Ariana Grande’s ‘My Everything’: A first listen review thing
Aug 18 2014, 10:40
In less than twelve months, Ariana Grande’s gone from former Nickelodeon sitcom star to vaguely diverting “throwback” chanteuse circa ‘Yours Truly’ to the cusp of potential pop greatness with ‘Problem’. All while slipping in dog piss, defending her penchant for ponytails and trying to avoid eye contact with a giggling Rihanna at some award show or other.
She also found the time to record a new album and I went to hear it last week in a small record label meeting room.
As is the way with these things, it’s hard to get a proper feel for an album on one listen, but ‘My Everything’ feels like a genuine attempt to steal the currently vacant pop throne, as well as being the kind of gloriously all over the shop album that you often get when the planet’s songwriting and production a-list decide that they all want to get involved with an artist while the pop iron is extremely hot.
Eighty seconds of pleasantly breathy Mariah-isms, but this is basically a waste of everyone’s time.
2. ‘Problem’ feat Iggy Azalea
3. ‘One Last Try’
Lyrically we’re not exactly breaking new ground here – “liar” is rhymed with “fire” – but this subtle banger is an obvious album highlight. The chorus feels like it’s about to go off but never quite does, Ariana’s insane vocal flights of fancy weaving in and around a textured, EDM-esque backdrop that Wikipedia says is the work of part-time aural terrorist David Guetta, but it’s actually a Max Martin/Rami/Carl Falk trifecta of amazingness so don’t worry.
4. ‘Why Try’
This mid-paced bonanza features a massive Ryan Tedder-esque chorus, which is apt because it was quite literally written by Ryan Tedder. Production-wise, highlights include a sort of rolling, marching band beat, echoey “na, na, na” bits and there’s a great moment where Ariana sings the words “heart skips” and – guess what – the beat skips! There’s a good lyric as well, which goes something like, “we be loving like angels, living like devils”, although Ariana sings so high and so rapidly that she could have been saying anything.
5. ‘Break Free’ feat Zedd
This song – and its accompanying alien-kissing, bra bullet-shooting, Zedd-embarrassing video – feels like the arrival of Ariana as a proper popstar, and hearing the song blasted out in a small record label meeting room certainly doesn’t change that.
6. ‘Best Mistake’ feat Big Sean
This #slowjam sounded a bit boring when it first emerged last week, but in the context of the album it’s a nice breather from all the fizzing synths that dart around the album’s first five songs. Not sure about fish dinner fan Big Sean rapping about fancying Ariana’s mum, but what can you do.
7. ‘Be My Baby’ feat Cashmere Cat
Produced by Benny Blanco and Cashmere Cat, ‘Be My Baby’ is a low-slung, Rihanna-esque mid-paced stomper with a chorus that goes “be my, be my, be my baby and drive my crazy”. It is, as that line suggests, not exactly high art in terms of lyrical insight, but there’s a great middle eight drop bit and some absolutely insane backing vocal bits that make Ariana sound like she might explode at any moment.
8. ‘Break Your Heart Right Back’ feat Childish Gambino
She’s already ‘teased’ bits of this via the medium of Instagram video (see above, obviously), but this is that one that samples Diana Ross’ ‘I’m Coming Out’ and is apparently inspired by an ex-boyfriend who may or may not of cheated on her with a man. Again, Ariana needs to work on her diction because the first verse of this is so inaudible it sounds like a chorus of cats, but the sample – which was also used on this Notorious B.I.G song which is itself sampled here – is used in a really interesting (and surprisingly subtle) way. Again, it’s not exactly a balls out banger, more of a mid-paced, bouncing bop of a song.
9. ‘Love Me Harder’ feat The Weeknd
As anyone with fully functioning ears will tell you, The Weeknd’s own songs are a non-stop borefest of emotional inertia, but ‘Elastic Heart’ showed that he’s pretty good in small doses. And that’s true of ‘Love Me Harder’, which starts small and slightly pervy - “if you let me invade your space” is uttered in the first verse – before mushrooming out into a ‘throbbing’, electro-heavy chorus. There’s a really catchy post-chorus bit where Ariana sings “love me, love me…harder, harder” before some big vacuum-esque synths zip around all over the show.
