Le Tigre - TKO

"Take a good look/ Take a photo/ Write about it in your little notebook."

There's something deliciously liberating about coming to a record a blank slate upon which they can scribble their brilliance. It may be awful compared to X! It may be derivative! It may be a note-for-note cover of some infinitely brilliant song, but as long as I haven't heard X, or the entire genre it's channeling, or the original track, I am pure. I am cleansed of comparison, free to judge entirely in the moment of my pop experience.

And oh, is this an interesting little pop moment.

First, the electro-drawling verse of swooping darlings, all arched eyebrows and droll sarcasm because god, we've got our Mission apartment stacked with vinyl you've never heard of. We spend our weekends building interactive conceptual installations, and deliberating over neuvaux techo renaissance. You could never be as chic, as worthily intellectual and
artistic as us, my dear.

Then, just as I'm accepting my ignorance of such lofty things, admitting to my cultural inferiority, something astounding happens. Shampoo reform, in order that they may kick these pretenders out of frame with their pink sparkly DMs! Trampling over the subtle arch musings, they yell and shout with graceless enthusiasm. And the incongruent brilliance! Suddenly, the
hip scenesters realise the error of their ways, but they're in denial, they can't cede territory yet; so back with their femme fatale verse, yet this time they've raised the game. They know the stakes. A firmer rhythm, more insistent electro, but still that's not enough to stave of the impostors, and again the raucous attack.

Now it's personal. On with the sublimely floating middle bridge, descending into incomprehensible aural texture, but by now it doesn't matter because they've seen the error of their ways. Why bother with such posturing when they can simply cry 'Uh-oh' with such fabulous pointlessness? Why attempt elegant craftmanship when the battle cry of 'TKO/ Hear it on the stereo' in two tones achieves so much more?

And so it ends, as all things must, with the acknowledgement of Shampoo's cultural superiority. A lesson well learned indeed.

Watch the video here


Jesse McCartney - Beautiful Soul

Departing from songs that are actually great, it’s time for a little advice to aspiring stars.

Dear Abby,
I’m just a simple guy looking to break into that lucrative singer-songwriter market. What can I do?
Yours hopefully,
Jesse McCartney.

Well Jesse, I’m glad you came to me, because this is tricky terrain. If you’re not careful you’ll end up a Ben Jelen, tossing those surferboy curls wistfully in the lower echelons of the chart for all eternity. Equally as tempting, (but entirely without merit), is the path of those earnestly aching fellows, all heartbreak and pared-down chord bitterness. Just ask yourself, is the critical acclaim and proud artistic integrity of being Damian Rice really worth sacrificing a mediocre moment in the spotlight for? Exactly!

Baby-faced charm and downwards-spiking blonde hair are your key elements, plus of course, that guitar. Obviously there’s the piano option, but that’s hardly portable, and you want to be able to strum away musingly on every sunlit kerbside and vintage car backseat you find (as late afternoon fades on you and your gang of wholesomely rebellious Urban Outfitter cookie cutter friends, in that alternate universe where there’s not a six-pack or joint in sight).

And now to the song itself, merely an afterthought if we’re to be honest. Remember, you’ve a shimmering legacy to do justice, one that stretches all the way from the middling acoustic rock of Dave Matthews to the middling acoustic rock of John Mayer. Down with originality! Down with innovation! It may be hard at first to stifle your creative energies to such an extent, but be brave my little poppet! Banality is your friend, mediocre the aspiration!

So sing on about beautiful souls, as if it’s the class fat kid you’re serenading instead of the cheerleader who realized that alternative was in and so went and got some vintage denim. Strum along inanely, and then oh! Break out into that jagged bridge with a tiny ounce of actual interest, until whoops, so brief, get back to the mindless repetition my dear.

You are young, you shall learn the ways of the world, here


mp3s etc.

Just a note to say that I realize I need to start hosting mp3s of the tracks I cover, and hopefully this will start in a couple of weeks. For now, I'm going back over old entries and, where possible, including links to the video streams on Launch so you can at least have a listen of whatever it is I'm swooning over.


Kirsty MacColl - In These Shoes

"I met an English man/ 'Oh', he said/ Won't you walk up and down my spine?/ It makes me feel strangely alive/ 'In these shoes?/ I doubt you'd survive'/ I said, 'Honey/ Let's do it.'"

I'm a materialistic, consuming, 'buy me pretty things and my life will be better' kind of girl. Of course, I would doubtless be a more worthy person if I toiled away to make the world a better place, but I don't, so I'm not. I care about the cut of bias violet silk that swirls around my legs when I walk; the smooth scent of rose lotion and jaunty angle of an occasional beret.

And this is my anthem.

