We're already half-way through July and have had some cracking tunes covered in the Singles Of The Week section thus far, this week being no different.
It's all about the début singles this time. Yet another X Factor contestant is hoping to carve a trend-defying career (i.e. stick around longer than their alloted fifteen minutes), there's the début from a 21 year old singer-songwriter from our very shores, and then finally we have the lead single from a Toronto-based quartet.
In addition to these new acts, we also have the latest single from a musical legend who has collaborated with a dance act to help reimagine his back catalogue. So before your working week gets fully underway, why not take five minutes to get your musical fix from us?
'Sad' by Elton John vs Pnau (Rating: ****)
Reviewed by Jon B
If you’re wondering exactly who Pnau are, think Empire of the Sun and then this track makes a lot more sense because both acts share a mutual member and Sir Elton John is one of their biggest fans. It may sound unlikely but it’s true, and John was so taken with their self-titled 2008 album that he tracked them down and signed them up to his management, hence how this project came about.
'Sad' is the lead single from Good Morning to the Heart, a re-working of a selection of John’s back catalogue from 1970 to 1976. Those expecting 'already been done' remixes of the type of 'Are You Ready For Love', which shot to the top of the charts in 2003 are in for a bit of a surprise, thankfully. Rather than remixing the songs, Pnau have taken elements from several of them to create new songs with completely reinvented instrumentation.
The instrumentation itself bares testament to the sound of Empire of the Sun but also incorporates elements of 70s disco and shades of the Scissor Sisters. Nevertheless, there is something undeniably contemporary and fresh; maybe it’s in the beat, which as the track builds certainly reminds you that this is 2012, and not 1978. The samples showcase John's voice at arguably the peak of its prowess, and lyrically, 'Sad' is full of whimsy: 'I used to love this old scarecrow / My joy and sorrow', 'beneath these branches / I once roamed', 'I held a dandelion / When summer burned the earth again'. The irony is that despite such sad lyrics, this actually has the feel of a happy song thanks to the up-tempo beats and funky instrumentation.
Pnau have created a perfect pop song, ideal for a summer release. Not only is 'Sad' incredibly catchy, but the idea behind it is original and well executed. It's easily the sort of song you could find ending up on repeat on your iPod. Who knew that such a seemingly bizarre combination could yield something that works so well?
'Into The Night' - Azari & III (Rating: ***1/2)
Reviewed by Damien Ryan
Azari & III are a Toronto-based quartet, made up of Dinamo Azari, Alixander III alongside vocalists Fritz and Starving Yet Full, bringing us some of the finest house music this side of late-80's Chicago. They exploded onto the international music scene in 2011 with their dancefloor smash 'Hungry for the Power' and are now releasing the summery ‘Into The Night’ as the collective's latest single.
The track is the opening cut from their sensational self-titled album and despite being almost two years old, still sounds fresh. It starts off with hand-claps and a slowly building beat, soon adorned with bubbly synths and sleek vocals; 'It’s been a long long time since I felt this way about someone'. Lyrically, the song is a pretty straight forward number about seduction on the dancefloor, but it's a masterful pop tune with a simply irresistible invite to just 'get it on, get it on'.
The song is packed with New York nightlife cool, and house music flourishes that make the genre seem timeless. Though the single isn’t quite as instant as their previous releases 'Hungry for the Power' and 'Reckless (With Your Love)', it’s still a great mid-tempo summer groove and secures Azari & III as the funkier siblings to Hercules and Love Affair.
'Helicopters & Planes' by Josh Kumra (Rating: **1/2)
Reviewed by Scott McMullon
It is clear from the outset that we are dealing with something a little bit special when we first start listening to this offering from Josh Kumra. That being said, on the evidence we have on offer here, we don't think that it is special enough to keep us interested beyond the first play through.
It's a classic case of paint-by-numbers low budget soul. That much is clear from the raw nature of the work where we are treated to a minimal backing presence which puts a great deal of focus on the vocals. It is a good move in theory, but we were left a little cold by Kumra’s vocal talents, and we don't think he has enough power in his voice to carry the whole single. Its not that he does a bad job, just that he does not quite have the presence necessary to hold the whole piece together.
Lyrically the track works well and lends itself over to the soulful vocal performance. However, we cannot help but wonder what the message is here. It sounds a little bit like an introverted exploration of the singer's psyche, which would be good if it didn't feel too artificial and non-descript. It is melancholic and tries to reach out to people on a deep level but we are pretty unconvinced that it has enough power to reach anyone save for real fans of the artist. The lyrics also had some elements which felt like they were forced into the music rather than being a collaborative development, which feels a little lazy and unbalanced against the vocals.
We were also left a little non-plussed by the random inclusion of a rap section to the overall melody. When did it become a rule that every song needed to have a rap break shoehorned in? It feels like a random add-on and brought absolutely nothing to the song beyond a momentary diversion. This would not be such a fatal flaw if it didn't feel so opposed to the rest of the track showing, at least in this instance, that rap and soul don't mix.
We have heard worse, but we have heard a lot better too. If Kumra wants to become something memorable he needs to get a bit more power and skill in those vocals, otherwise his raw, un-honed nature will only ever sound like a bad attempt at karaoke.
'Home Run' is a fusion of multiple genres that Misha showcased throughout her time on the show - R&B, hip-hop, grime, dance, pop and soul - and its result is a fresh, exciting, party-starting and show-stopping track that proves why this young lady definitely has 'the X Factor'. The song begins in a piano-driven power ballad style as Misha belts out the first two lines before the beats and bass quickly pick the pace up and break into the first verse, in which she cheekily says 'Tonight I wanna be a rebel'. Simply put, the lyrics, which Misha originally wrote as a ballad for her ex, are "about that special someone who gets you so excited, so hyped that you lose control!" as she herself explained and as the hook: 'You got me so excited/I'm doing things I've never done before, done before (oh-oh-oh)/And when I try to fight it, it's something I cannot ignore' sums up perfectly. In the pumping, infectious chorus, Misha sings and repeats twice: 'Baby, I don't know what you done, done, done / But cha got one done, it's a home run / You hit me hard, now I'm flying'.
But it's during the rap breakdown where she really unleashes what made her stand out even more on the show - spitfire rapping that could pose a good challenge against other British female emcees, Ms Dynamite and Alesha Dixon. While her style is reminiscent of these women who came before her as well as other current hip-hop giants such as Missy Elliott and Nicki Minaj, Misha B still has that distinctive sound she's had and carried through since day one, so like her colourful sense of fashion, she's unmistakeable. 'Home Run' is certainly worthy of being a successful hit and, unlike most other X Factor contestants who have faded into oblivion faster than they got a record deal and released new music, Misha B will be sure to stick around.