Monthly Archives: January 2011

Red Carpet Rundown: Golden Globes 2011, Part II

I didn’t actually watch the 2011 Golden Globes ceremony, but I wonder if there was ever a time that a Glee cast member wasn’t in shot during the red carpet coverage. The whole cast turned up for the ball, even down to Becki, the cheerleader with Downs’ (where art thou, Howard Bamboo?!) and they made a surprisingly strong showing style-wise.

Dianna Agron in J. Mendel – Dianna has been one of my favourite newcomers to the red carpet as she has an exquisite elegant Wasp-y style that I’ve really taken too. She manages to take classic shapes and structures but make them look fresh and young, with a ‘modern-day Grace Kelly’ feel about her (now just watch her crash and burn in 2011, like my previous darling Marion Cotillard did this year, for which I’m blaming the pregnancy hormones). This gown is no exception to her tried and tested formula – it’s a little safe but it’s so pretty and ethereal and suits her so well that I really don’t care. Her flawless old-school Hollywood hair and make-up lift it (even if she does like a porcelain doll you’d be scared of dropping) but then there’s the edgy grunge of the nail varnish. Divine.

Lea Michele in Oscar de la Renta – I’m glad Lea’s taken to smiling again on the red carpet, as there was a period where she went all J.Lo sexy-face on us. This pale pink confection has a romantic innocence about it and I love the cascade of ruffles and asymmetrical neckline. OK, it does look a bit like pink bed-sheets draped just so and the colour really does remind me of frilly old lady loo paper but it has a sort of sweet drama to it that is quite charming. And the choice of the contrasting turquoise ring is inspired.

Jayma Mays in Alberta Ferretti – I absolutely get the intentions behind this Art Deco-style dress and applaud them wholeheartedly. Yet, for me, it just doesn’t work. Firstly, Jayma is so perfect as the cardigan-wearing, colour-popping Emma Pilsbury and she seems so damn perky in real-life too that my mind can’t quite process this sudden drastic change in style. It’s not that it’s smouldering, it’s not that it’s black, it’s not even that it looks like it could have come out of Granny’s attic – all looks I feel that Jayma could have pulled off individually (and has done in the past) – it’s that it’s all happening at once and has been laid on thicker than a copy of The Yellow Pages. Too much, too soon, and that’s before we’ve covered the spider’s sneeze of eye make-up. However, I want that fan clutch bag very badly indeed.

Amber Riley in Oliver Tolentino – This is just fabulous. Silver is a great colour for Amber (I daresay this is the best she’s looked on the red carpet… ever) and it feels like proper, expensive, heavy silver rather than cheap spangly tat from Primark. The belt is a nice twist that makes the whole look more interesting, the one shoulder works surprisingly well (I’d feared major spillage and squeezage the other side) and most importantly, she looks super confident and genuinely happy. No Zoolander-pouting here and when you see how wonderfully a real smile sets off an outfit, you wonder why A-listers got so addicted to the Blue Steel in the first place.

Jane Lynch in Ali Rahimi – The top half is near perfection, a lovely unusual shape that’s supremely flattering. It loses its way towards the voluminous bin bag bottom, with random nipple tassles scattered about with abandon, but it’s neither tracksuit nor trouser suit and is therefore, a stroke of brilliance.

Jenna Ushkowitz in Rebecca Taylor – Another role reversal. This time, the bottom half is a rather lovely fluttering of tulle ruffles, the top half slightly cheap-looking diamante-encrusted satin. But the cornflower blue is a lush colour, all too rarely seen on the red carpet, and works a treat on Jenna.

Heather Morris in Lorena Sarbu – Another confident grin works wonders with what could have potentially been a one-note outfit. It’s relatively simple, letting the sparkles do most of the talking, but they’re facing competition from just how naturally sparkly Heather seems to be in person. Her body’s absolutely smoking too. Those short butterfly sleeves are just immensely flattering.

Harry Shum Jnr in Kill City suit and Anto shirt – What’s this, a man?! Men don’t really have much choice when it comes to the red carpet – it’s either conform to black tie or be mocked forever after. You can’t really go wrong with a plain black suit and they do often act as an instant elixir to a male’s attractiveness, so normally I’d advocate the sheep mentality. Here, however, Harry shows how to do it different but get it so so right. By keeping to the black-and-white palette, he doesn’t look too weird and wacky, and by bow tie-ing it up, he’s still the right side of formal. But the checked shirt is a masterstroke and the smallest detail (the black line detail behind the buttons) saves it from the clutches of the Topman masses. Effortlessly cool, just the right amount of quirky but still utterly swoonsome. Nicely played my twinkle-toed friend, nicely played indeed.

Naya Rivera in Douglas Hannant – It must be hard to be as intrinsically sexy as Naya. She’d probably make a nun’s habit look shaggable. January Jones was probably put out when she saw that someone else was showing almost as much boob as she was, but the sweetness of the blush colour and floral detail very nearly offset the banger effect. And then the figure-hugging va-va-voom nature of the dress kicks in and it’s a bit of a lost battle. But it was nice while it lasted. And she still looks very lovely.

