The Brit Awards 2016: Everything you need to know

It’s that time of year again! Forget the Grammys! The Brit Awards is the biggest event of the British music calendar. It’s always full of drama, mishaps and general celebrity craziness. There have been so many blunders in The Brits’ long and colourful history that it has rightfully earned a notorious reputation among music fans. Get it right and it can make your career. Get it wrong and it will ruin even the most beloved of celebs’ reputations. Adele’s majestic performance of “Someone Like You” at the Brits 2011  may have shot her to global stardom but you don’t hear much about Joss Stone after her faux-American accent Brits debacle, do you? 

So all eyes will turn to the Brit Awards 2016 tonight the 24th February at 8pm to see who will provide the highlights but, more importantly, the lowlights of the chaotic ceremony. Ever reliable comedy duo Ant & Dec are presenting and they are usually good at reigning in the madness so it shouldn’t go far wrong with them at the helm. Here’s a list of all the performers who we can look forward to seeing tonight:

BRIT Awards 2016 Performers

  • RihannaI wouldn’t be so confident about this one because she did drop out of the Grammys due to to illness so I wouldn’t put it past her to do the same with the Brits. But if she does end up performing we could see a collab like when she hooked up with the Klaxons in 2008. If she performs something from Anti, it’s probably going to be “Kiss It Better” because she was due to perform that at the Grammys and it seems like a potential second single. Popstars love a good promo opportunity. 
  • Little Mix – Reliable, fun and beloved by teenage girls everywhere. Expect a bit of “Black Magic” from these lovely lasses.
  • James BayThis one has had a big ol’ year so he’s more than earned his place performing at the Brits. Ever the straight-laced, good boy, I wouldn’t expect any shenanigans from him, just a straightforward performance of either “Hold Back the River” or “Let It Go”. 
  • Jess GlynneGod I wouldn’t even know which of her 5 chart toppers Jess is going to perform. She could bring Tinie Tempah out and give us a bit of summer magic with “No Letting Go” but it’s more likely that well get a bit of “Hold My Hand” or “Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself”. 
  • Adele – Everyone knows every track on 25 so she could literally perform anything. My bet is on current single “When We Were Young”. It’s pretty emotional so this could be another “Someone Like You” moment. 
  • The WeekndGot to be a bit of “Can’t Feel my Face” please. It’s just so funky. 
  • Justin BieberSpoilt for choice. “What Do You Mean”, “Sorry”, “Where R U Now?” or “Love Yourself” whichever he chooses, we’re happy. 
  • ColdplayFresh from their performance at the SuperBowl, could we see a bit of Beyonce assistance for a performance of “Hymn for the Weekend”?

There will also be a tribute to the late British music icon David BowieWill it live up to GaGa’s Grammy performance?

BRIT Awards 2016 Nominations

Adele, James Bay and Years and Years are all currently leading the pack in terms of nominations with 4 each and Calvin Harris and Jess Glynne have each racked up an impressive three nods. Here’s a rundown of all the nominations:

British Breakthrough Act
Catfish & the Bottlemen
James Bay
Jess Glynne
Wolf Alice
Years & Years

So the Brits have thrown us a bone this year and we can actually vote for this category. They like to make us feel like we have some power. The illusion of democracy. Catfish & the Bottlemen is a bit of a random choice since their album came out in September 2014 and they haven’t had any singles chart within the UK top 190. They’ve definitely been chucked in there for a bit of credibility. I would be happy with Years & Years, James Bay or Jess Glynne. They’re all pretty worthy but probably Jess Glynne deserves it the most for smashing records last year. 

British Male Solo Artist
Aphex Twin
Calvin Harris
James Bay
Jamie XX​
Mark Ronson

Calvin only really released one big single last year so he’s probably not going to win and Mark Ronson seems like ages ago now. After all, Uptown Funk” came out over a year ago and won Best British Single last year so it has been recognised for being the chart dominating smash it is, leaving James Bay to take this one quite comfortably. 

British Female Solo Artist
Adele
Amy Winehouse
Florence & the Machine
Jess Glynne
Laura Marling

Jess Glynne did so well in 2015 but Adele just came along and blew her out of the water at the end of the year, especially in terms of international success so I reckon she will nab this one from the hapless Glynne. 

British Group
Blur
Coldplay
Foals
One Direction
Years & Years

I really would love Years and Years to win this one because they really did have an amazing 2015, racking up a UK No.1 single with “King” and a chart topping album with Communion. I have to hand it to 1D who really upped their game for their latest album Made in the AM so I couldn’t rule them out. Coldplay also had their SuperBowl moment but that was probably too recent to be counted. 

Critics’ Choice
Jack Garratt
Izzy Bizu
Frances

We know this one already. Jack Garratt is pretty much guaranteed to be the next big thing for 2016 and his win should provide a boost for his album Phase which came out this week.

