Unnecessary World Cup Music

•June 8, 2010 • 1 Comment

Dizzee Rascal has already had four number one singles in the United Kingdom. His motives, therefore, for getting involved with the atrocious Simon Cowell vehicle World Cup song “Shout” (a cover of the 1984 Tears For Fears protest song), remain unclear. Perhaps he genuinely feels that hollering at the top of his voice about “Bobby Moore an’ that” will really help the team while they struggle against odds that seem to be getting longer with each passing day, five and a half thousand miles away in South Africa. Perhaps he is really desperate for that fifth number one single. Perhaps he merely has a particularly persuasive agent.

That Dizzee’s involvement is possibly the least worst thing involved with this musical venture says more about the quality of the venture than it does about the quality of said involvement. In just over three minutes of constant appallingness, the absolute, bottom-of-the-barrel nadir comes with the apparent comic actor James Corden bellowing, “Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough” at the top of his voice at the end of the chorus, a phrase which, in itself, is worthy of our closer inspection.

Was there really nobody at all involved with this project with so little a cursory knowledge of football as to be able to put forward the idea that, you know, considering the global reputation of England football supporters (whether accurate or inaccurate, for the record), it might not necessarily be a good idea to make such a chant one of the key hooks of the song? After all, the FA are still (after a fashion) trying to win a bid to host the World Cup in 2018. Perhaps they should use “”Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough” as the motto for their bid.

Criticising Rascal and Corden is one thing (and it may or may not be worthwhile pointing out that James Corden is thirty-two years old in a week and a half or so), and it would probably be more relevant to point the finger of blame for this dreadful puddle of musical sludge in the direction of Simon Cowell, but they have between them at least probably tapped into a significant demographic in England ahead of this summer’s World Cup finals. Expectations of how the national team will perform in South Africa have slowly dipped since qualification was assured against Croatia last September, but this seems unlikely to stop the spirit of “coming and having a go if one thinks that one is hard enough” rearing its head somewhere over the next few weeks or so.

Ironically, the likelihood of any disorder involving England supporters taking place in South Africa itself seems reasonably slim, but it seems inconceivable that watching the tournament in public in England won’t be accompanied with the sound of broken glass and drunken men getting angry with each other for no particularly good reason at some point or other. To this extent, perhaps “Shout” is an entirely apposite song for England, filled as it is – the chorus at least – with ill-focussed rage at something, for some reason. Perceived slight has, after all, become something of a national pastime in this country over the last couple of years or so, whether it’s over immigrants coming over here and taking our jobs (which they aren’t) or whether wearing England shirts in the pub has been banned by those bastions of political correctness gone mad, the Metropolitan Police (which they haven’t been).

It is worth pointing out that “Shout For England”, to call it by its full name, isn’t an official World Cup song. The FA confirmed as long ago as January that there would be no official England World Cup song, but this has led to slew of aural sewage pouring forth into the public realm over the last few weeks or so. Amongst those that would, in a just world, find themselves hauled before some sort of tribunal and being subsequently banned from ever going within five hundred yards of a recording studio again, are the following miscreants:

  • Rik Mayall, whose “Noble England” seems to be trying to invoke the spirit of Henry V but ends up sounding more like a man shouting at his imaginary foes in a shopping precinct.
  • This “thing”, which throws every single “Ingerlund” cliché into a virtual food blender, with the result being a soup that tastes of raw dragon, the queen’s hair and cold roast beef.
  • “When England Rule The World”, which may or may not be the theme music to “To The Manor Born” with vocals.
  • Oh, and this, whatever the hell it’s supposed to be.

And, of course, there are many, many more, but it would be unfair to bracket all of the enthusiastic amateurs that have just had a go at writing a song for the World Cup in the same circle of hell as Simon Cowell and his cohorts. After all, Cowell became a multi-millionaire from the music industry, and Dizzee Rascal and James Corden are (no matter what we may think of their respective talents from a personal viewpoints) also professional entertainers, albeit from very different arms of a sprawling industry. We can’t even shout “don’t give up your day job” at them, because this is their day job. Worse still, it seems likely that “Shout For England” will be successful, which will only further encourage them (and those like them) in the future.

Annie Lennox – Shining Light

•June 5, 2010 • 2 Comments

I can’t contain myself any longer.

I accidentally heard this track on the radio the other day when Zoe Ball crashed in on my world without me realizing. And now I can’t get the damn thing out of my head. The problem I have with Annie Lennox is that whilst undoubtedly back in the day Eurythmics were quite a good band, post 1985 it all went horribly wrong, and her solo stuff is just utterly soul-less and exactly the kind of bland record company fodder that any right-thinking person should despise.

