I know you lot. You're all alternative types and goths and all that sort of thing. I know how you feel about modern pop music. And you know how *I* feel about it. We've all been here before. ~s~
This month, for one reason or another, you should be mostly listening to...
The absolute best thing that I've heard this month, no exceptions and nothing to even come close, is the first solo single from Gwen Stefani (ex of No Doubt). Called 'What You Waiting For?', it is a shimmering, sky-high, impassioned, neon plastic synthesised bitter dirty gorgeous lipsticked record studded with paste jewels and covered in fake cream and it screams I am fucking cooler than you only slightly louder than it screams I don't want to be here any more. It is at once incredibly powerful and just a very, very good piece of music, and the only thing better than just listening to the song is watching the video, the latest in a long and hallowed tradition of warping Alice In Wonderland to suit your particular needs.
Imagine the last ten years of Vogue magazine, with all its glossy photoshoots, all its oh-so-stylish featurettes and featured-ettes, all its interviews with perfectly painted-up celebrities pouring their hearts out onto its shiny, impeccably-designed pages. Now record that. Only don't, because Gwen Stefani already has. It's amazing. And I will shut up about it now, honest. :)
Women rank highly in this list. There's a somewhat unexpected double-shot of collaborative excellence from the still very very gorgeous Christina Aguilera this month - first with her cover of 'Car Wash', from the soundtrack to Shark Tale, which is helped along by the inestimable Missy Elliott and a few hundred times more animated and entertaining than the original ever was. Of course she shows off - it wouldn't seem right if she didn't - but it is a great cover and full of bouncy joy and the occasional aside from Will Smith and I like it.
Besides, her other achievement is orders of magnitude more bizarre - she has teamed up with seemingly irredeemable rapper Nelly (a man with more crap to his name than Baldrick) and made a really good record. It's called 'Tilt Ya Head Back' and basically features both of them discussing the pros and cons of having sex with each other, which sounds dire but it's actually an extremely sophisticated piece of music, with Nelly kept firmly out of the limelight by Ms Aguilera's vocal antics. Just the way it should be - but without him it would lose the edge of chic sleaze which makes it so good.
And neatly linking in to that - Women? Check. R&B? Check. Sophisticated? Check - er, sort of. The 411 are back again with a rather stunning song called 'Teardrops', which samples Portishead, a crime I'd probably not be inclined to forgive them for if they weren't using it to extremely good effect. I really like The 411, and I stand behind my earlier comment that they could be heading into the space that Destiny's Child have left behind. Except that, um. There's no way I can say this that isn't going to sound bad, but they should follow in spirit the example of the long-lost Eternal and ditch the white girl. In the video for 'Teardrops' all the other girls look wonderful, elegant and downright classy. And the white girl? Looks like a man in drag trying to be Glenn Close. It just isn't helping, girls. Please trust me on this one.
And yet more women - the relentlessly chirpy Dannii Minogue has a single out at the moment called 'You Won't Forget About Me', and it's a beautiful piece of dancefloor pop, all sweeping strings and slightly indie harmonies, and she really can sing, y'know. Elsewhere there's a dance act called Deep Dish, who with their song 'Flashdance' contrive to sound as if they've stolen one very small riff from New Order and then forced Justine Frischmann from Elastica (or possibly the girl from Lush) to sing over the top of it. Good stuff.
That's not to say that the boys haven't tried this month, only that they haven't particularly succeeded. Oh, apart from good old Rammstein - I heard them doing their new single 'Amerika' on MTV2 the other day. It's not amazing, but it's good in the way that all Rammstein ever is good, and the lyrics are, of course, mostly nonsense with the occasional sideswipe at consumerist culture thrown in. Also passing me by on MTV2 were a band called The Departure, who, although I didn't catch the name of their song, seemed kind of like Interpol only actually listenable. Possibly to be looked out for.
I should also mention that I tracked down the song I talked about last time that should be (but isn't) called 'All Dressed Up And Ready To Go' - I still don't know what it's called, but it's by the 80s Matchbox B-Line Disaster and it reminded me that I've never actually raved about them on LJ, so it's about time I did that. They're a very strange, angular, brilliant British indie band who turn up with a perfect single (like this one) every six months or so and then disappear completely. The NME like them almost as much as I do, but don't let that put you off.
The other band with a gorgeous new song out this month are my beloved Scissor Sisters, whose song 'Mary' is, admittedly, the fifth off the album, but what a beautiful song it is. I feel even more strongly now that the Scissor Sisters are sort of what would have happened to George Michael in an ideal world - they are at the absolute pinnacle of a particular kind of songwriting and although for most bands you'd think "well, the only way from here is down" I believe they have it in them to go on making records every bit as good as this. 'Mary' is quietly luminescent bittersweet slow-dance music - and, yes, still the gayest music ever made - and I love it.
Oh, yeah, and there's Eminem, with 'Just Lose It', as well. Someone in the Observer Music Magazine described this as "the sound of a genius, just losing interest" and there's not a whole lot I can add to that. 'Just Lose It' is in the same vein as 'Without Me' and 'The Real Slim Shady', that strange multicoloured twisted funhouse that Eminem takes time off in occasionally, and it just sounds sort of...sad. Like he knows what will work and doesn't mind doing it, but he also knows how plastic and awful it is. 'Without Me' was defiant. 'Just Lose It' is only resigned. I still think Eminem is one of the best artists in the world, but it feels a little like he's given up, and that's a great shame.
Also on a downswing, although I'm sure it's only temporary, are Franz Ferdinand, whose new single 'This Fire' is like 'Michael' but without any of the good things. What Franz Ferdinand really (*really*) need is a new album, preferably one that's somehow a progression from the first. They're stuck in their extremely oddly-shaped rut just at the moment, and I believe better things of them than 'This Fire' delivers.
And if Franz Ferdinand need a new album, a band who really don't are the dear old Manic Street Preachers. A band I'd love to take gently by the shoulders and just say, "Please, please stop making music. Please. A lot of your old stuff was brilliant and I've no quarrel with any of that, but...now you're just being silly." Their new song is a chirpy, upbeat indie number called 'The Love Of Richard Nixon'. I mean, really. Please.
The horror this month is brought to you courtest of Westlife - of course it is - and the man who is supposedly the hope of British urban music, Mr Dizzee Rascal. The latter has found a way to butcher 'Happy Talk' by Captain Sensible, and although I'd usually want you to listen to all the things I post about I sincerely urge you to avoid this bloody thing if it's at all possible. It makes me cry. It makes my brain try to escape out of my ears. It is horrific. Bad. Bad bad bad bad bad.
Next to which Westlife just look a bit unfortunate, really. Taking a leaf out of their erstwhile manager Ronan's book they have decided to embark on a series of unfortunate cover versions, in their case of old Brat Pack numbers, the first of which is 'Ain't That A Kick In The Head'. I would like to be the first - I probably won't be, but I would like to be - to make reference based on this to a kick in the head being the best possible way to treat Westlife. It is dire, but in a comedy way, so you're safe to listen to it unless you're a particularly big fan of the Brat Pack. In which case I advise you to batten down the hatches and hide under the table, because yes, you've guessed it, there's a whole album of the stuff coming out very soon.
Until the next time. Thank you! There will be one edit to this post this afternoon when I have more time - just one more song to add.