Saturday, 28 December 2013

Top 20 singles/albums - Week Beginning 30/12/13

Top 20 Singles

1. Pitbull feat Ke$ha - Timber (3) (CR-20-OUT-18-14-7-3-1)
2. Gary Barlow & Elton John - Face To Face (2) (CR-1-1-1-2-2)
3. Leona Lewis - One More Sleep (1) (CR-18-18-19-16-15-12-2-1-3)
4. Agnes - Instant Repeater (NEW) (CR-4)
5. Clean Bandit feat Jess Glynne - Rather Be (5) (CR-8-5-5)
6. Avicii - Hey Brother (6) (CR-13-10-11-11-5-3-6-10-17-13-13-6-3-6-6)
7. A Great Big World feat Christina Aguilera - Say Something (9) (CR-13-9-7)
8. Seinabo Sey - Younger (NEW) (CR-8)
9. Beyoncé - Pretty Hurts (12) (CR-12-9)
10. Public Service Broadcasting - Spitfire (NEW) (CR-10)
11. Rivaz - #1 (Colors) (Re-entry) (CR-2-1-2-3-2-2-3-4-6-10-16-OUT-11)
12. Pharrell Williams - Happy (10) (CR-10-12)
13. Beyoncé - Yoncé/Partition (NEW) (CR-13)
14. Sam Bailey - Skyscraper (4) (CR-4-14)
15. Leddra Chapman - Blue Tattoo (NEW) (CR-15)
16. Lorde - Team (19) (CR-19-16)
17. Little Mix - Little Me (Re-entry) (CR-18-OUT-17)
18. Cash Cash feat Bebe Rexha - Take Me Home (NEW) (CR-18)
19. Leddra Chapman - Do You Think (NEW) (CR-19)
20. Burial - Come Down To Us (NEW) (CR-20)

Top 20 Albums

1. Leddra Chapman - My Mother's Mind (NEW) (CR-1)
2. Beyoncé - BEYONCÉ (1) (CR-10-1-2)
3. Delta Goodrem - Innocent Eyes (Ten Year Anniversary Acoustic Edition) (2) (CR-1-1-2-3)
4. Agnes - Collection (7) (CR-10-8-7-4)
5. Public Service Broadcasting - Inform - Educate - Entertain (NEW) (CR-5)
6. Gary Barlow - Since I Saw You Last (6) (CR-1-3-5-6-6)
7. One Direction - Midnight Memories (11) (CR-4-8-12-11-7)
8. Britney Spears - Britney Jean (5) (CR-2-4-5-8)
9. Absolute Dance Winter 2014 (NEW) (CR-9)
10. Lady Gaga - ARTPOP (9) (CR-1-1-1-3-5-7-9-10)
11. Boyzone - BZ20 (4) (CR-2-7-3-4-11)
12. Alla Tiders Hits (8) (CR-8-12)
13. Little Mix - Salute (18) (CR-2-2-5-13-17-18-13)
14. Avicii - True (12) (CR-3-4-4-1-1-1-1-1-2-3-5-7-8-8-10-12-13-12-14)
15. Leona Lewis - Christmas, With Love (3) (CR-4-2-3-15)
16. Now That's What I Call Movies (10) (CR-11-10-16)
17. Lorde - Pure Heroine (16) (CR-10-8-7-5-6-3-4-7-5-6-11-14-16-17)
18. Katy Perry - Prism (17) (CR-1-1-3-5-6-8-14-16-17-18)
19. Frida Sundemo - For You, Love (13) (CR-6-13-19)
20. Sharon Corr - The Same Sun (20) (CR-9-15-20-20)


Climbing gradually for the past few weeks, Pitbull and Ke$ha finally ascend to the top of the chart with party anthem Timber, already a huge hit worldwide, and using the same country-pop hybrid sound that has dominated 2013. Gary Barlow & Elton John's collaboration Face To Face stays at No.2 whilst Leona Lewis' festive offering One More Sleep unsurprisingly dips two places to No.3. Swedish star Agnes debuts at No.4 with Instant Repeater, the final song that she covered on Swedish show Sa Mycket Battre. Clean Bandit stay at No.5 with the brilliant Rather Be whilst top 20 new entries come from Seinabo Sey, Beyoncé, Public Service Broadcasting, Leddra Chapman, Burial and Cash Cash. Little Mix re-enter with Little Me, as do Rivaz with their new vocal mix of the former chart topper Colors. 

British singer/songwriter Leddra Chapman's long awaited second album My Mother's Mind goes straight in at the top of the album chart, the follow up to the gorgeous 2009 debut Telling Tales. Beyoncé falls to No.2 with BEYONCÉ after a week on top whilst Delta Goodrem dips a place to No.3 with Innocent Eyes (Ten Year Anniversary Acoustic Edition). Agnes climbs to a new peak of No.4 with her greatest hits album Collection whilst British conceptual electronic act Public Service Broadcasting debut at No.5 with the unique Inform - Educate - Entertain. The only other new entry to the top 20 is Swedish compilation Absolute Dance Winter 2014 at No.9.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Top 100 songs of 2013

And here are my top 100 favourite songs of 2013! A strong year for dance music especially, I've included Youtube links to every song in the top 20 but highly recommend searching out anything on the list that you're not familiar with.

