Thursday, 19 April 2018
I’ve always been a little cynical of when huge major label pop stars suddenly start suggesting their love of lesser known artists on social media, especially if it turns out there’s a connection to the label they’re signed to.
So when One Direction’s Harry Styles quoted some of the lyrics to the song 1950 by newcomer King Princess on Twitter, but didn't tweet the title of the song or who it was by, it was inevitable that his fans would head straight to Google to search out what it all meant. Suddenly King Princess was getting a lot more attention and love.
The label connection comes from the fact that King Princess is signed to Mark Ronson’s new Zelig Recordings and Zelig is a venture with Columbia. Guess who's signed to Columbia? Yes Harry Styles of course. It’s therefore not hard to join the dots and come up with the thought that Harry's tweet is as much about hard faced business as it is a genuine love of the song. But let's give him the benefit of the doubt shall we? And even if we don't, let's be realistic; the music business is called a business for a reason.
But once the cynicism has been overcome there’s a pleasant surprise in store. Because the music of King Princess is actually agreeably sophisticated pop, which is chilled, measured, soulful and comes with a more interesting lyrical take on things.
1950, the song Styles tweeted about, is a love song, which takes a twist from the typical ‘girl is pursued by boy then they fall in love’ narrative: “I hate it when dudes try to chase me, but I love it when you try to save me, ‘cos I’m just a lady, I love it when we play 1950” she sings. The video for the tune already has over 800,000 views (and a lot of Harry Styles sent me here comments below it) and hints at rebelliousness with King Princess sporting a drawn-on moustache, setting fire to a teddy bear and smoking a cigarette.
A second track, Talia, due to appear on an EP alongside 1950 solidifies the idea of what King Princess is about. This one’s a break up tune though. Starting with soft synths and hand clicks it soon burbles up with a mid-tempo chorus that finds King Princess singing of getting a bit wasted and imagining her ex is still there: “If I drink enough, I can taste your lipstick, I can lay down next to you, but it's all in my head.” Musically, the hook isn’t in your face, but it’s still there ready to creep in to your ears.
OK, fair play Harry Styles. You might just be on to something here.
King Princess - 1950 (Video)
King Princess - Talia
Monday, 16 April 2018
1963. 1978. 1981. 1997. Four years that in terms of music Norway will probably want to forget. They were the years when it scored 0 points in the Eurovision song contest – the most times any country has had that dubious distinction.
2018. Everything is better. It's the year when Norwegian pop singer Sigrid became ‘The Sound Of’ and one of her countrywomen Aurora returned to the fold with the promise of a new album and this new song, Queendom, taken from it, is released today. It's a year that not only Norway will want to remember, but the world.
OK, maybe that’s a little bit of hyperbole, but there’s no doubt that the Scandinavian country is doing exceptionally good things with pop music right now, producing artists that not only can sing beautifully but have bags of charm and charisma. Anyone that has seen Aurora live will know this, she has a nature that comes across like some sort of elf or fairy – kind, caring and full of wide eyed magic.
This nature shows up again in Queendom where Aurora sings of the underdogs being her lions, the silent ones her choir and the women her soldiers. It’s a song about empathy, coming together and being safe in Aurora’s world. It’s a wonderfully positive tune and amongst all the crap that the world seems to harbour right now shines a light and allows you to smile and feel that little bit better.
It’s great to have her back.
Aurora - Queendom
Sunday, 15 April 2018
Back in 2014 when a whole bunch of music fans and websites were frothing excitedly about Ben Khan’s debut EP 1992 the music didn’t really connect with me. The same happened in 2015 with his 1000 EP. If you, like me, felt the same about his output then it would be pretty easy to skip over his new tune 2000 Angels. However, that would be doing Khan a disservice, because this song is a jam with the lid fully off. It’s like Nicolas Winding Refn suddenly got together with Khan for a new film and the result is the funkiest neon flecked futuristic horror / sci-fi soundtrack you’ve ever seen or heard.
Khan might have been considered the class of 2015 but finally he’s due to drop an album later this year. Has it all come a bit too late? Maybe for those who treat their music as fashion. But for the rest of us there’s hope of something interesting brewing here. Let's get frothing together.
Ben Khan - 2000 Angels
Wednesday, 11 April 2018
If on the 26th April you are just about to go to bed and look out the window and wonder what that queue down your street is, the answer is that it’s probably the line of people waiting for the new Janelle Monáe album Dirty Computer to be released on 27th April.
I’ll be at the front. Obviously.
Why? Because she’s already released one of the best pop songs of 2018 with Make Me Feel and now she has replicated that achievement with another pop song that demonstrates the art of amazingness.
It’s called Pynk. Grimes added some harmonies on it. You might recall that Janelle worked with Grimes on her track Venus Fly. It’s got great lyrics like: ”Cos boy it’s cool, if you got blue, we got the pynk.” Or how about “Pynk like the inside of your, baby, pynk behind all of the doors, crazy, pynk like the tongue that goes down, maybe, pynk like the paradise found”. Yes, it's a song that is undoubtedly talking about cunnilingus. It’s got a stripped back deeply throbbing minimalist 80’s sounding synth groove. It’s got a guitar riff and some ‘Yeahs’ that sounds like the sort of thing that Taylor Swift might have done after 1989 if she hadn’t screwed it up with the piss poor Reputation. It’s got a video that features pink trousers that look like a vagina.
I defy any fan of pop music to dislike this jam. It will make you feel alive.
Frankly even if all the other songs on the album are a load of old toss it won’t matter, because there’s more amazingness in Pynk and Make Me Feel than most full length long-players combined.
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to join the queue.
Janelle Monae - Pynk (Video)