samedi 31 janvier 2009

Welcome to the Alesha Dixon Show

There is an album that was released in the UK at the end of 2008 and that is to get a release in the coming months in France that I JUST CAN'T GET OUT OF MY home CD player, car CD player, MP3 player... It is called The Alesha Show and is by Alesha Dixon.

From jamaïcan roots but born in the UK, Alesha was part of the R&B/garage UK girlsband MIS-TEEQ and first tried to go solo in 2006 with a #14 summer hit, Lipstick. The following single, Knockdown, a Xenomania production, failed to hit the top of the charts and her follow-up album Fired Up! only got released in Japan the next year... Her solo career looked all but bright from that moment on but in 2007, she appeared in a TV british show, Strictly Come Dancing, where her dance skills and personality helped her steal the lights and win the show. Brian Higgins, head of the Xenomania team, who produced her 70's inspired Knockdown flop, called her to work on new songs and The boy does nothing was born. It led her to a #5 UK hit and opened her the doors to another CD contract with Warner Music... Thankfully! Welcome to the Alesha Show could easily end 2009 as my Album of the year from now on... Let me explain why with a full track by track review :

1/ Welcome to the Alesha Show 15/20
From a 25 seconds intro in its CD form to a full length 3'18 song, Welcome to the Alesha Show is a sassy R&B mixture that makes me think of the PussyCat Dolls, upbeat and entertaining. Naturally the CD version only marks the intro of the album and opens it up perfectly after the first look from the cover art. The full version is a free downloadable mp3 you get by puting your CD in your PC while connecting to the site of the artist. Although only in 128 kb quality, it's the kind of initiative that will help us buy more physical supports...

2/ Let's get excited 18/20
Let's get excited spices things up with this perfect upbeat that could easily be a further single off the album. Energetic, sexy, funny, this song has it all to make our heart melt and our feet move.

3/ Breathe slow
Breathe slow, on the opposite site, calms the tempo down with a mellow intro, delicate vocals and sweet melody. It has been chosen as the second single, maybe not to follow on too easily on the success of the first hit The boy does nothing. Soulshock & Karlin are the ones behind this haunting song that is a true grower. There's a Cahill remix that elevates it into an atmospherical trance-dance number with success too.

4/ Cinderella shoe
Rolling drums and a 60's inspired gimmick let us in the following track, first Xenomania collaboration on the CD, and like previous singles a true masterpiece. Repetitive but addictive, Cinderella shoe is a cute old-fashioned though modern popsong you can't get out of your head! Another contender for a single release... I've got one complain though : the song, at 2'41, is WAY too short for its brightness and appeal.

5/ The boy does nothing
"I've got a man with two left feet" goes Alesha in the intro of the song and the first seconds stick to your brain and capture your heart and soul completely : there's no denying Brian Higgins and his Xenomania team know how to write a hit, although melting verses, choruses in a joyful chaotic melting-pot. Based on a mambo rhythm, The boy does nothing is a feelgood instant song you can't get enough of. There is a promo only Bimbo Jones remix but while I'm usually addicted to their remixes more than to the originals, this time, their transformation of the song into an electro dark-house number fails to distract me from the original mambo dancing piece of art.

6/ Chasing ghosts
Chasing ghost is another haunting mellow mid-tempo track, with musical arrangements inspired by the 70's, produced by Steve Booker so sounding a bit like the Sugababes as he has worked with them lately too. This song is another grower and single potential.

7/ Play me
Xenomania's on board again and Play me is another rhythm frenzy with an upbeat chorus and piano led melody that goes round and round till it's stuck in your head. Maybe a little too repetitive for a single release but who knows?

8/ Hand it over
Time to fly to the other side of the Atlantic for a string of tracks, the first of ones by Harvey Mason Jr. The verses and overall melody are totally bland, with no real strong lines you can memorize ...until you reach the chorus. It comes in like a raging storm that rush into your ears and make you love the song you were about to quit by using the skip button... It saves the song from being a waste of time and leaves you surprised with a strong overall loving feeling, like you were kidnapped and all fell in love because of Stockholm syndrome.

