ETC Blogs from our correspondents
A blog from :
Michael Cragg

How Beyoncé’s created pop panic, and how Taylor made us feel safe

Posted on Dec 13 2014, 11:08

Beyoncé

“Can I say I’m sick of what ‘BEYONCE’ has created. Now there’s always rumours someone is about to ‘pull a Beyonce’ and gets me all excited and it always adds up to jack shit. Has anyone actually pulled a ‘BEYONCE’ since ‘BEYONCE’?”
superglowy, Popjustice forum.

Ever since Beyoncé unleashed her fifth album last December, pop has been on edge. Panic has set in. No one can be trusted; every metaphorical bush could have a pop star waiting behind it with a massive surprise involving 5am UK-time wake-up calls.

Nowadays, if a pop star has been particularly quiet in the run up to Q4, it’s no longer assumed that they’re just having a year off. Instead, it’s assumed that they’ll plonk something on iTunes at a moment’s notice. Rumours of albums coming out early next year are dismissed with ‘but that could be a bluff'; even now nobody’s 100% certain that Rihanna isn’t going to just shit out an album just before the X Factor final before descending onto the stage, God-like, to save pop. Gwen Stefani’s said she reckons her album will be out next year but don’t take your eyes off her, she’ll chuck that online before you know it. Madonna? #unapologeticbitchcouldbefreeonyouripodnextweek.

Even poor Britney was swept up in the panic of possibility. That quote at the top of this blog was in response to this week’s rumours of ‘something’ by the ‘Perfume’ hitmaker apparently being sent to iTunes for release the next day. What was initially rumoured to be one track (called ‘Bli$$’), then became a nine track EP (!), then it could possibly have been the Giorgio Moroder collaboration, and now it looks like it was nothing.

Rihanna with magazines

A few months ago I heard rumour that a rather popular popstar was gearing up to grace a number of forthcoming high profile magazine covers, thus hinting at his or her imminent return. That was quickly dismissed by someone else with a simple, ‘yes but remember when Beyoncé was on the cover of all those magazines and then nothing happened?’.

Well yes, but then something did happen.

AND NONE OF US WERE PREPARED.

No wonder there’s panic in the industry.

taylor-swift-1989

All this speculation and false hope makes Taylor Swift’s immaculate and refreshingly old-school release campaign for ‘1989’ feel even more refreshing.

Taylor’s campaign was something you could rely on; a loving hug at a time when popstars seemed to want to shake you vigorously or ignore you completely. Presented by Taylor herself during a worldwide Yahoo! livestream thing, ‘1989”s title, artwork and lead single were all announced in one large, perfectly controlled dump. Even the context of the announcement – brilliantly OTT yet typically direct and ‘personal’ – felt comforting. We learned that the album would be out two months after the announcement, while the single, paying lip service to our unquenchable thirst to have things immediately, would be available to purchase worldwide right away.

Oh and the single already had a finished video which was sat on YouTube ready to be streamed. No endless teasers, no leaked footage. Boom.

In one hour of gorgeously dorky but knowingly executed content, pop fans had enough information to keep them going for at least a month. Details such as the full list of credits and the full tracklisting were held back to leave further announcements to follow, which they duly did, with the latter not actually being confirmed until a week before the album came out. Having seen Taylor execute the ‘Red’ campaign with a similar expertise, fans also knew there’d be ‘instant grat’ songs to come, and guess what, they appeared just at the right time, easing fans into the various themes of the album without scaring anyone away.

(Yes ‘Out Of The Woods’ was a bit of mess ‘vis-a-vis’ the UK release, and I’m still not quite sure why that all happened, but it’s a great song, you could hear it if you really wanted and Taylor wrote a blog post saying Ed Sheeran told her to do it or something, so blame him).

Pop in 2014 is all about immediacy and instant gratification.

If you’re a forum-based pop fanatic, then prior knowledge is power and one upmanship, but it can also suck the joy out of an album by the time it finally arrives. It’s thrilling to read bits about an album you’re excited by ahead of release. Of course it is. But there’s also something to be said for waiting for an album to come to you, fully-formed rather than sliced and diced into snippets, leaks and premature over-saturation. In a landscape still stricken with pop panic following Beyoncé’s surprise right hook, it felt nice – at least for now – to be on safer ground with ‘1989’.

A blog from :
Chris Mandle

Does Niall Horan know how to actually play monopoly? AN INVESTIGATION

Posted on Nov 28 2014, 16:50

71WwBzZ9nhL._SL1500_

If you think about it, the world of pop is a lot like everyone’s favourite bankruptcy-based board game Monopoly.

