Last Thursday, I went for a sneak peak of the Animals In The Wall exhibition, which is on until September 7th at Shoreditch’s Londonewcastle Project Space. Alongside 40 pieces of art by Beat icon William S Burroughs (1914-1997), there are original new works by contemporary artists which engage with the – still pertinent – areas of counterculture/rebellion, anti-consumerism and skepticism of political intrigue. It’s an intriguing mix of visual works including film and two installation rooms, one of which houses a dreamachine (a zoetrope-type device created by Burroughs’ contemporary Brion Gysin).
Other notable pieces come from Bolivian “enfant terrible” Gastón Ugalde, pithy Brit graffiti artist Mobstr and Australia’s Ben Frost, who once faked his own death in the name of art.
Here are some bits by Burroughs himself (copyright of his estate):
And here is my favourite piece he inspired (by Ben Frost):
Animals In The Wall is a free exhibition, curated by James Elphick (Guerrilla Zoo) and Yuri Zupančič (William Burroughs Communications), and you can find it at 28 Redchurch Street, E2 7DP.
This week has marked the second birthday of my website – how time flies! Not so long ago, I was blogging about salad cream, Hello Kitty and how much I wanted to be Glinda from Wicked and drown in a sea of Barbie dolls (under an awful assumed name – the blog in existence is still on Google three years on) and now I am blessed with a blog which has been so much fun to write and hopefully to read as well. I digress – today you’re getting my TOP TEN as well as my BOTTOM TEN of the singles which 2010 served up. International readers: this list encompasses the best and worst of the year’s UK releases, but feel free to point me towards music in your loci via an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shall I start with the good news, or the bad? Oh, the bad, you say? Yeah, its probably better to end the year on a high, so I’ll kick off with the year’s 10 worst singles (again, I should stress, in MY opinion).
I’m bad, I’m bad (really, really bad)
10. All Time Low by The Wanted
Another manufactured and ethnically-diverse boyband to add to the scrapheap, The Wanted were about as wanted as herpes. In 2010, they hit the mainstream with their so-very-boring-and-predictable eponymous album and debut single “All Time Low”, which was so boring and predictable that the most interesting thing about it was a Coldplay sample (really saying something about the mundanity found therein). Five-part harmonies and a Powerpoint ref aside, the real question here is why The Wanted sound clinically dead during a song which is presumably supposed to be a soul-searching and string-laden piece of unforgettable pop (the type which N Sync were famed for delivering in the late 90s, for example). The question: how DO you get up from an all time LOW? Instead, the boys plumped for insightful lyrics (just kidding) and aforesaid Office lyric “I’m late for work, a vital presentation”, so much so that the song might as well have been called “All Time Low Supply of Meatball Marinara at Subway, Not Sure What To Do”. Not awful per se, but proof in an All Time Low for songwriting. The disappointing hype machine which was The Wanted’s debut single is in at number ten. Oh, and they weren’t even that fit.
9. Teenage Dream by Katy Perry
I am a teenager. Nothing in this three minute, forty-eight second mess will ever appear in my dreams. I’m not the biggest Katy fan in the world, but this single combines three of my least favourite elements of noughties pop. One: breathless vocals which kind of sound like symptoms of some kind of respiratory condition. Two: a strongly repetitive nature. Three: boring lyrics to the power ten (see TheWantedGate above). Oh, and did I mention that Katy Perry sang it? Number nine in my worst songs of the year is this pile of faux-hormonal hogwash.
8. Let’s Start Marching by The Agitator
Proof that it really isn’t all of the money, glamour and Autotune which makes music tacky and worthless these days, The Agitator proves that you can make awful music from the comfort of your own home! Without the backing track, Let’s Start Marching could’ve passed for a folksy protest song and thus joined the en vogue folksy crowd of Mumford…, Little Comets, The Villagers et al. Instead, Derek Meins decided to throw together his shouty vocals with some beats which sound oddly like something from a “now you as well can play guitar”-type magazine circa 1997. Clumsy and turgid, which is a shame because the idea behind it is pretty current (what with The Man increasing uni fees against all of us poor students and taking away free books etc) and at least Meins has spoken to some teenagers lately, something which Teenage Dreamer Katy (see above) hasn’t done since the 90s. Still, this tune ends up sounding like a hollow karaoke parody of what could have been the military-esque protest anthem we desperately needed this autumn/winter. For this reason, “Let’s Start Marching” troops galliantly into eighth place in my list of 2010’s worst songs. Stand at ease, Meins..
