ROBBIE WILLIAMS – SWINGS BOTH WAYS
Robbie Williams is no stranger to playing sexually ambivalent and openly flirting with his many gay fans to generate buzz, interest…and sales. And on his latest album, his 10th by the way, he more than embraces that blurred line.
Swings Both Ways is Robbie’s second swing album but unlike 2001’s Swing When You’re Winning, this one’s not just cover versions; there’s original material in here too. The 13 songs harken back to a nostalgic time when autotune hadn’t been invented and the biggest stunt a pop star could pull off was an especially large brass band. Robbie himself has said he wishes he’d been born then and Swings Both Ways is his loving tribute to a genre that’s long since gone out of favour.
Cover-wise, Robbie and his incredible voice do justice to faves like The Wizard Of Oz’s scarecrow lament If I Only Had A Brain (a slowed-down version filled with pathos), The Jungle Book’s I Wanna Be Like You (a fun duet with Olly Murs), Dream A Little Dream (with Lily Allen) and one of the best covers of Irving Berlin’s Putting On The Ritz I’ve ever heard. The original material, co-written with producer Guy Chambers, include some whoppers: you’ll probably love the upbeat, catchy Shine My Shoes, first single Go Gentle and the hilariously tongue-in-cheek Swings Both Ways with gay muso Rufus Wainwright, where they openly poke fun at their own sexualities. At one point, Rufus croons, “Face it Robbie, you’re a little bit gay” to which the Robster chirps, “Shall we dance”. A must!
RATING: 10 out of 10
DID YOU KNOW? Swings Both Ways went to #1 in the UK, making it Robbie’s 11th album to do so (a record tied with Elvis Presley by the way)
BRITNEY SPEARS – BRITNEY JEAN
There was a time when a new Britney Spears album would be greeted with great fanfare, a slew of sexy music videos and the Britster being on the cover of every mag from Marie Claire to Cosmo. These days, not so much. Perhaps it’s because there are actually not one, not even two, but three Britneys and we just never know which one we’re gonna get. Yup, with detailed scientific analysis (i.e. listening to her songs), it’s clear that we, the fans, are used to one of the three at a time. They are either the Pop Princess Britney (who’s not a girl but not yet a woman either), Lusty Britney (who might want to f.u.c.k Amy or be spanked one more time) or Shake That Ass Britney, who’s big on dancefloors and might just scream & shout if you throw in will.i.am. And on Britney Jean, we’ve got ALL of them, which may explain why the album’s a bit of a flop.
Britney’s left her music label for a new one and here she has more involvement in the music; co-writing or doing something to warrant a writing cred on each of the 10 tracks. Will.i.am is executive producer on this, her eighth album, and Britney says it’s her most personal album ever, following her break-up with her ex- fiancé and manager Jason Trawick. You’ll have to listen to the tracks yourself to see if you believe her. Either way, there’s a lot to listen to and it’s recommended you opt for the deluxe if you can, as it has three extra songs and one remix on it. Definitely listen out for the first single Work B**ch, which is fun and dancey, plus the opening track, Alien which is pure pop heaven. Tik Tik Boom (with T.I.) oozes sexual fun while the second single Perfume (written with Sia) is a ballad about ‘the other woman’. The duet with her sister Jamie Lyn, called Chillin’ With You, isn’t anything new but it will grow on you with each listen while Hold On Tight on the deluxe is also worth slapping on the ipod.
DID YOU KNOW? Britney didn’t like the original edit for the Work B**ch as it was too raunchy, so she cut out the too-risque bits, “because I am a mother and because, you know, I have children, and it’s just hard to play sexy mom while you’re being a pop star as well.”
RATING: 7 out of 10
GOOD LUCK – CREATURES OF THE NIGHT
It’s been two years since SA electro-jazz group GoodLuck exploded onto the music scene with their self-titled debut album and its smash single Hop On Hop Off, which at one point was playing on high rotation on every radio station from Paarl to Pretoria. Now they’re back with their second studio album (we’re not counting 2012’s Lucky Packet Mixtape album, which was totes cool but more remixes than new, original material.) And what a follow-up it is. The 11 tracks deliver a scintillating mix of upbeat house, dance and electro beats and, of course, some of their distinctive electro-swing sounds that made them famous.
Pretty much all the tracks are worth listening to – on repeat. From the dreamy Figure Of 8 to the catchy single Trickery, plus the even catchier Body Guard and What Would We Be (with Lisa Kekuala on vocals), both of which are the closest the album comes to repeating the all-out fun of Hop On Hop Off. We also recommend the title track Creatures Of The Night with its electro coolness and Le Good Life, which has a perky Natasha Bedingfield-meets-Lily Allen (but without the snarkiness) feel to it.
