Since I am back, back again, it seems only fair to open talking about Eminem's new single 'We Made You', which begins with Eminem asking, "Guess who? D'you miss me?" to which the answer is invariably a resounding yes, which is what makes it such a shame that this is so bizarrely rubbish. You know the drill by now, right? Eminem has been on holiday, but he is about to touch down again in popland and the world's celebrities are trembling in their cribs, waiting to see which of them will meet the sharp end of his lyrics. It's what happened in the madly superb 'Without Me', it happened again in the less memorable 'Just Lose It', and it's what you can expect from 'We Made You', too, only this time it appears Eminem has been on holiday on Mars (perhaps he's Dr. Manhattan) and on his return, his advisors have answered his first questions of "So! Who's it important for me to lampoon this time? Who are our international objects of ridicule this year?" with "Um...we...well...uh... It's probably on Go Fug Yourself?" Thus the new Eminem single takes its anger out on Jessica Simpson, Kim Kardashian, Amy Winehouse, Lindsay Lohan, Britney, Jennifer Aniston and, even more inexplicably, Ellen Degeneres, Portia de Rossi and Sarah Palin. In the video, this is interspersed with footage of Em and Dr. Dre hanging out as people from Star Trek.
There's a marvellous expression Eminem gives to the camera just at the very end of the video which seems to quietly and slightly shamefacedly proclaim "...I don't know, why are you looking at me?" and I can only hope that serves to inform us that this was something marketing insisted on, and his next single will be as vicious and awe-inspiring as usual. And involve less talk of Kim Kardashian's arse.
Lily Allen has another new single. I don't know how you feel about her music, or about her - I like her, though, and she has yet to release a song I didn't find myself warming to, even if subsequently hearing it every ten minutes played everywhere on everything often led to a rapid cooling-off period afterwards. 'The Fear' was wonderful, though - I'm still not tired of it - and 'Not Fair' is equally brilliant, if so tongue-in-cheek I'm slightly amazed she can sing it at all. It is a gleeful faux-country lament about how her otherwise supremely perfect boyfriend is frankly not up to it in bed, with an accompanying video that delights me in many ways. I'd like to talk about the adorable backing singers or the banjo-wielding walking mullet, but I can't, because the drummer exists and that is all I will be able to focus on for the next three minutes. He looks like someone's crossed Jarvis Cocker with an extremely irritated Irishman and I cannot take my eyes off him. Everyone else is doing good-natured C&W mockery, and he seems to be approximately thirty seconds away from stabbing them all to death with his drumsticks out of sheer overwhelming boredom. The camera is on him right now and he is looking back over his shoulder away from everything as if to beg the blank walls behind him to swallow him whole and release him from this madness. Towards the end he has lost his mind entirely and gawps pointlessly at the scene in front of him before adopting an expression of revolted disbelief. I love him. I want him to have his own show. He could just sprawl on a chaise longue making more and more disgusted noises before pressing a little button that excised someone from the human race at random. I'm sure he'd be happy.
So, a couple of days ago I linked to a website entitled Look At This Fucking Hipster, which I realise suggests that I support the outright mockery of people who have hairstyles like post-modern origami and wear T-shirts with ironic slogans, but actually, I was reminded yesterday of how much it is possible to love them, and why. I heard this song a couple of months ago now and meant to mention it then, but it is Metro Station's 'Shake It', a song that seems to have lain criminally overlooked for nearly two years before, presumably, someone gave them some money and a leg-up and let them make possibly the most ludicrously great scene kid video ever. You have never been as cool as the people in this video. You will never be as cool as the people in this video. And that might make you want to hate them, but you can't, because they are so young, and hopeless, and dancing, and it is wonderful. They're breaking into a theatre! OMG! They're dancing on the stage and maybe it's against the law or something! Dude! It's like there might be a panic! At the disco!
I love this song and I love these people. And you will probably hate these people, but you should at least give this song a chance, because it is a great electro-indie track, a thing positively vibrating with the kind of youth you have to be to believe in yourselves enough to write a song like this, or indeed to breakdance on a theatre stage in the middle of the night.
Speaking of hipsters, though, Look At This Fucking Calvin Harris. What - and I mean seriously, what - does he think he is doing, in his new video? I had some time for 'Acceptable In The 80s', principally because, yes, it mentions the 80s, and 'The Girls' fell only slightly short of bearable (seriously, Calvin, I'm sorry you weren't here when everyone else did this in 2001, but you'll just have to do some reading and catch up, okay?), but this...thing, what is it? The song is better - a quiet, thoughtful opening that leads into a passable dance track that belongs in a bar on a space station somewhere - but the video is having a laugh. In case you don't want to or can't watch it, I will describe it :
A small boy is in the snow, pulling along a sled whose passenger is his blue teddy bear. Meanwhile, a coat (possibly containing a person) is walking down some stone corridors. Bear. Corridors. Bear. A girl is sprawled in some rafters. Bear. The boy makes a small fire in the snow and cuddles his bear. Corridors. Suddenly the boy looks around and leaves hurriedly, abandoning his bear in the snow. The coat opens doors to reveal it is Calvin Harris, and he is in a laboratory that may also be a dungeon. A nurse is in a cage. Calvin starts some electricity. The room is full of girls. They start to dance. Calvin has some diamante shades. Nurse. Shades. Nurse. Calvin has some knives. He has a blueprint of a teddy bear. He operates on the nurse. The rest of the girls are still dancing. This goes on for two minutes, at the end of which Calvin has a teddy bear.
