Posts Tagged ‘unique’

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Sugababes – Sweet 7. (album review)

February 7, 2010

Sweet 7 marks the 7th album from the Sugababes, and the first album from the newest incarnation of the group, consisting now of Heidi Range, Amelle Berrabah and Jade Ewen.  Furore of no original members remaining aside, Sweet 7 evidences a complete glossy polishing of the group’s sound that started upon Mutya’s departure after Taller In More Ways, one of the group’s best albums.  Sweet 7 is full of pounding clubby pop uptempos, with a couple of ballads at the end to slow down the pace.  For the most part (the piece-of-trash “Thank You For The Heartbreak” aside), these are well-written, catchy pop songs with a couple of pleasant surprises along the way.  “Wear My Kiss” and “About A Girl” are smashes-in-waiting that don’t deserve to fare badly on the charts just because of bad feeling towards the group’s revolving-door lineup.  “No More You” sounds like a Stargate production in the vein of Beyoncé’s smash “Irreplaceable”, and standout “She’s A Mess” has some hilarious lyrics (“drinking bottle after bottle after bottle…” / “Everybody go mad, everybody go psycho!”) and multiple hooks, plus an irresistible instrumental coda that keeps you dancing and pressing repeat.  This track sounds as if it could be addressed to Ke$ha, dissing trashtastic, classless girls everywhere (perhaps Amelle has reformed her drunken antics and girl-bashing self?) who just live to party and get drunk.

The ballads that close the album feel a bit tacked-on, and could have been better incorporated into the sequence of the album as a whole, but “Crash & Burn” and particularly “Little Miss Perfect” are well-sung efforts that offer a nice change of pace from the mostly relentless 4/4 beats of the disc.  Sunny acoustic-led track “Sweet & Amazing” offers a lyrical insight on optimism and getting what you want out of life; the message is nice and appreciated, but the lyrics themselves come across as trite and banal.  Still, the overall vibe of the song is endearing. Perhaps “Sweet & Amazing” and “Little Miss Perfect” are also answers to those who have criticised the group for ousting last founding member Keisha Buchanan, stating in not so many words that the group had to do what it had to do to survive and to maintain a healthy inter-member relationship.  Who knows – but these songs at least give a little bit of meat for fans and listeners to bite into.

However, Keisha’s absence is gaping for two major reasons.  One: anyone who has heard the original Sweet 7 sampler with Keisha’s vocals knows just how much better “Get Sexy” and “Miss Everything” sounded before.  This is largely a production error: the intro on “Get Sexy” no longer grabs the listener with any vocals; Jade Ewen’s voice on “Miss Everything” is unnecessarily auto-tuned within an inch of its life, and the modulations on her voice are at least double that of Heidi’s and Amelle’s, which seems illogical considering that Jade Ewen is far and away the best vocalist in the new incarnation of the group.  Indeed, the new rendition of “Wait For You” places Jade front and centre, and her vocals particularly in the second verse are nothing short of thrilling. Technically, she might be the best vocalist the Sugababes have ever had, and it is almost a shame that she sacrificed her solo career to be part of the group; especially when the re-produced songs make little effort to blend her vocals with Heidi and Amelle’s.  Through no fault of Jade’s own, at times her vocals stick out like a sore thumb, not just because she outclasses her fellow members at nearly every turn, but because the vocal mixing appears to have been carried out by an orang-utan.  This seems to be a running theme with the Sugababes, as Amelle’s vocals on tracks such as “Red Dress” sounded nothing short of harsh, but with newer songs came a more subtle, blended approach to the production.  Hopefully future albums will exhibit the same approach.

Two: as hinted at in the introduction to this review, the Sugababes’ new music is extremely polished, but it has lost nearly all semblance of any originality the group had.  Songs such as “Overload”, “New Year”, “Round Round” and “Situations Heavy” sounded unique to the group, as if they could be sung by nobody else.  The shout-out of “RedOne!” at the start of “About A Girl” might as well be changed to “We’ve used Lady GaGa’s producer, please love our single too!”; “Thank You For The Heartbreak” could be sung just as easily (and probably better) by the Sugababes’ biggest rivals Girls Aloud; “Miss Everything”, while a ridiculously catchy song, features Sean Kingston in an unnecessary attempt to pander to the American market.  “Crash & Burn” sounds like something Chris Brown could sing and in fact did sing on his mediocre Graffiti track “Crawl”.  Only towards the end of the album on quirky tracks such as “Give It To Me Now” does a shade of the Sugababes’ original spunky personality creep in. I’m a believer that when the group lost Mutya Buena, they lost what made the Sugababes that irresistible combination of street, edge and class.  Even looking at the album and single covers from Sweet 7 (not to mention the horrendous video for “About A Girl”), the Sugababes are posing in skimpy outfits and pouting like their lives depend on it.  In the old days, their individuality stood out; perhaps in a loss of confidence, the group now looks and sounds desperate to fit in, which is a shame as they used to lead the pack, and with a strong set of well-written tracks on Sweet 7, they don’t need to resort to such pedestrian tactics.  In trying to be edgy and stand out, the Sugababes have lost their sense of individuality and ironically end up blending in with your average girl group or classless female singer.