100. Stereophonics - Indian Summer
99. Miley Cyrus - Wrecking Ball
98. Leddra Chapman - All About You
97. Demi Lovato - Heart Attack
96. Janet Leon - New Colours
95. Röyksopp feat Susanne Sundfør - Running To the Sea
94. John Newman - Love Me Again
93. Delta Goodrem - Will You Fall for Me (Anniversary Edition)
92. Caro Emerald - Tangled Up
91. Delta Goodrem - In My Own Time (Anniversary Edition)
90. Taylor Swift feat Ed Sheeran - Everything Has Changed
89. Céline Dion - Loved Me Back to Life
88. Martin Garrix - Animals
87. James Blunt - Bonfire Heart
86. Verona - Fallin' In Love
85. Belle And Sebastian - I Didn't See It Coming (Richard X Mix)
84. Avicii - Always On The Run
83. Vance Joy - Riptide
82. Caro Emerald - Liquid Lunch
81. Lily Allen - Hard Out Here
80. Little Mix - Move
79. The Sound Of Arrows - There Is Still Hope (Fear Of Tigers Remix)
78. Pitbull feat Ke$ha - Timber
77. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat Wanz - Thrift Shop
76. Disclosure - F For You
75. BlackByrd feat Craig Hinds - From The Bottom Of My Heart
74. Pitbull feat TJR - Don't Stop The Party
73. Bonnie Tyler - Believe In Me
72. Tensnake feat Fiora 58 BPM
71. Eliza Doolittle - Let It Rain
70. Cher - I Hope You Find It
69. Mark Lower - Bad Boys Cry
68. RL Grime - Because of U
67. Dina Garipova - What If
66. Family Of The Year - Hero
65. The Saturdays - Disco Love
64. Lady Gaga feat R. Kelly - Do What U Want
63. Delta Goodrem - This Is Not Me (Anniversary Edition)
62. Robin Stjernberg - You
61. Army Of Lovers - Rockin' The Ride
60. Tensnake & Syron - Mainline
59. Sanne Salomonsen - Du & Jeg
58. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat Mary Lambert - Same Love
57. Avicii - You Make Me
56. Gary Barlow - Let Me Go
55. Bastille - Of The Night
54. Eliza Doolittle - Big When I Was Little
53. OneRepublic - Counting Stars
52. Kelly Clarkson - Underneath The Tree
51. Matt Cardle & Melanie C - Loving You
50. Zedd feat Bright Lights - Follow You Down
49. Zedd feat Foxes - Clarity
48. Boyzone - Love Will Save The Day
47. The Saturdays - What About Us (feat. Sean Paul)
46. Mutya Keisha Siobhan - Flatline
45. Delta Goodrem - Heart Hypnotic
44. Lady Gaga - Gypsy
43. Loreen - We Got The Power
42. Lily Allen - Somewhere Only We Know
41. State Of Drama - Falling
40. Ralf Gyllenhammar - Bed On Fire
39. Mariah Carey feat Miguel - #Beautiful
38. Adelén - Bombo
37. Sara Bareilles - Brave
36. Icona Pop feat Charli XCX - I Love It
35. Ellie Goulding - How Long Will I Love You
34. Calvin Harris feat Tinie Tempah - Drinking From The Bottle
33. Bastille - Pompeii
32. Ellie Goulding - Figure 8
31. Nadine - I Will Be Strong
30. Jógvan Hansen & Stefanía Svavarsdóttir - Til þín
29. Robin Thicke feat T.I. & Pharrell - Blurred Lines
28. Leona Lewis - One More Sleep
27. Anouk - Birds
26. Avicii - Hey Brother
25. Stafford Brothers feat Lil Wayne & Christina Milian - Hello
24. Emmelie De Forest - Only Teardrops
23. Will.I.Am feat Britney Spears - Scream & Shout
22. Tove Lo - Out of Mind
21. Zlata Ognevich - Gravity

By a country mile my favourite artist of the year is Swedish producer Avicii, who managed to produce both my favourite album and now song of the year, albeit with a song people might not expect. When I first heard that he would be involved with the opening theme for Eurovision, alongside ABBA's Benny and Bjorn, I thought nothing of it and in fact forgot all about it. That was until I heard the song of course, and that moment was when I was standing watching the afternoon dress rehearsal for the Eurovision final in Malmö Arena. This incredible piece of choral dance music started playing above me and I thought 'wow, what is this beauty?'. As the song continued to play, a huge bridge dropped down over my head and all of the participating Eurovision artists started walking over it, waving down at the crowd. It was truly euphoric and this song soundtracked the moment perfectly. 

Later on that day I went back to watch the final and got to enjoy the moment again. Probably THE most perfect opening to any Eurovision ever, it combined my loves of dance music, Avicii, ABBA (it was an amazing year for fans to have this song by Bjorn and Benny and to have Agnetha back on form) and my occasional curious appreciation of certain choral music. For many people the song was nothing more than a forgotten showpiece, but the six and a half minute epic became by far my most played song of the year. The way it opens slowly before building to the choir and then Avicii's incredible production, before building up again in a rockier way towards the end thanks to 'B & B's input, everything about this song is pure magic. So for a second year in a row a song related to Eurovision tops my end of year chart, but this year the song is not actually an entry to the contest! 

