Popjustice » The Briefing http://www.popjustice.com Sun, 21 Dec 2014 17:37:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 2014 A-Z: K is for KYLIE AND KATY http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/2014-a-z-k-is-for-kylie-and-katy/133287/ http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/2014-a-z-k-is-for-kylie-and-katy/133287/#comments Sun, 21 Dec 2014 17:37:53 +0000 http://www.popjustice.com/?p=133287 kylie-vs-katy-b

2014azIn March, we took this photo on the London Underground.

On one side was a poster for Katy B’s just released, mostly brilliant new album. On the other side was a poster for Kylie Minogue’s just released, mostly-brilliant new album. Equal billing for two contrasting popstars.

At the time we were struck by a number of thoughts.

We wondered if either album – or both albums – would do better if the two artists swapped songs.

We wondered what impact both these albums would have on the artists’ respective careers: would they maintain an existing level of success, prompt a sharp upturn, or – regardless of how good the music was – prove to be part of a longterm decline?

We pondered the way ‘Little Red’ would increase Katy’s prominence on Radio 1’s daytime shows, and we pondered the way ‘Kiss Me Once’ would cement Kylie’s move to Radio 2.

We wondered which poster a pissed-up office wanker would be most likely to do a piss over on his way home.

We thought about the function of these albums; did Katy’s exist to sell albums, and was Kylie’s there to sell concert tickets?

We considered which was most likely to be talked about in ten years, and we wondered which was most likely to be talked about in ten months.

We wondered what sort of music Kylie would make if she’d left a soap opera in 2014, and we wondered what sort of music Katy would make if she emerged from the club scene in 1987.

We thought about all that stuff, and then we realised we’d missed the last tube.

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2014 A-Z: J is for JAZZ ALBUM http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/2014-a-z-j-is-for-jazz-album/133283/ http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/2014-a-z-j-is-for-jazz-album/133283/#comments Sun, 21 Dec 2014 16:57:00 +0000 http://www.popjustice.com/?p=133283 Tony_Bennett_and_Lady_Gaga_article_story_large

2014azIn 2008, Lady Gaga was the best popstar in the world.

In 2009, Lady Gaga was the best popstar in the world.

In 2010, Lady Gaga was the best popstar in the world.

In 2011, Lady Gaga was the best popstar in the world.

In 2012, Lady Gaga was the best popstar in the world.

In 2013, Lady Gaga was still just about the best popstar in the world.

In 2014, Lady Gaga released a jazz album.

Except actually it wasn’t really a Lady Gaga jazz album. A Lady Gaga jazz album would have seen Lady Gaga doing to jazz what Lady Gaga did to pop: identifying the best bits, inventing some even better bits, turning the whole thing inside out and thrilling the world.

Lady Gaga’s Tony Bennett duets album ‘Cheek To Cheek’ was not something that conformed to Gaga’s brand values at all. When you consider how experimental, avant-garde and breathtakingly insane jazz can be, and when you consider how incendiary it could have been to add Lady Gaga to the mix, the album she released was almost offensively pedestrian.

We kept reading things about ‘Cheek To Cheek’ being a brave move. It didn’t sound very brave to us. What’s brave about releasing an album of easy listening covers for the Q4 market?

This said, Gaga got to make an album she could be truly passionate about, and as anyone who follows her on Twitter will tell you, she was thrilled by the good reviews the album received from esteemed critics. Where’s the harm in that?


Several years ago Lady Gaga made a promise: POP MUSIC WILL NEVER BE LOWBROW.

It’s hard to see where this fits in with ‘Cheek To Cheek’, an album through which Lady Gaga was apparently attempting to be taken seriously, in certain circles, for the first time. The idea, in so far as we could understand it, was that ‘Cheek To Cheek’ would allow Gaga’s true artistry to shine through.

We’re not sure that’s the Lady Gaga we fell in love with.

The Lady Gaga we fell in love with would say “FUCK YOU” to anyone who only took her seriously when she adhered to conservative notions of talent and artistry. She’d say “FUCK YOU” to anyone who considered ‘Bad Romance’, ‘Alejandro’ or ‘Poker Face’ somehow unworthy of rigorous critical attention simply because they were pop songs. And she’d say “FUCK YOU” to anyone who finally complimented her on her vocal talents just because they were being used away from a drum machine.

Maybe we got her wrong at the start. Maybe she was using pop to get somewhere else, when we thought she was using pop to make pop a better place. Maybe the Gaga we thought we fell in love with never really existed at all.

