Monday, 2 July 2012

Youtube Mixtapes - Amaze-Pop





Two weeks ago, I witnessed one of the greatest live shows I think I have ever seen. This is no easy claim; I have seen a fair few live shows in my time. However, Jay Z and Kanye West impressed me so much in Sheffield with their Watch The Throne show that I took no notes, deciding instead to just sit back, enjoy and immerse myself in the glorious world of proper showmanship. So that explains the lack of review on here, for which I can only apologise. But hey, it was a much needed busmans holiday. Seeing two of the most famous men in the world  own such an enormous room with surprisingly minimal staging and lighting, relying only on the strength of their music, I got to thinking about what really makes a mainstream hit.  More importantly, I got to thinking about how sad it seems to be these days where you can be Pitbull, Will.I.Am or David Guetta and churn out whatever you like, guaranteed a smash at the end of it without putting real care and attention into the music you are making.  


Certainly, Jay Z and Kanye West are hip hop artists, but yet both seem to have that knack of straddling the very thin line between  artistic credibility and pop enormousness. But how do they get a room as large as the Sheffield Motorpoint arena to latch onto a catchphrase as brilliantly ludicrous as 'that shit cray?' How do they get away with playing the same song five times in a row and calling it an encore? I couldn't put my finger on it, but I think it's something to do with passion. I know pop music has always been viewed as less of an 'art' form than say indie, or classical, but pop music is meant to be fun, right? But just because it's upbeat and frivolous, doesnt mean it should be shiny, recyclable rubbish with no effort behind it. 


With that in mind, I've compiled a little list of some of my favourite, massive, unashamed pop/rnb songs of recent years, for your guilty (or not so guilty) pleasure. Some you may know, some you may have forgotten about, but all that remind me of growing up and being properly excited by music, however overplayed they have become now. 


By no means is this an exhaustive list, and by no means do I claim these to be the best pop songs of all time, but as I stand now, these are the ones that come to the forefront of my mind, in chronological order for your listening pleasure. PLEASE get involved via the comments box, because I'm sure there are some stone cold gems I'd love to get reacquainted with. After all, we may all enjoy languidly milling around parties, telling people how many Radiohead 7 inches we own and how overrated we think The Smiths are, but who can REALLY resist a bit of Poker Face? 


Big Pimpin – Jay Z (2000)


The definition of swagger. Big Pimpin still remains (in my mind anyway) one of Jay Z's finest pop hours, sounding as fresh live as it did twelve years ago. One of the highlights of the Watch The Throne show, it eclipsed even Golddigger for arms in the air-ability as people bounced their invisible car suspension in almost cult-like unison. Unfortunately YouTube doesn't seem to host the original video in all it's dirty mouthed glory, but have a badly dubbed version anyway. You get the idea.







Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love) - Spiller featuring Sophie Ellis Bextor (2000) 


Remember when pop music had structure? A masterclass in slick sultry pop, I wish more 'dj featuring pop persona' stuff these days sounded like this, without the dodgy inneundo and relentless gyrating. Dissapointingly Sophie Ellis Bextor never really accomplished anything as good in her own right, although Murder On The Dancefloor was locked into my walkman for quite a period when I was 8. 










Fill Me In – Craig David (2001) 


Cringe away with me readers, because I know you ALL secretly love a bit of Mr David. My introduction into lightweight garage (along with So Solid Crew and DJ Pied Piper), his first album Born To Do It is still chock full of tunes, albeit several cringey lyrical clunkers. Fill Me In is one of the most memorable, clambering scales and reverb aplenty. You only need to look at how quickly he managed to lure his ladyfriend into bed on 7 Days to know that this is a man who doesn't mess around.






Ms Jackson – Outkast (2001)


 I really miss Outkast. There was a period in my early teens when I was a little bit obsessed with them, and I can vividly remember going out to buy Speakerboxx/The Love Below when I was about 10, which was a big deal at the time due to the fact that albums were pretty much a fixed 11.99 from HMV. None of this supermarket or amazon tomfoolery back in the day! Man, I sound old. Anyway, the point remains that it was Ms Jackson that introduced this duo to the world, and I miss their eccentricity, the world they created just the two of them. It has to be admired that even though Outkast have been a little quiet on the releases front, both Andre 3000 and Big Boi have accomplished more seperately than most other rappers. See LMFAO, there is more to aspire to than just 'Party Rocking' your way through life.




