BBC Sound of 2017, Kylie’s Retro Hits Suddenly Appear on Spotify, and New Tunes by MUNA, Nicole Millar and Girls’ Generation’s Hyoyeon

It’s barely lukewarm let alone been a hot take, so I reckon let’s not jazz it up too much around here. For the past few weeks I’ve been getting my ass into the habit of blogging once a week (because I really miss doing it). I couldn’t think of a proper catchy way to package this whole weekly pop opinion piece/ round-up of things that caught my eye shebang, so my brain in a hungover state farted ‘Limmy’s Hot Take‘, which let’s face it… wasn’t all that great or accurate. So scratching that title. That title is cancelled. She is done.

A lot has changed in the pop blogging world since I started Feed Limmy in 2008 (I had another pop blog on Blogspot for like two or three years before that). Lots of people from when I started aren’t doing it anymore – real life happens, they end up getting very good jobs and you know, you get too busy to keep it up.

In the last 10 years I’ve met so many amazing people through doing this. I found my tribe on Twitter. People who were into this stuff as much as I was. Growing up in Melbourne suburbia, I didn’t come across very many people who were as passionate about pop music as I was. Pop was frowned upon as ‘guilty pleasure’ and somehow it was made even more unbearable for me to express my love for it when people started calling me ‘faggot’. I’d dread every single time Geri‘s ‘It’s Raining Men’ or Christina Aguilera and co.‘s ‘Lady Marmalade’ came on the radio after the lunch time bell. So after leaving high school and having my own little corner on the internet to write about all the great stuff I was listening to and being able to share it with like-minded Twitter friends was a real game changer for me.

Now that I guess I actually am part of this industry, I do see things a little differently and have to obviously, you know, gurl’s gotta eat and gurl’s got bills to pay so he’s gotta be careful of how he frames his opinions. I also now see hype and media coverage very differently. I appreciate it more, of course, knowing how much goes into it. I am more sympathetic to artists as well and I am also increasingly aware that the more I see the less I know. And I’m OK with that. It keeps me on my toes. This is such a rapidly evolving industry that it’s now more important than ever to question what is really important and relevant.

Everyone in the music industry is going crazy over ‘ones to watch’ type lists right now -i.e. the BBC’s Sound of 2017, Brits Critics’ Choice Award, MTV Brand New, VEVO dscvr, … *Shirley Caesar voice* YOU NAME IT! They are all huge targets for label marketing and music PR types because they are, of course, a really big stamp of approval for any emerging artist and it’s what separates them from other newcomers. It’s the difference between getting booked to play Wembley or a dive bar as the fourth support act, shopping at Selfridges vs. living on Lidl vouchers – you get the picture. The success story that gets wheeled out a lot: Adele. Her career started with a bang when she won the BBC’s Sound of 2008 and then her debut album 19 went on to win the Brits Critics’ Choice Award and then came a Grammy nomination and so on and so forth.

You also tend to notice the same names being hyped and thrown back and forth around this season. Sometimes people still talk about them after a year, sometimes they barely get a mention after three months. The hype can fade as quickly as it rose. As the years go by, however, it seems increasingly difficult to call who might actually their way to the top as the true rising star of the next 12 months.

BBC Sound of 2017: Could an urban artist win it – and actually dominate the year?

This week the BBC announced their Sound of 2017 longlist, informed by tips from 170 critics, DJs and music writers. You know, people in industry who really know their shit. While it’s obviously a practice of self-fulfilling prophecy, I do find it quite exciting to discover new artists this way and see who is tipped for big things.

These are the ones tastemakers are not only predicting will shape the sonic trend of 2017 but also represent what will be most commercially successful. It’s actually incredible that the list is dominated by urban music acts. MTV UK also released their shortlist of Brand New 2017 acts with the same handful of urban music rising stars AJ TraceyNadia RoseRay BLK and Stefflon Don.

It would be great to have a real and raw British R&B star like Ray BLK reaching Adele and Sam Smith level of mainstream dominance. Hailing from a working class background in South London and proudly embracing her roots (‘My Hood’ is basically her ‘Hometown Glory’ but less vanilla and tea cakey), I so want to believe the UK is ready to really big up an artist like her instead of another prosaic guitar noodling substitute for Ed Sheeran, but from what history has informed us that is rarely the case. It’s been years since we’ve seen a super real and distinctly British R&B act embraced by the mainstream. Seriously, please name me one. Whoever it is that ends up taking home the Sound of 2017, I hope we don’t see a repeat of what happened with this year’s lot.