British Single
Adele, “Hello”
Calvin Harris & Disciples, “How Deep Is Your Love”
Ed Sheeran & Rudimental, “Bloodstream”
Ellie Goulding, “Love Me Like You Do”
James Bay, “Hold Back the River”
Jess Glynne, “Hold My Hand”
Little Mix, “Black Magic
Olly Murs ft. Demi Lovato, “Up”
Philip George, “Wish You Were Mine”
Years & Years, “King”

I’m predicting a bit of a clean sweep for Adele this year and British Single could definitely be one of the big ones she nabs. Mostly because it’s a timeless tune with an ultra-classy vocal performance from the biggest person in pop right now. But actually “Hello” is not the highest selling of all the nominated singles. That accolade goes to “Love Me Like You Do”, so Ellie could take the crown just as easily in the name of diversity. 

MasterCard British Album of the Year
Adele, 25
Coldplay, A Head Full of Dreams
Florence & the Machine, How Big How Blue How Beautiful
James Bay, Chaos & the Calm
Jamie XX, In Colour

Has to be Adele doesn’t it? After a lengthy absence she returned in style in the Winter of 2015 with the appropriately-titled “Hello”. Her album sold a ridiculous 800,000 copies in its first week in the UK and immediately outsold everything ever! So in terms of sales she definitely deserves the accolade. 

British Producer of the Year
Charlie Andrew
Mark Ronson
Mike Crossey
Tom Dalgety

For services to music and for being awesome, I give you Mark Ronson. 

British Artist Video of the Year
Adele, “Hello”
Jessie J, “Flashlight”
Little Mix, “Black Magic”
One Direction, “Drag Me Down”
Ed Sheeran – “Photograph”

It should be “Black Magic” but One Direction’s legions of fans will ensure that the boys take home the Best Video accolade. This is pretty much a foregone conclusion. 

International Male Solo Artist
Drake
Father John Misty
Justin Bieber
Kendrick Lamar
The Weeknd

Serious competition from The Weeknd but Justin Bieber was just so dominant in the second half of 2015 to the point where he made history repeatedly so he really does deserve it. 

International Female Solo Artist
Ariana Grande
Bjork
Courtney Barnett
Lana Del Rey
Meghan Trainor

This one will probably go to Meghan Trainor and very deservedly I must say but I wouldn’t mind Lana Del Rey or Ariana Grande winning. They both had stellar years in 2015. 

International Group
Alabama Shakes
Eagles of Death Metal
Major Lazer
Tame Impala
U2

Major Lazer. Just for “Lean On”. Tame Impala are awesome but they aren’t as high profile as the Lazers. 

 

So there you have it. I predict Adele will be the big winner of the night with 3 trophies for Best Single, Album and British Female Solo Artist. We’ll just have to wait to see how accurate I was. I will see you on the other side. Drama et al.

TO THE BRITS 2016! 

 

Advertisements

Single Review: All Saints – One Strike

I can say with some confidence that few could have been more excited about 90s favourites All Saints’ reunion announcement on 1st January 2016. It was like all my dreams came true at once.

In their glory days of 1997-2001 they were staple hitmakers in the UK, scoring five number one singles and 8 top ten singles overall, including seminal hits such as “Pure Shores”, “Never Ever” and “Black Coffee”. They were the cooler, edgier alternative to the Spice Girls and we loved them for it. Khaki pants and all.

It is with an acute pain that I remember their first reunion in 2006. While comeback single “Rock Steady” did become a big hit in the UK, its parent album Studio 1 belly flopped rather heavily and the kibosh was quickly put on the reunion. Melanie Blatt later announced that she did it just for the money anyway. Great….not the glorious reunion we wanted.

I can hardly believe that it’s been 10 years since their first reunion but, however long it’s been, I was biting my nails in anticipation at their new stuff. Not only do we get a brand new single “One Strike”, but a whole album’s worth of material Red Flag. How would they sound? Could they compete with 2010s girlbands such as Little Mix? But something about this time round had me even more confident that they could achieve the fabled comeback a la Take That that all 90s popbands dream of. That’s because I knew they were doing it for the right reasons. For the love of it, as it were. The girlband reported in an interview that the process of making the album was so fun that it took longer than it should have (DAMMIT!) and that “One Strike” was written about Nicole Appleton’s very public breakup with Liam Gallagher in 2013. It’s always great when it gets personal.

“One Strike” debuted on Radio 2 this morning and OH THE HARMONIES! It’s quintessentially All Saints but with an updated more bassy sound which fits right in with today’s popular music. The girls sound battle ready with military drums and fighting talk style lyrics. But they have retained the ethereal, disconnected vocals of their Saints and Sinners album (“Pure Shores”, “Dreams”) which helps distinguish the track as completely ALL SAINTS. All it took was “One Strike” and they’re back.

 

PopWatch: Why 2016 will be the Year of the Diva

We have already had a full album and single release from everyone’s favourite Barbadian-who-doesn’t-give-a-f**k, Rihanna. ANTI‘s shock release this past January sent fans into a spin with the set recently debuting at the top of the US Billboard Charts, despite previously being released as a free download. Lead single “Work” is currently ruling the charts worldwide.