Monopoly is about seizing what you can get, not what you want or think you deserve. Yes, life would be a lot better if you could buy the square you really need and erect a few houses there so you can fleece various members of your family, but guess what, someone else snapped it up. This is directly comparable with quite wanting to listen to the new Rihanna single but it not being available, meaning that you make do with some ballad Olly Murs and Demi Lovato ‘cooked up’.

Anyway, I was thinking about this just the other day when enjoying ‘Night Changes’, the new video by One Direction, which you can enjoy below.

As you can see, each of the ‘lads’ go on a date with a special lady, but the camera is seeing the date through the eyes of the lady in question, enabling the viewer to experience the highs and LOL-frilled lows of a date with One Direction for about three and a half minutes before heavily suggesting you go and masturbate furiously upon the song’s conclusion.

A classic pop video, in other words.

But apart from the unnerving fact Liam takes a selfie with his date and nobody appears in the photo on the phone’s screen, there’s something deeply troubling about the video for ‘Night Changes’, and it concerns the band’s frontman: NIALL HORAN.

While the others go out and about for their dates – the skating rink (Harry), the fun (‘fun’) fair (Liam), a restaurant that looks a bit pricey if I’m being honest (Zayn) and literally just sat in a car (Louis) – 1D’s most enigmatic member has his date round for a spot of Monopoly. Which, sure, sounds like a treat whatever time of the year, but there are some fundamental problems with Niall’s game of Monopoly that I’d like to talk you through.

1Is Monopoly really suitable for wooing a lady?

Point 1

Monopoly is a game in which the object is to cause friction in your interpersonal relationships by inducing figurative bankruptcy, so it seems like an odd thing for Niall to be playing in the first place. Even worse, later in the video he actually breaks out his acoustic guitar for a spot of strumming. :(

On the plus side, their game of Jenga seems to be going fine. But that’s beside the point.

2Someone has foolishly invested in a brown property

Point 2

It’s not in demand and there’s not much money to be made. In some ways, the brown squares are a bit like #Q3. Yes, you could release an album when everyone’s at festivals enjoying the sunshine, and you know what, some people might buy it. But there’s a reason the best pop stars (usually) release their music in Qs 2 or 4.

If you buy a brown property you’re working against the odds because there are two in a set instead of the usual three. And if someone does land on it, they’re going to pay you about £12. Good luck taking over the world with that business plan, Niall.

3

Niall is spunking all his money on hotels, which won’t end well

Point 4
In much the same way that having the opportunity to collaborate with Pitbull doesn’t mean you actually have to go and bloody collaborate with Pitbull, you don’t have to buy hotels in Monopoly just because you can.

Sure, they might impress a would-be suitor, but Niall has bought a hotel before he’s even got a house on every property in that set. It’s recklessness.

It’s hard to tell why Niall is doing this as he is probably the second most likely person in One Direction to follow the rules (coming behind the band’s resident Barlowesque selfie enjoyer Liam Payne), and Monopoly is only really fun when everyone follows the rules and plays properly.

Monopoly vets will also know that skipping ahead and smacking a hotel down before you’ve built your houses isn’t even an effective strategy. The best way to win would be to ensure his opponent is slowly bled dry financially, and to do that he may as well build at least one house on every property he owns, bit by bit, rather than whacking all his royalties into one big hotel that, let’s face it, nobody’s going to land on. Continue reading Does Niall Horan know how to actually play monopoly? AN INVESTIGATION »

A blog from :
Alim Kheraj

A Black-Based Songs Extravaganza, On A Friday

Posted on Nov 28 2014, 16:22

PopjusticeTwitterLogo

Today is Black Friday, the massive discount shopping day that has made its way over from America to the UK. This means that many of us are spending the day fighting over hoovers in Asda or refreshing our web browsers incessantly until the 40%-off electric toothbrush pops up on Amazon.

What does this mean for pop? Well, not much. But that won’t stop me! I’m taking part no matter what, right? Right. So here is my Black Friday Extravaganza playlist. It is quite literally 11 songs that feature the word ‘black’ in the title.

I have also given them arbitrary ratings.

Girls Aloud – Black Jacks

With ‘Black Jacks’ Girls Aloud showed us that pop music could have a bit of a weird 60s vibe without venturing into Duffy territory and could, therefore, be quite exciting. So, in that respect, this song is good. However, it’s not ‘Call The Shots’, is it?