Actually that’s bollocks. We’re absolutely sure she did exist. And while some have written her off, we also feel with complete certainty that the Lady Gaga who once ruled the planet will one day exist again. We’re not sure when that’ll be, but we do know that she’d have been back in the game a lot sooner if she’d taken a year off instead of releasing ‘Cheek To Cheek’.

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2014 A-Z: I is for ICONA POP GETTING LOST http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/2014-a-z-i-is-for-icona-pop-getting-lost/133280/ http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/2014-a-z-i-is-for-icona-pop-getting-lost/133280/#comments Sun, 21 Dec 2014 16:22:20 +0000 http://www.popjustice.com/?p=133280 icona-pop-2014

2014azIn 2013, Icona Pop had an international smash hit with ‘I Love It’. The single went Top 10 around the world, including the US where it went double platinum. When the single went to Number One in the UK we wrote a lengthyish post detailing the song’s 28-step path to glory: in short, the song’s success was down to a certain amount of planning, with quite a few happy accidents along the way.

What did the band do in 2014?

Well, most significantly, they had a great single called ‘Get Lost’. There were a few things wrong with it but there was plenty right with it – not least the storming chorus.

The single got to Number 58 in Sweden and doesn’t appear to have charted anywhere else at all. (It was even released in the UK, not that anybody noticed.) The duo have been playing live dates during 2014, but beyond ‘Get Lost’ their main contribution to the world’s chart landscape seems to have been a collaboration with Cobra Starship that barely dented the Australian Top 70.

As 2014 draws to a close Icona Pop are in a tricky position: they’re clearly keeping themselves busy in a variety of worldwide locations, but pop’s all about momentum. Have the duo achieved anything in the last twelve months that would justify a similarly busy 2015, or 2016?

Perhaps they are about to unleash a massive beast of a single. But ‘Get Lost’ was quite a bit of a beast, and the band’s label clearly saw no point in pushing it internationally. Why not? Did the label view Icona Pop as a one hit wonder, or a novelty act? Was the band’s international release pattern in the wake of ‘I Love It’ – with various different tracks of varying quality apparently being ‘the next single’ in various different territories – so messy that nobody knew how to move forward? Did they try, in the wake of ‘I Love It’, to crowbar themselves so far into the world of EDM that they sacrificed the outsiderish charm that made such sense to their early supporters? Or is it simply the case that Charli XCX absorbed so much of ‘I Love It”s momentum that there was none left for Icona Pop?

Look, maybe 2014 has been a brilliant year for Icona Pop and maybe everything’s gone exactly to plan and maybe they wouldn’t change a thing. Even if that’s not the case, maybe 2015 will still be the year in which they deliver the follow-up album their brilliant debut definitely deserves. Maybe they’ve already recorded a megabanger so immense that it will make ‘I Love It’ sound like a Rixton b-side. Either way, from the outside, all we can say is that there’s a great pop duo at stake here, and it’d be good to see them get their act together before they get lost forever.

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2014 A-Z: H is for HALF-FINISHED SONGS http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/2014-a-z-h-is-for-half-finished-songs/133227/ http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/2014-a-z-h-is-for-half-finished-songs/133227/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 18:30:01 +0000 http://www.popjustice.com/?p=133227 pj_337

2014azIt’s fair to say that Madonna hasn’t exactly kept her recording sessions a secret. And it would be easy to say that if you’re going to spend a year building up demand for a new album, you shouldn’t be surprised if someone, somewhere, does something to meet that demand.

But on the other hand, that’s bollocks. Nicking an album and putting it online when it’s not ready just isn’t on. Clips and maybe one or two tracks is alright. A whole album is just absurd.

Anyway, here are some songs we all know to be amazing, which didn’t sound quite so amazing to start with.

Lady Gaga – ‘Bad Romance’

Backstreet Boys – ‘I Want It That Way’

Girls Aloud – ‘Something Kinda Ooooh!’

Pet Shop Boys – ‘West End Girls’

Madonna – ‘Deeper & Deeper’

Madonna – ‘The Power Of Good-Bye’

Madonna – ‘Hung Up’

Fleur East – ‘Uptown Funk’

All those songs sound pretty good in their unfinished states, of course, but the finished versions were better. And if we’d heard all these versions before we heard the final ones, would we ever have fallen quite so deeply in love with the songs?

(The exception to that point is ‘Bad Romance’, which did leak ahead of the proper one, but that’s the best song of the millennium and it would have been amazing even if your first listen had been Lady Gaga shouting it down a paper tube in a shopping centre.)

