If you like One Direction and Britpop, then Olly Murs is the guy for you. On his third studio album, Olly shies away from the cheesy love songs and pop hits of previous album like Hearts Skips A Beat and Dance With Me Tonight in favour of a richer, more evolved sound. The 28-year-old cranks things up a notch by adding to his usual collection of mostly upbeat and catchy pop tracks by adding some more dance and a few hip hop beats. The result is a new (well, for him, at least) and edgier sound which, more importantly for the fans, still stays true to his rise to fame from his X-Factor UK days.

There’s actually a lot to listen to here and we’d recommend playing all 12 tracks in a row for long, slow and continually enjoyable listening. We loved the foot-tappingly catchy singles Troublemaker with Flo Rida and Army Of Two, as well as Right Place Right Time, and, if you like taking things a little slower, then don’t miss Loud & Clear. Think of the album as hip hop meets pop with a cute, British twist!

USELESS FACT: Olly will be the opening act for fellow Brit Robbie Williams’ upcoming Take The Crown stadium tour of Europe from June to August 2013. Cool huh?

RATING: 8 out of 10


London’s famous Royal Albert Hall has played host to many a famous act: The Killers, Elton John, Phil Collins, Sting, Paul McCartney and most recently Adele. It also houses over 1500 seats, and if you can fill it, it means you’re a pretty big deal. So say hello to pretty big deal, Emeli Sandé, a household name in the UK thanks to her debut album Our Version Of Events.

Live At The Royal Albert Hall (on import to SA, hence the different packaging) contains two can’t-miss parts: a CD of 16 tracks and a DVD of 19 songs, including a little Emeli-on-the-road doccie. This isn’t a bells-and-whistles kind of concert, so don’t expect tricks of the trade. This is Emeli doing what she does best – playing the piano and singing her heart out. And boy, is there a lot to listen to (and watch) here! From her biggest hits Heaven and Next To Me (the encore which closes the show) to her cover of Nina Simone’s I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free, to the two duets which have also earned her praise: Beneath Your Beautiful with Labyrinth and Read All About It (Pt III) with Professor Green. Lovers of strong female vocalists, this one’s for you!

USELESS FACT: Scottish-born Emeli was the best-selling artist of 2012 in the UK. Yes, bigger than Adele…

RATING: 8 out of 10


Say hello to Justin Bieber stripped… of heavy instrumentation and backing vocals that is! The world’s most-followed person on Twitter is back with a new album (well, sort of.). The freshly-turned 19-year-old has released six albums – three full-length studio albums – and with Believe Acoustic, he’s added his third remix album to the repertoire. The days of him singing “Baby, baby, oh, thought you’d always be mine” with his girl-like voice are long gone. Biebs is all grown up, talented and super cool – and he knows it!

Expect eight tracks from Believe and some new ones. The sound is stripped down (it is acoustic after all) with a strong R&B and neo-soul influence. With Believe Acoustic, it’s clear that Biebs can sing. He’s got a magnificent voice that can carry high notes and warble with the best of them. And here’s where we separate the fans from those who love him for his abs: not everything should be sung down-tempo with just a guitar for accompaniment. Many of the songs from Believe, like the Beauty And a Beat duet with Nicki Minaj, just don’t work acoustically, although Boyfriend and As Long As You Love Me work fine. This one’s for serious R&B fans only. There’s no pop going on here.

USELESS FACT: Believe Acoustic features three never-heard-before Bieber tracks: Nothing Like Us, Yellow Raincoat and I Would.

RATING: 6 out of 10


Another boy band? Betcha cute hiney, it is. As long as groups of good-looking guys keep making pretty music, girls and some of us guys will be there to support them. If this is your first introduction to The Overtones, let me explain what they’re all about: five guys from England, Ireland and Australia sing songs about love lost and found. You know, the usual pop repertoire. It’s almost like One Direction, right? Only this fivesome is a) older, but still way, way pretty and b) singing doo-wop, not pop.

They keep the vocal harmonies coming on in this, their second album, which is delicious doo-wop, old-school fun with sophisticated flair and – aw heck, they’re hot and they sing! What more do you need? Recommended tracks are the first single Loving The Sound, as well as Reet Petite (my personal fave), Keep Me Hanging On, Unforgettable and Runaround Sue. Oh go on, it’s hunky-dory fun. With hunks. I did mention they’re hunks, right…?

USELESS FACT: The Overtones were originally called DYYCE, then Lexi Joe, which they, thank heavens, abandoned for current moniker. Good choice guys, by the way.

RATING: 7 out of 10


Adam Lambert was right when he ripped into the Les Mis cast (Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway etc), accusing them of being actors who tried to sing – and, for the most part, failing dismally. Producers obviously went for star power when casting, instead of strong singers and the result sounds awkward. (Think Pierce Brosnan’s awful singing in Mamma Mia!) Even the dark score’s strong comic number Master Of The House loses all its fun, upbeat oomph in this version, sung abysmally by Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter.

The lack of strong vocal performances isn’t the only problem with the soundtrack to the new movie – purists will note many of the songs have been shortened for this CD (e.g. At The End Of The Day) and some of the songs just don’t feature at all – like Who Am I?, A Little Fall Of Rain and the showstopper Do You Hear The People Sing (a bit of which is instead included in the Epilogue for some odd reason). On the plus side, there is a brand-new song, composed just for the movie, called Suddenly (but Hugh’s voice just can’t carry it). Pity, cos’ you know us gays and musicals…

USELESS FACT: Instead of the normal way of filming musical numbers (pre-recording and getting actors to lipsynch for their lives), the cast’s performances were recorded live on set (an earpiece played the piano accompaniment so they’d know when to hit the right notes) with the orchestra being added in the final edit.

RATING: 2 out of 10


Gosh, Josh has come a long way since he made his debut on Ally McBeal. Six albums, and quite a few trips to South Africa, later, the curly-haired American is still singing his heart out on inspirational, upbeat pop-opera ballads. And, like the nursery rhymed girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead, when he’s good, he’s very very good. All That Echoes marks his first album in three years and although the sound isn’t new, Josh isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel here. Basically, it’s the same ‘you-raise-me-up’ Josh that fans know and love.

There are 12 songs on the album, some originals (like the wonderful first single Brave) and some cover versions of songs by Stevie Wonder and Irish singer Glen Hansard (who??). JG does a wonderful rendition of the Wonder classic I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will be Forever) and the traditional Irish folk song She Moved Through The Fair. We also loved the album’s two duets – E Ti Prometteró with Laura Pausini and Un Alma Mas featuring Arturo Sandoval. Opera with a pop twist might be niche, but it’s powerful, melodic listening, perfect for long car journeys and wine-filled dinner parties.

USELESS FACT: JG has sold over 25 million albums worldwide! Impressive!

RATING: 6.5 out of 10

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