9/ Do you know the way it feels
Cheesy standard ballad time! But what a wonderful time it is. We get on track 9 an invitation by none other than ballads-writer-of-the-century Diane Warren on writing duties along Stephen Lipson on production skills. So Do you know the way it feels doesn't take us by surprise : it's all warm and sweet, melancholic and emotional but uplifting like every Diane Warren song that has H-I-T written all over it. This one could easily fit on the soundtrack of some Hollywood romantic blockbuster and help Alesha break in the US market.

10/ Can I begin
A strong beat breaks in back although we're still in the mid-tempos territory with (How) Can I begin (to love again). The song is a nice and pleasant love song and good album filler but maybe three midtempos in a row is too much. I'm starting to get sleepy Zzzzzz Zzzzzz...

11/ Italians do it better
Thankfully Italians do it better speeds it up just a little bit but with so much melodic perfection that it feels like you're falling deep in a marshmallow-made warm bed full of lips, arms and legs embracing you, kissing you, making love to you... The song, another Xenomania masterpiece, is all about Alesha's man who, although not italian, does it better than anyone. The song's all about LOVE and you can feel it in her warm voice, mellow and sweet like honey. The world NEEDS this song to be a single to help us heal from the crisis' wounds simply with these simple words of love... When we hear this, we all feel like we're in love, deep in love, so deep nothing else matters than push on the repeat button.

12/ Ooh baby I like it like that
From now on, Xenomania reigns over the end of the CD and Ooh baby takes us back when times were full of eurodance gimmick lines like I like it like that or come on and touch me, BUT with a modern sound. Again, it's pure pop perfection, this time with some dance-clubbin' funky vibe, still sexy, still joyful and still addictive. Repeat. Repeat. It feels so good to surrender to your index control...

13/ Don't ever let me go
Back now to sounds of yesterdays revamped for today, Don't ever let me go is all sunny and bright with mellow verses and a breezy uplifting chorus you can't help but sing along to. Another highlight of the album.

14/ I'm thru
Originally a song by Xenomania team member Miranda 'Moonbaby' Cooper for a promotional EP that didn't help her get a signature for a major release, I'm thru (with love) is a nice feelgood 70's inspired song. It seems so incredible how Xenomania unreleased songs get recycled for other artists like if it was the PWL Hit Factory times again, when songs that flopped were given to another artist by Stock Aitken & Waterman to make it a hit. From the Moonbaby EP, three out of four have been re-vamped : Here we go for Aqua front-girl Lene, then for Girls Aloud, who were given Deadlines & Diets too, and now I'm thru with love. Only Moonbaby may look like too sticky to its original singer for not being re-used on another Xenomania project...

15/ Mystery (hidden track)
On the same CD track as I'm trhu comes a hidden track, Mystery, that finishes the album all in rhythm and hands in the air bouncing musical energy.

I don't wanna mess around (other downloadable bonus)
Now if you insert your CD in your PC while connecting to the Alesha Dixon site you get two bonus downloadable tracks, Welcome to the Alesha show in full version and this one. I don't wanna mess around is a pleasant upbeat song but you understand why it is only a bonus track. Compared to the perfection and addictive sides of previously reviewed tracks, this one sounds a little middle-of-the-road.

Colours of the rainbow (free downloadable song from the Alesha site)
Colours of the rainbow, on the contrary, although just a free teaser for the album from her site, is another incredible song ; maybe more electronical than the others to be included on the CD, it has a good melody and a very good chorus you want to sing along : it goes "I'm like the colours of the rainbow, red, white, gold and blue..."

