Album Review: Lily Allen – No Shame

Lily Allen returns after four years with her most personal and deep record yet. Continue reading

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Single Reviews: Paloma Faith, Lily Allen and Pixie Lott

This week, three major female pop artists from the UK launched their new singles. Paloma Faith premiered the video for the lead single of her new album, ‘Can’t Rely On You’, Lily Allen premiered the new single ‘Air Balloon’ and Pixie Lott released the video for ‘Nasty’, the first single for her new album. Let’s take a look at those three brand new songs!

paloma faith can't rely on you single cover

Review: Paloma Faith – Can’t Rely On You
Paloma Faith announced the March release date of her new album last week, and Monday she dropped the new single and video ‘Can’t Rely On You’. From the first listen, it becomes apparent Faith took a whole new direction in her career. The song is less poppy, and more soulful, funky and edgy. At first, I was not convinced this would be the right style for her as I hoped for a beautiful pop song like ‘Picking Up The Pieces’, but the new single turns out to be a grower and Paloma’s raw vocal style fits the atmosphere of the song very well. It is not a surprise that ‘Can’t Rely On You’ is produced by Pharrell Williams, as the beat sounds quite similar to the production of his hit with Robin Thicke, ‘Blurred Lines’. The video is full of beautiful symbolism and metaphors. In the end we see Paloma left alone on the backseat of a driving car, she gets drowned in a bath with a white fluid and a group of women try to calm her down when she has a breakdown. It is all beautiful, but quite complex at the same time. “This is just the beginning”, Paloma says in Italian at the end. I am sure we will see quite some exciting stuff from Paloma in the next few months!

Lily Allen Air Balloon single cover

Review: Lily Allen – Air Balloon

Lily Allen announced to retire from music in 2009, but after the birth of two baby daughters the singer made a comeback at the end of last year. She released the singles ‘Hard Out Here’ and ‘Somewhere Only We Know’, a cover of the Keane song. Now it is time for the single ‘Air Balloon’. It basically has all the ingredients a successful Lily track needs. It is poppy, has a killer hook, an incredibly catchy chorus and of course some cheeky lyrics. At some points in the song she even sounds a bit like M.I.A.. It is definitely a good and contagious track that could do well in the charts, but it feels a bit Allen by the numbers. Lily recently stated that she thinks record labels are afraid of taking risks. “That’s quite frustrating as an artist, when it comes to picking singles, because they only ever want to go for the watered-down stuff”, Lily said to NME. Let’s hope we get to hear more of experimental Lily on her new record.

Pixie Lott Pixie Lott album cover

Review: Pixie Lott – Nasty
Pixie Lott released her most recent album Young Foolish Happy in 2011. She has been working on a new record for quite a while and she previewed the track ‘Heart Cry’ in December. Now it is time for the release of the first official single ‘Nasty’. This song was recorded previously by Christina Aguilera and Cee-Lo Green to appear on the soundtrack of the movie Burlesque. It did not make the final cut as the producers did not get the rights to use the James Brown sample. For Pixie’s version this is all set and her vocals work well on the seductive track. ‘Nasty’ is catchy, naughty and swings and it absolutely sounds like something that would have fitted perfectly on the Burlesque soundtrack. The video shows a flirty Pixie dancing in a club. It is not really Pixie’s best song to date, but she should be able to get at least a decent hit out of it.

The ten most exciting pop comebacks to happen in 2014

Earlier this week, I wrote about new artists that will make it in 2014, but of course there are lots of established acts that will release new material this year as well. I listed the ten most exciting artists that are working on a smashing comeback. Take a look!

Loreen
10. Loreen
Loreen rose to fame after winning the Eurovision Song Contest in 2012 with the song ‘Euphoria’. It became a big hit across Europe and the singer released her debut album Heal. Loreen was supposed to go on a tour in December, but she postponed it because she wanted to work on new material in the studio first. She has been posting some pictures from the studio ever since so it seems fair to expect she will release something new in the near future, right? Right!

