Saturday, 10 November 2018

New Music Friday 09/11

Cheryl - Love Made Me Do It

Cheryl - Love Made Me Do It

Let's face it, Cheryl has only really had two decent hits: Fight For This Love and Call My Name, both of which paired strong pop writing with key moments in her life. The former clearly reflected her struggling relationship with footballer Ashley Cole, while for the latter she literally changed her name. Love Made Me Do It is attempting the same trick, with lyrics that look back on her love life and play with her celebrity status. "Oh my god, I'm such a sucker / I fall in love with every fucker," she notes dryly in the pre-chorus. Yet unlike her previous hits, this is not a good song. The stark, percussive production sounds like a Selena Gomez cast-off and, if this wasn't Cheryl singing, nobody would be talking about it.

Dont bother.



Ariana Grande - thank u, next

Ariana Grande - thank u, next


Cheryl isn't the only one singing about exes this week - Ariana got there first. thank u, next comes after her engagement to Pete Davidson fell through and will be the title track of her already announced next album. Note to self: don't ever make an album about a boyfriend in case it doesn't work out. Thankfully, this is an enjoyable sassy kiss-off to her past lovers, each named directly, and a lesson in self-love. Her brand of pop R&B has really developed into a solid Ariana sound, meaning this already sounds like it's been part of her back catalogue for years.

Add to playlist.



Kelly Clarkson - Never Enough


Despite being an utterly terrible film, the music of The Greatest Showman has seen ubiquitous success, perhaps because each song works both individually and as part of the narrative. That's why the forthcoming 'Reimagined' album - in which pop singers have re-recorded the songs - is likely to be such a triumph. Kelly Clarkson's Never Enough is already a highlight, a soaring ballad that could feasibly have come from any of her albums - and she sounds great.

Worth a listen.



Jonas Blue feat. Nina Nesbitt - Desperate

Jonas Blue & Nina Nesbitt - Desperate

The list of DJ and producer Jonas Blue's previous releases is a list of hits that pretty much sound the same. Now they're collected on his debut album 'Blue', from which this new track with Nina Nesbitt is taken. Nesbitt herself has been on an upward trajectory with a pop reinvention and some solid new songs, so featuring on a big dance hit certainly won't hurt her momentum. For Blue, it's likely to be another annoyingly pervasive success.

Worth a listen.



Friday, 2 November 2018

Brexit @ The Kings Head Theatre

Brexit @ The Kings Head Theatre

There have been plenty of Brexit themed plays and musicals over the past year, which is understandable when theatre is so adept at political satire. Brexit, from writers Robert Khan and Tom Salinsky, received plenty of acclaim at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and now premieres at the Kings Head Theatre.

Its beginning apes reality, though another two years in the future. A new Prime Minister, Adam Masters (Timothy Bentinck), takes the poisoned chalice of leadership in the midst of Brexit negotiations that are going nowhere. Bentinck's character is somewhat bumbling and inept, as much a pawn himself as he is playing others. Indecision is his greatest weakness, yet paradoxically his greatest strength.

That's key to a play that thrives on duality and (smoke and) mirrors. Political stalemate is here made literal with liberal use of chess metaphors - a clichéd, though certainly apt, choice. More clever is the play's structure around repeated scenes and language, like a fragmented mirror. It's reflected too in Salinsky's staging, pitting political opposition against each other for the audience's delectation.

Masters is tasked with appointing two ministers to his cabinet: for trade and for Brexit. His masterstroke is to choose ministers with vastly opposing views, Diana Purdy (Pippa Evans) and Simon Cavendish (Thom Tuck). There are no good options, only problematic ones. But who is playing who? Is Brexit really better than being part of the EU? And the Prime Minister surely wouldn't only be thinking of his own reputation in all this...would he?

Khan and Salinsky have written a tight and smart political drama, full of manipulation and intrigue to have the audience, as much as the characters, guessing until the end. Equally, it's incredibly funny. The cartoonish characters are preposterous caricatures - in particular Tuck's jingoistic Cavendish and Evans' duplicitous Purdy - and there are some wonderfully acerbic lines, catty insults shot like bullets. In their witty and biting satire on the state of the U.K., nobody is safe from Khan and Salinksy's sharp minds and poisonous pen.

Yet despite its exaggeration, Brexit feels scarily prescient. At the very least, we can all have a laugh at the political jokes and a quiet sob at the glimpse of our future. Don't be surprised if this is exactly how it plays out.

4/5

Watch: Brexit runs at the Kings Head Theatre until November 17th.

Brexit @ The Kings Head Theatre

Brexit @ The Kings Head Theatre
Photos: Steve Ullathorne

New Music Friday 02/11

Carly Rae Jepsen - Party For One

Carly Rae Jepsen - Party For One

Party For One is Carly Rae Jepsen 101: sugary synths, immediate hooks, danceable beats, relatable lyrics. The simplicity of the opening verse sets up initial vulnerability - "Tried to let it go and say I'm over you / I'm not over you...but I'm trying" - for what ultimately becomes an empowering anthem of self-love. It's fun but with a solid emotional core, which makes it perfect pop - exactly what we'd expect.

Add to playlist.



Little Mix - Joan of Arc

Little Mix - Joan of Arc

On the one hand this is a ridiculously try-hard feisty feminist anthem, with cringeworthy lyrics like "fanning myself, I'm stanning myself / I love me so much I put my hands on myself" and unsubtle nods to Beyoncé in the "I put my own rock on my hand". On the other hand, this is a ridiculously over the top feisty feminist anthem that's eminently quotable and meme-worthy. It's so bonkers it's...good?

Worth a listen.



Clean Bandit feat. Marina and the Diamonds & Luis Fonsi - Baby

Clean Bandit feat. Marina and the Diamonds & Luis Fonsi - Baby

This is another 'bonkers but it works' song. It's most notable for hailing the return of label mate Marina and the Diamonds who provides typically fluttering vocals, while the production jerks through reggaeton rhythms, Spanish guitars and throbbing synth bass in weird but wonderful fashion. It's just one feature too many - Luis Fonsi is a needless inclusion, aimed only at buttering up the Latino markets.

Worth a listen.



Maisie Peters - Feels Like This

Maisie Peters - Feels Like This

Elfin vocals and a piano might seem a little John Lewis advert, but Feels Like This has real emotional integrity. The style is melancholic but it's actually a sweet love song about, as she sings in the second verse, "the little things, I'm shivering." It's the closing track from Peters' new EP 'Dressed Too Nice For A Jacket', full of sweet folky pop.

Worth a listen.



Hailee Steinfeld - Back to Life

Hailee Steinfeld - Back to Life

Let's just ignore for a moment the fact this is taken from the soundtrack to Bumblebee, the likely-to-be-awful Transformers spin-off movie. Back to Life is a breathless slice of synth pop with a hefty beat, fun little guitar licks, radio-friendly chorus and a suitably cinematic middle eight. It's not going to win awards for originality - this sounds very '2018' - but Steinfeld is yet to really put a foot wrong. Where is that debut album?

Worth a listen.