Annie has revealed in an interview with Tellé Records that she will return to the Xenomania studios in May to work with Brian Higgins and Fred Falke.
"My Love Is Better" will (finally) be released as a single in June, in Annie's own label Totally Records. The album should be out in September:
Annie: Yes, ‘My Love Is Better’ will be out on my own label Totally in June! In addition to that, I will return to the UK and spend some time in the studio with Brian Higgins and Fred Falke.
Tellé: Cool. So what about the album? How long do we have to wait? Annie: It coming in the very beginning of September. I can’t give you the name of the label yet, but it’s definitely coming!
Meanwhile, the Richard X-produced single "Anthonio" will be released in digital format on 4th May and in physical formats on 11th May.
Annie began recording the album Don't Stop in the summer of 2007, with Brian Higgins working as executive producer.The album was originally scheduled for a release in October 2008, but a change in management at Island Records led Annie's album to be delayed several times, and she eventually left the label.
«When you hear the team behind nearly all of Girls Aloud's hits are setting up their own record label you've got to be a bit excited. Mini Viva are the first fruits to come from the Xenomania tour of the UK hunting for amazing pop stars and they filled the Cuban Bar on Friday night with a bunch of fans escaping from the skinny jeans of the rest of the festival. Singing that kind of perfect pop you'd expect from the Xenomania team, Frankee and Brit are two tiny girls who are very much in tune with each other. Limited dance routines were perfectly synchronised and you felt like they almost had a connection, knowing exactly what the other was about to do. With plenty of club mixes of limited release 'I Left My Heart In Toyko' already whizzing round the club scene, Mini Viva might be just starting out but have got their act perfectly honed.» Londonist
«The first act I caught on the bill were girl duo Mini Viva. The girls are currently working with Xenomania so look set to release some quality Pop in the near future. Their Crawl showcase seemed to be one of their first gigs, with Britt and Frankee showing off their dance routines to an audience that smiled their way throughout the duo's set. I thought the whole thing was great fun, a tiny bit cheap and cheerful but that may have been the bar setting rather than what was happening onstage. I hope Mini Viva's management dont smooth out their rough edges too much as the girls are highly entertaining as they are.» The Music Fix
"Untouchable", the third and final single from Girls Aloud's album Out of Control, is in stores now.
It's available on two physical formats (CD and 7'' vinyl) and as a digital download. The CD includes the new b-side "It's Your Dynamite", while the limited edition 7" picture disc features the radio mix and the Thriller Jill Mix of "Love Is the Key".
"Untouchable" is a song written by Miranda Cooper, Brian Higgins, Tim Powell and Matt Gray, and it was produced by Brian Higgins and Xenomania.
Tracklists and formats: CD-S: 01. Untouchable (Radio Edit) 02. It’s Your Dynamite
7'' Vinyl: 01. Untouchable (Radio Edit) 03. Love Is The Key (Thriller Jill Mix – from the Girls Aloud Party)
iTunes EP: 01. Untouchable (Album version) 02. Untouchable (Radio edit) 04. Untouchable (Bimbo Jones Club Mix) 05. Untouchable (Album Version Edit)
Untouchable is an epic seven-minute electro-thumper which builds slowly, explodes into life, drops out brilliantly, then bursts back into life with a lovely and poignant lyric about "beautiful robots dancing alone". The teeny-boppers may well scratch their heads, but it's one of the classiest and most ambitious pop songs of the year. MusicOMH
It’s the sky-scraping invisibility of ‘Untouchable’’s post-Ibiza power-balladeering, though, that really flexes their superhuman pop muscles. NME
If anything, though it seems a little short it makes the album version seem just a shade too long in retrospect. But those flaws are minor, and the climax of Nadine's "beautiful robots" outro remains astonishingly bizarre and the tune is their best in ages. 7/10 The Singles Jukebox
The original version of 'Untouchable' serves as the centrepiece on Girls Aloud's Out of Control album: it's a declaration of mutual solidarity, a raved up torch song and a pop tour de force all rolled into one. (...) It now comes in a shade under four minutes and the girls' vocals, for no apparent reason, have acquired a bit of vocoder in the edit. Some of the epic quality of the original has been lost, but 'Untouchable' remains surprising, thrilling and strangely moving - in short, classic Girls Aloud. 4/5 Digital Spy
The Belfast Telegraph has published an article that questions whether Girls Aloud have "talent" or are merely "pretty songbirds for sale".
Journalist Jane Graham writes: «[Xenomania] have produced some brilliant pop songs over the last six years but sadly, the truth is that this has almost nothing to do with the girls themselves. (...) the connection between Girls Aloud's music and the hired hands who perform it is so tenuous it is almost irrelevant.»
She goes on to claim that «there is little evidence that Xenomania bother to consider the nature of the artist they are churning out music for at all, which may be why their work, while highly effective, is devoid of personality.»
Now let's recall what Brian Higgins told the Guardian in 2007: «The idea that [Girls Aloud] have spent five years showing up in our studio and just sung any songs we throw at them is ludicrous. It's great artists that make the producers great».
