Now 84 was released on the week in which Easter falls, and suitably the cover has an Easter theme. They have done Easter themed covers before, usually featuring Easter eggs. Now 84’s cover has bunnies on it, but not as you might expect. They are some bizarre multicoloured rabbits that look like inflatable helium balloons of Pokemon/Digimon characters. It’s a different sort of album cover, I’ll give them that.
The spring Now! album of any year is usually the one with the most filler on, as there is always a bit of a new year lull of new releases in the first three months. So as usual we have the X Factor winner’s song (1), and songs which have re-entered the chart. Ben Howard’s ‘Only Love’ became a top ten hit after he won two BRIT Awards, Christina Perri can probably thank the Twilight franchise for stopping her from being a one hit wonder as ‘A Thousand Years’, a song used on the soundtrack of a couple of the Twilight films, gave her a long-running chart hit after it looked like she’d disappear after ‘Jar Of Hearts’. Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Everywhere’ has re-entered the chart after being used on an advert with a dancing pony (2). We also get a lot of acts with more than one song. One Direction, Pink, Wiley, Gabrielle Aplin and Disclosure all have two songs on this album.
In all those cases I found that I liked one song much more than the other. One Direction’s medley of Blondie’s ‘One Way Or Another’ and ‘Teenage Kicks’ by the Undertones, OK it’s an inferior karaoke cover of two classics, but you know what, I don’t hate their version. There is a sense of fun to it, and it’s for Comic Relief so it’s a good cause (3). The other One Direction song ‘Little Things’ on the other hand is sappy, dreary and not worth the time it takes to listen to it. I love ‘Try’ by Pink, but find ‘Just Give Me A Reason’ to be terribly bland. I didn’t like ‘Latch’ by Disclosure at all, but I do like ‘White Noise’. Wiley’s ‘Reload’ is kind of fun, but ‘Animal’, a Conor Maynard track he features on is, well, a Conor Maynard track. Gabrielle Aplin’s ‘Please Don’t Say You Love Me’ is quite nice, but if there’s one recent trend in the charts I loathe it’s drippy girl-and-a-piano cover versions for John Lewis adverts, and her rather feeble cover of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s ‘The Power Of Love’ very much is in that mould.
Another recent chart trend I hate are throwaway club-dance tracks. I’m not saying that electronic dance songs about drinking and clubbing are always a bad thing, on this album ‘Drinking From The Bottle’ by Calvin Harris feat. Tinie Tempah is decent enough, and I’d even go as far to say that ‘I Could Be The One’ by Avicii Vs. Nicky Romero is a great track. But some of them are just lazy and disposable. ‘Get Up (Rattle) ‘ by Bingo Players feat. Far East Movement is annoying and dull, and while it may have got to number one it fell down the charts like Daffy Duck after his parachute was erased and replaced by an anvil in Duck Amuck. While it can’t be denied it was a big hit, ‘Scream & Shout’ by will.i.am feat. Britney Spears is so lacking in energy for a dance song, particularly Britney Spears who sounds even less interested than usual. It’s like she’s bored painting her nails while ordering some new paperclips over the phone. In a fake British accent. The worst track on the album is ‘Bassline Junkie’ by Dizzee Rascal, which is an irritating headache of a song, and Dizzee Rascal is capable of better.
I wouldn’t go as far as to say the chart is getting “Darker and Edgier” but more minimalist electronic music is coming through, as are some indie hits, ‘Pompeii’ by Bastille is an example. They are beginning to have an effect on pop music, which is for the better as it makes it more interesting. Taylor Swift’s ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’ is probably her best song, and has some clear dubstep influences. Sia has co-wrote both ‘Diamonds’ by Rihanna and ‘Radioactive’ by Rita Ora. Nate Ruess of fun. not only features on Pink’s ‘Just Give Me A Reason’, but co-wrote ‘Die Young’ by Ke$ha.
I’m just going to come out and say I really quite like that song, and I also have a soft spot for Ke$ha’s whole drunken party girl car crash thing especially when she shows a more vulnerable side like on this song, ‘We R Who We R’ and ‘Your Love Is My Drug’. While I’m confessing my sort-of-guilty-pleasures, I’ve never got the appeal of Olly Murs. Just being a “cheeky chappie” isn’t enough for me, and let’s be honest his voice isn’t very good. But his collaboration with Flo Rida ‘Troublemaker’ is a great little pop song.
We have some of the usual trends like guitar pop such as McFly and Fall Out Boy, R&B such as Bruno Mars and Alicia Keys (4) and electro-pop girlbands such as The Saturdays (5) and the recently defunct Girls Aloud. ‘Ho Hey’ by folk rock band The Lumineers represents the trend of acoustic indie bands having slow burning songs which stay on the chart for years even if they only peak around #8 or so. A song like ‘Ho Hey’ is a bit like fresh air. It can be pleasant and refreshing in warmer seasons, but in colder seasons it doesn’t add that much (6).
As for my favourite track on the album, I’ll go with ‘Explosions’ by Ellie Goulding (7). It has a eerie feel to it, but it is also very lovely, and as well as being my favourite track on Now 84 it is currently my favourite song of 2013 so far.
1) This year’s X Factor winner’s song was ‘Impossible’, originally by R&B singer Shontelle, and the version by the series 9 winner James Arthur is far, far too over-earnest. Useless bit of trivia for you; had Cher Lloyd won series 7 of X Factor ‘Impossible’ would have been released as her winner’s song.
2) The CD booklet features a misprint. It says that ‘Everywhere’ by Fleetwood Mac was first released as a single in the UK in 1998. It was actually 1988.
3) I can’t really judge anyone who only knows those tracks as One Direction songs too harshly. I know about the originals, but when I hear any version of ‘One Way Or Another’ I always think of it as the theme tune to Sugar Rush, and I’m more familiar with Ash’s cover of ‘Teenage Kicks’ than I am with the original.
4) I thought ‘Girl On Fire’ by Alicia Keys was a bit “meh”, but a couple of women where I work have been singing along to it, so maybe I’m just not the target audience.
5) I’m even more surprised about Sean Paul collaborating with The Saturdays than I was about him collaborating with Simple Plan. Still, at least The Saturdays have finally got that number one single they’ve been trying for since what seems like forever. It’s quite a good song too, very summery and catchy.
6) While listening to this album to write this review I heard some birds tweeting outside while ‘Ho Hey’ was playing. ‘Ho Hey’ is certainly the sort of song that’s sounds suitable against birds tweeting.
7) ‘Black Chandelier’ by Biffy Clyro was a very close second though. I’m pleased it charted quite well.