Jack Garratt, who won Sound of 2016 was literally everywhere at the start of the year. After being announced as the Sound of 2016, he went onto collect the Brits Critics’ Choice Award and then wasted no time in releasing his debut album in February, which entered the charts and peaked at #3. It only stayed in the Top 20 for two weeks and then he sort of vanished. By summer, the name seems like a vague memory. Runner-up Alessia Cara, a soulful teen Youtube sensation from Canada, didn’t manage better either. While the brilliant breakthrough hit ‘Here’ flexed for a really bloody long time, her album only managed to peak at #14 and subsequent singles missed the Top 50 altogether. She was nominated for New Artist of The Year at the American Music Awards but lost to ZAYN. I only remembered I had bought her album when I saw her pop up as a feature creature on a Troye Sivan single a few months ago.

Maybe part of why Garratt’s hype wasn’t sustained was because there are literally hundreds of artists doing the type of electronic-R&B fusion with scratchy soulful, folk singer vocals. The market was already saturated by the time he came into primetime attention. But perhaps maybe why it didn’t work was because the tunes just weren’t memorable at all. They go to great lengths to stress he is a multi-instrumentalist, which you know, instills a level of authenticity, and his work is very immaculately produced but where are the tunes? Where is the song that makes people feel something?

Sometimes I think people in our industry forget that all these accolades and lists don’t really matter to the vast majority of the record buying public. Most people don’t care. People will buy records they connect to. People will support artists people they like.

Every single one Kylie’s retro hits are now on Spotify

On Friday, without formal warning, all of Kylie‘s Stock Aitken and Waterman era releases (her first four albums, which were all bloody huge) suddenly appeared on Spotify. I am talking not just all the albums but all the remixes, the B-sides, you name it. I am literally gagging.

This is sort of a nice reminder of one of the many highs in Kylie’s long pop career. While the Christmas stuff she’s doing now is a very clever and savvy business decision, I can’t stress how much I need for her to return to making brilliant pop for the other 11 months of the year.

Check out my 30 favourite ‘retro’ Kylie tunes:

Top tunes of the week

MUNA ‘I Know A Place’

L.A. girl band MUNA has delivered a shimmery, feel good song for the LGBT community. According to Time, ‘I Know A Place’ is “meant to be a rallying cry and a reminder that safe spaces can exist”. If you’re into HAIM, you need to get into this.

Nicole Millar ‘No Bad Vibes’

Smoky-voiced Australian singer Nicole Millar definitely should be on everyone’s pop radar. ‘No Bad Vibes’, taken from her new EP Communication, is a calypso pop treat with trap beats about blocking out negativity.

Decco featuring Mapei ‘Shooting Stars’

It’s good to hear from Swedish-American soul pop singer Mapei. Can’t believe ‘Don’t Wait’ came out three friggin’ years ago. This twinkly radio-ready club pop tune is possibly the most commercial sounding record she’s done and I’m here for it. Part of me wishes Alexis Jordan would come back with something like this right about now.

Hyoyeon (from Girls’ Generation) ‘Mystery’

I’m still shook from Tiffany‘s “I Just Wanna Dance” earlier this year so it’s great to see that K-pop’s longest running girl band Girls’ Generation has yielded yet another solo star. Hyoyeon‘s debut solo single ‘Mystery’ (“Miss Terry” if you’re nasty and singing along) is much more rhythmic, giving you Bhangra beats that nod to Selena Gomez‘s ‘Come and Get It’ but much spicier.

And finally…

On this day 10 years ago, Emma Bunton released her last solo album Life in Mono. I’d be quite happy if she banged out another Free Me, which I guess was what Life in Mono was meant to be but not quite on the same breadth of excellence. Although I still enjoy the title track, ‘Wasn’t Looking (When I Found Love)’, ‘All I Need to Know’ and ‘Take Me To Another Town’.

The album features her cover of ‘Downtown’, as you might remember. It was the BBC’s Children in Need charity single that year and reached a peak of #3 on the UK charts.

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Album Review: Tinashe “Aquarius”

If you liked FKA Twigs’ elemental approach to making R&B music but secretly wished it was more accessible, then walk this way. Tinashe’s debut album Aquarius delivers that and so much more.

