Wednesday, June 29, 2005

And while we're on the subject of Russian pop...

I don't travel around the world much, but at least I have friends who do! And I am especially grateful when they come back with a, say, CD of top pop smashes from the lands they visited. So then - props to Kresimir for "Samie slivki radioefira 2", a compilation of Russian pop hits from last summer that I played to death, er, last summer. And - props to Nikola, who's recently given me Russian teen pop sensation Angina's eponymous '04 album.

In mainland Europe poptrance has died a slow death, and has seemingly been replaced by irritating Boogie Pimps/Royal Gigolos-aping crap. But fear not - because poptrance is alive and kicking in Russia! Angina's take is of the girly, giddy variety, full of fluffy Korgs and candy hooks. The only thing I'm missing is those huge oceanic breakdowns with snare-rolls and swelling arpeggiators that come with Trance Proper. (You might say that I'm being unfair 'coz Angina's tunes are too bubblegummy for such concerns, and you might say I'm plain lazy 'coz I'm not arsed enough to hunt down extended club mixes of her tunes, which probably do exist out there somewhere. But! I've been spoiled long time ago by Fragma's peerless "Toca" album (the only poptrance album you need to own, really) which managed to pack it all in - the tunes, the beats, the ballearic bliss, the raver build-ups, the endless melodrama - within radio-friendly edits.)

But it's just a minor grumble - Angina's best stuff is pretty and catchy enough on its own. Here are a few album tracks for your enjoyment, YSI-style:

Angina - Sinie glaza

Angina - Dlja tebja

(if anyone wants me to post more Russian pop on this blog, just leave a comment or two!)

I'm sorry! I've been awfully crap not updating in two weeks. I choose to blame exhaustion, a sense of laziness due to having no necessary work, a bit of annoyance that a lot of what I had been sampling had been crap (SHAME ON YOU, POLAND. Ten ballads in one radio top 10 = UNACCEPTABLE), and the fact that I was going to send out the Russian Top 10 for appraisal but I couldn't find two of the songs. Also, I've been watching far too much tennis and doing other writing for various other things, some of it distinctly non-musical.

I have been massively excited about the Alexis Strum album sampler though. Considering she just let Rachel Stevens have Nothing Good About This Goodbye, you'd assume that she's packing some good stuff away for herself, and she is.

The single Bad Haircut, now I've heard it in full at a decent quality is a gem, but I think I am even more enamoured of the second track - Heart And Mind. It sounds to me like a smarter version of Girls Aloud's I Say A Prayer For You, except with this squelching, funky farting synth bass all over the shop that just sounds amazing. Oh and there's a stately, gorgeous ballad on the sampler as well that is also wonderful.

Also, just because I couldn't get all the Russian Top 10, doesn't mean you don't get to hear the best of it. This was my favourite song off it, Gde-to Leto by the amusingly-named Friske Zhanna. Or is it Zhanna Friske? I can't remember, honestly. A fine piece of unchallenging Europop. Just this once, eh?

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

OK, instead of boring top 10 Norwegian songs nobody liked, here's some Norwegian album track action:

Anneli Drecker - Desire
If you caught my Stycast (see below) you'd have heard one song from Anneli's album "Frolic", and the single You Don't Have To Change is terrific, but so's this. The sometime Bel Canto singer basically goes a bit mental like an electrosleaze goddess, but it's still ethereal and lovely, so you get a bit of both worlds.

Lene Marlin - Eyes Closed
Since I sent out chart ballots, the first single from the Second Greatest Norwegian called Lene Ever's album has debuted quite high, but I'm rather more fond of this album track. It's got guitars in it, and is not rubbish, but it also has a lot more oomph than the average Lene Marlin song, as she's got a good ear for a hook, but she tends to hide it underneath dull, but worthy pretty songs.

The delayed Chart Challenge of Death! NORWAY

I was going to apologise for the tardiness, then I realised I owe you all nothing. Hah! Or something. Here we go again, to the country that people are saying is the new Sweden, in that lots of great pop music is coming from there. Bertine Zetlitz, Annie, Anneli Drecker - hmm, something to that. But you'd be hard pressed to guess from their top 10:

1. JORUN STIANSEN - This Is The Night
EO: 5, AG: 7, SN: 4, SS: 3, IM: 1, GD: 6, JP: 7. ADJUSTED SCORE: 5

EO: Jorun was a Norwegian Idol contestant, and to get to where she is, one of the songs she sang was "Scared" by Venke Knutson, the 22nd Best Pop Single of 2004. I love Venke Knutson. When is her new single coming out? It'll be better than this.
JP: Any friend of Venke's is a friend of mine! Sadly this sounds more like a typical Idol debut single (particularly Michelle McManus - ew!) combined with LeAnn Rimes, but she could be one to watch with future material.
SS: What is it with Pop Idol winning songs having to feature the word "night"? The most typical ballad bullshit in Pop
Idol history!
GD: Like most of those songs, it ticks many of the right boxes - nice tune, lovely voice, pretty singalong chorus;
but also, like most, it just seems to lack a little soul, and because of that, I struggle to find much to say about it.
AG: Have you noticed all Idol songs are about the magic of the moment, the spirit of the journey, seizing the moment, and in the video clip you can imagine the singer on a stage, spinning, as they start before an empty stage, and then a crowd fills in at some point? Nothing wrong with that, carpe diem and all that, and this is cool enough for brownie points, I'd just like someone to have a song along the lines of "I'd seize the day, but I really can't be bothered, I'd rather sit and watch TV tonight"
SN: I don't know why I continue to get so excited about the Idol franchise and all of its offspring when all I get in return is drudgery like this. Go and listen to some Kelly Clarkson, then we'll talk.
SS: Oh and what is it about the Norwegian Idols all being damn ugly? Is that like a must thing you need in order to win? Did Kurt Nilsson start a new trend of sympathy votes? Even Kjartan was better.
IM: It’s strangely comforting to know that foreign charts, just like our Canadian one, often has the best songs lower on the charts and a piece of crap at #1. Like this generically sweeping, “emotional” ballad in English, that I’m willing to bet plenty of Norwegian teenagers hate just as much as I do.

2. SCHNAPPI - Schnappi
EO: 5, AG: 5, SN: 9, SS: 10, IM: 9, GD: 9, JP: 1. ADJUSTED SCORE: 7

SS: This is how novelty should be done. I'll start with the history of Schnappi, aka Joy Gruttmann who wrote it all herself 4 years ago when she was an ickle 4 years old, her aunt Iris put on some children's compilation , last summer a couple of German radio DJs played it as some kind of a joke, the demand got high and the rest is history!
IM: I don’t think I can grade it on the same scale as the rest of these songs. I mean, it’s a little girl singing (adorably) about a crocodile! The backing sounds like it cost $3.99, which is perfect, and the song is short enough. I really don’t know. Somebody fetch me a ten-sided die!
GD: To mark it according to its musical qualities would mean being guilty of taking it more seriously than it takes itself.
EO: What was funny when it was a little girl and her silly novelty song in Germany six months ago is decidedly not funny anymore. It's still kind of adorable though.
SN: I'm finding it cute and delightful at the moment, but expect me to be calling for Schnappi the crocodile's skinning and conversion into a charming handbag/purse ensemble in a matter of months.
GD: I'm very much of the opinion that novelty records are a good thing, for two main reasons: Firstly, they annoy the fuck out of music snobs: oh how we all laughed when the Crazy Frog kept Coldplay, the world's most earnest band, off number one in the UK. And witness dull Ultravox fans still moaning about Joe Dolce's Shaddup You Face keeping "Vienna" off number one, even though that was OVER 20 YEARS AGO. Secondly, as a chart obsessive, novelty records keep the charts in the news. With singles charts under threat from falling sales, anything that keeps that charts in the news and gets people buying singles has got to be a good thing. So I heartily approve of this record. And in fact, it's actually quite a classic of the genre: you'd have to be a real miserable old fart not to find little Joy Gruttman sweet, although I could imagine it gets horribly irritating after a few listens.
JP: This song is sweeping Europe and I recently heard it on a UK radio show, which was extremely frightening I must say. Luckily it doesn't seem to have caught on quite yet, but I will be planning my holiday to avoid it and hopefully wherever I go will already be over this bizarre craze. Even better would be if it does a DJ Bobo and completely passes the UK by. I shall be praying to the Gods of pop (the Backstreet Boys will do, since they have got quite beardy of late) every night from now on.

3. SANDRA - I Morgen
EO: 4, AG: 6, SN: 2, SS: 8, IM: 8, GD: 2, JP: 3. ADJUSTED SCORE: 5

JP: Well I never thought I'd be hearing "Tomorrow" in Norwegian in the style of J-Lo - that is just one of the many perks of being a Euro-pop fan!
GD: I must admit I find it hard to listen to this without thinking of the scene from Serial Mom where the annoying old lady gets bludgeoned to death with a leg of lamb by Kathleen Turner to a soundtrack of "Tomorrow".
SS: Anyway Sandra Lynh Haugen has the best Norwigian Idol song since Kurt Nilsen's 'My Street'. What an achivement! Would have been a 9 if she'd lost the rappers.
SN: I was the rehearsal pianist for my high school's production of Annie. Even the girl we put in a red clown wig did a more convincing job of this song than Sandra, and she did it without the help of some unconvincing Norwegian rent-a-rapper. Hopefully by "Tomorrow" (ha! See what I did?) this song will have ejected itself from my life as quickly as it entered.
AG: For whatever reason, this reminded me of the collaboration between Shaggy and Merryl Bainbridge, where the good female part that's nice and jaunty and sample based is ruined by a tedious male part. Sadly, songs from Annie always remind of a disastrous attempt to put on a play in Grade 5, and I don't want to be reminded of THAT at this stage of life...
GD: Sandra's singing is so sickly sweet it sound slike she's been gargling golden syrup.
EO: A little too cute for these ears. Also, Annie is shit, tell a friend.
IM: I quite like Sandra’s singing and the backing is great, especially the piano. Rapping dude doesn’t do much for me, but he’s not really the focal point and thus is bearable. Sandra probably wouldn’t have been any more exciting on the verses, and at least she gets the chorus. And the Norwegian guy does suddenly say the phrase “rap game” during one verse, which unaccountably cracks my shit up.

