This article is part of a series, chronicling a foolish attempt to chronicle the history of modern pop, through the Now That’s What I Call Music series. All the previous articles, and some other fun stuff, can be found here.
Released- 21st November 2014
Well, it’s happening right now. So it’s not history. If I could write it, it would say Run the Jewels 2 and Urge for Offal both go triple platinum and revitalise the music industry. However, I don’t write history. Taylor Swift and Sam Smith are likely to be the only two artists to go platinum, in what must be described as a bit of a bad year for the record industry.
I am writing a blog. It’s the present day. Now albums still exist and come out, and as this one is only a couple of weeks old, I thought it might be fun to review one that is recent, and see how today’s pop sounds. I am a fool.
If I had to save one track from this album, and the remainder were to be barred from existence, following an angry Twitterstorm, that track would be… Take Me To Church. It’s a little life affirming that with the fragmentation of genres and specialisation that Spotify culture has wrought, that a good song can still do well in and of itself.
Track by track breakdown
Meghan Trainor – “All About That Bass”
Ah, it’s okay as a song, but at least it’s not entirely vacuous in content. Judgemental yes, but you know, it’s rebelling against a billion dollar industry based around making women hate themselves to sell cloth, so you go girl.
Olly Murs featuring Travie McCoy – “Wrapped Up”
This sounds like something I hated by someone else a few years ago. Thank the Lord for my long term memory loss! He seems a cute cheeky chappy though, and I can’t bring myself to hate him. For want of trying.
Jessie J, Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj – “Bang Bang”
Not bad but not all that good soul stomper, saved from mediocrity by a rapid fire Nicki Minaj verse late on. She really is worth the exorbitant guest price.
Nico and Vinz – “Am I Wrong”
Not much of anything. The lyrical depth of a puddle, with some okay music. Any more clichés and the song would collapse in a pile of motivational quotes.
Magic! – “Rude”
Ugh. Firstly, it sounds a bit like Sting. Secondly, it’s catchy, but the wetness of his voice is equally stuck in your head. Thirdly, maybe the parents are saying no because you’re a scrag end who just demanded they say yes? Thrice no less.
Sam Smith – “I’m Not the Only One”
Yes, it’s bland crap, designed to sell chocolates and furniture sets to mumsy types who want something up to date, without having to take any interest in how the world has changed. But he does seem like a genuinely nice guy.
Tom Odell – “Real Love”
The second best song of the two from The Beatles 90’s reissues, and now somebody has made the second best version. Penguins, John Lewis, and so on and kill me.
Gareth Malone’s All-Star Choir – “Wake Me Up”
I prefer this cover to the original. If only for the fact Jo Brand has now had a top 10 hit. And I loved the original Gareth Malone series’. He’s just so very nice.
Ed Sheeran – “Don’t”
Very well produced, but he should not be allowed to write his own lyrics. I’m cringing listening to this embarrassing ‘voice of yoof’ shit!
George Ezra – “Blame It on Me”
The pretty standard sensitive singer songwriter schtick would be cloying, (see Sheeran, Ed) but he has a jolly nice, distinctive baritone which makes the song much more listenable.
The Script – “Superheroes”
This is the first time, I think, that I have heard a song by the ratty Irish one from The Voice. Wow. How can this guy judge other people’s talent? He’s more pedestrian than a small town high street. Also, clearly autotuned.
OneRepublic – “Love Runs Out”
Boy bands catch up with Adele. About 3 years late. Still actually very good for what it is, with its hand claps and stompy, rhythmic piano line.
Maroon 5 – “Maps”
Christ on an 18 gear mountain bike. These guys were a joke a decade ago! How are they still here? Did the chart compiler lose a bet? Do idiots live longer?
Hozier – “Take Me to Church”
Lush and deep sounding, almost like a Jeff Buckley track. That is high praise. Full of longing and feeling and power. Absolutely one of the best pop songs this year.
Charli XCX – “Boom Clap”
Proof that if Robyn had been five years later, she’d be a millionaire. Seriously, did she write this?
One Direction – “Steal My Girl”
I wanted to be pleasantly surprised. Instead I find that Journey have been robbed by four weed heads and their sinister looking master Harold Styles, like a modern day retelling of Oliver Twist.
The Vamps featuring Shawn Mendes – “Oh Cecilia (Breaking My Heart)”
Why would you even try to mess with Simon and Garfunkel.
Joke review 1- the sound of silence would be preferable.
Joke review 2- if these guys are The Vamps, then I’m a fan of The Van Helsings, The Blades, and The Buffys.
5 Seconds of Summer – “Amnesia”
I can totally see how this would really move me, if I were 13 years old. Sounds a lot like Hey There Delilah by a band from ten years ago I can’t even remember.
G.R.L. – “Ugly Heart”
Nothing about this song is worth the price of entry. Absolute bobbins. Better to spend 3 minutes trying to drown with your face in rice pudding.
Katy Perry – “This Is How We Do”
Moderate fun. Like she tried to do Royals by Lorde, but without the on point snark. The production covers a lot of the cracks though.
Cheryl Cole featuring Tinie Tempah – “Crazy Stupid Love”
Well, I went in expecting to hate this track, by the Geordie best known for racial assault in night clubs. However, it is actually really good, bouncy, and infectious. Tinie Tempah is a dissapointment by comparison to the rest of the song. Almost as good as other Girl Aloud, Nicola Roberts’ solo stuff.