So, what to make of Sweet 7?  It’s balanced heavily towards the uptempo, but most of its songs do succeed and the album is a fun listen with a few standout cuts.  Jade Ewen is a thrilling addition to the group, and were the vocal production a little better, her voice would elevate the material to stellar status.  The ballads are serviceable for the most part, and in my opinion there is only one unlistenable song on the disc (putting the album ahead of Change and Catfights And Spotlights).  However, it’s a shame that the Sugababes have lost that spark and class that set them apart from the rest of the pack.  In trying to compete with the rest of the shallow, faceless current pop music scene – regardless of who now comprises the group – the Sugababes have automatically lowered themselves to the level of their peers, and that is sad because they could have made a great album instead of a solid but unexceptional one.

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tattoo your name across my heart.

November 27, 2009

UPDATE: the finished article! : destiny fulfilled.

This is what Phill & Mike think I should do, because they are jokers.  Seriously speaking though, I am considering getting a tattoo.  It’s something I have always wanted to do, but it’s also something I have been somewhat reluctant to do because in the past, I’ve had ideas for designs and then changed my mind for a variety of reasons – I think that it is something that you really have to think through carefully.  Is it going to hold its meaning through the years? Is it in a place where you can hide it when necessary (e.g. job interview, angry grandparent)?  Is it personal and unique, or something that every Tom Dick and Chavvy has? Will the colours fade and the tattoo look tacky in time? These are all primary considerations for me – the pain doesn’t bother me at all (I have a high pain threshold, and I have had multiple injections in the roof of my mouth – WITH A NEEDLE before you get any ideas! 😛 – so I am not really afraid of needles nor pain. I can stand it).

So with that all said, I’ll unveil what I’m thinking off.  At the top of my right collarbone / shoulder, about an inch high (maybe less, but about that – so fairly discreet), I want an A. Because that is the first letter of my name.  Simple, personal (I am unlikely to change my name) and effective!  But not just an ordinary A! I toy about with various ways of writing my name during moments of boredom, and a few years ago I found a way of writing the ‘A’ that I like:

Ok, so you need to imagine this with the lines being straight as opposed to wiggly and uneven, and it would just be the solid black in the middle without the feathered edges, but you get the idea.  I think it looks edgy without trying too hard, and it is personal and unique without being outlandish or silly.  Simple, but effective – in other words.  On top my shoulder, its somewhere I can keep it hidden from people (and easily show-offable), but it’s not in your typical lower back / upper back / bicep region which could be passé / common.  I am quite excited – although it’s still only a plan I have and I haven’t made any kind of appointment, I know exactly where I would go to get it done, who to speak to (friends have recommended me), and Mike says that he’s up for going with me.  So it may well happen! Plus, since it’s just in black and not too big, it shouldn’t be too expensive.  I like this plan.

I just hope that a) when my mother / grandmother eventually sees it (which I know ultimately will happen), they won’t freak out too much; b) they will respect my right to choose to do what I want with my body.  I won’t feel guilty about getting it done, but I will feel sad about hurting their feelings, so I just hope that they will be mature enough to not let their feelings get hurt 😛 c) I don’t think it can be confused with anything stupid that I have somehow overlooked.  So it’s all systems go!  What do you think?

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apples and oranges.

September 20, 2009

For close to 4 years now, I’ve been an Apple convert.  The time has passed by quickly, and I don’t regret making the switch one bit.  My first Apple product was technically my 40GB iPod photo which now looks like a giant brick! I can’t believe I used to carry that around with me! But then, I can’t believe I used to carry my walkman and 5 or 6 cassette tapes to school each day, nor that I used to have a little bag with my discman and a few CDs in it that I used to wear around me.  Something I forgot until my iPod had to be sent away for repair during my second year of university was that CDs JUMP.  How we’ve come to expect perfection!  Or I have, anyway – I have no patience for songs skipping, I have little patience for my iPod taking a while to get its head round a song I want it to play.

However, I never considered getting an iPod as becoming an Apple convert.  Once I saw how easily my iPod worked and how straightforward the menus were, I became interested in getting an Apple laptop, especially as my current laptop was slower than a dinosaur.  During my first year of university, I had lots of problems with anti-virus software and protecting my computer.  It became ridiculously slow, and in addition to that, the laptop I had had a poor attempt at imitating Microsoft Office.  In the end, I had enough, and just before Christmas 2005 I ordered my first Apple laptop, an iBook G4.  It took me a month to get used to the fact that there was no right-click button, that the tabs and x’s and everything were in different places.  Also to get used to the fact that as a Mac, my computer was practically already virus-immune without constant annoying updates from AVG and Spybot and Norton Anti-Virus.  The resolution and picture quality was far superior than what I had been used to, and although there were several software compatibility issues, they were a lot easier to overcome than I had feared.  The aforementioned Microsoft Office was no longer needed, as I didn’t require any spreadsheets, and I could open and create word documents in TextEdit.  So it was all good!

