Philosophical Pop

It’s 2012. In 2010, I wrote this about Cheryl Cole. I used to be quite hyperactive, didn’t I? Two years on, here are…
my top 5 secretly philosophical anthems 

Cheryl Cole’s been channelling the Marquis de Sade. 
 
Yes, you read correctly. The second teaser for the risqué Geordie songstress’ track “Call My Name” comes complete with a quote from the equally risqué 18th century philosopher. The words “the only way to a woman’s heart is along the path of torment” flash onto the screen as a scantily-clad Chez writhes around in the sewers. Although it may well be construed as a not-so-oblique reference to a reunion with ex-husband Ashley, there’s plenty of pondering to be done when it comes to pop….just don’t forget that there’s “much more life in music than mathematics or logic ever dreamed of” (Gabriel Marcel). 
 
Here are five tracks which could have been improved with some philosophical captions: 
 
“Liberal capitalism is not at all the Good of humanity – quite the contrary; it is the vehicle of savage, destructive nihilism” – Alain Badiou, revered Communist philosopher


“Do not brood over your past mistakes and failures as this will only fill your mind with grief, regret and depression. Do not repeat them in the future”. – Swami Sivananda, Hindu spiritualist 

“Ignorance is the primary source of all misery and vice”. – Victor Cousin, changed the emphasis of French philosophy from Materialism to Idealism 

“I have read descriptions of Paradise that would make any sensible person stop wanting to go there”. – Charles de Secondat, popularised the term ‘feudalism’ 

“Sex appeal is the keynote of our civilization”. – Henri Bergson, author of Le Rire, 1900.
 
P.S.: Here’s something I wrote for the Guardian Guide a few weeks back on the HTC advert… 

September/October Goings On…

To all those dear people still reading my blog…sorry for the delay… Saturday marked the beginning of a crazy new adventure for me when I set off to university with too many clothes and nice notebooks and not enough pens or work ethic (just kidding for any Uni officials reading this. I’m a good girl, pinky promise). I’ll workout more often (workout my liver, that is), eat well (well, nothing) and watch high quality programmes (Doctors – for anyone with a job, it’s gone terribly raunchy of late *prude face*). I digress; September, the last month of my summer, has been a memorable one…

Bestival – 8th-11th Sept

Top 3:

3 – Public Enemy: I might have been swilling lager like a tramp in a Lidl carpark, but I know a good set when I hear one. The ideology behind old school rap and hip-hop remains current; Chuck D and Flavor Flav – taking time out from plugging his new autobiography with disturbing anecdotes and a Twitter competition – made a brief mention of recent events in London, adding a new dimension to lyrics like “power to the people no delay”. Arriving on stage to the sound of “Fuck The Police” from contemporaries NWA, the group showed themselves to be adept cultural chameleons, striking up an easy rapport with the iPhone-toting Bestival bourgeoisie whilst showing an understanding of the frustration, deprivation and consumer culture which have helped to foster the fragmented Britain of 2011. Public Enemy are proof that not all 50-somethings are in Tim Westwood territory, and that perhaps the oldies are the goodies. Cee Lo Green, of the coincidentally named Goodie Mob is another stellar example of an 80s rap star back on the map…there’s never been a better time for a world tour for the mellowed Public Enemy –  80% timid cautionary tale, 20% thorough call to arms.

2 – Missing Pendulum’s set: I’ve had enough of you for one summer, Pendulum-dum-dum-dum-dum-cue-a-loop-quickly-before-they-realise-we’re-mostly-recorded.

1 – Katy B: I’ve never really been on a mission before, although if I did I think I’d come dressed like Katy B. The sartorial wisdom of her bright red hair, tight pink jeans and hoodie would inspire me, bestow me with a ‘whatyalookinat’ swagger and probably make a perfect Vice Mag ‘Don’t’. What works for a credible Londoner like Katy, it seems, wouldn’t work on others. At times she is dangerously close to being an anachronistic parody of Catherine Tate’s Lauren (it’s mostly the hair and the fairly trivial chat in between songs) but mostly, she is fresh, exciting and credible. You don’t come to a Katy B concert, or likewise go to see her headlining a festival, because you want polished pop which The Saturdays can vomit out along with glitter, sparkles and world peace. Her grit is sexy and cheeky, and her status as more just another shining Brit school alumnus has long been confirmed. I bet her friend Olivia (namechecked both before and during ‘Easy Please Me’) is proud to be the subject of a track which is both stunningly sensual and ironically vapid). I think I’ll reintroduce ghettofabulous to my vernacular.

Also loved: The Cure (even though it wasn’t a Friday set I remained in love); the cool Unicef people who took this ravishing photo of me to send to the government as part of a climate change petition….