More men! Have I lost my mind?!

Well, here we see where else trying to be different can land you. Darren Criss negates all the class of an expensive Armani suit by wearing cheapo stag night comedy glasses. I imagine he thinks it adds character, but only if the character you were aiming for is ‘twat’.

Kevin McHale very nearly gets different right, with this spotted suit jacket. However, it just veers a little too close to bad lounge singer, the type bashing away at a piano although no-one’s listening, with slicked-back hair, cheesy grin, a permanently sweaty brow and car salesman patter (I may have put too much thought into this image). Close but not quite (I liked it the first few views), I applaud the effort. * Insert obvious where’s the wheelchair joke here *

Justin Bieber – Brownie points for spotting the non-Glee cast member. Further brownie points for spotting the cardinal sin committed here, aside from having a face like a smacked arse. If sneakers aren’t good enough for a tacky nightclub in Newcastle, why would they be good enough for the Golden Globes?!

Red Carpet Rundown: Golden Globes 2011, Part I

You know awards show season is starting to hot up when there isn’t a Kardashian in sight.

The Golden Globes is usually one of my favourite red carpets of the year because of the intriguing intermingle between movie stars and TV actors. The former still have more prestigious ceremonies to come, often opting for more unusual, less safe outfits this time round but for the latter, it’s the glitziest and most glamorous awards show of their year and probably the pinnacle of their red carpet season. They tend to grab their moment in the international spotlight with big ballgowns, statement dresses and demeanour set to dazzle, especially given the unpredictable nature of American television networks, which means they might not be around to enjoy it the year after.

Having said that, I was a little disappointed with 2011’s Golden Globes. There was a little too much beige and blah happening, some of my usual favourites have seemingly lost their red carpet marbles and finding nine unmitigated favourites to write for this first post was tricky. Here goes anyway…

Green Goddesses

The most noteworthy trend for this red carpet was green, a bright bold choice for stars who definitely didn’t want to go under the radar. Thank God.

Angelina Jolie in Atelier Versace – I was beginning to wonder if the world’s most famous vampire found wearing colour as scary as wooden stakes and garlic. Had Angie’s clothes all gone in the wash with a rogue black sock of Brad’s? Thankfully, this stunning emerald green number proved this wasn’t the case. It’s sparkly, it’s flattering, it’s elegant and it takes absolutely years off her. A simple (even dowdy) shape made stunning through a bold colour choice. Angelina looks positively invigorated and this is the best she’s looked in ages. Can you guess that I approve?

Catherine Zeta-Jones in Monique Lhullier – This sweeping ballgown has had a Marmite effect across the Interwebz but I love it. I love the classic shape, the kind of dress CZJ was surely born to wear. I love the colour, a deep forest green that complements CZJ’s porcelain skin and dark hair perfectly. And I love the attitude, the big ostentatious chandelier earrings, which just totally work with this big ostentatious dress, which just totally works with CZJ’s diva persona. The brocade-style texture is a bit much – making the dress sit somewhere between a roll of turf and Scarlett O Hara’s curtains – but I’m willing to let it slide for the overall effect. She looks like the star she’s never quite lived up to being.

Mila Kunis in Vera Wang – After watching Kunis in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, I was all ready to elevate her to coveted ‘girl crush’ status, alongside my all-time fave, Rachel Bilson. Unfortunately, unlike Bilson, who looks absolutely adorable both on and off red carpets, Kunis has racked up appearance after appearance of screen-smashing mediocrity for her promo tour of Black Swan. Seems someone had read one too many Angie vs Jen style showdowns, as she was either clad in boring blacks or even more boring beiges (see here for exhaustive evidence). Thankfully, just as Jolie woke up to the world of Technicolour, so did Kunis – alas, the pair of them picking the exact same shade of the rainbow. Jolie steals Kunis’ thunder but there’s still plenty to recommend this dress. There’s something a little crepe paper-esque about the texture but it gives the whole thing a lovely fluidity and the emerald green complements Kunis’ colouring perfectly. More of the same please, Mila!

Other Loves

Anne Hathaway in Armani Prive – Just when you thought there wasn’t a princess dress Annie would turn down, she does a style 180 on us all. A modern shape (well, if by modern, we mean Dynasty rather than Regency inspired), an edgy colour (bronze rather than gold) and even a little bit of sex (unlike Jolie’s similar style, this had a cutout back, albeit with severely unsexy nude material covering the back). She looks stunning – from the front anyway.

Olivia Wilde in Marchesa – Wilde is still scrambling up the tv to film transitional wall, which I think explains her all-out double-or-nothing bling-tastic ballgown, in a year where these big pouffs of romanticism were mostly left on the stylists’ racks. She looks like a princess. I genuinely wouldn’t be surprised if someone told me the gown was magical – it’s the kind of dress that makes you believe. It’s like someone draped the night sky (you know, when it still had stars in it) over Wilde’s body, fluffed it up, then sprinkled some additional fairy dust for good measure. And let’s just have a moment for her bewitching Louboutins, presented in all their gold glittering glory below.

