Sound Of The Overground

Volume's Duncan Greive scours charts from the world, the 'net and NZ in the hope of finding the perfect pop song.

Sound of the Overground: A Somali, a Canadian, and a glimmer of hope

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Each week Duncan Greive performs some low grade analysis on the week’s New Zealand Singles Chart and reviews a few new release pop singles.

K'naan. Photo / Supplied
K'naan. Photo / Supplied

Regular readers will be aware that I don't have a high opinion of the state of chart pop music right now. It's mostly marching to the same beat, and the rest is just perky post-Idol garbage. Or it has been until now.

This week though, we see not just signs of the resistance, but an outright takeover. The brand new number one single is one I can happily endorse, K'naan's Is There Anybody Out There?, highlighted by a great hook from Nelly Furtado. Reminds me a little of Wyclef's Gone Til November or Sweetest Girl, in its strange combination of nominally 'conscious' lyrics with unabashedly commercial construction. I liked those singles, and I like this.

Shooting to number two is We Are Young by Fun featuring the immaculate Janelle Monae. This I did not foresee - a teenage 'world coming to an end' power-prom emo ballad that is clearly attracting a huge audience. Tellingly, neither song has a 4/4 beat. And while number three does, I can't stay mad at Nicki Minaj for any length of time. In fact, the top ten only features one full blown Guetta-descended atrocity, Flo Rida's Wild Ones at eight.

It's as if the world has woken up brutally hungover from taking bad pills and Red Bull for two years straight, and just wants to forget the whole mess. Truly, the coolest chart in years. Look at number five - Carly Rae Jepsen's Call Me Maybe, which I unjustly dismissed as 'fine' last week. Turns out it's a classic, bouncy synth-pop record.

It may be a false dawn - record companies will have a lot of trance-pop inventory backed up on production lines that needs to go somewhere. But people have been caught short when the market's swung before, and there's plenty of great emo/rap/synth-pop still being manufactured. They just need to sign those guys up and dump the excess stock into the ocean.

The only new entries are way deep, Havana Brown's We Run the Night, which is a trance-pop single and thus starts to sound like a requiem, despite my actually enjoying its berserker Cascada-esque production. Much weirder is what's new at 36 - a second Australian hip-hop single charting for the year (360's Boys Like You, if you're a masochist). Let's stop that gross trend right now, yes?

RIANZ Top 10 New Zealand singles chart

1 K'Naan ft. Nelly Furtado - Is Anybody Out There?
2 Fun ft. Janelle Monae - We Are Young
3 Nicki Minaj - Starships
4 Reece Mastin - Good Night
5 Carly Rae Jepsen - Call Me Maybe
6 Cher Lloyd - Want U Back
7 Ed Sheeran - Lego House
8 Flo Rida ft. Sia - Wild Ones
9 Train - Drive By
10 Emeli Sande - Next To Me

SINGLE OF THE WEEK: Santigold - Disparate Youth
Volume rating: 9/11
I panned the first single off this record earlier this year for playing away from her strengths, but this plays right to them. Production is basically Kelis' Trick Me as imagined by TV on the Radio, deep and groaning and emotional while still having the requisite pace and melodic fever. Santi sounds more reflective than usual here, but that dazzling stylistic range is evidenced throughout the song, which leavens the defeated tone with periodic chanted sections that show the fight in her. There's so much going on in here it'll play forever and still have more to give. Fantastic single.

Daniel Bedingfield - Rocks Off
Volume rating: 8/11
We really should claim Daniel Bedingfield a lot harder than we do. Like give him music awards and all that stuff. Because Gotta Get Thru This is a stone-classic 2-step pop single. And he's just released Rocks Off, a two minute long song with the some of the most exciting production I've heard on a pop single in a while. The percussion is manic, pounding, distorted and coupled to a nonsensical vocal refrain. The lyrics are dumb and repetitive, but the song absolutely requires such an approach - it's more MIA than Ricky Martin. A truly remarkable little nugget.

Lil Jon ft. LMFAO - Drink
Volume rating: 7/11
Lil Jon ft. LMFAO - Drink. Just reading it, you know you're in for some intense, intellectual shit eh. This is exactly what you imagine, a pounding, retarded synth production, with Lil Jon shouting the chorus. Which goes 'drink/drink/drink/drink/drink/drink/drink/drink/everybody'. Yep. It's that good.

Sean Paul - Hold On
Volume rating: 7/11
A few years ago Sean Paul released Dutty Rock, which should be ranked alongside the best pop albums of the '00s, with Blackout, Good Girl Gone Bad, Future Sex/Love Sounds and all the rest. He's never quite regained that peak, mostly because he never figured out whether to stay with the producers and approach which inspired that record (basically a compilation of Jamaican 7" singles) or go with the all-in-on-one song technique they play in the US. So the hits have been sporadic. This is from Tomahawk Technique (?!), and is wistful and sweet and extraordinarily vacant, but I still find his voice tremendously affecting, so it works.

To submit or suggest a track for review email singles@volumemagazine.co.nz or tweet @duncangreive.

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