Tinashe Aquarius

The 21-year old American singer/songwriter has been regularly name-checked by urban music tastemakers as one to watch out for ever since her debut single ‘2 On’ hit blogs this year.

The track is like nightclub candy, setting tongues wagging with its crisp beats, ice queen finger snaps and Tinashe’s sultry tones. The overall impression is sexy and daring without being raunchy, if you know what I mean.

 

The rest of Aquarius, however, takes on a more subtle approach. The album dives deep into atmospheric and fluid soundscapes that sound heavily influenced by the likes of Sky Ferreira and Jessie Ware in parts. Dev Hynes (who has produced for the likes of Ferreira and Solange) hems one of the album’s signature cuts: ‘Bet’.

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Feed Limmy Top Albums of 2013: Tina Arena “Reset”

Tina Arena is pretty much universally recognised as one of the best female vocalists Australia has produced. If this doesn’t sound like gospel to you, cancel your plans tomorrow and spend the day YouTubing her live performances.

Tina Arena Reset

Reset is Tina’s first English album of originals in over a decade and the title neatly sums up the sentiment of ‘picking up right where we left off’.

For many loyal fans, this album harks to all the fond hallmarks of a Tina Arena masterpiece. The only difference is that the beltings are now scaled back from the Pangea-splitting level she is known for. More often than not on Reset, the beauty is most striking when you just close your eyes and take in Tina’s tone and the effortless delivery.

As a body of brand new mid-tempo pop numbers, Reset arrives graceful, profound, and already feels lived-in. The comeback single ‘You Set Fire To My Life’ is an elegant affair. It took it as a profound reminder in today’s aggressively overproduced pop climate that a simple, effective melody needs no smoke and mirrors.

Watch the video for Tina’s single ‘You Set Fire to My Life’:

Album opener ‘Love You Less’, which Tina co-wrote with super producer Stuart Crichton and Ilan from The Potbelleez, sounds like a confident future radio hit. Ex-Australian Idol contestant-turned-celebrated songwriter Hayley Warner co-wrote the massive track ‘Still Running’, which reconnects listeners to the passionate delivery we loved Tina for in ‘Burn’.

‘Reset All’, tucked at the end of the standard edition, is the grand dame of the album. Unfolding with a faint piano tinkling, the track takes you on a journey (sorry to borrow such a worn out reality TV phrase) with crescendoing strings and Tina’s own vocals, which pick up in tenacity as she drives home the desire to start over.

After several listens, my eyes have somehow trained itself to water on cue when this line comes on: “I’ve been holding on just to let go, turn a blind eye, not sure I want to know.”

Listen to Tina’s ‘Reset All’:

There is no doubt that Tina Arena is the high priestess of her craft and we can only hope she continues to deliver more new material as beautiful as this.

Chart Feed – 17.09.12

No need to front like you haven’t been doing the ‘Gangnam Style’ routine down the supermarket aisle.

chart feed

This has been a good week for K-pop icon PSY, Amelia Lily, Taylor Swift and Pet Shop Boys.

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Quick Feed: Mariah shoots comeback video, Tulisa’s ‘Live It Up’ remixes and Ronan Keating’s return

For those who just don’t have the luxury of time to sit around waiting for Limmy to write faster – myself included – here is a shotgun solution.

Let’s do this thing called Quick Feed, where you get a quick compilation of new music updates delivered through your driver seat window every other day in a brown take away bag with an unfathomable amount of serviettes, and you tell me whether it works or not.

Collect your first edition at the next drive-thru window. The receipt is in the bag.

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Havana Brown “When The Lights Go Out” EP review

I bowed my head slightly, said a prayer to the Lord, and sprinkled holy water from the Tabernacle of Michelle Williams on my iPod before I hit ‘play’ because I knew I was going to hate this and I was seeking grace from above to find something noteworthy to say about Havana Brown‘s new EP.

First of all, I need you to know that I am quite happy to be a Havana Brown Apologiser because I love a good Australian female pop vixen. Her breakthrough smash ‘We Run The Night’ was one of my favourite songs of 2011 and I still krump furiously to that dance breakdown at every chance.

