Mike Atkinson

Stylus Singles Jukebox, 25th July 2006

Posted in singles reviews, Stylus by Mike A on July 25, 2006

Nadiya – Roc 

As a one-off appropriation of rock stylings by a predominantly R&B-based act, “Roc” invites comparison with En Vogue’s similarly yowling, strident – and ultimately irritating – “Free Your Mind”.  Once again, all traces of anything approaching funkiness, or “groove”, have been taken right out of the equation.  What remains is a shrill, top-heavy rattle, punctuated by ugly power-chord guitar stabs and a tinny, brassy keyboard refrain which – like the whole performance – falls well short of its triumphalist, anthemic aspirations.  Not that any of this stopped the song from reaching #2 in the French singles charts, but what can you do? (3)

Beatriz Luengo – Hit-Lerele 

After squandering the initial promise of its sweetly strummed acoustic sample, this insipid, plodding piece of instantly forgettable Hispanic R&B is partially redeemed by Yotuel Romero’s guest rap, whose animated reggaeton/dancefloor inflections provide a welcome counterpoint to Luengo’s ineffectual simperings. Nevertheless, it’s still much too little, much too late. (2)

Ne-Yo – Sexy Love 

Doing markedly better in the UK than in the States, this—how can we put this delicately?—“affectionate tribute” to Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature” is underpinned by a clappity-clappity Diwali-esque rhythm track, which duly evokes fond memories of Wayne Wonder, Lumidee, and the summer of 2003. Ne-Yo softens the song’s underlying sexual thrust with a gently yearning romanticism, the backing singers go “ooh-ooh” in all the right places, and the combined effect is one of teasingly understated seduction. Which, of course, makes it as sexy as hell.  (7)

George Michael – An Easier Affair

Nope: this one isn’t going to arrest the long slow artistic/commercial decline, either.  Over the same tired old suburban-wine-bar soul/funk backing that he has been peddling ever since “Fast Love”, George recycles the same tired old post-coming-out “revelations” that have graced all of his interviews since being busted for cottaging a full eight years ago.  Whereas 1998’s “Outside” handled much the same issues with wit, aplomb, and a boldness which was genuinely ground-breaking for its time, “An Easier Affair” has nothing to say that we haven’t heard before, and says it with the sort of narrow, self-absorbed literalism that even Madonna at her most solipsistic manages to swerve clear of.  Hell, some of this half-digested self-help piffle (“Don’t let them tell you who you are is not enough”) would make even Geri Halliwell cringe. (4)

Ze Pequeno – Ze Phenomene

French language reggaeton, somewhat inevitably rendered in a Manu Chao-esque style, avec accordion (naturellement).  Presumably huge on the back-packer beach bar scene; markedly less essential anywhere else. (5)

The Similou – All This Love 

The freshest, peppiest, friskiest, zingiest re-casting of funky 1980s electro-pop since Chromeo’s “Needy Girl” – but directed this time at a teenage rather than an art-school audience.  Like so much of this year’s best pop, it’s from Sweden, where they know how to put these things together to maximum effect.  The elastic bassline boings along like the Human League’s “(Keep Feeling) Fascination”, while a dinky little “Popcorn” synth riff skips over the top, and a syn-drum occasionally makes its presence felt.   The vibe is light, summery, and clad in shades of pastel, with a thin cotton jersey slung around its neck.  The vibe has blonde highlights in its hair, trousers rolled up to the ankles, and espadrilles on its feet.  The vibe is sipping a pina colada through a bendy straw.  Fun and sunshine – there’s enough for everyone.  All that’s missing is the sea.  (7)

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