December 26, 2010

Best of 2010: The Opinionated Blogger Awards

Me at "The Last Record Store" - HMV on Oxford Street, LDN

Artist of the Year: Really, who else but Robyn? Her experiment worked. I wish more artists would release music slowly over the span of a year: it keeps the excitement and energy alive. The music itself was close to flawless and her live performances were goosebump-inducing. As for her "fame"? I enjoy that she has not yet been consumed by the masses.

Singing Voice(s) Of The Year
Laura Marling, Jonsi and Cee Lo Green.

Best Indie Artist: Easy! Penguin Prison. Several perfect singles, a zillion great remixes, good live show and a superb album coming in 2011. Also: Bright Light Bright Light for his brilliant song, Cry At Films.

Producer Of The Year: Stuart Price, for getting his mojo back and helping three artists get theirs back: Kylie Minogue's Aphrodite, Take That's Progress and Scissor Sisters' Night Work.

Most Improved Artist: Ellie Goulding always had the music, but her performance style was decidedly not-ready-for the-bigtime as the year began. She looked terrified on Jools Holland last year, but 2010 ended with a triumphant pop star moment on Top Of The Pops.

Ridiculous 2010 Trend:
Tacky use of Fuck in song titles. It was fine - and relevant - to Cee Lo's Fuck You, middling with Pink's Fuckin' Perfect and cynical shite with the now-dire Enrique Iglesias's single, Tonight I'm Fucking You.

She Who Deserves More Respect Than She Received: Allison Goldfrapp for following the amazing, emotional Seventh Tree with the equally exhilarating Head First. This duo makes it all seems so effortless.

Lyrics of the Year: TIE! Chill-inducing lyrics in completely different moods...

Laura Marling, for the middle eight in Rambling Man:
It's funny that the first chords that you come to,
Are the minor notes that come to serenade you.
And it's hard to accept yourself as someone... you don't desire,
As someone you don't want to be.
And a much lighter, joyous moment in Cee Lo's I Want You, the love song of the year:
God is good. He took His time when he designed you baby.
That’s why I want you...
Oh, I'll even quit my job. Lovin' you, I'll make it my job!
Thank you Lord, thank you lord!
This is it, my God!
Live Show Of The Year: Without hesitation, Florence And The Machine's show at DC's 9:30 Club was one of the best shows I've seen in my life. Utterly BEYOND. Also coming close was Robyn's performance on the All Hearts Tour. She's like a pixie James Brown.

Album Cover Of The Year:
2010 was a shit year for album art. No budgets and a label desire to design everything for a smartphone. The winners: Goldfrapp's Head First, which looks even better in 12" form, and Scissor Sister's Mapplethorp'd Night Work.

Best Single Art That Should Have Been Album Art: Hurt's
glorious Wonderful Life.

Fab Divas I Whorishly Managed to Get To Tweet Me in 2010: Nancy Sinatra, Jackie Collins, Sandra Bernhard, Kylie Minogue.

Fave Musical Women of Tweet: Tracey Thorn, Judie Tzuke,
and Helen Terry.

Top Remixes Of The Year: Mix Of 2010 --> Penguin Prison Golden Train (Royal Palms Mix) <-- Mix Of 2010, Kelis and Benny Benassi Spaceship (Alex Guadino and Jason Rooney Mix),Ellie Goulding Starry Eyed (Russ Chimes Mix), Ellie Goulding Under The Sheets (Bright Light Bright Light Mix), Marina And The Diamonds I Am Not A Robot (Clock Opera Mix), Kelis Acapella (Raw Man Remix), Kelis 4th Of July (Richard X Mix), Robyn Dancing On My Own (Michael Woods remix), Medina You and I (Deadmau5 Mix), Kylie Minogue Get Outta My Way (7th Heaven Mix), Ellie Goulding Starry Eyed (Monsieur Adi Mix), Katy Perry Teenage Dream (Brian Cua Mix), Hurts Wonderful Life (Freemasons Mix), Roisin Murphy Momma's Place (Microfilm Mix), Penguin Prison The Worse It Gets (Starsmith Remix), Ellie Goulding Guns And Horses (Tonka Mix), Robyn Hang With Me (Starsmith Remix).

Most Popular Blog Post (On This Here Blog): Ass: A Game You Can Play

Ballad Of 2010: Judie Tzuke's moving If (When You Go). I got all heavy about this song back in the summer, because it's one of the few truly emotional songs of 2010. We live in an age where nobody wants to dig deep and this one does.

[this is a place-holder where I would have a comment about Sophie Ellis Bextor, had her label released the album she started promoting a year ago.]

Most Welcome Return To Music: Sade, who nailed it on a perfectly subtle album, Soldier Of Love. The title-track, however, took a big chance and gave us an edgier Sade, who remains not only one of the most beautiful women on earth, but the most dignified pop star I can imagine.

