The Singles Jukebox
Basic Instinct III



and this is how we call it a comeback. There's returns for former favorites Ciara, Bertine Zetlitz, Margaret Berger, Depeche Mode, and Joan As Police Woman, as well as slightly less anticipated follow-ups from George Strait and Alesha Dixon. There's also the small matter of Roxette's "we have a Greatest Hits out, y'know" single (don't think I'm being ironic there either), Lil Wayne seeking inspiration off Spandau Ballet, and the Balearic-rockin' beats of La Oreja de Van Gogh (sorry, I went to a student radio conference last week, still not quite got over it). Before all that, we kick off with Kim-Lian, and possibly the cheapest video we've ever linked to in the Jukebox. I quite like the song, though. Unlike these bastards...


Kim-Lian - In Vain
[Watch the Video]
[3.40]

M.H. Lo: By most accounts, Dutch children TV presenter Kim-Lian is trying to come across as more grown-up on her second album. Out: fun rock songs like “Teenage Superstar.” In: being as overwrought and pointlessly melodramatic as possible, because that’s what adulthood entails, yay! With its trashing guitars and anguished wailing, “In Vain” finds Kim-Lian moaning about how hard her life is after her lover leaves her, but the details of the anguish are presented only in the sketchiest of terms. “I’m trying so hard to survive the rain / I'm constantly fighting my fears, my tears, in vain.” Whachutalkinbout? Don’t they have umbrellas in the Netherlands?
[2]

Iain Forrester: “I’m trying so hard to survive the pain” Yes, me too.
[2]

Hillary Brown: What if I want to like Kelly Clarkson, but I think the rock she brings is too hard and that the edges need to be filed down? Get this? Okay.
[4]

Erick Bieritz: The moody first 45 seconds are promising, but then someone hits a kettledrum and launches Lian into an atmosphere exploding with “Total Eclipse of the Heart”-isms. Too bad: A little subtlety and this could have been a respectable Girls Aloud b-side.
[4]


Roxette - One Wish
[Watch the Video]
[4.00]

Edward Oculicz: Roxette were my favorite band in the world in 1990 and the reason why was perfectly summed up by the ethos expressed in their singles compilation: Don’t Bore Us, Get to the Chorus. Per Gessle still crafts a hook, but this hangs around in the verse too long, squandering a delicious synth lick and bouncy beat with a bit of faffing.
[6]

M.H. Lo: “If you had one wish,” Roxette asks on their first new single in four years, “what would it be?” “You and me”? Sure. Who but hippies and Miss Universe contestants need world peace? Fortunately, the song is so bland and ineffectual that God is unlikely to be listening.
[2]

Ian Mathers: As with most Roxette singles “One Wish” should be great but actually isn't. Most of the elements are here, and there's even some scattered moments when you think the song is genuinely going to blossom, but the mix is overheated and overcrowded and they never really let the throttle out on the chorus. The last thing you should be able to say about a maximal, shiny pop song like this is that it's polite.
[6]

Mallory O’Donnell: When did we start covering reissues?
[1]


Bonnie Prince Billy - Cold & Wet
[Watch the Video]
[4.20]

Erick Bieritz: Even as an atypical genre chart entry, this seems arbitrary, clocking in at under two and a half minutes and offering no insistent lyrical or melodic elements; it just sounds like a piece of an album that broke off and floated away on its own.
[4]

Jonathan Bradley: The only interesting thing about this damply uninviting track is the blurting electric guitar that interrupts the blues strum. It doesn’t sound quite right, as if it’s meant to be a richly authentic solo, but the player faltered during the execution and, instead, stuttered a few notes out awkwardly. It is a unique moment, an instant of imagination and innovation, something this drudge severely lacks.
[2]

Hillary Brown: The offness of the notes picked here makes me a bit itchy, in a way that I can’t say for sure is pleasant or not. I’d sort of like to shake it all back into place, although it would be much less interesting.
[6]

Iain Forrester: Confession: I have heard nothing of Bonnie “Prince” Billy apart from “I See a Darkness.” Worse confession: that was only because Simple Kid covered it. I like the dusty, ancient feel of this song and its rickety momentum, but it’s not convincing me that my ignorance needs too much changing.
[6]


Jim Jones - We Fly High
[Watch the Video]
[4.60]

Ian Mathers: Jim Jones has always made a virtue out of sounding slightly intoxicated, but the contrast between that crisply threatening sample at the beginning and the weed-cloud haze of the synths and Jones' mockingly sloppy hook almost gives you a contact high.
[7]

Rodney J. Greene: There's a good song hidden in here, somewhere. Unfortunately, it's built around the superfly sample that occupies the first ten seconds and never shows itself again. The rest, one-word catchphrase aside, is inconsequential.
[3]

