Dave’s Singles Chart Update – February 11

It would seem that my decision to name Sigrid as winner of my Music Futures award for 2017 was the right one, as the Norwegian pop superstar-in-the-making is dominating my singles chart this week. ‘Dynamite’, the acoustic version of her orchestral ballad spends a second week at No 1 this week, and Sigrid has replicated the recent success of Gabrielle Aplin and Lanterns on the Lake and taken the top two places in the chart as ‘Strangers’ climbs a place to No 2. ‘Strangers’ has enough chart points to be No 1 itself in a normal week, and with ‘Plot Twist’ climbing to No 14 and her European hit of 2017, ‘Don’t Kill My Vibe’ entering the Top 40 at No 39, it is possible that she might achieve unheard of dominance of the survey in the next few weeks. No artist has ever placed four songs within the top 10 in the same week – Sigrid might be timing this unprecedented event for our trip to see her live at Shepherd’s Bush on March 14th.

Four songs enter the Top 10 this week. We have discussed The Jezabels’ version of ‘If You Go’ previously. This song sits next to Outlya’s ‘Heaven’, which has found new momentum after stalling for a week and which gives the likeable trio a Top 10 hit with their debut single. Outlya are by far the most successful band we have seen playing as a support act, aside from those (such as Meadowlark) who had already featured on the chart – their sparky set supporting Gabrielle Aplin at Student Central before Christmas will now expand into a full set for their upcoming UK tour. Instantly memorable songs full of hooks are their stock in trade. It is fascinating to see these newcomers adjacent to Sufjan Stevens in the chart – Stevens climbs from No 12 to No 9 with ‘Wallowa Lake Monster’, his first ever top 10 singles hit after a 17 year career. He has had a number of very successful albums – his 2015 release ‘Carrie and Lowell’ reaching No 1 in the album chart. ‘Carrie and Lowell’ was of course largely inspired by Stevens’ complex relationship with his mother, who suffered from depression, schizophrenia, and substance abuse, who abandoned Stevens when he was 1 year old and who died in 2012. Wallowa Lake itself is in Oregon, destination of many family trips during Stevens’s childhood, and the monster of the song’s title refers to his mother’s illness. Astonishingly this song missed the cut for ‘Carrie and Lowell’, eventually appearing on Stevens’ 2017 mixtape ‘The Greatest Gift’. I suspect it has not stopped climbing the chart yet.

The final top 10 entry is ‘Backseat’, Charli XCX’s collaboration with Carly Rae Jepsen and the first member of the invading party from XCX’s No 1 album ‘Pop 2’ to make the top 10. Sigrid is not the only artist with four songs in the chart this week – and the other three singles from ‘Pop 2’ are all climbing the chart too. I am slightly awed by XCX’s breadth of talent, to be honest – and her already remarkable career deserves a longer discussion at some point soon. I am particularly taken by the eclectic mix of collaborators on ‘Pop’ – from worldwide stars such as Jepsen and Tove Lo to lesser known performance artists such as Brooke Candy and Dorian Electra. One other name to watch for from ‘Pop 2’ is Cupcakke, whose debut hit ‘Crayons’ jumps to No 70 on the survey this week. ‘Crayons’ is a joyously witty anthem of support for love of all shades – gay, lesbian, trans – and calls out those sad members of society who are unable or unwilling to deal with it. It’s going to be colossal.

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Heatseekers Chart Update – February 11

Lissie spends her second week on top of the Heatseekers Chart with ‘Best Days’, the follow up to recent Singles Chart No 1 ‘Blood And Muscle’. The top three remains unchanged, with Camila Cabello’s monster ballad ‘Something’s Gotta Give’ at No 2 and ‘Handyman’, the second track from AWOLNation’s recently released album ‘Here Come The Runts’ at No 3. However, the Top 10 also features four tracks climbing from outside the Top 20, among which the most impressive move is another AWOLNation song, ‘Jealous Buffoon’. It’s not a fiesta of lyrical brilliance, to be honest – “I never think I’ll ever get used to your body, cruisin’ your body” sings Aaron Bruno, adding (several times) “I’m just a jealous buffoon’. ‘Here Come The Runts’ has not particularly impressed the critics, currently checking in at 65% on Metacritic, but it’s better than that – there’s melody aplenty among the distortion and the effects. We are seeing AWOLNation when they tour the UK in April.