Of course, it’s not all been problem-free.  I’m now on my third iPod (which is just over a year old), a 120GB silver iPod classic.  I’ve had it just over a year, and apart from the fact that the click wheel only clicks in the headphones, it is behaving quite well. For a while it was working extremely slowly, but the iPod software update on Snow Leopard fixed it and it’s back to normal.  I have had a lot of iPod issues in the past, having to send back my iPod time and again and getting replacement ones.  Particularly in the case of my first iPod (the photo one), I got into a rhythm of hitting it and knocking it in order to get it to behave and function, which in retrospect was quite ridiculous.  My second iPod, a 5th-generation iPod classic with video, still works, though it went through a period of deleting itself of all my music which was why I got a new one.  Because I have such a huge amount of music (though 120GB is more than enough space, and I haven’t come close to filling this iPod yet, with 35GB still free!), having to reload it onto my iPod is a MASSIVE pain, and now I use a handy program called iLinkPod to back up my iPod every month or so.  It’s a great security blanket, and ensures that I never lose my songs (something which is a much more real concern with digital music – it’s far easier to lose a file than to lose a CD), nor my formatting – I am a little bit anal about how I categorise my songs and make sure that everything has the correct artwork.  So with my new iPod, I bought AppleCare to keep it under guarantee for a lot longer, and I feel a lot more secure now.  And everything is working fine!

The introduction of an Apple Store to Bristol has also been a great advantage.  Up until the opening of Cabot Circus last September, there was an Apple retailer in Temple Meads which was more or less hopeless when it came to fixing any issues that I had.  Problems with my first laptop and its CD drive went unrepaired because they were so pathetic in their service that I just preferred to persist with the problem than get it fixed by them. (When my CD or DVD would skip upon putting it in the drive, I would just beat the base of the computer and it would work.  Again, I am glad to say those days are long gone!)  When my hard drive finally corrupted (I think to be fair, that was my fault because in Spain, I would leave my computer on my bed and it would overheat lying on the thick blanket that I had bought), it was easier just to buy another laptop than get it fixed by them and face their judgement.  Also, their costs would probably have been close to the cost of another laptop anyways.  I bought my second laptop in Easter 2007, and I still have it today!  The one time that I had a problem with it, last Christmas when it would only work with the power adapter plugged in, I took it to the Apple Store in Cabot Circus, who repaired it and although they had said that providing a new logic board would cost £400 (a price I decided I was prepared to pay), they fixed it for no charge.  It was a lovely Christmas Eve present, and to this day I’m not sure if that was a mistake… I just got out of the store clutching my laptop before they could change their mind!

Updating my operating system to Leopard and recently Snow Leopard has kept my laptop current, and although it is 2 and a half years old now, I don’t feel that it’s been left behind or is lacking anything. I have got a Microsoft Office replacement now called NeoOffice, so that I can plot my anti-snacking spreadsheet and make a beautiful printable CV.  Using the real Microsoft at work has made me appreciate Apple all the more.  My Dell laptop starts up and shuts down so slowly; it installs updates at a snail’s pace; Microsoft Office is actually not that user friendly, with certain apparently-advanced functions being a rigmarole to discover.  And don’t rely on the help section – it only helps you with incredibly obvious things, and anything more technical is a struggle to even find according to their index system.  I conclude that their help sections must have been written by morons, and this week at work, I have solved my queries by using Google, seeing that the Microsoft help section had failed me so.  In short, I can’t see myself going back to Microsoft.

However, there is one area of my life where I’m not willing to let Apple in.  The iPhone, while I appreciate is a marvellous piece of kit and has so many useful (and useless! 😉 ) apps as well as a slim touchscreen, iPod capabilities and Safari web browser, is just far too common.  I see it everywhere. In addition, it’s expensive and I’m not really into buying phones on contract (I get easily confused), so I prefer to buy them SIM-free and then just keep my standard O2 Simplicity contract, which gives me unlimited web browsing, and enough free texts and minutes for £20 to keep me satisfied. I see iPhones everywhere, and while they are pretty and fantastic devices, I prefer to be a little bit different.  I have the LG Prada II, which is a beautiful sleek black touchscreen phone.  However, it also has a pull-out QWERTY keyboard (one of the main selling features for me) so after a little bit of teething, I can text pretty damn quick. I also have the internet and a camera and all the other important things I wanted in a smart phone.  But for me, it is more beautiful than an iPhone, it has the designer name which makes it a little more special to me, and I have never seen another one being used in public.  I am confident that the iPhone is probably a superior piece of kit, but not by much – I am happy without all the extra apps, as long as I have my QWERTY keyboard, free internet browsing, emails, beautiful phone and unique phone.  The LG Prada II has taken me a few months to get my head around (the instruction manual is not very clear, and it does randomly do crazy things such as restart when I receive more than one email), but I have grown to love it and appreciate its quirks as much as its beauty and functions.  As I’ve only had it for 5 months, I’m not really looking into what phone I might get next (iPhone or otherwise), as technology these days (particularly with smart phones) evolves so quickly that I won’t even think about it until my current phone starts getting tired and a new one will be necessary.  However, I know that Dior have got a beautiful phone on their website…