Kevin J. Elliott: The mystery remains why a perfectly dirty sample (five seconds of gritty, fuzz-soul) is sutured as the intro and never used once throughout the preceding four minutes. A Dipappointment, that plays lazy on all fronts.
[3]

Mallory O’Donnell: This song contains so much recycled money ‘n’ crime talk from the last three years it could be an advert for your city's waste management service.
[3]


The Alfee - Innocent Love
[4.80]

Rodney J. Greene: J-rock stuffed full with the sort of unjustifiable pomp that I am unable to resist. Huge chords build through the anthemic chorus until guitar rockets fly and explode in bright colors. I just wish I didn't hate the sound of the Japanese language being sung.
[6]

M.H. Lo: The strings in the first nine seconds are good, and then the next minute is tolerable. That still left me four plus minutes to consider whether I could possibly care about this song any less. Which was, as it turns out, plenty of time.
[0]

Ian Mathers: The Alfee get a big hand for knowing how to do ludicrous OTT properly—string intro, Beach Boys choirs, a bit that sounds kind of like a Christmas carol, a seemingly endless series of crescendos piled atop one another in a way that makes, say, Sigur Ros look a bit wet—but sadly the sheer force of their excess can only make this sprawling mess partly compelling.
[5]

Mallory O’Donnell: Japanese epic rock act which everyone will compare to Queen. If the sexual ambiguity is present, it doesn't translate, however. Instead we get a heaping dose of that kind of delightful naive poptimism familiar to fans of anime. Bracingly uber-dramatic without the inevitable "ironic" cock-up an English-speaking band would provide.
[6]


Depeche Mode - Martyr
[Watch the Video]
[5.00]

Rodney J. Greene: The multi-layered synths buzz in eighty directions and the guitar hook is strong and catchy. Peel all this back and you’ll find that the song inside is pretty dubious, the melody droopy, and the lyrics a semi-rehash of "Personal Jesus."
[5]

Edward Oculicz: A sonic regression, perhaps, to “Songs of Faith and Devotion,” both in the gruffer singing and the angrier, cutting almost-riffs. Rather than speaking to deep-seated emotional pain, though, this is more a slight lump in the back of the throat. Lacks intimacy, intricacy and real feeling—things not usually in short supply in the Depeche Mode canon.
[2]

Erick Bieritz: It’s difficult to pin down what has made the Depeche revival from “Precious” to present day so successful, as “Playing the Angel” was just more of what the band has always done, equal parts massive synths and Christian guilt. “Martyr” is just that much more massive and that much more guilty and just shy of “Precious” in the group’s ever more sterling third decade of operation.
[8]

Hillary Brown: I much prefer this fake drama done with disco to the more real deal that would necessitate screaming or a greater amount of moping; this is all posing to the beat under the strobe flash, and, as a result, is cute more than passive aggressive.
[5]


Alesha Dixon - Knock Down
[Watch the Video]
[5.40]

Rodney J. Greene: Situated somewhere between the dancehall and the music hall, "Knock Down" stands on the verge of compelling, but never quite pushes itself over the edge.
[6]

M.H. Lo: Beginning with a double bass transported from a 1920s jazz club, this Xenomania-helmed track quickly becomes dominated by a reggae rhythm. But unlike the Sugababes’ “Hole in the Head” (the last notable Xenomania production to use the beat) or Jamelia’s “Superstar” (whose benevolent spirit is hovering around somewhere), “Knock Down” doesn’t pit that rhythm against too much else. As charmingly loopy as this is (you try not walking around going “Knock down! Everybody in the place say what now?” after listening to it), therefore, it may, like many ska or reggaeish tracks, come across as too lulling or monotonous to bring Alesha the success she deserves.
[8]

Jonathan Bradley: Little do Americans know, the frat boy adoption of ska in the late ‘90s was a blessing in disguise. If non-Americans also associated dull syncopation with Dickies and Reel Big Fish, this long-abused genre may finally become so unfashionable that even the likes of Lily Allen, or now, Alesha Dixon, would be unwilling to touch it.
[2]

Iain Forrester: Hearing Alesha actually sing is slightly disconcerting. It’s not that she can’t, but however nice she gets there’s a definite sense of underlying menace seeping through. It’s that menace which gives “Knock Down” its bite, more than the slightly polite skank that she’s backed by.
[7]


Keshia Chante - Been Gone
[Watch the Video]
[5.60]

Erick Bieritz: Well, this is a popular lyric. Granted there aren’t a lot of synonyms for “since,” and “During Your Recent Absence” doesn’t have the same ring to it, just as the strings and bells in this song can’t quite decide if they want to be neo-classicist or merely pretty.
[6]

Rodney J. Greene: Canadian R&B is only seven years behind the American version. The faux-classical strings, clipped bass, and filler scratches are dead-ringers for a Mya or Brandy third single.
[3]