10. ‘Just A Little Bit Of Your Heart’
Oh dear. This Harry Styles-penned, string-drenched ballad is so insipid that even post-Bodyguard Alexandra Burke would probably turn it down for being too clichéd. Ariana does her best, and the production tries hard to smother the lyrical clichés in all the strings and pianos the label could afford, but this feels like a fairly cynical PR exercise. Mind you drafting in one of One Direction is an upgrade of sorts considering the first album featured one of The Wanted.
11. ‘Hands On Me’ feat A$AP Ferg
This Rodney Jerkins-produced banger is brilliantly odd and that oddness is only magnified by the fact that it’s sandwiched between the album’s two syrupy ballads. Coming on initially like something from Christina Aguilera’s ‘Bionic’ (wait, come back), it fizzes and pops like classic early noughties R&B, A$AP Ferg’s grunts and hollers peppered throughout, while Ariana sounds convincingly coquettish in a way she hasn’t done before.
12. ‘My Everything’
Ariana’s been crying, she’s been missing her baby, she’s been pondering why she only realises what she has after its gone, etc. There are lots of pianos and the faint whiff of the stuff that clogged up her first album, but this one is basically quite a boring way to end an album that shows flashes of proper megastar potential.
‘My Everything’ is released on August 25 but will probably be streaming somewhere this week, one imagines.
(Obviously I’m aware that there are rumours of this whole animated film soundtrack, but it doesn’t look like it’s happening anytime soon due to the film being delayed, so best to ignore that for now).
As you know, it’s been a while since we’ve had any new Rihanna music. In fact, ‘RiRi’ hasn’t released a full album since she kidnapped a bunch of journalists and flew them around the world for seven days. And, in case you’d forgotten, that was almost two years ago – which in Rihanna terms is basically a decade.
But it’s more than that; it sort of feels like the right time for Rihanna to make a comeback. Look what a shambles pop has become in her absence: Ed Sheeran is the most powerful person in urban music, Gary Barlow is singing with meerkats and Cheryl is changing her pop name, again. Ultimately, Rihanna might look good in a dress made of diamonds, but she’d look better singing an amazing song on The X Factor in a dress made of diamonds, right? Right.
But what will a Rihanna album sound like in 2014? What should it sound like? Will it feature horns? Will it feature four-to-the-floor beats? Will it feature another ode to strippers? Or will it be an experimental, guitar laden prog-rock opus (no thanks)?
So here are eight reasonable demands for Rihanna’s eighth album.
Ballads (but good ones not ones for Nivea adverts)
Unlike a lot of popstars, Rihanna isn’t shit at ballads, but Rihanna ballads only really work when they have a bit of grit to them. Songs like ‘California King Bed’ are 90% fluff, but with a song like ‘Diamonds’ it felt from the very beginning (“find light in the beautiful sea, I chose to be happy”) like there was a real connection. She didn’t write it, but she owned it. The same goes for ‘Russian Roulette’. Both these songs ooze Rihanna: they’re emotional, they’re confident, and they’re not afraid to make a statement. More songs like that please Fenty, and a little less emphasis on the state you’ve made of last night’s sheets.
The right feat ratio
On her last album, Rihanna had no fewer than five extra vocalists along for the ride. Sometimes she gets it right – the sexual chemistry between Drake and Rihanna on ‘What’s My Name’ was great – but when you’re dealing with a song like ‘Nobody’s Business’ it can be devastating in all the wrong ways. Striking the right balance is crucial for #R8 but for feats to work they need to add something to the song, as Mikky Ekko did with his tender contribution to ‘Stay’. Rumours of a Nicki Minaj feat are already circulating, but let’s not have collaborations for the sake of it, eh?
