Saturday, 13 October 2012

Novelty Effect

We love them at parties. There will be one in your collection at least. For some you may even know the dance routine.

But what makes a song - novelty? Is it one that is imported from the holiday dance floors of Spain? A feature on a film soundtrack?  Or an infectious one hit wonder from Sweden? The answer is longevity. If it has with stood the change of generation after generation then their novelty has not worn off.

Do they deserve adulation? I believe so.

Music brings people together. We all know this. And none more so that when you and all your drunk relatives are dancing together to the 'Time Warp' at a party. Or in my case reliving your youth and strutting out the entire dance of Whigfield's 'Saturday Night' while your younger cousin tries to keep up with you. Each generation has a novelty song that they love or hate.

For my Grandmother it's 'The Slosh'. For my Mother 'The Hucklebuck' For Myself its 'Saturday Night'.

Both my Gran and Mum have tried unsuccessfully to teach me the dances to both these songs. It does not however prevent them from dragging me to the dance floor when they are played.

Most recently for this generation it is the Korean pop song "Gangnam Style" a  massive hit in Korea that transferred to Britain this summer. Along with its infectious dance routine. My sister who is a massive fan of Korean pop would say its not novelty. However we shall see how many of her favoured  Korean pop songs follow suit. I cannot see the Korean pop influence holding much attention to the masses in Britain. However I would loved to be proved wrong.

Along with those that have dance routines attached there is the character hits. The ones influenced by television shows like Mr Bobby, Bob the Builder, The chipmunks. Even The Simpsons had a UK number 1 with 'Do the Bartman' in 1990. I could go on.

The truth is that novelty songs will continue to provide the music industry with light relief. And dance floors at parties with entertainment.  As long as they do not take themselves seriously I have no issue with them. Rest assured I will follow in my Grandmother's footsteps and shall be dragging my grandchildren up for 'Saturday Night' teaching them the dance routine and all.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Reality Check?

So the onslaught of reality television has become more vast in the music industry since 2000.

Although there were television talent shows prior to this. The winning talent was not as exposed and the show held no influence over the music charts. In fact few talents even made it into the public eye. You would be forgiven for not knowing who they were if you did not watch the show itself. Now it is not so simple. The winner is forced upon the public and advised to appear on every aspect of media available.

There have been some who have managed to stay true to their belief in music. There have be few who are controlled by their puppet master agents. Along with many who have disappeared into obscurity often making a reappearance on celebrity big brother five years later.  

I am going to honest and admit that ,Yes I did watch these shows. When they first began. I was however always in the corner of the musician. I rooted for Will Young as i believed he was an artist not a product. More recently i was relieved when Matt Cardle was crowned the winner of 2010's X Factor because he too was there for the music not to be manufactured into something he was not. There is one thing similar in both these cases that I think is the major flaw in these reality shows. The company running the show its self. The company that grants the winner their record contract did not want these contestants to win. 

Simon Cowell is on record for saying that when Will Young's name was called out as winner on 2002's pop Idol he figured all was lost.

"I still to this day can’t watch the final back because I was really really disappointed.  I really liked Gareth and wanted him to win.'

He wanted a product. Something to mould and that all teenage girls would swoon over. Where as Will Young did not appeal to him. Mr Young was more mature, had his own opinion on what he wanted to do. Not saying Gareth Gates did not but I imagine Mr Cowell had his itinerary planned for Gareth from his first audition.  More recent winner Matt Cardle had to break form his Sony record deal in order to be the artist he wanted, not what they desired. His work was not supported despite being the public voted winner.

It is this reason i do not like reality music shows. I believe that they breed something that hinders the music industry. In my opinion it is responsible for making light all the hard work that musicians and artists have produced over the years. Examples of acts that shows have produced that and i am going to stat again, IN MY OPINION are wrong for the music industry.

Jedward: They are a comedy duo that have been lead to believe by show producers that they can sing. Without the aid of a TV show these boys would not be where they are today. However in their defense I believe that the twins are in no way as silly as they make out to be. I think both boys are intelligent and are playing this game as they know that their popularity will not last.

Susan Boyle: She can sing very few songs in tune. Her albums are produced with rigorous amounts of computer technology. She did well to show up "Britain's got talent" As she walked on stage the panel were all in the belief that she was a delusional hermit. Until she sang " I dreamed a dream".

One Direction/ Little Mix/ (Any band put together to save them all being chucked off the show)-  A band put together on the show. Given a name that at times is already taken in another country. Researchers really do not do enough homework. Then made to work together. Okay it is a formula we know that has been used in the industry through open auditions. But the difference being that these TV groups then have to work out all the kinks, personalities and disputes in the public eye. Which is an added pressure that is not needed.