Frank Ocean promo
09. Frank Ocean
Frank Ocean released his debut album Channel Orange in 2012 and received high praise from music critics. The record did quite well charts wise as well and the singer has been working on some new material, that he already introduced on his recent tour. The singer has been recording in the studio quite some time, so a 2014 release seems likely. If the quality of Channel Orange is anything to go by, Frank Ocean will make another defining quality R&B record.

Lily Allen
08. Lily Allen
Lily Allen started a huge comeback at the end of 2013. She released her most recent album in 2009 and announced to quit music. Luckily she came back though, with the singles ‘Hard Out Here’ and ‘Somewhere Only We Know’, a cover of the Keane song. The latter gave her a number 1 hit in the United Kingdom. Her album is supposed to come out in a few months and she will premiere the new song ‘Air Balloon’ this week. It is good to have her back!

Marina & The Diamonds
07. Marina & The Diamonds
There is no official announcement made yet, that said Marina & The Diamonds will return with a new album in 2014. It is very likely however, as the singer finished her Electra Heart era with a video for the song with the same name. At the end, Marina wipes out Electra’s heart on her cheek, which symbolized the end of the campaign. It has been almost two years since the album came out, so I would expect a new release from Marina in the second part of 2014. I surely hope I am right!

Paloma Faith can't rely on you
06. Paloma Faith
In 2012, Paloma Faith had a very successful year with the release of her sophomore album Fall To Grace. After a tour through the UK, the singer started working on a new record, which will be released on the 3rd of March. This was announced earlier this week on the social media pages of the singer. Her new single ‘Can’t Rely On You’ will be premiered this week. If it is just as good as her previous album and the great single ‘Picking Up The Pieces’, I cannot wait to hear it!

kylie minogue promo
05. Kylie Minogue
Kylie’s most recent studio album Aphrodite was released in 2010. She went on a big tour the next year and celebrated her 25 years in music. In 2013 she signed a management deal with Roc Nation for a fresh new chapter in her career. This new phase started with the promo single ‘Skirt’ last year. The official first single, ‘Into The Blue’, will premiere later this month and is officially released on the 16th of March in the United Kingdom. I guess we are all ready for Kylie’s glorious return to the dance floor.

Sia Furler
04. Sia
This woman was all over pop music last year, but she only released two songs herself. The beautiful and understated ‘Kill And Run’ was used for The Great Gatsby soundtrack and the outstanding collaboration with Diplo and The Weeknd, ‘Elastic Heart’, was featured on the soundtrack of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Other than that, she wrote songs for pop stars like Céline Dion, Britney Spears, Katy Perry, Birdy and many more. Let’s not forget her hits with David Guetta and the worldwide smash hit ‘Diamonds’ she wrote for Rihanna. This year, she will release her own songs for a change and if the above mentioned tracks are anything to go by, it will be bloody brilliant.

Shakira can't remember to forget you
03. Shakira
It has been quite a few years since we got new material from Shakira. Her most recent album Sale El Sol came out in 2010. In January 2013, Shakira gave birth to a son and she was a judge on The Voice US for one season. She has also been working on a lot of new music with a great variety of famous producers, DJ’s and writers. The first single, ‘Can’t Remember To Forget You’, which features Rihanna, will come out this week. All I hope for the new record is to bring the best of Shakira’s both worlds: ‘Don’t Bother’-style pop/rock and ‘La Tortura’-style latin pop. That would be amazing, now wouldn’t it?

Lana Del Rey Ultraviolence
02. Lana Del Rey
Two years after the release of her album Born To Die, of course it is time for a new record. Lana Del Rey has been busy in the meantime, recording and releasing new tracks for Paradise, an afterthought on Born To Die. Last year she was featured on the soundtrack of the movie The Great Gatsby, with the gorgeous ‘Young and Beautiful’ and in December, she put out her short film Tropico. At the premiere of the film she announced her new album is called Ultraviolence and it is probably supposed to be released in 2014. She is said to be working with the same people who produced Born To Die. Bring it on Lana!

Adele 2014
01. Adele
There is no doubt about the fact that lots of people are eagerly waiting for a new album by Adele. After the huge successes of her previous record 21, the expectations are extremely high. It might be impossible for her to top that success story, but I am pretty sure that she will make a huge impact on the pop music scene again. Her publicist Paul Moss announced last week that her new album will definitely be released in 2014. The release of 24 (or whatever the record might be called) is coming closer!

