Emotions – the standout track of Little Red by Katy B

A promo photo from the new Katy B album Little Red

In recent years, Katy B may have been best known as part of the Rinse FM crew and the South-London garage scene but with her second album, Little Red, she is moving ever closer towards the dance floor.

That doesn’t mean she has shredded her credibility or forgotten her roots. Yes, Little Red is definitely more commercial and polished than her debut album On a Mission (the contribution of production by Robbie William’s collaborator Guy Chambers attests to that) but she can still connect to her audience, a bigger audience, ever since Little Red reached No1 in the UK album charts. The album cover also portrays a more glammed up Katy B, who can look great without splashing herself over the cover of FHM.

Little Red is an album with songs about love, heartbreak, loneliness and ‘Emotions’ is where Katy B is at her most vulnerable, singing about being in love and the feelings it stirs up in her. “As I hear your footsteps there’s no stopping this. I’m craving what you give, your love that takes me to the sky.”

The sound of ‘Emotions’ is a seamless fit for its title with Katy B singing acapella, save for a soft layer of synths until the the chorus is lifted with a dose of progressive synths and a massive drum and bass led ride to the end.

I’d almost say the song is too classy for the club, yet I can imagine that, just as Ellie Goulding has now become the darling of EDM, ‘Emotions’ may be ripe for a remix. I sincerely hope  it is treated as the gem that it is.

As if the Godfather of Soul couldn’t get any more funky

James Brown - Godfather of Soul

When it comes to remixing the artwork of musical legends, producers are essentially handling hot coals. For a start, you have the battles with the record labels, family estates and former band mates before you can ever attempt an ‘official remix’. To my knowledge the one time it was ever successful and even more of a hit than the original was ‘A little less conversation’, written by country star (and recent Avicii collaborator) Mac Davis and performed by the one and only King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley. The remix went to No1 in the UK and in eight other countries around the world.

Another officially sanctioned remix of note was by Mark Ronson of the Bob Dylan song ‘Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine)’. It was produced especially to go with the 2007 release of the compilation of hits album, simply titled ‘Dylan’. Released as an online single, the track hit #51 in the UK charts.

Next up is The Godfather of Soul, James Brown. The remix is of ‘People Get Up’ by Wet  Paint. By no means an official remix, just a couple of upcoming electro/funk Canadian chaps who in their own words “like to tear s*** up”, well they certainly do that. Introducing heavy drums, dub-like synths and turning up the funk with extra horns, this remix will definitely get you on up on to the pounding dance floor.

If the James Brown estate were looking for submissions for ‘official’ remixes, then the Wet Paint remix of People Get Up would be my choice. Further evidence can be seen in the number of ‘favourites’ that James Brown remixes have had on the wonderful music blog aggregator Hypem. People Get Up WET PAINT Remix – 5.3K The next favourite has 392.

The Top 10 Tracks of 2013 – The Results

Top 10 Collage

And the results are in. Here is the list of my top 10 tracks for 2013. I would expect people to disagree with my selection to some extent but I stand by the quality of each track.

To reduce my initial list to 10 songs, I took into account not just my personal taste, but also the impact the artists had made on the world of music, the media and of course the response from fans and listeners.

Now, without further ado, allow me to introduce Politics of Pop Top 10 Tracks of 2013:

No 10 Lorde – Royals (The weeknd remix)

No 9 Kaskade – Atmosphere

No 8 The Killers – Shot At The Night

No 7 London Grammar – Strong

No 6 One Republic – If I Lose Myself

No 5 Daft Punk – Get Lucky

No 4 Mat Zo and Porter Robinson – Easy

No 3 Rudimental feat Emeli Sandé – Free

No 2 Avicii feat Aloe Blacc – Wake Me Up

No 1 Jessie Ware – Imagine It Was Us

Top 10 Tracks For 2013: No 1 Jessie Ware – Imagine It Was Us

Jessie Ware

My only criticism of Jessie Ware’s stunning Barclaycard Mercury Prize nominated debut album ‘Devotion’, was that it was a bit dark. After lending her soulful vocals to tracks from Disclosure and hearing a groovy remix of her song ‘nightlight’ by Hot Chip’s Joe Goddard, there was a feeling that something was missing from the album.

She confirmed as much in an interview with Billboard where she said, “From touring the album, I realised what I wanted to have in the set that I felt was missing, was a more upbeat song. I’m really glad that I wrote one and now I can play it live and it balances [‘Devotion’] out.” That upbeat song was included in the re-release of ‘Devotion’.

‘Imagine it was us’ sees a transformation in Jessie Ware from sultry-soulstress to glamorous dancefloor diva. Still focused on Devotion’s timeless theme of love, “There must be a reason why it has to be you. You and me, we need to make it, so it’s just us two”, the song is a welcome return to the era of 90’s house grooves.