Then we had a surprise gift from the ultimate noughties diva Queen Bey (a.k.a Beyonce). “Formation” was released last Sunday before her performance at the Super Bowl and received rave reviews for its strong political messages which has whet the public’s appetite even more for a new full album.

Noughties favourite Gwen Stefani has announced her first solo album in 10 years This Is What the Truth Feels Like is to be released this March with lead single “Make Me Like You” available to listen to from today!

So a strong diva showing already this year from RiRi, Queen Bey and Gwennie and we could possibly see new material from the following pop divas:

Lady GaGa

Mother Monster has been relatively quiet lately. For her, at least. She released ARTPOP way back in November 2013 and then Cheek to Cheek, her duet album with Tony Bennett in 2014. Although both sets topped the US Billboard Charts their sales were well below par for the chart conquering diva, which means she has a lot to prove on album number 5. Since then, she has recorded a song for The Hunting Ground soundtrack “Til’ It Happens to You”, which is nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song, and she randomly popped up in season five of American Horror Story: Hotel. Here’s the good news, she says that her time on the gory show has influenced her latest studio album which can only be a good thing as GaGa is best when she is at her most theatrical. Let’s hope for another “Bad Romance” or “Monster”.

Anticipation Rating: 8/10

Christina Aguilera

Everybody’s rooting for Christina, but she hasn’t given us much to work with lately. In fact, since 2007 her success has been mostly limited to guest feature singles such as “Moves Like Jagger”, “Feel this Moment” and “Say Something” and she hasn’t released any singles since 2013 with her last full album Lotus coming out in 2012. That’s a long time in the world of pop! But the ever-competitive Xtina will be eager to prove that she can still hobnob with the current crop of popstar royalty (young whippersnappers!), so it’s guaranteed that she’ll be pulling out all the stops for album number eight. Its confirmed that that she will be returning for The Voice USA: Season 10, which should air in March or April, so it would be a smart move to coincide this return with some new music and a cheeky performance to get the ball rolling. Apparently she’s been doing a lot of yoga lately so perhaps we can expect some chilled house from the blonde bombshell.

Anticipation Rating:6/10

Taylor Swift

Swifty had a big 2014 and 2015 with a tirade of smash singles from her latest studio album 1989 but, according to the rules of the universe, Taylor Swift’s album releases must follow a 2 year cycle. She has released one every even year since 2006’s eponymous Taylor Swift. We got Fearless in 2008. Speak Now in 2010. Red in 2012 and 1989 in 2014. So if my calculations are correct 2016 should be another Swift year. However, I wouldn’t hold my breath as Swift has reportedly said that she is ready to take some well deserved time off. because she is afraid of people getting sick of her! Seriously no danger of that Taylor…

Anticipation Rating:3/10

Katy Perry 

The California Gurl’s album releases are a bit more erratic than Swift’s. One of the Boys was released in 2008, Teenage Dream in 2010 and Prism in 2013. Those stats make me feel a bit awkward as it seems like she’s taking longer and longer between albums…Couple that with the fact that she recently said that she might not release anything until 2018 and I’m in tears ripping up my Prismatic World Tour t-shirt on my bedroom floor.

Let’s not leave it that long Katy eh? Whenever it comes out, we might get a reply to Taylor’s “Bad Blood” which is secretly/not so secretly written about Perry and we could do with some “Left Shark” action. Perhaps a heartfelt ballad or ode to shark.

Anticipation Rating:4/10

 

Fergie

Eager to get all Fergalicious again, our favourite Black Eyed Pea has been readying a new album for a while now. She dropped “L.A Love” back in September 2014 which got us all excited but then promptly disappeared again when it didn’t perform as well as expected on the charts. Mega sad face. She then popped up again in summer 2015 claiming the album was almost finished which suggested a quarter 4 release but then silence on the Fergie front. She really can’t drag this out any longer so I would expect a new beat-heavy single before the start of May in hope of bagging a summer smash. Fergie’s been working with an interesting array of people, including Charlie Puth, Jean Baptiste Kouame, DJ Mustard, Rock City, Mike WiLL Made-It and RoccStar, so the album should be quite eclectic, which definitely worked on The Dutchess.

Anticipation Rating:5/10

Britney Spears

Sure Britney has a devoted fanbase and enjoys a god-like status in the world pop, but there is only so much fans can take before we lose our faith in the divine. Between balancing her energies on her Las Vegas Residency Show and being a Soccer Mom to two young boys, she admits that new music hasn’t been her top priority recently. But seeing as her last studio set Britney Jean was such a bomb, containing only one noteworthy single “Work Bitch” we are really in need of some new Britney material to reaffirm our love for Godney. Luckily, she has been posting and dropping hints recently on social media so the outlook is good for a summer release. Let’s hope she does a double Beyonce by dropping two full albums without warning. We can dream can’t we?

