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20 days til Christmas

The weather has turned very horrible hasn't it? Well it has if you are sitting in your kitchen reading this in England. if you are lying half naked on a sunny beach in some heat drenched climate, then the most of your worries is probably getting the sand out of your unmentionables. But here the weather is generally atrocious - a word here that means very windy with sleeting rain that makes your umbrella do that embarrassing inside out thing, so you are chasing down the street after it like some demented Mary Poppins on crack. Gosh the whole opening of this paragraph up to "crack" (a word here that means Whitney Nose Candy mom and dad) was all very Lemony Snicket was it not?? I have lots of things on my mind today that aren't quite worthy of a full section on my post so i will get them off the old proverbial chest now - i didn't see Matt Willis in the album chart on Sunday which is a bit of a catastophe. Just as I had gotten around to liking him as well. Still now he has won I'm A C-list-ebrity, he can do some promotional work (because clearly winning a tv show watched by 8 million people wasn't enough) and woo our disinterested nation further. And Mcfly down to 45 with motion in the ocean. I'm so ready to divorce the british record buying. Again...;) Still on with today's post. How are all of you???

Oh! I have just realised that Mr D'Luv said at the end of one his more recent posts "Now if only we could get rid of Take That..." The sheer gall of it! The absolute nerve. The unmitigated audacity ;) Still, everyone is entitled to their opinion :) It remains to be seen as to whether their current success is due to a wave of nostalgia or that the future of boyband pop lies in appealing to the moms rather than the daughters (as westlife seem to have been most successful with this route). I'm hoping it's a longer return than one album for the boys, as it is rather a good album, but only time will tell. Now if you checked out my favourite boybands post over at the Spinoff Blog, you will know that actually I am quite fond of Take That. And was obsessed with them for most of the first half of the 90s. This "retrospecticus" is designed to look back at their career which all kicked off in 1991 when the five boys, persuaded by their gay manager, got all homoerotic in some jelly on the set of their video for Do What You Like. For a fit young stud like me it was all i needed to tip me from bi-curious to fully fledged raging homo and i minced out to buy the single, expecting it to chart at number one. It didn't. It didn't even get within a poppers sniff of the top 40. But i was already smitten (mainly with Robbie) and really liked their music. Two more Gary Barlow compositions flopped and the record company, getting understandably antsy (they SO would have been dropped in this day and age) forced a cover version on them, and another writers song. It worked. It Only Takes A Minute went top ten and I Found Heaven made 15. The boys had arrived. Yet strangely, the dance pop of the first album didn't give them the huge success that was to follow with their sophomore set. Typical Gary ballad A Million Love Songs pushed them back into the top ten and a great remix of Barry Manilow song Could It Be Magic was all over the Christmas charts like a rash (a ploy that did well for acts like Steps years later when covering 70s and 80s songs like Tragedy and Chain Reaction) and stayed top five for several weeks. I get the impression that the record company looked at IOTAM as the "first single proper" from the debut album Take That and Party, which is why yet another single was chosen - my least favourite TT song, Why Can't I Wake Up With You given a disappointing r'n'b tinged remix. However, the boys star was in ascendancy and it became their biggest hit to date. With a janet jackson challenging mammoth 8 singles off the debut, you'd be forgiven for thinking there wasn't that much left on the album to be that excited about. And to be honest, you'd be half right. Most of the good tracks had flown into the charts and seeped their way into public consciousness. And the boys hadn't quite perfected the polished pop that came on their next album. But this album is nonetheless essential to an understanding of the band and their place in popular culture. It was nice to be alive in 1992, and there's a case for arguing that this album was the rebirth of pop music that wasn't S/A/W, and that most of the singles in the charts circa mid-2001 are there because of this...
LINK: Buy Take That And Party Expanded Edition CD
MP3: Take That – It Only Takes A Minute
MP3: Take That – Could It Be Magic
THE SHOULD'VE BEENS (an occasional feature):
. And so we come to the most famous of the should've beens so far. The A*Teens were an act put together to do an album of Abba covers and give them a modern up to date pop vibe. Seeing as you really can't improve on what Abba did with the songs, this was a bit of a useless folly, but luckily the A*Teens turned into a great pop act that rivals Steps and S-Club. And therein lies the should've been – the climate was ideal for pop acts circa 2001, and yet A*Teens were unfairly branded as kiddie bubblegum pop and failed to break out of the pre-teen Disney mode that would've ensured bigger success. As I kind of ignored their debut, we'll start with their first album of original material. Lead off single Upside Down was a frothy slice of goodness that would've been right at home on cd:uk, but it was second single Halfway Round The World that really grabbed my attention. It just seemed more solid and rounded and hitworthy, plus sported a great video that I was obsessed with for about 2 weeks. It briefly flirted with the UK top twenty but didn't do the business that it should have. And the album Teen Spirit (no smells like for these clean cut youngsters) was packed with music that just stood for what it was – unpretentious pop genius. Sugar Rush and FireFly were lovely mid tempo moments while Princess Diaries gave us a ballad, Heartbreak Lullaby which was soon remixed into dancey pop goodness. Second album Pop Til Ya Drop was more cohesive than the fun Teen Spirit and kicked off with an elvis cover (I Can't help Falling In Love With You) from the movie Lilo And Stitch. Perhaps not the wisest move as it just reinforced the kindergarten Disney tag. However, other tracks like the stomping FloorFiller and energetic Slam, showed they could throw down with acts like Sugababes and produce some quality pop. Hi and Goodbye and In The Blink Of An Eye were great ballads that showcased the softer side of Sears. Er, I mean the group ;) Third and final album (remember I'm discounting the debut) New Arrival was some tracks from their last album, but enough new ones to make it worthwhile. The set is a grand tour of pop music from lively and catchy floorfillers to slow and romantic ballads. If I had been picking singles from this album, I would have led off with their amazing version of One Night In Bangkok (equally as enjoyable as Steps Tragedy and Chain Reaction covers) and followed it up with Shame Shame Shame, which would have slotted in nicely with several disco covers in the charts at the time (Atomic Kitten's Ladies Night and Blue's Signed Sealed Delivered to name but a few). Perfect Match was the 00s version of Opposites Attract and just as catchy while Let your Heart Do All The Talking is swede pop at it's finest. A greatest hits followed, Dhani tried to go solo, Maria succeeded and the time for their music passed. But it sure was a lot of fun while they were around :) Here's how the greatest hits should have looked…
Upside Down
Halfway Round The World (mp3)
Sugar Rush
Around The Corner Of Your Eye
Heartbreak Lullaby
I Can't Help Falling In Love With You
Hi And Goodbye (mp3)
In The Blink Of An Eye
One Night In Bangkok (mp3)
Shame Shame Shame
Let Your Heart Do All The Talking
Perfect Match
I Promised Myself
With or Without You
The Final Cut