Actual Rihanna songs, not just songs sung by Rihanna
We all know that tracks like ‘Umbrella’ and ‘We Found Love’ could have gone to other artists – and nearly did – but a surprising number of Rihanna’s signature songs feel like only Rihanna could have pulled them off. Just as importantly, you can imagine Rihanna actually wanting to listen to songs like ‘Rude Boy’, ‘Man Down’, ‘No Love Allowed’ and ‘Te Amo’. At this stage in her career, Rihanna should only be bothering with songs that tick both those boxes.
Some decent lyrics
It doesn’t really matter who’s written them, but Rihanna songs in 2014 shouldn’t be indicative of what people think she might have been like two or more years ago. Whether it’s poignant songs of friendship or love letters to the stripper pole, lyrically #R8 should represent who Rihanna is now.
A coherent ‘aesthetic’
Cohesion in pop is always fun, but wouldn’t it be amazing if Rihanna’s 2014 album also came with a strong aesthetic? For both ‘Rated R’ and ‘Loud’, Rihanna had clearly defined looks that were, as they say, ‘era defining’. The red locks of ‘Only Girl In The World’ and ‘What’s My Name’ became synonymous with that album campaign. Likewise the short back and sides of the resolutely monochromatic ‘Rated R’ campaign embodied the fiercely cold and dark nature of that record. Get the moodboard out Robyn.
Rihanna should make sure there’s a Stargate track on there, but she should also rope in young geniuses who are breaking new ground. Would a Rihanna X Sohn megaballad work? Or how about a bonkers Gorgon City jungle-infused rave-a-thon? Equally, perhaps we should cross another Calvin Harris megabanger off the list. Obviously ‘We Found Love’ is amazing. OBVIOUSLY. However, should Rihanna go back to Calvin now he’s worked with every other Tom, Dick and Ellie? Rihanna should lead the way and never look back. Which brings us to…
Something that changes pop for 2015
Do you remember when ‘We Found Love’ came out and it sounded so fresh that every artist, producer and ‘DJ’ spent the next six months trying to recreate that sound? Or the way ‘Umbrella’ pushed expectations of pop hooks into new territory? Or how ‘Where Have You Been’ basically kickstarted this current trend of instrumental choruses? These songs took pop to places it hadn’t been before. Rihanna must innovate.
A Rihanna who seems like she gives a shit
The Rihanna of ‘Rated R’ and ‘Loud’ was engaged and generally quite into it, whereas the Rihanna of ‘Talk That Talk’ and ‘Unapologetic’ felt, at times, like she couldn’t be arsed. Pop works best when there’s determination at the heart of it but, at the same time, doesn’t look like hard work. Rihanna always did that quite well. Hopefully her decade (two years) away means she’s got that spark back and will deliver the album of the year.
These are pictures taken before and during La Roux’s ‘gig’ in London last night
Jul 02 2014, 15:38
Last night prolific tunesmith La Roux played her first ‘gig’ in London for about four years at somewhere called Conway Hall in Holborn. It was, without exaggeration, really rather great.
With that detailed analysis out of the way, here are some pictures I took of things I saw, some of which you may or may not find interesting.
Firstly, the venue was peppered with cardboard cut outs of Elly striking different poses. This one below was near the ‘merch’ table, which had a rather fetching La Roux t-shirt that I could never pull off, though it might work on a slightly more sartorially extravagant person.
Obviously I immediately decided that I would waltz off with one of these at the end of the night after a few La Roux-themed cocktails (more on all that later), but some fool had actually tied them onto poles with wire.
Here’s another one I like to call La Loo. Or La Poo. Going In For A Piss? Quickshit? No? Fine.
And then there was this one of Elly loitering at the bottom of a stairwell. Please note the security guard, who has clearly been briefed re my kleptomaniac intentions.
This being some sort of ‘launch’ or ‘industry’ thing (Maxi Jazz form Faithless was there, for example), there were a couple of bars serving themed cocktails.
Here’s the front of the menu.
Here’s the inside of the menu.
The Silent Partner was nice, thanks for asking.
Now then, let’s just ignore the fact that they’ve spelt one of the track titles wrong, because it was a lovely evening with no space for negativity.
