Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Them dodgy US covers by UK artists there [The Risk - "Peaches & Cream" + more]

Maaaaaaaaaaate. Actually, let me tell you what (initially) inspired this post. JLS break up. "Devastating news I didn't see coming" - said no one. We knew it was curtains when we heard their "Hottest Girl In The World" song. You know the knock-off Justin Timberlake sounding song? Pretty rubbish, but all the urbanites like it because it sounded, like, an erm, Justin Timberlake song from back in the day. Worst thing is Justin Bieber pulled the exact same stunt a few months earlier ("Boyfriend") so it was a knock-off Justin Bieber, knocking off Justin Timberlake. New thing is "Just because it sounds familiar, doesn't mean it's good".

Pretty bad, isn't it? Problem is I can see a bunch of Sony a&r's, marketing dept. and general suits, (well they wear trendy gear now, but you know who I mean) sat bumping their heads slightly off-beat, slight foot tap before saying "This sounds really edgy and current for JLS. Justin Bieber released something just like this. R&B is coming back now." The points are kinda on point, except the song. The song is not good. That's what matters.

But anyway, the reason I post this today is because fellow X-Factor boy group contestants, The Risk, decided to cover 112's classic dancefloor filler "Peaches & Cream". Admittedly, it became a very predictable song in clubs. Always followed by Jagged Edge "Where The Party At?" alas a staple in the DJ box and definitely an untouchable song. Their first song "Missiles" flopped so this is definitely desperate times = "Hey, let's cover a song that's already been big. We'll get a hit"

Listen to their attempted murder take on the classic below.

Was it worth it? Really?

Anyway, thought I'd go on a journey of other "Who on your team said this was a good idea? Let me 'ave 'im?! C'mon!" covers. Sadly, most of them went to #1. It's times like those I despair for the British buying public's ears.

Stooshe - "Waterfalls" - #21 in November 2012

London girl group Stooshe covered the biggest TLC song ever. Thankfully, they were wise enough to hold their hands up and admit it wasn't good. Nothing more to say there. Oh the rap was pretty cool.

Mis-Teeq "Roll On/ This Is How We Do It" #7 in June 2002

 Then I remembered Mis-Teeq created a mash-up of Montell Jordan's "This Is How We Do It" and (dunno where the original comes from, but...) Big Pun ft. Joe "Still Not A Player"

Oh man. Why?! To be fair, worse is still to come. Thought I'd let you in with a gentle stroke.

Another Level - "Freak Me" #1 in July 1998

Next song I remembered, Another Level - "Freak Me". This song offended me, but not as much as other songs to follow. UK pop boyband covering a genuine classic '90s slow jam by Silk before it even left our conscious mind (originally released in 1992). Didn't know Keith Sweat co-wrote and co-produced it until now, but I'm not surprised. The chorus is him bang on. This second release by the equal opportunities abiding boy group's became their first #1 single. Original didn't chart in the UK. So, maybe it was a blessing for the song. I dunno.

I'm not gonna lie though, as I listen to it now it doesn't sound as bad as I remembered. Actually, I'm listening again, the chorus is decent, the verses are horrible.

Blue - "Too Close" #1 August 2001

Now, if the above was covered too early, this one takes the mick. The original by r&b group Next topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1998 - Blue covered it in 2001. And unlike Silk "Freak Me" it charted in the UK, peaking at #24. I wanted to punch someone for this. Hated Blue for a while due to this crime. They had no right.

Once again, second single produced their first chart-topper. Weird similarity to Another Level, but I've always kinda thought they were Another Level 2.0.

Blazing Squad - "Crossroads" #1 in August 2002

If the above made we want to punch someone, this one had me dreaming I'd catch members slipping. We used to have convo's in school about catching the slipping. I obviously didn't partake in the conversations about "eats" and "striping them puxxyholes" 'cos I'm not really that kinda guy.