There are strong moves into the Top 10 for Marmozets’ ‘Insomnia’, after their barnstorming show this week at ULU Student Central (review to come in a couple of days) and for Prides, whose ‘Born To Be Whole’ might have finally broken them after a string of decent songs that underachieved. But the most interesting climbers are from two artists who might just be major stars in the making. Liz Lawrence has been tagged as someone to watch for several years – her ear for melody and her background in ska and punk bands were the trigger for some excellent live shows, and she released a well regarded album, ‘Bedroom Hero’ in 2013. Lawrence then spent the best part of a year touring with Bombay Bicycle Club before forming the electro duo Cash+David with Tim Ross. Some well received EP’s failed to break the band, who seem to be dormant now judged from their lack of social media activity since early 2017 – Lawrence has spent time touring (supporting Toothless among others) but has now exploded back into the spotlight with ‘We Got Love’. The song is almost sepulchral: a sustained note on an organ develops and grows with an electro backbeat before Lawrence’s vocal, melodic but also slightly eerie cuts through the music. The song is a beautiful paean of love. “Jump as though…you can’t drown. ‘Cause you’ll never fail when it comes to me.” It’s a triumph and if Lawrence can continue to weave these kind of hypnotic soundscapes – this could just be her time.

Then it’s time to meet Kid Wave. The band are fronted by Swede Lea Emmery, who moved to the UK from Norrk√∂ping in 2011 and gradually put together a band – fellow Swede Matthias Bhatt on guitar, Brit Harry Deacon on bass and Aussie Serra Petale on drums. Kid Wave’s lush music and soundscapes grabbed the attention of a lot of the cognescenti, and their debut album ‘Wonderlust’ (described as ‘grungy shoegaze’ for those of you fascinated by musical genre naming) was a minor hit. Emmery took herself off to Los Angeles after the release of ‘Wonderlust’, spending time working in a cafe and playing live with a local group of musicians, but she reconnected with her bandmates on her return to the UK. ‘Twenty-Four’, the first single released by the reacquainted band is full of shimmering guitars, looping drums and Emmery’s light voice. There is a purer indie-pop feel to the song, and it’s almost danceable but there’s also an edge to it that seizes and captures the attention. It is perhaps not surprising that artists’ songwriting skills often kick up to the next level after the kind of experience Emmery has had in LA – if she can add some extra power to the talent that was clearly present in ‘Wonderlust’ then we are in for a treat.

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Dave’s Heatseekers Chart Update – January 28

Lissie celebrates dual success this week. ‘Blood And Muscle’ spends a second week on top of the Singles’ Chart, and the follow up ‘Best Days’ has taken over the No 1 spot in the Heatseekers Chart. ‘Best Days’ sums up Lissie’s outlook on life as she has moved back to Iowa and refocused on a career of longevity and legacy rather than major commercial success. The song reflects her determination that there is always a bright future ahead of her: “If the best days that we’ll know are just in the past, are we gonna last forever? I want more best days”. Lissie’s future looked less bright when she was dropped by her Sony after the release of second album “Back To Forever”, but if anything this has acted as a catalyst for the release of some beautifully reflective yet slightly eerie music on 2016’s ‘My Wild West’. If her current work is anything to go by, her fourth album ‘Castles’ (released on March 23rd) will be a beauty. Some mistake, Sony.

Whether ‘Best Days’ will still be No 1 next week is hard to say as ‘Something’s Gotta Give’, the standout track from Camila Cabello’s self titled debut album has entered the chart at No 2 this week. My attempt to keep some kind of order in the singles chart by spacing out an album’s single releases has been a complete failure, I’m afraid – now it is much more likely that multiple tracks from an album will all arrive essentially at the same time. Cabello has three tracks in the Heatseekers Chart at present – ‘Into It’ is at No 20 and ‘In The Dark’ at No 26. However, that unimpressive effort has been firmly put in its place by Charli XCX, who now has four tracks from her stunning mixtape ‘Pop2’ climbing the singles chart. Can anyone enlighten me as to when an album is an album and when it is a mixtape? I really don’t understand the difference, but I do know that ‘Pop2’ is better than 99% of the genuine albums that will be released this year.

