There are two British bands that I consider among my favourites from the 2000-era. First is Coldplay, the other is Keane. When I first Keane’s breakout hit “Somewhere I Only We Know” in early 2004, I decided to give their debut album Hopes and Fears a listen. The rest – as any Keane fan today will say – is history. I played the living crap out of that album! In office, I would play it for my co-workers. At home, I would have it on repeat. It was such a good album, from start to finish, I wouldn’t skip any of the tracks. It’s a modern-day classic, no doubt!
Keane followed it up with the brilliant Under the Iron Sea (2006) which I loved just as much. The then three-piece band strayed away from the norm two year later with Perfect Symmetry. I’ll admit, although the album contained some favourites like “You Haven’t Told Me Anything” and “Again and Again,” for the first time I wasn’t hooked on repeat listening to a Keane album. The band continued their experimental journey with 2010′s Night Train, an EP containing songs that were a mix of styles and genres, but still somehow retained the Keane touch.
Looking back, Keane have released an album every two years. Meaning, a new album was only due in 2012. Continue reading →
This Cuban-American singer was fairly popular in the early 1990s. “Just Another Day” was top ten hit for John Secada, and I have fond memories of listening to “Just Another Day” in the evenings of Bahrain. Somehow, it seems to be best time to listen to this song.
Naughty by Nature – “Hip Hop Hooray“
From the album 19 Naughty III, this was another favourite of mine growing up in the ‘golden era’ of hip-hop (in my opinion). This song was everything I liked (or wanted) in hip-hop. Heavy beats, the bass, slick rhymes… it was all I needed to bob my head wearing a hoodie!
Kris Kross – “Jump”
For every bit of the real gangsta hip-hop there was, there were the mainstream silly acts too. Kid ‘N Play had the dude with the funny hair, and then there was Kriss Kross. Two young black kids – Mac Daddy and Daddy Mac – whose unqiue concept was wearing their clothes backwards! Funny as it all sounds, “Jump” was a massive hit when it came out and Kriss Kross’ only number 1 song. “Warm It Up,” their follow up single did alright, but “Jump” is still their most memorable song. I loved it then — and I still do!
Vanessa Williams – “Save The Best For Last”
I don’t remember when exactly this song came but I remember listening to this song on chilly days, be it in early months of the year or towards Christmas. The first number one for this former Miss America-turned-singer-turned-actress, “Save the Best for Last” is still one of the best ballads from the 1990s.
Arrested Development – “Mr. Wendal”
As a kid, I guess I always remembered this song as the one that began with the “Arrhh-ahhh-ahhhh” scream. I club Arrested Development and Tribe Called Quest in the same bucket because both groups made hip-hop with social conscious. Arrested Development’s sound was also quite different from the other hip-hop groups at the time.
House of Pain – “Jump Around”
Still regarded as one of the greatest hip-hop songs of all time! It’s the one song House of Pain will be always remembered for (also, they didn’t have many other hits). Among the few respected hip-hop groups not fronted by a black man, but instead, by an Irish-American named Everlast.
Wreckx-N-Effect feat. Teddy Riley – “Rump Shaker”
Produced by ‘new jack swing’ pioneer Teddy Riley (who is now contributing to K-pop), “Rump Shaker” is another hip-hop classic. And another one-hit wonder. Reasons for liking this song? Thumping bass, hard-ass beats and a catchy trumpet hook. Hip-hop was so simple back in the day No over-producing, no auto-tune.
Funny, just read up on this song on Wiki and turns out, even a young Pharrell Williams helped out with the lyrics when working with Teddy Riley then.
Das EFX- “They Want EFX”
I remember my brother owning their album ‘Dead Serious’ on cassette. (Ahhhh, cassette tapes ) One highly influential hip-hop group, Das EFX were especially renowned for their lyrical delivery and the ending words with “-iggidy”. Loved their rapping style and the album was pretty good too. “Mic Checka” was another good song off the same album.
Snow – “Informer”
Ahh, the “a-lickey boom boom down” song! Or at least that’s how most people remembered it. One of the most unintentionally hilarious songs ever made. Even to this day many can’t figure out the lyrics. Snow was a white rapper and reggae performer from Canada (of all the places!) and “Informer” was his only no. 1 smash hit. If you actually read the lyrics, you will realize it is English that he’s speaking… but the song is still mostly gibberish
Snow disappeared for much of the 1990s, but he got my attention again back in the early 2000s when he made a comeback in his native Canada with a new musical style. Check out “The Plumb Song” and “Everybody Wants to Be Like You” — they’re both really good, and vastly different from “Informer”!
Genesis – “I Can’t Dance”
As a kid, I didn’t know much about the history and legacy of Genesis (for that matter, Phil Collins too), but I fondly remember this song and especially its video. The simple ‘walking dance’ behind the white background… it’s just iconic Gensis now. As I grew older and learnt more about Genesis, it’s only then I realized this same album produced some of my favourite Genesis songs: “No Son of Mine,” “Jesus He Knows Me” (another brilliant Genesis video) and “Hold on My Heart“.