* Dramatic pause, longing sigh * OK, on we go…

Jennifer Lawrence in Louis Vuitton – The first time I saw this dress, I loved it a lot more than I do now. It’s flamenco flouncy, it’s romantic ruffly and it has those wide straps that I loved so much from that whole 50s-inspired Vuitton collection (see Rachel Bilson and Maggie Gyllenhaal). However, it is essentially pretty papier-mâché and as such, reminds me of this dress on Veronica Mars, whilst also looking like something Dolly Parton might have worn in The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas. Oh well, we’ll always have my love at first sight to remember, Jennifer…

Some Slightly Half-Hearted Love

January Jones in Versace – This is doing the reverse Jennifer Lawrence on me. I’m sure that at least half of the population aren’t even aware she’s wearing a dress at all but I think this is one of those times that January’s edgy ‘I’m not Betty really!’ style has really worked. The fascinating cut-out details of the top makes it look like someone turned a superhero outfit into a red carpet dress, the fringing of the bottom suggests it was at the height of the 1920s that they decided to do so and the scintillating vermillion suggests they were going for the pure sex jugular in the process. We’ve seen January channel her inner bizarre superhero before with disastrous results but this a super-sexy superhero I could get on board with. Hell, it’s more convincing than her look in the new X-Men movie. Her classic hair and make-up, meanwhile, is flawless.

Amy Adams in Marchesa – That this gown was a Marchesa was a no-brainer. Interesting structure, highly romantic, hugely flattering – all the typical trademarks of the best Marchesa gowns. Alas, it’s all a bit Marchesa by numbers, meaning I feel like I’ve seen it all before even if I haven’t. I do still like the gown, certainly wouldn’t kick it out my wardrobe given the chance and there’s no doubt that these rich jewel tones complement Amy’s colouring nicely (they match her eyes perfectly!) but it’s just lacking a bit of spark and dynamism. Which is how I feel about Amy Adams in general recently. She needs a trip back to Andalasia stat. Here’s hoping the Muppets fix her red carpet mojo.

Leighton Meester in Burberry Prorsum – This is growing on me, in the manner of some murky fungus rather than a pretty flower. I feel that filming Country Strong may have infected B’s mind, as this does have a hint of country pilgrim feel to it. Like she should be in Big Love. That being said, it’s striking just because it’s so different from everything else that night and she’s still blinging it up via sandals, earrings and gold inkpot-looking bag. The beautiful hair, soft make-up and Leighton’s dreamy expression also make the whole look feel fresh and rather lovely, as opposed to Mormon and dowdy. Queen B’s selling it and I’m just about buying.

Barbie: still the Best

Obviously, if I had known about this calendar instead, Heiner Meyer would be sitting gathering dust in a bookshop in Hong Kong.

For those of you too lazy to click the link, the coveted calendar in question is a Barbie one. No, wait, come back! Not just any old Barbie calendar but one featuring gorgeous fashion sketches of everyone’s favourite blonde bimbo. Except she’s not always blonde and her outfits are way too classy for anyone to be calling her the b-word. [Banner picture: 50th Anniversary Glamour and Generation Of Dreams Barbies – the latter’s skirt is a collage of images of Barbie throughout her fifty years.]

My absolute favourite – The Artist. Totally my colours, totally my style… If only I could look this good in a beret!

They’re by Robert Best, a former Project Runway contestant, who has been designing outfits for Barbara Millicent Roberts for the past 15 years. He is the main designer behind the highly coveted Silkstone Collection (also known as the Fashion Model Collection), which use the retro face, hair and make-up style of the original 1960s dolls, and the occasional special edition Barbie, like those in the banner picture, too. The beautiful couture outfits and attention-to-detail are amazing – these certainly aren’t dolls for practising your hair-cutting and decapitation skills on!

Violette & Tribute Barbie (celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the Silkstone Collection)

I am absolutely head over heels for these sketches. I tend to love the style of  girlie fashion sketches anyway but these are even more stunning than most. Firstly, the clothes are amazing and the detail is exquisite. You can feel every ruffle, see every flower. The sense of movement, texture and weight created by just pencil and watercolour (I think!) is astounding. We’re not just talking about the dresses though – it goes as far as fabrics, shoes, hair accessories, jewellery and just about everything else you could think of. Everything just goes together so wonderfully. I want Barbie’s wardrobe!

Second favourite – Market Day Barbie. Love the colours, love the flowers, love the eyeshadow!

Secondly, lots of fashion illustrations skimp on the face, often omitting eyes, nose and mouth all together. Not Best. As you can see from some of the gorgeous close-ups, there’s more expression going on in some of these sketches than in Nicole Kidman’s last few acting roles. A tilt of the head here, a seductive pout of the lips there, a sultry sweep of the eyes – these drawings give a better modelling masterclass than Tyra herself! I love how he even does matching eyeshadow too – Best does a better smoky eye than me!