This is a subject that I could blog on for an eternity. But If I do not sound bitter already I will end up sounding like one of those elderly ladies that complain about public transport. I am not saying no one should watch these shows even though I whoop slightly when I hear that viewing figures have dwindled. Just remember while watching that there are many bands and artists out there that could have went down this route and may have not ended up producing the work you like. Or while you are watching think are those contestants producing the music they like? 

Please Note: I believe that there is something wrong with these shows themselves. Not all the acts that perform in them! 

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Live, Laugh, love, Loud & Live

Live music is an experience I Treasure. I can remember at least one moment from every gig I have been to.

Even when attending festivals I love to walk around the site taking in different acts while waiting on the ones I want to watch come on stage.  Outdoor music festivals are one of my favourite places on earth.

In my opinion there is something about the power of seeing a band/act live that cannot compare to other art forms. It is very different from watching an act on TV, watching a film or going to the Theatre.

Some acts put on a full show. In that they themselves performing their songs is not enough. They create a spectacle around them to a theme or storyline. Then there are the artists who stand and pour their heart and soul into their performance with nothing but a carpet and the band logo to back them.

I have had the joy of witnessing both. There is no one better than the other. Every artist has the right to perform the way they see fit.

 Don't get me wrong I have seen some bad live acts. Some down to performance. Some down to the Music its self. I do not judge PJ Harvey fans. I have seen her live and hated it. As a result to this day, after what I witnessed. I have refused to listen to her ever since. It was that awful. But then to others it may have been amazing. Each to their own.

The best Live Gigs I have been to are: Stereophonics Performance & Cocktails Tour in 1999.
                                                           Green Day at T in the Park 2005
                                                           Pink SECC 2008
                                                           Fall Out Boy The Garage 2007
                                                           Foo Fighters Big Day Out 2003
                                                           The Who T in the Park 2007
                                                           Arctic Monkeys Lancashire Cricket Ground 2007
                                                           Del Amitri Glasgow Fair 1995
I have also been let down. You build up to a gig and wait months on the event arriving. Playing the music, singing the songs. Only to go and watch and be left at the end of the concert feeling like a deflated balloon. Amy Winehouse was one act, but I refuse to speak ill of the dead. Pop concerts are all a bit mediocre and repetitive once you have seen one pop act its the same for the others.  I have also been let down by a band who I have seen live more than once. Case in point U2. Who are a phenomenal live band. They are a spectacle. However on their last 360 tour they did not live up to my created hype. But everyone has bad days.

Despite the bad I have been to there is still nothing that changes my mind about live music.

There could be a reason why Live and Live are the same spelling.

Monday, 23 July 2012

It's a Grower

Songs are like ice cream flavours. There are ones that you like instantly and will listen to time after time (see what I did there) then there are the ones that take you a while and a few listens to decided if you like them or not. Many Refer to songs they learn to like as "Growers"

These songs can go 4 ways

1. You decided - nope don't like that. I tried, but you just are not for me.

I shall name this: Strawberry Ice Cream.

2. Wow! Amazing! What a "Tune" and you play it over and over, while it is receiving hype. Until you forget about it. You Might dig it out at some point if you find it hanging around.

This for me is: Cookie dough

3. Nope it's awful. Oh it's OK. Actually I quite like it.

This shall be known as: Vanilla Ice Cream.

4. A song that connects, it has something in its melody and lyrics that awakens your soul. This song will forever be played for years to come.

This is known to myself as: Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream. (Best flavour!)

There are many songs released at summer. All straining to be those massive hits of your holiday.

There are 4 songs out this summer that have fell into these categories and my strawberry may be your mint choc chip. As always I ask you to have as open mind as I do.

Cookie Dough: "Drive By" by Train

Good pop song. Dance along to. BBQ to. It has sunshine in the rhythm. Drive by's are over in a flash this songs staying power is to.

Vanilla: "Call Me Maybe" by Carly Rae Jepsen

When I first heard this song I was puzzled as to what it was saying, who was singing and I hated it. Now having listened to the song masses. I have grown to enjoy it along with its many parodies.

Strawberry: "Call My Name" by Cheryl Cole

No No No! Not even being produced by my favourite dance musician Calvin Harris saves it for me. I tried to enjoy it but like the associated flavour. I wanted to lock it in the freezer and not try it again.

Mint choc chip: "Wide Awake" by Katy Perry.

I loved the lyrics and it's up beat tempo melody. A bit like "firework" when I first heard it on her Album. However I feel there is more to the song. As I mentioned in my previous blog (Waxing Lyrical) the lyrics are obviously important to the artist.