Anticipation Rating:9/10

 

If we get new music from all these wonderful divas in 2016 I will probably have a meltdown and my brain will explode. So STAGGER people! Thanks for reading and please feel free to comment, share and like.

 

 

 

The Best Songs of Gwen Stefani

Be excited because Gwennie Gwen Gwen is back with a new album and single “Make Me Like U”. Have a listen here!

Our favourite Orange County Girl has ever been the sultry, cool alternative to our beloved pop princesses. On the eve of the release of her third album it’s easy to forget what a big footprint Stefani has left on music with her impressive body of work. From break ups to bindis to Harajuku Girls, lest we forget that cerca 2004-2006 Gwen Stefani was hot property boasting a string of international chart toppers and cultivating a inimitably kooky style that only she could pull off. She is one of the most versatile and musically innovative singers of her generation blessed with a voice which is instantly recognisable and utterly unique. To celebrate the release of Gwen Stefani’s third solo studio album This is What the Truth Feels Like on March 18th, I feel the time is right to look back at the 46 year old’s impressive discography:

15) Gwen Stefani – 4 In the Morning

Stefani lost in melancholy. “4 In the Morning” was released as the third single from The Sweet Escape, Stefani’s 2006 follow up to Love. Angel. Music. Baby. This Madonna-esque synthpop ballad is one of Stefani’s strongest downtempo songs and puts her innocent, girlish vocals firmly at the forefront.

14) No Doubt – Simple Kind of Life

By the release of No Doubt’s second studio album, 2000’s Return of Saturn, Stefani had started pining for domesticity. On the morose “Simple Kind of Life” Gwen declares her need for marriage and family but eventually recognises that her independence is more important. The single became the only song to chart on the US Billboard Chart from Return of Saturn and remains one of the band’s most understated singles.

13) Gwen Stefani – Used to Love You

After failed lead singles “Baby Don’t Lie” and “Spark the Fire” failed to ignite the charts, Stefani decided to take a more personal approach to her songwriting. Inspired by the end of her 13-year romance with Gavin Rossdale “Used to Love You” is a confessional ballad and one of Stefani’s most potent tear-jerkers, proving that honesty really is the best policy.

12) No Doubt – Hella Good

For their third album 2001’s Rock Steady No Doubt decided to dip their toes into grittier waters which resulted in the bassline-heavy “Hella Good”.

11) Gwen Stefani Feat. Eve – Rich Girl

Eve’s first but not last appearance in this list. Urban-flavoured banger “Rich Girl” borrows a sample from Fiddler on the Roof’s “If I Were a Rich Man” to create pop chart gold. “Rich Girl” was released as the second single from Love. Angel. Music. Baby in 2005 and attained massive chart success worldwide.

10) No Doubt – It’s My Life

No Doubt decided to go on hiatus in 2004 but before they did we were treated to a Greatest Hits collection The Singles: 1992-2003. Although we technically didn’t get a new song with the project, we did get this spectacularly bombastic cover of Talk Talk’s “It’s My Life”. Stefani is ravishing in the video as a black widow sentenced to death for murdering three men. The Devil truly does wear Prada.

9) No Doubt Feat. Lady Saw – Underneath It All

This is No Doubt at their most sweet. On the reggae-tinged “Underneath It All” Gwen declares that, beneath the façade, her boyfriend Gavin Rossdale is actually quite nice . Bless. “Underneath It All” was released as the third single from Rock Steady in 2002 and became a smash in the US and one of the band’s biggest hits there. It also won the long-windedly titled Grammy for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. On a side note, superb ad libs from Lady Saw on this track.

8) Gwen Stefani Feat. Akon – The Sweet Escape 

All the best pop songs are written in 10 minutes…Said nobody ever. Until Gwen Stefani and Akon that is. With this 2007 doo-wop banger Stefani declared she was back in style and she was proved quite right when it soared to the top of the charts worldwide. “The Sweet Escape” finished 2007 as the second best-seller of the year in the US. “Woohoo. Yeahoo”.

7) Gwen Stefani – Cool

This 1980’s style synthpop ballad is straight out of Taylor Swift’s 1989 songbook. Only 10 years before. Upon first glance, it seems to be light and breezy summer fare, but lyrically not as disposable as its production would have you believe. Retro-kitsch sounding “Cool” is the perfect ode to post-break-up friendships, drawing inspiration from Stefani’s relationship with former boyfriend and fellow member of No Doubt, Tony Kanal.

6) No Doubt – Just a Girl

After two unsuccessful albums No Doubt suffered the loss of their keyboardist and songwriter Eric Stefani (Gwen’s brother) which left Gwen as the primary songwriter. At the time Stefani was frustrated with gender stereotypes because, despite pushing 30, her dad got angry at her for staying late at her then boyfriend Tony Kanal which inspired her to write “Just a Girl”. On the track she sings about female stereotypes such as being perceived as weak and needing to be looked after. This was No Doubt’s breakthrough single in the US and became a big hit in the UK after the release of “Don’t Speak”.