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2014 A-Z: G is for GET ON WITH IT http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/2014-a-z-g-is-for-get-on-with-it/133224/ http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/2014-a-z-g-is-for-get-on-with-it/133224/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 18:00:43 +0000 http://www.popjustice.com/?p=133224 mks-strip
2014azThe Top 10 Get On With It artists of 2014:
1. Mutya Keisha Siobhan
Despite promising something new, something exciting, something big, something anything at various points during 2014, the ladies came up with somewhere in the region of bugger all. (ie They performed with Metronomy at the NME Awards and that was about it.)
2. AlunaGeorge
“We have nearly finished our next album,” they said in May. Where is that album? Nowhere.
3. Lady Gaga
She teased ‘ARTPOP: Act II’. She said she also wanted to release a jazz album. So she released a jazz album, while the ‘ARTPOP’ sequel sat on a shelf, growing old.
4. Madonna
Madonna is a slightly odd Get On With It entry in that – as we are now all too aware – she had indeed been getting on with it, with an album’s worth of songs in various states of completion. We’ll cover Madonna’s album leak in a future 2014 A-Z item, but for now let’s just say that if Madonna had got this album out in November, the debacle we’ve just witnessed would never have happened.
5. Tamera Foster
It was announced in March that promising X Factor star Tamera Foster had signed to Syco. She could easily have used an X Factor performance to get a single out this side of Christmas, and may even have been able to release an album. Instead: nothing. And now there’s every chance Fleur East will nick all her decent songs.
6. Say Lou Lou
Apparently this duo’s album was recently mastered, for 2015 release. Here’s a tip: if you master an album in October, you can have it out in November.
7. Adele
By the end of 2015 the Adele album will be so omnipresent that we’ll curse the day we ever expressed any desire to hear a single note, but she could easily have boshed this one out by now.
8. Brandon Flowers
B-Flow confirmed in October LAST YEAR that he was working on a solo album. This could have been out in the summer.
8. Little Mix
This lot cancelled their US tour in order, THEY SAID, to work on their album. That was back in July. How long does it take to sing a few songs? Yes, obviously, you need to spend time formulating a plan on how to drip-feed 120 different teaser campaigns across eight different social media platforms, but you can get people in to do all that important stuff.
10. Rihanna
Let’s not go there.
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Which X Factor finalist would have the lowest-selling Christmas Number One? http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/which-x-factor-finalist-would-have-the-lowest-selling-christmas-number-one/132977/ http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/which-x-factor-finalist-would-have-the-lowest-selling-christmas-number-one/132977/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 http://www.popjustice.com/?p=132977 x-factor-logo-2014

Following news of its release being pulled forward yesterday evening, we put a bet on Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ ‘Uptown Funk’ being this year’s Christmas Number One.

It’s already Number One on iTunes (with Fleur’s version at Number Two), but its main competition comes from this year’s X Factor winner, so it’s important to figure out which winner would achieve the lowest first week sales, then vote for that finalist.

To start with, let’s have a look at the week one sales (nicked off Twitter’s Samuel Bailey) for all X Factor winners so far.

  • Shayne Ward 742K
  • Alexandra Burke 576K
  • Leona Lewis 571K
  • James Arthur 490K
  • Joe McElderry 451K
  • Matt Cardle 439K
  • Leon Jackson 276K
  • Little Mix 210K
  • Sam Bailey 149K
  • Steve Brookstein 128K

As you can see, last year’s winner Sam Bailey only achieved 149,000 sales, while the previous year’s winner James Arthur shifted almost half a million copies of his own winner’s single. It’s therefore fair to say that some winners connect with a record buying audience, while others simply don’t.

So where does this leave this year’s finalists?

Andrea Fauxhumble-pugjumper


The threat of a full Andrea artist album is not a pleasant one, but Andrea’s whole mum-loving, jumper-wearing schtick is Christmas catnip. Still, while children like him and The Olds like him, what about pop’s squeezed middle?

Predicted first week sales: 290,000

All-bets-are-off secret weapon: We’ve said this every year for the last however-many-years-it’s-been-since-the-song-came-out but one day an X Factor winner will cover Carolina Liar’s ‘Show Me What I’m Looking For’, and it will be an extraordinary pop moment. If Andrea performs this for his winner’s single it’s game over for Ronson & Mars.

Fleur East


She should win and she should have the full might of Syco hurled in her direction during 2015, but would Fleur East be the biggest-selling winner out of this year’s final three? Well, yes, probably. Her appeal crosses numerous boundaries, she’d be unlikely to inspired a ‘protest vote’ for Ronson & Mars simply because there’s nothing shit about her, and goodwill towards her ‘Uptown Funk’ cover will carry on over into purchases of her winner’s single, even if it’s not ‘Uptown Funk’.