Give them a try and see if they awaken your taste buds too?

There is a flavour for everyone. There is a song for all. Have you ever met many people who say "Oh I don't really like Music."?  I have also not known many folks who say" I do not like ice cream" well except the lactose intolerant.

So enjoy music and eat ice cream.
Happy Summer!

Monday, 2 July 2012

Cover up?

Is there a song out there that should never ever be covered? 

We could share opinions and open up a debate that would last longer than the current Leveson inquiry. So what gives people the rights to cover a song. If it were a book it would be considered copyright infringement if the storyline were similar in anyway. You were punished at school for using someone else's work. I'm also sure you would face charges of plagiarism if you were to display a copy of a Monet painting as new work.

Many artists have released covers. Even more perform live covers at concerts. It has became part and parcel of being a music artist. I shall not get started on the television talent shows that provide the conveyor belt of covers that plagues the music industry of today.    

However is it lazy or is it in homage to the original work?

Some artists have no choice but to release cover songs as they are directed by their record company to do so. I would imagine that in some cases the original artists are thankful for the royalties, as well as the new found exposure to a new  audience of their sometimes forgotten work. Cover versions are great if the new artist puts their own spin onto the song. An artist who does nothing to the original work to me is lazy and not very artistic at all.

There have been many, many bad covers. My opinion of the worst cover to be released is Ronan Keating's version of "Fairytale of New York" originally by The Pogues featuring Kirsty McColl. I am undecided as to which reason I hate it for more. The fact that he misses out the "You scumbag, you maggot. You cheap lousy faggot"  lyric when singing it live. Or that he looks so happy and smug when singing. Unlike Shane McGowan who groans out the lyrics with such passion that to me cannot be imitated or replaced by a grin. 

One of the most successful cover versions in my opinion is Jeff Buckley's "Hallelujah" Originally by Leonard Cohen. It may even be unknown to many that it is indeed a cover. It's poignant, it's perfect and sang with emotion and clarity that was missing from the original. It is the song that raised Buckley's profile to new heights. Jeff's voice took Cohen's lyrics and exposed them to a new generation. Jeff Buckley's untimely death leaves the song even more haunting.

 So in answer to my intro. I believe that in respect to all artists despite how amazing I believe original songs may be someone may come along in the future and make it even better. 

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Waxing Lyrical

"I'd rather be a comma than a full stop!

I heard this lyric yesterday. It is from "Every tear drop is a waterfall" By Coldplay. What a wonderful line. To me it means I would rather be in the sentence that be at the end. I do not have the luxury to ask Chris Martin himself. Having listened to the song many times I had never noticed how poignant this lyric was. Could have just been it was early morning and my lack of sleep the night before was making me more emotional, Who Knows? 

How often however do we take for granted the lyrics in the music we listen to?

Song writing is as much of an art form as painting on canvas. Yet people wonder for hours in galleries staring at paintings and wondering what the meaning is behind them. Musicians and songwriters however pour it all onto a page for us to behold in song. Out in the open to be judged by fan,critic and industry. When listening to songs you can at times tell the frame of mind an artists was in. Or it is out clearly written in the song for you to hear. 

So next time there is music playing be it when listening to the radio in the car or dancing around your living room as I do. Stop and take a moment to listen to the lyrics. They meant something to the artist and in turn they can mean something to you. 

Some favourite Lyrics of mine.

" Wishing to be the friction in your jeans" 
" Time grabs you by the wrist directs you where to go"
"To know that i can say i love you in any given time or place"
Kudos my Hero"
"It's the heart afraid of breaking That never learns to dance"
"Change the voices in your head make them like you instead"

I could go on and on. 


Saturday, 2 June 2012

Perfect 10

Can you list your 10 favourite songs? 

How do you choose? Is it like a mother selecting her favourite child? Ok so perhaps not as extreme. But the decision and tension as you compile your own list could prove to be mind blowing. I am having to compile a list for Our forthcoming wedding. To make it equal we are picking ten songs each. Although my future husband says he will vet mine and remove any considered crap. Thankfully it is me that is emailing the DJ. This is not the wedding list it just got me thinking of my favourite songs of which there are many. So for the moment I am going to reveal 5 of my 10. 

Well I don't want to give it all away do I? 

Here is how i derived my list. 1. List my favourite bands.
                                         2. Poignant Songs
                                    3. Everlasting Tunes (I could play on repeat forever)

So being born in 1983 meant that my birth into music  was at a time when electro pop was beginning and New Romance was at an end. Number one on the day i was born is a song I actually like. The tone of Ali Campbell's voice is different and instantly recognisable. So number 1 on the list is: 

1. "Red Red Wine" by UB40.

