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Review: Reclassified - Iggy Azalea

22nd December 2014 | Music

Iggy Azalea spends much of Reclassified telling her listeners how wonderful she is. She’s on “a dinner date with greatness”, and she’s up for “VMAs and a Grammy”. She confidently asserts that “if I told you what I was worth you would throw up”. But is this delightful lady as good as she says she is? The answer is invariably no.

The mood of the album is languid. Azelea does rhythmically spit out her lyrics, but aims for sultry croakiness rather than the traditional fury of rapping, as if she’s letting us in on to some sort of big secret. But then again her lyrics are all very conventional; it’s often really rather hard to suppress a yawn. On ‘Beg For It’ she comes across as very desperate, with the general message being “please, please sleep with me”, and is deeply unimaginative about it. There’s some seriously awful rhyming in the bridge: “get out of my face, like who’d you think you are/ Talking all this trash, like blah-di-blah-di-blah”. It’s definitely not Shakespeare.

Sex however is not Azalea’s primary subject; she’d much rather tell us about how much money she has and how famous she is, a theme which occupies the second half of the album. The idea of an Iggy Season, or ‘Iggy SZN’ if you’re as cool as Iggy is, is deeply irritating. The song bafflingly features a lion, lots of clapping and an incongruous whistle. Worst of all, Iggy has decided it’s cool to make her voice go high pitched at the end of words. Then there’s ‘Heavy Crown’, where Azalea has enlisted the help of Ellie Goulding, who always sounds delightful but is also far too earnest to be on this album. She cannot get away with singing “but ***** I’ve got it now”…

Review: VS - Bastille

20th December 2014 | Music

On listening to “VS”, we shouldn’t expect to hear Bad Blood Part 2, but Bastille exploring different styles with a variety of collaborators. The songs are often unpolished and occasionally ill thought out, but they often have the raw energy that is sometimes missing from the band’s more mainstream efforts. The LP hints at a more dance related direction for the second album, but keeps us hedging our bets by retaining a love of luscious strings, indulgent harmonies and unashamedly pop choruses.

Definite highlights are ‘Torn Apart’ and ‘Weapon’, both of which push Bastille in new directions. The intro of the former song is enough to indicate that it burns with a greater intensity than something like ‘Pompeii’. It builds through relentless drum loops towards an explosive chorus, which definitely calls for intensive dancing. The lyrics may be bland (the chorus is simply “we were born to be together! Torn apart! Torn apart!”) and it does feel a little bit confined within a rigid structure, but none of this diminishes it’s stomping appeal. What is distinctly odd is separating Lizzo’s one minute rap interlude into a different track as a kind of deleted scene. Forgiving this we move on to ‘Weapon’, which is dominated by Angel Haze’s relentless and aggressive rapping before giving way to another heavenly chorus which becomes stronger and more compelling each time it repeats. Things trail off a bit when R&B singer Braque chips in, but this is still Bastille at its most exciting.

Elsewhere however, tracks refuse to take off. ‘Axe to Grind’ does have some marvellous guest vocals from Tinashe Fazakerley (not entirely sure if this is either Tyde or Rationale); but the fragmented synths are chilled to the point of dull, and the chorus is fairly boring…

Review: Never Been Better - Olly Murs

19th December 2014 | Music

There has always been doubt over whether X Factor prodigies can truly become fully rounded artists. This may be musical snobbery, but when was the last time anyone heard of Joe McElderry or Alexandra Burke? It would appear though that Olly Murs is here to stay; he now has four albums under his belt and a large and committed fanbase. Unfortunately Never Been Better proves that there is still a great deal lacking. There is no emotional depth; we never move away from tired pop conventions; and Murs’ sickly sweet voice quickly becomes nauseating. It is a catalogue of failure, and leaves no lasting impact after listening.

The major problem on the album is Murs’ voice. There is now doubt that he is a very talented singer; a lot of these songs sound like they would be much more successful with the added spark of live performance. The issue is that his voice is too polished to be distinctive and too assured to register any vulnerability. We are never given a glimpse of the inner Murs, we are just left with a rather superficial performance. With only a few exceptions, his delivery is fairly one-note. The only character he can play is the cheeky chap and confident showman; more emotive songs like ‘Hope You Got What You Came For’ and ‘Tomorrow’ tend to fall a little flat. There is the occasional moment where his voice takes on a more fragile intimacy, usually in the bridge, but the effect is quickly shattered by the return of the brash performer. It is a tangible relief when Demi Lovato takes over as guest vocalist on the choruses of ‘Up’, adding some bite in contrast to Murs’s saccharine verses.

The songwriting is nearly as lamentable as the performance. The instrumentation is often…