Gold, that's all I wish for Alesha and this record. Gold, Silver, Diamond, every kind of sales prizes in every country The Alesha Show will get a release because it is simply a CD you cannot live without.
It has everything inside : party music, dance routines, emotional moments, love sounds, joyful funkiness, sympathic girl-next-door confidences...

samedi 24 janvier 2009

Perfect Pop on Saturdays

Although I have bought their album when it was released (on 27th of October 2008 in the UK) and it hasn't left my CD player ever since, I didn't manage to write down a review of it on my blog. Tonight is saturday night and it's perfect time to take the time and help you discover the magic pop of The Saturdays with the Chasing Lights full review.

The Saturdays have been marketed by their record company Facination records (home of UK PopStars Girls Aloud and affiliated with Polydor / Universal) as the New Girls Aloud. They supported the superstars in their latest tour to promote their first singles and their album has been certified gold now with 3 UK Top10 hit singles.
The Saturdays are a 5 piece girlband consisting of two former S Club Juniors/8 members, über-cute Frankie Sandford & vocal talented Rochelle Wiseman, along 3 other girls, Vanessa White, Una Healy and Millie King.
Their sound is a lot more electro-dance oriented pop than the dance-rock oriented pop of Girls Aloud so their only common points are the number of members of the bands and their record company.

1/ If this is love 9/10
Co-written and produced by R&B-pop hit-makers Cutfather & Joe, their first single borrows heavily from the Yazoo Situation 80's hit with the melodic line repeated all along the track with new melody & lyrics leading the song into an uplifting dance-pop song that was perfect to introduce the band and marks their sound territory with an instant appeal. It peaked at #8 in August in the UK Charts so the girls had their chance at releasing more.

2/ Up 10/10
It was in October that their even better new single, Up, reached the #5 UK charts place and it was total injustice it didn't get to #1. Penned by another hitmakers' team, swedish Quiz & Larossi, Up had a chorus you can do nothing but sing along to. The music was all electro & bouncing with full vocals and memorable video clip. It is a track that will stand the test of time for sure!

3/ Keep her 6/10
Next track is a good electro-R&B song with strong vocals and raw synthé sounds, a favourite amongst fans, but not for me. A strange Track3 placing for a good album filler...

4/ Issues 9/10
"Me and my heart, we got issues... Don't know if I should hate you or miss you..." goes Issues' chorus and it's time for the first mid-tempo of the album, written & produced by Carl Sturken & Evan Rogers. It is their third single and the January charts peak gave the girls their best entry with a UK #4 this time. The video shows the girls in some winter beach & cosy house, with bad weather & grey atmosphere that fits the melancholic song very well.

5/ Lies 9/10
The tempo is speeding it up again with the following track to reach its climax with the "All you ever told me is lies" fantastic catchy chorus. This one is another contender for a single release but nearly 3/4 of the tracks could be... Some said this album was their Album of the year for 2008. I can't help but understand why each time I'm listening to it.

6/ Work 10/10
Second best song of the album after Up, Work is a full on rhythm R&B piece of art, your head can only nod in rhythm with, and the one that Beyoncé would kill for, and has been reported as their fourth and forthcoming single. Put that song on a turntable, pump the volume to the max, put your hands in the air and sing along in rhythm ; Work is pure raw energy !

7/ Chasing lights 9/10
Time for another mid-tempo beautiful ballad that has given its name to the album and could easily be another single. Then again, you can't help but sing along the "Go on, go on, go on" chorus lines with passion. Penned by Chris Braide with a girl that is, as named in the booklet, the group's sixth member, Ina Wroldsen, lyricist of all the songs but three on the album.

8/ Set me off 7/10
Still electro sounding but rather more a R&B thing, Set me off is another perfect album filler, but not the one that sets my heart on fire, penned by the same producers as Keep her & Lies.

9/ Fall 10/10
Led by a piano intro that immediately calms down the tempo, Fall is the true romantic masterpiece of the album, the kind that would be perfect for a single release around the 14th of February if you know what I mean... Another highlight for the girls with very strong vocals and beautiful harmonies.