4. RAVI & DJ LOV - E-ore
EO: 4, AG: 3, SN: 5, SS: 5, IM: 3, GD: 9, JP: 1. ADJUSTED SCORE: 5

EO: Opens with the sound of a cow being molested, possibly, and some dead classy piano, at wihch point some whistling comes in and actually doesn't improve things, but acts as a harbinger of doom as the rap comes in and makes it incredibly boring.
SN: Actually, it all goes base over apex with its run-of-the-millness pretty quickly, doesn't it. Could have done with more cow.
JP: European rap songs can be brilliant and hilarious, but they can also be completely dull and pointless. Sadly, this song fits the latter category quite perfectly.
IM: I had such hopes this would be cool, since it’s named after Eeyore from the Winnie the Pooh stories (isn’t it?), and a Norwegian rap song about a suicidally depressed stuffed donkey had to be awesome, right? Sadly, it’s just kind of limp. I can’t remember what the chorus sounds like, and that’s only the most obvious sign of trouble here.
GD: Ravi drawls in a part-sung, part-rapped, and part-spoken manner over a lovely, stuttering classical piano backing, and shows quite how different a language can sound between different people - while Sandra's Norwegian was somooth, this is much rougher round the edges, and all the better for it. The personalities of the performers really come through on this, and the piano has a real uplifting quality. Lovely.
SS: Now the melody to this starts rather nicely, but then he starts rapping and doesn't change the tune through the whole song! Now I might be missing something out here, but this surely MUST be novelty, right? I don't think anyone in their right minds would release such a thing seriously? At least the chorus had some tune, and I love that 'b-b-b-baby baby' part, hilarious! Their previous song (whatever it was called and that had almost the same melody) was better actually.

5. BLACK EYED PEAS - Don't Phunk With My Heart
EO: 0, AG: 0, SN: 2, SS: 6, IM: 1, GD: 7, JP: 7. ADJUSTED SCORE: 3

AG: Na na na na, don't phunk with my chart...damn, too late...
IM: Just as shit as every other Black Eyed Peas song.

6. GAVIN DEGRAW - I Don't Wanna Be
EO: 3, AG: 1, SN: 8, SS: 4, IM: 3, GD: 4, JP: 10. ADJUSTED SCORE: 5

EO: Male singer-songwriters, please no. May this song's tapering around the world's chart cease here.
SS: Maroon 5 has created a big new wave of bland middle of the road pop songs.
IM: Isn’t this the “Chariot” guy? “Chariot” sucked.
AG: Oh so frustratingly vague Mr Quick on Degraw? What do you not want to be? A lampshade? A small kitten? There's a lot of things I don't wanna be, I just choose not to inflict my list on you!
SN: Much like Daniel Powter, Gavin Degraw does a nice line in pretty boy soft rock, complete with "I/you/they don't understand" lyrics and looking good in a beanie. Too edgy for those who love Michael Buble perhaps, but the world needs its rebels.
JP: I can't say enough nice things about Gavin, because I am a massive fan. he is great and if you don't like him, frankly, you are a loser! (She doesn't really mean that, pop fans - EO)

7. WIGWAM - In My Dreams
EO: 8, AG: 4, SN: 9, SS: 8, IM: 4, GD: 9, JP: 5. ADJUSTED SCORE: 7

EO: The most immediate song from this year's contest, but not the best, which is probably why it only came 9th. A lovable, loving homage to music fortunately no longer being made.
JP: Wigwam were fun for a few minutes. Sadly those minutes passed by several weeks ago and they are now quite rubbish, but they do get extra points for letting me reminisce about Eurovision. Only 11 months til the next one!
SN: This song always makes me think of Ultimate Comedy Band and perennial "Worst Songs Ever" list favourites Europe and The Final Countdown. And I loved that song. So I suppose I can say, by induction, that I love this song too. I played this on the sound system at home and, after initially mistaking it for a lost Bon Jovi classic, my flatmate loves it too.
SS: Well it's a good pop song really, their performance at the Eurovision Semi really disapointed me, but they improved on the final night and got Norway in the top 10 again.
GD: How can any pop fan not fail to love a chorus that big? With lyrics that are just crying out to be sung along to. This is just pure, unadulterated fun, and there's not enough of that in the charts.
IM: I’m sorry, this is a very competent execution of the form, but some childhood incidents have left me with a powerful allergy to this kind of hair metal. It’s not you, Wigwam, it’s me.

