It Will Tear Your Plot Apart!

Now that I’m “a writer”, people pretty much got me books for Christmas this year (could be worse, the uncle of a dear friend once made a passing comment that they “liked penguins” and resultantly drowned in a wave of penguin themed novelty gifts for years after).  However, I was also treated (I say treated, it was on my Amazon Wishlist) to the Hellraiser Trilogy on DVD, definitely worth a review.

I haven’t seen Hellraiser, Hellbound and Hellraiser 3: Hell on Earth together since I was a teenager, only catching parts of them on later night cable TV, but have always been impressed with the cold, unrelenting tone of the films.  The colour pallet of icy blues and steely greys paints a grim picture throughout, creating a stylish and thoroughly unique horror world.

Hellraiser is the eighties, but (as yet – it is slated for 2012) remains mercifully free from remake hell, so I’ll provide a recap for the uninitiated.  Hellraiser is based on a short story called The Hellbound Heart by a then little-known British writer, Cliver Barker.  His fiction is rich, sexual and the darkest dark fantasy (absolutely not for YA).  Barker’s work often explores the dichotomy of heaven/hell or pleasure/pain and The Hellbound Heart was no different.

After previous flirtations with book to film adaptations, the talented Mr. Barker also directed Hellraiser. It tells the tale of bored, sexually frustrated housewife Julia (played with frosty relish by Claire Higgins), a woman fixated on an affair with her brother-in-law, Frank.  Her lover, however, has other ideas.  His new toy is a sinister puzzle box, loaded with hooks that tear his flesh off for the entertainment of the demonic (or angelic depending on your feelings on super-kinky fun) Cenobites, led by the iconic Pinhead (Doug Bradley).

The only way for Julia to be reunited with Frank is to brutally sacrifice men for him, allowing him to gradually return to flesh.  Like I said, not unkinky.  Their plans are thwarted by plucky stepdaughter Kirsty (Ashley Laurence), every inch the 80s icon with perm and Miami Vice blazer.

What works in the first film is the noir tone, especially when compared to it’s counterparts A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th. The gore factor is turned all the way to eleven, but aside from this, it’s an almost artistic affair, dwelling on Julia’s motivation more than the flashy Cenobytes.  This stylish direction was later recreated for Barker’s equally wonderful Candyman.

Like so many 80s horror films, it’s perhaps best not to spend too much time thinking why everything happens.  Kirsty’s character in particular suffers from the DON’T GO IN THERE, YOU’LL OBVIOUSLY DIE syndrome and unless you are seriously into S & M, it might be a stretch to understand where the “pleasure” is offered by the Cenobites (I doubt you’ll be able to buy their spinning pole of torture at Anne Summers for a while yet).

And to the sequel.  I’d have left it there, but at present there is some discussion as to whether my book will go series or not.  One publisher is keen on series, one isn’t, so examining Hellbound: Hellraiser II was almost homework.

The sequel, taking place hours after Hellraiser, sees young Kirsty recovering in a psychiatric facility before she inexplicably decides she’d like to venture into Hell to retrieve her father.  Throw in a psychopathic doctor, the resurrection of Julia (now sans skin), loads of nods to Escher and you have a typical sequel.  BIGGER, GORIER, SHOCKINGERIER.

Does Hellbound benefit from added wow-factor?  No, of course not.  The brooding menace of the first film is gone in a splatter, as mental patients hack off their flesh and everyone makes out with corpses.  Tellingly, Clive Barker was only involved in Hellbound as a producer, giving a story outline for the film makers to flesh out.  Some parts work.  The Cenobites get slightly more to do and never lose their sadistic streak, toying with Kirsty, but that’s where all dignity ends.  The rest is a gore stained, nonsensical mess.  We shan’t even get onto Hellraiser III – you can imagine how silly things got there.

Can any sequel avoid the fate of Hellbound?  It has to be bigger and better, right?  One publisher described how a sequel needs to be “the same, but different”.  Hellbound does have the same plot (Julia’s resurrection is identical to Frank’s) but throws in EXTRA.  It’s the extra that spoils things.  So does this mean I write the same book again?  Same characters, same setting, new problems?  Or is it time to leave the world I created and move on to something new?