Sensibly paced releases from albums appears to be another thing of the past then, along with radio stations that you can actually listen to (why do they all have idiotic acolytes sniggering at the presenter’s horribly unfunny jokes?) and multiple versions of the same song competing with each other in the chart. This seriously was a thing in the early days of the British Chart – there were even occasions where said different versions replaced each other at Number One. Or indeed were joint No 1’s in the case of David Whitfield and Frankie Laine’s recordings of ‘Answer Me’ in 1953. However, I can’t recall an example of this since Natasha and the Belle Stars were both in the chart with versions of ‘Iko Iko’ in 1982. Until two separate versions of ‘K.’, the lead track on Cigarettes After Sex’s eponymous debut album hit the Heatseekers Chart recently. ‘K.’ tells the story of a relationship that develops from no strings attached sex into true love: it should be moving and emotional, but somehow in the hands of Cigarettes After Sex it becomes ever so slightly creepy. Rosie Carney’s sweetly gentle version just feels more authentic, and as a result looks likely to do better when the two songs hit the singles chart next week.

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Camila Cabello – ‘Camila’ Album Review

As my few remaining regular readers will know, I am not an R+B fan. I am also not a fan of anyone that has ever emerged from Simon Cowell’s various US talent shows, the winners of whom (Kelly Clarkson aside) are totally anonymous. But I did make an exception in the case of Fifth Harmony, who finished 3rd in the 2012 series of the American X Factor and went on to enjoy some singles success in my chart with tracks such as ‘Work From Home’and ‘Worth It’. Current band member Lauren Jauregui also hit the top 10 in the chart last year with ‘Strangers’, her collaboration with Halsey. Now we can take a listen to ‘Camila’, the debut album from former Fifth Harmony member Camila Cabello, who left the band in late 2016.

‘Camila’ had a rather prolonged development. Originally envisaged as a story of Cabello’s journey “from darkness into light” and to be titled “The Hurting, The Healing, The Loving”, the album saw contributions from the likes of Sia, Ed Sheeran and Charli XCX considered and then discarded. The trigger for a major overhaul of the album’s track list (I counted at least ten named tracks that had been intended to be on the album, but were eventually abandoned) was the huge success of debut single ‘Havana’. A sultry, Latin influenced song with a rap from Young Thug, ‘Havana’ appears to have stunned everyone with its popularity, reaching No 1 in numerous countries around the world including the UK and the US. As a result, a reworked album with a much more pop friendly tracklist was produced, and the story of Cabello’s journey was dropped. On balance this was the right move, although one does end up with a feeling that the change of direction does leave the album slightly missing its target.

I was expecting to produce a lazy review full of discussion of Latin influences, but in fact there is more electrodance than Latin in here. ‘Havana’ and the preceding track ‘She Loves Control’ are about as Latin as we get. ‘Havana’ is a top notch song for sure, its sassy swing and brass backing prompting images of steamy night clubs, and it does seem to be a pity that this theme is not more prominent through the rest of the album. The majority of the album’s other standout tracks are firmly in electropop territory, particularly current single ‘Into It’ with its choppy beats and cuts. ‘Never Be The Same’ and ‘In The Dark’ are in a similar vein. The album does unfortunately have a number of low spots – there are too many strummy guitar ballads (‘All These Years’, ‘Real Friends’) and by the time we get to the gentle, sweet but unchallenging piano backed ‘Consequences’ the album is beginning to lose its interest. Fortunately there is a real gem lurking. ‘Something’s Gotta Give’ evolved from an original version called ‘Good Reason To Go’, telling the story of Cabello’s departure from Fifth Harmony. I am not sure if the lyrics have altered since the original version was written, because now the track appears to reflect on the end of a romantic relationship. Whatever it’s about, it’s outstanding. Cabello’s vocal is sultry and moving, the strings compliment the piano perfectly, and the song kicks up a gear with a gorgeous key change after the bridge. It’s the kind of ballad that makes you wonder why Cabello bothered with the string of much less remarkable ballads scattered through the album.

Cabello clearly has talent, as a singer and a writer (she co-wrote every track on the album). I just hope her musical direction becomes clearer for her next album – if she enhances her vocal with the type of emotion we hear on ‘Something’s Gotta Give’, and her Latin influences are given freer rein, there is a lot of potential here.

