but he doesn’t look like a star and he doesn’t have much charisma. He could do well from this but I can’t foresee him being a global star.

Lillie McCloud

Can they sing?
Can she ever! Vocally, Lillie is a cut above the rest of the competition. It says a lot that she is the only act to have received two standing ovations so far this season.

Does she have the ‘X Factor’?
You may think a 54-year-old grandmother has little to offer mainstream music but the stage presence she carries is that of a seasoned veteran. She has the look, she has the talent. Can she connect with a younger audience? Maybe not but with a voice like hers, that shouldn’t be problematic.

 

Demi’s Girls

Khaya Cohen

Can they sing?
Vocally, she’s arguably the strongest in Demi’s category.

Does she have the ‘X Factor’?
Meh, probably not. She’s enthusiastic and likeable but does she stand-out? Not really.  That’s why I’ve just used those generic terms to describe her.

Ellona Santiago

Can they sing?
Yes, she can. Simon picked her out as the star singer when she was part of Season 1 group InTENsity.

Does she have the ‘X Factor’?
Again, she’s very forgettable. She’s just your average girl. She’s yet to show anything that sets her apart from any other female singer with a good voice.

Danie Geimer

Can they sing?
Again, she is a very good singer with amazing control for a 15-year-old.

Does she have the ‘X Factor’?
Thankfully, she may do. She’s certainly more memorable than her two predecessors. She’s the geeky girl at school that no one pays attention to, until they realise how talented she is. I bet that story will resonate with many of the show’s younger voters.

Rion Paige

Can they sing?
Yes, she can. Excellently, in fact, for a 13-year-old.

Does she have the ‘X Factor’?
She’s arguably the most likeable contestant in the whole competition, her resolute positivity in the face of her disability is simply inspiring. I almost want to see her succeed more for her mum than herself.

Paulina’s Boys

 

Carlito Olivero

Can they sing?
He can but he’s definitely one of the weaker singers in the competition.

Does he have the ‘X Factor’?
Sort of. He’ll appeal to certain audiences but he’s nothing special.

Carlos Guevara

Can they sing?
He can, very well in fact. One of Paula’s strongest singers.

Does he have the ‘X Factor’?
He’s certainly likeable given his triumph over Tourettes Syndrome whenever he sings, but he isn’t the most charismatic.

Tim Olstad

Can they sing?
Yes, he is a very good singer. That’s about all he is.

Does he have the ‘X Factor’?
Not all. He is easily the dullest contestant left. Simon was spot on when he said he’d only appeal to older audiences.

Josh Levi

Can they sing?
There are better singers in the competition, but yes he can sing.

Does he have the ‘X Factor’?
I think so. The girls seem to love him, he’s confident without being arrogant and his stage presence is impressive. There’s no reason he can’t go far.

Simon’s Groups

 

Sweet Suspense

Can they sing?
As they’re a manufactured group they can all sing equally well. Well, there’s one stronger singer but…

Do they have the ‘X Factor’?
Potentially. They’re fairly likeable and will probably be popular with young teenage girls.

Restless Road

Can they sing?
Very well, particularly together.

Do they have the ‘X Factor’?
Absolutely, it was a genius move of Simon’s to put together a group of three young male country singers. I’m certain they’ll do well.

Alex and Sierra

Can they sing?
They have unique voices. They’re not powerful but good, no doubt.

Do they have the ‘X Factor’?
I think so. They have a unique style and are actually likeable as a couple, you want them to succeed because of how down-to-earth they are. I love them.

RoXxy Montana

Can they sing?
You bet they can. Coming from a gospel choir, their voices are very soulful too.

Do they have the ‘X Factor’?
They could be the new Destiny’s Child. They’re very talented, great performers but they’re not necessarily as likeable and charismatic as the other acts. They might not do as well as predicted.

