The Singles Jukebox
Rockist Boyfriends



week three of the UK-tastic single-riffic panel-tacular, or something, and fresh from basking in the reflected glory of Roots Manuva's #39 smash hit thing (we'll conveniently gloss over the fact that almost every other single reviewed last week charted higher than him, and particularly the fact that after this introductory paragraph's bigging-up of British Sea Power's Grammy chances they managed to get their first ever top 20 single), the panel find themselves confronted by a break-dancing Mariah, Lemar continuing (worryingly) to not be seen in the same room as Daniel O'Donnell, and what is arguably the first true progeny of The Darkness. But a bit prettier than that might suggest. However, this week also features The Highest-Ever Score In A Stylus Singles Jukebox-Type Affair. What could it be? You'll have to read on to find out—but first, Michael Buble wants to go home. We'll get his coat.


Michael Bublé – Home
[1.7]


Edward Oculicz: My mum thinks that the genius of Michael Buble is the intimacy. "It's like he's in the room with you, singing just for you." I disagree. Such smugness in his tone indicates that the man is probably singing in the studio to a giant mirror, LOVING his voice and himself to death.
[0]

Peter Parrish: Man with piano in mid-tempo, sickly sweet ballad shocker! Cor, it even has some suggestive strings to TUG YOUR HEART. Or maybe you should just lay off the chips. Still, some real attention to detail here. It takes a true genius to mesh together as many irritating serenade clichés as possible into quite so much hapless twaddle. The particular home in question is situated on Forgettable Lane, Blandshire. I know, because I’ve been living in a bush and stealing the post. And I’m *still* not the real villain here.
[2]

Fergal O’Reilly: Uh, bit of a load of anodyne cock ennit. It could get really good in the middle for all I know, but I keep zoning out and thinking about other things when I listen to it.
[2]

Alex Macpherson: I expect so much more of someone with the name Bubbly. Oh well, this is my dad's birthday present sorted out I suppose.
[1]

Joe Macare: Is it now a rule that every week there will a single which sounds like the soundtrack to the 'sad and lonely' scene in a really bad romantic comedy (see: Natalie Ironbrewgliana last week)? Listening to 'Home' is like wading through quicksand. Really tasteful quicksand.
[1]


Lemar – Time To Grow
[3.9]


Peter Parrish: Lemar has been networking with Michael Bublé, apparently.
[3]

Joe Macare: Dear Lemar: those of us who warmed to you when you were on Fame Academy—but were still amazed by how good a single you gave us in the form of 'Dance With U'—we are concerned. There have been too many ballads lately, and although they're better than a lot of other people's ballads, we would like another 'Dance With U' at some point. We really hope that the title of this song is not supposed to be in part about how it is time for you to grow as an artist, and be really boring. Thanks.
[5]

Doug Robertson: If Lemar wants a shot at doing a Disney theme song, can’t he do it on his own time and just send them a copy of his CV, rather than forcing the rest of us to listen to his audition tape?
[4]

Alex Van Vliet: Lemar’s problem is that even though most of the record buying public have forgiven and forgotten his Fame Academy roots, he’s still hung up on trying to prove how fucking soulful he is. So he takes what starts out as a reasonable pop ballad in the mould of Britney’s “Everytime” and adds an utterly superfluous gospel choir and excess emotion strings in case any of us haven’t realised he’s, like, totally a genuinely talented black man.
[3]

Paul Scott: Lemar’s been dumped. He’s a bit sad. There’s a nice piano and string arrangement. It would work brilliantly in a Richard Curtis film. I can already see Hugh Grant wistfully thinking about the American bint he has foolishly made a fool of himself in front of. Actually, that’s not a good thing…
[4]


Studio B – I See Girls
[4.0]


Peter Parrish: Congratulations on having eyes.
[2]

Edward Oculicz: I really hate this song, and I don't know why. I can't come up with a comment, anyway.
[0]

Doug Robertson: Not, alas, the theme song to an erotic version of The Sixth Sense, but a bass heavy slice of dance-hop which is a lot better than it has any right to be.
[6]