8. BACKSTREET BOYS - Incomplete
EO: 7, AG: 7, SN: 5, SS: 3, IM: 6, GD: 8, JP: 10. ADJUSTED SCORE: 7

AG: Am I the only person who liked them better when they were dressed in Halloween costumes? And is "empty spaces fill me up with holes" the worst non Coldplay lyric of the year?
IM: I must be getting tolerant in my old age – I can’t really bring myself to hate this lackluster power ballad.
EO: Lush and overblown and ridiculous. Poor Nick Carter's looking awfully rough these days. I thought it was AJ that had the substance dependency problem, but look at Nick! Sounds a bit like Bryan Adams if you listen not very carefully, but still rather good. "Climbing The Walls" would get a 10 obviously, so let's hope they release that next.
GD: For someone who loves his pop, boy bands have strangely never really done it for me. Except for one: the Backstreet Boys. And this single has reminded me how much the charts have missed their presence. This is marvellous.
SN: Geez guys, what's with the sunglasses? Blinded by your own seriousness and musical worth?
SS: A bland ballad that doesn't go anywhere, hell it even sounds like Brian McFadden, and that certinaly is NOT a good thing.

9. GWEN STEFANI - Hollaback Girl
EO: 9, AG: 9, SN: 10, SS: 7, IM: 4, GD: 3, JP: 10. ADJUSTED SCORE: 8

AG: Her shit is bananas, and her bananas are shit, which is why she's a singer, not a greengrocer...
GD: Just imagine how much better a place the world would be with "Bubble Pop Electric" frothing gaily out of radios across the land instead of this mediocre tripe.

10. AKON - Lonely
EO: 7, AG: 2, SN: 4, SS: 7, IM: 7, GD: 0, JP: 0. ADJUSTED SCORE: 4

SS: Is Bobby Vinton still alive? If not he's probably turning in his grave. I'm not that fussed on Akon, but a song this isn't really all that bad I must admit, well maybe liking Scooter I'm used to the chipmunk voice, which is most definitley the essential part of the song.
SN: I enjoy the sample from this song immensely. Much like the work of Moby. What Akon has done with it, however, leaves a lot to be desired and I end up frustrated and bored. Much like the work of Moby.
EO: I can't do it, I cannot hate this song. The bit at the end is properly fantastic, and even if Akon really ruins what is otherwise quite a good use of a fantastic sample, I find it vaguely touching, especially the "come on home" bit - real emotion, kind of, not really, actually. I still don't really like it, but it's certainly nowhere near as horrifying as overreacting people would have you believe. Get one sense of poptimism, peeps.
IM: I still love the odd droning, drained-of-affect quality of Akon’s voice, especially on the chorus.
JP: If it wasn't for the Crazy Frog, this would be the most hateful song of the year so far. I think Akon owes that frog quite a lot, really.
GD: Repeated exposure to this record has made me understand how people can become serial killers. Am I allowed to give a negative score?

Hmf. Well, the highest scoring song is Wigwam, and everyone already has that, surely. I'll find something else Norwegian and post it a bit later... how's that sound? 56 points for Norway, for once, less than they scored at Eurovision.

Regular transmission resuming...

Hello. I have been interstate all week, so no posts.
But before I left, I did a Stycast for Stylus, which if you're quick, you might still be able to hear. Go here and scroll down to "Around the World in 80kbps". Note that I picked the songs and wrote the text but I didn't speak, because every time I try to record my voice, the P sounds get distorted, and it's kind of hard to discuss pop without using the letter P.

Norwegian chart challenge coming up in an hour or so.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Noizmakaz - Miski Muu Ei Loe

You will, I hope, forgive my indulgence. I talk about this song not because it's really great, even though I do like it, or because I think you, the reader, will like it, because I bet you won't.

No, I talk about it because I want Google to pick it up and bring some people who know about this song to recommend me some Estonian hip-hop! Yes, that's right, Estonian hip-hop. When our friends in Estland aren't producing amazing girl-bands, they're producing hip-hop that's a bit like Finnish hip-hop but even more playful. I loved Toe Tag's single Deja Vu from last year and want to hear more things in that vein.

This song, currently in the Estonian top 10, was my favourite thing in there by some distance. I like its cheap but charming sticks-banged-together percussion. I think the shouted chorus is a teensy bit clumsy, but the flow in the verses and the occasional stops is pretty endearing and, rather, it doesn't sound that far away from Caparezza in places (though not as mental and astonishing) despite being cut from a completely different linguistic branch.

It's infectious enough, though, and I'm utterly convinced that treasures lay within this genre. There was a blog started last year that was going to catalogue the breadth and depth of Estonian pop, but it stopped soon after it started. SOMEONE, please take up this crucial project. Please?

Noizmakaz - Miski Muu Ei Loe

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The Cross Europe Chart Challenge... of Death! THE NETHERLANDS

Well, this has been a long time coming. I would like to shirk responsibility and blame the weather, my research proposal and the general rubbishness of most of last week's Dutch top 10. The panel largely agrees, but have been particularly verbose in doing so.