These guys were serial classic killers. Let's not forget they sampled Zapp & Rodger "Computer Love" on "Reminisce"

Billie Piper - G.H.E.T.T.O.U.T - B-side on debut single "Because We Want To"

You probably didn't even know the former Doctor Who assistant's cover of this mid-90s r&b classic existed. Neither did I until I spotted it on Spotify last year when searching for the original. Bruv, who the hell let her cover this?! Total insult. I understand she was  young at the time, but someone should've been wise enough to know "Someone's tell me some boot is going down" isn't an acceptable radio edit of bullsh!t. "Bull" or nothing.

Just read this was the B-side on her debut single "Because We Want To" which went to #1 when she was younger than 16 (can't remember if she was 14 or 15 but she was the youngest female artist to debut at #1). I hope Changing Faces were compensated appropriately for this travesty.

She must cringe at her music now, boy lol.

Also, just seen she covered reggae vocal group's The Paragon's "The Tide Is High". This was scheduled to be her fourth single from second album. Thankfully it wasn't released as she took a break from music following court case against some stalker chick. Get in!

Sounds strangely similar to the Atomic Kitten song released a couple years later. Hmm...

If you can think of any I've missed, feel free to comment or @ me on Twitter (@MarvinSparks). That doesn't include all the UK Rap stuff over American hip hop beats or the numerous UK rappers using Meek Mill's flow. Singles only. Thanks in advance.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

So Marvin, why do you say "urban* music sucks"?

(* urban = hip hop and r&b, first and foremost, but mainly talking about music made by the blacks. Badman put the small print at the top so you don't miss it.)

  • Honest, emotive, something I believe in, experienced and/or relate to be it a thought or situation
  • A beat that matches the mood
  • Makes me want to nod/dance or sing along and tweet lyrics because I feel it

That's all I as a consumer wants (aside from songs that make me buss gun finger and grab a girl in a non-violent/sexual assault kinda way). So, why is it so hard to find from genres I used to have no problem finding it? (Rhetorical question, obviously, or there'd be no point in this post.)

Many times I think wonder if the industry is out of touch with reality and artists care more about appeasing industry standards than consumers. Bit like dutty babylon a.k.a. government who care more about Westminster and small sections of society than general voters until election time. Instead it feels like they'd rather dictate what people like than understand what the people want.

The amount of times I see "key specialists and taste makers" in  press releases like I'm supposed to be "OMG [insert DJ] played it?! I need to hop on the wagon with this one!" It doesn't work like that from my point of view. I'm not one of these cheerfollowers. The good taste maker's are the ones that understand what the people like. Taste readers I think. Maybe I'm looking at "tastemaker" too literally, but basically, I don't think they make, they give a bigger platform to something buzzing or good. Make taste to the industry maybe.

So yeah, music to impress a select few who suggest what the trend is otherwise known as "taste makers", when in reality taste makers aren't select DJs, playlist panels nor are they the Grammy panel, it's the people that fund the music - you know, the consumer. The person that spends money on albums, buys merchandise and attends concerts. The money that funds the industry. Impress them and the industry will follow.

Artists making songs to appease the industry for radio, TV, magazine and newspaper space all count towards the possession stat in sports; doesn't mean much if your song isn't using it effectively. If the consumers don't buy it, it doesn't sell and the industry won't care. Problem is industry rules (or myths as I call them) spewed in hip hop blogs and X-Factor style TV shows have infiltrated minds and tastes of some consumers which then confuses artists.

These types are the ones that are really vocal on social networking sites and blogs. Using words like "marketable" and "image" to describe why they don't like an artist on X-Factor is an easy to tell them. They also say "pitchy" - big giveaway. Let's not forget, these people rarely buy albums or pay for concerts.

None is more apparent than the minds of hip hop and rnb fans, hence why both are dead on a mainstream pop level, especially compared to where both were.

"Fans" of these genres over-analyse the wrong things in my opinion. They're attracted to artists via wordplay, flow, beat and sales. It isn't about the music that moves them, it's the image. They aspire to fit that image. Main reason is they are cheerfollowers looking to fit in with a section of society.

Style over substance. Trendy sound over vibe. "Metaphors" and punchlines over emotion. Flow over lyrics. Rarely about how it makes you feel. Likewise in rnb, vocal range means less than vocal tone in the real world. Vocals and dancing ability, good looks and stage presence means nothing if the song doesn't mean something.These "fans" fail to acknowledge this.