5) Eve Feat. Gwen Stefani – Let Me Blow Ya Mind 

Stefani may only feature on “Let Me Blow Ya Mind” but her first foray into life without her band was a resounding success. The Eve-Gwen tag team got its first airing with this squelchy-beated banger in 2001, showing that Stefani’s versatile voice can easily lend itself to hip-hop. For their efforts the song won a Grammy Award in 2002 for “Best Rap/Sung Collaboration”. An encouraging start by any stretch of the imagination.

4) Gwen Stefani – Hollaback Girl

Without a doubt Stefani’s most divisive song. In fact, “Hollaback Girl” has been frequently described as one of the most annoying compositions of all time. The track was written when Stefani and Pharrell decided that  her 2005 Love. Angel. Music. Baby album needed an “attitude song”. Whatever that is. So Gwen decided to write about a comment Courtney Love made in an interview with Seventeen magazine.

“Being famous is just like being in high school. But I’m not interested in being the cheerleader. I’m not interested in being Gwen Stefani. She’s the cheerleader, and I’m out in the smoker shed”

Stefani responded in the March 2005 issue of the NME:

“Y’know someone one time called me a cheerleader, negatively, and I’ve never been a cheerleader. So I was, like, “OK, fuck you. You want me to be a cheerleader? Well, I will be one then. And I’ll rule the whole world, just you watch me.”

No-one really knows for sure what a Hollaback Girl is….except from presumably Gwen herself (though it’s doubtful she even knows). Despite critical misgivings, this tribal chant, hip-hop stomper was a massive hit in the US, becoming the first digital download to sell a million copies in the US. Like it or not, no other artist has ever sung about bananas as convincingly as Gwen.

3) No Doubt Feat. Bounty Killer- Hey Baby

The Jamaican dancehall influenced “Hey Baby” is a triumphant rallying call for all No Doubt fans. From the start it’s a chaotic party starting jam which is impossible to ignore. The track contrasts No Doubt groupies’ naughtiness and debauchery on the Return of Saturn tour with Stefani’s dissatisfaction at her long distance relationship with Rossdale. It won the band their second consecutive Grammy for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. Greedy much…?

2) Gwen Stefani – What You Waiting For?

The lead single from Stefani’s first solo album Love. Angel. Music. Baby was typically eye-catching (should that be ear-catching), introducing us to Stefani’s crazy, kooky world complete with Harajuku Girls and a topsy turvy Alice in Wonderland inspired video. After the announcement of No Doubt’s hiatus, Stefani was literally forced into a chokehold by prolific singer songwriter Linda Perry who demanded they write songs together. The initial session proved to be unfruitful due to Stefani’s lack of confidence without her band, which resulted in a bad case of writer’s block. This inspired Perry to form a skeleton of the song “What You Waiting For?” as a way to empower Stefani. The rest, as we say, is history.

1) No Doubt – Don’t Speak

The best and probably the saddest song on this list. Written about bandmate Tony Kanal after he ended their seven year relationship “Don’t Speak” was released as the third single from the bands breakthrough album Tragic Kingdom, but it was almost the single that never was. In 1996 tensions were riding high in the band and they were on the verge of breaking up but decided to film a video for “Don’t Speak” as a form of therapy. As a result, the video is brutally honest in showing the source of the tension with the band mostly in the background while Stefani receives all the attention. Upon release “Don’t Speak” became their band’s biggest hit to date, peaking at No. 1 throughout the world and eventually selling over a million copies in the UK as of 2015 (after almost 20 years of sales!). While the song was extremely popular in the US, “Don’t Speak” did not chart on the Billboard Hot 100 (chart rules back then required a physical single be issued for a song to chart and the band never released one for “Don’t Speak”). However, it did manage to stay at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 Airplay for 16 weeks, a record at the time.

Now that’s what I call a formidable discography. Let’s hope Stefani’s new stuff is just as good. Fingers crossed. Thanks for reading and feel free to comment, like and share. Here’s a lovely Spotify playlist to listen to all Gwennie’s songs mentioned here and a few cheeky extras:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Album Review: Troye Sivan – Blue Neighbourhood

Drop everything now! Let’s talk about Troye Sivan for a minute.

I’ve mentioned Troye Sivan quite a few times lately, even including his singles “WILD” and “YOUTH” in my Best Pop Songs of 2015 and Hitlist 01/02/2016, but I feel his music is so powerful that it deserves closer scrutiny. If you have no idea who Troye Sivan is you must be one of these awful people who enjoys the outdoors instead of sitting in your parents’ basement trolling Lily Allen for fun like normal folk.