… The Guardian’s photobooth complete with a crazy dressing-up box; DJ Fresh’s packed-out Bollywood Tent set in which I sustained third degree burns to my back; surviving on lager and bread; Bjork’s beautiful ginger afro wig (basically a bastardised version of my own hair); the ethereal, almost 70s beauty and calm of the Tomorrow’s World field; Alice Glass’ moodiness (quickest CC set ever, perhaps?); Eating Tesco Value bread to the sound of Fatboy Slim’s Praise You in a scene which was more Trainspotting than a trance hipster 101; slipping in the mud at every possible moment; meeting some incredibly talented clothing and/or jewellery designers like Dot Your Teas And Cross Your Eyes (the jumper in the pic below at Crystal Fighters is one of those made by the lovely, quirky Chloe), Wolf and Moon and of course the beautiful boys and girls of Merrimaking who already left their mark on me at Underage when they gifted some fabulous hoods to Bombay Bicycle Club. It’s the little things like having incredible, up-and-coming brands on site which made Bestival feel so fresh and so different to more corporate affairs…that and the spacious (private) shower cubicles. Props to the Da Bank clan – despite the poor transport arrangements and rain at every possible second, Bestival was incredible and unique.

Crystal Fighters, Shepherd’s Bush, 14th Sept

There’s always a slightly awkward moment when someone pretending to be a music writer decides to drink at a gig instead of actually writing about music and consequently misses most of a band’s set because they were being twee and drinking white wine instead of listening. I’d already missed Crystal Fighters at Benicassim so I suppose my behaviour wasn’t entirely surprising…

Here’s me and my friend Soph looking suitably boozy:

The most memorable bits of Crystal Fighters’ Shepherd’s Bush gig on the 14th September were probably 1) being violently (accidentally) elbowed (standing tickets obvs), 2) almost choking on a Neurofen and 3) singing to their most memorable and popular ditty “I Love London” . Whilst I’m here, I might as well add that I have so much beef with venues like the Empire which decide to open their doors ridiculously early (e.g.: 2 hours before a headline act), leaving silly people like me to predrink half to death. Here’s an incredible review from someone more capable than myself.

The Guardian Young Writers

I was lucky enough to win a place on a two-day Young Writers workshop at The Guardian this September, where I learnt all about pitching and how to get into editors’ heads. Even though I’ve been writing for what seems like ages, like anyone, I find it difficult to condense my ideas and adapt them in order to get those all important commissions. The workshops were so helpful, and I’m so proud of my classmates who’ve since been commissioned like Hannah Slapper, who wrote this incredible piece on Roman Polanksi. Formulating ideas has never been so fun.

DOS and DONTS of filming your music video abroad

After the troubles in Ireland, it seems that Ri Ri’s a bad girl gone somewhat worse. Here are some simple tips for any chanteurs and chanteuses who don’t wish to cause offence in foreign lands. My advice if you see a prudish farmer? Just keep running.

DO:

–         Blend in: Britney Spears recently picked a deli in West Ealing as the location for her ‘Criminal’ video. Her secret appearance was later lauded, and a shrine made of Wilkinson magic mops and jay cloths erected in her honour on the pavement (I’m still working on that). Rihanna take note – not even Battersea Dogs Home will let you get out your puppies in public, so don’t do anything, ahem, flashy.

Get cultured: Adele’s new video for ‘Someone Like You’ is a black and white, Nouvelle Vague-influenced affair filmed in Paris. Plans are said to be underway for a Coach Trip special where she and Luc Besson moodily discuss Monster Munch in a layby.

DON’T:

Ignore the political: Uh oh. Unfortunately, after Britney left the aforementioned deli, she went to Stoke Newington Town Hall to film scenes. With a gun. It might have been a fake, but with the London Riots still a recent memory it was a little insensitive. Plus someone could’ve mistaken her crew for one of those gangs who steal highlighters and treasury tags instead of Armani jackets and BlackBerrys.

‘Borrow’ from your surroundings: Joe ‘Eyebrow’ Jonas used to be one third of the pre-Bieber trio famed for bringing purity rings and properly medicating your diabetes into the mainstream. Like Adele, he decided to get all grown up and film his new video in Paris. Unlike Adele, it seems he couldn’t think of his own ideas. I don’t know what’s more shocking – the fact that he may have ripped something off (we thought you had integrity in that eyebrow, Joe) or that the source material is a saucy French arthouse flick with the vomtastic title ‘For Lovers Only’..

The awkward moment when Joe Jonas didn't slip into the lava and is still alive several years later

…If in doubt, watch this for a masterclass in cultural cohesion:

HJ

xx

My top ten and bottom ten of thousand and errm ten

Hello reader, 

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 hannah@hannahjdavies.com. 

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…

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