10/ Vulnerable 8/10
The rhythm speeds up a little with Vulnerable but we're again in the mid-tempo pace with a soulful R&B approach. Arrangements are inventive and the song is another addictive one.

11/Why me, why now 8/10
Originally a demo by Alex Cartana, Why me, why now tends to extend the Saturdays' musical territory with a more pop-rock approach, always with soul and bits of electro. Girls Aloud could have easily made this song theirs for sure, although not a Xenomania song.

12/ Up (Wideboys remix edit) 10/10
The album ends with a remix of the leading single, done by much in demands garage first, now electro mix-wizzards Wideboys. Their remix adds electro sounds & uplifting loops that put even more energy in Up.

I personally think the Moto Blanco radio remix of If this is love should have been included as well as it added something to the original. The Yazoo sampled track became a full on disco-house winner but hey, if I did it for my digital home-made album, you can do the same correction to your own album.

I shall then talk about The Saturdays singles B-sides as, for now, every single release has seen a new song added to the single's CD.
What am I gonna do was a pleasant pop song but I understand why it was only put as a Bside to If this is love. Same doesn't apply though to Crashing down, a cover of The Nolans produced by ex-PWL remix team Jewels & Stone that is only available on the Up single. The track is a pure electro-disco stomper and I can't understand it hasn't been featured on the album!!! Like most of previous Jewels & Stone collaborations with Sophie Ellis-Bextor, their tracks are hidden to the mainstream public and I still wonder why as they bring out the best of the artist they work with... For Issues, The girls covered the Four Seasons hit Beggin' in an accoustic way, surfing the wave after the previously covered hit version by Madcon.

Now for Work, I assume we will get another new track, maybe some unreleased material from the album sessions like Not good enough (nice mid-tempo that has leaked in low quality) or Believe in me (still to hear) or maybe a brand new song. Release date has yet to be confirmed but I can't wait !

I hope you've been teased enough by this review to give The Saturdays their chance but I still add some 7digital samples (where you can buy it on 320kb mp3 for less than £5...

jeudi 1 janvier 2009

My Top 25 Hits of 2008

It's the traditional time of the year when a year fades away and another new one begins to take a look at what's behind and think of the best moments...
Musically, it will expressed by my Top 25 of the songs I liked best during 2008.

Here they come!