The Shamen – “Ebeneezer Goode”
Despite the growing influence of American hip-hop, radio airplay was still mostly British chart music. And this no. 1 song was one of my favourites! I still know the lyrics to the first verse by heart and love rapping along as I listen to it Of course, when I was 10, I didn’t know what the song was even about. Only now did I learn “Eezer Goode, ‘Eezer Goode …” is basically saying “Es are good, Es are good”. (E = ecstasy)
Take That – “It Only Takes a Minute”
If there was one boy band that dominated the British charts in the early 1990s, it was Take That. The then 5-member group were at the early stages of their stardom and this was their first top 10 hit. The video was constantly played at night on Channel 55 (Bahrain’s local English channel) to fill up airtime before ending transmission. It’s still remains one of my favourite Take That songs, even though it’s actually a cover of a Tavares hit.
Jimmy Nail – “Ain’t No Doubt”
There were quite a few British actors and soap stars coming out with pop records in the 1990s, and this chap was one such example. I don’t know what show he was on or how famous he was back in England, but the reason I knew Jimmy Nail was because of this no. 1 hit (and his other hit “Crocodile Shoes“). This was British pop back in the day, a style of music lost in many of today’s British popstars attempting to sound American.
Tasmin Archer – “Sleeping Satellite”
A British one-hit wonder. Beautiful song though, went to no. 1 upon release and it was her first single too. Never heard much from Tasmin Archer after that.
Charles & Eddie – “Would I Lie To You”
The one hit wonders continued. This time a New York duo, who had a worldwide hit with this song. When you think about, a duo like Charles & Eddie would hardly ever get a record deal from a big label these days. Something I miss about music from decades past.
Cheb – “Khaled”
I end this post with one of the biggest hits of the 1990s… if you grew up in the Arab world in those days! Cheb Khaled is an Algerian singer and, man, when this song came out – it was everywhere! It was so popular, and not just among Arabs. Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Africans … everybody covered it in their own language (unofficially I’m sure). Khaled is a musical legend in the Arab world, one of the highest selling Arab musicians in history. His other great classics include “Aicha” and the phenomenal live performance of “Abdel Kader“.
Other songs that came out in 1992 that I only ended up liking as I grew older were:
Just like how I began my last review, I never thought I would be writing about KARA as well. Despite their fame and current status in K-pop land, I never took Kara seriously. I blame DSP Media for that. Kara’s company insisted on highlighting silly dances, especially after the success of the “butt dance” from “Mister”, and signature dances like that became Kara’s trademark.
As for the songs – “Mister,” “Lupin” and “Jumping” were all catchy enough to warrant their success, but those songs were never up to the calibre of say, SNSD’s hits — a group they are (strangely) often compared to.
So have KARA stepped up with this comeback? After hearing the title track, oh YES!
When I first heard the audio for “Step,” it didn’t wow me right away. But after the first listen, the song interested me enough to make me want to hear it a second time. By the time the MV (music video) came out, I was officially hooked on the song!
“Step” is definitely the upgrade Kara needed. Everything from the song’s production, to the music video is top notch. As for the silly ‘signature dance’ department, DSP Media continues to insist on including another butt-shaking, hip gyrating move. It’s not as prominent, but I’m sure the girls will be asked to demonstrate it on variety shows. *shudders*
Anyway, the song. DSP used the usual words to describe it as “catchy” “electronic” “fun” “colourful,” etc. “Step” is all that, but the main reason why the song resonated with me is because of its strong 1980s-pop influence. From the synthesizer hook, the beats, the build-up to the chorus, the bridge… it all reeks of 80′s pop music.
Produced by Sweetune, the song writing duo (Han Jae Ho and Kim Seung Soo) who are responsible for pretty much every KARA hit so far, “Step” is their strongest single to date. It sounds different, and most importantly, fresh!
The girls have a lot to be cheerful about with this hit
The music video plays on the 80′s vibe with its neon colours and bright fashion. And aside from the ’round & round’ butt dance, I really like the rest of the choreography.
Therefore “Step,” the single, gets a strong 4.5 out of 5 from me. It’s a sign second tier companies like DSP Media are now racing ahead to reach the standards set by the giants of K-pop (SM, YG and JYP).
As for ‘Step,’ the album… I really didn’t feel like writing a track-by-track review because none of the other songs on the album really caught my attention. “Rider” feels over-produced, but good enough to warrant its second place in the tracklist. “Strawberry” is expectedly sweet, the chorus of “Follow Me” sounds ABBA-esque, “Date (My Boy)” sounds too J-pop — but is one of the better album tracks, and “I Am… (ING)” is just an acoustic version of this two-year old song. Which by the way is the only ballad on the album (I’m ignoring the bonus track), so you get to hear the girl’s strong vocals.
A good album for Kamilias (KARA’s official fanclub), but not good enough to make me want to listen to it again after this review goes live.
P.S: How thin is Goo Hara? You can see gaps even when she’s wearing a full body suit!