I do have some history with Barbie (my parents were beginning to despair of the sight of her when I was ordering collectible ones on a near weekly basis from Ebay) but she has literally never looked better than when drawn with Best’s pencil. It’s something about the perfect slant of the eyes and the way their hair falls just so. In fact, I think most of the drawings look prettier than the dolls themselves and I’ve thrown in a few like-for-like comparisons for you to make up your own minds!

The Siren – drawing vs doll comparison

Finally, there’s just some magic about them. The below sketches of Hollywood Honey and Red Hot Review (“On The Set”) best epitomise how evocative Best’s work is; you just know these are glamorous divas from the Golden Age of Hollywood, with just a few strokes of the pencil. All of these sketches feel like they’re from some other time but without looking old and dated, settling for supremely classy and elegant instead.

I think I’ve banged on enough. All of these pictures are taken from mawphoto.com’s excellent Flickr set ‘Robert Best Illustrations’, where there are hundreds more drawings for your viewing pleasure. You could be a cheapo and frame pictures from the calendar once 2011 is over but if you can’t wait that long, you can buy framed limited edition prints here and here. Now I’ll try and keep schtum whilst you enjoy the rest of these beauties and remember to click for enlargements – it’s worth it!

Third favourite. This is getting silly now…

Delphine (the first proper Silkstone Barbie) from a sketchier drawing to a more polished one. This dress reminds me of the one Grace Kelly won her Oscar in.

Parisienne Pretty drawing vs doll, round 2. I want these shoes!

Haut Monde; Southern Belle

Garden Party & Barbie as Betty Draper from Mad Men (I can totally see Betty working the other look too!)

Secretary; Tout de Suite; Nurse. I really love how stylised all these looks are (and does anyone else think sexy Nurse looks a little Chinese?!)

Black Enchantment – this dress with Parisienne Pretty’s shoes. Please?!

Fashion Editor, Showgirl, Fashion Designer

Stolen Magic, In The Pink (hello Liz Taylor!), Stealing The Spotlight

Capucine in 3 ways

Congrats! You made it to the end of my most picture-heavy, time-consuming post since the Qi Pao. You have my permission to eat a chocolate digestive as reward.

Calendar Girls

Every year, I (or someone I know) treats me to a Marilyn Monroe calendar. Alas, I couldn’t find one for just Marilyn this year (of course, I couldn’t move for ones of Audrey Hepburn) so this Heiner Meyer art calendar, Glamour, was the best I could do.

Meyer uses a mixed media approach, painting over and around photographs of classic stars from the 50s and 60s to create new images, often with pop-art influences. My calendar tells me: ‘Meyer’s art is always re-creation (never repetition), while his visual vocabulary is declined and conjugated differently in each work’. Got that?!

Fancy lingo aside, I do really like many of these pieces – he’s created dynamic, vibrant and visually-appealing palettes and textures, making something new and interesting out of things that were old and static. I’m glad he’s also used some less obvious stars like Rita Hayworth, Natalie Wood and Lana Turner… hell, in these Hepburn-obsessed times, even Elizabeth Taylor is a bit of a curveball! That being said, my favourite is the banner picture of Audrey Hepburn – I just love the romantic swirls of colour and the sense of whimsy that’s very Audrey.

Those of you that can count will notice that I’ve only featured eleven images, despite there being twelve months. That’s because one was of Kate Moss, who I just don’t think fits in with the rest of these true iconic beauties. Censorship at its best!

If you’re reading this Meyer, next stop please – Veronica Lake!

Top 11 Albums Of 2010

When my Top 11 Albums Of 2010 was published on Teentoday, all I heard was abuse from bitter Wanted fans angry that I didn’t give their beloved boys the top spot. One claimed this list was ‘the biggest pile of shite I’ve read in years’, which is always a delight to read when you’ve spent weeks slaving over something. That The Wanted weren’t number one was no fault of their own – one of the strongest unashamedly pop UK boy band albums in recent memory, as anyone who actually read my mini review would have found out – but down to the intense competition that 2010 offered. Read on and, if you’re a Wanted fan, feel free to register yet more vehement disapproval here too…

Note: these write-ups are longer than usual because I didn’t do many proper album reviews in 2010. Enjoy!

1.            Robyn – Body Talk

This year, Robyn was the gift that kept on giving. Some artists struggled to get one great song on a full-length album, Robyn churned out 3 EPs with an almost annoyingly high hit rate – c’mon Carlsson, give everyone else a chance! Body Talk saw Robyn continue to hone her trademark of dancefloor heartbreak to perfection – we’ll be sobbing into our cocoa whilst simultaneously attempting to bust some moves to the likes of Dancing On My Own, Indestructible, Love Kills and Cry When You Get Older for many years to come. But mastery of one genre was not enough, as she managed to work her elusive magic on (take a deep breath) straight-up pop, clubby dance beats, minimalist electro, atmospheric melancholy, too-cool-for-school rap, a skittish Snoop Dogg duet, playful ska, emotion-laden orchestral numbers and, wait for it, even a Sweden folk song too. We’re out of breath just thinking about it, she seemed to barely break a sweat. An astonishing body of work, Body Talk cemented Ms Carlsson’s place as the one to beat. The number one spot was never in doubt.