01 Ysa Ferrer Sens interdit
From the moment I got my hands on Ysa Ferrer's Imaginaire Pur album, I fell deeeeeeeeeply in love with this song, knowing it could only be destined to be her next single. It will be released soon in January but for now on it is its album version that tops my charts of the year. I'll never ever get enough if it !!
02 US5 Round & Round
Looking back at the first time I clicked on a link to the video of the new song of this obscure german boysband, I didn't thought I would find this is the second best song of the year for me but truth is it has stayed on my mp3 player since that time, I am still hypnotised by the Can't get you out of my head inspired video and Jay's gorgeous & sexy look cannot explain it all... This song is simply an instant hit, electro dance/pop at its best with bits of R&B, melodic vocals, vocoderized lines that stick to your brain...
03 The Saturdays
First time I heard this new UK girlsband with a single that is further down my top, I thought to myself they were the new Girls Aloud, with less rock and more electro. Their second single, Up, proved they were more than one-hit wonders. This track is simply addicting. Listen to it once and you'll be singing its chorus for the rest of the day !
04 Louisy Joseph
Assis par terre
I wouldn't have bet on this ex L5 (first french popstars) to become a favourite of mine with a more reggae oriented accoustic pop but this song has a killer chorus. I still can't get enough of her singing with her musky voice WwwwwAssis par terre, voir le monde qui défile et n'avoir pour domicile qu'un bout de trottoir... The lyrics, written from the point of view of a homeless people living on the street and beggin' for life, are very good and fit this pop song, which is a real treat. Second best french song of the year !
05 Eurobandið
This is my life
Like every year, the Eurovision song contest is one of my cherished moment of the year and this song was the icelandic entry, a pure moment of dance energy that deserves a very good placing in my personal charts.
06 Freemasons feat. Katherine Ellis
When you touch me
Freemasons cannot do wrong these days and this collaboration with power diva Katherine Ellis is the best anthem of the year for me : disco house at its best.
07 Ysa Ferrer
On fait l'amour
Whatever the version, radio edit, acoustic mix done by the Cassandre duo or other remixes, this other Ysa single, based on a sample of La Serenissima, is another classic of the year that has just faded. I've listened to it the whole year. 2008 Has really been the year of the return of our kosmic french diva.
08 Girls Aloud The Loving Kind
First only an album track, now the first single of the girls for 2009, this Pet Shop Boys co-written Xenomania song stands as the best of the Girls Aloud sound for me, one of the best songs they have ever recorded. I really hope they could become more famous in France with the new year that's beginning but that a goal for them when these UK Popstars have charted worldwide with 5 hit albums and a best of already... ?
09 Britney Spears Womanizer
The song of Britney's big comeback and truly a masterpiece, served by a perfect video and a repetitive but addictive chorus. I can only imagine if it had been released earlier in the year to which level it could have finished in my charts...
10 Kylie Minogue
The one (Freemasons radio edit)
This year, Kylie has been a little shaded by the poor promotion EMI uses for her lastest album X. The one has only been a digital release in the UK but the song, which was one the best of the album, has been remixed by the Freemasons duo and once again, it has becomed a gemm that will stand along Better the devil you know or Your disco needs you in my most played songs of her list.
11 Alphabeat Boyfriend (Pete Hammond retro mix)
Alphabeat's song was nothing but a good one till they got it remixed by ex PWL star Pete Hammond. He has done it so that it would sound like a vintage mix like in the Hit Factory times and the magic has worked all over again ! It has become a classic for all S/A/W fans, no matter the year of production. WE WANT MORE OF THESE KINDS OF MIXES IN 2009 !!!! Please...
12 Kylie Minogue
Wow! Another Kylie song and the best of her X album for sure, except I've listened to it maybe a little too much... before its release as a single. Another intemporal hit of her nevertheless.
13 Girls Aloud Can't speak french
Another Girls Aloud single, but an older one, the last one from the previous album and from the start of 2008, but one I still haven't got enough of. For us poor lil' french unknowing people of their gorgeousness and unlimited talent, the girls have recorded a french version that is ...haunting. I like their accent when they speak in the language of Moliere but original is incredible and the video portrayed them dressed like in Versailles outfits. That is what classy pop should always mean !
14 Jennifer Hudson
Spotlight (Moto Blanco radio edit)
The original song is a good R&B popsong but the Moto Blanco, like all their remixes, took the song to the dance pop territory with more power and it has found the way to my heart, what the original song's melody had not. 2008 has been a terrible year for the young lady, seeing her both hit the spot with this single and her performance in the Sex & The City film, and go through the loss of some of her clsoe family, shot dead at home.
15 Estelle feat. Kanye West
American boy (SoulSeekerz radio mix)
Once more the original of a song did nearly nothing to me while getting to the top of the charts worldwide BUT a remix of it made my heart melt. This time it is the Soul Seekerz that did the job perfectly and made me love this too much heard before hit of 2008.
16 Dannii Minogue vs Jason Nevins Touch me like that
Lazy Dannii's only new single of the year was a perfect disco dance collaboration with top stars remixer Jason Nevins and even if it lacked the lil' bits that could have made it a BIG hit, it is still a powerful anthem on my private dancefloor playlist.
17 The Saturdays
If this is love (Moto Blanco radio edit)
Second hit on my charts for the girls and first single from them in 2008, this Yazoo sampled dancepop jewel was good in its original version but reached a higher level with the Moto Blanco (them again!) remix. Speeded up and with a watered down sample presence, it became another favourite of mine for months.
18 M.Pokora feat. Timbaland & Sebastian
When it got released this lil' french boy's attempt at breaking it BIG in the international market made me fall in love immediately. Along with US5's song it got played and played again in my car while driving early in the morning to work with forceful use of the Repeat mode but the magic disappeared faster than Round & Round. Or I got bored by my overuse of it. It stayed a very good commercial pop/R&B track, one of the better ones Timbaland have produced.
19 Alesha Dixon The Boy Does Nothing
Ex Mis-Teeq girl came back from far, far away but Xenomania's touch hit the spot like most of the time and this mambo flavoured pop song is addictive. Its Bimbo Jones remix is good too, taking it more on the dancefloor than in the dance class.
20 Gabriella Cilmi Sweet About Me
Fourth Xenomania's production and second in a row, Sweet about me must be one of the most long hit of the year in the UK. If it wasn't an instant one, it slowly climbed the charts and stayed for months in middle places, selling her classy album. I wish our latest Nouvelle Star's winner of 2008 could record such a good song to fit her voice and music style perfectly.
21 Ysa Ferrer To Bi Or Not To Bi
Released by the end of 2007 and being #15 in my last year's charts, this comeback song of Ysa Ferrer praising sexual versality has stayed one of the best of 2008 in my heart too.
22 Quentin Mosimann Il y a je t'aime et je t'aime
Best ballad of the year ! Tender, touching and simply beautiful, this original composition from last year's Star Academy winner was the real treat of his album and now the lead single of its re-release. If the video is a lilttle cheap for me (I would have liked a simple man-to-piano close-up best) the song can still become a best of 2009...
23 Ne-Yo
Closer (Stonebridge radio edit)
Ne-Yo was in my eyes some talented R&B star but this single, even in its original mix, made it more of a dance/pop divo and Swedish house master Stonebridge gave it a full treatment that can't be ignored.
24 Rihanna Disturbia
2007 saw two hits for Rihanna in my personal charts, 2008 only see one and a poor one. Must be because her latest album si gettin' old now and there has been too many re-releases. I am waiting now for her next one in 2009 but Disturbia nevertheless has been a wonderful & odd hit.
25 Cassandre
Transposed into music with magnificience and usual talent by the french duo, this Paul Eluard poem is simply touching and beautiful in its original piano version but the single release dressed it with dance remixes like Thomas Dorian's one that made it a hidden treasure ; maybe hard to discover but so warm & pleasant when you're into it...

