What’s worse than one Justin Bieber? Five Justin Biebers! Of course, if you like Justin Bieber (his music and his often-flashed abs) then you’ll probably platz at the sight of One Direction. The fivesome (minds out the gutter, boys) were put together by Simon Cowell after auditioning separately for season seven of The X Factor UK. Clever-dick Simon saw a gap in the market for a boy band made out of real boys and voila, One Direction was born. Up All Night, their debut album, was released in the UK at the end of 2011 and just hit America, so it’s likely we’ll be hearing a lot from the lads. Especially because it’s easily-digestible, very mainstream pop with bits of dance, electropop and rock thrown in for good measure, with the obligatory mix of up-tempo happy songs and slower soppy ballads (the perfect formula for a boy band).

What Makes You Beautiful is the first single but you’ll also want to listen out for Gotta Be You, One Thing and the catchy title track Up All Night. The best way to sum up the boys from Britain (and Ireland) is this: you’ll never hear them on 5FM. But 94.7 Highveld – yes. JacarandaFM – very much so.

USELESS FACT: Up All Night holds the record for being the fastest-selling debut album on the UK Albums Chart in 2011.

RATING: 7 out of 10


Is Macy Gray winding down her career? Despite her 2010 album The Sellout getting five Grammy nominations she’ll always be known as ‘the girl who sang I Try’. It’s a generally accepted fact that cover albums are for Idols castoffs or singers who’ve hit a creative dead-end. I suspect the latter is the case here, which is a shame considering Macy has one of the best and most unique voices in the music biz today. There are 15 tracks on Covered, some songs and some spoken-word ‘skits’. Let’s start with the songs. She covers tracks like Kanye West’s Lovelockdown, The Eurythmics’ Here Comes The Rain Again, Radiohead’s Creep and My Chemical Romance’s Teenagers with her typically whiskey-soaked breathlessness. And they’re pretty good, if not something of a motley collection of songs to cover.

The skits, however, are less easily digested. Macy is obviously fine to poke fun at herself in skits like I Try Is Cool And All, But… where Nicole Scherzinger gives advice on how Macy should change her singing style to sound more like Shakira or Alanis Morrissette. Frankly, the implications of anyone taking advice from Nicole Scherzinger is enough to put one off poppers. There are others but the gist is Macy getting advice on how to be successful. Which is dicey considering she’s no Adele. My advice: gloss over the skits and push play on the songs.

USELESS FACT: Here Comes The Rain Again has been covered numerous times over the years, including versions by a Serbian rock band called Night Shift, Turkish alternative-rock and progressive girl band Aseton and Hungarian goth rock/doom metal band Nevergreen. Yeah, fucking weird hey!

RATING: 6 out of 10


Clubbers take note: this one’s for you. Especially if you like the hardcore doef-doef of house music. Ministry Of Sound is arguably the leader of the dance music pack, releasing a near-constant stream of music to party to. House Party 2012 is the latest and contains 60 thumping party tracks on three CDs all seamlessly mixed by 94.7 Highveld Stereo’s Vin Deysel.

For the commercial dance purists who like their songs intact, uncluttered and un-remixed this will be torturous listening. But if you like to party hearty then you’ll enjoy the mixes, especially the Denzal Park Remix of Martin Solveig and Dragonette’s Big In Japan, Dada Life Remix of Duck Sauce’s Big Bad Wolf and the Hardwell Remix of DJ Fresh and Sian Evans’ Louder. Shout-outs must also go to an updated version of the Yoav/Pascal & Pearce hit Beautiful Lie as well as the Apster Remix of When I Dip from Bingo Players, J2K and MC Dynamite.

USELESS FACT: The Ministry Of Sound label started in 1995 and its first release was the highly successful The Annual, mixed by Boy George and Pete Tong.

RATING: 6 out of 10


The white guy with the voice of a black man is back with his fifth studio album. His previous offering Sex Therapy was a chart success, largely because Robin added some hip hop and electro beats to his usual repertoire of R&B and soul, and because the subject matter was pretty much wall-to-wall sex-tinged songs. For Love After War, Thicke goes back to safer ground with a 17-track offering of songs about love. It’s almost like he’s split the album in two – one half featuring soul tracks and the other with his old-faithful R&B standards. Overall it’s no great shakes, nothing new and if you’re not a R&B fan you might feel all the songs sound pretty similar.

There are some stand-outs though, like the wild I’m An Animal, the title track Love After War and Pretty Lil’ Heart which also features Lil Wayne. My main criticism though is why so many tracks? There are 20 on the deluxe edition and 17 on the standard, which is way too many for someone of Thicke’s calibre. Not even Gaga, who’s produced songs at a rate of knots, would attempt that. The overall result is that it feels like there are far too many throwaway tracks among the gems. But there are some great gems.

USELESS FACT: Chart-wise, Love After War is performing moderately well. It opened at #22 on the Billboard 200 chart, selling over 41,000 copies.

RATING: 6 out of 10


These days, Sinéad O’Connor’s personal life (shotgun marriage, depression, suicide rants on Twitter) is getting more media attention than her music. Chances are it will stay that way, even with the controversial Irish musician’s ninth full-length album. Some have said that in a world dominated by Britneys, Gagas and Nicki Minajs, Sinéad is over the hill and musically irrelevant. And I might have thought so too until I listened (repeatedly) to How About I Be Me (And You Be You?). The ten songs are brimming with raw unbridled emotion – some sad and tragic, some soppy and romantic and some angry and pissed off.

Emotionally and thematically it’s a little all over the place, but then again so is Sinéad, who’s clinically bipolar. The album opens with a country-style rock love song 4th And Vine, which is very catchy. Cute even. I’d also recommend Reason With Me, The Wolf Is Getting Married (the album’s first single) and the hyper angry Queen Of Denmark. One reviewer described How About I Be Me as her most confident album yet. I agree.

USELESS FACT: Sinéad wrote or co-wrote all the tracks, except Queen Of Denmark which was written by gay indie folk rocker John Grant for his 2010 album of the same name.

RATING: 7 out of 10


Billed as “a platter of 60 of the world’s finest cheesy tracks, hand selected by you” this triple-disc compilation album will probably sell like hotcakes. The premise behind the album is deliciously simple – Cheese Of The Day is a popular feature on 5FM’s Fresh Drive; so popular that they’re brought out a once-off album to celebrate all things gouda. Listeners were asked to vote for their favourite cheesy tunes from a list of 100 songs (I did!) and the top 60 made the final cut (or ‘slice’ if you prefer). So who’s on it?

There are too many to mention but highlights include Vanilla Ice’s Ice Ice Baby, Village People’s YMCA, Divinyl’s I Touch Myself, Meredith Brooks’ Bitch, Modern Talking’s Brother Louie, MC Hammer’s U Can’t Touch This, Kylie Minogue’s Can’t Get You Out Of My Head, Sandra’s Everlasting Love and Baha Men’s Who Let The Dogs Out. Also included are some old-school cheeseball dance floor thumpers like Eiffel 65’s Blue, Wamdue Project’s King Of My Castle and I Like To Move It from Real 2 Real and The Mad Stuntman.

USELESS FACT: David Bowie co-wrote the Vanilla Ice hit Ice Ice Baby. Colour me surprised!

RATING: 9 out of 10

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