Not enough evidence? In 2004, Higgins said in an interview with the Telegraph that the success of the songs rides on Girls Aloud's personalities: «No matter how good a tune might be, if the girls couldn't take charge of it and get us excited, we'd chuck it out.»
Kimberley Walsh also said to The Independent: «It infuriates Brian when people say bad things about us not writing our own songs. He's like, "I couldn't have this kind of success without you and the whole team of people around us." The way we look, the way we are as people - all of that inspires Brian to write.»
As Miranda Cooper once said, Girls Aloud are Xenomania's muses. And let's not forget that they have also co-written some of their own songs ("It's Magic", "Sexy! No, No, No...", "Crocodile Tears", "Love Is The Key", "Miss You Bow Wow", etc.).
On their MySpace, the girls describe it as their "first official step into the music world". They have also written a little bit about themselves:
- Britt Love (pictured right) «I'm really just your average 20 year old girl. I like clothes and music makes me tick. My passion in life is to entertain you! I was born in the States but was brought up in a place called South Shields, Newcastle Upon Tyne, where I lived off the best Sunday dinners!!! lol Fave hobbies - dancing, watching classic movies and listening to Ibiza chill out. Fave colours - red and purple. Fave food - Japanese / sushi, and Mexican (yum). Fave things at the moment - leggings, high tops, chewing gum, Lady Gaga, sunglasses, Daisy (my dog), grapes, tofu, flip camera.»
- Frankee Connolly (pictured left) «I'm Frankee - Francesca Rose Comolly. I'm 19 years old, born 23/10/89. As you can see I'm one half of Mini Viva. I'm from the North West of England.....Manchester, to be precise! My background is white English mixed with Jamaican - thought I would drop that in there as people tend to ask me that a lot, so there you go, you all know now! I love to sing. It's one of my passions in life and I'm very fortunate to be doing it as my career. I'm a family girl--some days I like to just chill out. Like every female, I'm addicted to shopping--I always have been, even when i have no money lol! I was brought up around all sorts of music from soul to reggae, and that what I do still listen to up to today along with R'n'B, pop and lots more! A few things I like to do are... Go on holiday - I love the holiday vibe Spend time with loved ones Hang out with friends Pig out now and again hehe!»
Alexis Strum recently spoke about writing the song "Nothing Good About This Goodbye":
«On the way to [Brian Higgins'] studio in Kent I crashed my car just as I was thinking of some words for the song we were about to record,» she says.
The upside was "Nothing Good About Goodbye", a song about about an ex-boyfriend. Moved to tears by the accident, she came up with a suitably anguished lyric. «If I’m passionate about it, I’ll give it a bash», she says.
"Nothing Good About This Goodbye" was originally recorded by Alexis Strum in 2003 and re-recorded by Rachel Stevens for the album Come And Get It, in 2005. Alexis Strum's version was never officially released, although it appeared on a promo sampler.
Girls Aloud will release a singles collection on a mini flight case, which will include all of their singles, plus 16 videos, 8 games and an exclusive rarities bonus disc.
The box set contains 22 discs (one for each Girls Aloud single, plus a rarities disc) - each single contains the tracks from each format bundled together (CD1, CD2, 7'', 12'', promo and rare mixes). There is also a 64 page booklet with "the story behind the music".
This is priced at £45 (plus shipping expenses) and is limited to 5000 copies. It is now available to pre-order in Girls Aloud's official store and will be delivered in July.
The rarities disc includes the following songs:
No Good Advice (Original Demo)
Long Hot Summer (Alternate Version 1)
Long Hot Summer (Alternate Version 2)
Sexy! No No No… (Development Track)
On My Way To Satisfaction
Love Machine (Original Demo)
Some Kind Of Miracle (Illicit Mix)
Something Kinda Ooooh (Original Demo)
Click here to view the complete track list of the box set.
This is the second single from the album Yes, despite the fact that song has already been made available for free on the Mail On Sunday greatest hits CD and on one of the digital bundles of the single "Love etc.".
"Did you see me coming?" will be released as a 2-track CD, maxi CD, 12'' vinyl and with three digital bundles. The single features new songs "After the event", "The former enfant terrible" and "Up and down", as well as remixes by Richard X ("The way it used to be") and Unicorn Kid ("Did you see me coming?") .
The Brits medley, produced by Stuart Price, is also released in one of the digital bundles. It was originally performed in February, when the Pet Shop Boys received the award for Outstanding Contribution to Music.
Click here to pre-order the single in three formats (2 CD-S + exclusive 12'') for just £6.