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Dave’s Chart Update January 21

This week’s big news is all about two singers who we will be seeing in concert in the next few weeks. Firstly it is many congratulations to Lissie as ‘Blood And Muscle’, the first single to be taken from her fourth studio album ‘Castles’ reaches No 1 this week, dislodging Ardyn’s ‘Life Happens’ after two weeks. ‘Blood And Muscle’ is Lissie’s second No 1 in my singles chart – ‘Hollywood’, taken from her most recent album ‘My Wild West’ spent two weeks at No 1 in 2016. Lissie combines a background of country and folk influences with a dark edge to her lyrics and a powerfully soulful voice which is perfectly showcased on ‘Blood And Muscle’, a ferocious song of longing. “I want a love that’s brave – can take my tears”. In some respects the freedom of becoming an independent artist (she was formerly signed by Columbia) seems to have sparked Lissie’s creativity to another level. Her follow up single ‘Best Days’ is another absolute cracker, and hits the Heatseekers Chart at No 3 this week. I didn’t get tickets to see Lissie last time she was in the UK as part of a faintly ridiculous protest against the fact that she has never played ‘Hollywood’ live (not even once) – fortunately I have come to my senses. She’s a superb artist and her live reputation is excellent. Watch out for a review of the album when it is released in late March and her concert at the Village Warehouse in Shoreditch in April.

And then we have Sigrid. The achievements of the 20 year old Norwegian singer, winner of my Music Futures Award for 2017 threaten to dwarf pretty much everything else that is going on in the chart at present. Sigrid now has two singles in the Top 10. ‘Strangers’, her upbeat, bouncy debut single has taken eight weeks to climb to No 8, but has now been overtaken by ‘Dynamite’ which has raced to No 7 on only its third week on the chart. ‘Dynamite’ is perfection in musical form – a glorious acoustic version of a song Sigrid has sung at events as diverse as the Nobel Peace Prize concert and Austin’s South By Southwest festival. Her voice, which is sweet and gentle on ‘Strangers’ transforms into something astonishing on ‘Dynamite’ – powerful and gloriously husky. As a love song, ‘Dynamite’ is a fascinating contrast to ‘Blood and Muscle’ – the power here is all from the woman’s side. “You’re as safe as a mountain – but know that I am dynamite”. To add to her achievements Sigrid has the highest Top 100 new entry this week in ‘Plot Twist’ and the song that broke her in Europe last year, ‘Don’t Kill My Vibe’ is No 2 in the Heatseekers Chart. There is a lot to like about this dazzling talent. My Music Futures winners have had mixed success – the 2014 winner Laurel has enjoyed several Top 10 hits, including 2015’s massive No 1 ‘Blue Blood’, while 2016’s winner Shells is still to follow up her 2017 spring No 1 ‘Jailbird’. But nobody has had so much success as quickly as Sigrid. She’s a superstar in the making.

Finally the highest climber in the chart this week comes from the Jezabels, one of my favourite bands in the whole world (right up there with Lanterns on the Lake and Daughter). This is a slightly unusual turn from the band – the song ‘If You Go’ is a cover version of a track by the not-that-well-known Sydney band Sticky Fingers, and was recorded for the ‘Like A Version’ slot on Australia’s Triple J radio station. The idea behind ‘Like A Version’ is simple – a band or artist come into the studio, play one of their own songs and perform a cover version of a song they particularly like. The original version of ‘If You Go’ is all funky guitars and a slightly overblown chorus: the Jezabels strip the song right back, slow the pace and allow centre stage to Hayley Mary’s voice and the song’s excellent lyrics. Rather fascinatingly one of the covers played in the show recently was Charli XCX’s version of Wolf Alice’s ‘Don’t Delete The Kisses’ – a precursor to XCX’s remix of the same song. You might be interested to check the remixed song (on which XCX takes the first two verses and Ellie Rowsell the third) with the ‘Like A Version’ recording linked below.

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Dave’s Chart Awards Part 4

The big finale, as we review the final four award categories, and conclude with the Big Two – Album of the Year and Song of the Year.

BEST NEW ACT

AVEC SANS
BLACK FOXXES
DAYA
HAELOS
RAY BLK

Acts qualify if they have had no Top 40 singles or albums before November 30th 2015, and no chart singles or albums of any description before November 30th 2014. We do not have the sort of nonsense here that the Grammys perpetuate with their much feted Best New Act award – nominees this year include The Chainsmokers (whose annoying single ‘#Selfie’ came out in the summer of 2014), and last year included Meghan Trainor who was nominated for Song of the Year the year before that! The most obvious omission in this category is Gnash, but competition was very tough – Hannah Lou Clark, Nieves, Alan Walker, Sara Hartman and Skyes also missed out. The nominees cover a range of genres – favourites Haelos and Avec Sans represent top notch electro music, Black Foxxes are a rock band par excellence and Daya proved much more than an Alessia Cara-lite pop singer with a really classy debut album. Ray BLK must be the outsider here, the only nominee who did not release an album in 2016 – but the quality of her No 1 ‘My Hood’ suggests that major things are ahead for her too.