Biggest Surprise Great Albums: Duran Duran's superb All You Need Is Now (out in expanded form in February) and Kelis, who I truly believed was a relic of the 00's. No more.

Christmas Song Ranking, 2010: Tracey Thorn > David McAlmont > Coldplay > Hurts > Saint Etienne > The Feeling > Pet Shop Boys > The Killers

Best Unreleased Music: Bang Bang Club's lovely ballad Under The Influence, Ed Drewett's perfect album sampler, Penguin Prison's Princely forthcoming single Multi-Millionaire, and Alex Gardner's beautiful studio version of There Goes My Heart.

Most Wasted Moment:
Kelly Rowland not seizing on the international success of the blazing Commander. One assumes there were too many cooks in the kitchen trying to suppress Kelly's potential dominance as the new Donna Summer ("but, but.. Kelly's URBAN!"). Had she pushed it hard like Kelis, the year would have ended with her on top.

Photo Of The Year,
aka The What Is Happening There? Award: Courtney Love in melted-face freak mode in March. Later, she redeemed herself. While we're on Court, her album was a mixed bag, but the title track, Nobody's Daughter, is Love at her most self-aware. One lyric stuck with me all year: "Don't tell me I have lost when clearly I've won."

Artist Most In Need Of A Vacay:
Lady Gaga
wins again this year, for obvious reasons. Enough with the crazy costumes, unrehearsed tours and endless references to her little monsters. Just give this woman a long vacation so she can come back strong.

Stylish Sexpots Of 2010: Last year it was Rihanna and Martina from Dragonette,
and that's still the case now. Best couple? Theo Hurts and Marina Diamandis, of course.

Flop Of The Year: The biggest was Xtina Aguilera, who seemed to abandon her album before it even came out. What makes Cristina's case worse is that Bionic contained glimmers of exactly what she should have done across the whole album, but crass commercialism won out. I also think, post-Gaga, the platinum blond thing needs to go.

Disappointing Albums: Crowded House,
Kate Nash, Andy Bell, Hole, Amy MacDonald, Massive Attack, Seal, Sia (sorry! frown!), Rumer, The Script, Sarah McLachlan, and the career-ending Sugababes album - yes, that was this year! Three albums I never loved much that everyone else did: Mark Ronson, Sara Barielles and Brandon Flowers.

Most Disappointing Single: Frankmusik's
return to pop with The Fear Inside. Love him, but this song is weak.

How Did We Ever Like You? Award: Duffy
[shivers] She also gets Worst Single for the screeching, bobby-socksed horror that is Well Well Well

Great Minds Think Alike Award: I don't know anyone who did not say of Duran Duran's All You Need Is Now single, "Awesome chorus, shit verses."

Guilty Pleasure
: This is so dire. I am such a bottom feeder. I kind of admit to liking Ke$ha's Cannibal. Especially the part where she says, "Now that I'm famous, you're up my anus." The auto-tuned yodeling is a nice touch too.

Best Cover Song: Hurts doing Kylie's Confide On Me on The Sun's Biz Session. [ed note: The Sun version is superior to the actual live version they used as a Stay b-side]

Marina vs Ellie Goulding Battle: I made up this category because I am a bit of a douche. Here's the result: The better album was Ellie Goulding's, especially in its final form as Bright Lights. However, Marina is the real star here. As I said above, had this been 1987, she would be on every teen girl's wall. This woman has the X factor in spades, is equal measures cute and exotic and, while her album did not reflect her full potential, has major musical cajones. So, it's a draw.

Jump The Shark Moment: Madonna's manager Guy Oseary trolling on twitter for ideas of where the waning pop star should open over-priced gyms named after her worst album. Dire.

Moment That Made Up For The Above Jump The Shark Moment: Madonna's photo shoot with Mert & Marcus for Interview Magazine. Everything about it said to younger, needier popstrels, "Okay, kittens... FOLLOW THIS."

Best "Model Record" in Years: Karen Elson, for her gorgeous single,The Ghost Who Walks. The full album was not as good, but an admirable effort nonetheless.

The PR Award: Really? You Expect Me To Fall For This? Natalia Kills. Maybe there are surprises yet to be revealed, but I'm not expecting it.

The We've Boxed Ourselves In Award: To Hurts. Yes, Hurts is a very good pop band. No doubt. But their debut album was over the top on grandeur and passion with virtually nothing uptempo to storm the charts. The best uptempo, title song Happiness, was actually a bonus track not included on the CD. Likewise their performance style is, as one Popjustice Forum kid said, "monochrome." Theo's persona leaves little room for spontaneity.

Best Unnoticed Bonus Track: Robbie Williams' Long Walk Home, buried on his superb Hits collection. Download this song - it's a cover, but it's excellent.

Shockingly Shit Music That Seems To Be Taking Off: Jessie J's debut single Do it Like A Dude. Everybody loves this song and what I hear is a clusterfuck of everything I hate about popular music in 2010.