Ella Henderson – “Glow”
It must be horrible to be an average female artist in the current musical climate. You can’t even blame your lack of success on a male dominated industry. You must have to accept that the songs are turds.
The Veronicas – “You Ruin Me”
A gloriously bitter and resentful break up ballad. Colour me genuinely impressed. I had liked Untouched a lot, but figured it was a pop fluke. I’m going to keep my eyes peeled for more as I make my way up to the present day.
Calvin Harris featuring John Newman – “Blame”
If you’ve read any of the prior Now reviews I’ve done, you may know how much I loathe Paul Weller. Calvin Harris is Paul Weller for millenials. Some average divot who once did an amusing song about the 80’s, and has since got a very long way on incredibly little talent.
Sigma featuring Paloma Faith – “Changing”
Listening to these albums, I have sorely missed a drum and bass beat. Not my kind of D&B, but it gets a pass as I like her hats.
Lilly Wood & Robin Schulz – “Prayer in C”
Bleak and moody pop house. The guitar line it’s built around really is very gorgeous, and complements the singer brilliantly.
Clean Bandit & Jess Glynne – “Real Love”
Rather Be, Clean Bandits prior single was rather lovely, an intricate mix of strings and dance beats that complemented each other beautifully and showed real promise. This is your standard auto tune an average singer and stick it over a beat crap. Looks like they just lucked onto one good song before.
Jeremih featuring YG – “Don’t Tell ‘Em”
Pretty dated sounding R&B for those who miss 2001. I do like the use of Rhythm is a Dancer for the chorus, even if it shows up that the original, basic as hell lyrics are better than the poorly planned ones here!
David Guetta featuring Sam Martin – “Lovers on the Sun”
Half the song is great, a bold attempt to make Ennio Morriconne go EDM. The rest of it is the same generic synth riff that is David Guetta’s multi million pound career summed up.
Waze & Odyssey vs. R. Kelly – “Bump & Grind 2014”
They’ve made a hybrid of the above and the keyboard riff from a Livin’ Joy track. In doing so, they’ve lost all the party fun of the latter, and ruined possibly the greatest tacky sex jam of all time.
Ariana Grande featuring Zedd – “Break Free”
By the books EDM pop. Beyond some fun Atari noises at the start, never really goes anywhere worth visiting, or that hasn’t been visited by somebody more interesting.
Nicole Scherzinger – “Your Love”
Not good enough for The Pussycat Dolls, X Factor or Formula One drivers. Her diction is just weird. As a pop singer, I think you might need to be able to pronounce the word ‘baby’. You have to use it a lot.
Pitbull featuring John Ryan – “Fireball”
Pitbull is pretty talentless as a rapper, but between the Latin carnival backing and referencing of Run DMC, this ends up being a lot of fun. Kind of danceably irresistible.
Wankelmut & Emma Louise – “My Head Is a Jungle” (MK Remix)
Happy clappy old school house. Not all that, but the guy’s name is HILARIOUS.
ZHU – “Faded”
Starts out promisingly, deep housey, then the vocal came in, and it was a little dissapointing, then the vocals get detuned and weird and I’m all over it again. I’ve settled on great.
Duke Dumont – “Won’t Look Back”
This is how to do 90’s dance! Right down to the Ride on Time reference. Seriously, this is a keeper for anyone who grew up in the 1990s. Banger.
Parra for Cuva featuring Anna Naklab – “Wicked Games”
Don’t cover something if you don’t think that you can do a better or different version. And it’s not like the original couldn’t be improved. Failure on all counts.
Fuse ODG featuring Angel – “T.I.N.A.”
An admirable attempt to fuse trance, R&B and afropop. Not a resounding success, but definitely more interesting than some of the lazier efforts on here.
Ten Walls – “Walking with Elephants”
Intriguing. Starts sounding a little like Unfinished Symphony, then brings in bizarre honking synth sounds, scattered in an offbeat with the beat. Enjoyably odd.
Kiesza – “Giant in My Heart”
More 90’s sounding dated dance. Saved by nice glassy synth sounds and bad scatting (the vocal kind, not the bum type). Never more than okay though.
The Magician featuring Years & Years – “Sunlight”
Beyond so much autotune I can’t even identify the gender of the singer, this dance track could have come out any time in the past 20 years, and would have been just okay.
Melissa Steel featuring Popcaan – “Kisses for Breakfast”
Embarrassingly cute pop R&B. Sadly had a Mike Read style fake patois breakdown. It’s like 21st century blackface. Horrible.
Professor Green featuring Tori Kelly – “Lullaby”
Sounds like your average youth drinking in a bus shelter who thinks he can rap. No wit, no wordplay. Just a spoiled tit who thinks his life is hard. Like a (more) embarrassing Eminem.
Iggy Azalea featuring Rita Ora – “Black Widow”
Ah, Igloo Australia, the Antipodes finest Nicki Minaj tribute act. Decidedly average, but no worse than expected, given the quality of the acts involved.
Nicki Minaj – “Anaconda”
Only a dissapointment in that I always want her to cut loose like her best records all the time. Still good enough, but I want to hear her be really funny at 100 miles an hour. This is a waste of a good sample. But only in comparison to the high standards she herself has set.
Final verdict: 21 out of 45, or 47%. In theory, it’s down there with series low Now 2, but in fairness, it has 15 more tracks to contend with, and these days, the sequencing is miles better. Don’t like singer songwriters? They’re all in one place, so you can skip them. And so on. So despite the close score, I prefer this album.