Contributing this time, but not last time:

KS: Koen, who is Dutch and knows this stuff. His blog is in Dutch but is named after a Delgados lyric, so visit him anyway.
GD: Geoff, who doesn't have a website, but a message-board stalwart.
MT: Miguel from Argentina once mounted an airtight case that Girls Aloud are better than the Beatles and who has a new blog but I've lost the address.
SS: Shahaf, also no website, but probably has a more encyclopaedic knowledge of pop than anyone else in Israel.

Daniel Powter (5) got reviewed last round, so let's ignore him (thank goodness, say I) and look at what wasn't.

1. Guus Meeuwis - Geef Mij Je Angst
EO: 5, SN: 7, AG: 0, MJ: 3, JP: 1, IM: 0, KS: 5, GD: 9, SS: 7
ADJUSTED SCORE: 4

KS:
Rather dull cover version of recently deceased André Hazes. It's hard to convey to foreigners what Hazes meant over here. Some say he was a pub singer who got lucky, a literature professor I know says he is a singer-songwriter on a par with Dylan and Springsteen. His funeral service was held in a football stadium that seats 50.000, and broadcast live on Dutch TV. Whatever Hazes is, Guus Meeuwis is none of these things. He's a none-too-technical singer who seems to strike a chord with people. Old people, mostly, like my mum.
GD: Try as I might, I find it hard to arouse my normal English cynicism when it comes to this. Maybe it's because it appeals to my nostalgic sensibilities becaise Guus Meeuwis was number one in Holland with his first single when I briefly lived over there 10 years ago.
SS: Guus Meeuwis is well familiar to me, as a one hit wonder that is, whenever I see his name all I can think of is his 1996 smash 'Het Is En Nacht', which even shockingly toped the charts here in Israel.
IM: A stultifying solo piano ballad that sounds like it rivals Celine Dion in the emoting stakes. Utterly devoid of interest. Why is it number one?
MJ: Sounds for all the world like one of the ballads from Grease 2--you know, if Michael had been an exhange student from the Netherlands instead of Sandy's cousin from Australia.
EO: A nice line in dignified restraint, which makes it better than Coldplay any day.
SN: I applaud the producers for not caving in to the presumably skull-crushing pressure of chucking in a studio orchestra and majestic gong bashes, and the whole thing ends up being surprisingly elegant and refined, if not a little sterile.
AG: Strings! A gospel choir! A dance remix! Do something! - but then, the music overcomes even me, for it is impossible to survive "Je Angst" and stay awake at the same time. Way to go Guus.

2. Kane - Something To Say
EO: 4. SN: 3, AG: 0, MJ: 2, JP: 3, IM: 7, KS: 1, GD: 1, MT: 0, SS: 8
ADJUSTED SCORE: 2

MJ:
And that something is, "Listen to it very closely or you'll miss the inconsequential chorus amidst all of the Killers-by-numbers racket."
GD: They've said it now. Hopefully they'll now shut up and go away. This truly is bland, uninspired, mid-atlantic rock at its worst. They don't even sound that inspired by it themselves so god know how they hope to convince us.
KS: Oh, they do this U2 stadium rock thing pretty well, I guess. Not that I would want to listen to it, ever ever again.
MT: What the world was waiting for...crappy generic dad rock is here! Oh yeah, now I realise dad rock has already been here for a while. Well, in that case, let me reprhase: What the world was waiting for...crappy generic grandad rock is here!
AG: Sadly NOT the 7 foot tall wrestler, who walks through hell, fire and brimstone, but a band who have walked through hell, fire and the "how to sound like a Dutch Stereophonics" play book.
SN: You mean that every country in the world has its own multitude of faceless guitar bands that clog up commerical radio and the upper echelons of the charts?
IM: This song doesn’t really work for me until two minutes in, where Kane stops fussing around with what might otherwise be a power ballad and just hits the button marked “Ludicrous Speed”. As long as this is ridiculously overblown it’s great – it’s the quiet bits in between that induce wincing.
SS: I see them more as the Dutch Coldplay rather than the Dutch U2, not because they sound like them, but because they always milk around the same formula and don't really develop musically. I loved "Rain Down On Me" (Original + Remix), so this part 2 of the song is satisfying for me, I love it how he takes it so emotionally, when the lyrics are actually a bit naff.
EO: Ooh, this sounds like it's going to be a bit like Idlewild back when they were good. But it doesn't. Good driving rhythm, though.
AG: The kind of band and song your Mum (not my Mum, she's cool!) would nod along to in the car, and proclaim some modern bands were "hip". You would then smack your head and say "God mum! You are SO embarrassing!" - and you would be right.
JP: You'll be pleased but probably most of all surprised to hear that Kane did once make a really good song. It was a duet with Anouk who you may remember from last week, and it was much better than "Lost" as well. It was called "My Best Wasn't Good Enough, involving lots of shouting of "tick tock tick tock" and very much deserving of you all to hear it immediately. This song, however, is Kane's usual snooze-rock and best avoided.

