Friday Five: 5 Tunes for Time-Travellers

Ade Spink previously directed us to five songs (some ... barely qualifying as such) with bad science. This time he returns with science even more dubious - five songs all about time travel! Did he miss a classic? Let him know at @AdeSpink

Did Doc and Marty McFly inadvertently make 2015 a landmark year in time travel culture, or did they somehow know back in 1985 that this was going to happen? Why not enjoy five time-traveller based songs while you unravel that paradox.

Moog Indigo"Passport To The Future" – Jean-Jacques Perrey

“What the MOOG SYNTHESISER opens up for the future of music is beyond dreams” reads the hyperbole on the sleeve for Moog Indigo from 1970. Perrey was the archetypical out-of time genius, a synthesiser pioneer who sequenced his music by hand, meticulously cutting tape into tiny fragments and splicing it back together.

"Passport To The Future" closes the Moog Indigo album, arguably the pinnacle of Perrey’s output. This particular track is a hopeful jaunty vision of what he saw music would eventually become; a clean electronic sound eschewing such prosaic concerns as bands and instruments. Thinking multi-dimensionally, maybe there exists a world where people took notice of this track, and now we all travel to work by jet pack in our gleaming silver cities?

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Power Ballads: Vampires, Cheetahs and Thunderdome

Every_Rose_Has_Its_Thorn-CoverWhen your editor says "Power Ballads!" and your mind doesn’t immediately start hearing Poison’s "Every Rose Has It’s Thorn", it means you may not have the same understanding of power ballads as everyone else. Hell, if you even heard Miley’s version of that track, you’d be okay - but if you didn’t, then you’d better explain just what you think power ballads are. 

And by you, I mean me.

With that in mind, here are some songs that I consider power ballads. You may notice they are all big melodramatic numbers with power vocals and lyrics that are easy enough to remember. A solid chorus can take a power ballad a long way - even further if comes with a defiant rhythm that forces you to sit up and chair dance. Sometimes they go acoustic, sometimes they don’t. But there is always an element of great theatricality in them, sometimes verging on camp. (And they’re not all from the 80s.)


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7 Songs That Defined Pop Music

Pop!Pop music as we know is a strange little beastie, all sparkly and prickly, brash and uber-opinionated. But it wasn’t born this way.

Most of the roots of contemporary pop music can be traced back to early American blues and soul, with a steady stream of influences all pouring down and becoming what we now know as pop, rock and hip hop - or what I sometimes think of as poprockhop because there are frequently just so many blurred lines.

It probably isn’t possible - or right, or fair - to trace the roots of popular music to just a handful of songs, but I’m going to try anyway.

Here are seven songs that explain to me where contemporary pop has come from, seven songs that define the cultural heritage of popular music today...

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Friday Five: 5 Songs with Bad Science

Ade Spink is obsessed equally by science fiction and rock and roll and believes both peaked in 1962. You can argue with him about this on twitter at @AdeSpink. (I personally would argue 1985, but to each their own.)

Since the beginning of the rock ‘n’ roll era, several artists have made predictions for the future in song. Sometimes these predictions turn out wrong, or the songwriter just misunderstands basic scientific principles.

Here are 5 songs where the science could possibly be questioned...

Glenda Collins"It’s Hard To Believe It" - Glenda Collins

Any article on scientifically inaccurate songs should start with a Joe Meek production. My choice is Glenda Collins and the protest song “It’s Hard To Believe It” from 1966. While his social predictions, that the government would spend money on missiles rather than poverty, were dead on the money, he did also predict;

“we’re all in for a shock and soon,
when we find living creatures upon the moon”

His other records have similar problems. In 1960, he recorded the experimental “I hear a new world”, a set of instrumental themes for areas of the moon. It included “Magnetic Field: This is a stretch of the moon where there is a strange lack of gravity forcing everything to float about 3 feet above the crust”.

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7 Deadly Sins: The Best Earworm Pop of 2014

When writing about music from 2014, it’s very easy to come to the conclusion that you just hate it all. And that’s fine - a lot of it was really, really bad. There were also some really cool releases from people like St. Vincent, Damon Albarn, Beck, The Black Keys, but the smart, thoughtful music is never the stuff that plays everywhere and is heard by everyone. No, that's the lethal stuff, the earworms that make you sing along and chair dance before you’ve even worked out the name of the song.