Quick Troye Sivan crash course: he was born in South Africa but moved to Australia when he was 2 years old, later starting his YouTube channel at the ripe old age of 12! The jammy git got his big acting break when he was 14 in the 2009 film X-Men Origins: Wolverine in which he played a younger (less-hairy) Hugh Jackman. I haven’t seen the film but I imagine the comparison is something like this:

Troye quicky capitalised on the exposure afforded by the film role by starring in 2010 South African comedy film Spud and it’s sequel Spud 2 in 2013, all the while nurturing his YouTube channel whose audience continued to grow steadily. He uploaded quite a few covers of popular songs on YouTube, including this unlikely cover of Outkast’s “Hey Ya!”. He made the transition into music quite naturally, releasing two major label EPs to date and featuring on Zedd’s 2015 single “Papercut”. Troye’s first EP TRXYE was released in August 2014 and produced the Australian top ten single “Happy Little Pill“. His most recent EP Wild came out in September 2015 and served as a precursor to his first full length LP Blue Neighbourhood with all six tracks included on the deluxe edition of the album.

Wild EP is the perfect introduction to Troye’s present sound and something you should really pick up if you don’t have time to listen to a full album’s worth of material. He introduced the EP with a trilogy of music videos, the so-called Blue Neighbourhood Trilogy which tells the tale of two childhood friends who fall in love but are forced apart by society. I won’t ruin the ending but it’s a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. Powerful stuff.

Another important tidbit about Troye is that he is openly gay and very bravely came out in the creatively entitled 2013 vlog “Coming Out”. I wouldn’t mention it but his sexuality does feature quite prominently in his music. Blue Neighbourhood listens like compendium for LGBT Youth, touching on subjects such as gay clubs and religion vs. sexuality. LGBT-focused think pieces are too often very laborious, preachy and heavy handed which ends up alienating non-gay members of their audience. Blue Neighbourhood is extremely successful in straddling the line between serious introspection and accessibility in a way which people of all sexual-orientations can relate to. Indeed, some songs on the album have universal messages which apply to all young people. It’s no coincidence that “WILD” and “YOUTH” have been selected as the two official singles so far. Aside from being two of the best pop moments on the record, the former is about forbidden love and burning desire, which could just as easily apply to Romeo and Juliet, and the latter is a quiet storm of drum machines celebrating the highs and lows of being young and foolish. (FYI Troye put in an awesome performance of “YOUTH” on The Ellen Show a few days ago which you can see here).

Troye_Sivan_WILD_Blue_Neighbourhood_Part_1_3.gif
A scene from “Wild” music video

If you were wondering where on earth the album title Blue Neighbourhood came from, I have it from the horse’s mouth that it signifies a “state of depression” with the lyric being directly taken from “WILD”. Here’s what Troye himself has to say about the inspiration behind the album in an interview with the Guardian:

“It’s all autobiographical. It takes place in both the suburbs of Perth where I’ve grown up, which I consider to be my blue neighbourhood, but then also in this fast-paced, crazy, whirlwind life that I’m now living in hotel rooms and planes. And it takes place inside the mind of a 20-year-old kid.”

Troye’s voice does naturally lend itself to the melancholic but the extraordinarily polished and creative production saves Blue Neighbourhood from being bleak Radiohead-esque listen. Troye Sivan doesn’t have the best vocal range but, in a similar way to Selena Gomez, he capitalises on his strengths which lie in tone and charisma. Having said that, he does sound exactly like he does on the record when he’s performing live, which is extremely refreshing in the post-autotune world. But, for the most part, modernist production covers up his vocal shortcomings with child choirs and high-pitched voices doing most of the vocal heavywork on the choruses. This is by no means a criticism. In fact, more power to Troye for recognising his own strengths and weaknesses.

Looking at his Spotify playlist Troye has definitely internalised his influences to craft his desired sound. His lazy, drawling delivery has brings to mind a less-dissident Lorde, whilst the drum machines and “heys” are similar to those found on Taylor Swift’s 1989. In fact, what Troye has successfully done is to merge several genres to effectively distilling and producing the sound of “right now” in pop. In this way, Blue Neighbourhood is as much a triumph for producer and collaborator Alex Hope (she pops up on “BLUE”) as for Troye, which is something I’m sure the man himself would readily accept.

However, the real key to Blue Neighbourhood‘s success is the way that Troye Sivan fully commits to and nails his chosen emotions and concepts. His lyrics are extraordinarily self-confessional in a way that is still uncommon among today’s popstars and he’s daring enough to use male pronouns unlike many of his “out and proud” contemporaries. There is a lot of smart writing on Blue Neighbourhood with like “HEAVEN” and “”TALK ME DOWN” packing the biggest emotional punches. On the former Troye enlists fellow Aussie singer Betty Who to create an earnest and heartfelt synth ballad about a young gay person dealing with religion’s condemnation of their sexuality. “Without losing a piece of me / How do I get to heaven? / Without changing a part of me / How do I get to Heaven?” This track has serious potential to become an LGBT anthem.

