Ah Mika. It’s been about two years since he burst onto the music scene with his debut CD, Life in Cartoon Motion. Grace Kelly was the default song on radio, TV and in clubs worldwide. That kitsch catchy pop ‘choon’ showcased not only Mika’s personality, but also his three-and-a-half octave range and it seemed like, overnight, the world had a new pop sensation. Hit after hit followed and, for most part, it was fine. The invariable straight/gay/bi rumours followed him (seriously, have you seen the man?) but he eventually settled on bisexual – thereby not distancing his female fans (who can forget – Big Girl – You are Beautiful) and his male fans (um… well, just the gay ones). Well, Mika is back and more bouncy than ever with, The Boy Who Knew Too Much. [Interesting fact, his sister designed the artwork for both CDs – use that if it ever comes up in Trivial Pursuit!]

He describes this album as one that deals with his teenage years and even goes as far to describe it as “Tim Burton-esque”. Well, I’m not so sure about that, but it’s not bad (and I’ve never been a huge Mika fan.) Yes, there are similarities to the last album all over the place: Rain sounds suspiciously like Take it Easy; Blue Eyes is a close cousin to Girls Just Wanna Have Fun; and Touches You sounds like the current radio killer, We Are Golden. But hey, even Coldplay recently said they steal chords, riffs and melodies from all over the place – so why not. If you’re a fan of Mika or you feel your pop lacks a bit of theatre with a touch of tongue-in-cheek drama – buy Mika’s The Boy Who Knew Too Much.

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I remember way back in 2000, I had the privilege of attending one of the maddest experiences of my life: Glastonbury. This crazy British music festival attracted over 250 000 people and resulted in me seeing acts as diverse as Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Death in Vegas, Travis, Fat Boy Slim and ended off with David Bowie. In-between all this mayhem, an unknown singer called David Gray took to the stage – I think he was squashed in between Counting Crows and Live – and, without anyone knowing anything about him, he started singing Babylon. Within the first few seconds of that song, I knew I had discovered something special – and I wasn’t the only one. Barely a week later, Babylon was number one on the UK charts and worldwide acclaim soon followed – as did follow-up CD after follow-up CD, including a greatest hits package, but Gray never seemed to reclaim the excitement that his first CD, White Ladder generated.

So it was with much anticipation that I started to play his latest offering, Draw The Line. I’m not sure if the title refers to the fact that if, after this CD, he doesn’t have another hit he’ll draw the line and stop recording – but it just as well may have been. Don’t get me wrong, all the poignant writing is there, the great emotional chords, and his ever-recognisable voice, but although there is nothing technically wrong with the CD, there’s not much right with it either. Fans of Gray’s will probably get it eventually to add to the collection, but sadly I am not one of them. The title track is probably the only one that stands out, while the others seems to blend in and out of one another, leaving me not wanting more – but wanting something else. For die-hard fans only.

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This 19-year old singer is the latest release from music stalwarts, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds and Antonio “LA” Reid. The daughter of Jame DeBarge, one of the singer’s from the 80’s group DeBarge, she’s been singing since the age of three (which, these days, is old). Exposed is her first CD, with the first single, Goodbye blowing up all over the charts at the moment. The CD is pretty much your standard fare; a melange of catchy pop tracks, sugar-laced ballads, and club-happy party tracks – but nothing really makes her stand out from the crowd. It’s Kerri Hilson, dressed up as Jordin Sparks pretending to be Britney Spears. If that doesn’t appeal, then forget it. I did.

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Well we certainly remember their name – well, not really. Although the characters of the original Fame have long been forgotten, the passion, the dancing and indeed the music that summed up the original movie remain with anyone who ever saw it. In fact, I saw it again recently and although the movie at the time was a symbol of the American Dream at the beginning of Reagan’s over-indulgent 80’s (a dream that was diluted by George Bush and High School Musical), it was still a great film expertly directed by Alan Parker (he of The Commitments and Evita fame – no pun) and went on to spawn a TV series (Robbie Williams and I have the soundtrack) and a stage show.

And now 19 years later, we have a new Fame; same songs (kind of), new characters (kind of – Debbie Allen was resurrected) and same place but different day/year/century. To be honest, I haven’t seen the new movie but, from what I’ve heard from those who have, I really haven’t missed much. Only worthwhile if you like your Eighties with a Noughties twist or even your Noughties with an Eighties twist, or if you actually saw and enjoyed the new movie (you’d be one of the very few apparently).

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It’s been four years since this local lad released his first single, the SAMA nominated Hold me in Your Arms at the age of 17. And, after a long overdue absence, he has returned to the South African music scene with his spanking new CD, My Only Excuse; an album that he describes as Rhythm and Pop (R’nP). Although I hate saying artists sound like this or that – certain influences are definitely there – The Script, Daniel Powter and James Morrison to name a few. The title track and first single, My Only Excuse is a goodie and is sure to make waves on the charts, while songs like I Don’t Know About That and On My Own are piano-heavy ballads perfect for rainy days and Mondays. So if you like your local vibes, mature and melodic then consider Elan Lea’s My Only Excuse. Oh ja, and he’s hot. And local. Do it for South Africa! Any questions?

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