The Inner Twerkings of Miley’s Madness

This post is pure speculation,  I have no real proof to suggest anything I’m going to ramble on about here is true but it may be something worth thinking about. At any given time, there is usually one celebrity making all the headlines, the one you can’t go anywhere without having a conversation about them, I’m talking Lady Gaga after she wore her meat dress, Kanye interrupting Taylor Swift at the VMAs but who would have thought innocent-faced, Miley Cyrus would ever reach the required height of relevance to make such a huge impact? Well, she has and while most are labelling her a ‘whore’ among other things, there is a just a chance that she may really be a marketing genius.

Scantily clad… Miley has become quite attached to skimpy clothes and sexual grinding.

In case you live under a rock, country darling Miley Cyrus has recently transformed in to a mega slut, think Draco Malfoy in a strip club. It all started with her single “We Can’t Stop”, exploring the sinister themes of a drug party rather than the cute on-goings of Tennessee hoedowns like her previous singles. The video was the most controversial with Miley writhing around barely clothed, making out with dolls, licking men’s torsos and twerking like she’d been tasered. That was stir enough but Cyrus managed to exceed her antics when she then twerked right in the lap of Robin Thicke at the MTV Video Music Awards. She also showed the world that she had a rare disease called ‘restless tongue syndrome’. Anyhow, interest continued to generate and she once again kept her momentum of craziness going by appearing in her latest music video for follow-up single, ‘Wrecking Ball’ entirely naked on an actual wrecking ball and by practically fornicating with a sledgehammer. She claims that this is purely artistic but you would have to be a moron to have seen that video and think she’s not trying to promote her sexuality.  You’re probably wondering where I’m getting with this but if you think about it; sex sells.

Hammer time… Miley claims this is artistic.

Miley acting promiscuously in her weird videos generates interests, which generates more views which generates more publicity and before you know it, Sly little Miley or Sliley as I’m now dubbing her, has her first UK number-one single. Pretty clever right? She follows her madness up quickly with her stint at the VMAs, everyone’s left talking about Miley and we’re waiting for what she’ll do next. She releases ‘Wrecking Ball’ accompanied by another equally controversial video and subsequently she breaks the record for most views on Vevo within 24 hours. And you can bet that ‘Wrecking Ball’ will be another top 5 hit globally. Why has she done this? Probably because it’s worked. Crazy behaviour gets noticed. Just think about how irrelevant Amanda Bynes was 12 months ago and now she’s arguably been the most talked about celebrity of 2013. But what I’d bet is that this is an ingenious plan by Miley to simply distance herself from her Hannah Montana days. She tried and failed to do that with “Can’t Be Tamed” but this time has thrown out all the stops to ensure she will no longer be seen as a kid. Here’s the checklist; 1) she’s singing about drugs, 2) she’s provocatively licking and flirting with literally any object she can find, 3) she’s changer her image so people know she is different now and 4) she’s declared ownership of a slutty dance move that is easy to replicate and already popular. In fact, that last point is her biggest triumph. Twerking is all the rage in clubs, on Twitter, on Vine and when ever anyone hears that word they think; Miley Cyrus – which is probably why she’s been trending on Twitter in some medium for the last two weeks.

If what I’m suggesting is correct, you really have to give Miley credit, she’s done a remarkable job of making herself relevant when in reality she’s not the best singer nor the most distinguishable popstar of this generation but if she can make some money and herself a success from these eccentric escapades than more power to her; Twerk, Miley. Twerk, twerk! On the other hand, if she has just gone a little bit insane and actually thinks her behaviour is normal and appropriate, maybe we should get her some help and perhaps get Billy Ray on the Jeremy Kyle show.

