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18 days til Christmas

Somehow (I'm not sure how as me and father time aren't on speaking terms at the moment…) it is only Thursday, when it should be at least Christmas eve, if not Christmas morning. Oh well, it's nearly the weekend when I can get down to the business of watching festive films and holding our now annual Christmas party "bash"! Come along if you're not doing anything ;) Poor little dazpants had a bad day yesterday and I was super nice to him, so while I was adding the colour to my blog entry, he surprised me by putting up our Christmas tree. Bless his little cotton socks. I couldn't stop grinning all evening! Boy did he get some smooching under the mistletoe. By the way, papa zapping is now obviously reading the comments and being corrupted by them. Mama Z called to say he had used "fizzing at the slit" in a conversation and then couldn't stop chuckling to himself. XO, I completely and utterly blame you ;) Oh well, on with the post….!
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THE TAKE THAT RETROSPECTICUS (PART THREE)

And so we come to the end of our Take That retrospecticus (although there will be a postscript for it tomorrow!!). But don't cry for me (Argentina) because I have my memory and have clearly rekindled my long love affair with said boys. If their debut album was the sound of the group coming together, and Everything Changes the sound of the group reaching harmony, third and (prior to 2006) final album Nobody Else represented some stunning moments of pop music, yet was the sound of a group coming dangerously close to self indulgence and ego. That's not to say it's not a fine album because it is. It all started off quite poorly however, with the my second least favourite Take That single, Sure. What was meant to be a funky, more modern sounding dance number only ended up illustrating my point above – other members of the band were keen to get in on the writing action and perhaps in the rush to release it, egos were satisfied and the result was an average white bread attempt at new jack swing. And in a stunningly bad marketing move, fans then had to wait a whopping seven months before the next single and the album were released. Luckily, Back For Good was and is a doozy. If Pray is the perfect boy band pop single, then Back For Good sets the bar for perfect boy band pop ballads. Accompanied by their finest video to date, the song is awash with acoustic guitars, lulling piano melodies and the boys finest harmonies to date. Four weeks a top the British chart proved that it went well beyond the boys substantial fan base. The mostly uptempo album Nobody Else was released and a marketing campaign planned for 2-3 further singles. And then it all went wrong. Robbie buggered off to Glastonbury on a bender (sadly not me), dyed his hair blonde, quit and started slagging Gary Barlow off to anyone who would listen. The boys continued as a foursome and put out a new version of Never Forget – with choir boys, pounding drums and an anthemic chorus it proved that, whatever Robbie may say, Gary Barlow knew how to write an amazing pop anthem. With another delay of 6 months (thanks to the Robbie antics and promotion in America) between Back for Good and Never Forget, the fourth and fifth singles from the album were scrapped (the title track and uptempo Every Guy) and a BeeGees cover of How Deep Is Your Love surfaced preceeding the greatest hits and a split. Although I loved their music, I wasn't overly upset at the split as I didn't want the band to descend into self indulgency and clashing egos. Solo careers and the rising star of Robbie Williams kept me going for 10 years until of course that famous documentary last year that relit their fire. Back for good? Time will tell…
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LINK: Buy Take That's Nobody Else expanded edition
LINK: Buy Take That's greatest hits
MP3: Take That – Back For Good
MP3: Take That – Never Forget (single mix)
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THE POP THAT KEEPS ON GIVING:
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Christmas is usually the pop gift that keeps on giving. Or at least it seems like it is this week. Sometimes, I feel there are snapshot moments in time when pop comes together. May 2001 was a good month, as was September 2003. This time last year wasn't so bad, and amid the festive chart topping race of 2006, there are a few gems (or at least growers) around the world to keep my Christmas party going on Saturday.

