Popjustice » Etc http://www.popjustice.com Sat, 20 Dec 2014 10:28:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 How Beyoncé’s created pop panic, and how Taylor made us feel safe http://www.popjustice.com/blogs/etc/how-beyonces-created-pop-panic-and-how-taylor-made-us-feel-safe/132984/ http://www.popjustice.com/blogs/etc/how-beyonces-created-pop-panic-and-how-taylor-made-us-feel-safe/132984/#comments Sat, 13 Dec 2014 11:08:23 +0000 http://www.popjustice.com/?p=132984 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’.

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Does Niall Horan know how to actually play monopoly? AN INVESTIGATION http://www.popjustice.com/blogs/etc/does-niall-horan-know-how-to-actually-play-monopoly-an-investigation/132751/ http://www.popjustice.com/blogs/etc/does-niall-horan-know-how-to-actually-play-monopoly-an-investigation/132751/#comments Fri, 28 Nov 2014 16:50:08 +0000 http://www.popjustice.com/?p=132751 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.

4

Nobody’s touched the pink squares and they are pretty good ones

The reason pink and red squares are good is that they’re next to the Free Parking square so people tend to throw the dice like a pathetic ninny hoping they get less than 10, land on that square and get a load of cash.

Someone (maybe Niall, maybe not) has got a hotel on a red square which gets an official thumbs up from me. But the pink squares are cheaper and just as frequently landed on so, really, he should be trying to snag them before his opponent does. Otherwise all that will be left are the green squares, and if we can just get real for a minute, they are never as lucrative as you think and cost a fair penny.

5

Can we talk about the electric company square please?

It’s the square that often gets ignored when people wax lyrical about their favourite Monopoly squares. But it’s actually a very good square. Basically, if you own this and the water works and someone lands on it, they pay ten times the number on their dice.

Nobody’s here to do the maths so let’s just get to the point. It’s not going to be the most profitable square, and the Electric Company doesn’t have a huge fanbase like Mayfair or Park Lane, but Niall, sometimes you’ve got to take what you can get.

Having said that, this is probably the square Liam would jump at the opportunity to purchase, isn’t it.

5.5

Let’s take a moment to think about what Monopoly piece each of the 1D ‘boys’ would be

Liam:
Probably something utterly dull, like the wheelbarrow.
WHEELBARROW

Harry:
DOG. He’d probably bagsy it before the box was even opened.
DOG

Zayn:
The car. This is obvious.
CAR

Niall:
The boot, or, in an attempt to be “wacky”, the thimble.
BOOT

Louis:
The ship, which some people think is naturally secondary to the race car (big engine, takes people from A to B and, occasionally, C) but this is in fact one of the worst pieces.
BOAT

6

Hang On, Who Is The Banker?

The job of who is the banker at Monopoly is one of huge responsibility. But just like in real life financial sector instances, people involved in the banking side of Monopoly can carry a natural untrustworthiness.

If there are just two players (as discussed above, please keep up) and one of them is the banker, does that not tempt the banker to cheat, lie, manipulate and forge money in order to get ahead? Or has Niall employed some kind of partisan financial body to come in and keep things ticking over?

Conclusion

As we’ve outlined, Niall really isn’t very good at this Monopoly thing, which might explain why his date ends up going so badly. That, and he’s drinking hot chocolate and mulled wine at the same time which will probably give him the shits, so maybe it’s best for everyone that things went sour. Better luck next time, Niall.

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A Black-Based Songs Extravaganza, On A Friday http://www.popjustice.com/blogs/etc/a-black-based-songs-extravaganza-on-a-friday/132733/ http://www.popjustice.com/blogs/etc/a-black-based-songs-extravaganza-on-a-friday/132733/#comments Fri, 28 Nov 2014 16:22:50 +0000 http://www.popjustice.com/?p=132733 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 

Stooshe – ‘Black Heart’

‘Black Heart’ is perfect radio fodder, but was this really what Stooshe wanted? Was it what any of us wanted? Poor Stooshe.

Does the song feature a lyric about shopping? No (OF COURSE).

Could you listen to this while in Tesco? Weeping into your reduced section meal-for-one, yes.

Would it make you feel calm in a pandemonium checkout situation? Absolutely not.

Black Friday rating: 4/10

Michael Jackson – ‘Black Or White’

There’s something so joyous and completely effortless about Michael Jackson’s ‘Black Or White’, isn’t there?

Does the song feature a lyric about shopping? No, obviously.

Could you listen to this while in Tesco? Absolutely, but you might get in trouble or knock over a display due to some foot-tapping action.