Other Celebrity publicity stunts that have worked out

  • Mariah Carey scored a platinum-selling single with the only slightly above average, ‘Obsessed’ by targeting Eminem in her video.
  • Lady Gaga cemented her reputation as ‘quirky’ and ‘off the wall’ by wearing a dress made of meat – it didn’t harm her album sales either.
  • Swapping spit seemed to bolster sales for both Britney Spears and Madonna.
  • Any number of female celebrities have increased their sex appeal by coming out as ‘bisexual’.
  • Kim Kardashian masterfully handled the fallout of her sex tape to become one of the world’s most famous names (well her mother did).

The Death of Music

Sell-out… Goulding’s earlier work is far more credible.

What is currently number-one in the UK? Ellie Goulding’s ‘Burn’. A dance-pop song that many will struggle to remember in a few years time. It’s not the same as the number ones of twenty or even ten years ago that are remembered now and identifiable after the first note is aired. No, now it will take a good 60 seconds of murmuring until you reach the chorus before you can be sure it’s ‘that song’ by ‘oh, what’s her name’.

It seems reaching the summit of any of the world’s major music charts has become easier and easier year on year, with that all too familiar formulaic drivel soaring to the top. And here is my handy guide on how to reach the top of any chart;

  • Make sure your song is of the ‘dance-pop’ genre.
  • Sing about the events of partying, drinking and/or having sex with strangers.
  • You must spend at least 30 seconds of the song making a generic noise such as ‘woah’, ‘la’ or ‘eh’.

Machine… Seriously, this woman never stops.

If we’re being honest, few artists around today will stand alongside the likes of Elvis, Michael and the Beatles as legends in music folklore. Most popular artists are now merely corporate hit-making monsters. For instance, Rihanna, who seems to drop a new album every time I blink, has accumulated seven number-one hits. This places her above Queen, but ‘RiRi’ will never have the impact on music that Freddie Mercury’s posse did because a number-one was harder to attain in their day. Equally, 18 Months, the latest album by Calvin Harris holds the record for the most top 10 hits from a single album. It is still unknown to me why the likes of Calvin Harris and David Guetta deem themselves better than other music producers and therefore need top billing on their work but that’s another story. The point is, these artists are determined to reel off throwaway hit after throwaway hit for one purpose – money. Let’s look at some of the songs that have topped the charts that meet the above criteria let’s say two years ago; Roll Deep – Good Times, JLS – The Club is Alive, Ke$ha – We R Who We R, Jason Derulo – Don’t Wanna Go Home. I bet there’s not many people listening to these songs now except maybe if you go out to a club. It’s like Beyoncé said in this year’s  V Festival programme, “People don’t make albums anymore. They just try to sell a bunch of really quick singles. People don’t ever listen to a body of work anymore.”

Aware… Beyoncé acknowledges that albums are mostly redundant.

In honesty, it’s near impossible to argue with Mrs. Carter. If we’re talking music that will be remembered it is the creators of works such as Adele’s ’21’, Frank Ocean’s ‘Channel Orange’ and Taylor Swift’s ‘Fearless’ that will be remembered from this era of music not Iyaz’s Replay. Remember that? You should, it was number one worldwide just three years ago.

Still, the cogs of the corporate music machine keep turning without executives realising the biggest selling hits of the last few years haven’t necessarily been of the dance-pop genre and the best selling albums certainly haven’t been. With the likes of Eminem’s ‘Love The Way You Lie’ and Gotye’s ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ topping end of year singles charts in recent years.

Unfortunately, the big wigs of music have cottoned on that making five or six throwaway hits that reach the top ten makes more money than one track of musical brilliance that reaches the summit – not that that’s really an honour anymore. Unfortunately, the fed up among us will have to wait patiently for this tedious trend of monotonous dance-pop to bow out. I for one, cannot pretend to like the same barely altered songs  every other week, any longer.