2.         Tove Stryke – Tove Stryke

As if Robyn hadn’t bestowed us with enough treasures this year, here’s the best Robyn album that Robyn never made. Tove Stryke has the same innate sense of coolness, the same electro-dance-pop sensibilities and the same desire to chase an amazing beat at all costs. But what is uniquely hers? Sweet vocals, dreamy production and an album that feels like you’re floating amongst silvery clouds and shooting stars. A reverie of eleven quixotic tracks, it feels as light, fresh and airy as if it had been spun by fairies with cobwebs. But that makes it sound horrifically twee when in fact, it’s the perfect marriage between pulsating persistent beats and uplifting enriching melodies. The most gorgeous daydream you ever had eventually culminates in the power-pop explosion of White Light Moment, a dazzling diamond of a track that in some alternate reality has been number one for weeks on end. Tove Stryke makes you float away and never want to come back.

3.            Marina & The Diamonds – The Family Jewels

Is it Shakira? Catherine Zeta? Actually, her name’s Marina and being mentioned in the same breath as fellow Sound Of 2010 Ellie ‘hit the snooze button’ Goulding almost proved to be the kiss of death for Marina Diamandis as far as I was concerned. That and getting nine out of ten in NME, obviously. However, The Family Jewels turned out to be a rich decadent delight, a sumptuous medieval banquet, preferably with a giant succulent roast hog in the middle. In short, it’s anything but boring, anything but one-dimensional and anything but insular indie. Dodging every attempt to pigeonhole her, Diamandis hops, skips and jumps joyously between riotous pop (Girls, Oh No!), glittering Abba-esque choruses (Shampain), introspective baroque ballads (Obsessions, Numb) and pretty piano jaunts (I Am Not A Robot). The result? Whip-smart lyrics, highly palatable pop melodies and layer upon layer of glorious production combining to create an opulent ornate aural tapestry. Factor in Marina’s idiosyncratic vocals, pitched somewhere between Gwen Stefani’s gluey style, Kate Bush’s histrionics and Dory trying to speak whale in Finding Nemo, and you have an album that couldn’t possibly be made by anyone else.

4.         The Wanted – The Wanted

Frankly, I thought British pop groups had forgotten how to make albums this good. It’s not three good singles with ten tracks of filler tacked on. It’s not got one eye obviously desperately trained on breaking America. It’s not so desperate at wanting to seem “credible” that members are busting out acoustic guitars, song-writing credits and tales of how they aren’t really ‘pop’ at every possible opportunity. And as a result of being none of those things, it’s exactly what it should be – an unpretentious unabashed example of a polished pop album that’s actually more daring than most indie types could ever dream of. With a debut single as arrestingly ambitious as All Time Low, it should come as no surprise that The Wanted dart between genres with all the agility of someone playing Knock Down Ginger. The sweet melodies of Heart Vacancy, the swooping angst of Lose My Mind, the choral simplicity of Hi And Low, the infectious marching rhythms of Personal Soldier, the glossy punch of A Good Day For Love To Die, the menacing verses that make way for a superb sing-along chorus on Say It On The Radio… there are too many great moments to mention. Suffice to say, The Wanted comes sprinkled with as much creativity and colour as a five year-old topping her cupcakes with generous helpings of hundreds and thousands. The best boy band record in a long long time.

5.         Kylie Minogue – Aphrodite

After the oversexed and underpowered mish-mash of X, Kylie returned to claim her crown with this heavenly serving of exactly the sort of dance-pop she does best. Sounding like Fever’s guardian angel, never have synths sounded so easy or disco so effortless. With just one trademark Minogue swoon, she’ll have you smitten on tracks as beatifically breezy as All The Lovers and Can’t Beat The Feeling but keep those hotpants on-hand for irresistible calls to the dancefloor in the shape of Get Outta My Way and Put Your Hands Up. And just when you think you’ve second-guessed everything about this winsome wonder of an album, along comes the title track. Strutting and stomping its way onto the scene with the announcement that Kylie is ‘fierce and feeling mighty’, it’s a swaggering declaration of intent. Princess Kylie no more – only divine status will do. We had the ‘Goddess’ nametag ready all along.