Because there's a life that's sold to us in glossy magazines dripping in advertorials and new spring collection specials, a life we can't help but be entirely seduced by. Who doesn't gaze at the art director constructed tableaux of style and wish themself into that reality? It's not just the props and costumes you see, but the faked friendship and backlit passion we desire so. (I'm not entirely shallow, you know)

This song is a flickering procession of Vogue-worthy scenes as Kirsty lounges in silk-draped boudoirs and strolls with a jut of hip across bustling market squares. And of course men pant at her spectacular heels, because when you archly respond with such cool derision to their requests, how could they not? I don't know precisely what the beat is, but be it mambo or cha- cha, all that matters is it echoes dancefloor seduction and sultry men who swing and dip you. And I know from experience, that there is nothing better than being spun and dipped.

This is a (dearly departed) woman who can teach a girl many things: to speak softly, and always with droll sarcasm; to travel the world on your own terms; and to wear fabulous shoes at all times.


Statement of Purpose

Today's post, I'm afraid, is little note regarding the Justin Timberlake devotees who have been getting their fangirl panties in a twist and, more annoyingly, cluttering up my inbox. A lot of you have been stamping your feet in a petulant tantrum over my JC Chasez review. I wasn't going to respond, since obviously people who say things like "she wants to have his babys (sic)" aren't likely to be engaged by multi-syllabic arguments, but then I realized this can double as a general point about what I blog and why.

1. I am not of the 'if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it' school of cultural commentary. Just as it's the artist's choice to make an irritating prat of themselves with falsetto warbling and inane ballads, so too is it my perogrative to express my intense disdain at the whole spectacle. Saying I "shouldn't" criticize an artist or their output moves us into a criteria of eligibility and, even worse, poses the question of my 'right' to hold and express an opinion. From there on in it's a whole messy region of censorship and justification and... Yawn. Go read some Mill, and challenge my right to expression when you've formed a proper opinion that doesn't consist of "But I don't like it!"

2. or, On Why I'm Entitled to Mention Justin in Reference to JC.
No pop song exists in a vacuum. I write these pieces on anything that inspires my unerring devotion, the reasons ranging from lyrics to bridge hook, video or red carpet antics. So you think a "proper critic" should be able to talk about one artist without "dissing" another? Well boo hoo. Considering their comparative shift into the post-boyband era, it's more than legitimate to deconstruct JC through analysis of the dichotomy existing between the respective career arcs of he and Justin. And furthermore, since they both prattle on about the topic so much, it's not such a mind-boggling leap that I should base my review on a speculative comparison of their sexual prowess.

3. Critic or Fan?
This seems to matter an awful lot to you all; apparently it being a devastating injustice if the review is circulated under the guise of my being a 'real' critic rather than this simply being a fan blog. Well, I'm both. This blog is where I muse on pop songs that I adore, that lift themselves from the barren wastelands of the charts and into my vibrantly beating heart. By very definition of their inclusion, I am necessarily a fan. Yet I am also a published critic. Wow, it seems that they aren't mutually exclusive terms!

And finally...I really won't loose any sleep over the general consensus that JC would hate that review. My writing is for my own enjoyment; any feelings provoked on your part is simply a bonus.

There. To the rest of you, I apologise for the temporary raising of tone. You can rest assured I won't do it again, since the entire reason I began this blog was to escape from the need to intellectually justify my enjoyment of pop in every damn review.

Happy Holidays.


Maria Mena - You Are The Only One

"You're the only one/ Who drags me kicking and screaming through fast dreams/ You're the only one/ Who knows exactly what I mean."

Ah, the sweetly self-conscious teenage musings of yet another girl with a guitar and her journals, who thinks that a simple guitar sequence will pull her out of the ranks of the earnest anonymous. Adorable knitwear and all, Maria bears her teenaged soul to our jaded ears with the kind of cringing awkwardness that usually inspires naught but loathing in me. After all, giving credit to these girls is like the feeble certificates handed out for 'effort' to protect self-esteem, rather than the glittering trophies of achievement given to the truly deserving.

But somehow it's the utter lack of pretension coupled with all the painful insecurity of that first relationship that wins me over. She stumbles and mumbles and is so damn cute you can almost see the blushing eye contact across the room to this mystery man of infinite empathy. Besides, it's so perky! And wholesome! And jangly! With a chorus that doesn't really go anywhere!

It meanders along so nicely that being rude about it is out of the question, all swooping and layers and sweetness. And then this line kicks in, and I freeze because this adorable child, this pedestal-placed epitome of middle-of-the-road kooky coffee rock didn't just say this, right? I mean, out loud? In public?

I hope you can forgive me for the time/ I put my hands between your legs and said it was small/ Because it's really not at all.

That's it, that one line which elevates this song to the small platform of endearment it occupies in my overflowing heart.
There really are no words.

(TRQCMoSPS rating: The boy toy in this video is Jesse Head, who appeared with MK and Ashley in 'So Little Time'. Their movie 'New York Minute' featured Eugene Levy, who was in 'American Pie' with our dear Ms Reid.)


Rosie Thomas - Wedding Day

"I'm going to get on the highway/ With no destination/ But plenty of vision in mind."