Joseph McCombs: The arrangement evokes the best of Whitney Houston’s ’99 comeback. And with soul bells! But Keshia doesn’t try to take the vocal risks and twists Whitney was still able to at that point, and the track falls a bit flat as a result.
[5]

Hillary Brown: This is about as tough as a Hostess Snowball, but the combo of bells, yelling, and occasional background “woo”s is wicked cute.
[7]


Lloyd ft. Lil Wayne - I Want You
[Watch the Video]
[5.80]

Ian Mathers: I should have known that the astounding army-of-robots soul of “Southside” was a fluke, but this is surprisingly decent considering. It walks that tricky line between smooth and too smooth and only occasionally slips into the latter, although Lil Wayne really does not need to be here.
[6]

Jonathan Bradley: Poor Birdman. Weezy did a whole album with the man he calls Daddy, but saved his best verses for a fluffy collaboration with some corny Atlanta R&B loverman.
[8]

Iain Forrester: So Lloyd is doing his seductively sensitive falsetto thing in pursuit of his lady and Lil’ Wayne is supporting him well and then… he hits them with the Spandau Ballet. Even if Nelly hadn’t already tried it so recently, it would still ruin the mood.
[3]

Hillary Brown: I think those are spoons in the background and so I have to picture the video as involving the unloading of a dishwasher. Sexily, of course, with beautiful clouds of steam.
[6]


George Strait - It Just Comes Natural
[5.80]

Joseph McCombs: George turns in a wonderfully loose and free performance here, and as he pushes all the right buttons to give the flyovers stiffies, it’s not hard to think this could become a Hallmark perennial like “I Hope You Dance.”
[7]

Edward Oculicz: Crosses over the line from nice into plain banal. That’s not to say there aren’t great seconds here and there—the chorus, at least its first multitracked line, sounds uplifting and sweet—but where it feels like it should soar above that, it retreats into the titular line with a whimper.
[3]

Hillary Brown: A bit like the best of early 1990s country that I grew up listening to while riding around in the big Oldsmobile with my dad: the whole tone is a little too thin, but the guitar hook’s highlighted well and, as always, Strait’s voice is right on, not forced in its accent, and with a catch that lets you know it hasn’t all been smoothed out in the studio.
[6]

Jonathan Bradley: George Strait is such a genial old gentlemen. He packs his song with line after line of pure cheese, but who can fault him for it when he serves up the Limburger so good-naturedly? I couldn’t imagine anyone anywhere saying a single line of this to someone they cared about it, which undercuts the track’s emotional qualities, but I sure could imagine belting it out if it came on my car radio.
[6]


La Oreja de Van Gogh - Dulce Locura
[Watch the Video]
[6.00]

Kevin J. Elliott: Not their best effort (I’ll stick with “Rosas”), but they score points for turning a indulgent piano ballad into an arena-ready triumph of the will. Unfortunately, Amaia Montero’s vocals now veer towards syllable-crammed, self-empowerment, rather than fluffy bubblegum and Spanish Xuxa.
[5]

Joseph McCombs: It doesn’t deserve the “power” or the “ballad” in “power ballad,” so why do I keep putting it in that box? That’s a great modulation into the final chorus reps, and Amaia has a sweet way of subtly attacking her notes.
[7]

M.H. Lo: La Oreja de Van Gogh’s keyboardist Xabier Van Martin wrote Paulina Rubio’s current single “Ni Una Sola Palabria,” which is way more vital and memorable than “Dulce Locura,” a vaguely 80s-sounding song distinguished only by the urgent synths at the end. The other members of the band might want to have a word with Xabi about the moonlighting concept.
[4]

Edward Oculicz: The tinkling and inviting piano is a great start, and the singer emotes beautifully over the beat, and the rhythm of Spanish is perfect for this—syllables here, syllables there. And then the chorus goes a bit bonkers mental with a guitar and suddenly the words are spitting everywhere. Well-crafted, intricate pop, if not quite the sum of its parts.
[7]


Joan As Police Woman - Christobel
[Watch the Video]
[6.00]

Ian Mathers: This starts sounding a little bit like some of the better tracks from that overrated TV on the Radio album, but Joan's got a much more effective voice than those guys, (as do her backing vocalists) and a better ear for a hook; this is at once more propulsive and softer than the competition. Bonus points for the impressive violin solo in the middle.
[8]

Jonathan Bradley: “I am dead already,” Joan Wasser says, and the music has that same otherworldly feel. She wants Christobel to fall in love with her, but it already sounds impossible, as if they don’t even occupy the same dimension. The interesting thing, though, is that this eerie unreality is communicated entirely through the vocal delivery. Wasser’s keen is just odd enough to turn a fairly standard post-punk rush into something that seems far more hopeless.
[7]

