PAPA, but no Nicole to be heard preaching...

Usually there’s a guest reviewer here. Someone from the pop world, plonked down with a bunch of tracks we’ve sent them, spewing words on why said songs are good (sometimes) or utterly without merit (usually). But today: no such luck. Our star in a medium-sized column dropped out at the last minute, so you’re stuck with me. Apologies in advance to all the artists featured.

If its starrier assessments you’re after, check out our singles column archive

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Beady Eye – ‘Soul Love’

It’s becoming increasingly, depressingly evident that gobshite overlord Liam Gallagher does what he does because he can’t do anything else. He has his clothing line, granted. But in terms of music, stepping up to the microphone and leering at it until it’s cowering and begging him to stop is his entire M.O. – and when he tries a little tenderness, the effect is more potently discomforting. While there’s something positive to be said for dogged determination in the face of critical indifference, songs like ‘Soul Love’ nail home the complete pointlessness of this man’s continuing career in pop.

A drab, ironically soulless affair, fronted by a vocal so nonchalant it’s barely in the same room as the music, and with all the lyrical depth of a hosepipe ban, ‘Soul Love’ is beneath by-numbers for a band with such combined experience. One wonders what these players could achieve stripped of the Gallagher factor. He’s got his one direction, so let him at it. The rest of Beady Eye, if they’re truly as bored as they sound here, might be advised to rethink their creative agenda sharpish. Life is short, lads. Don’t be shy.

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Calvin Harris & Alesso feat. Hurts – ‘Under Control’

Several years ago, I awarded the first Calvin Harris album a 1/10 score, when reviewing it for a Site That Isn’t Clash. In hindsight, that was unnecessarily cruel – the album wasn’t without its quirky strengths, although they only became evident in comparison to their maker’s subsequent creations. Later, Calvin emailed me, writing that I’d “won”, as it was likely that more people read The Site In Question than listened to his music.

How times change: today, Harris is a true superstar DJ, so whatever I thought of those formative foundations, they clearly connected with the mainstream enough to allow passage to the upper echelons of the pop firmament. And, now Harris has attained a level of recognition that puts critique like this immediately in the shade of actual songwriting success, there’s really no point in stating the obvious about ‘Under Control’.

But what the hell: it sounds entirely obvious. You know how it’s going to play out before the beat commences, and it doesn’t disappoint. When the first line here, “I might be anyone,” is instantly relatable to the music backing it, you know you’ve achieved a standard of mass-market ubiquity that even Emeli Sandé can only dream of. Still, probably sounds great in a Yates’s, backed by the shrill cries of a few-dozen Saturday night harpies.

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Pusha T feat. Chris Brown – ‘Sweet Serenade’

When the day comes that rap and R&B can’t gel in some wholly homogenised, chart-bait form, I don’t want to do music anymore. This shit has been churned out for a good while now – we can take it back to early ‘90s Def Jam, if not some way further – and will never fail to get the laydeez jamming along, ideally in HD slow-motion so we can all letch at their toned thighs. Could be worse, of course. Those laydeez could be on the receiving end of a brutal bruising. ‘Sweet Serenade’ is proof again, then, that being a tremendous dick doesn’t necessarily spell pop disaster. See also: the eighth-rate Maverick Sabre f*cknut that is James Arthur. 

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PAPA – ‘I Am The Lion King’

Something old dusted off for audiences new, now PAPA (pictured) have been signed a major-label deal, ‘I Am The Lion King’ is purely inoffensive fare from a bunch of Los Angeles types who’ve been unfavourably compared to Mona over at the Guardian. Ouch. This track dates from 2011, but (slightly tweaked for 2013) it sounds perfectly at home in a pop landscape where easy-going indie rock, ideally with a sorta-‘80s tinge and fronted by not-unattractive men with beards, clicks with audiences desperate for anything vaguely resembling The Bon Kings Of Mumford And Iver’s Sons. Anything that isn’t Mona, basically. The no-shoes thing, though: so 2011, lads.

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Rainy Milo – ‘Rats’

A Clash one to watch back in the summer, Rainy Milo’s latest finds the London teenager building on her attention-grabbing cover of The Clash’s ‘Bankrobber’ by slipping behind 2014’s tipped-for-success sorts through sounding a bit like Lily Allen did in the mid-‘00s. (If you’re not reminded of the original video for Allen’s ‘LDN’ when watching this, then you’ve not seen Allen’s ‘LDN’. Hell, Milo even says “LDN” at one point.) Nothing wrong with that, if it’s mid-tier success you’re striving for. But one suspects that Milo’s paymasters at Virgin had more in mind for her when she signed, and fewer than 12,000 views for this video since its upload over a month ago suggests that she mightn’t get too many more cracks at a breakthrough. (We all know how this industry does.)

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