Time for a song which does not have the video, or Page Six-starring singer of most pop fare. No witty lyric, no bouncing bridge. Neither the Matrix, Max, Pharrel nor Linda Perry have had any hand in this, nor comprehend the gentle power it possesses. Instead, tonight, I'm giving to you a track which inspires me. A track which fills me with joy, and hope, and a sense of infinite possibility.

This is my manifesto.

A voice, clear and calm, and full of sweet delicacy. The soothing melody of piano and shivering cymbals. Strolling onwards, guitar picks a tuneful path and fills my world with sunshine. The main refrain again, but poignantly echoing through silence, so plaintive, but so full of certainty. Then the sweeping chords find their way back to me, and the road is straight and unerring yet again.

And the story. Of the end of love, but the beginning of so much more. A promise to myself, of that trip I'll take and everything after. The laughter and friendship, the cool of ocean around my ankles, the movement and breeze and complete belief that I am more than enough.

Because I am. I will put my hands out the window, and sing until I run out of words. I will drive under skyline and sunshine, and over boys who keep bringing me down. I will get asked to dance, and be carefree and let nothing bring me down, no, not ever again.

So much for love, I guess I've been wronged, but it's alright: because I'm moving on.

(Download from the link here, although you'll have to scroll down to July 21st- it's worth it!)

Note: Continuing from my earlier note of the Tara Reid Quality Control Mark of Superior Pop Status (tm), the rest of this week's entries will also abide by a six degrees of separation law: all shall be connected in some way to the queen of disposable culture that is Ms Reid, hence attaining a transcendent level of pop joy and significance.

TRQCMoSPS rating: Rosie toured last year with Iron & Wine, who feature on the Garden State soundtrack, which stars Zack Braff, who stars in Scrubs, in which Tara has appeared.


Kay Hanley - 3 Small Words

"I'm your late night head rush/ Ace high royal flush/ Red velvet orange crush/ You just don't like pussy much."

"So, we've got this American teen movie in need of some soundtracking. But it can't be pop because the lead characters are, like, so rebellious and all anti-consumerism! And it can't be proper rock either, because our audience are a Teen Vogue-styled guide to alternative fashion, rather than those actual counter-culture kids. I mean, what's with all that baggy denim? Don't they know it's like, so unflattering? Eew!

We need perky, grrr lyrics! About shapeshifters, brown shoes and brand new shirts, and centrefold spreads! An empowered pint-sized drawling vocalist! And a full band swooping their chords through the choruses like they snort Ritalin between takes!

Think friendship forever against mindless corporate label suits, moody Sylvia Plath-reading teens finding true love, the class of 2002 as sponsored by Urban Outfitters. Can't you see the ex-WB starring cast? The ubiquitous token stylish ethnic girl Gabrielle Union? The oh-so clever metanarrative commentary on branding and the boybands du jour (sic)?

Kay Hanley, we need you!"

That's right folks: the woman behind the band of the film of the cartoon. Otherwise known as that wee cute blonde who sang on the rooftop in '10 Things I Hate About You'. And the woman providing the voice for Josie and her Pussycats (Aha! The Tara Reid Quality Control Mark of Superior Pop Status TM strikes again!). The queen of infectiously danceable, ultimately bounceable, completely joyful girl-power pop.

And this is her crowning glory: a red liquorice and fairy sprinkles offering to the world. It's irresistible nonsense, blindingly brief and completely bursting with attitude and air guitar riffs. I want to be sixteen again. :flashback: Or rather, I want to be sixteen in the world this lady inhabits.


Mandy Moore - Candy

Satisfying baby/ Let me show you what I'm made off/ No doubt about it/ Got me feelin' crazy/ Can't get enough.

Ah, that first wave of obedient blonde popstresses. As if an A&R exec had a vision of mall utopia one afternoon; a vision so bright and full of promise that he exclaimed, "Bring me the power players of the music industry! We've tired of exploiting sexually confused teenage boys with a forced regime of matching denim and Diane Warren ballads! Now is the time to exploit malleable teenage girls with pre-packaged Madonna-Whore complexes instead!" And thus they gathered, except Lou Pearlman, who they didn't invite (because he and his paedophile-prototype sweaty palms would have increased their therapy bills tenfold), and the evil plan was hatched.

Britney begat Christina, Christina begat Jessica, Jessica begat Mandy. So began the parade of blonde simpering and bouncy pop, wrapped up in wholesome, all-American sexualised feminine submissiveness. Girls wanted to be them, men wanted to do them. The good ol' days indeed.

Watching those first forays into pop immortality, who could have predicted where those girls have ended up? That school-girl fetish Ms Spears is now embarking on the most ill-advised procreation experiment since George Sr presented Barb with a double pack of Advil, (and she realized, with a sinking heart, that her failsafe 'Get Out of Sex' card was now redundant.) Christina, rolling in the sand so sweetly; who could have predicted the dizzying David LaChapelle heights she was to reach, thrusting in the shower? Jessica, of the innocently virginal 'Jack and Diane' sampling fame, now forced to eke out a living with her literal pimp Daddy booking her in for more surgery the minute she dares show expression.