7. The Time (Dirty Bit) by Black Eyed Peas
For those of you who’ve just scrolled down the page a little, this is my list of the worst songs of the year. Let me repeat – worst songs of the year. “The Time (Dirty Bit)” initially sounded rather perplexing. What’s dirty about The Time, eh? What dirty secrets did The Time have to reveal to us? Was it a rude joke involving the word’s clock and cock? No – it turns out that The Time was the innocent party in all of this. The Time was in fact 80s smash hit and all-round brilliant party song “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life” from Dirty Dancing, which was dismembered beyond all recognition by Fergie and the gang, leading to the seventh worst song of the year. Will.I.Am should go back to being a character in Dr Seuss or whatever he used to do. Sax-sacrilige (the removal of the best sax solo ever, period) cannot and shall not be tolerated. Yours sincerely, the Jennifer Grey fanclub.
6. I Need You Tonight by Professor Green (ft. Ed Drewett)
Another dreadful piece of sampling at number six. I put Ed Drewett’s name in brackets because he is not the problem here. At least he sings the main refrain of the sampled song without changing any words (Fergie above – take note) a few times before his awful brand of creative license slips in and he’s rhyming “me” with errm “me”. No, the problem here is brazen-as-a-Californian-raisin Professor Green, who raps and talks his way around Drewett’s choruses with his tale of pursuing an obviously disinterested female and how he is definitely a “pimp” rather than an “eeeejet”. Remember Pro, there’s only one letter between talking and stalking… Anyways, as somebody who took part in the BlackBerry Live & Lost tour and then bragged about owning an iPhone, I don’t think P.G Tips was exactly against this obviously corporate idea of sampling a band he’d obviously never heard of…and who noone can fully appreciate now. Cheers ‘mate’.
5. Billionaire by Travie McCoy (ft. Bruno Mars)
A second graduate of the school of “featuring another guy to take the fall too”, Travis “Travie” McCoy drags Bruno Mars into this mess, and the drug-possessing, hat-wearing Mars falls flat on his face. Remember when mum said “if x jumped off a cliff, would you?”, well it seems as though B.M didn’t grow up around such useful idioms. A surfer-ish tribute to financial aspiration just doesn’t translate when you’re loaded…and boasting of making money off this very song. Tacky and disingenuous or just a great piece of irony? Either way, it’s my fifth worst song of the year…so there.
4. Airplanes by BOB (ft. Hayley Williams)
Call me anal but the word is aeroplanes. Aeroplanes. NOT airplanes. Hayley Paramore is unremarkable, and BOB, bless he tries to make a serious monetary point (unlike Travie above), even namechecking his ex-employers Subway. Even though the whole thing smacks of labelmates-therefore-easy-collabo-junk, turns out they’re on different labels. Which begs the question of why you would go out of your way to make such a pointless, beiger than beige track. Even though Hayley’s part sounds like something which Avril Lavinge rejected a few albums back and which Kelly Clarkson co-wrote, it turns out that they actually wrote it especially. I won’t even start on part two of this muddled, passe nonsense…
3. Acapella by Kelis
A contender for worst song of the decade. So bad it is actually serving life in prison AKA I am never letting it out of my speakers again. Stop being “lo-fi” and gimmicky and invite us for a Milkshake at your yard, Kel! Remember the old days! Your fake eyelashes and “Rihanna hair” are about as cutting edge as a tape deck and gold body paint is best left to street performers… This mundane and monotone offering is tragically dated… so much so that I think I might actually be travelling back in time listening to it…Welcome back to my list of the best songs of 1987, where was I?! Cheapest hypnotherapy session of my life.
2. Barbara Streisand by Duck Sauce
Suicide is more attractive than listening this song. So catchy but so, SO wrong in a multitude of ways, this odious “disco choon” is responsible for hours of bad whistling. A plea to DJs in 2011: Leave. Barbie. Alone! Not even for a “worst singles everrrr” playlist in 2018.
1. Christmas Lights by Coldplay
The worst song of the year came along really late in the day…but boy is it bad. Hideously bad. Rule one of Christmas songs: do not use every cliche in the book. Rule two: forget the theme song from the movie Notting Hill. Rule three: do not let Chris Martin sing. Who didn’t get the memo? Coldplay (or “Radiohead for those constantly three years behind everyone else”) ruined my Christmas with this serving of shit (no) surprise and shit brandy butter. Horrid. “Night”, “fight,”, “light” conclude my verdict on this single. It’s so juvenile that perhaps Apple and Moses Martin should get a songwriting credit and a TV show called “Are You Smarter Than A 33 Year Old Rock Musician”. The answer it seems, would always be YES.