Does the song feature a lyric about shopping? No, it doesn’t.

Could you listen to this while in Tesco? Yes you could, and it could make the whole experience quite enjoyable.

Would it make you feel calm in a pandemonium checkout situation? The introduction may help you feel calm, but as soon as girls start yelling around 1:12 mark you might get a little flustered.

Black Friday rating: 7/10

Charli XCX – ‘Black Roses’

“Purple and scarred” Charli XCX sings at the beginning of ‘Black Roses’, and really that’s how you might end up after a Black Friday scrum.

Does the song feature a lyric about shopping? No, it doesn’t.

Could you listen to this while in Tesco? You’re unlikely to hear this one on a supermarket’s internal radio station, but if you had a nice pair of headphones and an MP3 device it could lighten up the condiments aisle.

Would it make you feel calm in a pandemonium checkout situation? I think maybe not.

Black Friday rating: 5/10

All Saints – ‘Black Coffee’

With William Orbit on production duties, ‘Black Coffee’ is the soothing antidote that, so far, we’ve been looking for. With wah-wahing guitars and watery electronics it’s all quite lovely.

Does the song feature a lyric about shopping? No, it doesn’t (I’m slightly regretting asking this question of every song but it’s too late to stop now).

Could you listen to this while in Tesco? Yes you really could. Food shopping can be stressful, and this would warm you up in the freezer aisle. You’re also quite likely to hear this on a supermarket radio station.

Would it make you feel calm in a pandemonium checkout situation? Absolutely, yes.

Black Friday rating: 8/10

Amy Winehouse – ‘Back To Black’

One of the more famous songs in recent memory to feature ‘black’ in the title, ‘Back To Black’s wall-of-sound production, vocals and that incredible tambourine helped make Amy Winehouse a household name the world over. What a woman.

Does the song feature a lyric about shopping? No, it doesn’t.

Could you listen to this while in Tesco? Surely every trip to Tesco would benefit from a whizz around with your trolley to the soundtrack of ‘Back To Black’.

Would it make you feel calm in a pandemonium checkout situation? In some respects this song is quite calming with its repetitive rhythms, however the anguish in Amy’s voice might make you wobble slightly.

Black Friday rating: 6/10  Continue reading A Black-Based Songs Extravaganza, On A Friday »

A blog from :
Michael Cragg

Who should do a massive fuck-off remix of the Star Wars theme?

Posted on Nov 28 2014, 16:06

Star wars

Not sure if you’re aware, but there’s a new Star Wars film coming out. That’s right, C-3PO, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Mulder and indeed Scully are all back back back.

There’s not much about it online but a trailer has just appeared, despite the fact the film isn’t actually out until December 2015 (!). And they say pop music is obsessed with teasers.

Anyway, I’m not here today to discuss the ins and outs of the convoluted storyline, the surprise casting or where it will fit in the lineage of the Star Wars epics so far. I am here, obviously, to discuss the music and who should update John Williams’ horn-led main theme, ie this little ditty below:

Before you get your knickers in a twist, I am aware that John Williams is back onboard to do the music. That’s fine. I’m glad for John, he’s a good guy. But this is 2014/15 and soundtracks are big business. Yes Taylor Swift’s ‘1989’ album will sell quite well, but will it match the Frozen soundtrack’s 3.5m sales in the US alone? One Direction’s ‘Four’ is selling pretty well so far, but can it catch the soundtrack to Guardians Of The Galaxy (500,000 sales and counting) by the end of the year? Also, not being funny, but Lorde’s soundtrack thing for that new Hunger Games film is one of the best things to emerge in 2014.

What I’m saying here is, yes we need to maintain the ‘essence’ of this Star Wars theme but at the same time, let’s whack a massive donk on it, slap it on an album and watch it sail to the top of the charts for six months.

Here are some options for sonic reswizzlers if the film’s producers are stuck for ideas.

Calvin newCALVIN HARRIS

Obviously. Obviously! The original has all the ingredients for a Calvo banger: a recognisable riff, some nice calm bits to bolt a massive drop on the end of, enough space to fill up with lots of unnecessary sonic squiggles and – most excitingly – he has a Rolodex of singers to warble something deep and meaningful about Freudian nightmares over the top. Imagine.

