Music Features

The Singles Bar - 30th March 2015

Back and not quite as regular as it used to be, The Singles Bar cocks a snook at a fresh batch of singles on the first Monday of British Summer Time.

Dappy – Beautiful Me

This week’s instalment begins with everyone’s favourite silly hat wearing, late night petrol station brawling artist. Given Dappy has collaborated with such influential modern-day figures as Brian May in the not-too-distant past, it will be interesting to see what he’s come up with now his star is falling. Like much of Dappy’s solo work, it’s a confessional ballad about how he’s misunderstood and has learnt his lesson. However, the video is unintentionally hilarious. Highlights include him sitting at a piano drinking whisky (or perhaps perfume) with a bunch of N-Dubz gold discs in clear shot and him diving into a swimming pool whilst wearing what appears to be a Butlin’s redcoat outfit. These are both surpassed by Dappy’s haircut though, which has such a severe, geometric parting, it looks as if he’s wearing a plastic wig meant for a Lego character. Beautiful Me doesn’t pull punches when addressing Dappy’s disappearance from the nation’s airwaves – he doesn’t seem to understand why he rarely gets played nowadays. Spoiler alert: it’s because he releases records like this and they’re irredeemably terrible. 1/10

Paloma Faith – Beauty Remains

Whilst we’re on the theme of beauty, here’s the BRIT-winning Paloma Faith with her latest effort. Faith tends to torpedo even her best songs with her sub-Winehouse foghorn vocals, and we were ready to write off Beauty Remains as another lung-busting abomination but it’s really not all that bad. There are some strong nods to ‘60s soul here, but it genuinely feels like Faith has pulled off the sophisticated pop sound she’s seemingly been searching for ever since her debut on the scene a few years back. One of the co-writers on Beauty Remains is Bernard Butler, and this track harks back to his stronger work on Duffy’s first record. Most surprisingly of all though, is how Faith actually manages to tailor her vocals to the mood of the track, and doesn’t end up ruining it with narcissistic, melismatic warbling. It’s nice to know that even when you’ve got firmly entrenched preconceived notions about an artist, they can still surprise you. 7/10

Rihanna – Bitch Better Have My Money

As Rihanna makes a proper return following her McCartney/Kanye collaboration, FourFiveSeconds, the question must be asked: when was the last time Rihanna released a decent solo single? For a brief phase, her name was a byword for pop quality, but she’s been misfiring for a while now (answer: it was Where Have You Been? in 2011, and that was hardly a classic). BBHMM has a dramatic, lumbering accompaniment, the tone of which is completely subverted by Rihanna’s vocals, which have been treated to make them more high-pitched. She’s trading hooks for credibility with this one, because while the nods to trap will cause many a critic to stroke their beards in admiration, there’s not actually a lot going on here once the initial template has been set. It’s interesting to note the progression and longevity of Rihanna, and it’s refreshing to see such a successful artist still take risks this far in their career (her upcoming album will be her eighth). However, she’s in danger of slipping from the top of planet pop if she doesn’t release a stone-cold banger soon. 5/10

Ed Sheeran & Rudimental – Bloodstream

Is there anyone out there who hasn’t had their fill of Ed Sheeran? His second album, X, has been in and around the top of the charts since the dawn of time, and the repeated comments of, “He seems like such a nice guy, actually”, from all and sundry make us want to scream. Drum n’ bass outfit Rudimental tend to produce their best work when they haven’t got one eye on Top 40 success, so this collaboration doesn’t augur well. Bloodstream is the track Sheeran performs on TV shows when he wants to show how talented he is with a loop pedal, and it’s usually lapped up, presumably by people who have never seen a loop pedal before. Rudimental’s contribution to Bloodstream seems to extend little further than some fierce D&B drum patterns, and it’s difficult to work out whether they compensate for the lack of chorus or shatter the mood. Like Rihanna, Ed Sheeran is clearly an artist full of confidence, keen to bring interesting sounds into the mainstream, and Bloodstream isn’t your typical chart fodder. There’s a dark, intense edge to this and, while Bloodstream may not be setting things ablaze in the songwriting department, it’s a passable effort nonetheless. 4/10