That image above was taken during ‘In For The Kill’ and looks quite nice doesn’t it. You can’t really see in this picture but Elly was wearing a green shirt with a red jacket over the top, which is a bit of risk ‘fashion wise’ but she managed to pull it off.
Basically, I’d recommend popping along to see her in a live scenario if you get the chance.
I supported Lily Allen at her Shepherds Bush ‘gig’ in London last night
Apr 29 2014, 13:39
Last week I got a slightly rambling phone call from your friend and mine Ben Garrett, aka Fryars, aka the man who made the excellent ‘Cool Like Me’ and other such songs, and, more importantly, the man who worked on Lily Allen’s ‘Sheezus’ and by sheer coincidence was also her support act for the Shepherd’s Bush comeback ‘gig’.
After some general chit chat about labels and band members and art projects and liveblogging and the collapse of journalism as we know it, it suddenly dawned on me that in his own inimitable way Fryars was asking if I’d like to be in his band. That he wanted me to be on stage with him at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire – a venue that once hosted 5ive, Steps, Will Mellor and B*Witched all on the same lineup. He wanted to finally allow my musical skills to shine. Only rather than have me muddle my way through Greensleeves on an Argos keyboard, he wanted me to pretend to play a drum machine while sort of liveblogging the whole thing.
Feeling like this was all some elaborate prank that would obviously come to nothing I said ‘yes of course Fryars, I will sit on stage with you in front of a couple of thousand impatient Lily Allen fans pretending to hit a drum machine like I’m Jamie xx or something’.
Only he wasn’t joking and it was real and I did go to west London yesterday for a 5:30 to ‘soundcheck’ and all that business.
Basically this is what happened:
17:36 I meet Fryars at the backstage door, strolling in past a gaggle of Lily Allen fans who I know will later see me eating a bag of Malteasers onstage and will probably want to hurt me. For now, they seem pretty bored.
17:40 I’m introduced to various proper musicians who will also be onstage with us tonight. I sense some hostility at first but once they realise my Twitter follower count is above six thousand they understand the social media meltdown that’s about to take place.
17:42 I get to meet my prop for this evening.
I have literally no idea what any of it does, which is obviously fine for what I’m going to be doing with it. It’s decided that the lead should just dangle down off the table to make it really really obvious it’s not plugged in. At this point I’m just going along with whatever’s suggested because, you know, this is all pretty new to me.
This is going to sound a bit ridiculous given the fact that what I’m about to do on the stage involves no real talent or skill, and frankly no one’s here to see any of us anyway, but stepping out onto the stage to soundcheck was a bit of a moment. It all looked pretty amazing. I may shed a tear. Anyway, I pull myself together because there’s a drum machine to not plug in and a laptop to open. It’s a strange feeling trying to explain to an impatient roadie that no I’m not going to need any power sockets and yes I am really just going to sit down and pretend to hit a machine and check my emails. I feel slightly fraudulent but remember Will Mellor was once on this stage and feel confident again.
Here’s a picture of the back of Fryars practising his singing.
You can just see it in the picture, but Lily has a tele-prompter thing, which works like a karaoke machine of all her hits (and ‘Littlest Thing’).
Here’s a blurred picture of it.
Soundchecks are long and boring. Levels are constantly checked and altered; words are sung into microphones and guitarists are actually asked to noodle about like they used to do in their bedrooms. Obviously I don’t really need to check the levels on my drum machine so instead I take pictures of some of the backdrops for Lily’s show.
19:00 With an hour until stage time I am taken up to my dressing room. I say ‘my dressing room’ but inconveniently I had to share it with the rest of the band and indeed Fryars himself. On the way there I spot a special door saved only for Lily.
You might assume that the food on offer to a journalist chancer pretending to play a drum machine will be limited to some crisps and maybe, just maybe, a Cadbury grab bag of some sort. Perhaps there’d be some wine on offer too, to lubricate the vocal chords.
Don’t get me wrong, this is enjoyed with gusto, but I am subsequently handed a raffle ticket thing and told to go into the canteen (!) and sit with the production crew and the dancers and the people that make the whole thing run, and choose something from this bad boy.