LINK: Buy A*Teens greatest hits cd
LINK: Buy Maria Serneholt's Enjoy The Ride cd
Every year on first of December, regular as clockwork, I dig out my festive reads and Christmas movies… and sometimes Christmas episodes of my favourite tv show. The season only comes round once a year and I am always determined to immerse myself in festive joviality as much as I can while I can. While there are lots of "classics" in Christmas literature, I'm going to focus on two of the more recent entries. First up is one of my favourite John Grisham books, Skipping Christmas (which later became a movie Christmas With The Kranks, presumably to avoid the stench of flop associated with Ben Affleck's Surviving Christmas). Essentially this book is a modern day retelling of A Christmas Carol with a married couple (The Kranks) whose only child is away for Christmas decide to save money by Skipping Christmas (hey!) and going on a cruise instead. They both get into the spirit of their non-holiday season, despite opposition from their church leader, neighbours and colleagues. Everything all comes together in a heartwarming way at the end (it is Christmas) and the novel is funny and very readable commentary on the excessive spending that takes place in December and people's reaction (and sometimes intolerance) to anyone who deviates from the perceived norm… .
Dave Baldacci's The Christmas Train takes a different approach, but is no less heartwarming (some may say syrupy – and to them I say Bah! Humbug! in an intolerant Skipping Christmas neighbour sort of way) in its conclusion or moral. It's literally a journey of discovery for a journalist banned from flying, who has to uncover a mystery thief, learn of old fashioned values of comraderie in a crisis and sort out his love life. There is a definite yearning from the author for simpler, pre 9-11 times and overall, this book always gives me the festive glow I'm looking for…
LINK: Buy John Grisham's Skipping Christmas
LINK: Buy David Baldacci's The Christmas Train