This version of Ash’s “Shining Light” is an example of just such an offering, trying so hard to be cool but without being able to resist subtly changing the cadence of the main hook (“…you’re my shining li-ight”) in the way that all no hope old guarders do, to give it a new twist. Don’t try to fix what ain’t broken! This is an utterly pointless cover and does not in any way enrich the art form. I really don’t care if she is “ooh androgynous” (yawn) or that she plays all the parts in the video (yawn) or that she still looks “good” (yawn) there is no excuse for trying to prolong your career by lazily churning out this kind of drivel.

I’m hoping that by venting these thoughts I can exorcise this vile piece of s**t from my head. Maybe then I’ll have some *Sweet Dreams* (ouch)

The Avalanches – Since I left you.

•January 11, 2010 • Leave a Comment

When you are unfortunate enough to hear anything by The Avalanches you can guarantee that two things will happen.

Firstly, people that have appalling taste in music will emit a weak ‘woo!’ and they will bore you with a story about the first time they heard this track and how amazing it was for them.

Then, once their story is over, they will start to trot out a couple of interesting facts about The Avalanches.  Either of these facts may be bullshit – who knows – but somehow they are both believable.  It will go something like this:

Fact 1. The two guys from The Avalanches, who made this record, well they made it for themselves you know.  It was never meant to be heard by the public.  It was just a bit of fun between each other.  When they made it they didn’t think it would get a commercial release.

This is entirely plausible.  It fucking sounds like it was never meant to be commercially available.  From the start of any track I have heard by The Avalanches, it goes precisely nowhere.  It is not a finished track, it is an outline.  An idea.  A sketch.

Had they intended people to pay money for this music, then you would have expected them to go to the effort of exploring one or more of their ideas for longer than the one verse and one chorus they repeated for the entire length of the track.

Fact 2. This track [insert the name of any The Avalanches track here] breaks the World Record for ‘the most amount of samples on one single’.

Really?  Do you think? Is that why it sounds so shit?  Are you sure that it doesn’t also break the World Record for ‘the most amount of samples pointlessly and aimlessly played at once’?

I mean, I just don’t know what to do with this piece of information when it is presented as a factoid. It is both self evident, and also the reason why it sounds so crap. Is it to be celebrated?

It is an achievement of sorts I suppose.  That is to say it is something that doesn’t just happen; in the same way that learning to drink a bottle of tomato sauce in one go without taking a breath takes a degree of application and commitment.

But it is of little use and less merit.

The Saturdays – I’ve got enough

•January 7, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Pointless cover versions will almost certainly prove to be the most popular post tag on Unnecessary Music, as there’s little to get a man’s goat quite like it.  I’m not going to stand here and say that the cover version is rubbish.  Some of them are brilliant, particularly those done with affectionate gusto or an imaginative new twist.  Some even make the original obsolete.

The Saturdays’ version of Just Can’t Get Enough represents none of these things.  I’ve only recently become aware of The Saturdays, and have learnt that their gimmick is that they are all pretty girls, aged about 12.  Their oeuvre doesn’t extend much beyond that.

So, sat in their pink Barbie penthouse, lezzing each other off in the Guinness Book of Records’ world record for the longest continual underwear-only pillow fight, The Saturdays await news of their next direction in phonics.  The group’s management meet in the stark boardroom on the other side of the one-way glass, observing the scene with their cocks in their sweaty hands.  The first to ejaculate and submit to a brain-focussing case of wangst suddenly puts forth a brainwave: “Depeche Mode’s 1981 hit song Just Can’t Get Enough is great.  I used to love it in the days I still cared about music”.

And so The Saturdays – all bar a skeleton pillow-fighting-in-their-knickers staff of two (the Guinness World Record is far more likely to be their legacy than anything that issues forth from their record label) – retire to the Barbie’s First Studio attic studio.  There they produce what is, limited only by factors such as their ability and the fat-handed, shit-for-brains, all-blood-rushing-to-their-glans production staff’s half-arsed attempt at looking like they care on £20 per hour, the closest approximation to the original recording that they can.  But I ask you this: what was the bloody point?  If it was to make me angry, they have at least succeeded.  Rumour has it that Vince Clarke will rejoin Depeche Mode, just to poo through the door of the Pink Penthouse.

Check out Nouvelle Vague & Eloisa‘s brilliant cover of the same song to see how such things should be done and help stop you stoving your speakers in with a welly boot.