I’m genuinely interested to hear thoughts on sequels, dear readers.  I’m mid way through Mockingjay, book 3 of The Hunger Games and I’m reserving judgement until I’m done.  Are sequels the way forward?  Discuss.

As to the remake of Hellraiser.  HANDS OFF.  The Interweb initially suggested that Martyrs director Pascal Laugier would take the helm (a move approved by Clive Barker).  However, for some mystery reason (presumably because it was in danger of becoming good), the project was handed to Patrick Lussier who directed horror low-point My Bloody Valentine.  Expect a film a lot more like a sequel than an original.

Home For Christmas

A short story by James Dawson

Cancelled
Cancelled
Cancelled.

The hostile yellow words on the black screen mocked the damp people on the concourse of Kings Cross train station. A freezing wind cut across the muted mob of stranded travellers. What was there left to say? The bleak words sealed their Christmas fate – it was Christmas Eve and there was no way home.
Nicola hoisted the holdall full of presents back onto her shoulder. An early warning headache crept around the corners of her skull, threatening to strike with a full blown attack at any minute. A hapless employee of East Coast Trains scurried through the crowd, fighting off queries from lost passengers.
“You’ll have to go to the information desk,” he repeated, almost robot-like, desperate to clear the concourse.
“Sorry,” Nicola said, smiling her sweetest smile. “Is there any chance of getting to Leeds today?”
The train guy, probably younger than he looked, rubbed his stubbled jaw. “Probably not. Definitely not a direct service. Power lines you see.”
She pushed her luck a little further. “Oh, right. What about indirect services?”
He sighed. “I dunno, love. I only work for East Coast. You’ll have to go to information like everyone else.”
Her mother’s advice about always being polite under fire and never hurling obscenities at rail staff held back her tongue. Nicola smiled a forced smile and considered the mile-long queue for the information booth. She couldn’t not go home for Christmas. Her mum would be unbearable well beyond New Year. Moreover, her brother’s wife had just had the most adorable twins…their first Christmas. She had to make it.
She shuffled towards the queue, her damp Ugg boots squelching as she did so. Suddenly, a hand clamped itself to her arm. Nicola did not need to get groped today, she spun ready to drop the “f-bomb”. Only on seeing the hunched old woman clutching her coat, did she cool off. She looked ancient, smaller than most children, lost inside a thick winter coat and lime green mohair scarf.
“Did I hear you say you were trying to get to Leeds?” The old woman’s voice was surprisingly clear and precise. Her eyes twinkled with vital youth. Nicola scolded herself for automatically assuming the old dear was dotty.
“Yes, that’s right,” Nicola replied, using her poshest voice. You must always respect your elders. “Is that where you’re headed too?”
“No dear, but the north.”
“Well, doesn’t look like we’re getting anywhere any time soon, does it?” Nicola nodded up at the list of cancelled services.
The old lady leaned in, the bright eyes burning out from under her hat. “How badly do you want to get home?”
Truth be told, Nicola would quite happily stay in London with her friends, but family duty beckoned. “I need to get to Leeds ASAP.”
“Okay then, dear. Try platform 8. Train’s about to depart.”
“Where is it headed?”
“The North. You’ll get near enough to where you’re going.”
Nicola glanced through the gates to the sleek black train waiting on platform 8. People were piling into it, unsurprising given that almost every other service wasn’t running. She knew if she could get to Manchester of Sheffield or something, Sam would come and get her in the car. “You’re sure it’s going north?”
“That’s what the man said to me. If you don’t believe me, you’re welcome to queue, but you might miss it, dear.”
The conductors strode up and down platform 8, batons in hand. Better to get moving than remain stuck at Kings Cross, right? “You’re right. I’d better make a dash for it then.”
“Lovely. Have a nice Christmas.”
“Aren’t you coming?”
“I have to wait for the others, but I’m sure I’ll see you on the train.”
“Okay, Merry Christmas.” Nicola wasted no more time. She tugged up the handle on her suitcase and started to half run/half stagger towards the platform. The conductor saw her coming and stood to one side to allow her onto the train. “Hi, is this service going north?” she asked, puffing.
“All stops,” the barrel chested conductor barked.
“All stops to where?”
“The north.”
Nicola frowned. Why wouldn’t anyone give her a straight answer? With no other trains running, the endless platforms were graveyard quiet and bitterly cold, the December wind howling through the high rafters.
“Are you getting on or not?”
Nodding, Nicola heaved her suitcase-on-wheels onboard. The carriage was buzzing, people ramming themselves into seats, stripping out of heavy winter overcoats. Obviously there were no seat reservations in place, that’d be far too helpful. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw that some dread-locked student-type had granted a seat to his rucksack. Nice try, kiddo. “Is there anyone sitting there?”she asked, knowing the answer.
With a great sigh of annoyance, the young man went off to find somewhere to stow his bag and Nicola settled into her seat. She slipped her mobile out of her handbag. If she text Sam now, he’d be on alert to come and collect her. Tapping in the brief message, she hit send, only then noticing her iPhone was searching for signal. Oh, for crying out loud. She waved the handset in the air to no avail.