I choose the soup, the risotto and then the treacle tart.
With dinner over I start to feel a bit nervous. It reminds me a bit of that feeling I got just before I played an innkeeper in a school nativity production when I was about 10 years old. What if I walk out on stage and trip over a lead and head butt a guitar? What if I fall off the little drum stool I’ve been given? What if I’m suddenly overcome by it all and grab a microphone and start scatting a la Jessie J? What if I wet myself?
Obviously I need the loo so I try and find one and end up standing outside a room in which Lily Allen is doing her vocal warmups. She sounds good.
The bass player’s gone missing. Amateur.
We’re all in place and ready. I’m disappointed by the lack of a team huddle, but there you are. Just before we go on Fryars announces our debut, including an obligatory hashtag. The idea is to get it trending worldwide…
20:05 – The plan from Fryars is that for the first couple of songs I should look like I’m actually playing along with the song, so I attempt to channel my inner muso and press the pads on the thing in time to the music. It’s quite satisfying actually. I feel myself hunching over to make it all look a bit more real. I ruin it slightly by then getting a bag of Malteasers out because frankly I really like Malteasers.
20:08 – Here’s a picture of Fryars ‘doing his thing’.
Please note the homemade Sheezus t-shirts in the front row. These people are not here for thirty minutes of downcast pop featuring idiots eating crisps and chocolate onstage. There are glares.
20:15 – The wi-fi isn’t really working so I decide to walk about a bit. That feels a bit weird so I sit back down again and decide to continue some social media interaction.
20:27 – I decide to utilise the video option on my phone to distract myself from the fact that this is all still happening and that a bunch of Lily Allen fans have been showered in crisps and Malteasers and that I probably look like an annoyingly smug prick sat up onstage pissing about. Here’s said video:
20:30 – Sensing that we might be over-staying our welcome a bit and actually distracting from what’s been a lovely half an hour of music, Sam and I decide to just get up and walk off at the start of the last song, ‘Cool Like Me’. Oddly no one applauds us as we head off, which I can only assume is out of politeness to Fryars.
Here’s a picture of ‘the band’ from the front of stage courtesy of someone called Charlotte Hanna.
It looks like I’m singing along. Amazing.
So that’s that. My debut on stage at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire. Afterwards there’s some talk about replicating it all should Fryars be asked to support Lily again, perhaps at some large arenas, but I shoot them down. Tonight was a once in a lifetime moment for all of us.
I went to Barcelona to hear the Shakira album and this is what happened
Mar 21 2014, 10:34
More often than not album playbacks involve sitting in a fairly hot room in a record label office, usually in west London, with a small group of other journalists and a couple of PRs. There’s usually a lot of awkwardness. Sometimes, as with the Daft-Punk-up-the-Shard-record-label-budget-spunkathon last year, it’s something slightly more elaborate. Occasionally, however, playbacks will take place abroad because the artist lives in another country and they’re big enough to get people to travel, or it’s quite a nice way of distracting people from the actual album in question.
For ‘Costume Makes the Clown’ chanteuse Shakira, I went to Barcelona to hear ‘Shakira’ – which obviously leaked all over the place the night before I left anyway – and to generally have quite a nice time in a posh hotel near the sea with a load of foreign journalists.
Having arrived at the W Hotel for the playback ‘event’ I proceeded to queue up behind a gaggle of smartly-dressed people outside the room in question. A room, by the way, labelled ‘Great Room 2′. Incredible.
I’m not sure if it was some sort of tactic to throw people off the scent or if someone had just forgotten to update the board, but the room had a sign next to it that read, ‘Spirit of Excellence: Growing Values’, which seems a bit of a long-winded album title even for Shakira.