First up is a band I was only briefly aware of as contributing a new pop version of Beauty And The Beast to the DVD re-release in USA a few years back. While this country got the "elegant" black and white video from Steps traitors H&Claire, Jump 5 went the tween route by adding a tiny disco beat and brightly coloured clothing. Hence, they didn't really register on my radar again until now. Apparently (miraculously?) they are still going and have gone from caterpillar days of American Juniors style fluff to the more meaty sounding Swede pop of Steps (circa Here and Now). So I was pleasantly surprised to hear that new single Both to Blame was actually quite good. Not outstanding, but certainly a pleasant enough diversion and something new to listen to in a season full of cover versions and carols (which I also love obv.) For now, the single will do for me, although I remain mildly curious about any follow up album…
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Next is a band whose new video has them splashed all over Arjanwrites and Popjustice. And rightly so. BWO finally get around to releasing Halycon Days highlight, Chariots of Fire, and its Martin-in-underwear video and array of remixes makes this an out and out winner. While I would have switched round the release dates of Chariots of Fire and Will My Arms Be Strong Enough, the spunky tune is perfect for party season and it is my Christmas wish this year that at some point the UK will embrace their considerable charms. Halycon Days is one of my favourite albums of this year and am eager for at least one more single to be released from it in 2007…
. Back to the states and a guy I know not a lot about, other than I am fairly reliably informed that he is another tweener making the leap from Disney Channel fame to recording career. And he has awful pop star hair that kinda makes him look like Cathy Dennis. But get past these prejudices and Drake Bell has produced an album that will appeal to fans of McFly, Click Five and Jesse McCartney. So me and poppostergirl then ;) Lead off single, I Know, however is a jaunty piece of guitar-pop that is hard to get out of your head and the album is full of similar sounding equally agreeable tracks. Like Jump 5, it's no masterpiece, but it's fun and well produced. Whether there is room in the world of Ryan Cabreras and jesses for another solo teen remains to be seen… .
…Especially when the likes of McFly do it so stunningly well :) Thanks to popjustice, photos of the boys upcoming cd single popped up on the internet yesterday and I for one can't wait for it to be released, if only for the festive tune contained within. I'll ignore NME's scathing review of Sorry's Not Good Enough and concentrate on the fact that the song and indeed the album, much like Take That's Everything Changes, represents a band at the pinnacle of their creative flow. Smashing!!
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MP3: Jump5 – Both To Blame
MP3: Drake Bell – I Know
MP3: BWO – Chariots of Fire Soundfactory Radio Mix
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THE SHOULD'VE BEENS (an occasional feature):Ah little Marta Marrero. Or something. Back in 1989, when I was firmly in my Debbie-Kylie-Tiffany loving phase, I thought that listening to the likes of Martika (and JJ's Rhythm Nation 1814) made me slightly edgy and cool. I was wrong (as a story in a minute will prove) but hey both of Martika's albums were a lot of fun. Her epononymous debut album was spilling over with latin infused pop songs, estefan-inspired ballads and of course the song that catapulted her to world wide fame, Toy Soldiers. An anthemic song about the dangers of drugs, it stood in stark contrast to the upbeat pop that littered the rest of her debut. Highlights include singles More Than You Know and a great energetic cover of I Feel The Earth Move. A perhaps too soon cover of Cross My Heart and the bonkersosity of Tarzan & Jane were also fun diversions into frothy pop :) It was second album Martika's Kitchen that gave me the sense great things could come from this woman. Granted, the first two singles (and highlight tracks) were written by Prince, but there were plenty of other jewels in the pantry. First single Love Thy Will Be Done was a slow building gospel driven track with no discernable chorus that stuck in my head for weeks and weeks. The second single and title track couldn't have been more different – a funky sexually charged dance number with clever lyrics and brassy backing. Just to prove how cool and edgy I was at this time, I was dancing to this song at a Mormon disco (ooo!) and literally dance-acted out the "kick kick kicking out the latest jams" line only to have my shoe fly off my foot and clonk Mandy Hill on the noggin. Le Shame. Other highlight tracks included the slightly rocky and wordy and insanely catchy Temptation, the cute Coloured Kisses, the dreamy Take Me To Forever and languid Safe In The Arms of Love. All of which could easily have been singles, but by then the album had tragically bombed and the record company were not interested in any further promotion. It seemed that would be the last of Martika. Some demos from around 2001 did leak on the web – of the mixed bunch, Journey and are the best (and all are available for your own inspection in zip file below), but for me, it's better to remember Martika at the peak of her game…