The best pop videos of 2013

Best Videos pop 2013

The fifteen best videos in pop in 2013

In the next few days I will publish some end-of-year lists to show you what my favourites were in pop music this year. I will start with the best 15 pop music videos that were released in 2013. There were quite some great videos to see the light of day this year, here is my pick:

15. Antti Tuisku – Rakkaus On.
Finnish pop star Antti Tuisku made a comeback this year with the single ‘Rakkaus On.’. The video for the song features Tuisku in various gorgeous landscapes with beautiful colours that symbolize the four elements. The parts where he is partly buried in sand are gorgeous and Antti standing on a mountain with his clothes flowing in the wind is a tad dramatic, but pretty great to look at. Visually, this is one of the most beautiful videos I have seen this year.

14. Chlöe Howl – Paper Heart
Chlöe Howl is a newcomer in the British music scene, but she will probably be one of the biggest new acts next year. The video for her single ‘Paper Heart’ has a simple concept, but is very effectively executed. We follow Chlöe when she gives a show in a park to break up with her boyfriend. The video plays nicely with the words of the song and this could definitely be called an epic way to break up with some douche bag. Well done Chlöe, we’ll hear more from you next year!



13. Gabrielle Aplin – Salvation

2013 was a big year for Gabrielle Aplin, as she released her successful debut album. She released ‘Salvation’ as the last single this year, with a gorgeous and fitting video, directed by Zaiba Jabbar. The story of needing someone to get through a tough period in life is perfectly depicted in the choreographed video. The movements, setting and atmosphere of the video all complement the song and Gabrielle herself looks stunning throughout the whole thing.

12. Jenni Vartiainen – Junat Ja Naiset
2013 has been a good year when it comes to videos by Finnish pop stars. Just like Antti Tuisku, Jenni Vartiainen made a gorgeous music video in breathtaking landscapes. In comparison to Tuisku, Vartiainen’s ‘Junat Ja Naiset’ is depicted way darker and more mysterious. The video is intriguing with all its metaphors and dark costumes. Almost every shot is beautiful and leaves you wanting to see the video again and again.

11. Diana Vickers – Cinderella
Sometimes, all a good music video needs is a cute love story. Diana Vickers must have known this when she filmed the video for her single ‘Cinderella’. The video is basically a modern take on the fairytale in which Vickers escapes from a party with a cute looking guy she just met. The two steal some drinks and end up in a pool. Nothing complicated, but just a beautifully depicted little love story of a cute and gorgeous couple.

10. Tom Odell – Another Love
This beautiful song by Tom Odell has two different videos which are both worthy of a place in this top 15. The first one was released in November 2012 and features Tom Odell in a room stoically singing the song to the camera while his girlfriend is putting op a fight with him. This was quite a hypnotic and impressive visual. In the second one, we see Odell spreading pictures of a missing girl through the city while he does not recognize her when he meets her. It is a beautiful story that goes well with the touching song. Two great videos for one song, impressive stuff!

09. Lily Allen – Hard Out Here
This, ladies and gentlemen, was the big comeback of the enfant terrible in pop music, Lily Allen. She came back in style with a funny and cheeky video that caused some controversy. The video criticized Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’ with some satire, including the line ‘Lily Allen has a baggy pussy’. The video, directed by Christopher Sweeney, in which the judgement on women in the music industry is criticized, sparked some controversy, because people thought Allen was objectifying black women. To all those people, Allen can only say: ‘If you can’t detect the sarcasm you’ve misunderstood’.

08. Justin Timberlake – Mirrors
This was the year of the comeback of Justin Timberlake as well. He released some music after quite some years of focusing on his acting career. ‘Mirrors’ was his most successful single and by far his best video. The video, directed by Floria Sigismondi, depicts the love of two people throughout their lives. We see different phases of getting to know each other, a first pregnancy and the death of one of them. It is al beautifully acted and shot and in the finale, we see a beautiful scene with Timberlake surrounded by mirrors. This video was definitely the best part of his comeback.