Predicted first week sales: 410,000

All-bets-are-off secret weapon: Ideally we’d like her to cover Tove Lo’s album, Charli XCX’s album and Rita Ora’s album so that each of their release dates is brought forward to 2014.

Ben Haenow


Without a doubt the most useless of this year’s three finalists.

Predicted first week sales: 149,000

All-bets-are-off secret weapon: If he covers Crowded House’s ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’ the “hey now, hey now” bit could secure a romp to festive victory.

Wildcard: Bootcamp Girlband


It’s not too late for the potentially brilliant girlband from earlier in the series to be sensationally brought back into the show. They should call themselves Wildcard.

Predicted first week sales: 5,000,000

All-bets-are-off secret weapon: It’s been a while since the quintessential girlband Christmas Number One, ‘Sound Of The Underground’, has had a go at the festive top-spot. If Wildcard covered this, they’d be laughing all the way to the bank (in order to point and laugh at us not depositing our winnings).


Please vote for Ben Haenow this weekend, we stand to win over £300 if Ronson & Mars hit Number One and a win for Ben Haenow would give us the strongest chance of scooping the prize. Cheers!

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Invader Girl’s next single is as good as her last single, ie very http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/invader-girls-next-single-is-as-good-as-her-last-single-ie-very/132961/ http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/invader-girls-next-single-is-as-good-as-her-last-single-ie-very/132961/#comments Mon, 08 Dec 2014 14:42:30 +0000 http://www.popjustice.com/?p=132961 invader-girl

Invader Girl is a brilliant pop thing.

Earlier this year she chucked out a great song called ‘Starting Fires’ (which was accompanied by a very excellent MSMR remix).

But the past is the past. “Yesterday is history,” as Justin Timberlake once put it. We all move on and so does Invader Girl.

Below is your first look at her next track ‘Stuck On Me’, which is a teaser in the very literal sense in that it cuts out just before the song ‘goes off’, but you can hear enough song to know that what we’re dealing with here is a very interesting tune.

Very good.

In case you missed it when it came out, this is the brilliant ‘Starting Fires’.

The full version of ‘Stuck On Me’ will probably turn up on another website in due course so your best bet is to follow Invader Girl on Twitter and she will let you know not only when but also where the song appears.

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2014 AZ: E and F are for East, Fleur http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/2014-az-e-and-f-are-for-east-fleur/132951/ http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/2014-az-e-and-f-are-for-east-fleur/132951/#comments Mon, 08 Dec 2014 12:26:24 +0000 http://www.popjustice.com/?p=132951 fleur-east2

2014azIn case you are interested, the definitive ranking of 2014’s UK X Factor finalists – three of whom made such little impression that we had to Google Image search them when we were copying this list off Wikipedia – is:

=1. Fleur East
=1. Only The Young
3. Stephanie Nala
4. Stereo Kicks
5. Lauren Platt
6. Overload Generation
7. Blonde Electra
8. Andrea Fauxnaive-Pugjumper
9. Jack Walters
10. Stevi Ritchie
11. Lola Saunders
12. Jay James
13. Paul Akister
14. Ben Haenow
15. ‘Jake Quickenden’
16. Chloe Jasmine

That list’s in order of actually wanting to sit through an entire album by an artist.

We’ve already written about the potentially mighty Only The Young but Fleur East’s been the best solo act since Judges’ Houses and her weekend performance of ‘Uptown Funk’ was the most exciting moment of the entire series.

More exciting than David Guetta waving his arms around near four CDJs. More exciting than ‘Reece Bibby’ trying to get Only The Young voted off the show. Even more exciting than Fifth Harmony performing a b-side. And what you have to remember here is that Fleur didn’t even perform the best bit of the song. Perhaps this was for health and safety reasons. If she had done the ‘Oops Upside Your Head’ bit, there may now just be a crater where Fountain Studios once stood.

Considering ‘Uptown Funk’ isn’t out in the UK (and pretty much just the UK) until next year, Fleur’s was a performance that threw up a lot of questions. Why did Simon Cowell only hear the song five days ago when the song’s amazingness has been established for well over a month? If Mark Ronson’s version of ‘Uptown Funk’ had suddenly appeared on iTunes on Sunday morning, would it be sailing up the charts now, or is it best to keep building anticipation for a big 2015 release? Did everyone know the performance would be really amazing, or was there a genuine sense of jeopardy?  Is it annoying if the performance was some sort of Sony inside job aimed at promoting a forthcoming release, or – considering the fact that it’s nice to think someone, somewhere in the music industry occasionally comes up with some good ideas when it comes to getting great new songs some attention – would it actually be more annoying if one of Q4’s greatest marketing masterstrokes had actually been a complete accident?