Would it make you feel calm in a pandemonium checkout situation? Not only would it make you feel calm, but you would appoint yourself the peacemaker among all the madness.

Black Friday rating: 9/10

Sam Sparro – ‘Black And Gold’

While the religious sentiments of this song might be a bit ‘problematic’ for some, there’s something to be said about this song’s rather enjoyable synthesizers, and I still like the video’s blackness and goldness.

Does the song feature a lyric about shopping? No it doesn’t, but it could read like a long list of things that Sam wants to buy from the shops, for example fishes and stars.

Could you listen to this while in Tesco? It seems like ‘Black And Gold’ might be a bit distracting while trying to pick up some eggs, so no.

Would it make you feel calm in a pandemonium checkout situation? Again, you might get distracted, and therefore lose your place in the queue. Nightmare.

Black Friday rating: 5/10

Lady Gaga – ‘Black Jesus † Amen Fashion’

:(

Does the song feature a lyric about shopping? No, but it’s sort of about fashion and Lady Gaga does mention some rather streets, such as ‘Broadway’, and streets often have shops on them.

Could you listen to this while in Tesco? Not really, no.

Would it make you feel calm in a pandemonium checkout situation? Not at all. No way. No.

Black Friday rating: 3/10

Texas – ‘Black Eyed Boy’

This is a good song, isn’t it? Happy 25th Birthday Texas.

Does it feature a lyric about shopping? There’s no way of spinning this one. No, it doesn’t.

Could you listen to this while in Tesco? Absolutely, and if you haven’t already done this in your life go out and do it and then come back to finish reading this.

Would it make you feel calm in a pandemonium checkout situation? The strings, the tambourine and that chorus might be excitement overload in this situation, so I would avoid it.

Black Friday rating: 5/10

Booty Luv – ‘Black Widow’

This boat-filled video is fun and this song is pretty much a 9/10 that has two choruses.

Does it feature a lyric about shopping? This song really should feature a lyric about ‘hitting the shops’. Maybe something about labels and diamonds. However, it doesn’t and we’ll have to live with that.

Could you listen to this while in Tesco? It’s a bit too ‘main room at G-A-Y’ for Tesco.

Would it make you feel calm in a pandemonium checkout situation? Categorically no. In fact, you might do yourself or someone else some serious damage listening to this while battling for a 52” TV.

Black Friday rating: 2/10

Sia – ‘Dressed In Black’

This enormoballad is a highlight from Sia’s ‘1000 Forms of Fear’ and is generally Sia at her best. Massive chorus, tick; incomprehensibly lyrics, tick; suitably dark themes, tick.

Does it feature a lyric about shopping? So, there are not direct references to shopping, but Sia does say she’s dressed in black and she must have had to go to the shops to buy this outfit, and she may have even made use of the Black Friday sales. So YES!

Could you listen to this while in Tesco? Absolutely, yes while you cry in the dips section.

Would it make you feel calm in a pandemonium checkout situation? It might do as you empathise with the songs lyrics with your “broken heart and spirit”. But that’s what you get for going out to the Black Friday sales.

Black Friday rating: 9/10

Well, that was fun (entirely pointless).

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Who should do a massive fuck-off remix of the Star Wars theme? http://www.popjustice.com/blogs/etc/who-should-do-a-massive-fuck-off-remix-of-the-star-wars-theme/132725/ http://www.popjustice.com/blogs/etc/who-should-do-a-massive-fuck-off-remix-of-the-star-wars-theme/132725/#comments Fri, 28 Nov 2014 16:06:58 +0000 http://www.popjustice.com/?p=132725 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.

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Notes on Ella Eyre’s ex’s problematic telly http://www.popjustice.com/blogs/etc/notes-on-ella-eyres-exs-problematic-telly/130868/ http://www.popjustice.com/blogs/etc/notes-on-ella-eyres-exs-problematic-telly/130868/#comments Tue, 30 Sep 2014 11:27:42 +0000 http://www.popjustice.com/?p=130868

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?

This is the interior of Ella Eyre’s adulterous ex-boyfriend’s house

EE boyfriend interior

It looks like this house has a garden in the middle of it. Very posh.

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

EE telly

Nope. This picture is all wrong.

The problem is that the man whose house this is, the man who has such perfectly coiffed hair, would not, in any way, have a rear projection telly.

You might be thinking that the upkeep of a house like this would be high, which is why our antagonist has opted for a decade-old box. However, modern televisions are not extortionate. Unlike the costly production of rear projection TVs, recent LED technology is relatively inexpensive and can wield some impressive picture quality. For example, at the time of writing Argos are offering a 32″ telly for under £200 and you can get an ULTRA HD one for jut shy of £700. Not to mention the fact that modern televisions are aesthetically pleasing – you can even wall mount them.