Paul Scott: The beat grinds and growls like a revving hummer, then Sonny Jim sidles up and begins making aggressively lascivious demands on the “laydeez”. At home it’s a passable ‘Lapdance’ rip-off. In your average British provincial disco, the closest thing to hell on Earth.
[4]

Alex Van Vliet: This is an anthem for those boys in extended adolescence who stand around in clubs with what they probably think constitutes a posse, staring morbidly at the fittest girls before going home for an unsatisfying wank.
[4]


Nas feat. Quan – Just A Moment
[4.6]


Edward Oculicz: This is painful to admit, but Jay-Z eats him for breakfast.
[3]

Joe Macare: Poor old Nas can't seem to catch a break. Nobody seems to have forgiven him for never making another Illmatic; it's generally agreed that 'Takeover' was tough but fair; he can't seem to make a good song without making three bad ones; and now shots fired at his Brixton Academy gig mean that the UK press are using him as the example of why hip hop is still really scary. His solution would appear to be to let Quan take centre stage and do most of the rapping on this track, which isn't bad, but it's hardly single material—I suspect this means his latest album is another lacklustre affair.
[7]

Fergal O’Reilly: Nas in reflective mood, seemingly just listing everything in the world he thinks is a bit sad over a simple little string sample and occasionally asking for a moment's silence, which he immediately ruins by putting delay on the vocals so they keep on echoing through it. Cuh. Couple of slightly awkward bits (uh, bathos?), including "can we please have a moment for children (pause; sound of child's laughter) who got raped and murdered". The vocal on the chorus, which I assume is Quan, is very nice though.
[6]

Doug Robertson: The conciliatory tone which seems to be taking over hip-hop continues on this track, with Nas asking us all to take a moment to remember all those who have died, been sent to jail or have generally had bad things happen to them. While you can’t really dismiss the sentiments of the track, the hook of dropping the beat each time Nas asks us to take a moment gets really fucking annoying really quickly.
[5]

Alex Van Vliet: Just shit.
[2]


Mariah Carey – It’s Like That
[4.7]


Paul Scott: In a seemingly last ditch roll of the dice Mariah makes the genius decision of turning into Beyonce. Her octave gymnastics style, as anyone who’s ever seen Pop Factor Idol Academy will testify, is the ear grating international language of the aspiring but thankfully these tendencies have been restrained and she floats effervescently over a breathless minimal setting before it unexpectedly gets all crunk’d out. Mariah manfully joins in and it’s a true resurrection.
[8]

Doug Robertson: It’s not a promising sign when you begin wishing that Jason Nevins would turn up and work his remix ‘magic’ over this. Still, her fans will lap it up while the rest of us can entertain ourselves with thoughts of Mariah throwing down some wicked moves to win respect in a breakdancing battle.
[5]

Alex Van Vliet: Mariah Carey tries her over-airbrushed hand at bubblecrunk. Mariah Carey fails miserably. The end.
[3]

Alex Macpherson: Oh this beat is the hotness—an extra-sparse 'Get Right', and is that really a touch of crunk I hear there? Like 'Goodies', this fits right into the category of songs that make you dance harder and faster than they actually sound. Mariah also seems to have belatedly found a way of singing which is neither histrionic melisma nor that horrid breathy gargle she's been using for the past few years: she's poised and understated here, but still forceful. The bridge is kind of sucky, though.
[7]

Peter Parrish: Things can only go downhill from the point at which everyone realises that this isn’t a Run-DMC cover. That was pretty much my last hope for any salvation from this track. This is a plea to your subconscious, Mariah; please bring back the unstable diva-on-the-edge-of-madness. She at least possessed a human interest angle, albeit in a car crash-esque fashion. Instead we have to put up with pointlessly warbling Mariah and her tedious collaborations in vapidland. Well woop-de-doo.
[1]


Do Me Bad Things – What’s Hideous
[5.6]


Joe Macare: I just don't know what to make of this. I really did NOT expect it to start off sounding so much like Joss Stone. A great big messy mash-up of a song that stumbles through different styles and genres... It nearly lost me in a few places, I can tell you. But if you can stick with it to the end, it's got a vague, shambolic appeal. I give it a tentative thumbs-up.
[6]

