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.
Bieber bolts in at number two with his excellent Boyfriend (reviewed last week), in a chart with a number of solid new entries, and one which maintains a recent streak of the songs that are coming being far better than those which are going. Rihanna and T-Pain (reviewed this week) debut at 19 and 25 respectively, while Stan Walker's very ordinary Music Won't Break Your Heart is at 32. The most interesting new entrant is Aucklander Jamie McDell's You'll Never Take That Away at 27. She's emblematic of how a new pop artist needs to rise - a prolific YouTube uploader (90,000 views of 26 videos) and with a specific MO (her, a guitar, and a beach, super candid) which is all her own.
The only thing is, that while I played this song my two-year-old daughter Robyn looked at me and solemnly pronounced 'it's Taylor Swift, daddy'. When kids in nappies can pick your influences that easily you probably need to work on your own identity some, and while I have genuinely very high hopes for both McDell and this bottom-up approach, she needs to veer away from the covers and the accent and become her own thing to achieve the potential her voice and songwriting clearly possess.
RIANZ TOP 10 NEW ZEALAND SINGLES CHART
1 Carly Rae Jepsen - 'Call Me Maybe'
2 Justin Bieber - 'Boyfriend'
3 Chris Rene - 'Young Homie'
4 Nicki Minaj - 'Starships'
5 Fun. ft. Janelle Monae - 'We Are Young'
6 Havana Brown - 'We Run the Night'
7 Taylor Swift - 'Eyes Open'
8 Emeli Sande - 'Next to Me'
9 Cher Lloyd - 'Want U Back'
10 K'Naan ft. Nelly Furtado - 'Is Anybody Out There'
SINGLE OF THE WEEK: ZOWIE - My Calculator
VOLUME rating: 8/11
Zoe Fleury's career seems to have consisted of several false starts, moments when it felt like everything was coalescing for her only for momentum to stall. It surely didn't help matters that she played a live set (under the name Bionic Pixie) at a Sound of the Overground live show a few years back - a nadir few artists have ever been able to crawl back from. Thankfully she has shown a real stoicism, and returns with a single that might be the closest any New Zealander has come to true pop royalty. Written by Swede (!) Henrik Jonback (!) whose other credits include Britney's Piece of Me (!!!), aka the greatest single of the '00s, My Calculator has a frantic pace which recalls Jonback's frequent collaborators Bloodshy & Avant, which is to say the production is superb. Fleury's vocals are great, constantly switching between sweet and hard, processed and chanting, and manic all the while like a good upbeat pop single should be. I don't think it's a smash hit, not in this climate, but it's a very exciting record that bodes extremely well for her debut.
RIHANNA - Where Have You Been?
VOLUME rating: 6/11
The second Calvin Harris-assisted single from Talk That Talk will inevitably suffer due to not being We Found Love. If your elder sibling was a Harvard grad and starting point guard for the New York Knicks, you'll always be in their shadow. So it is with 'Where Have You Been?', which is less lyrically desolate, but has a similar tone - Rihanna seems to have discovered this deep emotional well, and her biggest singles (Umbrella; Only Girl in the World; We Found Love) all used it. So the temptation is to go back there more often than perhaps is prudent. Because Where Have You Been? is about wanting to find a nice man to have dinner and sex with, which is an issue, sure, but not one that could conceivably destroy her world. The production is similarly a shadow of its predecessor, enough similarities to know they're related, but the differences which ensure one is a star and the other just nice to have around.
T-PAIN - Turn All the Lights On
VOLUME rating: 7/11
One thing which doesn't tend to be acknowledged about T-Pain is his sense of humour. The vocal effect he has constantly deployed is right at the cusp of self-parody to begin with, and ever since dubbing himself "Teddy Bend-Her-Ass" down on his debut hit I'm 'n Luv (Wit a Stripper) he's leavened the crudity of his lyrics with sly acknowledgements of their ridiculousness. My personal favourite was his line from the remix to R. Kelly's Number One, which featured Pain promising to put his "BMI/ All over your ASCAP/ Shaaaawty", twisting two key song publishers associations into some variety of X-rated action. Anyway, Turn On All the Lights doesn't reach those heights directly, but it's got his habit of seemingly arbitrary lyrical emphasis down pat - "booze" and "shoes" get it here. It's got a fine, though fairly inconsequential Ne-Yo cameo (that guy fell so far and fast, sadly) but Pain owns the song - rough, dumb but somehow thrilling.
AWA FT. CHE FU - Papatuanuku
VOLUME rating: 8/11
Ex-Nesian Mystik singer Awa delivers a third single from his upcoming debut solo LP, and it's a beautiful slice of throwback r'n'b. The production is pretty monumental, managing to walk that ultrafine line between having very "live" sounding instrumentation without feeling weedy and beholden to the past. Papatuanuku is much more akin to Lloyd's Sex Education, sonically, than that depressing live local soul scene, which is to say it's muscular and taut rather than weedy and smug. Lyrically it's characterised by elements of self-loathing which have been notably absent in our too feelgood r'n'b ("You know better/ Than to believe the words I say/ You know I'm a liar"). Really impressive.