6.         Miley Cyrus – Can’t Be Tamed

Loudly proclaiming that she ‘can’t be tamed’ and isn’t ‘your robot’, I think it’s safe to say Hannah Montana is all grown up. About time too. No longer content with all-too short bursts of brilliance (a la See You Again and Party In The USA), Can’t Be Tamed marks Cyrus’ most convincing attempt at proper pop stardom. Despite featuring one too many soldiers in the sweeping ballad contingent (the echo-ey My Heart Beats For Love and heartfelt cover of Every Rose Has Its Thorn are the best of the bunch), Can’t Be Tamed boasts some of the finest frothy electropop of 2010, be it the raging rap of Liberty Walk, the rocky drama of Scars, the divine blast of Permanent December or the best non-Swedish penned chorus of the year in Two More Lonely People. We could have done with a bit less Autotune (I’ve always enjoyed Cyrus’ distinctive drawl), but if this is the sound of Miley shaking off her Disney shackles, long may it continue.

7.         Katy Perry – Teenage Dream

There are people out there who will try to tell you that One Of The Boys is better than Teenage Dream. They are wrong. Whereas One Of The Boys was a wildly patchy debut with killer tracks that could be counted on one hand, Teenage Dream is a slightly less patchy sophomore effort with far more than its cotton-candy scented cover to recommend it. For those keen on the lurex-clad innuendo-spouting Perry, there’s a horrifically catchy song about cocks, the sunny bombastic beats of California Gurls and the feelgood sax solo and infamous ‘epic fail’ lyric of Last Friday Night. For those keen on the Perry who knows the meaning of words like ‘subtle’ and ‘nuanced’, there’s the golden-kissed swoons of Teenage Dream, Hummingbird Heartbeat and The One Who Got Away. And for those keen on the Perry who spurts pyrotechnics from her tits whilst making you feel better about yourself, there’s the Stargate-helmed uplift of Firework. In short, there’s a Perry for everyone and they’re almost all good. Apart from that angsty one with no tune obviously.

8.         Kelis – Flesh Tone

The last time we paid any attention to Kelis, she was bragging about her milkshake being the best in yard and screaming about how much she hated us right now. How times have changed. Pregnancy has tamed the tigress, instead leaving us with purring Kitty Kelis – albeit a kitten with a fondness for electro-synth rave-ups of the highest order. Flesh Tone is nine tracks of unrelenting beats that pound throb and thump you into submission, but in the gentlest way possible. There hasn’t been an album full of this much dancefloor euphoria since Madge’s Confessions (it even does the continuous mix thing), yet Flesh Tone has heart too. Put simply, ‘Without you, my life was acapella’ is one of the loveliest lyrics of recent times – and that’s just one of many completely captivating moments on this giddy triumph of a record. Who wants that milkshake now?

9.         Elin Lanto – Love Made Me Do It

Elin Lanto is one of those Scandipop stars who seems to be struggling to do the business charts-wise, yet keeps getting great songs regardless. Love Made Me Do It is solid pop bounty, half shiny sharp electro edges, half rough rocky ones, including the smitten eyelid-flutter of Tickles, the cocksure thrust and grind of Toy Boy, the Kylie-esque shimmy of My Favourite Pair Of Jeans and the 80s power-ballad melodrama of Give It All Up. Meanwhile, there are two tracks too stellar for the world not to be shouting from the mountains about. Funeral’s glittering melody, soaring chorus and delightful Swenglish lyrics about ‘dancing on your funeral’ are enough to make Abba proud whilst Love Made Me Stupid is an immaculately-crafted subversion of the typical pop song, detailing how love ‘made me mess up everything in my life’ (‘before I met you, everything was just fine’) with a chorus that socks it to you with a stunning slap in the face. Those pesky Swedes did it again.

10.       Take That – Progress

2010 was the year that someone woke up Take That. It seems that person was Robbie Williams. Everyone’s favourite man-band returned sans Williams in 2006 and quickly eased their way into producing safely soporific albums, albeit with an average of three complete epics along the way. Suddenly, Williams returns and they’re all synthesizers, keyboards and music you can dance to – and guess what? It’s brilliant. Producer of the year Stuart Price (also responsible for 2010’s offerings from Kylie, Scissor Sisters and Brandon Flowers) has whipped the group into a frenzy, where souped-up stadium pomp and stomp (SOS, Kidz, Underground Machine) trades blows with silky sinuous melodies (Wait, Happy Now) to spectacular effect. Elsewhere, Mark Owen tears his heart out for your listening pleasure on What Do You Want From Me, Jason Orange unearths a piece of blissed-out beauty on Flowerbed and Gary Barlow makes a last-gasp dash for his piano with the soft and affecting Eight Letters. Alongside the truly epic The Flood, that only makes for two Take That traditional ballads. To be honest, I could have done with just one or two more but the absence of a few lighters-aloft moments seems a small sacrifice to make. Genuinely exciting, invigorating and unexpected. Progress indeed.

11.            Animal – Ke$ha

Effective, efficient, instantaneous and easily disposable – no, it’s not Huggies new strapline but a few words to describe Ke$ha’s debut album. Beating out strong competition from Janelle Monae (overlong, inconsistent), Miranda Cosgrove (great songs, nowt to do with her) and Cee-Lo Green (everything else dwarfed by Fuck You) for the much-coveted eleventh place, pop’s resident skank arrived with an arsenal of heat-seeking missiles, locating pop’s catchiest choruses and claiming them all for her own. You might feel like you need a shower afterwards, but only the most dedicated wallflowers could resist finding their inner party girl to the likes to Tik Tok, Your Love Is My Drug and Kiss N Tell. But the highlight is the whooshy rush of Animal itself, a track tingly enough to make you weak at the knees. Seems there’s more than slurred raps, wasted moshing and playground lyrics (admittedly ones that are likely to get you grounded) to Ke$ha’s trashtastic image after all. Thank God.