Worst Trend: The over-reliance in pop music of Dr Luke and auto-tune, which is basically the same thing. He did some brilliant songs, no doubt, but this sound is already dated. Don't think I am right? Remember Timbaland?

Good Riddance Award: The loathsome Sky Ferreira. Though I did like her UK single, One, she came across as a Fast-Track-Lohan(or lost Olsen sister?) with a rich sense of entitlement. And her Obsession video? Creepy.

RIP to the lovely and poptastic Mini Viva. This was the most senseless failure (charts, not quality) in pop music this year. These girls are far superior to most of the BBC's sound of 2011. We shall bask in the glow of Tokyo, I Wish and One Touch. Do not be fooled by pretenders to the throne... Mini Viva and Girls Aloud did it best.

Last thing. This year was one of the best of my life, most notably because of my trip to London in March. It was made extraordinary by the beautiful people we met along the way. They know who they are. To them: I thank you so much and send you all my love -and MP3s! - for 2011. Vinny, my Americano pop mogul/monthly pop summit mate, that includes you too (as opposed to, err, U2).


Coming Next: Top Songs, Top Albums and a mammoth list of almost every song I loved in 2010. Follow me on twitter in 2011 and I'll bug you some more...


DanProject76 said...

Your London trip was one of my favourite nights of 2010 so I thank you back! Nice to meet those other bloggy types too of course. Bonus point for introducing me to the man and music of Bright Light Bright Light that night. Oh no, I am doing rhyming now.

Agreed about Stuart Price, who else could make me love and buy an album by Take bloody That?

I Am Not A Robot (Clock Opera Mix) was my favourite remix of the year and thankfully you listed it too.

Now one thing I disagree with is Kate Nash's album as my version where I deleted two right awful racket tracks is marvellous. I fogot to put that on my Top 40 of 2010, oh damn.

Thanks for all the musical inspiration this year, you always lead me to discovering some great stuff that ends up in my favourites of the year.

leokrafty said...

your best of is the best I've ever seen around the web!!!

Diva Incarnate said...

I loved the Hole record - she's the one-woman Oasis on the song Honey.

RedLight,BlueNote said...

Saw Florence last a musician it annoys the hell out of me when an artist has horrible intonation problems. I thought maybe she was having an off night in NYC last year, but nope....she was under pitch and also sharp in every TV performance I've seen her in. It's hideous.

Her music is brilliant, she's beautiful and she has a great stage presence. I like her singing voice as well.....too bad she can't stay on pitch. I know I'm not the only one who has noticed this....I've asked other musician friends of mine if I were imagining it all. Nope....they all agreed. Obviously the woman needs a better ear piece, because she fabulous otherwise.

I don't get Penguin Prison for the life of me. I'll leave you to create a shrine to him. I'll pass. I disliked Ellie until I heard the reworked album, but I'll take Marina over her any day. Marina at Le Poisson Rouge & Robyn/Kelis at Webster Hall were the concerts of the year for me.

Best pop album of the year was "Queen of Denmark" by John Grant of The a long shot. Add that brilliant concert to the ladies' shows above.

Love your blog. Have a great New Years.

xolondon said...

@Dan Oh Kate Nash. Whoever let her do that shrill song as a teaser made a fatal error and set the record off on a course for failure. I will go back to it.

@leo Have put your SP blog in my reader!

@diva I had no idea you liked Courtney!

@redlight I've noticed it (Flo pitch) on TV performances though not on the MTV Video Awards - and did not perceive it at the 9:30 show. Re PP, I love him and there are some surprises on the record, but an altar implies I like everything by an artist and I don't play that game. Like the John Grant Honeybear song, which I think I heard about from Dan above...

billcsistunedon said...

A particularly wonderful opinionated blog :) It's fantastic reads like this that make me enjoy agreeing or disagreeing with you.


Jason said...

Great post! Thanks for all of the great music this year. Last night I put together a list of favorites for the year and realized that a bulk of them came from you! Looking forward to more in '11.

PS - I don't think Duffy's album is as horrific as you make it out to be. :P

Paul said...

Ditto what Dan said about that wonderful day in London :) Great observations here. There are two tracks i like on the Duffy album but that's about it! Lady Gaga does need a bit of a break - less dresses made from pork chops, more top pop! Apparently Born This Way will replace I Will Survive! What a lofty claim. I sort of can't wait despite my ambivalence towards her!

Happy new year to you Steve, it's always been a brilliantly entertaining read here :)

KulPop said...

Have to agree about Penguin Prison, lots of great music and the Royal Palms mix of 'Golden Train' is one of my favourite tracks of the year. Looking forward to his album and I hope to catch them live sometime this year.

Also looking forward to albums by 'Bright Light Bright Light', 'Tim & Jean' and hopefully a cd from one of my new favourite bands 'Echoes'.

Wishing you a great year in 2011, hope it tops 2010 for you.



Roman_Majors said...

Just curious . . . what did you think of Sufjan Stevens' album and ep?