TV: “Children of the Universe” Molly Smitten-Downes Official Video

“As I am awakened with fire in my bones”

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(“Yes, I am fabulous!”)

Rather excitingly, the official video for Molly Smitten-Downes entry into Eurovision 2014 has been uploaded in the past few days. The video, available on her official youtube channel, shows Molly amongst her band lounging around on plush furniture and standing in front of flowers.

The official video has clearer audio than the studio version that was uploaded earlier in the year. The song is actually pretty good, and even incredible considering this is a UK entry. Personally, I didn’t need any more reasons to love Molly’s creation, but the luxurious official video does help.

However, as good as the song is, it all depends on the actual night. Eurovision semi-finals will take place on the 6th and 8th of May, and the UK has automatic entry into the finals, taking place on 10th of May 2014.

See the video below:

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Music: Janet Devlin – Hide & Seek – Album Review

“The Creatures of The Night. Me, Myself and I.”

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Artists: Janet Devlin

Age: 12th November 1994 (age 19)

Genre: Pop, Folk

Released: 3rd July 2014

I’m going through a big change in the music I listen to. Gone are the loud sounds, harsh vocals and lewd lyrics, I’m attracted more and more to soul-searching songs that feel like they explore the depths of the universe itself. There are very, very few artists that I can place within that category, and as such, they are getting a bit overplayed.

Janet Devlin is one of those singers that deserves recognition for having a beautiful voice. There is a rare quality in her young, bit-rough vocals, with it’s Irish lilt, and her album showcases her astonishingly understated vocals perfectly.

I first saw Janet Devlin on X Factor UK 2011, and in her auditions, she brought a charm and innocence to all her performances, and she’s good, very good.

Janet Devlin not only sings, but has co-written all the songs on this album. It adds that extra spark and personality to every line. Hide & Seek (obviously a reference to Imogen Heap, one of Devlin‘s influences) was first released in limited quantities last July (2013), but is set to re-released this summer.

The album explores Pop and Folk genres, and there are some upbeat songs, Wonderful, Working for the Man, that are mainstream pop. They are catchy enough, but sound hideously generic compared to quirky-piano-pop Creatures of the Night.

Walk Away, Who am I to You, Pick Me Up and the titular Hide & Seek, are pleasant songs that are perfect for putting on as background music. They don’t stand out in particular, but the feel is of good, solid, pop music. When was the last time I heard that? Probably not in a decade.

The standout tracks for me are Devlin‘s slower songs. If there is a reason to buy this album, it is for Crown of Thorns, Things We Lost In The Fire, Nothing Left to Hide, and the brilliantly haunting When We Were Young. I have never heard such a young voice sing so expressively, and against quiet accompaniment, and still move me.

There is an untrained quality to Devlin’s voice. A raw power that hasn’t grown into its own, and is so unusual in a world filled with auto-tune or power singers (and shriekers).

Not everyone will “get” her. There is a reason why she managed 5th on the X Factor, and had her album funded by PledgeMusic. However, if you love this type of sound, she is a great artist at the beginning of her career, filled with talent and great potential.

I know I am a fan.

See below for album previews:

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TV: Eurovision 2014 UK Entry “Children of the Universe” Molly Smitten-Downes

“Power to the people”

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The UK entry for Eurovision 2014 was shown a few days ago. The BBC version is the most publicised, featuring Molly Smitten-Downes singing a live version of her song “Children of the Universe”.

Described as cool and contemporary, Molly brings a different and modern style to the UK entry for Eurovision. Think 2010 winner Lena and her song “Satelitte“, but with an actual British accent. Molly stomps across the stage, reaches achingly beautiful notes with her voice, and oozes casualness with her henna tattoos.

Last year, Bonnie Tyler represented the UK. and although her fanbase was prominent in the audience, the song didn’t do well in the UK charts or in the competition. Bonnie Tyler crooned “Believe in Me“, and reached 19th place, scoring a mere 23 points.

Although British citizens like to scoff at Eurovion, and the “political voting” between countries, there is always that spark of hope that the UK will place in the Top 10 in the competition. I personally think that Molly Smitten-Downes offers the best chance of getting a high ranking (and dare I say, even winning) since Blue with “I Can“, back in 2011.

Eurovision Finals will be broadcast on the 10th of May 2014, following Semi-Finals on the 6th and 8th of May 2014. As one of the major countries backing the competition, the UK has an automatic entry into the Finals.

I will be aiming to do a live commentary on the competition.

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Music: SUPER JUNIOR – SPY – Single Review

“Do ru ru ru ru do ru u ru”

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Artists: SUPER JUNIOR

Genre: Kpop, Urban, Pop

Released: 5th October 2012

So apart from the obvious reasons of work, what else has been filling my life? Shopping. I had been walking through H&M and realised they had been playing Kpop. And not just any kpop either; SUPER JUNIOR!

Nearby customers will have to excuse my squeals of excitement, for although I am not a huge SuJu fan, it is an odd experience to hear it blasting through the loudspeakers in your average UK store. And it’s an almost recent song too!

Played blatantly. At full volume.

The actual song is a poppy upbeat thing which screams SuJu. The video is inspired by James Bond, although both the song and the video are a far cry from the recent sultry theme that Adele sang. The new accompanying dance is much more complex than I have seen in their recent releases, and although they have blood raining down and silhouettes of women, everything ties down nicely with the vanilla boyband-ness.