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LINK: Buy Martika's greatest hits
DOWNLOAD: Martika's 2001 demos zipfile
MP3: Martika – I Feel The Earth Move
MP3: Martika – Love…thy will be done
MP3: Martika – Martika's Kitchen
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THE CHEMISTRY OF CHRISTMAS:
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As I said above, there are sometimes a whole month that gives us great pop music, and I shall retrospecticus those particular months next week. This time last year, quality electropop fans were indeed being spoiled. Rachel Stevens had released the brilliant Come and Get It, while Girls Aloud were busy with their best album to date, Chemistry. Taking their brilliance one step further, the Girls put out a limited edition of the Chemistry set with a free Christmas disc (that popjustice wittily renamed Christmastry) complete with Desperate Housewives inspired festive cover. If I had been blogging this time last year, no doubt I would have been most effusive in my praise for the 8 track collection. Time has mellowed my enthusiasm somewhat, but the Christmas tracks are still a lot of fun and a nice seasonal treat. An even mix of classic covers and original songs, I'll deal with the covers first – they are straight forward dance pop versions of songs already covered in this style by Steps, A*teens et al and the girls versions are no better and no worse, which makes them a little redundant. However, the four original compositions are actually very good and there seems to have been a concerted effort to emulate the classic Phil Spector Christmas album. I Wanna Kiss You So and Not Tonight Santa are the girls at their cheeky/slutty best (ie they are about how crap Christmas will be without a quick shag), while Count The Days so should have been a single instead of their worst single See The Day as it soothing and soulful, festive and fun all at the same time. Christmas Round At Ours rounds things off nicely, and suddenly you get the feeling that just a couple more tracks would have elevated this from a good Christmas album to a great one. You know what? The whole project reminds me of that classic scene from Mean Girls with the hussy performance of Jingle Bell Rock...now who else would love to see what La Lo wrote in the burn book about Paris??
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DOWNLOAD: Girls Aloud Christmas Bonus Disc zipfile
MP3: Mean Girls - Jingle Bell Rock
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QUICK BITZ/BLOG WATCH:
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~ Arjanwrites has a plethora of good stuff on his blog at the moment. The Scissor Sisters on the greatest American daytime soap on air at the moment (Passions – spiritual child of Sunset Beach); the return of The Bravery who I liked then disliked but am prepared to like again; half naked pictures of BWO… It's all good :)
~ the lovely
Beyond people have had an exciting and slightly (!) drunken sounding week, popping all over the country, supporting McFly and hanging out in Manchester. Check out their new blog – my prediction? They are supporting Girls Aloud on their greatest hits tour. Woo and may I add Hoo!
~ thezapping's favourite Bad Boys Inc child
Jean (so due for success in 2007 – great songs, nice guys, friends with Switch22 – what more could you ask for?!) have put a little Christmas thankyou up at their myspace site. Free downloads. Hurrah I say, Hurrah!
~ As you know I am quite enamoured with the geek in the pink (
Jason Mraz) and love his somewhat meandering live shows. So colour me pink geeked with excitement that he is releasing (online only) a live set of songs he performed over the summer and they are mainly rare or unreleased tracks. Bonus!~ Little ex-Fader Molly McQueen has a brand new track on her myspace site, which is all very exciting, but I can't help but feel an Alexis situation coming – all buzz and then nothing Strumming…
~ Check out the video for the better-each-time-i-hear-it Great Big Sled Christmas song by the Killers over at
My Dirty Lies...
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Coming soon: final part of the Take That retrospecticus; girl singers unreleased classics; more christmas stuff - music and tv shows; some fashion stuff; more new bands; a 7 in 2007 update; the skinny on thezapping record company project; more should've beens in a feature that's becoming more than occasional; a classic months of pop retrospecticus; and much much more. Obv... see you there!