The train rolled out of Kings Cross as the last few passengers took their seats. Nicola shoved her phone in her pocket, ready to try once they were out of the station.
“Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen,” crackled the tannoy. “Welcome aboard this…service to…” the speakers hissed, spluttered and croaked, impossible to hear. Nicola wished she knew where she was headed. She decided that as soon as she was north of Nottingham she’d ask Sam to come and get her, the last thing she needed was to end up in Fife.
The windows steamed up as if they were in a sauna, the damp bodies already smelling a touch ripe. The student-guy returned to his seat, his iPod obnoxiously loud. Nicola couldn’t even be bothered to pick a fight. She withdrew a battered paperback from her bag, estimating she’d read for about an hour before hitting the buffet carriage.
Opening the novel, her eyes immediately felt thick and sore, almost feverish. The stress of catching the last train north. Sod it. Rolling her scarf into a ball, she rested her head against the partition between two moist windows and stopped fighting the tug of her eyelids.
She had no idea for how long she slept. Surely if the train had stopped at a station she’d have awoken? She was a light sleeper at the best of times. Nonetheless, the crusty student had gone. Good riddance to him and his bloody iPod. Across the aisle, the opposite seats were also empty. What time was it? It was already velvet dark beyond the thick plastic windows.
Nicola rubbed her eyes and sat up straight. Aside from the rhythmic rat-a-tat-tat of the train careering over the tracks, the coach was silent. Too silent. No kids struggling to leave their seats, no clatter of a drinks trolley, no tinny beats from headphones. Nothing. Nicola stood up in her seat, and, looking backwards and forwards, saw nothing but empty, pristine seats. She was alone in the carriage.
Not even bothering to take her bags, she strutted down the gangway towards the next coach, the doors sliding open on her approach. The same – just rows and rows of seats with no occupants. That wasn’t possible – she couldn’t be the only person left on the train. If it was still moving, it had to be going somewhere. But where? Oh God, anything but Fife.
Refusing to panic, but definitely panicking, Nicola broke into a jog, pushing past the vacant seats. The next carriage was deserted. And the next. The train seemed to go on forever, almost like she was running inside a circular tube, going round and round. Each coach was identical, she could well be in a human-size hamster wheel.
She stopped. Up ahead lay the buffet car, the first change in what seemed like miles. Her heart seemed to drop below her stomach, beating around her bones. There was something wrong with this carriage. Still, she had to carry on. There had to be someone working at the buffet, if nothing else.
There was only one other person in the restaurant. The little old lady from Kings Cross. A frail hand lifted a Styrofoam cup to her cracked lips. “Hello dear. You made it then?”
The fire that had sparkled in her eyes now blazed under her skin, her whole face lit from within. Pulsing streams of lava appeared to surge through her body – her eyes infernos. Even from where Nicola stood feet away, she could feel warmth radiating from the crooked woman, it burned from her in toxic waves.
Everything in the car was wrong. The word ‘evil’ is overused, but now Nicola saw it for the first time. There was something old and ancient in the buffet coach and every atom of Nicola’s being reacted to it; it was instinct, like animals sensing a forest fire. As the flames crackled under the old lady’s papery skin, dread bubbled up in Nicola’s gut. A sea of ill-feeling; another year older, none-the-wiser, never good enough, still alone. Nicola turned and pelted back down the adjoining carriage, feeling the sting of tears behind her nose. In the vestibule by the doors, she located the emergency stop lever, resting behind a thin layer of perspex. Putting her house keys to use, she broke the glass and tugged on the chain. An alarm sounded and she was tossed forward as the brakes screeched on. Clinging to the pole, Nicola waited for the train to reach a standstill.
More silence. No conductor running to see who’d slammed on the brakes and the terrifying old lady hadn’t followed her from the buffet car. Next to the door, the open button flashed green, begging her to press it.
She straightened up and paused. Could she really jump off a train between stations? That was madness, right? No. At the other side of the carriage, a woman on fire burned on the other side of the glass doors. “Nicola Purvis..?” a sweet voice called.
She pushed the button and the doors hissed open. A blast of Arctic air hit her. White. As far as the eye could see, white. There was nothing beyond the train except a far-stretching, vast snow field. There was no rise and fall, only an untouched, crisp, winter page. Behind her, the train tracks vanished under thick, creamy snowdrifts. Above her, an empty frozen sky hung, void of any stars or clouds. On the furthest horizon, the white connected to the blue, no shapes familiar to towns and cities spoiling the perfectly linear view.
There was nowhere to run. Nicola was nowhere and going nowhere. She re-entered the train and the door slid shut behind her. The blazing form was gone, at least for now. She sat in the first available seat and waited.

