Single Reviews – 18 November
Philip Lickley’s weekly look at the hottest new singles. Check out what’s worth downloading and what’s worth ignoring this week…
Alicia Keys – ’Girl On Fire’
Buy: Girl On Fire
Alicia Keys returns with the lead single off her matchingly-titled fifth album. With some heavy drum beats and vocal jiggery-pokery, it’s an enjoyable song to kick back and listen to but it’s simple, repetitive chorus doesn’t particularly grab you and at times it feels like the lyrics don’t quite fit with the music. Keys still has the voice though, and pulls off the well-produced track – but the drum-style has been done lots of times recently so it’s not as unique as you’d hope, plus ‘Girl On Fire’ suffers from a very abrupt ending. A satisfying comeback for Keys but the fire metaphor is stretched too far.
Bruno Mars – ’Locked Out Of Heaven’
Buy: Locked Out Of Heaven
Sounding like the Police have come back to record some new material, this is one of Mars’ strongest singles yet with some great production values and build ups. The lyrics might be at times pretty cheesy for the style of song (“your sex takes me to paradise?”) but the chorus redeems it, sitting alongside the studio-engineered vocal tricks. An interestingly written song with some refreshingly retro production and hooks, this is a fantastic comeback for Mars.
Chris Brown – ’Don’t Judge Me’
Buy: Don’t Judge Me
If there ever was a title that could lead to jokes and / or wry observations, it would be this. No matter what the lyrics may be referring to, ‘Don’t Judge Me’ is actually a pretty bland song. With a chorus that is sung so slightly it might as well not be there at all and with some stripped back, but ultimately too subtle, production, it just doesn’t really justify its existence as a single, and though the basic chorus does grow as the song reaches its conclusion, it’s just lacking any hooks or anything that makes this ballad stand out from the crowd.
Frankie Cocozza – ’She’s Got A Motorcycle’
Building from his notoriety on his X-Factor appearance, Cocozza’s first single is an unusual beast. The lyrics sound like they were written by a five-year-old but the word ‘tricycle’ replaced with ‘motorcycle’, with lots of forced cheesy rhyming that would make Shania Twain blush, some Carry On innuendo, and a metaphor stretched well beyond breaking point. That said the song, delivered in a spoken cockney-heavy drawl that sounds like someone doing a parody of a male Lily Allen, is actually a little bit catchy. So bad it’s actually a little bit good with the chorus a little bit of an ear-worm. Honest.
Gabrielle Aplin – ’The Power of Love’
Buy: The Power of Love
A cover of the Frankie Goes To Hollywood roughly-Christmas classic used in this year’s John Lewis festive advert is one of the best covers to be released in a while. Stripping the song back to a simple piano backing, the light and airy vocals of Aplin really suit the song and sounds like Ellie Goulding’s interpretation of Elton John’s ‘Your Song’. The production perhaps doesn’t match the emotive heights of the original in its lyrical intonation but the faster-pace and more haunting style is a great interpretation of the familiar song.
Girls Aloud – ’Something New’
Buy: Something New
This year’s Children In Need single and the lead release from their ten year retrospective, ‘Something New’ is a successful comeback for the girl group. Mixing up the shouty verses with a more traditionally sung chorus and a pounding, driving beat, it ticks all the boxes of a radio-friendly pop track, even if it does sound like they have substituted actual singing for shouting down the microphone. It does feel at times like they’re throwing too many different ideas at the track – it’s the rap bit! It’s the shouty bit! It’s the singable repetitive hook! – and trying to get them to stick but overall it works well as a balls-to-the-wall track full of attitude with several hooks and a theme that picks up where Beyonce left it with ‘We Run The World’ and actually make a decent listenable song around the idea.
Jakwob feat. Rocky Nti – ’Blinding’
Jakwob’s fourth single is built over a throbbing backing and some smooth production choices with some nicely written lyrics built into a calming package. It’s three-minute running time practically washes over you without making much of an impact but it’s an OK piece of music to put on in the background.
Olly Murs feat. Flo Rida – ’Troublemaker’
Olly Murs has always had an ear for a catchy tune and this lead single from his upcoming third album is no exception. Though starting with a typical opening from guest artist Flo Rida, the verses and choruses of this song take a traditional pop tune and ramp it up, thanks to the great use of cowbell and strings and a three-part chorus that builds up to a really catchy tune. Bringing a bit of sun to a cold November and throwing in a short, by-numbers rap from Flo Rida that at least does add something else to the mix, this is one of the strongest singles of the week and is immediately singable. I also love how many rap clichés they can squeeze into Flo Rida’s appearance in the video.
Rudimental feat. John Newman & Alex Clare – ’Not Giving In’
Buy: Not Giving In (feat. John Newman & Alex Clare)
The second single from their debut album ‘Not Giving In’ has an Alt-J feel to proceedings. With a slow drum-led style that leads to a faster chorus, it’s a noticeable juxtaposition that gives you two tracks for the price of one. Memorable, and with some intriguing elements working together, it’s an enjoyable track if a little middle of the road.
The Script – ’Six Degrees of Separation’
Buy: Six Degrees Of Separation
The second single from their latest album has echoes of their sound from ‘The Man Who Can’t Be Moved’ and ‘For The First Time’. With a fun twist on the title, referring to the steps of breaking up, it’s not as strong a single as ‘Hall of Fame’ but the lyrics work together and create a strong chorus that really grabs you after the second run through. If you’ve enjoyed their previous hits then you’ll love this, but it’s not a huge departure for them in sound, but that’s not always a bad thing.
Taylor Swift – ’I Knew You Were Trouble’
Buy: I Knew You Were Trouble.
A pop single with a few twinges of country music, it doesn’t have the immediate poppy appeal of ‘We’re Never Ever Getting Back Together’ and the much talked about dubstep elements of it are very mild, but mix up the song. It’s not her strongest single but it’s a grower and its peppiness will win you over and the chorus will soon stick in your head. More Busted than dubstep, it’s dub for the kids.
The Vaccines – ’I Always Knew’
Buy: I Always Knew
Sounding like The Killers meeting the Kings of Leon at a cowboy convention with a very familiar sound that I can’t put my finger on, this is a strong follow up and an enjoyable slice of indie rock even if it doesn’t have the stand out distinctive riff of previous singles. The country twang really suits it and helps it to start to forge its own identity.
Two Door Cinema Club – ’Sun’
The second single from ‘Beacon’ boasts a playful bass line, it’s a pleasant track to listen to even if it doesn’t really have a major stand out section. Another fun indie song from the group and a nice enough way to wile away three minutes, just nothing special.