Elsewhere in the top ten, gorgeous South African piano house/bassline song Spin My World by DJ Kent feat The Arrows unexpectedly takes the No.2 spot ahead of New Zealand teenager Lorde's global breakthrough single, the minimalist angst anthem that is Royals. Germany's flop Eurovision entry Glorious, by the ever brilliant Cascada, is No.4 ahead of Melodifestivalen failure Heartstrings by Janet Leon AKA the best song that Agnes never released. Avicii gets another double helping in the top ten as his UK No.1 singles I Could Be The One and Wake Me Up finish at No.6 and No.7 whilst two dance instrumentals line up immediately behind. Euphoric trance anthem Colors by Italian producer Rivaz just edges out the electro house monster Platinum Chains by legendary British DJ and producer Michael Woods. Slowing down the tempo to round off the top ten is the million selling Let Her Go by Brighton singer Passenger. Elsewhere in the top 100 are year defining hits including Katy Perry's Roar (No.14), Daft Punk's Get Lucky (No.17), Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines (No.29), OneRepublic's Counting Stars (No.53) and Macklemore's Thrift Shop (No.77). 

Top 40 albums of 2013

The first of my two end of year countdowns, here are my 40 favourite albums of 2013:

40. Hurts - Exile
39. Haim - Days Are Gone
38. Céline Dion - Loved Me Back To Life
37. - #willpower
36. Rudimental - Home
35. Cascada - Acoustic Sessions
34. Kelly Clarkson - Wrapped In Red
33. Leona Lewis - Christmas, With Love
32. Krista Siegfrids - Ding Dong!
31. Bastille - Other People's Heartache Pt. 1 & 2
30. Taylor Swift - Red
29. Nádine - Eindeloos
28. Imagine Dragons - Night Visions
27. Britney Spears - Britney Jean
26. London Grammar - If You Wait
25. Little Mix - Salute
24. Boyzone - BZ20
23. Gary Barlow - Since I Saw You Last
22. Icona Pop - This Is...Icona Pop
21. Beyoncé - BEYONCÉ
20. Pet Shop Boys - Electric
19. Agnetha Fältskog - A
18. Emmelie De Forest - Only Teardrops
17. Gabrielle Aplin - English Rain
16. The Saturdays - Living For The Weekend
15. Calvin Harris - 18 Months
14. Lorde - Pure Heroine
13. Katy Perry - Prism
12. Caro Emerald - The Shocking Miss Emerald
11. Army Of Lovers - Big Battle Of Egos


10. Delta Goodrem - Innocent Eyes (Ten Year Anniversary Acoustic Edition)

Highlights: In My Own Time, This Is Not Me, Will You Fall For Me, Innocent Eyes

9. Tom Odell - Long Way Down

Highlights: Can't Pretend, Grow Old With Me, Another Love, I Know

8. Zedd - Clarity

Highlights: Follow You Down, Clarity, Spectrum, Stache

7. Bastille - Bad Blood

Highlights: Pompeii, Flaws, Oblivion, Things We Lost In The Fire, Icarus (and Of The Night and The Draw from All This Bad Blood)

6. Lady Gaga - ARTPOP

Highlights: Applause, Gypsy, Do What U Want, Aura, Artpop, Dope

5. Disclosure - Settle

Highlights: F For You, Latch, Help Me Lose My Mind, White Noise, When A Fire Starts To Burn, Voices, You & Me, Confess To Me

4. Ellie Goulding - Halcyon Days

Highlights: Figure 8, How Long Will I Love You, Anything Could Happen, My Blood, Burn, Under Control, You My Everything

3. Daft Punk - Random Access Memories

Highlights: Get Lucky, Giorgio By Moroder, Instant Crush, Give Life Back To Music, Touch, Contact

2. Sara Bareilles - The Blessed Unrest

Highlights: Chasing The Sun, Brave, Manhattan, Hercules, Little Black Dress, Satellite Call, Cassiopeia, Eden

1. Avicii - True

Highlights: Wake Me Up, Hey Brother, You Make Me, Always On The Run, Dear Boy, Addicted To You, Liar Liar, Lay Me Down, Edom


A solid year for albums, the bottom half of the top 40 sees solid second albums from Hurts and Little Mix, unexpectedly good comebacks from Céline Dion, Gary Barlow and Beyoncé, charming festive albums from Kelly Clarkson and Leona Lewis and fantastic debuts from Icona Pop, Krista Siegfrids, London Grammar, Rudimental, Haim and Imagine Dragons. Veterans like Britney Spears, Boyzone and Cascada also put out strong collections to varying levels of success.'s #willpower, Bastille's mixtapes, South African singer Nádine and Taylor Swift's 2012 album Red also appear here.

Into the top 20 and some solid returns from veterans Pet Shop Boys and unexpectedly, ABBA singer Agnetha Fältskog. Eurovision winner Emmelie De Forest's lovely ethno-folk debut, Gabrielle Aplin's pleasant first LP and the latest album by The Saturdays also make it into this section. Calvin Harris kicks off the top 15 with his 2012 album 18 Months, just behind New Zealander Lorde's excellent debut Pure Heroine. New albums by Katy Perry and Caro Emerald and a comeback greatest hits collection from Swedish pop legends Army Of Lovers just miss the top ten.