Want Your Bad Romance

The Young Adult genre, as a London publisher recently told me, is an American thing. The UK was unprepared for the flood of supernatural fiction that washed over the pond like a tsunami of angst. Only very recently have Waterstones realised lumping the black covers in with kids fiction might not be the best selling solution and have created purpose built “dark romance” sections in some stores.

But it’s the romance part of dark romance that’s got me thinking just lately. I’ve recently finished reading the best-seller Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick (behind on my reading, I know). For the uninitiated, it’s your standard girl meets brooding vampire fallen angel. Fallen angels were last year’s fey, so I’m told. Between vamps, werewolves, fairies, elves and angels, pretty, but not too pretty, girls-next-door have been falling for supernatural hotties for decades now (pretty much since Mina Harker ditched Keanu for him from Nil By Mouth).

However, while there’s no denying the unifying star-crossed lovers themes predominant in nearly all dark romance books (and why not? The appeal of an impossible dark Prince Charming to take the edge off GCSE theatre studies is obvious), the one thing that varies is sex. Everyone knows the USA (even beyond the Bible belt) retains Christian values ahead of the UK, where, as Mr. Pope points out, we actively rejoice in our Godlessness. Makes sense, therefore, that books aimed at American teenagers wouldn’t encourage doing the wild thing on a first supernatural encounter.

Over here, of course, between Skins and Misfits, we’re more than used to seeing strung-out teenagers going at it like rabbits on the TV, but not so much in teenage fiction. Yet. Books don’t have a carefully-controlled watershed, but as YA fiction translates to British authors, perhaps it’s a matter of time. My own book is more sexified than most, although we won’t see that on shelves for a while yet. In the meantime, what message are YA readers getting about sex from the US writers?

I’ll start with the biggy. The Twilight Saga. And what a saga it is. The first three books tell the tale of poor horny Bella Swan, a girl who wants nothing more than to boff her boyfriend of almost two years. Sadly for her, Edward is old fashioned and wants to wait for marriage. Fair enough, encouraging youngsters to wait a while is a sensible message to put out there, but the way Edward almost mocks Bella for having a sex drive is off-putting. Silly old Bella, wanting to have sex with the man she loves. As if the message wasn’t clear enough, SPOILER, when Bella finally gets her wicked way (on their wedding night!) it almost kills hers. Twice. Moreover, details of their love-making are cut, giving young readers nothing in the way of advice. Shame, I learned a lot from Judy Blume’s Forever.

The Jacob Black character, outside of New Moon, is also tarred with Stephenie Meyer’s anti-sex brush. After being an adorable shoulder to cry on in book 2, he becomes a villainous barrier to Edward and Bella – his desire for Bella “bad” as opposed to Edward’s “good” chastity. Edward repeatedly tells Bella he wants to bump uglies, but luckily for everyone involved, he’s grown out of such base reactions. The problem I have with this is that the readership hasn’t. Natural hormonal instincts aren’t there to be damned, but understood.