Like I Love You – Justin Timberlake (2002)


Probably the most defiant 'i'm leaving the boyband and can do it alone, just watch me bitchezzz' hit every written. Justin Timberlake might sit a little erroneously with my other music tastes, but I still think Justified is one of the best pop albums ever made, relying not only on Timberlakes vocal talent but some razorsharp production by The Neptunes. In fact, anything off this album, or indeed any of the singles from it's follow up FutureSexLoveSounds, could have made this list, the handsome devil. If more musicians these days could tap into the formula of how he manages to come across so damn sexy without threatening the youth of america, I'm sure Disney would like to know. Please come back to music Justin, theworld needs you.


Dilemma - Nelly and Kelly Rowland (2002)

What.A.Collaboration. Let's face it, even their names rhyme; we knew this was going to work. By softening up bad boy Nelly's attitude to portray a cutesy surburban romance, Kelly Rowland helped open him up to a whole new audience. Whether or not the collaboration with country star Tim Degraw that ensued was a good idea is debateable, but kudos to him for revealing he cared about something over than bitches and hoes. Watching this on Top Of The Pops as it became number one is one of my earliest vivid memories of music, so I always feel a little bit nostalgic when I hear it.




Crazy In Love- Beyonce Featuring Jay Z (2003)


 Ah, my ultimate girlcrush. The fierce attiude, the sense of female empowerment, and the fact that she can drop to the ground wearing 5 inch red stilettos and roll around provocatively, and yet STILL doesn't look like a desperate hussy. I want to be her. But don't we all? Beyonce has spent the last decade outclassing every other female performer with the triple threat of talent, looks and a sense of humility that makes me believe she is some kind of real life Disney Princess. Another childhood memory for you here: I had this song on a karoake cd that came free with some sort of pop magqazine, and I spent hours trying to get it word perfect, planning to perform it in the schools talent show. I never actually did, but something in the intro just makes you walk a little taller, I think. 




Beautiful - Snoop Dogg Featuring Pharrell (2003)


And here is another I still know all the words to. I really was quite a badman in my youth. Much like Big Pimpin, I think I latched onto this particularly because it sounds so summery. I have long suspected that I have a bit of seasonal affectiveness disorder, and songs/videos like this always manage to cheer me up more than anything else. I shan't try to explain it, for this is a music blog and I am not laying on a long brown couch, But yeah, Big Tune. All together now: 'see i just want youuuuu, to know that you are really speeeeecial...'






Toxic - Britney Spears (2004)


 Last week in Huddersfield, when all the Olympic Torch gubbins was on, I walked past a brass band in  the town centre, a trio of slightly geeky boys, covering this song. If that sense of immortalisation is not enough to solidy a pop legacy, i dont know what is. Maybe the fact that I once had it as my polyphonic ringtone on my Nokia 3310? Regardless, Toxic is an example of the ultimate pop package of a provocative image, memorable video and of course, the hook.








She Wants To Move - N.E.R.D (2004)
Another one that 11 year old Jenessa danced around like a lunatic to, completely oblivious of some of the lyrical content. Ah well, all fun and games. It still baffles me to this day how they got Alesha Dixon of all people to dance in the video, but such is the crazy world of music. From the smooth piano to the wailing guitar, it seemed to have something for everyone, three different sections that made it an instant party classic. Well, the school discos I went to anyway.









Millionaire - Kelis and Andre 3000 (2004)


Probably one of my top 5 favourites on this entire list, I still love this song and listen to it regularly. I've always found pop most interestingly when it's slightly melancholy, and this was the perfect collaboration to explore the less 'in your face' side of Kelis. Amazingly, it still sounds completely new and innovative, the jittery beat at nervous odds with her remarkably calming singing voice.