See the video below to see the world’s greatest boyband perform. Although it is nothing on the same greatness as Sorry, Sorry or BONAMANA  they have done kpop proud. SPY will be playing in your head for days.

See below for previews:

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Music: Ayumi Hamasaki – LOVEppears – Album Review

“Fly High And Then Immature Boys & Girls End Roll”

Artists: Ayumi Hamasaki

Age: October 2, 1978 (age 33)

Genre: JPop, JRock, Dance, Electronic, House

Released: 10th November 1999

One of my favourite albums, LOVEppears (pronounced ‘love appears’) is stuffed with dance tracks in Ayu’s distinctive voice.

The album follows a very tight and coherent style, so if you’re a fan of 90’s soft rock, electronic, or dance music, and you like a few of the songs, this album will rank high.

Although Boys & Girls is a favourite among many fans, WHATEVER, And Then, and Fly High are upbeat and vocally more interesting.

Even though it’s been a two decades since this album was released, the dance songs haven’t aged.

See below for album previews:

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Music: Ayumi Hamasaki – I am… – Album Review

“Connected Evolution Naturally Never Ever Still Alone”

Artists: Ayumi Hamasaki

Age: October 2, 1978 (age 33)

Genre: JPop, JRock, Dance, Electronic

Released: 1st Janury 2002

An album that’s covered with Ayumi Hamasaki’s own production, under the pseudonym of CREA. The personal touch truly helped as most of the songs are incredible, and recommended to old and new fans.

The opening track I am… starts with acoustic singing merging into pop-rock, that sets the tone of the album. The strong vocals follow into UNITE!evolution, NEVER EVER and M. Many of these songs are her most popular, and are also concert-favourites.

There’s a very tight and coherent production making the songs blend into each other, but each have their own distinctive quirks. Some would argue that Ayu has never created another album of this caliber.

See below for album previews:

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Music: Anna Tsuchiya – Unchained Girl – Single Review

“Ah Ah Ah Ah Stayin alive”

Artists: Anna Tsuchiya

Age: 11th March, 1984 (age 28)

Genre: JPop, JRock

Released: 28th September 2011

This single would be easy to skip, for the terrible covers, which show Anna posing in a toilet. However, as one of Japan’s most influential female rock singers, Anna Tsuchiya definitely deserves a second look.

Stayin Alive is a cover of the Bee Gee’s version, with Tsuchiya’s own smoky voice. Although I’m a big fan of the original, this has a dark atmosphere that’s hard to resist, complimented by the grungy rock video.

The other song is Juicy Girl feat. The Samos, a party-hardy song that does very little for me, and shows off none of Anna’s voice. Try following the nonsensical lyrics and Anna’s rubbery english, it’s a great ride.

Master Blade, a collab with Yoko Kanno, sounds like it belongs as the ending theme to some anime. With Anna struggling to hit the high notes, and the lackluster orchestra, it seems likely to be forgotten when the album is released.

There is one song that saves this single.

See below for previews:

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Music: Ayumi Hamasaki – A Song for XX – Album Review

“Friend Wishing You Present”

Artists: Ayumi Hamasaki

Age: October 2, 1978 (age 33)

Genre: JPop, JRock

Released: 1st January 1999

Ayumi Hamasaki’s first album is also one of her most innocent and simply produced. It shows the influence of the 90’s, as well as influence from when her label Avex used to be predominately a dance label.

A song for XX, the titular track is surprisingly heartfelt, despite Ayu’s delicate voice. Likewise with poker face, from her first single.

The ballads songs are pretty good, with YOU and POWDER SNOW striking chords with me. There’s something really likable about the latter, and the piano version in Ayu’s LOVEppears album is worth chasing up.

Yes, it’s dated now, but fans of Ayu will enjoy her origins, as well as the drastically different voice. Compared to her newer albums, Ayu’s first album is more simple, but has more than just nostalgic value.

See below for album previews:

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Music: Tomohisa Yamashita – LOVE CHASE – Single Review

“Don’t run away, come here…”

Artists: Tomohisa Yamashita

Age: April 9, 1985 (age 27)

Genre: JPop, Dance

Released: 4th July 2012

You know when a song is so ridiculously catchy that it stays in your head for days? You watch the video and the ridiculous-awesomeness of it hits you?

Tomohisa Yamashita’s song, a.k.a Yamapi’s, Love Chase, is about a guy battling with his inner-selves about a girl.

See below for previews:

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Music: Namie Amuro – Uncontrolled – Album Review

“In The Spotlight Go Round Get Myself Back Singing Yeah Oh”

Artists: Namie Amuro

Age: September 20, 1977 (age 34)

Genre: JPop, R&B, Urban, Dance, Electro, Ballad

Released: June 27, 2012

Widely regarded as the Urban queen of Jpop, Namie Amuro comes back with her 10th album. Featuring singles that have trickled through, during the last three years, Namie manages to tie together love songs and dance tunes, with her unique, sweet-but-rubbery voice. For the first time during her career, many of her songs are in English, giving a fresh angle to her songs.

Starting the album is the electro-dance song In the Spotlight (Tokyo), and the theme of clubbing is continued with NAKED. Dance songs are sprinkled throughout the rest of the album. One stand-out track (among many amazing songs) is SINGING “YEAH OH”.

Much of the songs follow in the same style as her previous albums, but there’s a different and current feeling to this production. It’s one of Namie’s best albums to date, her fans will be pleased to know that she’s still modern.

See below for album previews:

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