07. Veronica Maggio – Sergels Torg
Veronica Maggio is one of Sweden’s most popular artists and she made one of the most touching and heartbreaking videos of the year for her gorgeous single ‘Sergels Torg’. The video, directed by Mans Nyman, is shot in sunny territory, which contrasts with the feelings the song and video are about. Maggio, preparing for a party on her own in an apartment with a swimming pool, is beautiful to watch and her frustration and loneliness are intense in the climax of the song. We literally see her fall apart and this never looked so beautiful before.

06. Britney Spears – Work Bitch!
And then there was a not so impressive new single by Britney Spears. The video, directed by Ben Mor, however, was quite spectacular, when compared to her visual output in recent years. She showed us some attitude and the settings in the desert, at the pool with the sharks and some of the dance scenes were all very pleasant to look at. Britney looks better than she did in years and the whole vibe of the video comes across like she had a lot of fun at the shoot. Shame about the song, but that video was pretty great!



05. Katy Perry – Unconditionally

Actually, the same goes for Katy Perry. ‘Unconditionally’ might be her weakest single so far, but that video, directed by Brent Bonacorso, is just undeniably beautiful. Perry looks gorgeous, the sets are breathtaking and the slow motion/fast forwarding editing is completely in line with the melody and beat of the song. Great dancing scenes, beautiful owls and that car crash scene, all completely gorgeous. The ‘Roar’ video was fun, but this is absolutely impressive. One of her best videos so far!

04. Anouk – Birds
Anouk, the Dutch pride at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, not only did a great performance at the show, but recorded a beautiful video for her song ‘Birds’ as well. She worked together with director Dana Nechushtan and gave the song a whole new meaning. The music video kind of feels like a short film and breathes a similar atmosphere to Black Swan. Anouk herself only plays a small part as ballet teacher. The story about suicide is not what most people had in mind with the song at first and therefore gives the song a new dimension. That is quite something to achieve with a video!

03. Beyoncé – Pretty Hurts
One of the hardest tasks in making this top 15, was choosing just one Beyoncé video from her visual album. Quite a lot of videos on this album would be good enough for this list, but I wanted to pick only one per artist. The most meaningful and impressive video on BEYONCÉ was for ‘Pretty Hurts’, directed by Melina Matsoukas. We see Beyoncé participating in a beauty pageant and the peek behind the curtain shows she is not that happy with her life. The scene halfway through where the host asks her what her aspiration in life is, which seems like an eye-opener for her, is beautifully depicted. It tells the story of the song perfectly and this is definitely one of the best videos in her career.

02. Hozier – Take Me To Church
This is the video that surprised me the most out of all the things I have seen in 2013. I was absolutely moved and impressed by it. The video, directed by Brendan Canty, shines a whole new light on the meaning of the song and it is definitely a very powerful message of love and acceptance. It is obvious that this video is saying something about the new laws in Russia that make it harder for LGBT people to live their own life and easier for hateful people to discriminate them. It is a brave step for new Irish artist Hozier to record such a video and song and I will definitely look forward to new material next year!

01. Miley Cyrus – Wrecking Ball
Most of all, 2013 was the year of Miley Cyrus. Hit after hit, controversy after controversy. Her video for the single ‘Wrecking Ball’, directed by Terry Richardson, truly delivered some iconic visuals of her naked, swinging on a wrecking ball. These images will still be remembered in a few years time in pop culture. The video is daring, but Miley at the same time acts out the vulnerability that is described in the lyrics of the song. I am not a huge fan of the hammer licking, but other than that, everything in the video perfectly complements the song. Not only did this video have a lot of impact, it is executed very well and deserves it to be crowned as best video of the year!

Last but not least, some honourable mentions: Lana Del Rey’s stunning short film Tropico, did not qualify as a music video, Katy Perry’s ‘Roar’, Beyoncé’s ‘Mine’ and ‘Haunted’ and Miley Cyrus’ ‘We Can’t Stop’ did not make it, because other videos by the same artist did and Ellie Goulding’s ‘Burn’ just missed out in 16th place.