Obviously having flown out to Barcelona for a whistle-stop tour of hotels and taxis I was told I wasn’t on the list. Amazingly this was because I was down simply as ‘Pop Justice’, which also means I am down on the table plan like this:
I went to a Beyoncé concert and here are six things I learned
Mar 03 2014, 21:31
There aren’t many popstars who could get away with touring the world without properly releasing any new material (songs on adverts, films or given away for free with a DVD don’t count), only to then start the tour again properly once an album did materialise. Yet that’s exactly what Beyoncé has done and frankly no one seems to care because a) it’s Beyoncé and b) the LOOK OVER HERE YOU GUYS nature of the surprise album was such an injection of amazingness into a flatlining 2013 pop corpse that she could have announced an acoustic tour of Shropshire and we all would have lost our shit. Thankfully she didn’t, choosing instead to visit some of the UK’s massive arenas and that’s where I saw her ‘do her thing’ over the weekend.
Here’s what I learned:
This is basically the Mrs Carter Show 2.0 and Beyoncé seems much happier about it all
When Beyoncé started the Mrs Carter Show tour in April last year it was in support of nothing but Beyoncé’s own star power. A delayed tour for her album ’4′ in all but name, it was still better than most nights out in an enormous, corporate-sponsored greenhouse, but there were massive holes where the new songs should have been (as much as we all love ‘Flaws And All’, no one wants to see that third on the list at a Beyoncé concert). Less than a year later and the show is now starting its second trip around the world, complete with eight new songs, visuals that now make more sense within the context of the new album and a visibly more energised Beyoncé (if that’s possible), who is clearly quite excited about singing and dancing along to some new songs. In fact, it was the new songs that stole the show, specifically a Jay Z-assisted ‘Drunk In Love’ (the “LOOOVVVEEEE” bit was sung by the crowd like a football chant), the Studio 54-tinged ‘Blow’ and the chair mounting ‘Partition’. Oh and ‘Heaven’ into ‘Halo’ towards the end might have made some people near me cry like babies.
You can buy a Beyoncé money clip
Obviously the first thing you do when you arrive at the O2 for a concert by a popstar is check out the merchandise. In fact, it seemed like most people there were doing that, with girls taking selfies so that a black sweatshirt with the word ‘SURFBOARD’ could be seen in the background (the sweatshirts were FIFTY FUCKING SHITTERS by the way!). Along with the sweatshirts, tote bags, t-shirts and glossy programme (the same one as the last tour, ‘FYI’), you could also get a keyring for a tenner, some Beyoncé-branded sunglasses, two different types of bobble hat and a ‘gold’ money clip which you wouldn’t actually need anymore because you’d be skint. Also, just a bit of advice: DO NOT buy some merch then watch a gig and then when you’re high on excitement and beer go back to the merch stand and spend even more on a t-shirt you’ll never wear. Just don’t do that.
She’s a massive fan of ‘Why Don’t You Love Me’
‘Why Don’t You Love Me’ was the ninth (NINTH!) single to be released from ‘I Am…’ and peaked in the UK at Number 51. During a set that involves lots of stop-start bits and songs being curtailed early – the quite popular ‘Crazy In Love’ lasts for about 50 seconds before morphing into ‘Single Ladies’, which itself gets about 90 seconds of airtime – the set piece for ‘Why Don’t You Love Me’ drags on for what feels like about half an hour. There’s some brilliant pauses for the crowd to go completely batshit mental and lots of band ‘workouts’, but it feels like a slightly odd choice of song to give so much time to. I’m all for some #beyoncedeepcuts, but if that’s the case it might have been nice to get some of the ones from ’4′ back (‘I Care’ perhaps).
The chairs in the O2 need to be sturdier
When I went to see Taylor Swift sing some songs at the O2 the other week a miserable man with two sour-faced children prodded me in the back and told me to sit down. I politely pointed out that we were at a pop concert not a funeral and also that I wasn’t actually standing up, but sitting on the arm of the chair (I was only doing that because there were some kids in front of me holding up a massive banner of two cupping hands for the entire show). Anyway, at Beyoncé I noticed there were two kids sat behind me so I decided to sit on the arm of the chair again and in the end my chair dancing got so vigorous during ‘Drunk In Love’ that the arm snapped right off. Mind you, it made a perfect arm extension for the bit at the end when the house lights came up and everyone tried to get Beyoncé’s attention: “BEYONCÉ! OVER HERE! I’M THE ONE WAVING A BIT OF BLACK PLASTIC ABOUT! FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER YEAH!”.