Hush, Hush, seemingly written as an antidote to Twilight, presents cheerier brunette heroine Nora Grey with a red-blooded, de-winged angel suitor in the shape of the ridiculously named Patch (who is not a dog). A character so horny he was expelled from heaven owing to his carnal lust for human girls. While author Fitzpatrick’s intention to grant the teen characters a sex drive is commendable following the Victorian attitudes of Edward Cullen (he is meant to be ancient – not bashing Team Edward), I was also disturbed by Nora and Patch’s encounters.

This time, the sexual barometer swings the other way. For the first 200 hundred pages of the book, Patch is an enormous sleaze, bordering on sex pest territory. He continually invades Nora’s personal space, gropes her, and in one scene, physically forces himself on her (what a catch). If he were the baddie, this would all make sense. But no, he’s the love interest. Throughout, Nora plays the oddly 1950’s monologue of fighting off patch while secretly desiring him. It’s okay guys, if a girl beats you off with a stick, she actually secretly wants you!

The love scene with Pussy Galore in Goldfinger is often called upon to support this feature of bygone attitudes to sex. In the barn scene, Pussy continually asks Bond to stop, physically fighting him, only to inevitably crumble under Connery’s “extreme masculinity” (see The Apprentice, BBC).

In Hush, Hush, the need to make Nora a “good girl”, the Jamie Lee Curtis final girl, makes her resistance a depressingly necessary plot device. If she whipped off her clothes when Patch first tried it on, she would have been too slutty to be relateable, right? Personally, allowing Nora to experiment with her feelings for Patch from the get-go would have been less concerning than her perpetuating the myth than when girls say “no”, they mean “yes”. I guess readers are mainly female, so male readers aren’t absorbing this message, and there’s nothing wrong with a little bad-boy fantasy, but I hope twelve year old girls don’t come to think that Patch’s behaviour is acceptable or be expected.

Those are only two examples of a rapidly expanding genre. The Sookie Stackhouse series and House of Night are sex-a-go-go, the PC and Kristen Cast offering celebrating oral sex, masturbation, and proud gay characters all in a Hogwarts-like setting. Both sagas are firmly aimed at (the crotch) and older readers, and come with a PG certificate at the very least. What would be interesting is a book that deals with issues surrounding early sexual experiences without being so graphic as to eliminate an adolescent fanbase. If you know of such a book, please let me know in the comments box.

Until then, I remain unconvinced of “dark romance” as a healthy guide to sexuality for young adult readers.

LEAVE BRITNEY ALOOOOONE!


People need to CTFO about this “X Factor Vote Scandal”.  The reason the judges got rid of Mary was because she was shit.  I draw your attention to week 8, where One Direction would have been booted out ahead of Cher.  So there.

It’s the same reason they kept Hatie over Trake and Belle Amie over Diva Fever – they’re looking for a popstar, and Tesco Mary simply isn’t one.  It’s nothing to do with her age, it’s to do with the fact she bellows like a foghorn.

Now can we all get on with the serious business of slagging off the winner’s song?

PS – And just where did the press get those “Wagner will win” stories..?  Interesting, right?

After some truly disturbing performances (Matt Cardle and Rihanna – skin crawlingly bad, Rebecca had never met Aguilera) we finally have our winner. AND NO-ONE EXPECTED THAT. Oh wait, we did. I admit, I got the order a little mixed up – I had One Direction to win, but I did predict the final three back in week 4. Not too shabby.

What’s next for the final four? We all know that winning isn’t everything – ask poor old Joe McElderry, coming to a touring version of Grease/Les Mis/Rocky Horror Show near you (seriously, his second single entered the chart at #68 tonight). Here’s my look into a X-Factor themed crystal ball.

Cher Lloyd – The future’s bright for tiny little Cher.  Her duet with Will.i.am was the most authentic of the night and I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw them work together soon.  That said, Miss Lloyd needs to go away for a year or so and grow up.  A year out of the spotlight didn’t do Diana Vickers any harm and Cher would similarly benefit from a touch of media training  and some songs that suit her, instead of dodgy “mash-ups”.  Cher, we’ll see you in 2012.

One Direction -Dear God Simon, look after them.  Some slick US production could make Bieber and the Woo-Woos, really um, Bieber-like.  The much hailed “The Wanted” have stalled after an impressive start and JLS are doing just fine for a brit boyband, so Wand Erection need  to keep it cool.  No-one wants another bloody Westlife.  With the right songs, they could be fantastic.

