# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Miscellaneous - November 2008

  by Benjamin Howarth

published: 28 / 10 / 2008

Miscellaneous - November 2008


In the latest instalment in his 'Condemned to Rock 'n' Roll'column, Ben Howarth assesses the merits of Girls Aloud, Leona Lewis and other current top charting acts

At work this month, we’ve spent too much time (i.e. more than five minutes) discussing the merits of Girls Aloud, who have just lodged their third number one single in the UK charts. I’m firmly in the ‘No’ camp. Why ? It’s not, I insist, because I think I’m too cool to listen to them. Frankly, if there was to be a poll, the music I like (old men, whiny indie singers, folk-rock and bit of country) would be classed as cool by only a tiny minority of the population, or perhaps nobody. (In fact, sidebar, I’m actually listening to ELO as I write this. Is there any band less cool than the Electric Light Orchestra ? Well, maybe the Dire Straits, but I like them too.) It is, in fact, because Girls Aloud are - to these ears - rubbish. It’s just all too much, too many whooshes, two many crazy harmony parts, too many singers. And, of course, that’s before we realise that the absolute only reason the girls are singing is to stay famous, for which means they’d sing anything put in front of them. The sinister backroom figures behind bands like Girls Aloud just seem to try too hard. Ultimately, the songs have so many flavours, you can’t find anything to taste at all. Listening to their new single is like living on nothing but toffee apples and sherbet dip. What is it with this strange excess of terrible music ? Although Girls Aloud make me want to throw up every meal I have ever eaten, there is actually far, far worse out there. The worst song ever, by a considerable distance, is 'Bleeding Love' by Leona Lewis. I genuinely can’t explain how Ms Lewis sells records. And I don’t mean, "how did she sell 18 trillion ?" , or whatever obscene figure this finally racked up, but, how did it sell a single record, to anyone at all? Leona is a serial killer, who dissects songs with brutal efficiency. The simplest of melodies are not safe, for she cannot ever just sing - she "interprets." This means cramming in every note going, and then adding a few more, without a chance to even draw breath. It is also important, as her spiritual godmother Mariah Carey showed her, to sing as if your entire family have been killed in a motorway pile-up, even when you are just trying to tell your songwriter’s girlfriend that he loves her. Popular taste doesn’t make any sense at all. But I suppose it is just best not to worry about it. My favourite album of recent months has been Randy Newman’s ‘Harps and Angels’. Indeed, I’ve praised it in this space before, but I wouldn’t expect many people to agree. You see, Newman’s voice is an unlovely instrument. When I put this album on, the neighbours all decide it’s a lovely day to go out for a walk, as the thunder cracks and the lightning strikes. But, if you can bare it, listen to the final track, ‘Feels Like Home’, which is one of his simplest and most affecting love songs. Leona Lewis risked a serious cardiac incident to tell her audience she bleeds love, and still didn’t convince, but old Randy just has to mumble that his unnamed muse makes him feel like he is "all the way back where I belong", and I believe every word. Newman may not be ‘talented’ in the sense that Simon Cowell admires, but he’s sincere, and I think that’s what I want music to sound like.

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