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|Written by Mike Cullen|
|Wednesday, 07 March 2012 00:00|
Pet Shop Boys -- Format
The Pet Shop Boys are incredibly good to their fans. Album releases typically include double-disc editions with remixes, b-sides, etc. Single releases almost always provide a track or two that hasn't been heard before, and then every so often they release something like Format.
Format is a b-sides collection and a direct sequel to Alternative, their first collection from 1994. Format starts where Alternative left off: giving us tracks left off albums since the release of Bilingual in 1996. This two disc compilation appears to collect all but two b-sides from this fifteen year period -- an impressive feat. For those who think that a collection such as this only caters to the hardcore fans, that's not necessarily true. There are definitely some great tracks that would easily compliment whatever Pet Shop Boys material you may already have. This collection will get overlooked by many, but it truly is a diamond in the rough.
Recommended Tracks: "In Private (ft. Elton John)," "The Boy Who Couldn't Keep His Clothes On," and "The Truck Driver and His Mate."
Lily Allen -- "5 O'Clock in the Morning (Who'd Have Known)"
I cringed when I heard that T-Pain was heavily sampling Lily Allen's "Who'd Have Known" for his own song, "5 O'Clock in the Morning." I wanted poke out my eardrums when I actually heard the song. T-Pain ruined one of Allen's shining ballad moments by putting a rap on it. Despite my hatred for the T-Pain version of the song (can you tell I have strong feelings against this so-called collaboration?), I did like the slight remix treatment that Allen's instrumental received (well, the slight remix of Take That if you consider Allen samples their hit "Shine" in this song).
Nevertheless, someone at Lily Allen's record company, Parlophone, saw some potential and had a Lily-only version of the song released. My prayers were answered! While the remix doesn't radically differ from the original released over two years ago, it is a great job of further highlighting the talent of Lily Allen (don't mistake this for a "comeback," though, because she's not really back).
So for a remix of a sample of a sample, this song is surprisingly good.
Goldfrapp -- "Melancholy Sky"
It's been an industry standard for artists and bands to release one or two new tracks whenever they have a greatest hits compilation out. Your typical 'new' track will either be something in a slightly new direction or in the style of what made them popular in the first place. It's frustrating that "Melancholy Sky" sounds like something from Goldfrapp's less commercial album, Seventh Tree, and not their more recognizable glam disco style.
"Melancholy Sky" is a good enough song, but I hardly see it lighting up the charts or even becoming a song that the average fan will remember. It's a decent enough son, but I honestly did expect something a little . . . more from this.
Ingrid Michaelson -- "Do It Now"
There's something about this song that reaches into my subconscious. I have a feeling I've heard this song before. Okay, not exactly, as Ingrid Michaelson isn't your typical singer/songwriter, but there's a feel from this song that reminds me of someone else, yet I can't quite put my finger on it. Regardless of my musical memory failing me, my musical ear tells me that this is a very good song. Michaelson, I think, flies under many people's radars despite her music having been played on television (One Tree Hill most notably) and in films (her cover of "Can't Help Falling in Love" is famously played during recent Sundance winner Like Crazy).
"Do It Now" is your typical don't-embrace-the-fear-and-embrace-life (right now, preferably), but it's masked by the melancholic melody (to great effect). All in all, a good track, even if it does seem a bit too familiar.
Nicki Minaj -- "Starships"
There's a lot going on in the three and a half minutes that Nicki Minaj has to showcase her talent in this song. She's got a great singing voice, but, in a female dominated pop world, what makes Minaj stand out is her ability to rap. We haven't had a strong female rapper in the last few years, and Minaj has just that right punch of lyrics and vocal delivery to make her shine.
"Starships" tries very hard to be radio friendly and a club thumper all rolled into one, but Minaj is moving away from her R&B/Hip Hop roots perhaps too quickly. A song like this is likely going to alienate the R&B fans, while the rap portions are a bit too rough to endear the pop crowd (one listen, and parents will be up in arms -- with good reason). Still, "Starships" is going to be a guilty pleasure of a song for me and one that will get big rotation on my iPod as we enter into spring.
Katy Perry -- "Part of Me"
I'm starting to have a couple of issues with Katy Perry. One, her songs are starting to sound the same, even though the new songs sound better than the previous ones ("Last Fright Night (T.G.I.F)" is just a remodeled, better "Waking Up in Vegas"), and two, if you're going to reissue a hit album with new material, it should be done so around the one year anniversary of the original release, not eighteen months later.
Despite my cynicism, "Part of Me" isn't a terrible song. It's not a great one either, but I think the general listening audience will still buy into Perry's confection pop. Not that it's a particularly bad thing, but I remain unconvinced. "Part of Me" sounds like a mash up of themes between "California Gurls" and "E.T." with a bit of "Hot and Cold" thrown in for influence's sake. Katy, you've proven to me that you can be a credible live performer; now it's time to prove to me you're not a one trick pony.
An Ottawa native, Mike is a public servant by day, and a self-professed music and comic book junkie the rest of the time. He also contributes to the Local Tourist Ottawa, and his random music, comic book and culture musings can be read on /scribbles.
Tags: goldfrapp, ingrid micahelson, katy perry, leave lily alone, lily allen, music, nicki minaj, pet shop boys, release, reviews, rocking the mike
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