Rebecca Ferguson – poor old Becs from the Block picked a bad year to pop out on the scene.  1 – she’s excruciatingly boring (no really, she makes Leona look WILD) and 2 – Adele has a new album coming out and, from what I’ve heard, it’ll be the album of the year.  If Winehouse sorts her shit out, she’ll be back too.  Rebecca hasn’t got what it takes to compete on a national level, never mind international.

Matt Cardle – After winning The X Factor, Brookstein Cardle was immediately signed to the Sony BMG record label through which he released his first single, a cover of Against All Odds “When We Collide” on 20 December 2004 2010. The song debuted on the UK Singles Chart at number1 , staying there for one week.  The music video for the song was a montage of clips from his time on The X Factor, from his initial audition to his final performance after being declared the winner.

Brookstein Cardle released his debut album Heart and Soul on 9 May 2005 10th Nov 2011 through Sony BMG. The album was an immediate success, also debuting on the UK charts at number one and going on to sell approximately 250,000 copies. Although Brookstein Cardle continued to perform tracks from the album on television shows such as CD:UK, a second single failed to materialise. In August 2005 2012 it was announced that Sony BMG had dropped him from their line-up only eighteen months after his X Factor victory and despite the success of his debut single and album.

Ironically, One Direction and Cher will be the eventual winners…just you wait and see.

X Factor Live Shows Week 9

Or, WHY CHER LLOYD HAS TO BE IN THE FINAL.

Simon was absolutely right, after the circus surrounding Miss Lloyd since September, it would be a travesty if she fell at the last hurdle. If we’re being honest, the final three should have been Wagner, Katie and Cher – the three of them are The X Factor 2010. Without them, it would have been a very, very dry year and we should all be kissing their reality TV bums.

Any good popstar from Madonna to Morrissey needs to court controversy – it’s fame fuel. That’s why Leona Lewis started to look laughable next to her contemporaries. Being a sweet British girl with a nice song won’t cut it.

Since Cher turned up at auditions, the press have been as obsessed with her as viewers, opinion very much split as to whether she’s a vile diva, evil bully, daughter of Satan or a quivering, “fragile” mess on the edge of a nervous breakdown. The column inches rival those of say “hermaphrodite” Lady Gaga or “unhinged” Kanye West. That’s a proper popstar. Imagine the live finals without Cher. Yawn.

As to her performances last night. “Nothing On You” was quirky fun, “HELLO!” (I loved that she didn’t realign the gender of the lyrics – Wand Erection would have been so much funnier had they done “make me feel like I’m the only girl in the world). “Love the Way You Lie” was pitchy, but so was every other performance of the night and Dannii’s critique was needless – we’ve seen Cher do big ballads, she hasn’t got anything left to prove, what was important was that she appealed to a teenage fanbase.

What about the rest?

Rebecca – Let’s get real about Rebecca (which sounds like a Channel 4 TV show about children in care). The judges must be hearing someone else’s vocals, because to the panel gathered in my flat, her performance of “Show Me Love” was like a cat being medically tested on. That said, at least it was a “Club Classic”. Also, note to Louis, standing completely static while surrounded by dancers does NOT constitute dancing. I’m sure she’s lovely, but she’s no popstar.

Painter & Decorator – Straight through on sympathy votes so hardly worth writing about.

Tesco Mary – STOOOOOOP SHOOOOOOUUUUTING. Her one-note yodelling has become unlistenable. Although, if she’d have sung “Ride On Time” as her club classic, I’d have voted. WALK right in, WALK, WALK, WALK right in.

Wand Erection
– On the plus side, at least they sang live this week. On the down side, they sang live this week. Also safe for the final.

That leaves the girls to battle it out for final place. My prediction: Mary and Cher in bottom 2 with judges saving Cher because she’s “relevant” and “contemporary”.

And now – enjoy Cheryl’s face at 1:58 on the video below.

(20)10 of the best

Here’s my round-up of what I think were the best pop musicular releases of 2010.  Like my Christmas trifle, I like my pop music with a bit of a kick, as you’ll see.  You might also notice there are more than your average barking mad female vocalists/trendies on the list.  What?  Sue me.  These aren’t the biggest selling songs of the year or what-not, but that list would have included some clangers like Yolanda Be Cool and at least one Katy Effing Perry song.