Delta Goodrem finishes in the end of year top ten once again, this time with the recently reviewed Ten Year Anniversary Acoustic Edition of my all time favourite album, Innocent Eyes. Fantastic debuts from rising British stars Tom Odell and Bastille, and German producer Zedd all finish top ten alongside the long anticipated ARTPOP, the third (or fourth if you class The Fame Monster as an album) album from Lady Gaga. 

Combining a 90s garage sound with contemporary house production, young Surrey fraternal duo Disclosure finish in fifth place with Settle just behind Ellie Goulding's Halcyon Days at No.4, the re-release of her successful second album Halcyon, adding a bonus commercial sounding disc of pop which includes the hits Burn and How Long Will I Love You. French dance duo Daft Punk had a brilliant comeback with the monster smash hit Get Lucky which features on the highly recommended Random Access Memories, a real return to disco form after their disappointing 2005 album Human After All. 

Finishing second in my 2008 end of year chart with Little Voice, Californian singer Sara Bareilles is right back on form this year with new album The Blessed Unrest, which has been nominated alongside Daft Punk for Album of the Year at the Grammy's no less! Perhaps the most surprisingly good album of the year, power-pop anthems like Brave and Little Black Dress are instantly infectious, there's the mid-tempo brilliance of Chasing The Sun, Hercules and Eden and then the gorgeous piano balladry of Manhattan (up there with City and Gravity) and the haunting Satellite Call. It's a fantastic album from Sara and it's criminal that she continues to be written off as a one hit wonder here when Brave is practically screaming to be a UK hit.

And at No.1, in an incredible year for dance music, it's only fair that a dance album tops my end of year chart. And when you consider his existing hits that are missing from the debut studio album of Sweden's super producer Avicii - I Could Be The One, Levels, Fade Into Darkness/Collide, Silhouettes, My Feelings For You - it's astonishing that True still manages to be this good. After years of lowest common denominator chart dance from David Guetta (although he's had a couple of incredible tracks natually), it's good to see a commercial dance force who manages to put out thoughtful and innovative dance music, whilst using vocals from lesser known acts such as Dan Tyminski, Aloe Blacc, Salem Al Fakir and Audra Mae on this album. True is one of those joyful albums that packs in smash after smash - the huge techno-country hits Wake Me Up and Hey Brother, the oddball excellence of You Make Me and Dear Boy, the euphoria of Edom and the beauty of bonus track Always On The Run. It's one of the best dance albums I've heard in many years and Avicii truly deserves all of his success. Had he included his aformentioned missing hits on it too, it could have comfortably become one of my favourite albums of all time.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Review: Delta Goodrem - Innocent Eyes Ten Year Anniversary

Ten years ago, Australian Neighbours actress Delta Goodrem, who played teenager Nina Tucker, left the soap to persue a singing career, following in the footsteps of the likes of Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan, Natalie Imbruglia, Holly Valance and many others. Delta's debut album Innocent Eyes smashed records down under, spent an incredible 29 weeks at No.1 in Australia and finished the decade as Australia's highest selling album of the noughties. It also spun off five No.1 singles there - Born To Try, Lost Without You, Innocent Eyes, Not Me, Not I and Predictable. 

A few months after its mammoth success there it got a UK release and went to No.2 here, sold almost a million copies and produced three top ten hits. It also became my favourite album of all time. A number of tracks on the album were interestingly co-written by Gary Barlow during his wilderness years between the failure of his second solo album and the hugely successful revival of Take That a few years later. Barlow is repsonsible for all of the album's more uptempo moments as well as the stunning Not Me, Not I and it was credit to him that he could still write such brilliant songs at a time when his own career was at rock bottom. 

To mark the ten year anniversary, Delta has re-recorded the album in an acoustic style as a CD/DVD set, the latter showing the videos of Delta recreating the tracks live, often with added elements or in a different way to the original versions. The album is only available physically in Australia but can be downloaded in the UK on either iTunes or Amazon. Here are my track by track throughts on each song on the album:

1. Born To Try

The song that kicked it all off for Delta over a decade ago, Born To Try was a major hit in both Australia and the UK and the song that introduced me to my favourite singer. Ten years later I'm still addicted to this song and this straigthforward acoustic take on it is as beautiful as you might expect. The rawness of this version highlights the maturity in Delta's voice a decade on, she has a certain smoky quality to her vocals these days, they are certainly richer and deeper than they were when she was a teenager, yet she can still reach the high notes with ease. Other new vocal techniques evident on this album are the extra ad-libs and trills and this track has a lot of those. A beautiful rendition of a classic. 

2. Innocent Eyes

The day I purchased Innocent Eyes in summer 2003 (with my first ever pay cheque no less!), this was the song that I was most instantly drawn to. The gritty, mature lyrics surprised and stood out to me and the fantastic piano melody kept drawing me back. The new version adds a children's choir, which amps up the theatrical qualities of the song that were always there to begin with. The 'da da da da da da' refrain sounds almost Another Brick In The Wall-esque sung by kids. It's a brilliant version of a career highlight.