As I have written in previous posts. I was a sucker for pop music from the age of 6. So therefore at least one of my songs has to be from the era where my walls were clodded with posters of boy bands. Picking one may be a problem. Boyzone, Take That, East 17, 911, Let Loose and Westlife. There were many, so friends don't hate me. They weren't even my most loved band, It wasn't a massive single but i like the tune.

2."When You're Looking Like That" by Westlife.

My third choice goes on every playlist I compile. I sing it to my son every night before he goes to sleep. He affectionately calls it "Forks". It's by one of my ultimate favourite bands of all time.

3. "Time of Your Life" (Good Riddance) by Green Day.

You bored yet? I am nearly done. Two more to go. 

With that number four is from an album that I adore and never tire of. This tune gets me to me feet as soon as the opening bar strikes. The lyrics in this song are great, fun and meaningful. A perfect tune. So from their Third studio album I give you. 

4. "Sugar, We're Goin' Down" By Fall Out Boy.

Number 5 and my last instalment to the short list. It is a song that some might find weird but hey it's my list. So hold on to your hats. The end is nigh. 

5. "Video Killed the Radio Star" By The Buggles.

Now off you jump to you tube to see what they sound like and judge. You might start to think what your own top songs may be.  

Monday, 14 May 2012

It's not my accent it's your ears.

It has been commonly reported that the Scottish accent is difficult to understand. We speak too fast, too nasal and our language is deemed as guttural and thick. We roll our R's too much and say words like loch in ways unbeknown to other nationalities. 

So what's my point?

There are many bands from Scotland who in the past have been told that they have to tone down their accent especially when singing. At times their nationality being obscured and unknown when listening to their songs. Many people did not know that Simple Minds were from Glasgow. When they made their début in America many believed that the band were American.

 It is not just Scottish bands that are susceptible to the curse of hiding your own voice. It has been preferred in the past that bands and artists could say where they were from, just not within their music.  Many bands go through accent and dialect coaching just to be more precise with their singing voice and to disguise their own accent. 

Don't get me wrong I am not saying that it is accents that make bands successful. I just feel that it is wrong to have artists be something they do not want or more importantly need to be. You wouldn't consider asking a rap artist to sing in an operatic voice. So why ask artists to tone down their accent. I can hardly understand what Kyle Faulkner from Dundee's The View is saying but their songs are still widely enjoyed none the less.

I am writing this at the time while Scottish Band Twin Atlantic are blasting out of my stereo. They sing in their natural voice and dialect. If fact they are welcomed internationally for doing so and for the second year running are supporting Blink 182 on tour. Having been asked by the American band themselves. They have this amazing twang sound in their songs and sing with passion and drive that remind me of an early Biffy Clyro era. 

Another Glasgow Born band Hip Parade were seen as refreshing and diverse when they took second place in the Orange unsigned act show only to be pipped at the post by Tommy Reilly who was also from Glasgow and praised for his original voice. Hip Parade have gone on to successfully tour with Stereophonics. Their début album features 12 glorious songs and not only do they sing in their own accent their signature encore of "F**king Dynamite" I feel would sound ridiculous forced out under any other pretence.     

On the whole I like most bands from Scotland and feel proud at what Glasgow has produced through out the years and long may it continue. I get the impression that now within music industry bands and artists are thankfully being embraced for their heritage, home towns and accents.

*Please note I borrowed the title of this weeks blog from a Play I took part in. The script of which was along the same theme. And well its part of my own heritage. 



Friday, 13 April 2012

Do you remember your first?

A commonly asked question in many music artist interviews is. 

What was the first Single you bought? 

I'm sure that many make up an answer to look cool and suave as truthfully they do not remember exactly what it was. It is as if that one moment in life is something that defines you as a person or effects your taste in music. 

I whole heartedly believe it does not. 

I cannot remember mine.
I do not recall saving for days to buy it or what the cover looked like.  I remember as a child owning a small box of many 5inch single records and playing them on a small red record player that I adored.
I remember lusting after Kylie and Jason at the age of 5 but at the same time I had posters of New Kids on the Block and Michael Jackson on my wall. 

The first song that i fell in love with according to my Mum was Aha's "Take on Me" Released in November 1985 when I was 2 years old. I loved it. (Still do) I was a toddler so i did not purchase this single myself. Does that Count?

There are many singles I bought in my childhood and Teen years that I still love. I do remember scamming my dinner money (Sorry Mum) each day in order to buy my new favourite at the weekend. But which was my first? 