Alex Macpherson: She's got a stunning voice, hasn't she? This reminds me of The BellRays, a band who always disappointed me because they seemed to think it enough to have an awesome singer, and so never wrote any actual songs for her to sing. Except Do Me Bad Things have.
[7]

Edward Oculicz: Jagged and jaunty in equal measure—tremendous fun to pump in your chair to, and probably even better to thrash about wildly to at a gig.
[8]

Fergal O’Reilly: Consists mostly of a maddeningly go-nowhere chord sequence alternating with an irritating vocal hook. I do quite like how the guitar's so distorted it sounds like it's growling at points, but then the chorus is that horrendous RHCP/RATM conception of 'funk', and then there are some loungey bits and a tasteful guitar solo and some vocal histrionics and it's kind of Scissor Sisters if they were actually as crap as all logic suggests they ought to be.
[3]

Doug Robertson: They may well own a copy of AC/DC’s Back in Black. And to think people thought that The Darkness were ultimately harmless, this is what happens when you allow them to actually influence people.
[4]


The Arcade Fire - Laika
[6.2]


Doug Robertson: Laika was the first dog in space, which doesn’t carry as much kudos down the kennel club as you might think, mainly because she died a painful death within hours of take-off. Even so, in the few hours for which she lived, she must have found the whole experience confusing, disorienting and quite unsettling. After listening to this track, I now know how she must have felt.
[6]

Peter Parrish: You get these crazy preachers in Newcastle sometimes, standing purposefully on the steps of Gray’s monument so as to be elevated above the plebeian crowd. Precisely what they’re waffling on about, I’ll never know (who has time to save their own soul in this hurly-burly society, eh?) Anyway, the same evangelism-lite feeling seems to permeate this odd number. It feels awfully like a sermon—but one whose grandiose teachings I do not care to subscribe to.
[4]

Joe Macare: Can I be shallow for a moment? Can I tell you a secret? This is the kind of music that I tend to give a free pass because I tend to know a significant number of likeable, good-looking people who like it. Oh, okay, and every now and again one of these bands makes a song I actually enjoy a lot. Still, this just sounds a bit like Interpol to me, and therefore not worth a great deal of attention on the basis of its own merits.
[6]

Fergal O’Reilly: The intro's good. Very sparse, with the little clicking harmonics and the ramshackle poundy drums and a bit of accordion. There are quite a lot of nice little individual elements, actually, but the more it progresses, the more the slapdash nature of it starts to wear. There's a half-decent melody in the chorus but not enough that it feels like some beautiful fragile pop hook shining out of the mess of unfocused waily shit. Also, shouty catatonic tuneless vocals: argh.
[4]

Alex Macpherson: I blame the voice. The first time I heard the Arcade Fire, I insisted that we 'turn that shit off' within half a song, and thereafter thought nothing of them. I'm still not wholly over Win Butler's singing—indie busker alert, get one ability to hit a note—but I'm somewhat stunned to find that I definitely see why others think them so special. The channeling of ancient strands of folk is done rather gorgeously, with that accordion line weaving its way through a surprisingly well-crafted, interestingly-structured song before metamorphosing into bittersweet violin towards the end. Worryingly, every time I press 'repeat' the voice annoys me less. Where can this be headed?
[7]


Estelle – Go Gone
[6.4]


Peter Parrish: It’s possible that this just sounds artificially euphoric after Michael Bublé’s antics, but then so did the plaintive humm of my ancient PC fan. It played a slow, yet persistent lament for all the displaced dust particles who can’t find their families. But that’s not important right now. What is important is the embarrassing head-nodding dance that appears to have emerged from some kind of outside cranial stimulation provided by Estelle’s energetic effervescence. BRING BACK THE LOVE. YES.
[6]

Alex Van Vliet: Estelle enters pop’s unspoken God-loving competition with some undiluted gospel righteousness. Drop your negative energy! If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all! Stop the hating! Listening to this record is a bit like being told off by a character from Sister Act.
[4]

Alex Macpherson: Last week, the British weather headed straight from a frostbitingly-cold winter to a white-wine-in-the-afternoon summer in the space of one day, without bothering with the whole silly spring interlude. This is exactly what this song feels like: exuberant, joyous, massive drums and horn samples, music to don Air Force Ones and dance down the street to.
[9]