And Mandy. Oh the twinkling naivete of this song, yet watching that under-age child pout come-hither, begging "Give it to me" with all the fierce desperation of a drugs-starved crack whore, I would have predicted she be the first to fall to the ravages of Oxycotin and wedlock birth; no more than an ABC Movie of the Week footnote on the pop pages of life. Yet a fetching brunette haircut and turgid MTV film later, and still she stands. No barefoot bathroom debacles, no questionable chaps and panties fashion decisions.

Still with the sweetly sinister drugs analogies, charming grin and upstandingly offensive Christian morals. I'm so proud.


Natalie Imbruglia - Big Mistake

You've forgotten how it started/ Close your eyes/ Think of all the bubbles of the love we made.

L'oreal-sponsored, American gloss teen TV show, over-analytical PG-friendly angst, to be precise! Well whoop-de-do.

But in the days before my ill-advised foray into nu-metal, baggy-trouser-wearing, skaterboy-dating territory, this was the most I knew of anger in music. I was trapped in the in-between pre-teen years, you see; yet to feel the vibration of heavy bass echo through my chest as I lounged in a tangle of bodies at some suburban house party. The days of passing lollipops from mouth to mouth in the sweet haze of second hand dope smoke were still before me. I hadn't seen in the New Year kissing an unsuitable teen to the refrain of 'Shinobi vs Dragon Ninja', or been stunned into silence by the string arrangement in the Reanimation remix of 'Crawling'.

Ah, naivety.

So the power and anguish of Natalie's mournful wail was a revelation to me. Such heartbroken cries, such bitter contempt! Such a large amount of pain from such a little body! But of course: the world is nothing but a cruel and bitter place, full of other people's limitations and your own stupid pride. I was young, I would learn.

The way she casually dispenses the polite verse platitudes, rage held back the way only knowing it would ruin you forever to reveal your true feelings can maintain. And then, oh the gritted teeth bridge and final chorus breakdown: vitriol in screamed, slamming-door fashion. Sweet schadenfreude.

Because people are nothing if not a disappointment.


OK Go - Don't Ask Me

Don't say, "It's been a while..."/And don't flash that stupid smile/ Don't ask me/ Ask me how I've been.

I have found my gods. I swoon at their couture-attired feet. I worship in reverence at the temple of their ultimate hipster strike-a-pose nonchalance and exuberant skipping. I throw myself at the mercy of their uber-pop knowledge, for these men alone hold the secret of all that is good in the universe.

From the very first rhythmic thrums and teasing guitar smacks that hint at 'Sugar High' on the store rooftop, I am undone. Because hell, these guys know what they're doing. Immediately, this is a divine existence, free from any thought besides how I can bounce around the room without tripping over those aforementioned stacks of insipid indie wank. In fact, why avoid them? Let me stamp in glee that such a jaunty, infectious drumbeat has been brought into being. Take that you self-obsessed, dirgesome examples of human mediocrity! You are unfit even to be strung up in a gimp mask and whipped by these fine young fellows!

There are hand-claps!
Droll sarcasm!
'Oh-oh's' and Hey's' thrown around like post-ironic confetti!
A shaky, snarky tambourine in overdrive!

And then they kick it into warp speed with a chorus of blissful accordion shouting; a fight for who can pout the loudest, wallop that triangle and slap him round both cheeks for sheer impertinance. I would swoon again if I weren't already in a joyful puddle on the floor. Bitter snarkiness hath never seen a better forum for expression, and as the weird harpsichord solo rattles onwards, picking up the vocals as it staggers drunkenly for the exit and a night of debauched deviant behavior, I've found my calling in life.

I'll dress only in crimson Gaultier, smoke pretentious French cigarettes by the crate and recline with a wicked glint in my eye on their wipe-clean leather tourbus beds. Fucking fey men named Tarquin, we'll roar across the world, leaving only a trail of broken hearts and shattered cocktail glasses in our wake.

And all in under three minutes.


Vanessa Carlton - White Houses

Love/ Or something ignites in my veins/ And I pray it never fades.


I always thought Michelle Branch had won the teen songstress 'Oo get me and my inner pain and real instruments' stakes. It was a great vintage clothing-draped bandwagon at the time; take a pretty girl and her angst and eyeliner, prop up all those middle-class melancholy chord sequence with introspection and first love, and watch the mainstream landscape shift beneath your evil svenglai feet. And Michelle was triumphant, at least for a little while (the moment there's a Santana collaboration, you know it's the end). After all, the fervent ache of the 'Goodbye to You' montage- Tara slowly descending the stairs, Buffy and Spike finally succumbing to their destructive passion in the back of the Bronze- well, that was a heart-tug moment. It slammed the door in Miss Carlton's pouting piano-playing face.

Didn't it?

But now, difficult sophomore albums side-by-side, I can see how the whedonesque associations elevated that grating balladeer far above her staring-into-the-lonely-rain station. Because this track is a strange fruit far more seductive. And I was always one to let lime juice trickle down instead of syrup.