The obvious earworms for 2014 were by Beyonce, Pharrell and "Let It Go", but they weren't the only ones. Here are a few of my own favourites (or... at least the ones I found wormiest) from 2014. I do not claim they are all fantastic pop songs - only that they dig their long sparkly highly manicured nails deep in your brain. 

So here they are, my 2014 ear worms, in no particular order. Oh, who am I kidding? Of course Tay-Tay goes first.

Taylor Swift - "Shake It Off"

Taylor Swift Shake It Off on Vimeo

Taylor Swift and the Cult of the Awkward White Girl, they called it. Taylor Swift the Hurricane, they said, as she stormed up the charts with "Shake It Off", the first single from her fourth studio album, and the very first to be overtly stated as a pop album. The country super star had been a crossover hit before but never like this. And finally, all those thinly disguised confessional lyrics from her previous albums gave way to a cool, pure, from-the-heart bird-flip to everyone who ever made fun of Taylor Swift, while drawing her fans in closer than ever before. This isn’t Taylor lashing out in anger or resentment, this is Taylor beyond anger and resentment, this is Taylor rising above, while accepting that America’s sweetheart is a great big goof and it’s okay

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Gaga Ooh La La

GagagagagagagagaWhen I sat down to write about Lady Gaga this month, what I didn’t know was just how much the critics had panned her last major solo studio album, ArtPop.

Sure, she seems to be having a successful run with Cheek to Cheek, her 2014 collaborative album of jazz standards with Tony Bennett (more on that later because it may be crazier than most of the obviously crazy things she’s known for), but there’s been a lull in the fame and celebrity surrounding Gaga for a few months now. The woman who arrived in an egg at the Grammys, the woman who wore the meat dress (which apparently really stank), the woman who performed with a ‘vomit painter’ on stage, the monstrous feminine, the mother creature, the weird fiction narrative come to life... is now wearing jumpsuits and her original hair colour, and crooning with an 88 year old performer of show tunes. She’s doing it well, by all reports, but it’s just not as interesting, is it? 

With Tony Bennett, Gaga is a tempered-down version of herself. She's still occasionally seen with green hair or pink, but when she's with Bennett, she has gone back to her original dark brows and hair (even if styled as a 70’s Cher style ‘fro or Princess Leia braid) and her patented get-ups are reduced to swishy long dresses made of regular boring materials like silk. She’s relying totally on her voice to carry her through this, which is great since, surprise - she really can sing. I do miss the spectacle element, because that’s something so much a part of what she does, but in a way it’s sweet that she’s respecting the much older, more experienced entertainer she’s with by not distracting from what they accomplish with their voices alone. 

What no one wants to talk about is 2013’s ArtPop - the album and accompanying music videos that seem to have left everyone cold. Maybe Gaga went her own way and she just didn’t connect with as many people, maybe it all finally just got too weird, maybe the music industry is crazy to not consider an album that still sold over 2 million copies a success, but still, I have to agree: nothing that came from ArtPop felt like it had the longevity of something from The Fame Monster.

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Thunder In Our Hearts: the Music of Kate Bush

Kate BushI’m just going to say it: Kate Bush is the Angela Carter of music.

For both, the following apply: people who have been exposed to her work are left changed and will cite her as an inspiration at every turn; a generation above or below may never know of her and the loss is entirely theirs; her fans have a cult-like love for her; she always knew exactly who she was as a creator, as an artist; no one will ever be able to work out just how she did what she did. Visceral, earthy and effortlessly charming, both Bush and Carter are iconoclasts who have informed so much music and writing that it is impossible to measure the breadth of their influence. They’re also both genre artists.

Kate Bush isn’t someone you can listen to without having your attention torn away from everything else - she’s never going to be background music. She’s never written a conventional pop song, even when she wrote a conventional pop song. She uses disruptive rhythms, changes key all over the place and sings with ferocity even when she’s whispering. You can’t not give her your ears, your eyes and probably your soul too. Even when she couldn't possibly have known who she was or who she wanted to be as an artist - at age 13, 16, 19 - she still somehow figured it out in a secret way, a way that allowed her to retain creative control over her work and win almost each battle with her recording company. It’s quite something that Kate Bush always got to do what she wanted to, that she could make a commercial label like EMI release an album as strange, as surreal and as esoteric as, say, 1984’s The Dreaming. Maybe it was the 80s. Maybe she just had better contracts drawn up for creative control than Prince did back then. But it’s a feat in itself to be able to control your career the way she did at such a young age.

