Around the World in 80kbps
#003: Vanilla Ninja

in times where the European charts just look, as a whole, like a three-month old xerox of the US or UK charts—and with Eamon, Usher and Anastacia still popular across the board, there's a degree of homogeneity across the Eurocharts as the fierce individuality of some charts is tempered slightly. There are obviously still great records charting, it's just that oftentimes one has to go outside the top 10 or 20—or reexamine ones that have fallen out of that position. This week is certainly one of those weeks.

VANILLA NINJA - Don't Go Too Fast (Unplugged Version) (Estonia, #19)
Estonia's premier hairsprayed and coiffured girl band, who look like 80% of Girls Aloud as styled by Wendy James circa Transvision Vamp's Pop Art LP. They rock, normally, but this is light-dimming, lighter-waving ballad moment. It's absolutely magnificent, as if you'd question, because it's still a very fleshed-out song, and if it's quieter and slower than the usual, it's only because Vanilla Ninja normally are raucous and fun. There are some fairly late-80s Bon Jovi-esque moments in this, the guitars anyway, and The Bangles would have killed for the tune. Hooks within hooks, as the slightly unusual vowel pronunciation and stresses on syllables make this both a catchy and disarming listen, and deep down, you are a sucker for girl rock ballads, or you would have stopped reading by now. They write their own songs and play their own instruments, if that'll inspire you to download and love it. By rights, 2004 should be their year on mainland Europe, as their next single, "Liar" is another winner.

DISCO - Toiseen Suuntaan (Finland, #7)
Yes! Another song with Blaze Of Glory-esque guitar, accompanied by a deep, pulsing synth bass and a tapdancing beat. The multi-tracked vocals on parts of this have a really interesting effect that's hard to describe, but they sound very distinctive in that they're very smoothed out rather than the slightly harsher single-tracked ones in the verses, particularly on the note that goes up right at the end of the chorus. It makes it stick in the memory, as does the start-stop music in the verses, which make for quite an effective hook. The distorted, distant sounding middle-eight is also rather inventive-sounding as well.

ROYAL FAMILY - Kaikki Yhden Puolest (Finland, #10)
This wins because of its utterly infectious production, the best bits of which are a stuttering beat, a comedy siren and a part with one note being looped back on itself. It's a playful and fun Finnish hip-hop track, and it's hard to work out which bits are more fun, the singular MCing or the short bits where they all join together as a gang underneath the aforementioned siren, which would be a nifty sing-a-long bit if one had any chance of understanding the words. These two halves alternate for the entire song without a break, which makes it a very kinetic, energetic song, one in which you might want a short break in, but the frenzied pace of it makes it rather satisfying in addition to exhausting.

COLONIA - Luda za Tobom (Croatia, #3)
Elsewhere, I have declared this lot to the best dance act nobody has ever heard of, which they clearly are. This is a relentless, faux-bass heavy textbook exercise in making Eurodance work. Utterly irresistable at every turn, from the four-to-the-floor verses, the beatless breakdown after the choruses, the dance diva vocals - in lush-sounding Croatian, of course, or the fake ending four minutes in, and the whole thing is punctuated in a lovely fashion with blurping bass. Classy stuff. And Boris Djurdjevic from Colonia wrote the devastatingly catchy "365" by Sasa, Tin & Kedzo, currently top of the pops in Croatia. What a bloody genius.

KERLI - Beautiful Inside (Estonia, #14)
Having never heard an Estonian pop song that wasn't being broadcast on Eurovision, being assailed with two of them at once may come as a shock. Particularly as this is not a Louise cover, but in fact a cross between Delta Goodrem's "Lost Without You" (verses), Christina Aguilera's "Fighter" (chorus) AND "Beautiful" (words) and whichever Alanis Morissette single you dislike the least (everything else), but a few shades more appealing than that. "I don't care about me! I don't care about you" she wails, sounding as if her voice is going to give in with the emotion of it all, even if it is cheap, borrowed emotion, "I'm not trying to hide that I am beautiful inside" capping off the chorus, sung with a fierce determination and syllable mangling only found in heavily-accented Europeans who aren't quite there as regards singing in English. And all of this over a jagged backdop of chunky pop guitars, prowling bass,a well-timed swoosh into the chorus and even-better instrumental cutouts directly after it.

DA BUZZ - Dangerous (Sweden, #5)
The following quote comes unedited from the Da Buzz page at "I love the sound of Da Buzz!!! They are the best in the world! When I hear them I have to dance! Then is PARTY TIME! Stay faithful for your sound!!!!!!!!". Eight exclamation marks is only a slight exaggeration. Wasting absolutely no time before launching straight into the song - no fancy intros for Da Buzz - the verse seems to last only seconds before a delicious pre-chorus comes in announcing that, no, not the object of desire, but the singer herself is dangerous. And the song does this by way of a big, cheesy anthemic delivery in the chorus. The beat pounds along crisply, even allowing for a bit of a breakdown around the middle-eight before, best of all, another chorus that, early-Britney-style has the same words but sounds completely different due to the slight fudging of melody and key. And a nicely executed Max-Martinism it is too.

MARLY - You Never Know (Denmark, not charting.. yet)
Actually getting a wider release as "Morjac featuring Marly", this is nonetheless what it's called at the moment. It's got verses and other things, but this earns its place as a Great Pop Stonker by the way Marly stretches out the words in the chorus, particularly when she goes "You never can be suuuurrrrrrreee", making the word long enough to fit the beat but without mangling it like, I don't know, anyone who thinks they can sing properly. Otherwise it's just a nice dance track, good house piano and all. Actually, she sounds a bit like a clearer-voiced, less strident Cheyne Coates (ex-Madison Avenue), and this is exactly the sort of striking dance tune she should be making.

ADHD featuring SPIKE - Beng Je Hoofd (Netherlands, #29)
The weird thing about this is that it took me about until the third line before I realised it wasn't in English, as I was listening to it without looking at the title. The rhythm and pacing of this Dutch rap hit fits quite snugly with a lot of 90s hip-hop, it could almost be Cypress Hill, really, particularly given its muddy guitar rumblings underneath. Though the incessant scratching at some points is a little amateurish, this is a pretty ferocious but still poppy bit of mainstream rap that transcends language. Especially good is the menacing fadeout, giving the grungy backing a chance to roll around unfettered by the words stealing its thunder. And, lest I forget, ADHD is a really great name.

By: Edward Oculicz
Published on: 2004-04-29
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