Music Features

The Singles Bar - 17th September 2012

When pop historians look back at 2012, what will be the defining characteristics of the year? Looking at this week’s selection – and previous Singles Bars – they’ll be able to identify Guetta-esque Europop, brostep, singer-songwriters and Pitbull. Lots of Pitbull. If that hasn’t put you off entirely, you’ll find ten tracks for your delectation and cogitation below.

Michael Jackson feat. Pitbull – Bad

Oh. Dear. Bad may not exactly be Michael Jackson’s finest work, but it’s difficult – nay, impossible – to see why anyone thought commissioning a remix and guest spot from rent-a-rapper Pitbull to “celebrate” the 25th anniversary of the parent album was a good idea. Unsurprisingly, this version (Afrojack remix, DJ Buddha edit, fact fans) gives Bad a wholly unnecessary Euro-house feel and, seeing as it’s 2012, of course there’s the obligatory quasi-dubstep breakdown. It’s difficult to single out the worst bit of this song but if pushed, I’d say it’s the verse where Pitbull rhymes “B.A.D.” with “Michael Jackson – R.I.P.”, closely followed by the bit where he says he speaks “moon-talk” (presumably he was struggling to think of a rhyme for “moonwalk”). An entirely awful reworking with precisely no redeeming features – well done, everyone, I hope you’re very proud of yourselves. 0/10

Lucy Rose – Bikes

The rise to prominence of Lucy Rose is something I’d managed to miss entirely. Originally making her name as a backing singer for Bombay Bicycle Club, it wasn’t until I chanced upon her at Bestival last weekend that it became apparent just how popular she’s become. It’s not difficult to see why – she’s got that easy-listening, folk-y sound that’s about as exciting as an hour spent pairing socks but, for some reason, daytime Radio 1 DJs fall hard for and blabber on about incessantly. Expect to hear soon Lucy Rose doing an acoustic cover of a pop song while Fearne Cotton foams about the mouth about just how authentic she is. Bikes is a perfectly pleasant record but it’s difficult to shake the feeling you’ve heard this done before, and done better (namely by Laura Marling). Lucy Rose’s voice is also a little too wispy and characterless to carry a song, resulting in a track that’s entirely insubstantial and unfulfilling. 4/10

Ladyhawke – Blue Eyes

Sadly, the return of Ladyhawke has been largely met with indifference from the record-buying public. It’s unusual, seeing as her electro-tinged goth-pop is actually more in vogue now than when she released her first album four years ago. Blue Eyes sounds fantastic – all brash, violent synths, robust bass and heavy breathing – but the actual song that underpins everything isn’t particularly strong. The “na-na-na” refrain is cute, but the chorus is lacking in any real excitement and, melodically, is too close to its preceding verse to be memorable. The fizz of the electronics that runs through Blue Eyes is genuinely thrilling, but if Ladyhawke is going to gain the adulation and success she surely deserves, she may need to do better than this. 6/10

Michael Kiwanuka – Bones

In one way, Michael Kiwanuka has really had a fantastic 2012 so far. In another way, he should have done seeing as he won the illustrious BBC Sound Of… poll, and seeing as the previous winner was Jessie J, he could be justified in being a little disappointed. That said, his album, Home Again, has just been nominated for the Mercury Music Prize, so perhaps Bones can capitalise on that recognition. Like most Michael Kiwanuka songs, Bones is a gorgeous sounding record that’s perfectly enjoyable in isolation but leaves you questioning the point of what he does. His sound is so indebted to Al Green and other 1970s soul mainstays that his music comes across as little more than pastiche. He has an incredibly easy, soothing voice though, so while his records do anything but rewrite the rule book, you can’t help but enjoy them. 7/10