On the album side, you would have bet, Ysa Ferrer's Imaginaire Pur is the winner of the year !
But very close comes the digital-only release from 2007 by Cassandre, Il était une histoire, that is widely available on digital stores and that I can only ask you to check, then BUY!!
Then, all in alphabetical order, I would name Lene Alexandra Welcome To Sillycon Valley, Almighty ShowGirls We Love Kylie, Bimbo Jones Harlem 1 Stop, BWO Pandemonium, Agnes Carlsson Dance Love Pop, Gabriella Cilmi Lessons To Be Learned, Alesha Dixon The Alesha Show, Colton Ford Tug Of Wars, Girls Aloud Out Of Control, Infernal Electric Cabaret, Lady Gaga The Fame, Quentin Mosimann Duel, Neo One, Kate Ryan Free, Sabrina Erase/Rewind, Same Difference Pop, The Saturdays Chasing Lights, Seal Soul, The Snoopy Lads A Ruby In Blue, Britney Spears Circus, Donna Summer Crayons, Vogue From Klubland With Love, Laurent Wolf Wash My World.
Plus, there have been albums released by the end of 2007 that have stayed in 2008 on my playlist : Freemasons Unmixed, Booty Luv Boogie Tonight, Cerrone Celebrate!, Alan Connor After Midnight, Danny Heartbeats, Rihanna
Good Girl Gone Bad.

NB : Danny has just released his second solo album Set Your Body Free so it should count as a 2008 album of notice but it surely stand in my 2009 list !