Music Features

The Singles Bar - 1st June 2015

Ten tracks. One man. 1,400 words (give or take). It’s that there Singles Bar.
Devlin – 50 Grand (feat. Skepta)
After a few years out of the mainstream, grime seems to be undergoing something of a renaissance at the moment, and no artist has benefitted from that more than Skepta. Perhaps that’s why Devlin has enlisted him to guest on his new track, but it backfires horribly, as Skepta’s rhymes truly show up Devlin’s inadequacies. Given the unshowy, repetitive backing, 50 Grand is clearly set up to be just a vehicle for the talents of Devlin and Skepta, but Devlin just hasn’t got the presence to carry this off. 50 Grand has plenty of the dark menace that characterises much of the best grime but if the genre wants to regain its standing, it’s going to need some better tracks than this. 4/10
Bear’s Den – Above The Clouds Of Pompeii
If you’re thinking Bear’s Den is a fairly boring name for a band, it’s nothing compared to the music they make. To get an idea of what they’re about, they’re signed to a label co-founded by one of Mumford & Sons, and they’ve been in a documentary about touring with Ben Howard. Unsurprisingly, Above The Clouds Of Pompeii is an acoustic number but, taking my cynical hat off, it’s not entirely without merit. The picking and main riff are gently pretty and there are some nice, understated touches in the first two thirds. Unfortunately, Bear’s Den deem it necessarily to build to a climax that features a banjo and, while it doesn’t go as far as Mumford & Son’s middle-class hoedowns, it still feels entirely unnecessary. Against the odds, there might be a half-decent band in here. Not yet though. 3/10
Charli XCX – Famous
While Charli XCX hasn’t exactly lost her way, long-term fans of her career might be starting to think she can do better than her recent run of singles suggests. Famous follows on from Boom Clap and Break The Rules, and continues their mindless, pop-punk aesthetic which characterises much of her Sucker album. Famous is a two-chord wonder that’s great fun, but a little disposable and forgettable, even by chart pop standards. That said, Charli XCX is clearly the most interesting pop star working right now, and there are far worse things to aspire to be than the 21st Century Cyndi Lauper. 7/10
Disclosure – Holding On (feat. Gregory Porter)
The Lawrence brothers are back! Holding On makes great use of the soulful vocals of Gregory Porter, who has risen to popularity in the last twelve months. Despite only being born in the early 1990s, the Disclosure siblings continue to make music that evokes a time they barely lived through but, as the success of their debut album showed, they’ve got a serious knack for it. Holding On is pretty much everything you’d want for the comeback single following up a hugely popular first record. It’s a killer tune that you can imagine going down a storm at festivals throughout the summer, it hints at something a little different to what’s gone before, yet it retains the key elements of Disclosure’s previous work. These guys know exactly what they’re doing. 8/10 – SINGLE OF THE WEEK
Moelogo – My Sweetie (feat. Bunny Mack)
Afrobeats has been gradually making its way into the mainstream for a few years now, but arguably, so far only Fuse ODG has managed a decent string of hits, while acts like D’Banj remain one-hit wonders in the UK. The African influence in My Sweetie is much more prevalent than on any Fuse ODG single, with the irresistible rhythms recalling the energetic stylings of high life. Whilst many acts previously have concentrated on completely repackaging African music or afrobeats in the hope of commercial success, Moelogo is less willing to conform and, as a result, brings a liveliness and bounce to his music that’s rarely seen in the pop charts to this extent. Sadly, the song itself can’t live up to the killer backing, but it’s still worthy of your time. 7/10
Nate Ruess – Nothing Without Love
He has an annoying voice, his music is syrupy nonsense, he’s signed to a label called Fueled By Ramen, and he’s the lead singer of major ear-irritants fun. – does Nate Ruess have any redeeming features whatsoever? On the evidence of Nothing Without Love, the answer is a fairly resounding ‘no’. It’s the kind of tortuously plodding ballad that makes Train sound like Funkadelic, and is written purely so Ruess can squeeze as much emotion out of it as humanly possible. What Nate Ruess doesn’t seem to realise, however, is that his voice is actually physically unpleasant to hear. His pitch is particularly piercing and makes you shudder involuntarily. It’s whiny, unlistenable rubbish of the highest degree and the thought that anyone might pay money to own this song makes me incandescent with rage. 0/10
CamelPhat & A*M*E – Paradigm
For reasons that still aren’t particularly clear, A*M*E isn’t a world-beating pop singer. Despite possessing everything that you could be looking for in a star, and having even provided the vocals for a chart-topping hit (Duke Dumont’s Need U (100%)), the universe at large remains generally impervious to her charms. Perhaps keen to repeat that Duke Dumont-endorsed success, she’s teamed up with electro duo CamelPhat to guest on a house-inspired number. While it ticks all the boxes theoretically, Paradigm never quite takes off – it doesn’t really seem to have a focal point or a climax to which everything else was building up to. You’d happily dance to this in the middle of a DJ set, but it’s not going to ameliorate your experience and it’s never going to be the track that stays with you after the night is over. 5/10
Lawson – Roads
Lawson are one of those bands that you know exist, yet can’t remember any of their songs, or indeed anything about them. It doesn’t help that their name is so similar to Rixton – another entirely unremarkable pop-rock outfit. Have you ever heard a song by Bastille, The 1975, Maroon 5, The Script, OneRepublic, The Fray or Imagine Dragons? Then there’ll be absolutely nothing new for you in Roads, which is a nearly packaged three and a half minutes of no consequence which, somehow, you’re able to forget while it’s still actually playing. There is literally no point to any of this. 1/10 
O-Town – Skydive
Reunions nobody asked for: part 362. For the uninitiated (you lucky people, you), O-Town were one of the very first bands put together through a reality TV show (MTV’s Making The Band) and are best remembered for their genuinely uncomfortable hit Liquid Dreams, which is about exactly what you think it is. There seems to be an unwritten rule that boyband members aren’t allowed to sing anything remotely upbeat once they’re over thirty years old and, as a result, Skydive is an overwrought power ballad, the type you’ve heard a million times before. You can imagine the single fist clenching that signifies deep emotion. Once the track builds to its most intense point, if you listen very carefully, there’s a bit in the backing track that sounds a little like Flashing Lights by Kanye West. That’s genuinely the only thing remotely interesting about this song, and that’s stretching the definition of ‘interesting’ to breaking point. 1/10
Natalie La Rose – Somebody (feat. Jeremih)
The opening of Somebody sounds a tiny bit like I Can’t Wait by Nu Shooz which, let’s be honest, can only be a good thing. Fans of Jeremih’s recent hit single Don’t Tell ‘Em will hear lots of elements they’re familiar with in this song, which also appropriates Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me) in the chorus. This is a decent enough tune but, much like the CamelPhat and A*M*E track above, it never really gets out of second gear. In case you’re wondering about lyrical themes, La Rose and Jeremih are in “the club”, so much like 99% of other pop stars these days – it’s a wonder anything gets done really. 4/10
No surprises here as fraternal twosome Disclosure march off with the coveted Singles Bar crown for their return single. Join us next time for more.