I am currently listening to pop. This is a difficult thing to write. Pop is not considered to be a credible music genre by people who listen to lots of music. Pop is considered the home of the boy band. Pop is the cheap and nasty side of music. People, especially people of my age, should have grown out of pop, but I have not. I enjoy the throw-away nature of it. The three-minute perfect pop song can take you away from your day and, if this week’s other entries are to be believed, away from your fellow commuters.
Actually, I hope, the current music I am listening to is considered the good side of pop (see, I am joining in the criticism of the genre). Not for me the sounds of the Cheeky Girls or S Club Juniors. No, I hope my current selection is a little more discerning.
I own a reasonable amount of music but I don’t purchase CDs weekly like some people. But I am listening to three recent albums which must be the first time that has happened to me in a long while. My current favourite is Justin Timerlake’s Justified. That is followed closely by Erasure’s new release (just last Monday), Other People’s Songs. Finally, I been unable to resist Will Young’s From Now On. Yes, unable to resist!
Justin Timberlake – Justified (at AudioStreet)
Justin Timberlake’s debut album was, for me, a very big surprise and if you’re looking for something akin to N-Sync then you may be a bit disappointed. This is an R’n’B/Hip Hop album showcasing a grown-up Timberlake. Clearly, he’s worked with some serious talent on this album but enough of a personality shines through to suggest Timberlake may have a big future ahead of him. For me, the opening track, Senorita, is the best and it certainly makes you sit and take notice of this album. The vocals on this track are superb.
The singles, Like I Love You and Cry Me A River will be familiar to many who come to this album and they are a good reflections of the content but, by no means, are they the only strong songs. Rock Your Body will fuel the comparisons to Michael Jackson which may be hard for Justin to shake but, I think, it’s superb.
Another big surprise on this album is that Justin co-wrote so much of it. He’s turned out to be a talented song writer even if, as many say, there is a little too much focus on the break up of relationships (Britney, anyone?). A musical shock – but a great one.
Erasure – Other People’s Songs (at AudioStreet)
At last, a new album from Erasure. Having waited for so long for some new material I was a little concerned that this was a covers album and the whole lot would be too Abba-esque – but it’s not. Andy and Vince have returned to the pop/electro-synth sound of some of their earlier material – it’s the classic Erasure sound.
There’s an eclectic collection of tracks covered on the album: Peter Gabriel’s Solsbury Hill, Steve Harley’s Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me) and Buddy Holly’s True Love Ways to name but three. In many ways these versions are not revolutionary – there are no radical re-workings but they do have a distinctly Erasure sound and have been re-arranged to suit the faster Bell-Clarke disco beat.
Other People’s Song’s is definitely a welcome return to the music scene and will happily sit with the other Erasure albums. It may even introduce the duo to a new audience. One thing is for sure, the synthesizer is not dead in pop.
Will Young – From Now On (at AudioStreet)
Another surprise album. This debut from Will doesn’t have the boy band feel that was probably expected from a Pop Idol winner. In the main it’s quite a grown-up affair with jazzy lounge-singer feel, so perhaps it’s not surprising to see Burt Bacharach has a writing credit on one of the tracks. It’s well-produced with some strong vocals which do elevate this albumn out of the pure pop category. In fact the first singles (although instantly recognisable) seem a little out of place. It will be interesting to see how he matures as an artist, but if this album is anything to go by, Will Young is going to be a star for many years to come.
UPDATE: I just decided to post my reviews to Amazon. Usually, I only review books. I wonder if these will be posted?