UFFIE – ADD SUV

  • Song of the year for me.  The “buzz” surrounding Uffie dimmed somewhat during her hiatus, during which time Gaga and Ke$ha starting filling up the charts with their radio friendlier output.  How can you be mad at a song with the “Queen bees lose to wasps.  Ritalin filled debutants”?  Uffie’s ode to LA-LA land comes complete with an AMAZE Pharrell rap and production from Madonna’s ex BFF Mirwais.

    M.I.A – XXXO

  • Apparently M.I.A fell out with her producer Rusko while recording her third studio album, with the latter very publically calling the artiste a big bitch (in not so many words, but we could all read between those lines). The annoying thing is, he’s right, M.I.A works best when she’s not trying so hard to shock. XXXO is simply an amazing pop song very well produced. Awesome “cheap” video too.

    TINIE TEMPAH – PASS OUT

  • We were all meant to love Ellie Goulding in 2010, but fortunately, everyone preferred Patrick Junior Chukwuem Okogwu instead. I can’t think why he didn’t release under that name. I mean come on, any song which references Heidi and Audrina from The Hills and boasts “I’ve got so many clothes I keep some in my Aunt’s house” has to be genius.

    LADY GAGA – TELEPHONE

  • T-T-T-Telephone is included as a rare example of a video elevating a song to greatness. The 1990s were the age of the pop video – I remember waiting for Michael Jackson’s “Black and White” video to debut with giddy excitement. 15 years later, Lady Gaga has brought that sense of anticipation back to the charts. Even Alejandro (which turned out to be shit) was worth staying up to midnight on a school night for. Enjoy the full, nine minute extravaganza above – it’s colourful, funny and Beyonce has never been so interesting.

    I BLAME COCO – CAESAR

  • Coco Sumner is Sting’s daughter. Let’s get that out of the way upfront. Right, now we can concentrate on her super debut single featuring equally awesome Robyn (who’s Dancing On My Own narrowly missed my top ten). I love any video that utilises the “crack den of pop”. I suspect had the whole thing not been so po-faced, The Constant, released November would have made a bigger impact – fun music, “cool” packaging.

    MARK RONSON & THE BUSINESS INTL – BANG BANG BANG

  • As Mark Ronson is so quick to talk about his own talent, it’s always annoying when he does something as good as this. I can’t embed the full version of the excellent video, presumably because Mark Ronson is a known dickhead. He recently fired his even more odious tour manager too apparently (Pot. Kettle. Black). I justify my love for this song because of the cool-as-f**k turns from MNDR and Q-Tip.

    MARINA AND THE DIAMONDS – OH NO!

  • Avoid her Twitter feed because she’s annoying, but I LOVED the Family Jewels by the fabulously named Marina Lambrini Diamandis. In a year in which I spent about 80% of my time in the quest to get my book published, “Oh No!” stood out to me, as at times it has rather felt that I’ve been both walking and talking like a machine. Deep, right? (Okay, you might wanna avoid my Twitter feed too after that load of old shit).

    RIHANNA – HARD

  • Actually, I think you’ll find it was a 2010 release in the UK, so there. You can keep “Loud”, the darker Rihanna exhibited on “Rated R” lifted Rihanna to a level playing field with Beyonce for the first time. Pon De Replay is a long way away in the angry “Hard”, which was after Rihanna had very publically been a victim. Plus, the video is FIERCE. “Where my bloggers at?” (We’re here, RiRi).

    HADOUKEN! – MIC CHECK

  • For some reason the video has an annoying sample on it that the single version doesn’t but hey-ho. Poster band for “too cool to be taken seriously” wankiness, it doesn’t stop their music from being awesome noisy fun. I wish they’d CTFO, it’s pop music – it’s meant to be fun, you guys.

    WILLOW SMITH – WHIP MY HAIR

  • Sometimes hype is right. If you think about it, it’d have to be a REALLY catchy song to make you overlook that the artist in question is the ten year-old daughter of known Xenu botherers the Pinkett-Smiths. Yes, it’s a bit creepy, but the song is insanely good. It may well be a one-hit-wonder, who cares? Whipping yo haya is so 2010, and that’s the point, right?