Why I declare, it was only a year ago that Darren and I were sunning it up in Vegas on a pre-Christmas shopping trip. While I clearly got into the spirit of it by posing in festive hats, the most I got out of DazGrinch was posing with a lego man. Hardly entering into the spirit is it? Still yin and yang and all that.
. While we were there, one of the cds I had made featured lots of the early millennium pop acts doing their takes on fun Christmas classics and giving them a distinctly dance pop flavouring. As I've been discussing A*teens today (and mainly because Maria has a santa hat pic of herself on myspace) let's start off with their glittering cover of I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday, which then could seamlessly merge with Steps Merry Christmas Everybody (complete with dodgy Lisa Scott-Lee middle eight of her warbling "what would you do when you see your mommy kissing santa claus") before hop skip and jumping over to SclubJrs cute little Sleigh Ride. And no one does a Sleigh Ride better than Debbie Gibson (as she was then). Britney has her Only Christmas Wish which sounds suspiciously but gloriously like Darlene Love's Alone At Christmas what with chiming bells and whatnot. And lets throw in the gloriously rubbish yet brilliant Fast Food Rockers I Love Christmas while we're at it ;) Only Sclub7 steady the pace somewhat with the quite serene Perfect Christmas which I quote from in my card to DazParty every single year. Lucky guy :)
DOWNLOAD: TheZapping Christmas Goes Pop Cd Mix (zip file)
~ ex-5ive boy Sean Conlon has a new song on his myspace and reportedly the debut single will be Take Me Over out in Feb :)
~ Billie Myers, whose song Kiss The Rain i was in love with for several months in the 90s is back! Who knew? Arjan apparently -
pop on over there and get a guilt free download!
~ PPG is all giddy over her Darren Hayes version of Last Christmas (and rightly so!) and her Antony Callea album has arrived "to boot"... It's like Christmas has come early :)
~It's not enough that Dan and his wife have lovely inviting blogs, but now he loves my fave two Whitney albums too. I may have to have a group hug...Oh my and 9to5 too?!
~ Just to remind you there are a plethora of great christmas albums and soundtracks over at Kimberlys fine page :)
~ Yet another Holiday Diaries post is up. It's the most drunk I have EVER seen Darren...
Coming soon: More Take That retrospecticus; an old but new to me rare Cathy Dennis song I just discovered; more Christmas stuff - including tv shows!; some super new pop acts; underappreciated albums; the skinny on thezapping record company project; a big Simon Curtis post; top 20 singers... and much much more :)


  1. Will said...
    And, and! Closer To Perfection has to be one of the greatest pop songs ever!
    I Promised Myself could have been a huge as an xmas single too. The A Teens have to be shining example of what pure pop music is all about - so happy, energetic and catchy.
    J'ason D'luv said...
    Pablo! You're quoting me entirely out of context here... I love Take That's new stuff. That line you posted is a punchline to the much larger topic of how all these acts from the past are making me feel nostalgic, and inevitably depressed over fleeting youth.

    Speaking of useless whores -- Billie Myers...who?

    Love "DazGrinch!"

    (See, I actually read your posts -- long though they may be -- in their entirety, and not just the last sentence, minx.
    Poster Girl said...
    It is like Christmas early! Now, if only I could sort out my feelings towards said album...(I like "Antonym" as a nickname, though) At least I have this Christmas pop mix! Ooo! And what great synergy (symmetry? complimentaritry?) between here and ChartRigger--now I be captivated by the Fast Food Rockers video and listen to their song!

    The A*Teens--brilliant! And I'm so thrilled to see "Firefly" on that tracklisting--not as exuberant as many of their other songs, but so pretty and really emotional.

    Never knew the history of Take That--that's really interesting. And you're right--I don't know if record companies today would give them that many chances. Makes me wonder what we're missing out on when artists don't have time to grow at all...
    Paul said...
    Will - ooo closer to perfection. great song. And their cover of The Letter. marv. Viva the teens of the "a"...

    D'Luv - aw don't be mad you know i luv d'luv you baby ;) I was using artistic license to get the start of my post going. You should be flattered you were able to give me the thrust i needed ;) ;) Do you really not remember Kiss The Rain? I tried to kiss the rain once but it slapped me with a harassment suit. And of course i always read all your posts you rogueish scoundrel!!

    PPG - which i think was also a weapon in Babylon 5 (god i'm a big nerd today). Am loving the new word complimentaritry. I shall use it in a sentence at work today. And stay tuned for more take that. And then more. And probably some more :)
    J'ason D'luv said...
    I'm not mad... I just don't want the kids thinkin' I dislike Take That! I'm a lover, not a fighter.

    Of course I remember "Kiss The Rain." Picture this one: It's a rainy winter day in early 1998... I'm living in my first apartment in Pittsburgh, a few months after graduating college, and I'm sitting in a McDonald's parking lot eating a cheeseburger before I have to drive off to my sh***y job as a room service waiter at a Doubletree Hotel downtown... working the 2:30 pm to 11 pm shift. "Kiss The Rain" comes on the radio. My car is covered in grimey, dirty mud from the remnants of the snow that's melted.

    That's how I'll remember that song.

    And I'll give you a few thrusts anytime you need 'em, cowboy...

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