I grew up in the 90s when boy band central had a hold on the music industry. I had floor to ceiling posters of Take That and bordering on obsession kept the diet coke bottle that i drank from with a note saying 'I drank this while watching Mark Owen'. It was my first live concert and I was 9 and I am in no way ashamed to admit it. As it was my first taste of live music it think I wanted to preserve it for as long as possible. So with the benefit of hindsight I believe it was more than likely the first single I bought by myself with my own money was more than likely a Take That single and it most definitely was on cassette tape. Now that the band have had a comeback 20 years later. I wonder if it is in the loft and if it is worth any money?

As I said this first single purchase does not define me. It did not mean that I was destined to forever more like only boy bands. We grow up, we change As do the bands and artists we love. It all becomes memories we hold on to. They are only immortal in the music that is left. We can still listen to them as our own guilty pleasures. Which leaves us revelling in those times spent with friends of - Do you remember this band?, this song?, this one hit wonder that still gets played at parties. Which inevitably results in an onslaught of YouTube videos being played trying to out band each other. Or as I do when hearing a blast form the past, Shout TUNE! at the top of my voice.

Saturday, 31 March 2012

If storyline is the heart could soundtrack be the soul?

I have been involved in theatre since the age of 11. In this time I have seen many interesting ways that music plays a part in different productions. 
From instruments being played live on stage, a recorded track being used to having to source the correct song without infringing copyright laws. It proves that a show does not have to be in the "Musical" genre to have music play an important part. 

The picture above shows some of the secret workings that are happening in my work at the moment. These old pianos are being de-constructed to make new instruments and music for a forthcoming production of 'King Lear'. Which to some is considered the greatest of Shakespeare's work. Having walked past the beautiful collection of keys and strings for weeks it made me think, So my question is this. 

How much does music add to a story? 

Music in television for me can make a show. It is through this that I have discovered many bands that have never had any marketing or breakout in the UK. Film, TV and Stage soundtracks make up a lot of my music collection. Some I play for background music as i potter around. Others to "Crank it up to 11" and think yes I could be a character in that show. It is this avenue that proves how pivotal music can be to a show and vice-versa. An example of this is the band Snow Patrol who were relatively unsuccessful in America till their track 'Chasing Cars' featured in a 'Greys Anatomy' episode. Also I love the fact that shows like that of Fox Network Hit 'Glee' can introduce an entire new generation to bands like Fleetwood Mac.  

The most downloaded song originally released in the pre-digital era is 'Don't stop believing' by Journey which since its original release in 1981 has been featured in 7 TV Shows, 8 films and even Hillary Clinton borrowed the track for a campaign video. Some say over used. I say its a testament to how popular culture influences the music industry. You may not remember what dialogue was being said at the time but you will remember what song was played. 

It was only 44 years prior to Journeys hit release that the first commercially issued film OST (Original Sound Track) was released. This was the sound recording of Disney's 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs'. It is possibly thanks to Mr Walt that my love for soundtracks first formed. As a 7 year old girl who really wanted to live 'Under the Sea' and to this day has many Disney songs in her music library. Well who wouldn't find it easier to commute to work in the morning with Hakuna matata playing in your ears?

 So next time you are watching a bad film or even an episode of your favourite serial drama take a moment to see beneath the story. Turn up the volume a little and listen to the background music. It may just be a song from a Killer Soundtrack.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

My Brain is a Jukebox. Everyday I dance to its many tunes.

Music has always been a massive part of my life. My parents never influenced me on particular genres, I just danced along to whatever they placed on the record player. This could be anything from The Rolling Stones to Barbara Streisand or B.B King to Bananarama. All and all the extensive LP collection my parents owned was like a pick and mix selection from the music industry. I learnt to respect that everyone has their own individual choice and taste in music. My Dad owned a record shop when i was little so i think that the smell of Vinyl is in my blood. I seen first hand the transition of Media. Records were replaced by Cassettes and then cassettes by Compact discs. 

Now nearly a quarter of a century on from those shop memories the digital download has further taken over. It was only last night as my boyfriend sat playing song intro after intro that i realised how much music my brain contains. He was making me guess each tune. Like the old television show testing how long it took me. If I didn't know the name of the song then I did know the opening Lyric. If I failed on the opening, I could give the chorus. Failing only a few times to my disappointment. It was this realisation that made me write this post.

I sadly admit that we do not own any vinyl (Sorry Dad). However I cannot ever see the day coming that I scrap my CD collection. Even with all its embarrassment hidden on the bottom shelf. Secretly I feel I need to teach my son that songs did not just appear with a click of a button. As I reach my late 20's (SHHH!) I only hope that I continue to find new and different music. If not I always have my internal Jukebox to delve into.