However, here’s where the great chasm of doubt crosses our path. The Australian producers behind ‘We Run The Night’ and its lesser follow up ‘Get It’ – More Mega – were ditched long before When The Lights Go Out even spawned. Havana’s personal and professional relationship with her early hitmakers pretty much soured when mega pop producer RedOne got involved with her career – read: remixed ‘We Run The Night’, slapped on Pitbull, and propelled the song to global success.

RedOne himself serves as executive producer on this EP (producing three of the five tracks) and the whole project is released under a partnership between his 2101 label and Island Australia. The Moroccan producer’s Midas touch would’ve been selling point enough for any pop music surveyor to get on board When The Lights Go Out – except, guess what? The songs are rubbish.

Here we see the DJ-cum-popstar front a string of uneventful dance cuts that wash up exactly like what you’d expect from a Sophie Monk 2012 comeback. Almighty pop hooks that match the immensity of ‘We Run The Night’ – absent. Any hint of star potential and personality – absent.

RedOne‘s own contributions are perhaps the most dire of the lot – particularly the single ‘You’ll Be Mine’, which is evidently the most spectacular piece of fairground music ever written for a Hello Kitty theme park.

Richard Vission (producer behind several of Hilary Duff‘s Dignity tracks and more recently, Luciana‘s hit ‘I Like That’) hems a frenetic dubstep ballad – ‘One Way Trip’ – that would have sounded exponentially better if the productions had been more restraint.

The beastly R3hab-produced club track ‘Big Banana’ is possibly the only track I would salvage from this godforsaken project. I won’t sugar coat it. Y’all will hate it for the insipid lyrics, Havana’s knock-off Ke$ha rap, and various elements recalling everything you dislike about LMFAO – but it is by far the most infectious track here. And put it this way, if this was released by your favourite K-pop girl band like, say, 2NE1 – y’all would be crying and shaking over it, so embrace the track for what it is.

The title When The Lights Go Out may have been snatched from ‘We Run The Night’ lyrics but the smash single itself doesn’t feature on the Australian version of the EP. In fact, that’s probably what bothers me the most about this project. This sense of disconnect from what I felt was a promising start in pop for Havana Brown – one where she might emerge with a distinct and tailored club/pop hybrid sound of her own rather than something this deflated and devoid of personal style.

Listen to the international version of When The Lights Go Out – featuring the ‘We Run The Night’ remix in place of another track titled ‘Wonderland (La Da Da Da Di)’, which is on the Aussie edition:



Footnotes:

Havana Brown‘s new single ‘You’ll Be Mine’ was serviced to Aussie radios last week and the above EP is, of course, out now.

Whitney Houston: remembering the voice who inspired a generation

You could fill an hour-long special just with a montage of audition footage showing the many young people who have named Whitney Houston as their musical inspiration.

Whitney Houston is – without question – one of the most influential female pop vocalists of our time and today while the world falls silent upon hearing of her tragic death, all I want to hear and all I wish to remember her by is her voice.

Word broke out this afternoon on social media that the Grammy-winning American music superstar had died on Saturday, aged 48. Even though we were all hoping against hope that this was just another cruel hoax and asking to see the “receipts”, the singer’s publicist Kristen Foster herself confirmed it.

At the time of writing, details of how Whitney died and where her body was found and such haven’t been officially confirmed – and frankly, it don’t matter to me. I feel like there’s been enough material in the press over the last few years detracting from Whitney‘s contribution to music and her vocal asset that we don’t need to feed on that right now.

The music industry has lost a truly defining star who set the standard in which so many young female talents have aspired to in terms of vocal presence and influence.

Whitney Houston took soul-powered pop to new heights when she broke out with her debut self-titled album in 1985. The almighty hits ‘Greatest Love of All’ and ‘Saving All My Love For You’ projected a blueprint for pop ballads in the decade to come, while the fun – and albeit few – uptempos like ‘How Will I Know’ and ‘Someone For Me’ spoke directly to the ears of the 80s.

What’s been really interesting upon reflection of Whitney‘s six-studio album discography is how well her voice serves up everything from the signature lip-synch-for-your-life type ballads to sassy, fluorescent pop numbers.

Through Whitney‘s smashes like ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)’ and ‘I’m Every Woman’, we learned that there’s a place in the mainstream pop sphere for powerful vocals matched with slick dance productions. In Whitney‘s albums we found a place where sass and pure class can cohesively meet. She showed pop music listeners that you could really have it all and have it sung right, for the matter – from skyscraper ballads to finger-snapping dance records.