3. Not Me, Not I

The fourth single from the album, an Australian chart topper and top 20 hit in the UK, Not Me, Not I is a gorgeous piano ballad and was always one of my major highlights from the album. The new version adds strings, an acoustic guitar and a slightly more aggressive piano but little else has been changed. 

4. Throw It Away

One of the biggest growers on Innocent Eyes, Throw It Away showed off Delta's fun side and finally hit me about a year after getting the album. The new version is very similar to the original, albeit a little faster paced and with some more ad-libs and diva-esque singing towards the end.

5. Lost Without You

Delta's second Australian No.1 and perhaps her best remembered single in the UK, Lost Without You was a more mid-tempo ballad in its original form but now takes on the form of a classic piano singalong. It sounds very similar to many of the versions of the song that Delta has performed live or on tours over the years. 

6. Predictable

The fifth and final No.1 from the album down under, Predictable criminally didn't get a single release in the UK, despite the fact that it was far more commercial than the likes of Innocent Eyes and Not Me, Not I and might well have been a decent sized hit here. Previously a powerful and angsty mid-album highlight, Predictable has been slowed down slightly here but doesn't lose any of its charm. As an aside, check out this video as halfway through there's an incredible mashup of the song with Sweet Dreams by Eurythmics. It works amazingly well and it's a crying shame that a studio version of this version was never released.

7. Butterfly

Moving on past the hits and to the second half of the album. Many of these songs Delta hasn't revisited in years and it's refreshing to hear them all over again. Although some of these tracks are dismissed as filler, for me they are an integral part of the album and each and every one has its own merit. Butterfly was a bright, breezy, hopeful pop track and the anniversary version also adds a children's choir which massively adds to the sunny charm that the song has always possessed. 

8. In My Own Time

As the b-side to Born To Try in the UK, In My Own Time was the second Delta song that I ever heard and has always remained one of my firm favourites, despite mass indifference from many fans. The lyrics perfectly related to me at the time back in 2003 at the age of 16, where I felt almost forced to grow up at a time when I wasn't yet ready to. And the understated melody remains gorgeous, particularly in the verses and middle eight. This song hasn't lost any of its appeal to me and I hope that this version wins people over.

9. My Big Mistake

Like a natural successor to Throw It Away, My Big Mistake is another fun highlight of the album. The iconic chorus 'how could something so magic, magic, become something so tragic, tragic' is sung in a very different way in this version; melodically the chorus lyrics come in earlier. Aside from that change it still sits nicely on the album as a welcome change of pace.

10. This Is Not Me

In exactly the same way as In My Own Time, This Is Not Me was disregarded by many fans as filler yet quickly became a personal favourite of mine. Again, the lyrics have a lot to do with this. At 16, and surrounded by peer pressure and trying new things, I wasn't quite ready for it all at that point and the lyrics basically explained my thoughts at the time perfectly. The hugely melodic chorus and gorgeous chords during the middle eight also add to its appeal and a decade on, I still can't understand why it's not loved more widely.

11. Running Away

Despite being my all time favourite album, no album is perfect, especially when there are as many as fourteen tracks on it. And Running Away was always the weak link for me on Innocent Eyes, a 7/10 in amongst a sea of 9's and 10's. The anniversary version is slower and darker than the original and helps it to stand out a whole lot more as a stripped and soulful addition to the album. It sounds far more unique and really helps to improve it in my eyes. It's still not perfect but it's far superior to before.

12. A Year Ago Today

My ultimate highlight of the second half of the album, A Year Ago Today is so much more emotional and touching than many of the tracks around it and the simple piano ballad really stood out to me. An early Delta song, she first recorded it a couple of years prior to the release of Innocent Eyes, alongside her first single I Don't Care, in a much more overproduced form and before her voice had matured. The anniversary version (should it have been retitled ten years ago today!?) remains beautiful. It would be nice if she put this, and a few of the other highlights from the last few album tracks, back into her setlists on future tours.

13. Longer

Another slightly more uptempo track on the album, Longer told the story of a fleeting meet between a boy and a girl. It was never particularly one of my absolute favourites but it has brilliant verses and a fantastic middle eight (a recurring theme throughout some of the songs with weaker choruses on the album). Delta has featured it in many of her shows through the years so it's one of the more enduring album tracks from Innocent Eyes. The new version does little to change the original but that's not a bad thing.

14. Will You Fall For Me

One of the songs with the biggest transformation for this version of Innocent Eyes, the original version of the album's closing track was a stripped back piano ballad, with literally nothing more to it than a piano and Delta's voice. This version adds a number of elements; the production has been vastly expanded with other instrumentation and Delta's voice comes across even better here than on most of the other tracks, really showcasing the rich rawness of her voice these days and the notes that she can reach. But once again, the highlight and biggest addition to the track is the children's choir, which make this song sound like far more of an event than it ever has in the past. Complete with hand clapping and Delta's ad-libbing, it almost sounds like a gospel choir performance. It's a brilliant way to close the album and one of a few tracks that has been vastly improved from its original.