Since U Been Gone – Kelly Clarkson (2004)


In 2004 I was 11, and courtesy of my love of Busted and McFly, was approaching my pop punk phase. Kelly Clarkson nailed what Avril Lavinge had been trying for years - the bratty revenge song that didn't sound like it had been scrawled on a desk during detention, complete with a pretty darn cool 'go girl!' esque video. I still love it now and think she's a rare talent who hasn't really been nurtured enough or given the right songs. It's a shame really, as she's one of the only winners of Pop Idol that I wholeheartedly liked. This album has still got some huge songs on it if you like your power ballads, go check out 'Because Of You' and let the weeping ensue.


Yeah - Usher (2004) 


Call me naïve, but only recently did I really realise how filthy this song is. Like, not even subtle filthy. What are like, eh Usher? None the less, its big and still gets the crowds going, in a kind of 'it's so naff I can't help but love it' way. I rather agressively told a friend of mine in a club the other week that if he couldn't complete the whole Ludacris rap, we could no longer be friends. He failed. So readers, I am now one friend down because of my dedication to this song. The things I do for music...






Fit But You Know It – The Streets (2004)


 I didn't really know if I should put this song on the list, but I felt like I had to due to what it did for the music industry. Blurring the lines between grime and pop, it made it really possible for british rappers to access the mainstream, and I believe Mike Skinner to be responsible for the success of the likes of Example, Professor Green and Tinie Tempah. A story everyone can relate to with a brilliantly simplistic comedy video, Fit But You Know It is not the best Streets song by any stretch, but is certainly the most notorious. 








1 Thing - Amerie (2005)


It's a shame that Amerie couldnt keep up the quality, because this is pretty much as good as anything Beyonce could have come up with. 1 Thing seems to be rather upsettingly forgotten in the echelons of noughties RnB, which is sad when you consider just how catchy and instant it is. Then again, when you follow the Crazy In Love mould to the letter, what could possibly go wrong?










Golddigger – Kanye West (2005) 


With the rap delivered at a coherent speed and of course the Jamie Foxx sample, Golddigger is still Kayne West's most rappable rap. It came out just at the right time during the rise of reality TV and 'famous for the sake of being famous personalities', and it still works now for those very reasons. Whilst Kanye has been criticised for the mainstream friendly approach of Late Registration, it certainly opened him up to new and more interesting things.










Crazy - Gharls Barkley (2006)


It wouldn’t be a list of great pop music without this really would it? Proof that just a voice can sustain a song, it was at number one for a million years and spawned various cover versions of varying quality (Kooks live lounge anyone?) As you do when you're 13 years old, I hated it at the time just because it was so popular and unavoidable, but I have since come round to see it for what it is, a clever, simple piece of pop soul.










So Sick – Ne-Yo (2006) 


Okay, this is pretty guilty. But I actually saw Ne-Yo play in London in 2008 for a Radio 1 free gig, and I was suprised at how much I actually enjoyed hearing him sing. The go to man for smooth rnb whilst usher was faffing around elsewhere, So Sick is still pretty much the epitome of RnB break up songs, all introspective video courtesy of Hype Williams, with soulful glances to the camera and enigmatic scenery. It's naff, but I like it. Sue me.








 Paper Planes – M.I.A (2008)


Much like The Streets, this felt like a bit of a 'actually quite cool' curveball to be throwing out in a playlist about pop, but anyone who makes a chorus out of cash machine samples wins the pop game in my book. I'm not much of an M.I.A fan in general, but this and 'Bad Girls' are on heavy rotation in my iTunes, so I suppose I should probably forgive her for the appalling performance I saw her give a few years back. But that's another story...








Dance Wiv Me – Dizzee Rascal and Calvin Harris (2008) 


WHASSUP DARLIN?! Two words in, everyone's favourite London scally paved the way for  noughties big name collaborations, bringing dance back into the mainstream again. This could be a good or bad thing, considering that everybody is bloody at it these days. Nonetheless, this was a period when neither Rascal nor Harris could do no wrong, and it was hard to begrudge them success when they seem like such likeable chaps and are capable of crafting dancefloor fillers like this.






The Fear – Lily Allen (2008)


Social commentary at it's best. Lyrically this is by far the best thing Lily Allen has ever written, and musically it is on par with Smile. It's deadpan delivery of 'I'm not a saint/But I'm not a sinner/Everything's cool as long as I'm getting thinner' goes back to what I was saying earlier about darkness in pop being so effective, something Miss Allen is very, very good at.