9 Comments:

  1. Will said...
    Jump 5 - I've been a fan of the disney friendly pop kids for many years, despite the religious undertones to a lot of their early work. They have had many great pop tunes over the years, glad they're still going! Hmm, maybe I'll have to dig out some classics in mp3 form very soon ;)

    Christmastry - One year on looking at that fab festive album cover doesn't it remind you of the new Boots xmas adverts?!

    Drake Bell - Yummy in a guilty kind of way, will have to check the music out.
    Chris said...
    Thanxs for posting the new Drake Bell song, havent heard it until now, it's awesome, sounds like his 2nd album will be better than the 1st if it contains more tracks similar to 'I Know'.
    Stebags said...
    Martika's "I feel the earth move" was released just before the 1989 californian earthquake disaster!

    It didn't do as well as her 1st 2 singles in the U.S. unsurprisingly!!

    Stebags
    J'ason D'luv said...
    You're a good man, Pablo... I've only ever had the cassette single for "Love, Thy Will Be Done" (ah, the hazy teen days of 1991)...and iTunes doesn't have that one on her greatest hits...
    xolondon said...
    I was 41 when Love Thy Will Be Done came out. But not really. I am so glaaaaad your parentals are using fizzing at the slit. It just refers to scalding food of course...

    Now if they start talking about golden showers you'll know it's time to have a little talk.
    Poster Girl said...
    I haven't heard much from Drake Bell--saw his new album over at FMSM, but I may have to go give it a listen after this--it's all right, you say?

    NME was scathing about "Sorry's Not Good Enough"?! Do they not realize that it's brilliant, and part of a brilliant album? That with "Friday Night" is a single that's tough to beat in terms of quality (though I'd rather have some more new b-sides).

    Speaking of brilliant: "Chariots of Fire"! Oh my gosh, does that video make me laugh! It occurred to me recently that "Chariots Of Fire" is in the competition to be my favorite single of the year...

    "Back For Good"--so good that even the usually UK artist-ignoring U.S. charts were forced to sit up and take notice (to some degree).

    Speaking of Arjan Writes, I thought the Robbie promotional video posted there was pretty funny, and it's always great to see Mika pop up!
    Paul said...
    Will - ooo i look forward to "sampling" some more classic Jump 5 songs. There is nothing better than a few tweeny songs. Now must get some of those cheesy end of show ditties from fun song factory!! And yes, Christmastry does remind me of slightly low class version of the Boots ad ;)

    Chris- i just checked out your blogs. How i haven't come across them before is beyond me, but i shall so be checking them out later when i'm not at work!! Drake has had 2 previous albums? I shall have to investigate...

    Stebags - i owe you a huge thanks, will email you later. And isn't it weird how whenever there is a disaster there is some film, song or tv show that has to be quietly shuffled to the background to avoid offence??!

    D'Luv 2 luv you baby!! My flabber is gasted that Love Thy Will Be Done isn't on the greatest hits in america. How bizarre that her crowning glory should be removed...

    XO - mercifully my mother thinks la shower de golden is what happens with the sun and the rain before a lovely little rainbow appears. And of course mother you would be absolutely correct :)

    PPG - yes boo you NME (though yay for recognising the genius of Jamelia's Beware Of The Dog) for "dissing" the big Mcs. Isuppose we do get a new festive song and a live track on the cd which you just know i will be allowing people to "sample" on day of release. I would say Drake Bell's album is fairly good - it's no McFly genius or Click Five though... and sigh. back for good. God, my friends must have been so sick of me playing that bloody song in 1995!!!
    Will said...
    FSF - classic Brekkie time viewing, I always look forward to the Disco bit at the end lol. The boys seem a bit poofy...
    Amaroth said...
    Martika was the first singer I ever listened to. 'course i was born the same year as her first album was released but whatever LOL...I still say she is the best singer in the world and I still play her record and sing every word religiously. Also "the party" of mmc fame was my favorite. You should blog about them!!

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