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Renay on "My Favourite Disney Songs"

Music really shapes who we are, and I had a minor revelation on this point a few weeks ago. Recently, Jared asked Twitter to name their five top Disney songs. I answered sarcastically and cited Gaston in all five slots, but after considering the question I realized that I had a more serious answer.

Of course, my response breaks Jared's initial rule of five songs, but hey, it's me, I never saw a rule I didn't like to stomp. Part of this is because I grew up on Disney. I didn't have siblings or a lot of friends, so I spent a lot of evenings watching television by myself. The Disney Channel was a staple in my media diet until I was 19. But I also found that a lot of my answers were nonstandard. A lot of my songs came, not from traditional animated Disney films, but from their short features, albums, live-action movies, and covers of songs. And while I was considering my extremely eclectic list, I realized that part of why I embrace so many different sorts of music as an adult is because I was introduced, by Disney, to so many different styles of music very, very young. 

My list of favorite songs from (or provided by) Disney:

07. You Are The Music In Me — High School Musical

I really enjoy The High School Musical films, because they're so upbeat and happy and I still love imagining the world where no one is just one thing, but a vast collection of likes, dislikes, skills and hobbies, and free to explore them all. I will never not love that trope. But, in the end, I just really came to like the chemistry of these artists. The secret to my enjoyment of this song is definitely because of the quiet, piano beginning.

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Friday Five: 5 Classic TV Show Opening Narrations

This week's guest host is Dave Bradley. Dave (@SFXDaveB) is the editor-in-chief of market-leading sci-fi and fantasy magazine SFX, which is soon to celebrate its 250th issue. The latest issue is available in newsagents right now with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 on the cover.

It used to be that no TV show felt properly exciting unless it boasted an opening narration, but there's a dearth of them these days. "Previously on..." doesn't cut it: we want a voiceover explaining the cool premise of the series, preferably narrated over a montage that's so heart-thumpingly thrilling the actual story feels like an anticlimax. The best opening narrations explain who the characters are, what's happening to them, and - most significantly - why we're supposed to care about them; and the most iconic have added phrases to the language that are familiar even to non-viewers. There are a few shows still keeping the tradition alive (Person Of Interest, Almost Human) but the golden age is surely behind us, as this week's Friday Five demonstrates...

Adventures of Superman

"Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!" The classic show featuring George Reeves ran from 1952 to 1958 and in many ways defined the "mild mannered" DC superdude that we know today. Across its 104 episodes the opening narration – which was adapted from that of the earlier 1940s radio show – was spoken by Bill Kennedy and quickly explains who Superman is and what his abilities are, giving every generation since the opportunity to spoof "is it a bird? Is it a plane?!" A little silly, but upbeat and unforgettable – this is how to introduce a TV hero. 

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Friday Five: The Apocalypse in Music (2000s Edition)

This week's guest is radio host and book reviewer Mahvesh Murad. Mahvesh can be found interviewing authors for 89 Chapters and spinning the blues [does one spin blues? I'm so not cool] for Voodoo Nights, both for City89, Pakistan's top radio network (and both shows can also be heard through your computerbox). 

As an afficinado of both genre fiction and fine music, Mahvesh has done a list of... well, er... see for yourself. It is pretty spectacular...

Making a list of songs about the end of the world is easy. Making a list of songs from the last decade about the end of the world isn’t as easy - especially when you’re looking for good songs from a decade you don’t appreciate so much. But, it isn’t impossible. Here’s my list of five songs about the apocalypse from the last decade, in no order of preference. 

Britney Spears - Till the World Ends

When Britney was good she was fantastic. When she was bad, well, she was a mess and we all know it. What was the very worst though, was when she was neither good nor bad - tracks like If U Seek Amy languished in that middle ground: so boring, so bored. Britney with her dead eyes and her limp moves; Britney, with everything that made her that glistening snake goddess in 2001’s I’m a Slave for You stripped away; Britney, hair grown out, sobriety claimed, and without soul. This Britney tried very hard to fake it, but it didn’t always work. What did work though, was 2011’s Till the World Ends. A solid dance floor anthem with a chorus that even Cher would have been proud of in her 90s disco days, Till the World Ends is probably Britney’s best song, post-comeback.

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