The song tastes of regret, and dark velvet betrayal. The sweet flesh of those years on the brink of something more; the time I gave myself with innocence and was crushed hard enough to leave half-moon nail imprints pressed on my palms and never offer a thing unconditionally that way again.

The chords are uncomfortable in their clarity, strange falling pattern of repetition and then the build of new strings, fulsome melody. And so it circles with resigned disappointment. You broke my heart, but that's the way it goes I guess. Then suddenly a lull, swelling understatement that unless you listen for it, will pass you by unknowingly. And it does, the first few times you play it slips by as if a whisper. But when the words finally sink in as you're on your way to doing something else, you'll stop. Because it's the point: the one centre of gravity this all revolves around.

Hard to explain/ Rush of blood/ Oh/ And a little bit of pain/ On a cloudy day/ Its more common than you think/ It's my first mistake.



Holly Valance - State of Mind

All I need is just to breathe/ All I need is to believe/ Gotta have it/ Now I know/ Gotta have it/ Take it slow/ Some days/ Some times it just goes right/ Oh.

It's the moment when smiles and that teasing flash of cleavage no longer get you what you want. Sure, the calculated wide eyes used to play right, but being the nice girl who never goes past second somehow wore thin. They don't stare at you with the same lust as they used to. Against all your careful efforts, you've become attainable. They took the damn pedestal away.

You think you'd be relieved; no amount of denim-clad writhing you ever did on those car bonnets could make them look at you without those Madonna complexes steaming their virginal glasses. You had visions of being locked forever in that Lana Lang glass coffin of blind sexual worship and too much foundation, but now that you're simply meek Chloe to them, it's worse! The comfortable (read pathetically doormatted) best friend trap makes you just as untouchable, but with the former raw power of sexuality stripped away. You're safe, dependable. And it makes you seethe with rage.

This is the point in a girl's life when she's had enough. I know it well: pulling on the femme fatale gloves and jutting heels, jaded eyes set in a steely gaze and the need to scream the world into submission roaring in my veins. And so we find sweet little Holly Valance, the girl next door, writhing in sleazy neuveaux-electro joy with vampish triumph.

Oh yes!

If Harry was the imposter, then Holly tramples her vapid dreams with vivid neon stilettos. With a squeal of reckless abandon, she leaps onto that fur-trimmed chaise lounge and moans, throwing her body around in an exquisite haze of anger and pointed rebellion. This song has every roaring melody and look-at-me wail, each uncomfortably high-pitched soaring spike and thrusting pant that you could ever want. It's brash and overt, and a solar system away from peach sunsets out the back of the Kent farm and insipid loving looks in the direction of Mr God-I-can't-emote-in-flannel, Superman-in-training. (You could almost believe there was a life of sex without consequence and morning after moralizing to be had. Whoops. Sorry, you haven't left the WB yet)

I saw her on TV the other day, and oh, how the gods of pop are cruel once more, bringing her so low as to sell cheap return phone services in a zebra print bikini.

See the glory days here


The Honeymoon - Reconcile

Steal a car/ Take us far away from here/ Pack a bag/ Take a drag of my cigarette.

I get sent CDs. A lot of CDs. Ten or more a week they flump through my letterbox, bubblewrapped mass-mailed bundles of expectation and false hope. I don't listen to them, of course. As if I'd spend precious moments wading through press releases claiming that this particular Norwegian metal act is "Setting the scene on fire with blistering riffs!" when I could, well, not. Now my bedroom shelves are a testament to the struggling ambition of these newfangled wannabes. Gathering dust.

But sometimes I break with tradition, and actually give one of the poor darlings a whirl. See, I live in hope that buried in the mindless drone there'll be a perfectly polished gemstone of brilliance. Sometimes I even find a G.A album lurking in between the output of these four guys who dropped out of art school, named their band after that line in that classic film and jammed in the conservatory of their parent's Mid-Sussex mock-Tudor until they, like, got this guy from Roadrunner to give them a shot.

And so I discovered The Honeymoon.

I wasn't expecting much. I mean, they have a 'The' in their name for starters. But the cover showed this Icelandic girl with lips like a porcelain doll, cradling a neon-lit heart with wide-eyed reverence. I had hope. I could forgive the anemic Molko-lookalike beside her; she was wearing white Thirties pumps and a cherry-print dancing dress. She would take care of me.

And, oh, how she did. With a gentle sweetness washing over me like sunshine warmth, Thorunn and Wayne seduced me with their quietly understated guitar and soft squiggly neon doodles; that flickering heart was let lose to flutter a fresh breeze over my tired limbs. This was pop, but unlike anything I'd had the pleasure of melting into before. When she sighed 'I don't feel good' in such a languidly regretful tone, it was like the seeping melody in the back of my mind when it's 3am and this isn't my bed I'm tangled up in, but it's too full of promise to leave just yet.