To conclude, this is an absolutely stunning take on an incredible pop album. It's been a pleasure to hear these tracks all over again, many in very different forms. The DVD is a brilliant insight into the recording of the album and Delta looks and sounds fantastic throughout. It's also lovely to see many of her long term band members featuring on the project including backing vocal duo Sister2Sister who had a UK top 20 hit of their own in 2000 with Sister. What would be really interesting to hear as 'outtakes' perhaps would have been similar reworkings of some of the fantastic b-sides from the Innocent Eyes era. Songs like Right There Waiting, Hear Me Calling, Lost For Words and Here I Am could have sounded incredible as bonus tracks. But I'm grateful that Delta took the time out to re-record this album at all, it's amazing to listen to as a major fan of the original and it really reminds me just why Innocent Eyes impacted my life so much a decade ago. I couldn't recommend this album enough.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Top five boyband songs of the past five years!

To show off a slightly poppier side to this blog after a few recent MOR focused posts, I thought I'd do a rundown of my top five favourite boyband songs of the past five years, 2009-2013 inclusive! Will current a-list crop One Direction, Union J, JLS and The Wanted feature or will there be any surprising inclusions? Before starting, honourable mentions go to E.M.D's Baby Goodbye, JLS' Eyes Wide Shut, Boyzone's Love Is A Hurricane and Love Will Save The Day, The Wanted's Glad You Came, Take That's Eight Letters and SOS and One Direction's I Would, Little Things and One Thing!

5. One Direction - What Makes You Beautiful

The single that kicked it all of for the world's current biggest boyband (and probably group full stop!), UK X Factor 2010 third placers Zayn, Niall, Liam, Harry and Louis aka 1D or One Direction opened their career in style with the fantastic pop rock anthem What Makes You Beautiful. One of the best pop songs of the last few years thanks to the powerhouse of a chorus, it's become an instant classic, quickly inching its way to million seller status in the UK and was also their first top five hit in the US! I don't feel that they've yet topped it but they have come close a few times.

4. A1 - Don't Wanna Lose You Again

British/Norwegian band A1 reached their career peak in 2000 with the UK No.1 singles Take On Me and Same Old Brand New You. It fizzled out soon after the brilliant 2002 singles Caught In The Middle and Make It Good but they returned to success in Norway a few years ago, albeit minus former member Paul. Ben, Christian and Mark took part in Melodi Grand Prix 2010, Norway's annual show to pick their Eurovision entry and came a respectable 2nd with the fantastic driving pop anthem Don't Wanna Lose You Again. Taking tips from Take That on how to mature their sound successfully, it was a big hit in Norway and may well have been in the UK given half a chance. It's a shame they didn't make it through to Eurovision as Twitter would have lit up when lots of UK viewers watched bemused at the sight of a forgotten British boyband representing Norway! And 12 UK points could have been theirs!

3. Boyzone - Gave It All Away

Having reformed in 2007 and scored a successful comeback with their No Matter What...The Greatest Hits album and the top five single Love You Anyway, Boyzone band member Stephen Gately sadly passed away in October 2009. The remaining Irish quartet regrouped a few months later to celebrate Stephen's life with the No.1 album Brother and the lead single Gave It All Away, the last recorded Boyzone song to feature Stephen's vocals. An oddly reggae tinged ballad, the Mika penned track was one of their finest singles in years and a perfect tribute. 

2. Blue - I Can

Back to Eurovision and fast forward a year later where early 00s boyband Blue were internally selected to represent the UK at the contest. Duncan, Simon, Anthony and Lee's reunion seemed to go down well across Europe and indeed their renewed success has continued ever since, with a successful stint on The Big Reunion and a European hit with Hurt Lovers earlier this year. I Can itself was a major hit in some countries following its respectable (by the UK's recent standards!) 11th place finish in the contest with 100 points. A lyrically positive and brilliantly produced pop song that was completely of its time, sounding not at all dissimlar to Tinie Tempah's then recent chart topper Written In The Stars, it was the most hitworthy song in the contest that year and it's actually a surprise that it didn't do a whole lot better. It did manage to come top five in the public vote though so the viewers at home enjoyed it as much as I did! Damn juries.

1. Take That - The Flood

And of top five consisting largely of a load of old reformed boybands would be complete without the mighty Take That. By far the biggest British boyband of the 90s, they took a decade out and somehow returned bigger and better than ever, albeit with a more grown up sound. I already ranked Could It Be Magic, Back For Good, Pray and Never Forget amongst my all time favourite pop songs and they were later joined by the mighty trio of Patience, Shine and Rule The World! The Flood took off where those singles left off with one added ingredient, the return of Robbie Williams to make the band complete once again! A very special pop song, from the triumphant Robbie verse-Gary bridge combo and the killer chorus to the triumphant 'yeaahhhhhhh' middle eight and the subtle electro production that paved the way for the fantastic Progress album. Take That delivered a perfect song once again and it's criminal that it didn't make it to the top of the UK charts! Fingers crossed for something just as special on the rumoured 2014 album! 

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Rising stars: Tove Lo, Emma Stevens and Alexa

Tove Lo

Swedish singer Tove Lo has already attracted a lot of blog attention over the past year or so with her atmospheric, Robyn-esque pop that improves with each release. Love Ballad and Evil Spawn were pretty good, Habits was pretty great and then her recent dance collaboration with Lucas Nord, Run On Love, was absolutely excellent. She's gone one better again however with new single Out Of Mind. A simply massive pop song, it has understated but effective verses that suddenly build into a huge anthemic chorus before closing with some stunning ad-libs. Add to this the high production values and brilliant video and all signs point towards this song being the one with the potential to launch Tove Lo internationally. One of the best pop songs of 2013.