 Paparazzi - Lady Gaga (2009)


Another artist it would have been rude not to include. Back in the day when GaGa was  new and 'properly' interesting, she delivered a trio of singles that I defy anyone to match on a debut record, and Paparazzi was my favourite in terms of being a proper piece of art. The videos were amazing, the fashion was ridiculous without being stupid and the song sounded like proper music instead of Flight of The Concords esque pastiches. As a concept record, it's difficult to be matched on such a massive level.








Tinie Tempah - Pass Out (2010)


I'm probably slightly biased by the fact that I find him rather attractive, for which I can only apologise, but there is no denying that Pass Out is a great record. The rap that everyone can keep up with, a drop that doesnt sound forced, Tempah spans numerous genres in 3 minutes, uniting rock and rap fans more effectively than your pendulums of the world ever could. He's been to southampton, but he's never been to scunthorpe. A ridiculous lyric, we can all agree. And yet who hasn't rapped along to it with a look of glee on their face?




Starry Eyed – Ellie Goulding (2010) 


Another musician I don't usually care massive amounts for (I'm probably just a bit of a bitch, it's nothing personal), but Ellie Goulding has got a big tune on her hands in the form of Starry Eyed. Reigniting doe eyed fem pop, paving the way for Marina, Little Boots and their ilk, her voice has an odd quality that should be highly annoying, but in small quantities instead brings about this dreamlike, gloosy finish. There are also some pretty good/horrible remixes of it floating around, depending how you feel about Dupstep. Youtube at your peril.




Teenage Dream – Katy Perry (2010)


Suprised? You shouldn't be. Teenage Dream is in my eyes a modern classic with classy production reminiscent of pops glory days. Max Martin  has been reasonably undercover since the days of Britney and Backstreet Boys, but there is no denying his production stamp all over this. Tom Fleming from Wild Beasts also decreed it in an interview last year to be one of his favourite pop records. Not feeling quite so superior now, are you?










What’s My Name – Rihanna Featuring Drake (2010)


And so we reach everyone's favourite semi-clothed superstar. I dislike pretty much everything Rihanna stands for, the near nakedness and the forced shock tactics and everything else, but you can't deny her worth ethic. Her fifth album Loud was the first of her records that I really enjoyed, and Whats My Name is probably my favourite. I would be lying if i said I hadn't danced in a club to it on more than one occasion, but that is probably an image best kept to oneself.






The Wanted - Glad You Came (2011)


The guilt is coursing through me, but there is something about this song that I find pretty irresistible. Maybe because it reminds me of the glory days of Blue, or I secretly like the 'lads on tour' video, but it seems like a rare proper boy band anthem that we haven't really seen the likes of in a long time. The cheesy Balearic beat and stupid lyrics ('you look well on me?' err what?) are about as catchy as an STD on an 18-30 holiday, and I can't get enough.










Lana Del Rey - Video Games (2011)


The shrouded past, glamorous looks and timeless voice... Lana Del Rey had everything any popstar could want when she emerged blinking in the limelight last year. Whilst I found her debut album to be a tad of a disappointment, there was no denying that the subtle elegance of Video Games. Hopefully in time she will able to sort her life performance out, and we will have a proper star on our hands.












Azealia Banks - 212 (2011)
Another up and coming girlcrush, Azealia Banks and 212 were pretty much avoidable in the latter part of 2011 and the early part of 2012. It's true testament to the song that despite it's excessive swearies, it's still played to death on commercial radio, her impish face beaming from music magazines as she gleefully declares that she will 'ruin you c***.' You can keep your Nicki Minaj's, thankyou very much.










Kanye West and Jay Z - N***** In Paris (2012)


I don't know what it means, but it's provocative, and it gets the people going. There isn't much else to be said about this song that I didn't say in the introduction, but I can see it being a staple of club nights for the forseeable future.






















So there we have it! A whistlestop tour through my childhood via pop and RnB. I could go on, but I'm sure nobody is still reading this gargantuan post, so I will instead leave you to listen away. Enjoy the nostalgia - I certainly did.



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