A modern telly says a lot about status, about a person’s lifesyle and, let’s be honest, you couldn’t really watch Netflix on a thing like this. A man like Ella Eyre’s ex-boyfriend would most like have a shiny wall-mounted TV, or maybe one of those fancy curved ones you see in Currys PC World that has 3D. He’s just that type of guy.

However, there’s more. Here is a gif of Ella smashing said telly:

Ella smashing a tv

Would it not have been a more arresting image for Ella to rip the telly off the wall? Something which, let’s not forget, would have been possible if it had been a flatscreen?

In fact, by damaging it is she not doing her ex-boyfriend a favour, ridding him of this ancient piece of technology, permitting him to make an insurance claim which will result in a better telly, and thereby undermining her mission statement of generally wrecking his life?

NONE OF THIS MAKES SENSE.

Given that it’s been a month since this video ‘premiered’ and Ella is just ‘unleashed’ ‘Comeback’ on to the world, you’d have thought that those in charge might have had the good senses to alter this glaring mistake.

They haven’t and so for now this video is ruined.

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Ariana Grande’s ‘My Everything': A first listen review thing http://www.popjustice.com/blogs/etc/ariana-grandes-my-everything-a-first-listen-review-thing/129906/ http://www.popjustice.com/blogs/etc/ariana-grandes-my-everything-a-first-listen-review-thing/129906/#comments Mon, 18 Aug 2014 09:40:24 +0000 http://www.popjustice.com/?p=129906 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.

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The eighth Rihanna album: eight reasonable demands http://www.popjustice.com/blogs/etc/the-eighth-rihanna-album-eight-reasonable-demands/128720/ http://www.popjustice.com/blogs/etc/the-eighth-rihanna-album-eight-reasonable-demands/128720/#comments Tue, 15 Jul 2014 15:48:26 +0000 http://www.popjustice.com/?p=128720 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!

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These are pictures taken before and during La Roux’s ‘gig’ in London last night http://www.popjustice.com/blogs/etc/these-are-pictures-taken-before-and-during-la-rouxs-gig-in-london-last-night/128757/ http://www.popjustice.com/blogs/etc/these-are-pictures-taken-before-and-during-la-rouxs-gig-in-london-last-night/128757/#comments Wed, 02 Jul 2014 14:38:44 +0000 http://www.popjustice.com/?p=128757 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.

Some highlights:

  • ‘Uptight Downtown’
  • ‘Bulletproof’
  • Elly’s dancing

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.

La Roux sitting

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.

La Loo

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.

photo 5

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.

Cocktail

Stylish.

Here’s the inside of the menu.

Cocktails

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.

La Roux live

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.

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I supported Lily Allen at her Shepherds Bush ‘gig’ in London last night http://www.popjustice.com/blogs/etc/i-supported-lily-allen-at-her-shepherds-bush-gig-in-london-last-night/126670/ http://www.popjustice.com/blogs/etc/i-supported-lily-allen-at-her-shepherds-bush-gig-in-london-last-night/126670/#comments Tue, 29 Apr 2014 12:39:32 +0000 http://www.popjustice.com/?p=126670 Lily 1

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.

Lily 2

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.

18:00
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.

Lily 4

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.

Lily 3

18:47
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.

Lily 5

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.

Lily 6

19:03
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.

HIYA!

Lily 7

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.

Lily 8

I choose the soup, the risotto and then the treacle tart.

19:32
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?

19:35
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.

19: 47
The bass player’s gone missing. Amateur.

19:58
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…

20:02 – Shit. I’m onstage.

See. Told you.

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.

Lily 11

20:08 – Here’s a picture of Fryars ‘doing his thing’.

Lily 10

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.

Lily Allen, who wasn’t aware that this was even happening, then retweeted that, so things got a bit odd.

Not everyone was a fan to be honest.

20:22 – Sam and I have now started throwing bags of crisps and individual Malteasers into the crowd. I worry I may have lodged one in someone’s eye by mistake.

20:25 – Showbiz behemoth Dean ‘Pipo’ Piper’s in the audience so we have a nice chat for a bit.

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:

20:29 – Oh dear.

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.

On stage

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.

Oh and by the way, the actual popstar in all of this was pretty good too. 8/10.