Top 11 Singles Of 2010

The Top 11 Singles Of 2010 was one of the easiest lists to decide upon – the top eleven literally jumped out at me as being far and away the best of the year, whilst their only competition was other singles by the same artists (Robyn’s Indestructible, Katy Perry’s California Gurls, Gaga’s Alejandro and Diana Vickers’ The Boy Who Murdered Love are arguably better than the three nearly-but-not-quites). So there’s not much more to say apart from… enjoy!

1.         Fuck You – Cee Lo Green (1)

If something looks like a Motown classic, sounds like a Motown classic and feels like a Motown classic, is it to all intents and purposes, a Motown classic? Well, perhaps not with a swear word in the title. Stuffed with more classic moments than a Channel 4 Jimmy Carr-fronted countdown – ‘she’s an Xbox and I’m more Atari’, the pure grrr behind ‘I really hate yo’ ass right now’, the wailing all over the middle eight – not even an auto-tuned Gwyneth Paltrow doing the sanitized censored version on Glee could ruin it. But with its golden-retro-funk stylings, a rich soul vocal and a tune that lodges itself in your head until your dying day, Fuck You may as well have come stamped with ‘future classic’ on its forehead.

2.            Poison – Nicole Scherzinger (3)

Do I hear the words dance breakdown? Just when everyone thought the RedOne gravy train was losing momentum, the man goes and does it again. This time, he manages to turn the dislikeable diva from the Pussycat Dolls into a sexy sultry strumpet with this barnstorming belter. Half superhero soundtrack, half dancefloor manifesto, is there anyone out there who ISN’T Swedish capable of coming out with a chorus this good?

3.         On A Mission – Gabriella Cilmi (9)

Some of my favourite things in life are ‘talky bits’, ‘epic middle eights’ and ‘ridiculous dance routines’. So imagine my delight to find a song that delivers all three – at the same time! Sounding like Barbarella singing a Jem & The Holgrams song, On A Mission is precisely 80% amazing to 20% totally ridiculous. If most songs enter the scene at a jog, On A Mission announces its arrival shooting cosmic rays from every comet-spurting hook with a few cartwheels, high kicks and roly-polys thrown in for good measure. Cilmi suddenly got sexy – and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

4.            Dancing On My Own – Robyn (8)

Heartbreak never sounded so good. Managing to combine beats that beg to be bopped to alongside lyrics that sound like your heart being slowly but surely ripped out, Dancing On My Own comprehensively nails the genre of ‘dancefloor melancholy’ that probably didn’t even exist until the divine Ms Carlsson decided to do it so well that no-one need even bother trying. The stillness of the middle eight before the chorus windmills back in with a vengeance is a thing of pure Nordic beauty… has it been formally declared a crime yet to dislike Robyn?

5.            Telephone – Lady Gaga/Beyonce (1)

The song that turned the humble music video back into an event of international importance, Telephone would still be worthy of a place even without the poisoned sandwiches, cigarette sunglasses and abundance of awesomeness delivered by the mini-movie. If songs were people, Telephone would be one of those massive over-achievers constantly putting their hand up in class – not content with delivering just one hook, it piles on about fifty before declaring its work done. Beyonce’s ferocious cameo is better than any of her recent solo efforts, whilst Gaga outdoes herself by creating a song with even more catchy ‘eh eh eh’s than the one she actually titled ‘Eh Eh’! And for those that say this Darkchild-produced track is Gaga at her most generic, take one listen to the flavourless Britney demo to hear just how much Queen Gaga and her Honey-Bee bring to the party.

6.         One – Sky Ferreira (64)

In a year when everyone, their gran and their pet gerbil were coming out with processed electropop productions, it took something special to stand out from the bleepy beepy crowd. That something was Sky Ferreira. Ignore the obnoxious interviews, ignore the freaky video that makes her look like she has a giant baby head floating in a box and instead concentrate on one of the sleekest, cleanest and most unique electropop songs of the year. Superlative.

P.S. For anyone that has given up on the use of repetitive lyrics in pop songs thanks to Cheryl Cole’s efforts, Ferreira restores faith in the art. There are no fewer than twenty-three ‘stop’s, fourty-nine ‘up’s and one hundred and twelve ‘one’s in One, and the song wouldn’t be the same without any one of them. [Please note, these figures may not be accurate]

7.            Teenage Dream – Katy Perry (2)

It takes a bit of effort to look past Katy Perry’s projectile-emitting tits, the ‘ooooh, I’m controversial, me!’ lyrics and the collection of cartoon wigs and spandex dresses but Teenage Dream proves that it’s just about worth it. Featuring that rarest of things – a somewhat subtle Dr Luke/Max Martin production – it beats with heart, soul and sincerity. A rose-tinted, golden haze of pure youthful love.