"I don't like their songs, but I bought their album because (s)he's a good singer," says a loser on a mission. Have you ever said that? Me neither.

Vibe, feeling, groove and emotion are universal. You can feel a song in a foreign language by the emotion and arrangement. A shared experience is worth more than "sick flows".

Another thing that annoys me is it feels as if (many) artists want to be liked by everyone resulting in grey, generic music. I love when music's used as a cathartic process. You can feel when an artist is using it as a way to express their thoughts, opinions, feelings and emotions. Most of my favourite songs are introspective. I wonder if they don't share their views and ideas in case it offends a particular group or potential investors/endorsements.

Going on star potential, the operative word there is "potential". Someone's look and dress sense may help get spreads in commercial magazines, some people will admire them for those things, but if the music is rubbish they will be admired for that alone and won't get anywhere beyond looking like a star/having good style. And anyway, you don't have to be a star to make a living off music and you don't have to look like a star to be one.

Two main things connect genuine popular music. No, not just simple and catchy. Definitely isn't just image and marketing. They're accessible and resonate with regular folk aka the consumers.

As a result of rnb and hip hop being dead, uninspired, soulless, corporate-sponsored dross most other things in the "urb*n" bracket a.k.a. music by black faces is. Artists in other "urb*n" genres view them as the flag bearers and blueprint of successful black music commercially (due to the overwhelming attention it is given and sales not based on what it sounds like). Some would call the coverage "propaganda" but that's a post for another day, possibly by someone else.

You see, I'm from the pirate radio era. We judged genres strictly on sounds and how it made you feel. We didn't see anything like MTV Cribs to back up what rappers were talking about when it came to money, so image wasn't that big a deal. They weren't even talking about money when I got interested in it. Straight bars and real life/entertainment you could see without depending on visuals. I only understood Big Tymers and Cash Money lot after seeing "Get Your Roll On" and "Bling Bling" videos. I only understood Master P following his MTV Crib with the gold ceiling. Still don't like him, but you get my drift.

Hip hop was a culture. Now it's more a "lifestyles of the rich and famous most won't ever reach". What was once a voice for the voiceless minority has become a mainly celebrated voice of the loud majority. The dangling carrot to show if I can make it so can you. If you understand American politics and power, you'll understand why it's like that, but my name isn't Edward Snowden and I don't live in Hong Kong so let me leave it.

Rapping about rapping will only get a fan base of people that are really into rap. Rapping about being rich is great for those that aspire to share that experience, but most never will so don't directly relate to that experience. Especially when most people are currently wondering about how to keep afloat and don't even believe the UK rapper is.

Singing about sex also limits. Works for a song or two and in clubs before it becomes boring because there's more to life than sex. People in relationships deal with various  situations. How about some of those? Not everyone is just living life trying to catch as many bodies as possible.

And where did the groove go? Hip hop and r&b songs used to make me want to dance. Now I see a bunch of kids jumping yelling at the top of their lungs. R&B songs aren't much better.

Making music about a variety of relatable, common love and life experiences expands potential base beyond those that like a particular genre of music. And just because you make hip hop, doesn't mean you should only listen to hip hop and make what sounds like hip hop. Same goes for rnb, reggae, dancehall, grime, afrobeats etc. You guys will make stale, incestuous music. Understand this.

If it isn't money, drugs, being the realest on road or getting drunk, most rappers can't tell you what their music is about. Especially a lot of the UK ones. I don't relate to any of the above so their music sucks to me. I mean, don't you lot have girls? And embrace some of your stereotypes.

And understand there's a big difference between pop and cheesy pop. Credible popular music's lifespan is a whole lot longer shelf life than fast food, cheesy pop that charts high one week, then drops heavily the following. Too many credible artists make cheesy music to get pop. And anyway, in time, people don't care about what went to number 1. Oasis "Wonderwall" didn't. Nor did Robbie Williams "Angels". Think anyone cares?

Sometimes fans say "look how much it sold 1st week" I think "look at how much it didn't sell" and "Why do you even care? Does it legitimise your like for the artist or something?" Adele sold ten million. It's rare and I don't expect many to reach that height, but you have to think there's a potential of 10 million people still willing to spend money on music.