Either way, Fleur’s version of ‘Uptown Funk’ is the first of this year’s X Factor contestant performances to hit Number One on iTunes.


Whichever act wins The X Factor this coming weekend, Fleur’s now established herself as the one who deserves and will undoubtedly get The Full Ella (FKA The Full Leona) when it comes to career rollout. All she needs now is a debut single as good as ‘Uptown Funk’.

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2014 AZ: D is for Discography with a ‘Bangerz’-repack-shaped hole in it http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/2014-az-d-is-for-discography-with-a-bangerz-repack-shaped-hole-in-it/132933/ http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/2014-az-d-is-for-discography-with-a-bangerz-repack-shaped-hole-in-it/132933/#comments Fri, 05 Dec 2014 23:37:34 +0000 http://www.popjustice.com/?p=132933 bangerz miley cyrus artwork

Seriously though. What cruel twist of pop fate dictated that one of the only 2013 albums screaming out for a 2014 repack is about to end the year completely unrepacked?

Think of the potential titles.

  • Bangererz
  • Crasherz
  • Bangcrashwhalloperz
  • Prime Bangerz
  • More Bangerz
  • Extreme Bangerz
  • Ultimate Bangerz
  • Uberbangerz
  • Bangerz & Mash
  • Fucking Bangerz
  • Bangerz Bangerz All Over You
  • Bangerz: The Re-Bang
  • Big Bangerz Theory
  • Bhangraz
  • ‽nterrobangerz
  • Cheers Sinead

Yet DESPITE the potential for amazingness in the repack-titling arena, no new ‘Bangerz’ material appeared. Six to eight new Miley songs in 2014, building on ‘Bangerz’ and pushing things forward, could have been just what the year needed. Instead: nothing.

The only sensible explanation for this is that Miley’s label wanted to avoid a Q4 2014 ‘Bangerz’ repack getting in the way of a Q2 2015 BRAND NEW ALBUM. For that reason, and that reason alone, we can’t stay angry. But that’s not to say we’re not disappointed.

While we’re here, can we just discuss how great the ‘physical product’ of ‘Bangerz’ was, all those years ago, back in last year?

miley cyrus bangerz full cd artwork1 miley cyrus bangerz full cd artwork2

miley cyrus bangerz full cd artwork3 miley cyrus bangerz full cd artwork5 miley cyrus bangerz full cd artwork6 miley cyrus bangerz full cd artwork7  miley cyrus bangerz full cd artwork9 miley cyrus bangerz full cd artwork10 miley cyrus bangerz full cd artwork11 miley cyrus bangerz full cd artwork12 miley cyrus bangerz full cd artwork13  miley cyrus bangerz full cd artwork15  miley cyrus bangerz full cd artwork17

And that wasn’t even the version with the free stickers and alternative cover.

What an album campaign that was.

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Thomston certainly knows one end of a pop melody from the other http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/thomston-certainly-knows-one-end-of-a-pop-melody-from-the-other/132929/ http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/thomston-certainly-knows-one-end-of-a-pop-melody-from-the-other/132929/#comments Fri, 05 Dec 2014 18:42:46 +0000 http://www.popjustice.com/?p=132929 thomston

At the start of the year we were nosing around on the website of Lorde’s management company to see if they had anyone else half decent on the way.

As it turned out they did – a chap called Thomston, who was born in London but grew up in New Zealand, where he still lives. He’s 19 now and makes synthy, contemplative pop, all of which does, we suppose, make him a bit like a male version of Lorde, except that would probably make him a Ladye, which doesn’t work at all.

Thomston released an EP over the summer but we’re mentioning him now because he whacked a brand new video online yesterday, and it’s jolly good if a little light on LOLs.

This, meanwhile, is the whole EP, which is good for umpteen listens. (‘Motley Crew’ is our favourite.)

If the timing of his video release is anything to go by this seems like a case of Thomston intentionally going under the radar (or over the heads) of the end of year lists in the hope of becoming really quite massive at his own pace at some point in the middle of next year, which sounds like a decent plan although we do worry that by next summer the endless Lorde comparisons may have sent him on a murderous rampage. Still, that in itself a strong press angle.

If you too would like to follow Thomston’s progress he’s on Facebook and there’s an interview with him here, but he’s a lot funnier on Twitter and is worth a follow at @ThomstonMusic.

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