The Thompson Twins

•December 31, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Art school chancers.

That is all.

[edit] Also responsible for some of the worst dancing in history.

Lily Allen – Who’d Have Known?

•December 31, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Let’s not get carried away with some kind of debate about personalities here.  UNNECESSARYMUSIC is not written by player haters.

So, with that in mind why have I identified ‘Who’d have thought?’ by Lily Allen as a candidate for our attention?

Already detailed on the internet is the tale of how Lily wrote this song and then realised later that she had used the same melody that Mark Owen had written for Take That’s single ‘Shine‘.  So far so unremarkable.  Catchy melodies can be irresistible and will lodge themselves as earworms very easily. Unwittingly using someone else’s melody in your own song must happen all the time to songwriters.

‘Shine’ is an ok song.  At best it is a bit of gentle oompah fun.  Perhaps something akin to a quirky Graham Nash track that didn’t make it onto Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s ‘Deja vu‘.  It is a a toe-tapping feel-good song, and it is softly familiar from the first listen.

It is what Lily Allen does with this melody that irks me. Something happened to it when the earworm was singing it into her ear.

Somehow she accents all the wrong parts of it.  The oompah bits start to sound plodding and heavy, like an asthmatic labouring up a hill. It starts moving away from Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and towards Leo Sayer.

And she has added her own special flourishes to it.  She has embroidered the singalong aspect with a gaudy  Roccoco frill motif in such a way that something quite odd starts to happen as you are listening.  During the chorus you were already overlaying ‘Shine’ by Take That.  This is inescapable.

But something else starts to happen. At some point a third tune joins the oompah party, and it ,,starts jostling for attention.  It gets louder, and louder, until…over the chorus… you can hear… the melody from the theme of t.v.’s the ‘Fall Guy‘.  Oh my.

A-hey-hey!

And then if this wasn’t enough there is Lily’s vocal delivery to stress about.  She is clearly not convinced that the words pack enough punch. Boring even.  So what to do?

Well, she does what she does on all her songs – she adds  tiny little pauses before delivering the last word of a line.  For……..emphasis.  It covers a variety of problems, and it is by no means original.  Many singers do it.

And many actors.

Most notably William Shatner.

Lily Allen’s vocal delivery has all the passion and power of a classic William Shatner performance.  It is that bad.

Florence. You’ve Got the Love.

•December 30, 2009 • Leave a Comment

*sigh*
This song – originally released by Candi Staton in 1986 – got its first major recognition as a result of a bootleg release in 1991.

A rather wonderful history of ‘You got the love’ by Candi Staton (latterly and more famously by ‘The Source featuring Candi Staton’) is detailed here. However, the cover of this excellent song, by Florence and the machine, being more than unnecessary also has the gall to be an imposition upon everybody who hears it.

It has all the grinding inevitability of a late-era Stone Roses guitar solo.  It lets you know from the beginning that you are in for the long haul so you may as well just give in now.

The only interesting thing about this cover version is that it appears to be twice as long as actually it is.  It is so dense that it bends space-time.

It has a soul-sapping start that makes your shoulders sag because even though it has only just begun you will know, having endured it once before, that it is going to get more intrusive, more uncomfortable and more noisy before it is over.  Ultimately it will leave  you feeling invaded and numb.  Much like how major dental work does.

What doesn’t help is that Florence doesn’t sing – she yelps.  And she yelps from pretty much the get-go.  There is no dynamic range left for her to fill from this obvious opening gambit.  All that remains is the scoundrel’s bluff of a sudden, pointless, whispered phrase.  This tells the listener that YOU ARE EXPERIENCING EMOTION. And it is then brilliantly counterpointed by a return to yelping.

Imagine this.  Imagine you are at a Florence and the Machine gig and imagine that you really dig their sound.  Imagine that ‘You’ve got the love’ is the next tune that they play.  What conclusions can you draw?:

  • Firstly it will be longer than the single release.  Probably up to twice the length.  They didn’t write it, everyone knows it and it will define a moment in the setlist.
  • There will be more shouting/whispering than on the single release. Florence is going to EMOTE.
  • There will be a bit where the song ‘breaks down’ and goes all quite. The guitarist and the keyboard player have nothing to do for three minutes. They will  lose concentration and start thinking about their tax returns or where to go on holiday this year. *NOTE* In much the same way as the yelping/whispered vocals operates, this is a clumsy sonic device which attempts to contrast the fact that the song is about to become very, very loud again.
  • This really is going to be over-long.  Now is the time to go to the bar and get a drink.  You might even have time to have a shit.
 
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