With it’s stomping beat, layered synths, electric guitars and hand-claps, the video sees Jessie Ware rule over the dance floor. Unbelievably, ‘Imagine It Was Us’ only reached 105 in the UK charts. A complete and utter joke.

After the success of Devotion, Jessie Ware now faces the ‘difficult second album’. If ‘Imagine It Was Us’ is used as the template, I think we will have something very exciting to look forward to.
 

Top 10 Tracks For 2013: No 2 Avicii feat Aloe Blacc – Wake Me Up

Avicii and fellow musiciansDon’t you just love that feeling of knowing you were right? Well, justice has been served and those people who only eight months ago accused Avicii of “trolling” the Ultra music festival are probably gorging themselves on heaps of humble pie.

Back in April, I wrote in depth about the hysteria caused by Avicii for daring to feature a live band at Ultra in Miami, which is primarily a showcase for the biggest DJ’s in the world. My take on it was that it shook up the standard DJ set for the better and showed a daring approach in an effort to stand out from the EDM crowd.

‘Wake me up’ was just one of a number of songs from Avicii’s debut album ‘True’ which put paid to any expectations of a formulaic dance album. For a DJ to feature country superstar Mac Davis (who famously wrote for Elvis Presley); Audra Mae and her Kazoo, Mike Einziger, guitarist of alternative rockers Incbus, R&B and blues singer Aloe Blacc, and Chic Founder Nile Rodgers, you must either be crazy or a creative genius. The response to True and especially Wake Me Up when it was released confirms the latter.

It went number one in over 20 countries and its probably down to it being an incredibly catchy slice of country pop. The lyrics from Aloe Blacc are inspired and the acoustic guitars and piano give off a carefree vibe. Mix in Avicii’s melodic hook and you have a country-house classic, made for outdoor festivals and cowboy line-dancing bars.

Avicii and his band of fellow musicians took a huge risk in performing a segment which strayed way past the safe boundaries of dance music. Yet they stayed true to themselves and gave the audience something truly memorable.

There may have been some dissenters at Ultra on that hot March night in Miami, but because of Avicii’s belief and perseverance, he has been vindicated and has pushed out the boat for what a DJ can now do in a ‘live’ setting.

 

Top 10 Tracks For 2013: No 3 Rudimental feat Emeli Sandé – Free

Rudimental

Rudimental stormed onto the music scene with their massively upbeat ‘Feel the Love’ and their debut album ‘Home’ is full of memorable tracks infused with elements of drum and bass, funk and soul.

The four-piece have Emeli Sandé guesting on two tracks for the album, which came about after she went to one of their gigs.

‘Free’ closes out the album in grandiose style. It starts off down-tempo, with Emeli singing over a strumming guitar and electric piano, backed with a bass kick-drum urging the track along. The lyrics are aimed at the ‘average joe’ who isn’t perfect in any walk of life,

“I guess I ain’t too good for money neither, I got two left feet, no, I’m no Jackson either.”

and yet, is completely aware of and doesn’t let those supposed failings get him down.

“See, whoa, c’est la vie, Maybe something’s wrong with me, But, whoa, at least I am free, oh, oh, I am free.”

Just after the mid-way point, the vocals suddenly go quiet. The piano chords are reduced to a whisper and the guitars turned down to the faintest level with only the bass drum pulsing the track along. All the elements are gradually ramped back up, with the addition of a gospel choir chant, before Emeli rejoins to help the song soar to its crescendo. When it hit its peak, the song is electrifying.

The accompanying video tells the story of a young boy being bullied by school kids, then, after spotting and meeting with an elderly gentleman on the roof flying his pet eagle, starts to cheer up. The story entwines with that of a man climbing a mountain in the Alps who turns out to be professional wing suit flier Jokke Sommer. Upon reaching the top, Sommer jumps off and glides through the air, soaring like an eagle, free as a bird.

Like many of Rudimental’s songs, it is uplifting and has genuine soul, to the point where one the band members was reduced to tears after hearing Emeli Sandé’s vocals on the track. Come the end though, and you begin to feel inspired and really, really good.

 

Top 10 Tracks For 2013: No 4 Mat Zo and Porter Robinson – Easy

Mat Zo and Porter RobinsonMat Zo, aka Matan Zohar, is one of those up and coming producer/DJs who already has a dedicated following in the world of dance. Signed to Anjunabeats, the label run by dance legends Above and Beyond, he recently released his first album, ‘Damage Control’, to wide acclaim.

‘Easy’, produced in collaboration with another promising producer, Porter Robinson, is a massive feelgood house anthem and in a world now saturated with lazy EDM tunes, the two have created a gem of a track to delight both the revelers and critics. It is uplifting, melodic and when it drops, you are hit with a burst of adrenalin to keep you dancing all night.

The bubble of electronic dance music will eventually burst, but I expect Mat Zo will remain standing because he has the talent and variety to keep things fresh and interesting.