“Come to Zom Zom’s, a place to eat like it was built in one day. You can watch the humans trying to run.” Although radio in the United States and Canada aired only one of his songs (“Cars”) which became a huge international hit with a performance on Saturday Night Live, in his native UK, Gary Numan has scored 24 Top 40 hits, 7 Top Tens, and two number ones. His first came in 1979 thanks to “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” with his band Tubeway Army. It topped the British charts and arguably began the electronic rock or synthpop wave which flourished in the early 1980s. The new sound started by accident as he bumped into a Moog synthesizer in the recording studio and asked for permission to give it a go. Its powerful sounds blew him away, so he tacked synthesizer sounds onto the punk music his band was making. Numan was also inspired by early Ultravox. “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” was discovered by influential BBC Radio One DJ John Peel. He gave it a spin, and to use a modern expression, the song went viral.
From there, electronic rock and synthpop acts flourished, especially from the UK: The Human League, OMD, Simple Minds, New Order, Depeche Mode, Soft Cell, Thomas Dolby, Howard Jones, and so on. Many modern artists cite Gary Numan as a big influence. He is considered by some as the godfather of electronic rock. He wasn’t the first but was arguably the one who launched its popularity and as such might be credited for “inventing” the 80s music-wise. These days, more into industrial music, Gary is currently working on a new album. Below we have embedded a high-resolution video from a concert in Hammersmith, London in 1980. This is “Down In the Park” from album Replicas. The amazing performance was way ahead of its time with spectacular colourful light panels, dry ice, and a joystick-controlled mini automobile. In a recent interview at Moog Fest in the United States, Numan responded to the compliment that his performance was brilliantly intense by saying that he was actually afraid he wouldn’t see the edge of the stage from all the dry ice and fall off.
From the market town of Framlingham, England, champion of musical minimalism Ed Sheeran has released two new ditties—”Shape of You” and “Castle on the Hill”. They are currently #1 and #2 respectively at iTunes UK, Canada, Australia, and US. The copper top, muppet man has been releasing albums titled after the symbols of the elementary, mathematical operations of arithmetic. There are only 4 of them (+, -, x, ÷) so we’re not sure what he’ll do for his fifth album. His first album was + and second x. The new singles herald his upcoming 2017 album, ÷. Good luck making the symbol with your computer keyboard (hint: alt+0247).
The UK Official Singles chart published a year-end chart for 2016. Canada’s Drake is #1 of the year with “One Dance” which interestingly is a reworking of British song “Do You Mind?” from Crazy Cousinz and Kyla. The top homegrown act on the chart is EDM specialist Calvin Harris with “This Is What You Came For” which features the vocals of Barbados’ Rihanna. Harris currently holds the record for the most top 10 songs from one studio album on the UK Singles Chart with nine. He was born in Dumfries, Scotland. Watch the music video below.
The United Kingdom does not seem like the sort of place where chart records are set by Canadian recording artists. Brits have been more intent to lap up music made by the country that turned its back on them becoming a bloody republic. Throughout the 1980s, not a single Canadian artist topped the British charts, and the only Canadian band to ever do this did so recently (MAGIC!). It is ironic then that a current Canadian superstar is close to dethroning his fellow Canuck from holding the British chart record of the most weeks spent by a single at number one. That record is currently held by Bryan Adams for his global 1991 blockbuster “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” which spent 16 weeks on top in the UK. Bryan Adams’ fellow Canadian artist Drake, who is very different in musical style, is tailgating the record with his current hit “One Dance” which has thus far spent 14 weeks at #1 in Britain. The two songs themselves have considerable British content of sorts. “I Do It For You” was co-written by British-based Robert “Mutt” Lange (though he was born in Zambia and grew up in South Africa) while Drake’s “One Dance” is actually a re-working of Crazy Cousinz and Kyla’s 2008 UK song “Do You Mind?”
It has been announced that ABC girl group (the ABC stands for American British Canadian) will be re-forming with a new single ready to launch, hopefully this summer.
GRL was first started up by Robin Antin, the woman responsible for the formation of The Pussycat Dolls and other acts. GRL released an EP and rocketed to stardom with a Pitbull collaboration in song “Wild Wild Love”. “Ugly Heart” was a massive hit in Australia, peaking at #2, and the girls participated in an big televised interview there, the video of which is embedded below. The lineup was Emmalyn Estrada (Canadian), Lauren Bennett (British), Natasha Slayton (American), Paula van Oppen (American), and Simone Battle (American). Songs were composed by a number of big names including Sweden’s Max Martin and Canada’s Henry “Cirkut” Walter.
The group’s increasing momentum was halted by the untimely death of Simone Battle. The four remaining members released a beautiful pop song dedicated to her called “Lighthouse”. Following this, the group disbanded.
On June 18, 2016, it was announced that Robin Antin was reforming the group. Both Paula and Emmalyn opted not to rejoin, the latter stating on Twitter, “I’m not a part of what the other girls are doing, it isn’t the right path for me but I’ll always love and support them.” Both Lauren and Natasha have committed and new member(s) are currently being sought.
Whether all of this actually materializes remains to be seen, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed.
Posted in United Kingdom, United States
- Tagged Emmalyn Estrada, G.R.L., Henry "Cirkut" Walter, Lauren Bennett, Lighthouse, Natasha Slayton, Paula van Oppen, Robin Antin, Simone Battle, The Pussycat Dolls, Ugly Heart, Wild Wild Love
You can be sure progressive rock band Radiohead is in the midst of releasing new music when it does something unexpected. Shutting down all its social networking sites drew some much needed attention after the group’s five-year hibernation, and with that comes a brand new single and stop motion animated music video. “Burn the Witch” sees the British group pay homage to 1973 film The Wicker Man which starred Edward Woodward (who later appeared in TV series The Equalizer) as well as Christopher Lee. The MV, like the film, centers around an investigator who checks out a town. Though on the surface things look pretty, there is something fishy going on. The video has also been compared to children’s TV shows Camberwick Green and Trumpton. It’s cute and creepy, just as Radiohead’s music is both weird and wonderful. The band is set to release its 9th studio album with a world tour expected. Radiohead has scored seven Top 10 hits in the UK and two Top 40s in the United States. Only out for a day, the video is up to 6.5 million views. View it below.
Kathleen Anne Brien, known in the entertainment world as Katy B, has released her third album, Honey. While her last effort, the superb Little Red, was a cohesive disc, she has opted for more variety and experimentation on Honey. Behind the kaleidoscopic tangents are an abundance of international collaborators: Canada’s Kaytrananda, England’s Craig David, The United States’ Major Lazer, and many more. Katy is at the top of her game when combining her R&B inflected vocals with British house music as on track “I Wanna Be” and not so much when surrendering the mic to rappers. The album contains her first UK chart topper, though as a featured artist, “Turn the Music Louder” by KDA. Katy B was featured in “Save Me” by Keys N Krates which recently won the JUNO Award for Dance Recording of the Year (not included on Honey). As the main artist, Katy B has scored 4 Top Ten hits in Britain to date. We have embedded the BBC live lounge video for the album’s title-track below.