Umlauts is the new music-blogging venture from Edward O, who was responsible for last year’s widely admired Enthusiastic but Mediocre. As before, Edward will be running a regular feature: The Cross-Europe Chart Challenge of Death, in which fifteen different European countries have their singles charts evaluated by a panel of pundits.
Ever eager to trot out a pithy capsule review or two, I have now joined the panel, whose verdicts on the current Top 10 singles in Belgium are now available for inspection. Having spent the last few days immersed in Belgian pop (when I’ve not been immersed in Eurovision), all I can say is that I will never complain about the UK singles charts again. Take it from me, kids: we just don’t know how lucky we are.
Having said that, I can wholeheartedly recommend a wonderful piece of Schlager-pop by Laura Lynn, called Je Hebt Me 1000 Maal Belogen. How reassuring to know that stuff like this, which I thought had died out years ago, is still being produced and enjoyed. Interested? Then take a good look at the end of the article.
1. STAR ACADEMY – Fame
MA: Not having bothered to research the subject, I think I can safely presume that this features the finalists of the Belgian version of the musical TV talent show which we in the UK know as Fame Academy.
MA: Let’s just say that in order to appreciate this competent but anonymous straight-down-the-line cover version, you probably had to be there. Still, their mothers must be proud.
2. LAURA LYNN – Je Hebt Me 1000 Maal Belogen
MA: Honestly, this is fantastic: Schlager pop with a muted 80s Italo-disco beat, heavy on the echo chambers, and overlain with pleasingly scrunchy vocals. Nice to see that “Jenseits Von Eden” orchestrated synth stab making a comeback, as well.
MA: Now, I might not know much Flemish, but I’m fairly certain that this translates as “You have lied to me 1000 times.” In which case, I find myself suddenly wanting to enrol in Flemish night classes, just so that I can join in with this at chucking out time at one of those tiny little sing-song bars (you know, the ones with tartan upholstery and copper pots hanging from the ceiling), drunkenly wagging my finger along with the massed ranks of betrayed housewives in a shared moment of “see yer in court, yer bash-tard!” solidarity.
4. 50 CENT – Candy Shop
MA: “Hoopla!” says young Armand, looking smart in his straw boater and sailor suit. “Hoopla for Monsieur Cinquante Cents, and his jolie chanson about les bon-bons! J’aime bien les bon-bons! Maman, donne-moi cinq Euros pour le CD single!” Mothers of Belgium: for the sake of the children, I urge you to educate yourselves, toot sweet.
5. DANIEL POWTER – Bad Day
MA: If I were being charitable, then I would liken this piano-led, expansively arranged, lighters-in-the-air ballad to something Robbie Williams might have put out around 1998. But as that would be to dignify this wretched piece of garbage by association, I shall refrain. Robbie deserves better.
6. ZORNIK – Scared Of Yourself
MA: Sweet baby Jesus, that’s one fucking horrendous set of pipes that Master Zornik has got on him: a coarse, flat, toneless, graceless bellow, that wouldn’t disgrace a water buffalo.
MA: Musically, this lumberingly reduces Euro-dance down to its basest building-block elements, rather as Oasis’s “Lyla” has managed to do for classic rock. It’s barely musical. It’s quite shockingly bad. Never again will I complain about the state of the UK Top 40. I never knew we had it so good.
7. MARIO – Let Me Love You
MA: Why does the presence of this ubiquitous international mega-hit not surprise me? I shall now go and stare wistfully through a window-pane, whilst pondering this further.
8. ANOUK – Lost
MA: Ooh, acoustic arpeggiated triplets! How “classic”!
MA: And then there’s that whole business with the dreadful extended free-form worldless moaning session towards the end, which aims for the searing intensity of something like Pink Floyd’s “Great Gig In The Sky”, but ends up sounding like a spoilt two year-old grizzling on because her mother wouldn’t buy her an ice-cream. Woeful stuff indeed.
10. MILK INC. – Blind
MA: How reassuring to learn that over in the Benelux nations, a candle still burns for Ye Olde Euro-Trance. As such, this is a perfectly adequate example, which wouldn’t have disgraced the pen of a Paul Van Dyk or an Ian Van Dahl.
MA: “I’m just a mammary!”, the singer declares movingly, accompanied by NOT one but TWO epic breakdowns in the course of the four minutes (now there’s value for you), along with a sound effect which sounds rather like the faulty ignition engine on a 1970s Vauxhall Viva.