Joe Macare: “I feel like... something different.” Well, this is different. Is this even the same Estelle I was thinking of, the one who spat so well on ‘Trixstar' and 'Domestic Science'? I'm totally confused now. I suppose certain critics will applaud her for her breadth but this isn't exactly 'Hey Ya'—it seems like a step back, not forward.
[5]

Edward Oculicz: A potentially fantastic track on nearly every level, but Estelle herself doesn't fit. It's begging for some punchier beats and a less subdued personality on it—a pity as Estelle is a really good popstar and this isn't a match for her virtues.
[6]


Kylie Minogue – Giving You Up
[7.4]


Paul Scott: Despite the Kraftwerk level absence of personality that seems to have become Ms. Minogue’s default musical persona the production here is so deep and unstoppable that you can almost ignore the void at the centre of this sleek mesh of pulsating, whoosing synth lines.
[7]

Joe Macare: Repeat after me: this is not a return to form. Kylie never fell off, no matter what they say. Mind you, this is arguably as good as anything she's ever done, just the right combination of sweeping vocal melodies and insistent beat. Reminds me a little of the Jacques Le Cont remix of Gwen Stefani's 'What You Waiting For', production wise. It's the same kind of disco perfection.
[10]

Edward Oculicz: A stylish, frothy bit of quality electro—impeccable lineage but so, so MODERN—with a surprisingly elastic snap of funk in its tail.
[9]

Alex Macpherson: Sounds curiously dated, almost as if it was a leftover from Kylie's early years only recently unearthed and given a half-hearted 00s makeover. It's nothing special right now—but then, I've thought that of every Kylie single since 'Spinning Around', and most have proved me very wrong indeed.
[7]

Alex Van Vliet: It’s difficult to condemn the relative laziness of this single, as Kylie-by-the-numbers still manages to outclass most of the rest of pop.
[6]


Rachel Stevens – Negotiate With Love
[9.2]


Fergal O’Reilly: This is a good'un, Rachel on very fine vocal form over a variety of nifty detuned synth honks and arpeggios. Also some twangy surf guitar that isn't crap. The way it reaches that chugging pace, with the melancholy acoustic guitar over the blipping and the note-perfect swoopy vocals make it remind me of the work of French Pop Deity Alizee, which is always good.
[8]

Edward Oculicz: Magnificent pop hooks laid end to end—both melodically and thematically. Pretty girl tells idiotic indie boy to go to hell. Who doesn't just long for the day they can do that? Buried 8-bit noises, sheets of silky synth, surf guitar and a meltingly detached vocal performance. They say she can't really sing, but she's now had three perfect singles out of just four released—so she can certainly laugh.
[10]

Doug Robertson: One of the main criticisms levelled at Miss Stevens is that she’s a personality vacuum with all the vocal presence of a light breeze, but rather than being a weakness, this is actually her strength. By not stamping her own identity all over her tracks, it allows her to be a cipher and helps the music to come to the fore, and what music it is. A dark and sassy electro-pop romp, catchier than a massive fishing net, this is exactly what modern pop music should be about.
[9]

Alex Van Vliet: I can’t express exactly why this is the greatest single released so far this year, but I know it has something to do with the moment Rachel pauses at “negotiate with” for the most perfect little sigh before a breathless, drawn out “lo-ove.” The surf guitar spirals away into the final take-a-deep-breath chorus and I fall fast and free for pop that cannot be argued with.
[10]

Alex Macpherson: Most great pop singles stick to just the one perfect moment. 'Negotiate With Love' is entirely composed of them. The electro-squelch which ushers it in. The zinging synth noises out of nowhere, appearing and disappearing like shooting stars. Rachel's exquisite pause for breath when all the instruments drop out. The Spoken Word Bits. The dismissal of the (bah!) rockist boyfriend in line two, with utter contempt. The surf guitar. The image of a power-suited Rachel cutting a deal with love. The cushions spelling out her name in the video. Rachel Stevens, your time is now.
[10]


By: UK Stylus Staff
Published on: 2005-03-28
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