8.         All Time Low – The Wanted (1)

I think it shows how far the pop firmament has come when, rather than releasing slushy dross as a first single, a new boy-band are launched with an ambitious different and actually minorly epic track. All Time Low is the very definition of a grower, emerging from sparse beginnings of a stop-start string staccato section, sprouting wings around the classic pop chorus area, introducing a pounding beat mid-way through just for the heck of it and finally taking glorious flight in the gorgeous layered crescendo of the middle eight. And they didn’t even take their tops off in the video.

9.            Higher – The Saturdays (10)

I despair of The Saturdays. Yet every time I feel safe in totally writing them off (tampon ads, half-brained mini-album release, piss-poor comeback single, half-arsed performances, dull ITV2 shows, re-releasing already crap mini-album with songs off their old album that they’ve attempted to delete from record stores etc etc), they use another of their nine lives by releasing their best song since Up. A fantastically-constructed pop song, with a chorus so unashamedly uplifting that the NHS are thinking of making it available on prescription, Higher would sound good even if it were sung by a dodgy session singer with a blocked nose and throat infection. Hell, it might even sound better as, in true Saturdays style, they managed to balls it up (Una’s epic middle eight live moment has disappeared to the bottomless well of Autotune). They then added Flo Rida. Farewell, eighth life.

10.       Echo – Girls Can’t Catch (19)

Alas, Girls Can’t Catch, we never really knew ye. Well, actually, we did, but it’s hard to recover from playing croquet in a rubbish tip and a potentially career-ruining Teentoday interview. Echo, with its sweeping Tedder-esque production, should have been the ace up GCC’s sleeve; instead, it just fizzled out on a cliff somewhere in front of some dodgy blue-screen animation. Oh Echo, we’ll light a candle in your memory and place it in the temple of ‘Great Forgotten Pop Songs Of Our Time’.

11.       Once – Diana Vickers (1)

Given that I enjoyed Diana Vickers’ X-Factor stint as much as I enjoyed my last bout of gastroenteritis, no-one was more surprised than yours truly that I ended up loving The Claw’s debut single as much as I did. With the pop might of Eg White and Cathy Dennis behind it, Once was a quirky little number that suddenly smashed you in the face with its full-throttle body-slam of a chorus. Idiosyncratic vocals, glacial production and Diana’s pure charm complete the gift-wrapped package.

Three nearly but not quites…

McFly – Shine A Light, Take That – The Flood, Katie Melua – The Flood

Essie Rock Star Skinny nail polish review

Having finally cleared my Christmas backlog, here’s one from…  Autumn. Oops.

Essie’s Rock Star Skinny is a deep dark red, almost brown, with the merest sliver of silver shimmer. At the time (Winter 2008), the name proved a little controversial but I totally understand the vibe that Essie were going for – a sexy vampy colour, best worn with rock star attitude, guitar turned up to eleven, leopard skin skinnies optional – and it’s bang on.

What does it say about me that all the best words I can use to describe this shade are alcoholic beverages?! Rock Star Skinny is a burnished burgundy, claret or sherry, which looks more crimson or brick brown depending on the angle and lighting. What it very rarely looks, however, is shimmery. The silvery glimmer is really noticeable in the bottle yet barely shows once it’s on the nails, only visible under very strong artificial lighting (which I’ve tried to show in the picture with the flash, below).

This was a shame as the hint of shimmer was one of the main reasons I opted for Rock Star Skinny in the first place. It gave it a bit of edge that set it apart from the countless other deep blood reds out there, so I was disappointed when it didn’t really come through. In fact, from certain angles, it looked decidedly dull and flat (see above). So I decided to rectify things myself by trying a few glittery topcoats – Zoya’s Gloria turns it into a gorgeous glowing russet (below left) whilst Zoya’s Allegra made it a hypnotic shade of magenta (below right). I loved how much richer, deeper and multi-faceted it became once a shimmer was added and it’s a shame Essie couldn’t find a way to make the silver threads show up more themselves.

That being said, I did find Rock Star Skinny to be a bit of a grower. I found myself liking it more with each passing day as it’s a mature, less showy take on red that works well with most colours and styles. It would be a decent alternative for those that want a change from black and could just about work for everyday working life.

Formula-wise, it felt a little thin and required three coats to get an even opaque colour, with the first coat a lot more obviously crimson than the third.

Rock Star Skinny does live up to its name, but it could have been so much more. Think of it as a very good first single with bags of potential… before Essie knock our socks off with an even more stellar album to come!

Looks good with: guitars, sunglasses worn indoors, bad gal attitude
Drying time: <5 mins
Coats required: 2-3
Chips: 3 days

Essie Rock Star Skinny nail polish, 2008 Winter Collection, $60, Cher2