BEST GROUP OR DUO

DAUGHTER
HAELOS
LANTERNS ON THE LAKE
PHORIA
THE JEZABELS

In terms of chart performance, there can be only one winner here. Daughter had a spectacular year, with two No 1 singles (‘How’ and ‘Youth’), two more Top 10 singles (‘Numbers’ and ‘Doing The Right Thing’), a fifth single which looks sure to make the Top 10 (‘The End’), a No 1 album (‘Not To Disappear’) and a memorable live show at Brixton on their list of achievements. Phoria did extremely well too – their No 1 album ‘Volition’ yielded four Top 20 singles in ‘Evolve’, ‘Saving Us A Riot’, ‘Loss’ and ‘Everything Beta’. The Jezabels’ ‘Synthia’ was one of the biggest albums of the year, yielding the massive No 1 single ‘Come Alive’, and we have already spoken several times about the excellent year enjoyed by Haelos. And then there is my favourite band, Lanterns on the Lake. They had two No 1 singles in ‘Faultlines’ and the year’s longest running No 1, ‘Through The Cellar Door, and their massive album ‘Beings’ remains in the album chart Top 10 a year after its release.

ALBUM OF THE YEAR

BAT FOR LASHES for ‘The Bride’ (No 1 for 3 weeks)
BLACK FOXXES for ‘I’m Not Well’ (No 1 for 2 weeks)
CHRISTINE AND THE QUEENS for ‘Chaleur Humaine’ (No 1 for 1 week)
DAUGHTER for ‘Not To Disappear’ (No 1 for 1 week)
HAELOS for ‘Full Circle’ (No 1 for 1 week)
PHORIA for ‘Volition’ (No 1 for 1 week)
RADIOHEAD FOR ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ (No 1 for 3 weeks)
SHURA for ‘Nothing’s Real’ (No 1 for 1 week)
THE JEZABELS for ‘Synthia’ (No 1 for 10 weeks)
THE SLOW SHOW for ‘Dream Darling’ (No 1 for 3 weeks)

SONG OF THE YEAR

GNASH AND OLIVIA O’BRIEN for ‘I Hate U I Love U’ (No 2 for 6 weeks)
GRIMES for ‘Flesh Without Blood’ (No 1 for 4 weeks)
HAELOS for ‘Pray’ (No 4 for 3 weeks)
JESS GLYNNE for ‘Take Me Home’ (No 2 for 2 weeks)
LANTERNS ON THE LAKE for ‘Through The Cellar Door’ (No 1 for 9 weeks)
NIEVES for ‘Broken Oars’ (No 3 for 2 weeks)
RAY BLK AND STORMZY for ‘My Hood’ (No 1 for 5 weeks)
SCHOOL OF SEVEN BELLS for ‘Open Your Eyes’ (No 1 for 2 weeks)
THE JEZABELS for ‘Come Alive’ (No 1 for 8 weeks)
THE SLOW SHOW for ‘Breaks Today’ (No 3 for 2 weeks)

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Dave’s Chart Awards Part 3

Two more of the genre categories to cover here before we move onto the big awards for acts themselves. Let’s kick off with a genre category which is always entertaining.

BEST HARD ROCK / METAL SONG

I’m not going to go into detail here about how one distinguishes a hard rock song from a metal song – I ‘just know’ the difference! Hard rock doesn’t often do that well in my charts, particularly in the singles chart (we have had a No 1 album for Iron Maiden and a No 2 album for Metallica in the last couple of years) – but the nominations for this award are always reliably powerful and ear blasting.

BLACK FOXXES for ‘Whatever Lets You Cope’
BLACK PEAKS for ‘Glass Built Castles’
FRANK CARTER AND THE RATTLESNAKES for ‘Snake Eyes’
LONELY THE BRAVE for ‘What If You Fall In’
TELLISON for ‘Wrecker’

The first key fact here is that Lonely The Brave’s ‘What If You Fall In’ spent longer on the singles chart in 2016 than did any other record. The song peaked at No 7 but spent 23 weeks on the chart. The highest singles peak for any of these songs is Black Foxxes, who reached No 5 with ‘Whatever Lets You Cope’ (the song is still in the Top 10). But there may be two better examples of pure hard rock in the post hardcore excellence of ‘Glass Built Castles’ and ‘Snake Eyes’. Both deliver the kind of hard rock that I really like – rock with melodic tunes and decent singing, rather than shouty old rubbish. The outsider of the field is Tellison’s ‘Wrecker’, well constructed, slow building and grungey.

