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MUSIC REVIEWS: How Britons Are Once Again Shaping US Music Scene


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The Student Life - Life and Style, The Oldest College Newspaper in Southern California: Est. 1889

by Sam Cook

 

 

The Britons have given us some great music: The Beatles, Queen, Duran Duran, and Spice Girls (come on, I bet you have “Wannabe” in your iTunes playlist). Yet breaking into the 21st century, it started to seem that the British and American music scenes were diverging: the British rock and pop scenes started giving way to dance and techno, two types of music that Americans still have little appreciation for.

 

Yet in the last few months, there has been a reason to again pay attention to our friends who drive on the left side of the road. Here are three British solo artists with very different roots and different sounds, all of them scheduled to perform at the Coachellatuis Valley Music Festival.

 

Mika

Mika has been holding his own in the British Top 40 charts, but many Americans are only just catching on to this commanding singer. Mika’s album, Life in Cartoon Motion, has been compared to other great frontmen including Jake Shears from Scissor Sisters and Freddie Mercury from Queen, and for good reason.

 

Some of this similarity seems a bit too obvious and intentional. If “Big Girl (You are Beautiful)” seems similar to Queen’s “Fat-Bottomed Girls,” you’re right, and the lyrics are a dead giveaway: “You take your girl/And multiply her by four/Now a whole lotta woman/Needs a whole lot more.” A clear throwback to Queen. Some of Mika’s songs are a bit trite.

 

Take for example, “My Interpretation”: “You talk about life/You talk about death/And everything in between/Like it’s nothing/And the words are easy,” Mika philosophizes. Mika’s ballads all feel similar and don’t move the listener.

 

The one exception, “Happy Ending,” is particularly strong, but its Mika’s singing abilities, rather than his lyrics, that carry the songs. If you listen to the album, make sure to turn off your iPod before the hidden track buried in this song. There’s a reason it wasn’t listed on the back of the CD.

 

To fully appreciate Mika’s vocal range and ability, check out his current hit “Grace Kelly” and rising hit “Love Today,” as well as the great “Lollipop” (catchy in a “Hollaback Girl” kind of way), and the medium paced “Relax, Take it Easy” and “Ring Ring.”

 

The good songs on Mika’s album more than make up for his shortcomings, and I look forward to his growing popularity in the United States.

 

Amy Winehouse

At this point, you’ve probably heard the story of this British R&B and soul songstress from her hit song “Rehab,” which tells of how her old record label tried to force her to go to rehab (she said “no, no, no”).

 

Somehow, all of Winehouse’s good songs ended up being on the odd numbered tracks: “Rehab,” “Me and Mr. Jones,” “Back to Black,” and “Tears Dry on Their Own” all stand out on Winehouse’s second album, Back to Black.

 

Winehouse recently headlined one day of the legendary SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, and attracted many new listeners with her dynamic performance. Part of Winehouse’s draw is that she is so different from the typical pop songstress; she isn’t Britney Spears or Hilary Duff, or even Joss Stone, a fellow Briton.

 

Winehouse commands her place on the stage with her seemingly disregard for appearance, even though she works out for hours a day, and makes it work. At some point, Winehouse will have to answer whether the US audience is ready for her music, but at this point she seems to be sitting pretty. Her album is currently the number one downloaded album on iTunes.

 

Lily Allen

Lily Allen is not Amy Winehouse, nor is she Mika. While all of them are rather outspoken, Allen is playful where Winehouse is deep and creative; Allen addresses the horrors of window shopping while Mika tackles body image.

 

Lastly, Allen cannot sing. There is nothing wrong with Allen’s songs, per se, except that the listener is often left wanting more range and ability out of Allen as not just as a songwriter, but also as a singer. If Allen keeps up writing fun and original songs, there is no doubt that Allen will be courted as a songwriter, but if she wants to make it as both as the brains and the face, she will have to work to improve her singing skills and range.

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Like the article a lot, except for the diss of "Over My Shoulder." I guess you either get that song, or you really don't. *sigh*

 

Anyhow, thanks for posting, Meimei! :)

 

dcdeb

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this youte from the article is very true.

 

.....' Yet breaking into the 21st century, it started to seem that the British and American music scenes were diverging: the British rock and pop scenes started giving way to dance and techno, two types of music that Americans still have little appreciation for. ....'

 

which to me means Mika should have no trouble in making it in america big time...he's planted the seeds......