Troye also heavily draws on his relatable personality and pop star charisma developed over years of YouTubing to pull together Blue Neighbourhood. The 2010s have ushered in a new brand of celebrity. Twitter has made it possible to follow and even directly communicate with our popstars which has rendered the old fashioned aloof diva outmoded. Elusive chanteuse Mariah Carey is on the out and Vloggers like Troye in demand right now. They create a personal connection with their viewers and this translates to other mediums like music. They’re essentially everybody’s best friend.

Blue Neighbourhood was released 4th December and charted strongly in the US and Australia, peaking at No.7 and at No.6 in those territories respectively. It didn’t chart as well throughout Europe but I have hope that we could see a resurgence soon. “YOUTH” is certainly getting a lot of radio support in the UK. Blue Neighbourhood is certainly deserving of a lot more commercial attention and, judging by the amount of love Troye gets (20 ways Troye Sivan changed the world in his 20 years alive), his star is only on the rise.

If you like this, you’ll love: Lorde, Sky Ferreira, Lana Del Rey, Tove Lo

Thank you for reading and please feel free to comment, like and share. Hope you enjoyed it!

Troye_Sivan_-_Blue_Neighbourhood

 

 

 

 

 

Diary of a Pop Fan’s Hitlist 01/02/2016

Rinse and repeat these tracks for they will make your life complete.

January is officially done and dusted so we can all move on with our lives and look forward to Spring. To get everyone in the mood I have created a new music playlist to celebrate all that is shiny and fresh in the world of pop. It features some of my favourite up and coming singers, as well as new music from some old favourites. I’ve also added two odd songs out to the playlist so have a look out for them. The songs aren’t new but if you’ve been checking Twitter recently you’ll be aware that this band in reforming and releasing new music incredibly soon which is mind-blowingly fabulous! Let’s hope their new stuff is as good as their old tunes.

So sit back and enjoy Diary of a Pop Fan’s Hitlist. I promise you won’t regret it. 🙂 Here’s a bit of extra information about some of my favourite picks from the playlist and people you should watch out for:

 

 

Troye Sivan – Youth

Troye Sivan is officially my new favourite person. As a technology-illiterate philistine caveman who only recently started watching YouTube bloggers (I saw it as a waste of time OK!) I had never seen Troye’s YouTube video posts before now, which are actually pretty awesome and entertaining so you should check that out. His “Boyfriend Tag” video with Tyler Oakley is really sweet too. Plug alert! :0

Moving swiftly on, “Youth” is the third single from his first full length album Blue Neighbourhood and the centrepiece of the album. On the track Troye celebrates the joy and craziness of youth. It’s a confusing time full of change and uncertainty but Sivan managed to locate the beauty in the madness. It’s a theme which has previously been tackled but rarely as effectively.

 

Birdy – Keeping Your Head Up

WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN BIRDY! I know “Wings” had a resurgence last year due to the Lloyds advert and she dueted with Rhodes on “Let It All Go”, but it’s been absolutely ages since we’ve had a proper new album from the talented Hampshire-native. Fire Within was two and a half years ago for heaven’s sake. Don’t do that to us again! In case you hadn’t noticed I am incredibly excited for Birdy’s new album Beautiful Lies which is coming out March 25th!!!! One for the diaries people! Lead single “Keeping Your Head Up” is a welcome change of pace for someone who cut their teeth doing stripped back piano covers. It’s possibly the first properly upbeat song I’ve heard Birdy do but she still manages to retain that same ethereal, angelic vibe found in her previous work. If “Keeping Your Head Up” is anything to go by, Beautiful Lies will be a thing of majesty.

 

Nina Nesbitt – Chewing Gum

A little bit of pop brilliance here from someone who I previously felt had never really achieved one iota of her potential. Ed Sheeran’s former beau (“Nina” on his X album is written about her) has gone down an edgier route for her latest EP. The 21-year old Scotswoman had previously underwhelmed with the woeful “Selfies” and its patchy, heavy-handed parent album Peroxide but it sounds like she’s finally found herself on “Chewing Gum”. The beginning sounds a bit like Tove Lo’s “Talking Body” and the piece is clearly lyrically inspired by Annie’s “Chewing Gum” but what is pop if not derivative. Either way, the change in direction makes me very excited for her new EP Modern Love. Time to fulfil all that star potential love.  

 

Lion Babe – Where Do We Go

So it turns out Lion Babe have been knocking at the door of fame for quite a while now with limited success. I am confident however that the relentlessly cheery neo-soul disco jam “Where Do We Go” will give the NYC duo the break their sorely deserve.

 

Foxes – Devil Side

After bursting onto the scene with the flawless Zedd-produced “Clarity” Foxes has enjoyed a considerable amount of solo success with her debut album Glorious going top 5 in the UK. While her debut did have some standout tracks such as “Holding Onto Heaven” and “Let Go For Tonight” generally her music tends to be on the more generic side. Don’t get me wrong, she really does have a lot of personality and pop potential but her lyrics are often very airy-fairy and the tracks overproduced. Her current single “Amazing” is a perfect example of this. Foxes is best when she pairs down the layers and strips the music back to its bare bones which she does on promotional single “Devil Side”. Her second studio album All I Need is out in a couple of days so let’s hope for more of this.