BEST DANCE / ELECTRONIC SONG

HAELOS for ‘Pray’
PHORIA for ‘Loss’
SCHOOL OF SEVEN BELLS for ‘Open Your Eyes’
SNOW GHOSTS for ‘Vetiver’
THE CHAINSMOKERS FEATURING ROZES for ‘Roses’

This was a dance based award in the past, but the prevalence of electro has overtaken the category this year. The best dance act on the planet, bar none are clearly The Chainsmokers, and they duly garner a nomination via their biggest hit ‘Roses’. We have discussed ‘Pray’ before, ‘Loss’ was a superb, seven minute centrepoint for Phoria’s superb debut album ‘Volition’ and ‘Vetiver’ was a strong enough song to propel Snow Ghosts’ debut album ‘ A Wrecking’ into the chart and all the way to No 1. But the big favourite here is ‘Open Your Eyes’, a hauntingly beautiful tribute to School of Seven Bells and the late, much missed Ben Curtis.

BEST MALE ARTIST

DAVID BOWIE
ED HARCOURT
GNASH
JACK GARRATT
JAMIE T

I always find this a difficult award to give – as generally male singers do not cross my radar much at all. You will all know that female singers (and bands with female singers) tend to be much more my interest. So the chart achievements of this group of artists are not that strong. I often use the album test to decide who to give the artist awards to (her very successful album ‘The Pinkprint’ was the main reason why Nicki Minaj beat Laurel to the Best Female Artist award last year) – and on that basis, David Bowie’s No 1 album with ‘Blackstar’ must give him a strong chance. Aside from the obvious emotion associated with his death earlier this year. Other nominees with strong chart showings are Jamie T (‘Trick’ peaking at No 3 in the album chart) and Jack Garratt (‘Phase’ reaching No 8). But maybe the favourites are new men on the scene Gnash and Ed Harcourt. Gnash did not release an album, but had by far the most successful single of this group with the massive No 2 hit ‘I Hate U I Love U’, while Harcourt has a No 4 album in ‘Furnaces’ and a Top 20 single in the title track under his belt.

BEST FEMALE ARTIST

BAT FOR LASHES (NATASHA KHAN)
CHRISTINE AND THE QUEENS (HELOISE LETISSIER)
GRIMES (CLAIRE BOUCHIER)
INGRID MICHAELSON
KATE JACKSON

The biggest surprise here is that neither Lapsley or Laurel have got a nomination. A year ago I confidently expected the award to be between these two, possibly my favourite female artists, but Lapsley’s debut album maybe didn’t make quite the impression expected (there were too many familiar tracks on it) and Laurel still hasn’t released her debut album. We do instead have five of the year’s biggest albums, each of which produced at least one major hit single. Strictly on performance, Grimes and Ingrid Michaelson should have the edge, as both have had a No 1 album and a No 1 single this year. ‘Art Attack’ and ‘Flesh Without Blood’ were the Grimes album and single respectively, while ‘It Doesn’t Have To Make Sense’ and (just yesterday ‘Light Me Up’ did the trick for Michaelson. Bat For Lashes may have produced the best album in the stunning concept work ‘The Bride’, but might suffer from the lack of a truly massive single (having said that ‘Joe’s Dream’ did make the Top 10), Christine and the Queens demonstrated that songwriting and performing pure and simple can win a massive audience without any marketing gimmicks, and Kate Jackson’s return to music with the excellent ‘British Road Movies’ and its pair of Top 10 singles ‘The End Of Reason’ and ‘Metropolis’ means that although the outsider, she is no forlorn hope.

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Dave’s Chart Awards 2016 – Part Two

Next up in the review of the Chart Awards let’s take a look at the nominees for the genre song awards. Several of these songs will of course appear in the running for Song Of The Year (both this award and Album of the Year have ten nominees, whereas the other awards in general have five).

BEST DEBUT SONG

DANCING YEARS for ‘Learn To Kiss’
GNASH FEATURING OLIVIA O’BRIEN for ‘I Hate U I Love U’
HAELOS for ‘Pray’
HANNAH LOU CLARK for ‘Cowboy Joe’
RAY BLK FEATURING STORMZY for ‘My Hood’

There are some very strong songs in this category, although you could be critical of a couple of the nominees. ‘Cowboy Joe’ wasn’t really Hannah Lou Clark’s debut song – it appeared on the same single as intended lead track ‘It’s Your Love’ but rapidly outpaced it (being much better). ‘It’s Your Love’ also made the Top 100. Meanwhile ‘My Hood’ was Ray BLK’s debut single, but it wasn’t Stormzy’s. Definite, proper debut songs include Gnash and Olivia O’Brien’s monumentally brilliant boy / girl love song ‘I Hate U I Love U’ (written by O’Brien was she was just 15, can you believe it?), Haelos’ superb, haunting ‘Pray’ (which rapidly established a true signature sound for the band) and Leeds band Dancing Years, whose sorrowful ‘Learn To Kiss’ will have produced more than a few tears. Two of these songs reached No 1, but chart position isn’t always a good indicator of success in this award.