Emma Stevens

British pop singer-songwriter Emma Stevens has already received major support from BBC Radio 2 with singles such as Once and Riptide getting playlisted, the former also played regularly in Debenhams, useless fact fans! Having bought her album last week and all of her EP's previously, I've really been enjoying her sunny brand of folk-pop and it's a shame that the album didn't manage to chart. A mixture of charming guitar led strummers and piano ballads, the highlight for me is the now unseasonal single Hey Summer, a great catchy late 90s/early 00s-esque bubblegum pop type track. The singalong chorus is breezy and fun but the verses are just as good, particularly the backing vocal harmonies which really add to the track. Check out her album Enchanted, it certainly deserves some success.


London based singer-songwriter Alexa's profile has been steadily growing in recent years with her album Gravity on iTunes and a number of live appearances around the capital. Her strong electro-pop tracks point towards a successful future with plenty of promising songs already under her belt. Album track Famous looks at the subject of fame and fortune in a very melodic way with a punchy and memorable pop-rock chorus whilst Alexa's more recently uploaded non album track Electric Lover is more 80s influenced in sound and boasts very strong production and a hypnotic chorus melody. Alexa's confident vocals are perfectly suited to the genre and she clearly has potential to break out in the future and achieve everything that Famous suggests! Listen to more of Alexa's music through Soundcloud.

Monday, 7 October 2013

In Focus: Hozier, The Arrows and Sarah McLachlan

There have been three very different acts that have fascinated me with old or new material in the past few weeks so I thought I'd do a round-up post to share. 

Hozier - Take Me To Church

Dublin singer Hozier's new single Take Me To Church has been rapidly building support over the past few weeks, largely due to the incredibly hard hitting video that criticises Russia's views on homosexuality. But it's the song itself that deserves to be the source of the thousands of views that the video has racked up because Take Me To Church is a real gem. Hozier's soulful and deep vocals wrap around a song that lies somewhere between gospel, indie and blues. It massively stands out from everything else around at the moment but also packs in an incredibly strong and melodic chorus that make it perfect for radio. The track is quickly gaining chart traction in Hozier's native Ireland and the rest of the world will hopefully soon follow. 

The Arrows - Entropy

I first mentioned South African duo The Arrows on this blog a short while ago when they featured on what has become one of my favourite songs of the year, Spin My World by DJ Kent, the recently released video of which does a very good job of selling their home city of Durban as a potential holiday resort! I decided to check out Pam and Christie's other material and downloaded their first album, 2010's Make Believe. The album is packed with perky jaunty pop similar to the likes of Lenka or Mika musically, but is a very strong and engaging listen, particularly lyrically where the girls' Christian upbringing shines through heavily. 

My instant standout from the album was Entropy. Looking at the problems of modern day South Africa lyrically, it's completely juxtaposed with the music which almost sounds like a broken Disney song. I say that because whilst musically it sort of sounds Disney-esque, the structure is completely erratic, jumping from verses to bridges to random string laden sections whilst a chorus never particularly emerges. But the song works so well as a sort of disjointed musical poem, that it doesn't need any one major reference point. I can't recommend the song, or this duo, more highly. Recent single Disaster Queen is also absolutely brilliant and their style is fantastic. It's almost as if they've taken bits out of the wardrobes of all of Katy Perry, Rihanna and Lady Gaga whilst looking even more bizarre than this combination suggests. Check out Pam's croissant inspired hairstyle and Christie's turquoise wig in the Spin My World video for example!

Sarah McLachlan - World On Fire

I've been listening a lot in the past week or so to Canadian singer Sarah McLachlan's album The Essential. The newly released two disc compilation houses Sarah's biggest hits as well as some of her early and more recent singles and some songs from film soundtracks. She's always been one of my favourite singers and I've always felt that she's criminally underrated in the UK. She experienced huge success in the US and Canada in the late 90s with classics such as Angel (somehow only a No.36 hit in the UK, but I guarantee you'll know it!), Adia and Building A Mystery. Her only notable UK hit came in 2000 when she was the featured vocalist on Delerium's top three hit, the dance classic Silence. The original version of Silence, an almost church like track that sounds nothing like the hit remix, features on this compilation alongside all of those mentioned above. 

Also worth checking out are covers of The Rainbow Connection, Blackbird and Time After Time and a couple of film soundtrack songs, When She Loved Me from Toy Story 2 (you'll know it if you've seen the film) and the uplifting Ordinary Miracle from Charlotte's Web. But my personal favourite song on the compilation is 2004 single World On Fire, originally from the incredible album Afterglow. My favourite song of the year back in 2004, it's a beautifully written pop song with a very thought provoking music video that looks at how $150,000 that could have been used to shoot a video was put to better use. It seems a great shame that Sarah McLachlan never fulfilled her career potential in the UK but at least she was rightfully recognised on the other side of the Atlantic. 

Monday, 16 September 2013

Do radio stations dictate relevance and success?