Halting smiles tentatively flirted across the room, eyes shyly looking away until they edge closer, alternate vocal exchanges fumbling for those blushing introductions. And then the months whirl forward, caresses becoming more assured and a new guitar joins him, additional soft drumbeat and the metallic glint of cymbal shiver. Colours seep from pale to cornflower blue, powder to raspberry and golden haze as she joins the harmony and builds that chorus of gliding expectation.

And then summer's gone, leaving only a trace impression of that soft touch and the feel of dew-damp grass under my skin. (And a stack of releases by The Open and The Departure and The Residents to gouge at with a Stanley knife)


Savage Garden - I Want You

Any time I need to see your face I just close my eyes/ And I'm taken to a place where your crystal mind/ And magenta feelings take up shelter in the base of my spine/ Sweet like a chic-a-cherry cola.

There I was, but a wee slip of a girl, and this song came and pulled me breathlessly into a technicolour bliss of existence. Of course, there has been flirtations with pop before, how could I avoid the 911s and Take Thats that vied for my attention? But none had won my heart.

Back then, I didn't even know what my (older, worldly, Bon Jovi-loving) sister meant when she said 'This is all a bit eighties, isn't it?' The 80s? What did music sound like back then? I had no idea: my cultural consciousness stretches only as far back as Ace of Base singing 'All That She Wants' on TOTP at my father's house. Organic mother, you see. NKOTB mean nothing to me; I was too busy being mentally stimulated by plain wooden blocks and biodynamic watercolours. Probably why I joyfully leapt headfirst into the land of Sweet Valley, trashy American soaps and glossy fashion magazines at the first chance I found. Poor woman.

So, this song is everything to me. The world blossomed before me, beautiful and full of tangible delight as dear Darren took me by the hand and led me out of my natural hemp habitat, into a place where things were shiny and new and full of MSG and artificial E numbers. From the very first rumbling drum tempo, and bubbling electronic notes so full of promise, I was seduced.

"Take me to this place of effervescent wonder!" I cried, "Where vocals repeat the main verse with a layered harmony, and strange hiccups and waftingly ethereal voices mutter incomprehensibly. Where strange guitar-like riffs meld with synthetic melody, and the chorus is like magic saucers melting their sugar paper on my tongue; revealing the fizzy tang of bitter sweetness unlike anything I've ever known!"

And oh, the remix on the 1998 rerelease limited edition single CD! Little did I realise at the time (as the additional piano chords and strange heavy layering pulled me under yet again, just like that deep-sea diver swimming without a raincoat) that this was to be my first Xenomania experience. Insistent and blissful, Darren was now chanting over and over, rhyming structure completely reformed until the difference between want and need was forever imprinted with anticipation in my impressionable mind.

I tried to love cherry cola, as a tribute to my coming of pop age experience, I really did. But it was only sickly and sticky. It had none of the heart-stop adrenalin with which those breathless promises tempted me. Nothing I've found yet does.


Harry - Tastes Like Kisses

I'm drunk on all of this insanity/ Overdosing on reality/ The bigger the high/ The further the fall/ I'm crawling the carpets/And climbing the walls.

Harry wants to be a rock star. She wants it so much and so badly that desperation practically oozes from every record she pushes onto the market by way of A&R exec 'favours' and slots supporting Crazy Town in 2001. I can almost imagine her as a child, wishing upon that falling star, gazing from a poetically steamed window saying, "One day, I'm going to be famous. I'll sell millions of records and travel the world and fuck rock bands."

One out of four ain't bad.

Because there's a reason Harry is known among the music circles of London as a professional groupie, and nothing else besides; and that reason is a stunning lack of originality and only a tiny vestige of talent. But luckily for her, I find those features hugely endearing, and hence am presently giving her more press attention than she's ever received to date.

The song is brazenly masterful in its utter irrelevance, snatching the underlying synth signature from Peaches 'Fuck the Pain Away' and layering on the heavy electrics and languid wistfulness. Since I find originality hugely overrated, and the desperate dreams of others an amusement, you can imagine my delight. The entire track is a peripheral orbit of laboured rhyming patterns and lyrics that are simply laughable ("We lie like lovers and break like sinners/ Hate like Hitlers) around a gaping absence of any uniting element. Yet combined with the sheer wanting that soars through each aching verse, and that hypnotically repetitive bridge, and oh, how I'm transfixed.

For all the redeeming features, it's the sheer desperation that compels my pity and admiration. 'Tastes Like Kisses' is that sluttish girl who rolls up her pleated grey skirt with one hand (the other never pauses as she stuffs over-salted crisps towards darkly-lined lips), revealing only pasty flesh and shaving cuts, her dark bra too-tight under the school blouse so that flesh bulges in bands across her back. It's that look of numb desperation in the eyes of an underage girl in the Crawley 2am club, as a skin-head fifteen years too old gropes her lycra-clad buttocks in a sickening grind.

Something's just not right, but I can't look away because the horror and beauty of the lengths people will go to just compels me to watch with complete awe.