She’d still quite like women to feel empowered
When the Mrs Carter Show 2.0 opened in Glasgow it started with the slightly maudlin double-whammy of ‘Ghost’ and ‘Haunted’. By the time it lurched its way into London it had shifted back to 1.0′s opening number, ‘Run The World’, which then flowed into ‘***Flawless’. Switching around the song slightly by placing the Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche speech at the song’s beginning, it meant everyone got to hear what it sounds like when 20,000 people cheer the word feminist when it’s emblazoned on a screen the size of a house.
She’s not great at sitting on chairs properly
While I was having my own problems with chairs at the O2, Beyoncé didn’t seem to be having much luck with them either to be honest. During ‘Drunk In Love’ she sits astride a simple wooden chair facing the wrong way, which seemed a bit careless, before then swinging her legs about and laying down on it like it was a bed. But that’s nothing compared to what happens during ‘Partition’. To be fair to Beyoncé it’s more of a chaise lounge than a chair, but she still seems incapable of sitting on it properly and even commits the cardinal sin of putting her feet up while wearing shoes. At one point she climbs up the back of it and the swings round and sits on it properly but by then the damage has been done.
I went to have a drink with Enrique Iglesias in his hotel and here’s what happened
Feb 06 2014, 20:19
Back in the halcyon days of last October, I received an intriguing email with the following subject line: ‘Do you like Japanese food and/or Enrique Iglesias?’
The answers to which are yes and occasionally. Having replied saying I would be interested in dinner and a chat with the ‘Suéltame las Riendas’ hitmaker, things went quiet. Perhaps I was being too forward. Then in January I got another email apologising for all the teasing along with a further apology for the fact that dinner would now just be drinks. A fan of free wine in expensive hotels I decided I would still like to go along and see what Enrique had to say for himself.
So this happened on Wednesday evening, the first night of the tube strikes in London, which meant that a normally quite sedate journey could potentially turn into a five hour bus ride. So for that reason I decided to chart my journey just in case I didn’t make it and I’d still have some ‘content’ to share with the Enrique fans glued to their computers for updates on his forthcoming album, ‘Sex and Love’.
So here we go:
17:32 – I get on the number 30 bus mainly because the one I actually needed didn’t stop and so I panicked. A woman at the back of the bus on her phone starts detailing every single thing that happens. ‘We’re not moving’. ‘There are loads of people outside’. ‘Can you get me some milk?’
17:33 – I think I’m on the wrong bus.
17:34 – “BAILAMOOOOS!”
17:36 – It’s fine. This bus will do.
17:42 – Really heavy traffic around the Highbury area you guys.
17:46 – How does that Enrique song about ping pong balls go again?
17:47 – Everyone seems quite relaxed actually.
17:50 – Someone in front of me is organising a meal out at Pizza Express for later this evening.
17:55 – I mean, ‘Hero’ is how you do a ballad isn’t it? “And I will stand by you… Foreverrrrr”. Lovely.
17:58 – Ugh King’s Cross is a bit if a nightmare. Avoid if you can.
18:07 – We’re still in King’s Cross :(
18:11 – Red light special.
18:17 – I doubt Enrique’s having any travel problems.
18:29 – Nobody panic! I’ve just edged past Euston.
18:36 – I’m off the bus and walking around the Regents Park area. Everything’s fine!
18:43 – I have arrived at Enrique’s hotel. It’s pretty fancy. The lady at the reception desk tells me the Enrique event is taking place in a bar around the corner. I imagine velvet sofas and champagne fountains.
18:45 – It’s actually just in the public hotel bar, in a bit towards the back. There are some people from the label milling about already.
18:49 – Everyone’s sitting down initially but then we’re told to stand up as he’s on his way.
19:10 – No Enrique as yet. :(
19:11 – There’s a man playing the piano which is nice.
19:20 – Oh Enrique, where are you?
19:22 – There are nibbles, obviously, and they are: mini pizzas, chicken satay on sticks and battered prawns. Pretty standard.