Obviously! And now I am going to stop talking about him, because he doesn't deserve it.
So I'll talk about something fantastic for a bit, instead. I've been hearing about The Noisettes for a while now, but being featured on an advert has apparently made people take more notice, and so now their single 'Don't Upset The Rhythm' is in the charts. Which is good, because even though it's not entirely my thing, it is a tremendous pop record that in 24 hours has moved into my heart, bought chairs, chosen curtains and kicked its heels up with a cup of tea. It sounds like the daughter of The Selecter and a disco ball and it is divine. I can't even begin to cover the infectious joy or sheer bloody gorgeousness of their singer, either. I should have listened harder before now, clearly, and so should everyone else.
Do you know what's hilarious? Ciara's current video featuring the ineffable Justin Timberlake is hilarious. The song is titled 'Love Sex Magic' and it's not why we're here, because for the most part it sounds like exactly what it is - a meeting between the production companies responsible for Ciara's music and for Justin's. It's slick and depthless and that's fine, because it gives me room to talk about the video. It's about sex. It's really, really about sex - for Ciara, anyway. Off she goes, grinding and crawling around and doing improbable ballet exercises and generally trying to prove that she is an animal who, according to the lyrics, will "be flowing and going till clothing disappears, nothing but shoes on me". Oh dear.
The thing is, I'm not sure Justin's really...feeling it. I mean, yes, sure, he's standing or sitting there and letting her get her sexy all over him, but there's something about Justin Timberlake's face that perpetually makes me think he's being sarcastic - I don't know what it is. He just doesn't seem to be very interested when she's licking his ear, or singing at his cheek - honestly, the first time he perks up is when she says that thing about the shoes. Then, suddenly, she is literally over his knee with her arse up - I mean, subtlety has had to go and have a long lie down by this point - and he is waggling his gloved hand like a cheap magician, and then playing with the lapels of his jacket, and, I mean, he does look at her arse, but it really does seem as though he's just making sure it's still there. Which is reinforced by the bit a minute later where he pulls back the waistband of her leggings and has a quick check. I know it's supposed to be nakedly sexy, but I cannot make it anything less than childishly hysterical no matter how many times I watch it. Sorry.
Speaking of videos, I...need to talk about Beyonce's current single 'Halo'. Again, not the song, so much, although it is a very strange piece of emotive R&B indeed - deep heavy beats but aching, open piano, massively overproduced synthesised strings, and it's lent an extra level of weirdness by the vocal line including some notes that are much lower than I think I've ever heard her sing; she can hit them fine, it's just odd. And maybe without the oddness, the video would play more straightforwardly. Maybe? I don't know.
I'm so confused, guys. I'm sure what I am supposed to be watching is a soaring, beautiful romance; a four-minute depiction of unalterable happiness, a glorification of the untainted goodness of Beyonce's man. The colour scheme is almost all white; white clothes, white furniture, white rooms, white light, white fuzzy wedding-photo effect on the lens. I'm sure it is supposed to be unswervingly heartwarming, which is why I am so confused, because watching the video gives me a sense of impending horror more total than the moment in a movie where someone says "What was that?" and someone else says "It's nothing." It's partly the moments I feel like I'm not meant to notice; the brief cuts to an empty ballroom in which Beyonce is expressionlessly practicing dance moves in front of four vast mirrors while - I swear - her bloke watches her creepily from above. The switch between long, blurred close-ups of her miming and looking infinitely fragile, and background scenes of her and her man being horribly normal - laughing and dancing together and having fun brushing their teeth (seriously) - don't help, either, and nor does the inexplicable bit where she's suddenly floating in a tank of water. The entire final forty seconds is devoted to Beyonce + man in bed, the camera inches away from their mouths as he lies on top of her and she whispers the lyrics at him, and I am convinced that the second the cameras are off he lovingly places a pillow over her face and suffocates her to death. Please change my mind.
And so I come inevitably to Lady Gaga. Inevitably and belatedly, I know, but it took a long time for me to bring myself to write about her. I am so sick of this woman, y'all. I am so sick of her nasal voice and her quirky wardrobe that I would love on someone I was less sick of and her terrible first single 'Just Dance' which I am not even going to go into here - it was godawful. But I am even more irritated by 'Poker Face', because with a few small exceptions, if it had been made by anybody else, I would have really loved it. Not, obviously, the bit where she informs us that she's "bluffin' with my muffin" (god, why), but then I don't think anybody else on earth would have thought that line was okay, so my point still stands. It's got a tremendous first few bars of thick black and gold electro, it's got a perfectly acceptable and horribly catchy chorus, bits of the melody aren't dull...all in all, if it wasn't sung in a lacklustre monotone by someone who looks like someone has sucked all the charm out of Peaches Geldof - oh, I know - it'd be great. But it is. So it's appalling. Can someone please, for the love of god, cover it and then I can listen to that instead?
Finally, if you want a not-particularly-deep but very glorious piece of pop music you could do a lot worse than 'Jai Ho! (You Are My Destiny)', the English-language version of A. R. Rahman's fantastic closing track from Slumdog Millionaire redone with him and Nicole Scherzinger and, technically, I suppose, the other Pussycat Dolls. It might lack the integrity of the original, but it's still an absolute dream of a song as far as I'm concerned. The end.
Next week : Watchmen. Maybe.