3. Krezip - Out Of My Bed
EO: 6, SN: 6, AG: 9, MJ: 2, JP: 8, IM: 6, KS: 4, GD: 2, SS: 4
ADJUSTED SCORE: 5

SS:
So Krezip have gone teenage-angst rock? I'm not really convienced to be honest. It's a bit like if Natalie Imbruglia were to go Fiona Apple. It just doesn't really work.
GD: Skater Boi was all the Avril Lavigine I ever needed. So I can really do without a cheap third-rate Dutch version.
KS: It's pretty cool that both the number 1 and the number three artists are from my hometown, but sadly both songs do nothing for me. This song goes for the whole sassy Lavigne/Simpson vibe, but sass is exactly what this band has always missed.
SN: Ashlee Studt-Lavigne rolls out of bed, looking appropriately alternative and surly. Next to her lies a skinny youth with floppy black hair and a facial piercing of some sort. "Hit the road, Jack (or Bartholomeus or whatever)," she says, picking up her guitar and striking some appropriately bad-arse power chords. Jack/Bartholomeus vows to stop dating girls who list Liz Phair as an influence.
JP: This is great! A young Michelle Branch would be more than happy with it.
AG: The video clip is amazing, as she hooks a big arsed hook to her lazy benny boyfriends bed, the other end to her Thunderbird, and then drags his bed out of his house, through the wall, and into a concrete block, while humming a jaunty Stacy Orrico cheery tune.
EO: You know, there were about four really good songs on the Amy Studt album, this one sounds a bit like "Under The Thumb" but it's altogether more clumsy and forced but there's something vaguely endearing about it.
IM: My girlfriend walks into the room. “Hey, what was that song you were listening to, with the female vocalist?” I cue it up, explain it’s from the Dutch Top Ten. Her response: “It sounds like Lindsay Lohan”. I cannot deny the extreme justice of her remarks.
MT: Girls, I have to admit that those nice
hi-octane full blown pop songs like "Sk8ter Boi" or "Just Like a Pill" you make sometimes are really hard to resist, and I've grown to like you. So today I'd like to give you a very useful piece of advice: mid-tempos like "Complicated" or this "Out of My Bed" thing NEVER work.
EO: I rate songs like these on a scale based on how poorly they compare to Ashlee Simpson's "Lala", which really is the best rock single of the 00s.
MJ: I hate the lazy "Yeah yeah yeah" bits near the bridge, and the whole thing is so Avril-esque and instantly forgettable that it's really not worth a score.
KS: I'd trust them to feed my cat while I'm on holiday next week though.

4. Snoop Dogg - Signs
EO: 4, SN: 7, AG: 0, MJ: 10, JP: 7, IM: 8, KS: 8, GD: 7, SS: 5
ADJUSTED SCORE: 7

EO:
Overrated. Disco isn't supposed to be smooth.
SS: It's a bit too retro, isn't it?
MJ: I don't even know how to process the mindsets of people who hate on this song--no one no one NO ONE can match Snoop for delivery, and we must give snaps to anyone who got JT to say "Fuck" on record and in his gorgeous falsetto.
IM: When a man is tired of Snoop telling Timberlake “you ain’t no G”, that man is tired of life. Particular when the backing is so poptastic.
EO: JC Chasez didn't need to say "fuck" to be cool. If Justin starts singing songs about wanking, I'm going into hiding, though.
SN: Could probably benefit from having Gwen Stefani bellowing about her shit at some point.

6. Racoon - Happy Family
EO: 2, SN: 8, AG: 1, MJ: 3, JP: 2, IM: 2, KS: 1, GD: 0, MT: 6, SS: 1
ADJUSTED SCORE: 2

EO:
Jaunty, and has a whistle. This is going to be terrific. Except...
KS: The Raccoon's singer's thick accent spoils everything before I've even made up my mind about the song.
SS: This song is so 1993 it's disgusting, even the silly chorus can't save it.
GD: I think I'm actually allergic to this sort of thing. I couldn't listen to it the whole way through. Urgh. It's all so derivative.
JP: I liked this song much more when I thought it was real racoons singing. Even cartoon racoons would be better than the reality, which turns out to be a bunch of ugly old men.
SN: Racoons are apparently highly adept at knocking over garbage bins, opening jars and the like in order to scavenge whatever scraps people deemed appropriate to throw out. These Racoons in question appear to be gnawing on the remains of the Barenaked Ladies. One band's scraps are another's three-course meal, apparently.
MT: I tried for a few seconds and my mind had to shut itself not to get lobotomized. And I'd rather keep liking this song, thank you very much.
MJ: If lead singer dude (who sounds like the guy from Live) would just lay off the lyrical heaviness, this could be a real treat. It's jaunty and summery and cutesy (but not enough to make me gag), but when the chorus hits and you realize that it's just a bit of whine-rock-unplugged, the bloom is off the rose. I appreciate its brevity, though--so many bands could take a lesson from that.
IM: So what we have here is someone marrying an acoustic version of Green Day’s music with the lyrical prowess of one of Staind’s old “I hate my family” screeds. Oscar Wilde’s line about seriousness being the only refuge of the shallow has never rung more true.
EO: Annoying voice, horrible lyrics, dreadful chorus - whingeing AND attempts at profundity. That spells awful.
AG: "It would be great if we could have a cup of everything!" says the head Racoon. I don't think that's a good thing to be promoting. In fact, rather than writing a song, what you've done is write the theme song to a jaunty Scouse sitcom from the 1980s written by Carla Lane. I think the Grandad would have bad eyesight, and live in the lof...er...don't mind me, the song has finished now...