BEST R+B / HIP HOP SONG

DESIIGNER for ‘Panda’
GNASH FEATURING OLIVIA O’BRIEN for ‘I Hate U I Love U’
ISHI FEATURING FRENCH MONTANA AND RAEKWON for ‘We Run’
KATE TEMPEST for ‘Europe Is Lost’
RAY BLK FEATURING STORMZY for ‘My Hood’

This is a category that features songs you might not expect to have been nominated for a hip hop award. There are two proper hip hop classics in Desiigner’s world wide debut smash ‘Panda’ and Ishi’s superb collaboration with French Montana and Raekwon, ‘We Run’ – a masterpiece of lyrical construction and pace variation. Ray BLK’s debut single ‘My Hood’ is a lyrical paean to the London Borough of Lewisham, a place I know personally very well, and features an excellent rap from Stormzy. Then we have the slightly more left field nominees’ Is Gnash’s collaboration with Olivia O’Brien truly hip hop? The original, written as I have mentioned by O’Brien was a straightforward love song before Gnash added in his lyrical verses. And then we have Kate Tempest’s epic and vitriolic attack on Western government, ‘Europe Is Lost’, written in the wake of the Paris atrocities and as powerful a piece of music as you could wish to hear. A song that brought me back to the days when music really drove national opinion, and when songs like ‘God Save The Queen’ and ‘Ghost Town’ summed up the social situation of the time.

BEST POP SONG

DAYA for ‘Hideaway’
INGRID MICHAELSON for ‘Light Me Up’
JESS GLYNNE for ‘Take Me Home’
LITTLE MIX for ‘Secret Love Song Part II’
SARA HARTMAN for ‘Satellite’

This was a weakly contested category last year – so weak that a song that isn’t really a pop song, Shura’s ‘2Shy’ was the winner. This year is a huge improvement. All of these songs peaked in the Top 4. Two made No 2 – Ingrid Michaelson, whose superb album ‘It Doesn’t Have To Make Sense’ marked her transformation from an entertaining but predictable purveyor of AOR to a perceptive, cutting, lyrically adept artist is at No 2 as we speak, of course with the album’s lead track ‘Light Me Up’, and Jess Glynne’s haunting ‘Take Me Home’ spent three weeks at No 2 at the start of the year. There is no category this year for Best Video – I plan to introduce this next year – but Glynne’s faltering performance in the video to ‘Take Me Home’ (which she filmed naked), being unable to sing several lines as she was overcome with emotion would be right up there had such an award existed this year. Sara Hartman and Daya both produced debut singles of real class, Hartman’s a pure pop singalong and Daya’s influenced by R+B. But maybe the best of all was Little Mix’s ‘Secret Love Song Part II’ – yes, this is the version without Jason Derulo, and is largely (and quite beautifully) sung by Perri Edwards and Jade Thirlwell almost as an LGBT anthem. Utterly outstanding. A great year for pop music.

BEST ALTERNATIVE / INDIE SONG

THE 1975 for ‘Somebody Else’
THE COURTEENERS for ‘The 17th’
MYSTERY JETS for ‘Telomere’
POLICA for ‘Wedding’
TWENTY ONE PILOTS for ‘Stressed Out’

I used to be a colossal indie fan. This was in the days before Spotify when most of my musical discoveries came courtesy of XFM. My tastes are much more varied now, but indie did achieve one major success this year – a No 1 single in the Courteeners’ ‘The 17th’. This is the clear favourite for this category, but there are some strong rivals. Two bands – The 1975 and Mystery Jets blew away my previous doubts about them with storming singles and solid albums – The 1975 almost placed another song in this category in ‘Change of Heart’. Polica’s ‘Wedding’ proved a notable slow burner, a potent criticism of police brutality. And while Twenty One Pilots seem to have been releasing songs from ‘Blurryface’ for ever, ‘Stressed Out’ was particularly excellent.