AVICII

There seems to be more to our friend Avicii than just being a typical EDM producer. He has, dare I say it, a touch of finesse about his work that sometimes gets overlooked when enduring ‘Wake Me Up’ for the millionth time. Mind you, having said that, film soundtracks don’t always need finesse do they? Sometimes you just want to hear a massive, bowel-puncturing goliath playing over a scene of some distant planet or something. There’s not much subtlety about John Williams’ original version so I say get Avicii and his hands-in-the-air synth riffs and fucking banjo and let’s do this right.

ZEDD

See above but probably a bit cheaper to be honest.

Madeon looking upMADEON

Look, Madeon’s basically a genius so could do this in a heartbeat. In fact, he’s probably already done it ‘just for fun’ anyway. It’s probably lying around on a hard drive somewhere so it wouldn’t take too much effort for him to email it over to George Lucas or whoever and ‘make it so’ (a little Star Wars reference for you there!!).

DAFT PUNK

French laughing boys Daft Punk have ‘previous’ in this sort of field having already worked with Disney – who are releasing the new Star Wars film after they brought it for shitloads of cash – on the soundtrack for Tron a few years ago. Obviously in their hands the theme tune would likely be slowed down, elongated and made to sound pretty boring, but there would also be a chance they’d turn it into a big disco-tinged wedding anthem and you can’t say fairer than that really.

M83

This is probably who they will get to do it isn’t it? That’s if this is even happening at all. But if it does, it will likely be dance-producer-for-bores fun abuser M83 and I’ll likely enjoy it once and then never listen to it again.

Or, OR, why not just get someone in to make a soundtrack album of songs that don’t even need to be in the film itself. John can keep the theme tune and take the day off.

And for that we only need one person:

LordeLORDE

Lorde’s not got a lot on at the moment having finished touring ‘Pure Heroine’ and performing ‘Yellow Flicker Beat’ like a woman possessed on seemingly every US TV show. She’s also pretty good at cobbling together an amazing list of people to make a proper soundtrack, so why not just give the whole thing over to her. She could get a handful of her mates to write some songs that feature some of the general themes of the film – love, family, fighting, er, space – then write a couple of new ones herself, get Kanye to remix one of them and Bob’s your geeky uncle. Sia should be involved too just because she’s done this Annie remake and can knock out a good song in the time it takes most people to take a shit.

You’re welcome.

A blog from :
Alim Kheraj

Notes on Ella Eyre’s ex’s problematic telly

Posted on Sep 30 2014, 12:27

About a month ago I first watched the music video for Ella Eyre’s rather good song ‘Comeback’ (you can watch it above if you have no idea what I’m talking about).

In the video Ella is angry about her boyfriend’s philandering ways, so she breaks into his house with a bunch of her friends and makes a bit of a mess of the place. It all seems quite fun, even when she blows up his car.

However, after repeated viewings I knew that something wasn’t quite right about the whole thing.

Let me break it down:

This is Ella Eyre’s adulterous ex-boyfriend

Ella Eyre's Boyfriend

He is quite a handsome chap, isn’t he? Look at how perfectly coiffed his hair is. Also, that looks a bit like designer stubble to me. This is, to all intents and purposes, a man who cares about his appearance and spends time cultivating his ‘look’.

This is Ella Eyre’s adulterous ex-boyfriend’s house

Ella Eyre's boyfriend's house

It’s a nice house. You’d expect it to be furnished rather well, wouldn’t you? Continue reading Notes on Ella Eyre’s ex’s problematic telly »

A blog from :
Michael Cragg

Ariana Grande’s ‘My Everything': A first listen review thing

Posted on Aug 18 2014, 10:40

Ariana Grande

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.

1. ‘Intro’

Eighty seconds of pleasantly breathy Mariah-isms, but this is basically a waste of everyone’s time.

4/10

2. ‘Problem’ feat Iggy Azalea

Still amazing.

9/10

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.

8/10

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.

7.5/10

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.

9/10

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.

7/10

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.

7.5/10

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.

8/10

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.

8.5/10

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.

4/10

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.

9/10

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.

6/10

‘My Everything’ is released on August 25 but will probably be streaming somewhere this week, one imagines.

A blog from :
Alim Kheraj

The eighth Rihanna album: eight reasonable demands

Posted on Jul 15 2014, 16:48

Rihanna with magazines

Rihanna recently tweeted a photo of a mixing desk with the caption “#R8”. This marks the first ‘official’ reference the ‘Birthday Cake’ hitmaker has made to what will be her eighth studio album.

(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.

Imaginative producers

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.

Great, sorted.

And just for old time’s sake:

What a song!