Hidden Gems 2

You can find part one here; https://thechriswhitingshow.wordpress.com/2013/07/16/hidden-gems-2/

I unexpectedly had a lot of fun broadcasting the last bunch of my favourite undiscovered tracks. So naturally, I’m going for part two…

Your Twenties – Billionaires

This song was played over the opening sequence of E4 series, ‘Beaver Falls’. Perhaps its through association with the programme that this song reminds me of Summer. I’ve never really bothered to decipher or in fact research what the song is actually about though the title may give some clarity. The song is a must for any Summer playlist, particularly apt for Summer Evening drives through the countryside.

Shakira – Gypsy

It’s not often that an artist whose native tongue is not English captures the attention of the Anglosphere but Shakira has done it time and time again. She’s probably best known for flailing around on a rock in ‘Whenever, Wherever’ or for ‘Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)” but one of her best tracks is ‘Gypsy’. This track incorporates elements from both folk and Indian music and tells the story of a traveller. You will struggle to find a more breezily infectious song than this. Also, if you’re a tennis fan, you’ll be enticed by the appearance of Rafael Nadal as Shakira’s love interest in the video above.

Izzy Marie Hill – Chuck Norris

It feels weird to be writing about Izzy Marie Hill seeing as she was two years above me at Badgerbrook Primary School once upon a time but I’ll make no apologies for including her in this list. Although, ‘Chuck Norris’ has received some airplay on Radio 1 and Izzy has been compared with both Jason Mraz and Taylor Swift, she has yet to take off. And to be honest, I can’t really see why – this song is charming, happy, melodic and must importantly catchy. The chorus lists all the mistakes Izzy could make, that would be less than not admitting her true feelings for a love interest, adding a quirky element to a very likeable song. There’s no doubt that this could be a hit.

Owl City  Vanilla Twilight

Solo act, Owl City burst on to the seen with ‘Fireflies’ in 2009. I was caught up in the hysteria surrounding the song at the time and bought his album, ‘Ocean Eyes’, which is seriously nothing special. Other than ‘Fireflies’ only ‘Vanilla Twilight’ stands out.  The melodic synth-pop sound accompanied by poetic lyrics of longing mesh to make a haunting production, that is in ways far superior to its predecessor.

Black Eyed Peas – Electric City

Most people were critical when Black Eyed Peas repackaged themselves as electro-freaks in 2009 with the release – I can see their point. ‘Boom Boom Pow’ and later release, ‘The Time (Dirty Bit)’ may be offensive but some of the other tracks from The E.N.D. are thoroughly enjoyable. ‘Alive’ which nearly pipped ‘Electric City’ to a place on this list, is a master class is in rhytmic synth-pop whereas ‘Electric City’ is a bassy masterpiece.

Duffy – I’m Scared

Don’t be alarmed. Basically everyone on the planet forgot that Duffy existed. After, her titanous album, ‘Rockferry’ triumphed commerically and critically, Duffy simply vanished. Thankfully, the tracks of that very album were good enough to still be popular five years on. For me, ‘Mercy’ takes a back seat to the heartbreakingly honest, ‘I’m Scared’. The song retells Duffy’s fear of mortality following the sudden death of her boyfriend in a car accident – a thoroughly relatable concern. Powered by her exquisite tone, this song is truly great.

Izzy Marie Hill – Jimmy

I must stress that ‘Jimmy’ is tongue in cheek, I’m quite certain Izzy doesn’t really have a disdain for Emma Stone. The song tells the story of an obsessive fan of Jim Carrey’s setting her jealous sights on Emma Stone, who Carey publicly praised in a YouTube video. If you read the first ‘Hidden Gems’ – you’ll see that I seem to have a love for songs about crazed stalkers. ‘Jimmy’ isn’t as obviously good as her other tracks like ‘Chuck Norris’ or ‘Lovestruck’ but it does grow on you and by now, I’d probably say it’s my favourite track of hers. I’ve not had a chance to listen to the full album yet but it seems promising.

Hidden Gems

You can find part two here; https://thechriswhitingshow.wordpress.com/2013/07/16/hidden-gems-2-2/

A lot of the time, my favourite songs slip under the radar and I’m absolutely bored today so I thought I’d make a blog post commending some of my favourites, that are unknown to most.