DID YOU KNOW? GoodLuck’s website (Goodlucklive.com) has an online store where you can buy funky Chinese ‘good luck’ cats. Hello Kitty would platz with jealousy!
RATING: 7.5 out of 10
HAIM – DAYS ARE GONE
Haim are becoming something of a rock sensation. Comprising of three sisters – Danielle, Este and Alana – Haim grew up immersed in music. Their parents Moti and Donna formed a family rock band Rockinhaim and they’ve been singing 70s-style rock since they were out of nappies. In 2006, the girls went solo, added a touch of sophistication and found fame (and a record label) with their 2012 EP Forever. This is the follow-up, which has proven to be a massive success on charts all over the world.
With their pretty pouts, sexy sunglasses and Hollywood ‘I don’t give a fuck’ attitude, you’d think Haim are perfect pop princess fodder. Far from it. There’s nothing trashy on the trio’s début album. If anything, their sound is quite a sophisticated old-school rock retro throwback with a hefty dose of old-school R&B thrown in there for good measure. Think a bit of Fleetwood Mac with Sia. The result sounds something like indie rock (it isn’t though – the synthesisers give it too much of an edge for that). Listen to the first four singles – Falling, Forever, Don’t Save Me and The Wire – as well as Let Me Go and Days Are Gone. They’re new; they’re cool and they’re definitely quirky.
DID YOU KNOW? They’re Jewish. Dad Moti (short for Mordechi) is Israeli. Mazeltov!
RATING: 9 out of 10
VARIOUS ARTISTS – NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL MUSIC! THE DVD VOL. 26
A confession: I never used to know what to do with music video DVDs. They seemed as outdated as LPs – you know, cool but what’s the point. Especially when I’ve got VH1 or access to YouTube. But with the NOW DVD series heading towards #30, someone must be buying these DVDs. And then it hit me. Dinner party background music can have a visual feel to it, instead of just being well, in the background. I often play the NOW CDs anyway so why not watch AND listen to them at the same time. And it works.
NOW THE DVD 26 is supersized with 42 music videos covering everything from pop to rock, dance to hip hop, local to international. It opens with Katy Perry’s Roar, which is good cheesy fun (as we’ve come to expect from KP) as then flips over to One Direction’s big hit, Best Song Ever (watch out for one of the boys in drag if you’ve never seen the vid). Also check out Ricky Martin’s Come With Me (boring song and an equally boring video in my opinion), Lady Gaga’s Applause, John Newman’s Love Me Again (he’s odd-looking but wow, what a voice!), Sara Bareilles’ quirky Brave, Maroon 5’s sexy/trippy Love Somebody, Pink & Lily Allen’s True Love and hip hop’s “I love the gays” song Same Love from Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.
DID YOU KNOW? You can play the 42 songs in order or shuffle them randomly. Both options are recommended.
RATING: 8 out of 10
BASTILLE – ALL THIS BAD BLOOD
Backstreet’s Bastille’s back, alright! Yup, the indie rockers have more music to give us already. But this isn’t a new album; it’s too soon for that. Their debut smash-hit album Bad Blood was only released in March 2013 and they’re still enjoying the success and touring (include a recent successful performance in SA). All This Bad Blood is actually Bad Blood’s renamed deluxe edition. And unlike other deluxe albums, which might offer a measly two, three (if you’re lucky) and four (very rarely) additional tracks, All This Bad Blood has a whopping 13 new songs. Talk about value for money!
Disc one’s got all the tunes you love hearing from the British indie rockers – Pompeii, Things We Lost In The Fire, Bad Blood, Flaws and Laura Palmer. But add the new stuff and fans will be more than satisfied. Like their original album, the extended deluxe offers up indie rock, just plain rock and a bit of a synthpop tinge caressing it all into a modern, fresh-sounding package. Listen out for the fun Of The Night, a bit of a mash-up of 90s dance hits The Rhythm Of The Night and Rhythm Is A Dancer. It’s as camp as indie rock is ever gonna get. Also, listen out for Durban Skies (we cracked a nod!), Sleepsong, What Would You Do and Skulls.
DID YOU KNOW? Will Farquarson, who does bass, keyboards, acoustic guitar and backing vocals for the band, recently revealed that the guys are working on their next album already.
RATING: 7 out of 10