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*The one exception, “Happy Ending,†is particularly strong, but its Mika’s singing abilities, rather than his lyrics, that carry the songs. If you listen to the album, make sure to turn off your iPod before the hidden track buried in this song. There’s a reason it wasn’t listed on the back of the CD. *

 

 

Why do they think that about over my shoulder?!?

 

i for one think its such a brilliant and moving piece of music :thumb_yello:

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I totally disagree about Lily Allen not being able to sing, especially compared to current US pop singers. Except for a couple of obvious powerhouses like Mariah Carey and Kelly Clarkson, most of them are just products of studio manipulation and can't sing very well at all. The Britney Spears/Jessica Simpsons can't sing their way out of a paper bag and women like Gwen Stefani and Madonna don't have much range either. Even someone like Beyonce often sounds flat trying to push herself beyond her range, which she does often.

 

Lily Allen has a very pleasant tone and she doesn't falter when singing live.

 

As for Mika, I'm afraid he's always going to have his detractors. He's not everyone's cup of tea, but anyone who thinks he doesn't have singing ability is deaf!!

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I totally disagree about Lily Allen not being able to sing, especially compared to current US pop singers. Except for a couple of obvious powerhouses like Mariah Carey and Kelly Clarkson, most of them are just products of studio manipulation and can't sing very well at all. The Britney Spears/Jessica Simpsons can't sing their way out of a paper bag and women like Gwen Stefani and Madonna don't have much range either. Even someone like Beyonce often sounds flat trying to push herself beyond her range, which she does often.

 

Lily Allen has a very pleasant tone and she doesn't falter when singing live.

 

As for Mika, I'm afraid he's always going to have his detractors. He's not everyone's cup of tea, but anyone who thinks he doesn't have singing ability is deaf!!

 

I agree with everything you said except one thing! Gwen Stefani actually does have a really strong voice, though she hasn't shown it much at all on her solo albums. If you listened to her records with No Doubt, particularly Tragic Kingdom or Return of Saturn, you would probably not categorize her voice as having a lack of range. She's actually got an incredibly unique voice and I wish she would go back to her roots in terms of her vocals.

 

I also don't believe that you have to be a power house just to be recognized as a great singer (and I don't think you do either!) One thing I like a lot about Lily is the uniqueness of her tone.

 

Just my two cents though. :)

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i agree with Mandilambi and Christine!!

i was a bit sceptic about Gwen Stefani but I went to youtube to find her live performances in her No Doubt days and she can actually sing.

 

I LOOVE Lily Allen for being so unique. Her album is really cute. Makes me smiiile :)

Its funny, quirky, cute, fun!

And her personality is cool ;) Dont care if she smokes or gets drunk on stage xD

 

I think Mariah Carey can sing. Although she has this..well she is kindda snobby in a way O.o

 

I also like Kelly Clarkson...her music is okay...but she has been so silent this days -.-

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i agree with Mandilambi and Christine!!

i was a bit sceptic about Gwen Stefani but I went to youtube to find her live performances in her No Doubt days and she can actually sing.

 

I LOOVE Lily Allen for being so unique. Her album is really cute. Makes me smiiile :)

Its funny' date=' quirky, cute, fun!

And her personality is cool ;) Dont care if she smokes or gets drunk on stage xD

 

I think Mariah Carey can sing. Although she has this..well she is kindda snobby in a way O.o

 

I also like Kelly Clarkson...her music is okay...but she has been so silent this days -.-[/quote']

 

I'm so glad you looked into Gwen before making a set decision on her vocals! I can speak from experience that she is an AWESOME live performer. I saw her with No Doubt in 2004 and again in 2005 on her solo tour. I'm continually blown away by her performances. But like I said, the Tragic Kingdom and Return of Saturn days are unbelievable. You should also check out the Singles tour, as she gave some awesome performances then too.

 

Gwen also doesn't use studio manipulation like some of the artists that Christine mentioned. I love that she uses her talent and to the best of her ability.

 

I'll be seeing her again this summer, two times in June and I can't wait! Hopefully when she reunites with No Doubt in 2008, I will be able to see them all together again. :)

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Ms.Mewissa<33, you should definitely go if you have the opportunity! Gwen is phenominal live and I don't think you will regret it!

 

As for me, I saw Gwen during her Harajuku Lovers tour in '05. And yes, I will be seeing her during the Sweet Escape tour on June 4th and June 8th. I'm so excited about it! :)

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