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Dave’s Chart Awards 2016 – Part One

It’s that time of year when everyone is making lists of their favourite songs and artists of 2016, and me being me, this blog will be no exception. I will spend the next four posts announcing the nominations for the awards, starting today with the initial few categories. We will take the genre nominations in Part 2, the artist nominations in Part 3 and the Big Two Awards (Song of the Year and Album of the Year) in Part 4. The awards are based on songs and albums that enter the chart after November 30 2015, and which spend the majority of their chart stay in 2016. The awards year ends on November 30 2016, which enables me to announce the nominations now, and the winners as near to January 1st as I can. So, let’s go through the first group of awards.

BEST REVIVAL

Daughter for ‘Youth’ (single)
Snow Ghosts for ‘A Wrecking’ (album)

I introduced this award as a special award last year, when four major chart hits were actually revivals of songs from the past. The winner, Stine Nordenstam’s ‘Murder in Mairyland Park’ was 20 years old! The field is less competitive this year, but pits two massive successes against each other. Daughter’s 2013 track ‘Youth’ is currently No 1 in the singles chart after its stunning performance at their O2 Academy Brixton show in October, while Snow Ghosts’ debut album ‘A Wrecking’ finally hit the chart this year in the wake of their No 2 single ‘Vetiver’ and went all the way to No 1.

BEST COLLABORATION

Chase and Status featuring Slaves for ‘Control’
The Duke Spirit featuring Mark Lanigan for ‘Wounded Wing’
Gnash featuring Olivia O’Brien for ‘I Hate U I Love U’
Ishi and French Montana featuring Raekwon and Wale for ‘We Run’
Ray BLK featuring Stormzy for ‘My Hood’

This award is designed to recognise where a collaboration between artists leads to a result which is greater than the sum of its parts. There are two nominees here that stand out in terms of chart performance. ‘My Hood’ spent five weeks at No 1, and ‘I Hate U I Love U’ spend six weeks at No 2. Both are great songs, but maybe fairly standard collaborative fare (a singer and a rapper, and a boy / girl love song respectively). So there may be a chance for one of the other nominees – the stunning treble / baritone work of Leila Moss and Mark Lanigan on ‘Wounded Wing’, a classic pace changing hiphop classic in ‘We Run’ and maybe most interestingly of all, the fusion of Chase and Status’ electro dance music with Slaves’ punk vocal in ‘Control’.

BEST LIVE ACT

Black Peaks
Daughter
Halsey
Mt Wolf
The Slow Show

Five of the best gigs we attended this year. Halsey dominated the almost exclusively female audience at Brixton with a power packed, potently confident set. Mt Wolf demonstrated that electro indie acts can be outstanding live with a beautifully melodic show at Hackney’s Oslo. The Slow Show’s idiosyncratic indie rock, led by the barefooted and completely charismatic Rob Goodwin was a huge success at the Bush Hall in Shepherd’s Bush. But the two main contenders here must be Daughter after their show at Brixton (the audience reaction to ‘Youth’ was the most extraordinary reception I have ever heard a song receive), and progressive post hardcore band Black Peaks who celebrated their excellent debut album ‘Statues’ by blowing away Soho’s Borderline. Vocalist Will Gardner and lead guitarist Joe Gosney are consummate live performers.

MUSIC FUTURES AWARD

The Amazons
Julia Jacklin
Pumarosa
Shells
Wilsen

This is one of my favourite awards. Acts qualify if they have not had a Top 40 single or album before November 30 this year, and no hit at all before November 30 last year. Laurel beat Lapsley to the 2014 award, while Kacy Hill won last year, going on to have two Top 10 hits with ‘Arm’s Length’ and ‘Foreign Fields’. I will write some more about this year’s nominations in a separate article, but a quick summary. The Amazons have now posted their first Top 40 hit with ‘In My Mind’, and are clear favourites. Australia’s Julia Jacklin spent much of the last three months establishing various records for Bubbling Under longevity before ‘Pool Party’ finally broke through into the Top 100. Pumarosa have recorded one Top 100 hit in ‘Cecile’ and a second single, ‘Honey’ has just failed to make the breakthrough. And then we have two acts who have not recorded a Top 100 single. New York’s Wilsen have been around for three years and came to my attention when supporting Daughter in Brixton – but current Heatseeker ‘Centipede’ is the kind of gentle grower that only hits the heights when heard in its recorded version. And current Heatseekers No 1, ‘Jailbird’ by Londoner Shells is a perfect slice of pop beauty.

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