Lily Allen

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I went to Barcelona to hear the Shakira album and this is what happened http://www.popjustice.com/blogs/etc/i-went-to-barcelona-to-hear-the-shakira-album-and-this-is-what-happened/125608/ http://www.popjustice.com/blogs/etc/i-went-to-barcelona-to-hear-the-shakira-album-and-this-is-what-happened/125608/#comments Fri, 21 Mar 2014 10:34:12 +0000 http://www.popjustice.com/?p=125608 Shakira invite

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.

ShakiraHaving 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:

Shakira plan

Later when I have a microphone thrust in my face to ask a question (more on all that in due course), I am addressed as Mr Pop Justice, while other people on my table are down as Regional Radio and Tabloid 1.

Once inside we were all presented with another hint that this would be A Big Event: a wall of Shakira. I remember at the time thinking ‘I will take this picture of it for now but later, after a few wines, I’ll come back and stand in front of it and have another one taken’. Unfortunately by the time I left the wall of Shakira had been taken down. :(

photo 3-3

Then inside a giant hall laid out like a Shakira-themed award ceremony with circular tables, a stage at the front and two big screens featuring the album ‘art’, we were serenaded by the album. ‘Spotlight’, ’23’, ‘The One Thing’ and the Sia-assisted ‘Chasing Shadows’ were good, but you probably already know that due to the aforementioned leak. But here’s something you don’t get with the leak: lyrics scrolling up on a massive screen so that if you’re so inclined you can have a bit of a singsong, although no amount of alcohol can help with ‘Loca por Ti’ to be honest.

It’s all very pleasant and the food involves things like giant prawns in shot glasses, foie gras and fish on toast.

Shakira

While Shakira may be good with a ska-tinged singalong or a carnivalesque football-themed banger, she’s not amazing with time-keeping and so the 8pm start for the Q&A drifted to 9:05 before suddenly, with a brief wave and a bow, there she was! Compered by your friend and ours Kevin ‘Pop Prince’ Hughes, there was some chat about how great she is and how amazing the album is etc. There was a funny bit where she basically said that collaborating with other people can get a bit annoying when she doesn’t get on with them, but she obviously didn’t name names. (I threatened to shout ‘WAS IT BEYONCÉ?’ but chose instead to keep quiet and drink my red wine.)

For some reason I was picked to ask a question and in my panic I suggested to the table of label people that I would ask her who she’d trust more to babysit her son, Beyoncé or Rihanna. The reaction was, shall we say, muted, so I had a quick re-think and asked her a fairly boring question about how hard it must have been picking the tracklisting for the album given the fact that it’s taken two and half years of recording and she probably had about 70 songs.

The was her response:

“Well the whole process started two and a half years ago, some things happened in the middle, among which was having a baby. Small detail. There was a lot of stops and go’s and back and forth and many song I discarded and many songs survived and this is what it is. This album is a result of that process of creation and self-doubt and experimentation. That’s why I decided to self-title it because this is not a thematic album, this is not a conceptual album. It’s an album that has many different genres and variations and after all, it is just a reflection of who I am as an artist and as a person – with imperfections and all.  It’s just me, there, honestly. I always try to listen to my gut and follow my instinct. Every artist has to rely on their instinct – it’s all we have to survive in this industry, really.”

After my slightly dry question the microphone was then passed to another man who asked Shakira when her football-playing boyfriend – who was sitting in the room – was going to propose to her. To her credit, Shakira sort of laughed it off and said “when ever he asks me”, but out of the corner of my eye I saw a slightly tense-looking American woman from the label run up and swipe the microphone from the man’s hand before he can carry on. We were then reminded that all questions must focus on the music. I suddenly felt happier that I didn’t ask my babysitting question.

After a bit more chat – in English and in Spanish – Shakira said she had a surprise for us all. And with that she called out some bloke with an acoustic guitar and delivered a pretty amazing rendition of ’23’ while sitting on a slightly higher stool.

Shakira

With a quick goodbye she briefly disappeared and we were left to enjoy our food (fish to start followed by beef and some chocolate mousse, if you must know), but suddenly Shakira was back, doing the rounds of the entire room, posing for pictures and generally saying ‘thank you’ to increasingly inebriated people. When she got to our table I took a number of covert pictures because as we’ve established I’m a professional, before we were ushered into a huddle for an official picture, which was also captured for posterity on my iPhone.

I think you’ll agree it was worth it.

Shakira and I

Seriously, well done everyone.

At about 11:45, having chatted to just about everyone, stayed for the food and been a pretty good sport (most artists probably would have legged it after the singsong), Shakira cleared off. And with that were all encouraged to follow suit.

Cheers Shakira! Thanks for the memories.

‘Shakira’ by Shakira is out on Monday.

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