Singer/songwriter Ryan Tedder's group OneRepublic have, after an absence of six years, returned to the UK top three this week with their highest peaking chart hit to date, Counting Stars. Tedder can claim two of the songs in the top three this week with Ellie Goulding's former chart topper Burn, which he wrote, easing down a place to No.3 after five weeks on the chart. Although Tedder has been responsible for a number of UK chart hits since OneRepublic's heydey in 2007/8 with the hits Apologize and Stop & Stare, this is the first hit single for the group in over half a decade. So what happened to them since, and how have they suddenly burst back into the charts? 

The answer is that the band have never gone away, have been releasing albums ever since and have remained a big name in other parts of the world with anthemic radio hits such as Secrets and All The Right Moves. Yet UK radio have more or less ignored them ever since 2008. In the meantime, Tedder has penned hits for Leona Lewis, Beyonce, Kelly Clarkson and Adele, amongst many others, and his anthemic heavily produced pop/rock 'sound' has ruled the airwaves for the past few years. Despite providing vocals for a couple of UK top 20 hits in the form of Far East Movement's Rocketeer and Sebastian Ingrosso & Alesso's Calling (Lose My Mind), Tedder has remained firmly behind the scenes in the minds of the UK public. 

Counting Stars, taken from OneRepublic's latest album Native, has been steadily climbing the charts and soared to No.2 on the latest chart thanks to a number of factors. Firstly iTunes handily reduced the track to 59p, giving on the fence buyers more of an incentive to purchase. Secondly, there was no competition standing in the way of success aside from Katy Perry's monster hit Roar - Counting Stars sold under 40,000 copies to climb to No.2 this week, the lowest sale for a No.2 single in 18 months! Thirdly, radio programmers have been more kind to them this time around, and this is surely the biggest step for any band to achieve on their seek to regain relevance. Having ignored them for years, Radio 1 have added Counting Stars to their a-list, and the song also has major airplay from big hitters Heart and Capital. So is a great song all it takes for any act to score another hit, no matter how long ago their last one was? The answer is no. No matter how brilliant a song is, without any promotion or support people are unlikely to hear it (short of it being a viral internet hit a la Harlem Shake) and therefore unlikely to buy it. Is Counting Stars really THAT much better than the ignored single Secrets? Probably not, but that lacked any sort of support and therefore failed to become a hit of any kind in the UK. 

Radio are the hitmakers in this country, even moreso than the television music channels and the internet. Tens of millions of people tune into various radio stations daily and the music that they hear helps to shape their tastes and what they are likely to purchase. Tedder also penned Delta Goodrem's recent Australian top ten single Heart Hypnotic, an uplifting pop-dance song that has international hit written all over it. Except for the fact that Delta hasn't had a hit here for nearly a decade and radio programmers are unlikely to ever give her a chance again due to this. Despite the fact that she's still in her 20s, she is perceived as being 'past it' to radio programmers. 

Robbie Williams' chart topping single Candy from last year was famously snubbed by Radio 1, who labelled him irrelevant to their audience. Does advancing age equal irrelevance when your music quality is still as strong as ever? How many acts can you find on the Radio 1 playlist that are younger than 40? One week 15 years ago in late 1998 the UK top four singles chart consisted of Cher, George Michael, U2 and Culture Club, all well on the way to being or way past 40 at this point. Radio 1 playlisted all of these releases so what is it that they have against aging acts nowadays? And as an aside, why do they blacklist certain artists from the playlist as soon as they have a few underperforming single releases - Christina Aguilera, Robbie Williams, or Alexandra Burke for example. Heart and Capital are just as much to blame for not supporting artists later on into their career. Yes it's right to promote new talent, but what about supporting new songs by older talent too, rather than a neverending stream of 'club classics' and 80s songs.

The point is that OneRepublic's return to relevance has happened because this time around they've had a favourable set of circumstances, but more than anything they've had strong radio support. Maroon 5 and Christina Aguilera had been facing diminishing returns in the charts for years but suddenly Moves Like Jagger got heavily supported by Radio 2, Capital and Heart and suddenly it's a million selling single, and Maroon 5 are as big as ever. Would this have really been as big a hit for these two fading artists if radio had completely ignored it? Loreen's Eurovision winning anthem Euphoria from last year was a huge No.1 single all across Europe and stalled at No.3 here before dropping like a stone. Why? Because she was deemed irrelevant, ignored by UK radio programmers and had nothing to keep her and the song in the public consciousness. Why is she supposedly so irrelevant to the UK but so relevant to every other country in Europe? 

Is it fair that a panel of a few people on each radio station basically dictate what the nation listen to? Or should it be more democratic, with listeners perhaps voting for their favourite tracks out of a selection each week, the most popular being added to the radio playlists, regardless of how old or 'past it' an act might seem to a radio bigwig. It will be interesting to see which acts are the next to be re-embraced or completely ignored by radio, and what impact this will have on their careers. For every Will Young and Enrique Iglesias who resumed their success in the last few years with major help from radio, there's a Nelly Furtado, Mika and Duffy who were completely abandoned after mega success in the late 00s, leaving them with little more than quickly failing careers. If Mika's Popular Song, featuring rising star of the moment Ariana Grande, was picked up by radio, it seems that he could be the next former star to have a reignited career, much like OneRepublic are currently enjoying now!