Brandon Flowers – Can’t Deny My Love

Not sure about you but here at The Singles Bar, we’ve always been more partial to Brandon Flowers’ Dad, Mike, and his cover of Wonderwall from the mid ‘90s. Anyway, Flowers is taking time out from his busy schedule of helping The Killers to shred their legacy to record another album of songs that have apparently come straight out of 1983. Can’t Deny My Love is about as AOR as it gets – you can imagine it cropping up on a compilation CD called Driving Tunes or Dad ROCKS!!!. The production is an utter mess, with buzz-saw guitars, cheap-sounding keyboards and electronic drums all fighting for space that isn’t there. There’s also a bizarre moment a minute before the end where the song takes on an ill-judged hymnal quality for a few seconds before returning to the sludgy chorus. On the plus side, we’ve probably found Bryan Adams’ favourite song of 2015. 2/10

Mr. Probz – Nothing Really Matters

Mr. Probz had one of the biggest selling singles of 2014 with the Robin Schulz reworking of Waves – a blissed-out, looping track that winked at a million Balearic chill compilations from the late ‘90s. Fans of Waves are likely to be horrified by Nothing Really Matters: a piano and strings ballad with no percussion presumably designed for people who find John Legend a bit too restrained and emotionally distant. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with piano ballads, of course, but Nothing Really Matters never even threatens to properly get going and, as a result, is wetter than having water poured over your head when you’re already in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. At least we’ve now learned that the real star of Waves was Robin Schulz – no props for Probz. 1/10

Madeon – Pay No Mind (feat. Passion Pit)

Oh, Madeon, with your incredibly deep knowledge of house music and your bizarrely unblemished skin. We can only assume that both of these qualities are due to some kind of Faustian pact, like a 21st Century Robert Johnson with synths. Despite having been around for quite some time (even though he looks about twelve), Madeon’s only now about to release his debut album, the ridiculously energetic Adventure. On Pay No Mind, Madeon’s channelling the spirit of early 2000s Daft Punk, pairing a catchy track with infectious, radio-friendly house hooks. In fact, Pay No Mind is so catchy that it’s almost grating, but it keeps just the right side of annoying thanks to Madeon’s knack for production. With chops like this, Madeon should easily be as big a name as David Guetta or Calvin Harris – a few more tracks like Pay No Mind could truly elevate him to the next level. 8/10

Ben Howard – Rivers In Your Mouth

Now, a lot of people don’t realise this, but the interesting thing about Ben Howard iszzzzzzzzzzzzzz... *sleeps for a hundred years*. 0/10

Olly Murs – Seasons

Your Mum’s favourite modern singer is still plugging away, extracting every last sale out of that “cheeky chappy” persona. For the uninitiated, imagine Frank Sinatra except with an Estuary accent, a suit that cost £14.99 from George at Asda, absolutely no swagger, and a desperation that’s so tangible it can be detected from up to ten miles away. Seasons is a jaunty track that begins with an acoustic guitar lick that, if you look closely enough, actually says ‘If lost please return to Ed Sheeran’ on it. There’s a bit of electro crackle and some half-hearted “woo-oohs” in the chorus but it’s a bit of a tired effort. In fact, if you’d never heard an Olly Murs track before, you’d think to yourself, “This is a bit ‘third single from the album’, isn’t it?” and you’d be precisely right. Olly Murs is a conundrum because on the one hand it would be great for everyone if his music bombed and he no longer had a recording career. However, each musical failure brings him one step closer to his inevitable destiny as a presenter on Sunday Brunch, and you wouldn’t wish that on the nation. 2/10

Daphne & Celeste – You And I Alone

A*Teens, AllSTARS, Girl Thing, t.A.T.u., Christina Milian, Lolly, Samantha Mumba, Alcazar. These are all acts who briefly flirted with the upper reaches of the charts in the 21st Century who you’d think more likely to make a comeback than Daphne & Celeste (actually, in the case of Christina Milian, it’s a big YES PLEASE from us). However, the duo famed for their nursery-rhyme singles and getting bottled at the Reading Festival have, at the request of precisely no-one, decided now is the time to relaunch their recording career. What’s even more unexpected, however, is that You And I Alone is utterly, utterly brilliant. Producer Max Tundra adds a lightweight, springy feel to a track that’s understated yet never dull. In fact, you can imagine Metronomy sitting at home right now cursing their luck they didn’t write a song as good as this for their most recent record. Daphne & Celeste get the tone spot on too, as their vocals give the song the requisite space to breathe, with only the build-up before the last chorus featuring exhilarating chanting. This must rank up there with the biggest surprises in pop history. The Singles Bar needs a stiff drink after this one. 9/10 – SINGLE OF THE WEEK

We don’t even know which way is up and which way is down any more. Come back next time when another ten tracks will be put through their paces here at The Singles Bar.