 

Alessia Cara – Im Yours

Woman of the moment Alessia Cara is currently ruling the airwaves with her introvert anthem “Here” but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The 19-year old Canadian’s debut LP Know-It-All has a lot to offer. “I’m Yours” is a witty, well written pop song which plays on Cara’s moody public persona perfectly. This will be her big pop moment.

 

One Direction – History

I have been very vocal about my feelings towards One Direction over the years. They weren’t my favourite on the X Factor and I didn’t feel that their music matched up to the hype but something about their latest (and probably last) album Made in the AM has had me eating my words. I was shocked when I actually really liked “Drag Me Down” which compelled me to buy the album in a state of stunned surprise. Upon listening to it I have to admit that it’s one of the most enjoyable and consistent pop albums I have heard in recent years. I feel like I finally “get” 1D in terms of their music and personalities (their carpool karaoke was great in introducing me to their individual personas). Obviously it’s extremely ironic because they’ve broken up now but hey better late than never! “History” is my favourite track from Made in the AM and a stellar pop song to boot. They could have done some sobby ballad about breaking up but instead they’re celebrating all the good times and moving on with their lives. It’s a true anthem with a shout-a-long chorus and hand claps. IT’S JUST GOT EVERYTHING OK! I’M OFFICIALLY A LAST MINUTE CONVERT! Also, my mum loves this one too so shout out to mum!

 

Dua Lipa – Be the One

So this is a really good shower song. Too good in fact. I was doing handclaps and jigging so much that I almost slipped and cracked my head open in the shower last night. “Be the One” should come with a warning label “Achtung! Dangerously Good Pop!”. On a more serious note, this woman is on the rise. Signed to the same label as Lana Del Rey, Dua Lipa emits the same effortlessly cool vibe as her labelmate but with a totally different sound. Incredibly excited to see what she will do next.

 

Ellie Goulding – Army

In a popscape dominated by romantic love of all kinds it is still quite rare for popstars to write about platonic relationships. So, in a touching move, on “Army” Ellie decides to pay homage to her friend who has been with her from the very first gig. The track itself is from the same epic electro-love ballad cookie cutter as global smash “Love Me Like You Do” but with a little more Ellie personality. Radio 1 have been playing this to death so it should be another hit for the Hereford lass.

 

Coldplay Feat. Gwyneth Paltrow – Everglow

Released as a promotional single preceding the launch of their seventh studio album A Head Full of Dreams “Everglow” has already done the rounds but it’s a track which has a lot of enduring appeal due to its vulnerability and subtlety. It’s not as loud and brash as some of the tracks on A Head Full of Dreams but it’s charms unfold over time, making it ultimately more rewarding. The track was inspired by a surfer dude who mentioned the word “everglow” in a conversation with Martin in the sea and it stuck with him, inspiring him to write this charmingly sincere ballad about the enduring spark of a relationship. It’s also nice to see Paltrow and Martin have ended things on a good note after their “conscious uncoupling”

Phoebe Ryan – Mine

This is a track to make you stand up and take notice. It also comes Taylor Swift-recommended and if Tay-Tay says this song will make your life more awesome you had better believe it’s frickin’ awesome! The green-haired siren Phoebe Ryan will undoubtedly be massive once she gets her break. Previously known for her Miguel/R Kelly mash up, Ryan is a star on the rise who must have amazingly on-point musical sensibilities to create a track like “Mine”.

Here’s a few words from the woman herself about the inspiration behind “Mine”:

“‘Mine’ is kind of about hitting a rough patch in your life. You’re down on the floor, everything sucks. It’s really hard to pick yourself back up,” she explained. “You start putting together all the pieces and you start working on yourself, and then you realize you get to a point where the good and bad mistakes I’ve made — everything is all yours you have to own up to everything, good and bad.”

Be excited.

Sia – Broken Glass

So Sia released her seventh studio album This is Acting last Friday and I have been mercilessly rinsing it ever since. The whole set is a masterclass in powerhouse pop with awe-inspiring vocals and heartfelt lyricism. It keeps switching but “Broken Glass” is currently my favourite which is probably something to do with the fact that I can’t resist a good key change and on “Broken Glass” Sia goes through more of these than a hyperactive, insomniac locksmith. While “Broken Glass” does have some intriguing production, especially the oriental section at the beginning, it is essentially a very simple classic power ballad about not giving up on young love. It’s the perfect song to belt out in the car and a future possible X Factor scream-a-thon for wannabes (if the show carries on after this year…)

 

 

 

Other playlist highlights include:

X Ambassadors – Renegades

Jack Garrat – Worry

Flume Feat. Kai – Never Be Like You

Daughters – Numbers

Rinse and repeat these tracks for they will make your life complete. Thanks for reading and feel free to share, like and comment.