At the end of the day, regardless of whether you came to cool down or throw down [Editor’s note: her exact words – see, Whitney – The Greatest Hits] you were guaranteed to be treated with the utmost commitment to passionate vocal delivery.

There was no bullshitting with Whitney‘s voice, even when the wear and tear started to show over the years. While we miss the era of the whistle-clear top notes, we also appreciate her developing raspy tones because it gives the records she sings much more character, maturity and depth.

Inspirational songs like ‘I Look To You’ and ‘I Didn’t Know My Own Strength’ on her final studio album I Look To You would not have been what they are if she had recorded them 25 years ago.

It wasn’t always easy to accept that Whitney‘s voice is not what it used to be but I think once you understand that the source of her great vocal power is not in the strength of her vocal chords but rather the soul from which she sings from – it all starts to make a bit more sense.

Through all the years, different shades of uptempo and downtempos, and personal drama that followed her – there was no denying that the voice always came through with a bite and with a good deal of conviction.

Check out five of Feed Limmy‘s favourite Whitney tracks:

‘I Will Always Love You’

My earliest memory of Whitney Houston was sitting in front of the television at my babysitter’s housing commission flat, watching the camera zoom in on this woman and pausing just before she opens her eyes to belt out the final stretch of ‘I Will Always Love You’.

I remember being so swept away by her almighty vocals in that moment that I forgot to breathe. Needlessly to say, I felt very dizzy by the end of the song. When you encounter music that leaves a lasting first impression like that, it’s really hard to find anything that could ever possibly top that.


 
‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)’

I wish I could say that I knew and loved this song from the moment it came out but my proper introduction to ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ only occurred when I was old enough to go clubbing. I associate this song so much with joy, freedom and gay pride because of this experience.

I just remember seeing the faces of gays around me light up when the song powered up and how much everyone was living for the anthemic chorus. ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ was singing the sentiment of every single man and woman on the floor. It’s like this communal feeling of we all came out to dance tonight and have a good time, but really we’re wishing that a special someone would find us under all the smoke and strobes.

Now report to the dance floor in honour of our Queen of The Night:


 
‘Saving All My Love For You’

Mama Lim used to play this song a lot when I was a child but it wasn’t until I revisited it in my teens that I realised what a sexy, baby-making jam ‘Saving All My Love For You’ really is.

Whitney made having an affair sound so romantic, pure and sacred. It was the combination of her smooth jazzy vocals and saxophone, and this idea of saving herself for a man. This ballad actually gives moments, albeit subtler ones than the likes of ‘Greatest Love of All’ and ‘I Will Always Love You’. Truly is one of my favourite vocal performances by the late diva.

Prepare to smooth it out with ‘Saving All My Love For You’:


 
‘Step By Step’

Halleloo, Ms Houston. You can’t touch this space where Whitney goes – it’s literally where heaven’s gates open up and blasts some wholesome mix of gospel and uplifting dance pop. I feel like whole aerobics programs could be structured around this song and its remixes – and probably have been.

When you’re looking for a track where Whitney‘s giving you all that from vocal trills to inspirational lyrics, you really need not look further than ‘Step By Step’.

Rip off them choir robes and get to steppin’ to ‘Step By Step’:


 
‘I Look To You’

As I wind down this post now and hit play on ‘I Look To You’, I can actually feel tears coming to my eyes thinking about how this really is the last defining ballad Whitney will ever serve and how fitting it is.

I think back to the first time I heard this song and how much it made me think of my mother and the difficult year she had with the divorce. The song made me reflect on how much mum and I leaned on each other during that time and how we, as humans, can share this special ability to lift each other up by just being there.

Right now, my thoughts are with Whitney‘s daughter Bobbi Kristina and I sincerely hope she is surrounded with love and she too has someone to lean on during this horrible time.

The journey hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Whitney, especially from an outsider’s perspective when all you’re fed with are tragic, disturbing accounts of her drug abuse and erratic behaviour.

But I want to believe that for someone who has brought so much joy and so much passion into our lives with her music, that in her lifetime, she would’ve experienced some of that love and happiness in return.


 
“Take me far away from the battle, I need you to shine on me…” – Rest in peace, Whitney Houston.