The ones which made the grade, if you’re interested
10. Find Your Love by Drake
Hello Drake, is it me you’re looking for?
9. Do It Like A Dude by Jessie J
Not an original sound, but a fresh premise from young Jessica Cornish. Weirdly empowering anthem which takes white-girls-singing-like-black-guys far, far away from certain X Factor contestants and puts it in a gutsy but danceable form. Ok, so she’s not Emmeline Pankhurst, but this is a song for the girls.
8. Bittersweet by Sophie Ellis Bextor
SEB can do no wrong. Cut-glass accent and strong beats prevail into the 2010s. Oh, and the song premiered on Gaydar radio, ergo she can still be niche and not have to do a huge TV launch covered in corporate sauce and tassels. Demure and polished.
7. Hollywood by Marina and The Diamonds
2010 was Marina’s year, and my seventh favourite song came from MATDs debut The Family Jewels. Deep and dark versus light and breezy, this track tackles some cliched material but keeps it current thanks to Marina’s unique vocal style and although I did find myself wondering whether it was a parody of this song, I’m pretty sure its not. Now I too need to invest in much American paraphenalia…
6. I Need Air by Magnetic Man
Filling a dubstep-shaped gap which I wasn’t sure existed before they came along, this project created an unforgettable song in 2010 and the sixth best of the year in my opinion. Magnetic Man; your name sounds like a toilet cleaner from the pound shop, but luckily you didn’t give me chemical burns. Quite the opposite. Featuring vocals from Angela Hunte, who wrote Empire State Of Mind, this is a perfect pop package which delectable dub roots courtesy of MM’s trio of Benga, Skream and Artwork who have been on the scene since the 90s.
5. One Time by Justin Bieber
Don’t look at me like that! Not like I fancy him or anything… Justin Bieber, the pre-pubescent sweetheart of singing fame brought skater-esque side fringes into the hair world once again this year. He’s a brilliant performer/entertainer who has divided opinion…once again, I do NOT have a soft spot for the Bieber, he just happens to be the singer who made the fifth best song of the year. Encompassing tweenage romance of the butterflies-sort (Katy P above – take note!) and maths (remember, its me plus you, no multiplication or division innuendo is allowed til his third album at least!), this track is bound to give you Bieber Fever. Or to make you really, really mad. Choose your own ending, reader.
4. Ballad of Big Nothing by Elliott Smith
Sneaky re-release in at number four. Phenomenal work of songwriting, phenomenal vocal performance and a stunning track from a sadly departed talent called Elliott Smith. A posthumous NME cover star in 2010, Smith recorded tons of tracks before his tragic death in 2001. BOBN is taken from compilation “An Introduction to Elliott Smith” (also 2010) and is an unconvincing goodbye to love which is driven by a cyclical, slowburning melody. A haunting brand of romantic poetry.
3. I Think I Like It by Fake Blood
Fake Blood – I think I like you. Take me on a tour of bars in Paris, get me drunk, buy me drag wigs and let me do the conga home. Not to be confused with our tracks of the same name, I Think I Like It by Fake Blood is a self-indulgent sample-fest which is both kitsch and current. Disco past and disco present collide in a way which is decidedly disco future. Is that even possible? Yes. I win.
2. Wonderful Life by Hurts
Eighties enough to seem Eighties. Noughties in delivery. Nineties in cult-status. Stuck somewhere between the past thirty years and yet timeless, Hurts prove that a well-made dance track can straddle a few genres, remain ambiguous and still pack a synth punch to match more “sophisticated” offerings (i.e.: Muse, who have tried a similar tack with poor results of late). This song is purposely old-school meets new, and Hurts don’t exactly conceal their influences *cough cough* Simple Minds *cough*. The drama of this track, however, makes it an undeniably great one.
1. DRUMMMMMMMMMROOOOOLLLLL. My favourite track of the year is…
Whip My Hair by Willow Smith.
Ok, so I MAY have blogged about this track before but that is only because it is incredible. How can one so young be this talented?! How can one so young be hitting the haters with this amount of passion and nonchalance?! I Just. Don’t. Get. It. My favourite song of the year was Whip My Hair, here it is with its shiny new video, au revoir, ta ta, see you in 2011…