Pitbull feat. Shakira – Get It Started

At the beginning of Get It Started, Cuban rapper Pitbull declares, “The world is mine”. Given his ubiquity – this is already his second appearance in this week’s column – he could be correct, depressingly. For anyone wondering how he can be so prolific, just take a look at his lyrics. Full of couplets a rhyming dictionary would reject for being too obvious and trite, it appears he’s making them up on the spot half the time. Add in the fact that all his records have that pulsing, Euro-dance beat which is unavoidable in this day and age, and you’ve hardly got something to get the pulse racing. Shakira merely Shakiras her way through the chorus and, all in all, Get It Started feels like a track you’ve heard a million times before yet somehow still can’t remember anything about. 1/10

Band Of Horses – Knock Knock

What can you say about a new Band Of Horses track? Well, it sounds like a new Band Of Horses track. There are chugging guitars, tightly-structured verses and choruses, and Ben Bridwell’s distinctive Southern drawl. The group seem to be on the same career path as The Black Keys, just a few years behind. They make unremarkable but well-crafted rock music and build their profile up slowly and steadily. Knock Knock should aid this progression – it’s well put-together and is robust enough to stand up well to repeat listens. It would just be nice if could stir some emotion and make you feel something extreme or profound. 7/10

Example – Say Nothing

As soon as Say Nothing began, it was a quick jump to the search bar to see if it was the third single from an album. An odd assumption, perhaps, but it’s got a pensive, introspective feel that you often find on a release that follows two huge-sounding mega-hits. However, proving once and for all that I know nothing, it transpires that Say Nothing is actually the lead single from Example’s forthcoming fourth album. It’s an odd choice because, by his standards, it’s almost understated and subtle. Perhaps this is him trying to showcase a new-found maturity, as it’s probably the most singer-songwriter style thing Example has ever done. Of course there are still huge house beats and EDM synths, but it’s worth noting the shift in his music and lyrics. It’s still rubbish, mind. 2/10

No Doubt – Settle Down

Since their formation in 1986, No Doubt have sold over 33 million records. That’s THIRTY THREE MILLION, which is roughly the population of Uganda. Settle Down is their first single for over eight years, and showcases the various phases of No Doubt’s career in a microcosm. They never truly lost their ska roots, but there are hints of the dancehall sound that featured on 2001’s Rock Steady album, plus the electro and pop that formed the bedrock of Gwen Stefani’s solo career. They’re a much more sleek and professional outfit these days, and it’s a little sad that some of the edge and unpredictably the band had in the 90s seems to have gone. Still, Settle Down is a great track – danceable, fun and – most importantly of all – makes us all realise what we’d been missing. 7/10 – SINGLE OF THE WEEK

Delilah – Shades Of Grey

Despite its title, it would appear that the latest Delilah single is not about E.L. James’ soft-core juggernaut. Note to nu-metal fans: it appears to not be about the Stain’d album, 14 Shades Of Grey, either. No, this Shades Of Grey focuses on lost love, and following the successes of Lianne La Havas, Michael Kiwanuka and Jessie Ware, is yet another example of post-Adele soul. However, Delilah hasn’t quite got the magnetism of the aforementioned artists, making Shades Of Grey something of a rather dull experience. It’s at this point you’re probably expecting a tortuous 50 Shades Of Grey pun, but I haven’t read the book, so you’ll have to provide your own smutty remark, I’m afraid. 3/10

Billy Talent – Surprise Surprise

When I was in my mid-teens, I was subjected to the music of Billy Talent on an almost daily basis by people who were extremely precious about the common room stereo. I’d entirely repressed the memory of them until now, and am surprised to see they’re still around. Surprise Surprise – sadly not a cover of the theme tune to Cilla Black’s television show of the same name – is bubblegum rock for the Kerrang! generation. Luckily, there are also some vaguely anarchic counter-cultural platitudes that teenagers can lap up. Heavy riffing, irritating vocals and sixth-form lyrics – it appears that Billy Talent haven’t changed one bit from when I heard them last. 2/10

Not exactly a vintage week chez Singles Bar. You’ve got the chance to listen to all ten tracks, so what do you think? Let us know using the Disqus form below.