Oh the woe September brought us – school, uni, work, end of summer, generally quite blergh feelings. However, for avid BBC Radio 1 listeners and your classic “yah but I found this insane cover with 10 views on YouTube” hipsters, September was a month of musical awesomeness. 30 days, 30 artists, 30 different performances. Looking back through Radio 1 Live Lounge month was like reading a teenage girls diary…the mood and vibe changed everyday…in the greatest way possible…
A lot of the newbies had big shoes to fill what with previous performances including Florence + The Machine (who made a stunning reappearance this year) and Arctic Monkeys. Maybe some of them, like little electro princess FKA Twigs, let the pressure get to them a little. Her cover of Sia’s “Elastic Heart” was definitely not for the mainstream amongst us and if the original music video weirds you out enough then boy are you in for a treat. It really did escalate quickly. Credit to her, the song was perfect for her voice and where Sia belts out the notes in the chorus Twigs’ eerily soft tone sounded subtly gorgeous. Then BAM! Enter stage right unnecessary interpretive male dancer who proceeds to cut shapes with/on Twigs (stage note: she can’t dance). I get it, you want to do something different and put your own spin (literally) on the song but there is a time and a place and the Live Lounge is not it. Bearing in mind there are probably around 10 people in the room watching what looks like two people having a slow motion dance-off, just imagine the atmosphere in that room at the time…too intense.
On a lighter note it was nice to see some artists staying true to their own sound. Disclosure teamed up once again with the nation’s sweetheart, Sam Smith, to perform “Bling Hotline” by Drake and you could listen to it with your eyes closed and know immediately that it was Disclosure. Their garage house feel suited the song nicely and combine that with Sam Smith’s irritatingly gorgeous voice and you’re on to a winner. I tend to be critical of DJ’s (Naughty Boy did a pretty groovy cover despite the fact that after introducing himself he was then nowhere to be seen during the performance) however Disclosure always seem to impress me. CHVRCHES (why wouldn’t you just put a “U”?) were also ones to stay true to themselves with the synths creating their admired euphoric sound on Bieber’s “What Do You Mean”. Slight criticism; Lauren Mayberry could have made the effort to learn the lyrics as there was some dodgy hesitance going on there. However this was an incident of two artists covering the same song. Whether one wants to or not we all immediately turn this in to the music equivalent of who wore it better? CHURCHES vs. Frances. This is the first time I’ve come across Frances and I’d describe her as a cross-pollination between Ellie Goulding and Birdy. “How delightful” I hear you say. Her stripped-back acoustic version of the pop tune was delightful indeed and her self-accompinament on the piano made it all the more likeable. The focus was totally on her and, for once, Bieber’s seemingly shallow lyrics were given some meaning. Unusually, I did prefer Frances’ version – kudos for baring your soul sista.
Amongst the enlightening discoveries of new artists there was a serious disappointment. The Vaccines. What? Why? Please? No. As if by magic “Bad Mood” just appeared on my shuffle but, regrettably, I must skip it as I can no longer listen to them without being reminded of their truly awful cover of Omi’s “Cheerleader”. Already the song choice puts doubt in my mind (if you’re not familiar with the song I’m proud of you and I envy your position). Watching Justin Young attempt to sing this was like watching a tone-deaf X Factor audition. At first I felt confusion, then a wave of disbelief, and finally unequivocal cringing. Out of tune, out of time and severely discouraging. I seriously hope that he was drunk. Paralytically drunk. *shudders*
There is still light at the end of the tunnel! From disappointment sprung pleasant surprise in the form of Sigala & Craig David. They brought sunshine in to the Live Lounge with their Caribbean-inspired cover of “See You Again” and it oozed summer. Such a cool use of xylophones and steelpan to back up Craig David’s straight-outta-the-noughties sexy-time voice. Not the most concise description but fairly accurate. I could definitely hear this being played in clubs all over Europe in the summer (can’t decide whether that’s a compliment or an insult) as you can’t resist groovin’ a lil’ bit when you hear it. Definitely a guilty pleasure. Demi Lovato was also a pleasant surprise (don’t judge me). I reluctantly watched her cover of Hozier’s “Take Me To Church” but she did it justice! Although the cover itself was a tad boring and samey-samey it allowed for her voice to shine through and she certainly has a sweet set of pipes. It reminded me slightly of Amy Winehouse or Shinghai Shoniwa from The Noisettes with more oomph to it. I don’t want to think that this was her manager thinking “you can’t play an instrument so let’s just show everyone how amazing your voice is” but, in fairness, he fooled me. Well played good sir.
If I had to narrow it down to my two favourite performances, my vote would be for Florence + The Machine and Hozier. Floflo’s (I wish we were on a nickname basis) cover of “Where R U Now” by Diplo & Justin Bieber was on par with her performance last year. She absolutely queened it. The bass line (don’t get excited drum and bass lovers, I mean guitar) really stood out for me and of course Florence’s effortlessly wholesome voice was pure magic. I love the way she reaches the higher notes and the effect it gives on the overall performance. The sweet haunting quality takes the song back to its roots but in doing so brings out so much more. Perhaps I’m a shade biased but she can do no wrong. I have a similar soft spot for Hozier and his version of Sam Smith’s “Lay Me Down” confirmed that. Not only did he look like the sweetest and most genuine gent as he introduced himself in his heart-melting Irish accent, in a chequered shirt (vintage most probably), holding a cuppa tea but his cover was also funky AF. FAF. It was like Michael Jackson had come back to life and The Jackson 5 were jammin’ in the studio. He got all of his musicians involved with the backing vocals without his own voice being drowned out and the harmonies were delicious and similarly to Florence, his bass line gave it that supremacy. For an artist who has made his name with more chilled out, low-key tunes Hozier did something completely different to his album and we (I should hope) love it.
So guys and gals, the link below will take you to the Radio 1 Live Lounge YouTube playlist so maybe this is the opportune moment for you to use (without telling anyone obvs) youtube converter if you fall as deeply in love with Hozier as I did…
[Picture source: http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/976×549/p0319652.jpg]