7. Ali B - Leipe Mocro Flavour
EO: 7, SN: 7, AG: 0, MJ: 2, JP: 3, IM: 7, KS: 7, GD: 3, SS: 9
ADJUSTED SCORE: 5

GD:
Ooo. Dutch Rap. I see it's moved on a little bit since the days of DJ Sven & MC Miker G's seminal "Holiday Rap". But not by very much.
JP: This guy appears to be the Dutch Kenzie.
KS: Dutch hiphop (esp. 'Nederhop', the Dutch-langauge variety) has gotten better and better in recent years (very much opposed to Dutch rock music in that respect). Ali B's pop take on the genre took some time to win me over, but this is pretty classy.
SS: I like Dutch Hip-Hop, strange as it may sound I think the language really fits this kind of music. And this is a real fun song, catchy and the melody flows really good, real summery Eurorap tune!
EO: This isn't bad, nicely bubble-gum backing, but Ali B doesn't have the sense of playfulness in his flow to pull it off. Also, he does that annoying voice thing Eminem does when he tries to make one of his heavy-handed lines seem funnier than it is.
IM: The way it almost sounds comprehensible but not quite, even the way it sounds much phlegmier than English; all are kind of neat. But the real appeal is universal; I’m a sucker for quasi-reggae piano and neat sliding synth beeps.
SS: Maybe it because I don't understand what they're singing about, but I'd take this anyday over recent shit than 50 Cent or Lil' Jon bullshit.
JP: It's typical European rap ie. sounds like American rap from 5 years ago (perhaps early Eminem) with even less comprehensible lyrics. It is quite bouncy though.
MJ: When you don't speak the language, it's hard to make a judgment about some hip-hop tracks. This could be "Fuck tha Police," or it could be "Ice Ice Baby." I'm leaning toward the latter, despite the decidedly non-Dutch insertions of "muthafucker."
SN: I think I like foreign rap music because I really have no clue what's going on. This one is particularly good because it has one of those Chingrish titles I love so much, with a familiar word seemingly thrown in for the hell of it. Super fun happy joy!
AG: Oddly, this week Gloria Jeans have started seeing Leipe Mocro Flavour coffee with cream and sprinkles. The girl behind the counter who sold me it said, quote, "yo bitch! Roll with the coffee! Bitchin! Wicked! Fly girl in full effex!", to which I said "why are you sounding like the Dutch Joel Turner and the Modern Day Poets?" but she just handed me my coffee, which was crap, tasted funny, and made me want to be a bogan. I went back to Vanilla Ninja flavour the next day, to be safe. (For the benefit of non-Australians, Joel Turner and the Modern Day Poets are the worst thing to happen to music ever - EO)
GD: This is flat, lifeless, and monotonous throughout, like some
of the worst rap from the 80s. Although he does get bonus points for
giving me the first laugh of the top 10 for rhyming Microfoon with the quaint Dutch town of Bergen op Zoom.

8. Dr Kucho - Can't Stop Playing
EO: 3, SN: 3, AG: 2, MJ: 3, JP: 0, IM: 6, KS: 5, GD: 5, MT: 6, SS: 8
ADJUSTED SCORE: 4

JP:
This is SO rubbish! I think Holland is one country where dance/club music is (in general) even more rubbish than the UK.
KS: Nothing to see here people, move along.
MT: A nice funky beat, which sounds a little bit dated, yes, that doesn't make it any less fun. Not a huge lot of fun, but a bit.
AG: Video clip with an amusing comedy dog, I suspect.
SN: I put it to you that this man...drumroll please...isn't even a real doctor!
AG: Unlike Dr Alban, who is a real dentist.
GD: Certainly wouldn't get me running onto the dancefloor but wouldn't have me fleeing to the bar either. A little bit repetitive, but that's par for the course with this sort of thing.
SS: Am I the only one who thinks it's actually "Disco's Revenge" by Gusto under a different beat? well I know it isn't but it reminds me of it.
IM: A fine example of the form, albeit one haunted by the sneaking suspicion that its place on the charts could be filled by a multitude of other songs.
EO: You know those bits that are like the bits between exciting, fun bits in dance singles? This song is nothing but those boring parts of dance singles laid end to end.
AG: Who says dance music is dead! Not the Dutch! Crazy cats! Pass the glowstick!
SN: Doesn't he know that it'll fall off if you don't stop playing?