Single Review: Lily Allen – Hard Out Here

Lily Allen Hard Out Here single cover

It has been ages since Lily Allen released some music. Finally, the British singer is back with not one, but two new singles. Allen used to have quite some success with singles like ‘Smile’, ‘LDN’, ‘The Fear’, ‘Not Fair’ and ‘F*** You’, but since 2009, it has been fairly quiet around her. Last year she featured on the song ‘True Love’ on the album The Truth About Love by P!nk, which was released as a single earlier this year. Now she is officially back with her own new song ‘Hard Out Here’ and a cover of Keane’s ‘Somewhere Only We Know’, which she recorded for John Lewis’ annual Christmas advert.

Lily Allen released her debut album Alright, Still in 2006 and in 2009 It’s Not Me, It’s You followed. After the release of this second record, Allen announced a hiatus and even threatened us with the idea of her retiring from the music industry. Luckily, after giving birth to two daughters, Britain’s cheekiest singer is back in full force. Her new single ‘Hard Out Here’, that is preceding an album that will probably be released around March next year, is definitely a typical Allen track. Once again she delivers a happy sounding, catchy pop tune, with sharp and slightly satirical lyrics.

Lily Allen is known for speaking her mind convincingly in her songs, whether it is critiquing consumerism on ‘The Fear’ or George W. Bush’s politics on ‘F*** You’. On ‘Hard Out Here’ Allen satirically comments on the sexualisation in popular music. She states “it’s hard out here for a bitch” referencing to ‘Hard Out Here For A Pimp’ by Three 6 Mafia. She attacks the beauty ideals that are promoted for women saying “you should probably lose some weight, cause we can’t see your bones”. She also addresses the inequality between women and men when it comes to talking about sex: “If I told you about my sex life you’d call me a slut, when boys be talking about their bitches no one makes a fuss”.

In the video we see this story being told as well. Lily Allen starts out on an operating table where men are criticizing her body, saying she lacks self-discipline, because she does not have the size of a model. Later, we see Lily surrounded by dancers who are all twerking, which is meant to be satirical. The video references the well known and often criticized video for ‘Blurred Lines’ by Robin Thicke where a dancer is shown in front a sign saying ‘Robin Thicke has a big d*ck’. Lily Allen makes fun of this with a sign saying ‘Lilly Allen has a baggy pussy’. She also criticizes ‘Blurred Lines’ in the lyrics when she says “have you thought about your butt, who’s gonna tear it in two?”, referring to T.I.’s verse on Blurred lines where he raps “I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two”.

Beyond the great satirical lyrics and the funny video, there is also a good tune. ‘Hard Out Here’ is very catchy and it is hard not to sing along with the choruses. Maybe songs like ‘Not Fair’ and ‘The Fear’ were melodically a bit stronger, but still this is exactly the kind of comeback we wanted Lily to make. Sharp, catchy and funny as ever.

Meanwhile she recorded a piano cover of ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ by the band Keane for the Christmas advert of John Lewis in the United Kingdom. Every year, they ask an artist to cover a well known song in a stripped back version. In recent years, Ellie Goulding had a big hit with her interpretation of ‘Your Song’ and Gabrielle Aplin reached the number 1 spot in the charts with ‘The Power Of Love’. It seems like Lily Allen will reach the first place with her cover as well this weekend, as she has been on top of the UK iTunes chart all week. Her version of ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ is cute and sweet and perfectly fits the commercial. Allen’s voice sounds rather thin on the track but at the same time, this adds to the vulnerability that makes it an interesting cover. It is good to have Lily back in music and I certainly hope we will not have to miss her for another four years.

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Single Recensie: Lily Allen – Hard Out Here

Lily Allen maakt een comeback met twee nieuwe singles

Het is tijden geleden dat Lily Allen voor het laatst nieuwe muziek uitbracht. Eindelijk is de Britse nu terug met niet één, maar twee singles. Allen was behoorlijk succesvol met singles als ‘Smile’, ‘LDN’, ‘The Fear’, ‘Not Fair’ en ‘F*** You’, maar sinds 2009 werd het muzikaal zeer stil rondom haar. Vorig jaar was ze te horen op de track ‘True Love’ van P!nk’s album The Truth About Love, dat eerder dit jaar op single verscheen. Nu is ze officieel terug met haar eigen nieuwe song ‘Hard Out Here’ en een cover van Keane’s ‘Somewhere Only We Know’, die ze opnam voor de jaarlijke kerstreclame van John Lewis.