Kevin J. Elliott: My summer vacation did not include rambling desert night-driving, chilling with Josh Homme’s softer side, or making Tiger Beat Tom Wait’s collages. Instead I reminisced about searing Lillith Fair sets and Concrete Blonde. This has no effect on me.
[2]

Joseph McCombs: I’m in love with the way Joan curls and purrs her way into her syllables. Still, if I were Christobel I would feel very, very uncomfortable right now. Just a quick whiff of “creepy stalker” in the air.
[8]


Ciara - Promise
[Watch the Video]
[7.40]


Jonathan Bradley: If this is what the Princess of Crunk can do with a love song, she need never have avoided the form. Ciara approaches this like Prince in his prime, whispering and moaning over the track without ever becoming ridiculous. She had an incredible run of singles in 2004 and 2005, and while it seemed entirely reasonable at the time, in retrospect, the durability of hits like “Goodies,” “1, 2 Step” and, especially “Oh!” is an incredible achievement. Considering her track record, it should be no surprise how good this is, and yet it remains stunning how instantly likable it is.
[9]

Edward Oculicz: Someone in Team Ciara knows that she’s at her best when she straddles the line between seduction and menace (such as on “Oh”), and she does this very well here. The backing is also worthy of note—caught halfway between sultry, steaming heat in the melody and the cold flashes of the beats. Fire and ice.
[8]

Mallory O’Donnell: The make-out jam has enjoyed a curiously circular route back to its origins in 60's romantic teen-pop. Nowadays, words like "life" and "forever" and "always" litter slow jams like so much come-on confetti. Ciara makes such a proposition sound dangerously tedious here. When did a night of sexual healing become a lifetime of studies towards the carnal doctorate?
[2]

Kevin J. Elliott: “Promise” is not a song about slow-motion intercourse/fucking, as much as a song for slow-motion intercourse/fucking. Soon to be a quiet fire staple, even if it is eerie, elegant, and anchored by a beat on loan from the bottom of a Bristol well. Seems the ghost of Roger Troutman is lurking down there too.
[9]


Margaret Berger - Will You Remember Me Tomorrow?
[7.40]

Edward Oculicz: A frosty glitchy love song with the tinniest electro washes and clinking beats (i.e. the perfect backing for the uncertain meekness of Margaret’s childlike delivery). The melodic hooks strike straight to the heart.
[9]

Kevin J. Elliott: Regardless of her ascension (formally a 2nd place Norwegian Idol) Ms. Berger is capable of pure comfort pop.
[7]

Mallory O’Donnell: Far from the Goffin-King staple the title evokes, this is a threadbare Euro-pop smooching contest with an only slightly wistful chorus. Recommended for female children and perverts. Everyone else will be made slightly ill.
[4]

M.H. Lo: “Will You Remember Me Tomorrow?” begins with a faintly electroclash riff, but Berger affects a wispy, ethereal voice that allows her to float above it all. As the chorus hits, the rhythm switches to a jaunty, quick-step shuffle—and, to seal the deal, handclaps come in. It’s like an impossibly cute song Liesl might have sung after Rolf stops dancing her around the pavilion, and before the goose-stepping Nazis invade.
[9]


Bertine Zetlitz - Midnight
[Watch the Video]
[8.60]

Edward Oculicz: The way Bertine glides between chorus and verse, exhibiting just about every emotion between heartbreak and resignation is astonishing; I haven’t heard such a felt performance anywhere else this year.
[10]

Mallory O’Donnell: This exhilarating nitrous-puff of a song deserves better exposure, remixes, and hype than it will get. Drawing on production sneak-tactics both 80s and 90s as well as a deft stab of naughties minimal, it's almost irritatingly well-done. Thankfully it's also crammed full of joy and a sleek professional sexiness that (Blog Gods forgive me) 'regular girl' Annie hasn't quite mastered.
[9]

Erick Bieritz: It’s Bertine’s ultra-classy poise that best distinguishes her from Annie “Anniemal” Lilia Berge-Strand’s busier, buzzier sound—the former’s Abba to the latter’s Chic—but Bertine’s stylish stance also sounds guarded and will probably keep her in her more earnest countrywoman’s shadow.
[7]

M.H. Lo: I’m sorry. I can’t be objective when it comes to Bertine Zetlitz, possibly the best female star on Planet Pop today. Someday we will meet, get married, and on our honeymoon she will sing to me her delightedly twisted songs of obsession set to shiny 80s-inflected electropop productions (this one recalls the Eurythmics, among others) as she stabs me to death with an ice-pick. I will be so happy!
[10]


Check out the Singles Jukebox podcast to hear some of the tracks talked about here.


By: Stylus Staff
Published on: 2006-11-14
Comments (1)
 

 
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