19:28 – I shove a mini pizza in my mouth just as he arrives.
19:30 – He’s wearing a trucker cap and had fallen asleep so that’s why he’s a bit late. Apparently he was in Paris the day before doing some promo.
19:35 – He’s talking to some label people now. The pianist is playing an Alicia Keys song.
19:39 – Really nice red wine, served in a massive glass the size of a small bucket.
19:49 – I have a chat with Enrique’s manager, who seems nice. He tells me some bits about Enrique’s upcoming schedule, which all sounds really tiring.
19:58 – The piano man has fired up ‘Hero’, the cad.
20:14 – He’s chatting to various members of the print media first.
20:28 – “This guy grabbed my nuts in GAY” is a thing Enrique says to the print people.
20:35 – Oh it’s my turn, hang on.
Hello Enrique. How did your Kylie duet – ‘Beautiful’ – come about?
The Kylie one was a song I wrote about a year ago and then Mark Taylor, who’s a producer, he was working with Kylie and they were talking about a collaboration and he was like ‘what about Enrique?’ and she said ‘yeah, whatever’. So we were actually going to write a song together but then I thought ‘why don’t you play her the song I did a year ago’ and then she emailed me saying, ‘I love this song, let’s do it’ and the next day she recorded vocals for it.
Did you record it together?
No, she was here in London. I met her once like ‘hi and bye’, but I’ve seen her a million times.
[At this point another journalist starts asking him a question and before finishing his answer he turns to me and asks me how tall I am.]
I’m 6 foot 7.
People ask you that all the time right?
It’s cool to see someone who’s taller than me.
Usually when I meet popstar people they’re smaller than I imagine but you’re a bit taller in real life.
Yeah, people say that. I’m 6 foot 2. Do you play basketball?
I did when I was young.
I bet they always picked you for it. But it is true, it’s hard to tell people’s height on TV.
Beyoncé to me seems about seven foot tall but obviously isn’t.
Really? Beyoncé’s not that small in real life actually. You know who is? Madonna. Kylie is tiny too. But when I met Madonna I was like ‘oh my God, I didn’t realise you were that little’. But it says a lot about how powerful they are on screen. But Beyoncé wasn’t small at all.
Oh well that’s good to know. Why do you work with Pitbull so much?
Because I like him. We’re good friends and whenever we work together we’re in a studio together – it’s not one of those things where it’s like ‘do you want to collaborate’ and then never meet. He lives near me so we always meet up and we’re good friends.
What’s he like in real life?
He’s awesome. He really is. He’s enjoying where he’s at and you can tell that he doesn’t for granted. He takes it seriously to the point where if he tells you he’ll be there at 5 o’clock, it’s 5 o’clock, and he’s a hardworking guy.
[I ask Enrique if he'll sign an autograph for my Nan, who's a big fan and recently had a bit of a fall. He's very happy to do it, which is nice isn't it]
I heard some of the other new songs of yours today.
Oh you did. I actually think the other Pitbull song [we can't tell you what that one's called yet, apols, but it features Pitbull rapping the line "I'm a mail man, I deliver"] should have been maybe also the first single, because I love that song.
How was the video shoot for ‘I’m A Freak’?
It was exhausting. I’m not that type of person…It was just fun. Actually the director just threw a party and said let’s just film everything, let’s have a good time. You can kind of see it in the video. It doesn’t feel very thought out. There are moments where if you actually focus you’ll see my eye balls are looking at different places and people are just shouting ‘go go go’.
Did Pitbull enjoy himself?
He did, yes.
Did I overhear that some guy grabbed your balls at GAY by the way?
Yeah this guy grabbed my balls and was giving me the thumbs up.
[We have a picture taken together. Enrique's not happy with the first pic. “I look so small”. I try to bend down but he prefers it if I stand normally and he goes on tip toe. He's happy with the second one. "Five inches makes such a big difference." After some more small talk about the British press ("there are lots of tits in the papers here"), he's off to bed.]
23:32 – After some post-Enrique drinks I am back on the bus on my way home.