Lily Allen’s debuutalbum Alright, Still dateert alweer van 2006 en in 2009 kwam de opvolger It’s Not Me, It’s You. Na deze tweede plaat kondigde Allen een break aan en dreigde zelfs met het idee om met pensioen te gaan. Gelukkig is ze na de geboorte van haar twee dochters weer helemaal terug in topvorm. Haar nieuwe single ‘Hard Out Here’, een voorproefje van een album dat in maart volgend jaar zou moeten volgen, is weer een typisch Allen liedje. Ze komt wederom met een vrolijk, pakkend popliedje op de proppen, dat scherpe en satirische teksten met zich meedraagt.

Lily Allen staat erom bekend dat ze geen blad voor de mond neemt in haar liedjes, of het nu gaat om kritiek op de hebberigheid in de moderne maatschappij in ‘The Fear’ of de politiek van George W. Bush op ‘F*** You’. In ‘Hard Out Here’ levert de zangeres satirische kritiek op de seksualisering van de popmuziek. Ze zingt “it’s hard out here for a bitch” wat verwijst naar ‘Hard Out Here For A Pimp’ van Three 6 Mafia. Ze opent de aanval op de schoonheidsnormen waaraan vrouwen worden blootgesteld met de tekst “you should probably lose some weight, cause we can’t see your bones”. Daarnaast gaat ze in op de ongelijkheid tussen vrouwen en mannen als het aankomt op seksualiteit: “If I told you about my sex life you’d call me a slut, when boys be talking about their bitches no one makes a fuss”.

De tekst wordt krachtig verbeeld in de videoclip. We zien Lilly Allen op een operatietafel liggen waar mannen om heen staan die haar lichaam bekritiseren. Zo stellen ze dat Allen geen zelfdiscipline heeft, omdat ze er niet uitziet als een model. Later zien we de zangeres omringd door twerkende zangeressen in een scène die overduidelijk satirisch is bedoeld. Allen parodieert ook de veelbesproken video voor ‘Blurred Lines’ van Robin Thicke. In deze video is een scène te zien waarin een danseres danst voor de tekst ‘Robin Thicke has a big d*ck’. Dit wordt in ‘Hard Out Here’ belachelijk gemaakt door een danseres te laten dansen met de tekst ‘Lilly Allen has a baggy pussy’ achter haar. Ook in de lyrics wordt het liedje van Robin Thicke aangehaald. Als ze zingt “have you thought about your butt, who’s gonna tear it in two?”, verwijst dit naar T.I.’s rap in het lied waar hij zegt: “I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two”.

Achter de satirische tekst en grappige video gaat ook een goed liedje schuil. ‘Hard Out Here’ is zeer pakkend en het is moeilijk om niet mee te gaan zingen als Allen het refrein weer inzet. Misschien waren ‘Not Fair’ en ‘The Fear’ melodisch gezien wat sterker, maar toch is deze comeback precies wat Lily Allen zou moeten doen. Het is scherp, pakkend en grappig zoals we van haar gewend zijn.

Ondertussen heeft de zangeres ook nog een piano cover van ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ van de band Keane opgenomen voor de kerstreclame van John Lewis in het Verenigd Koninkrijk. Elk jaar wordt daar een artiest gevraagd om een bekend liedje te coveren in een akoestische setting. Enkele jaren geleden scoorde Ellie Goulding een hit met haar versie van ‘Your Song’ en vorig jaar wist Gabrielle Aplin de eerste plaats te bereiken met een vertolking van ‘The Power Of Love’. Het lijkt er sterk op dat Lily Allen komend weekend ook aan de top van de Britse hitlijsten zal staan, want ze voert de hele week de iTunes top 100 van de UK al aan. Haar versie van ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ klinkt lief en aandoenlijk en past perfect bij de reclame. Allen’s stem klinkt wel wat dunnetjes, maar dit draagt ook weer bij aan de breekbaarheid die deze cover juist zo interessant maakt. Het is goed om Lily Allen terug te hebben in de muziek en het is dan ook te hopen dat ze ons niet weer vier jaar zal laten wachten.