Marina & The Diamonds – Oh No!

I’m actually somewhat a fan of Marina & The Diamonds. It always strikes me that behind her catchy songs are some really depressing, emotional and at times wonderfully observant lyrics. The well-known hits, ‘Primadonna’ and ‘Hollywood’ deal with society’s obsession with fame but ‘Oh No!’ provides a much deeper social commentary. Like the others mentioned, the song itself is very catchy but conveys a deep meaning about her ruthless desire to succeed and escape from a monotonous life where ‘TV has taught her how to feel’.

Frank Ocean – Forrest Gump

Frank Ocean’s debut album Channel Orange received rave reviews when it was first released. I initially resisted the temptation to listen to it, given his rising popularity in the quite frankly pretentious hipster culture. However, after hearing one of its singles; ‘Lost’, I changed my mind. After listening, one track stood out among the rest. ‘Forrest Gump’ kicks in with an almost eerie organ that quickly turns in to a nostalgic summer synth masterpiece. As if the song itself wasn’t good enough, the honesty of the song’s lyrics about Ocean’s unrequited love for another male from his teenage years only adds to the song.

Hellogoodbye – Two Weeks in Hawaii

One-hit wonders with keyboards is probably the best way to describe quirky band, Hellogoodbye. Their hit ‘Here (In Your Arms)’ was big back in the summer of 2007, the subsequent album, ‘Zombies! Aliens! Vampires! Dinosaurs!’ however, was not… except in my house. My sister had gained an admiration for them over that summer leading to many plays of their LP. ‘Two Weeks in Hawaii’ and ‘Baby, it’s Fact’ are the only ones still on my iPod today. It’s hard to pinpoint just what is I like about this song but it has survived the test of time.

fun. – Walking the Dog

Now, I probably shouldn’t have even included this in my list because I could go on for hours praising this band. They’re a favourite of mine and I highly recommend every single song from the commercial successful ‘Some Nights’ and its superior predecessor, ‘Aim and Ignite’. ‘Walking the Dog’ simply got the nod because it’s the cream of the crop. Fun pride themselves on their unique pop and complex lyrics, something the non-album single, ‘Sight of the Sun’ is good for too.

The Neighbourhood – Sweater Weather

My Dad knows nothing about music but to credit him, he did bring this band to my attention. The song is instantly catchy and a classic juxtaposition in its construction. The music has a definite sombre feel, seemingly conflicting with the lyrics of adoration the singer has for his girlfriend. The rest of the songs on their EP, “I’m Sorry…” are basically average but in all honesty, ‘Sweater Weather’ could have topped the charts.

Maroon 5 – I Can’t Lie

Another of my favourite bands up next. I’ve always been a big fan of Maroon 5’s albums, particularly ‘Songs About Jane’ but this gem lies unnoticed on 2010’s ‘Hands All Over’. I hadn’t given the album much of a chance initially but during my American ventures last year, my iPod broke meaning I had to listen to my Dad’s. This album was one of the only bearable ones to choose from and this quickly stood out for me.

Little Comets – One Night In October

The inclusion of this song is again down to my sister’s influence. At some point, she made me listen to Little Comets and this insanely catchy song about a failing relationship was soon being played on a loop. The lyrics are less intellectual than some of the others in this list but the song is redeemed by the music itself. Other standout songs by the Little Comets include ‘Dancing Song’, ‘Adultery’ and ‘Isles’.

Alex Winston – Velvet Elvis

Most of you will recognise this from a Google Chrome advert or simply as the ‘Satchel song’. In reality, this track has nothing to do with either. The tune is chirpy and melodic, serving as a fascinating contrast to the sinister lyrics played over top. The single recounts a twisted love affair with a picture of Elvis Presley and her insistence that no one can come between them, not another woman, her father or a psychiatrist.