These days I'd rather listen to P!nk and Bruno Mars thank r&b these days. Give me some roots reggae over hip hop. There's too much going on in the world to be talking such nonsense on records.

Great, timeless music is based on feelings. Remember the days we'd say "I feel that"? Yeah, that.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Big up Stylo G! UK bashment enters UK national top 20

A non-Jamaican has entered the UK national charts by making dancehall for the first time since Glamma Kid "Bills 2 Pay" in 2000. The dubstep-infected dancehall jam "Soundbwoy" entered at 18.

A top 20 for this type of song is a great achievement in this current climate where there are a lot of great pop songs. Especially in absence of most things generic in what's coming from the London "urb*n" scene at the moment; 4x4 dance, no feature, no big pop chorus, no talking about money, clever punchlines, rapping about rapping, references to money or girls... It doesn't even a feature a remix with at least 4 London artists with greater buzz (YouTube views)... None of the above. And dubstep's not even in anymore.

Also, it isn't a song women will request at a club to sing and dance to, it's one for the head nodding, man dem to rate. He made it after the Red Bull sound clash for sound systems to play because he didn't have a song like that when Major Lazer introduced him as a special guest. We know girls music dictates the charts.

Just seen this tweet from the producer:

It's also impressive when you compare it to the amount of artists with a much bigger "buzz" from the UK rap scene that dropped flop glorified freestyles about rapping dressed as singles last year. I don't need to name names, but they all rapped on beat produced by the same guy. It's a shame when you consider the dude is actually a decent beat-maker. Not to mention a song earlier this year which reached #18 despite boasting a #1 artist feature, over 100k followers on Twitter and surpassed 2 million views on YouTube. You know, the stuff that sells records now. Well, that's what the industry believes...

This has been a long time coming as regular readers of this blog and Twitter followers will know. My reason for the 2011 and 2012 "How Jamaican music influenced UK music this year" round-ups were to show it can and will happen. All it needed was time/attention and money and we're in there. Hopefully more labels wise up to the fact that dancehall and reggae music deserves to be on BBC Radio1 A-list like Stylo G. With all due respects to Stylo G and "Soundbwoy", there have been much bigger songs from Jamaican dancehall which have been completely ignored because "this isn't what the kids are into. They're into grime and hip hop."

It's about time people in the industry look beyond which "urb*n" genres are in and see songs for what they are; good and bad, commercially viable or not. This is a victory for every artist that sticks to their guns and doesn't follow a scene because it's what in. That's exactly what Stylo did. UK dancehall hasn't been in, but he has made it work for him through determination and a serious set of undeniable club bangers, namely "Call Mi A Yardie", "Swagger Dem" and "Boasy".

This week we here at Marvin Sparks are putting our support behind Fuse ODG, a UK afrobeats artist and fellow Radio 1 A-lister with the infectious "Antenna". We champion diversity of "urb*n"/black music genres. It's more than r&b and hip hop. There isn't any American in our blood line, we are Caribbean and African. Give us our support and appreciation.

And (UK dancehall artist that doesn't get credited for it) Sneakbo drops on 7th July with his moombahton song "Ring A Ling" which samples Shabba Ranks' famous "Ting A Ling".

I repeat: artists who are currently following the trend, feel free to breakout of it.
Best of luck to Stylo G and the rest of the team for the future. Good foundation set. Big up the fathers before such as Glamma Kid, General Levy, Tippa Irie and Smiley Culture.

Oh and lastly, catch Fuse ODG on the Stylo G headlined 4th stage at the Yahoo! Wireless Festival taking place at the Olympic Park in July. More info here.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Beyonce performs "Standing on the Sun". Features Mr. Vegas

Beyonce debuted new song "Standing on the Sun" in full for the first time last night. The song which soundtracks her H&M advert is a dancehall-influenced song boasting a feature from none other than Mr. Vegas.

Mr. Vegas is probably the least celebrated legend in Jamaica. Omnipresent with big hits every summer, constantly touring yet never really gets his dues in his land. Never/rarely at Sumfest or any other notable show in Jamaica. Here's to hoping he gets booked in the future.