9. Joss Stone - Spoiled
EO: 0, SN: 7, AG: 0, MJ: 4, JP: 2, IM: 2, KS: 4, GD: 5, MT: 2, SS: 0
ADJUSTED SCORE: 2

EO:
I hate her so much it defies rational explanation. Even the fact that she slaughtered the sacred cow that is The White Stripes can't make me like her.
GD: The fact that my main memory of seeing her Glastonbury is that she was taller than I imagined she would be rather than the music says it all really. Waste of a good voice.
JP: We all know Joss is annoying and overrated, so is she wise to admit to being spoiled as well?
AG: Joss, mate, you don't make songs, you make mood music. You are played in bad restaurants by people trying to set "the mood" so you don't notice your hit on the bread, or "sensitive" blokes trying to cop a feel. Your role in life was taken once by Macy Gray. Have you considered a Dr Kucho remix?
IM: I know her voice is supposed to be all amazing and faux-authentic and shit, but to me it just sounds like a slightly huskier Amanda Marshall. And no disrespect to Marshall, but the only difference between her and Stone’s respective brands of pop is that Stone is that much more in hock to the past. This is not a good thing.
MT: I really don't know that much about english soul, but I'd love to and i'm sure it's something that's not far away in the queue of things I owe to myself. I've always been curious, since the first time I felt there had to be a connection between Dusty Springfield and Siobhan Donaghy, a feeling of loneliness and resignation that comes from accepting that, by singing an afro-american music style when they certainly weren't neither afro nor american, they could only become exiles in their own land.Well, spoiled or not, there's just nothing of it in Joss.

10. Kus - Lekker Ding
EO: 9, SN: 5, AG: 7, MJ: 6, JP: 7, IM: 8, KS: 9, GD: 8, SS: 9
ADJUSTED SCORE: 8

GD:
It has a sauciness that almost seems English is its faux-coyness, and is great fun for it. I suspect no self-respecting 9 year old Dutch girl is complete without having having this as their ringtone this week, and I suspect playgrounds across Holland are a happier place for it.
IM: Every so often you hear a sound in a song that makes you want to type in all-caps “MY GOD I LOVE THAT SOUND”. The synth stabs that start off “Lekker Ding” (or as I think of it now, “La La Lekker”) qualify. See what I did there?
EO: Bold, joyous, brassy and infectious, if a bit empty. Not that it matters a whit.
AG: There's a vague Diana Ross in the 80s thing going on here, I don't know if anyone thought that. And the tiniest Mama Mia debt.
SN: This started off with such promise. Tambourine jingles, squidgy synthesiser noises, an appropriately wacky name, a rather good-natured Motown feel, and then...nothing.
IM: Kus are some sort of Dutch girl group that could be their analogue for anything from Girls Aloud to... I don’t know, Phil Collins or something, but on this basis I’d place them closer to Girls Aloud.
AG: It's OK, but by the standards of the Dutch charts this week, it's a veritable "No Good Advice".
SS: If not for the heavy Dutch accent I would have thought this is another Swedish pop treat, it is a treat though!
KS: One of these songs that bring out the sun. Almost perfect execution of all elements needed for this kind of mid-tempo euro-pop to be good. Little extras are the helium-pitched voice toward the end and the lovely lyrics about the best friend's brother turning out to be HOT.
JP: The "la la lekker" sounds like it should be from an advert, although I don't even want to speculate what it might be advertising.
SS: A quick lesson in Hebrew : Kus (כוס) is the Hebrew word in slang to the female genitals.
MJ: Did you know that in some states here in the southern U.S., it's illegal to get your ding lekkered?
IM: It’s a great song, and not just for that sound (oh, and smut fans: the title translates to “Nice Thing”).
GD: A rather frothy little pop number, where they sing
about giving their best friend's little brother his first kiss at a
party (Kus = Kiss; Lekker Ding = A Hottie).
JP: It's a nice little pop song which would have done well in Eurovision, especially since the chorus really wants to be Mamma Mia.
MJ: I like the Casio-sounding synths here, and the lead singer hits some lovely sweet notes on the build-up to the chorus. The bridge is a little too short, and I wish the guitar-esque effects got dropped into the mix sooner, but i's hard to dislike this track. It makes me think of the Cheeky Girls--you know, from their "difficult, mature, and confessional" second album in some parallel universe.

And, despite the general mediocrity - resulting in a low low score of 44 for The Netherlands, Kus have scored 8 and as such are worthy of being posted. You are probably going to sit there and think "ARGH! What does that la la lekker bit sound like?". Well, I know, and I'm not going to tell you. Unless you ask really nicely.

Kus - Lekker Ding