JC Chasez - 100 Ways

I know it takes a while to go through all the different ways/ But I can't think of a better way I'd like to spend the day/ So turn off your cellphone and crack out the Gatorade/ Because it's time to get to business and there's nothing left to say.

Poor JC, doomed forever to walk in the shadow of his lesser-talented buddy. There he went, making a truly fabulous album of kitsch eclecticsm, and yet still he can never live up to the overinflated public standing of 'the other one'. According to my personal pop checklist, there should be no competition: he has the better hair, knows promotion well enough to use disposable asset Tara Reid and a fabulous Paris Hilton sex-tape pastiche for videos, and oh yes- the whole 'amazing songs written with no contribution from the Neptunes' part as well.

But how well we know the injustice of this pop world.

You're doomed, my dear. Never mind that '100 Ways' is an outrageously impulsive burst of brilliance, with an opening guitar riff alone that makes me want to grab the nearest unsuitable man and throw him down for a good four minutes of sleazy joy; who's going to listen to that when they can have that baby-faced boytoy croon with all his castrated abilities about true love and romance? Yawn. I'll pick his Prince impression over that Jackson act in a snap.

So what do we have here that elevates this song to such pulsating heights? Why, a wholly infectious seduction, as he whispers "A hundred positions/ We're getting it on/With no intermission/ Until you get off." Energy and the all-important disjointed swoop between verse/chorus/bridge are all bound up in one writhing package of innuendo. It's filthy, panting and sends you away with a slap on the ass and a spring in your step, as a song utterly devoted to the finer art of fucking should well do.

In fact, the whole JC vs JT contrast can be reduced to the vital matter of who would be a better lay; the latter may promise suave skills, but his high-pitched wails reveal sickening puppy-dog devotion. You just know that for all his Pharrel-hanging, love-'em-and-leave-'em posturing, he'll demand a cuddle after said disappointingly repetitive session. Meanwhile JC would slam you up against the wall with a raised eyebrow and wicked gleam the very minute he laid eyes on you, and on no account want to talk about 'feelings' the morning after.

I know which I prefer.


Annie - Chewing Gum

I'm going to tell you how it's going to get done/ I'm just a girl who's only chewing for fun/ I spit it out when all the flavour has gone/ Wrap him round your finger like you're playing with gum.

First up, a disclaimer. I fully realise that since my main referrers are NYPLM, Fluxblog and ilx, the likelihood of any of you having yet to sample the uber-pop brilliance of this track is slimmer than Mischa Barton pouting down the premiere carpet in one of those rib-revealing chiffon things she loves so much (all alone? Oh where are all your ultra-hipster bosom-buddy cast-mates, my dear?). But for the sake of the possibility that a mere single reader may discover this cult gem, devoting today's post to said divine offering from the pop gods is a worthy purpose.

Just imagine if I were the one to bring this song into somebody's previously dull and dreary Annie-free life; my jaded heart lights up with pink neon at the mere thought!

So, where to begin? The wondrous sentiment of transient enjoyment that is equally apt in reference to the pop industry as it is to relationships? The audio electronic doodles and hypnotic simplicity of melody? The perfect template pop structure and gleeful 'Whee!' that punctuates the final bridge? All of the above and so much more!

Playing this on repeat for the duration it takes me to write this only serves to further seduce me into Annie's alternate universe. For a few mere moments I can forget about smudged grey skies, men who should call but don't, and even the distressing decline in quality of this month's Vogue. It's as if she reaches out of the stereo and beckons me coquettishly into a world of fluorescent felt-tip pens and chrome-edged mirror walls, white patent leather go-go boots and lavender-iced fairy cakes.

In short, the song creates a magical land, lasting but 3 minutes 30 until you tumble dizzily down the Faraway Tree and realize sadly that the inevitable drama of humanity holds no comparison to Annie's bounteous charms. Sigh.

Go be entranced here


Dream - He Loves You Not

See you pulling petals off a flower trying to get your way/ Keep pulling 'til it says what you wanna say/ Girl you could pick a field full of daisies/ But he'd still be my baby.

Take a little trip with me, back to the year 2000. You turn on the TV for an illicit pop fix and oh, the joy; four harshly unpretty girls in matching pink outfits! They have their bellybuttons showing! There's a stage performance video with flashing effects that looks more like 'Becoming..' than 'Becoming..'! And a chunky one who does all the singing and no dance moves!

"Isn't that the template for every vocal harmony group of the post-Cheiron era?" I hear you cry. "We are true pop connoisseurs! It'll take more than a solid melody and vaguely pleasant voices to tempt us into their den of mediocre iniquity!"

Indeed, and so for the first time, I present to you a song made worthy entirely by the fact of the lyrics. That's right, the lyrics. No cutting-edge production, or mini-metanarrative video; no gossip column commentary or multi-dimension artist experience. Just irresistible lyricism of the most simplistic kind: the childish substitution of 'me' for 'you' in the title which renders this track utterly delectable. The couplets are consistent, sentiment juvenile, but how it succeeds in creating 3 minutes, 46 seconds of the most delicious, enduring pop joy.

So where are these plucky teens now; bad fashion sense, post-feminist sentiment and all? A cautionary tale indeed, the dear girls were last seen writhing in babydoll camisoles on a bed strewn with their youthful ambition. Their eyes are dead, detatched, as hips thrust rhythmically at the rate of four times per bar, (the prerequisite thug rappers leering on in anticipation of the roasting session to ensue).

They've seen too much: now nothing but cheap whores in the boudoir of pop.

Hark the feisty innocence here!


Kelly Clarkson - Since U Been Gone

How can I put it/ You put me on/ I even fell for that stupid love song/ Yeah, yeah /Since you been gone.


Oh Kelly. There you were, just a small-town cocktail waitress made good; Simon safely leading you through the pop terrain. You had it all before you: charts, adoration, multi-platinum Grammy-winning records. Right?

But you didn't bet on the Fantasia's and Michelle McManuses (McMani?) of the world, did you? They trailed in your wake, cruelly trampling that legacy of yours. Now, years later (what with that embarrassing World Idol defeat to the grinning troll Nilsson), you're hurt, confused. You've begun to question whether there's a place for you and your sub-Dianne Warren empowerment ballads in our fickle hearts. Where will you turn? How far will you go?

To Sweden. Into the arms of Max Martin, to be precise. But he doesn't want you either. Oh no. He's moved on. He has no time for you and your perky pop sass. You won't find any faux-r 'n' b uptempo dancefloor fillers here. But the object of his desire is already taken. She belongs to the Matrix and Linda Perry. She has no need for him. But you do.

"En förträfflig idé!" Max exclaims with joy, "Jag kan omdanar dig som en arg rocksångare!"*

Luckily, it's truly fabulous.

On with lashings of black eyeliner, my dear, and that little wrist-cuff-glove appendage that denotes true angst. There are repetitive chords and crashing drums; a pouting verse and then A REALLY LOUD AND ANGRY CHORUS. Kelly, you're liberated! Free now to sing your inner pain, bemoan toxic bachelors and the destruction of your romantic idealism! And if that mean Simon comes around and tries to make you take that chain from around your waist, and wear generic Abercrombie clothing again? Well, you just set those moody 'real' musicians from your new band on him, OK love?

Rejoice in the new-found angst here!

*"Excellent idea! I will change you into an angry rock singer!"


Hanson - Lost Without Each Other

All I know is what I'm missing/ What I'm missing is your kissing/ Are you listening ?

Go ahead

I think now is the time to briefly depart from the pop starlet precedent I seem to be setting. However tempting it is to immerse myself entirely in a world populated by pouting teens contorting themselves into sexually objectified poses, pop joy is an expansive thing not to be limited by degrees of separation to the Olsons. Thanks to my vast network mytunes pillage, a whole new delicious horizon of other people's pop love stretches out before me.

Now, pop-rock is a tricky terrain to navigate. Do you err on the side of 'Air Hostess' or '3am'? Overdo the bouncy hook or risk 'alternative rock' classification? America maintains a whole genre of strummingly insightful menfolk, who must have been raised on an overdose of cough syrup to maintain the scratchy vocal chords which Jack Daniels has obviously had no hand in creating. Over here? Not so. John Mayer, Ryan Cabrera, who? Their coffee-shop soliloquys may eventually blend into a pleasant playlist for when I need to concentrate on something else (attempts to write a precise essay on Locke and personal identity fail miserably when Gwen demands your enrapt attention), but they hardly manage the joyful exuberance and insistent repetition which elevate them to true pop-rock classics.

Which brings me to Hanson. Yes, you may be sceptical considering it's been seven whole years since they last made any true impact on the collective pop consciousness, but those Mmmbopping identikit midgets have finally turned in a record of true brilliance and irresistible dance-ability. 'Lost Without Each Other' has the mindlessly cheerful guitar loop, building anticipation layers in the bridge, and jaunty sing-along chorus that proclaims "We're no Sampson! See how the loss of our luscious locks hasn't robbed us of pop-rock supremacy; you're bouncing already!"

But that was inevitable. These are the boys that had us pondering whether daisies or roses would grow, regardless of the fact they could have been singing about gang-raping Snoop Dogg with his own soft porn DVDs in the rest of the verse. Sure it took them a few filler albums to deliver, and switching their 'black and white, spontaneous jam session' video for the 'Penny & Me' Samaire Armstrong appreciation would endear the experience to me further (since that woman is surely the quirky nu-alterna goddess archetype?), but this is pretty damn perfect as stands. And with Gregg Alexander co-crafting the gem, how could they fail? This is the man that stamped 'Get What You Give' onto the hearts of ilxors with permanent ink!

In fact, the only way Hanson could have increased the song's overwhelmingly infectious pedigree would have been to recruit OKGo to rewrite the middle 8 guitar solo. But, sadly, they have their own brilliantly irrelevant careers to struggle on with.

See how their hair still shimmers in the late sun here