2-track CD 1. Did you see me coming? 2. After the event
Maxi CD 1. Did you see me coming? (PSB 12" mix) 2. The former enfant terrible 3. Up and down
12'' Vinyl 1A Did you see me coming? (PSB 12'' mix) 1B Did you see me coming? (Unicorn Kid mix) 2 The way it used to be (Richard X mix)
Digital Bundle 1 1. Did you see me coming? 2. Pet Shop Boys Brits medley
Digital Bundle 2 1. Did you see me coming? (Unicorn Kid mix) 2. The way it used to be (Richard X mix)
Digital Bundle 3 1. Did you see me coming? (PSB 12'' mix) 2. The former enfant terrible (Bring it on mix)
Digital Spy has posted a clip with the chorus of "It's Your Dynamite", the b-side of the new Girls Aloud single:
Here's what Digital Spy says about the song:
Operating at the "very banging" end of the electropop spectrum, it features a slightly more old-school feel than what we've come to expect from Girls Aloud of late, but it's by no means outdated. Sarah kicks things off with a gritty vocal placed over a grinding bassline, with the baton then passed over to Cheryl, who neatly leads us to a stomping Hi-NRG chorus.
It's all a bit of a treat for the ears, but giving 'Dynamite' that extra edge is the rave-like sequence that follows each chorus and bears the hallmarks of something Ms. Harding could be found necking vodkas to on one of her infamous nights on the tiles.
"It's Your Dynamite" is available on the "Untouchable" CD single. Pre-order it on HMV.
The new Pet Shop Boys album gets its American release today, via Astralwerks. Both single and double-CD versions are available. The album is currently number one in Amazon's Dance & Electronic chart.
Yes was released in Argentina last week and is soon to be released in Chile, Colombia, Russia and China. In China, the song "Legacy" will appear only as an instrumental on the album. According to EMI, the lyrics "failed the censorship of the General Admission of Press and Publication department".
The offending lyrics are: "Governments fall/Glaciers melt/Hurricanes bawl"; "Resentment remain/both east and west/Police expect/an arrest"; "They're raising an army/in the North/from York Minster/to the Firth of Forth/A pilgrimage of grace/you won't believe it/Such a human face..."
Some recent American reviews of the album:
U.K. girly-pop production team Xenomania bring mirrorball sparkle to alternately anxious and elated ballads. 4/5 Spin
You could be forgiven for fearing Higgins would kill off the last bit of Pet Shop Boys’ regality, smothering it with dance beats and bubbly production. But, in a somewhat shocking turn of events, the paring has actually achieved its goal…and then some. Transcending rote “return to form” clichés, Yes is one of Pet Shop Boys’ best albums ever. 7/10 PopMatters
On their excellent 10th album, the music leans toward the ornate, with snatches of Tchaikovsky and spaghetti-Western atmospherics enveloping the synths and house beats. 3/5 Rolling Stone
When the economy finally kicks the last velvet-rope VIP down to the breadline, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe will remain in their hot tubs, counting their gold. Because no one writes better dance-pop odes to the Fallen Empire of the Feel-Good Class. B+ Entertainment Weekly
Yes is the sound of the Pet Shop Boys unwinding and returning to their usual fascinations; isolation, fashion, grand arrangements, and witty synth pop anthems. 3.5/5 All Music Guide
Feeling lonely? Jessie Malakouti will be doing a live chat thing on Facebook today. Jessie will be chatting on live video at 11pm GMT (UK time) / 3pm PT / 6pm ET. What you need to do:
1. Login to Facebook 2. Search for the SUPER WALL app or go to it if you already have it installed 3. Once you have the app added to your page, click on MUSIC at the top to get to the backstage area to chat with Jessie.
Jessie Malakouti has recently been back at the Xenomania studios writing and recording. Follow her on Twitter. and visit her MySpace page to listen to some tunes.
Alex Gardner has posted a live video of "Yesterday's News", performed recently at Water Rats, in London:
The Sunday Times has published an interview with Brian Higgins and Alex Vargas, the front man in Vagabond, who are latest signing to the rapidly expanding Xenomania label.
Sunday Times writer Dan Cairns compares Xenomania's HQ to «an enviably laidback holiday camp». He also describes Brian Higgins as «an affable though slightly edgy character», who admits to having «worked most weekends, going back, I suppose, to about 1994». Higgins says that he and longtime colleagues such as Miranda Cooper reject 95% of what they do: «Our year is spent trying to get to that 5% that is truly great».
Higgins says that he had a hunch that Alex Vargas «wasn’t particularly a rock singer but a soul singer». This led the producer, whose pre-Xenomania background was, he says, all about «really underground, trendy club music», to reconnect with buried influences: «I suddenly remembered the feelings I had for Hall & Oates records.»
Higgins: «There’s nothing wrong with teenage musicians having an idea that doesn’t tally with their ability. That’s called being young. Growing up is about learning who you really are and what your true ability is. If Xenomania stands for anything, it’s about trying to get clarity into that situation far quicker than life experience allows.»
Here's a few more excerpts from the article:
Working with Xenomania: Brian Higgins: «It isn’t an entirely benign environment. The work ethic is so total. When people sign up, they sign up for a lot; it’s a fundamental lifestyle change. While they’re here, all these artists are used to witnessing a lot of success, but what they also see is, no limos, no champagne, nothing other than, ‘Right, what are we getting on with today?’ That culture is deeply ingrained.»
Alex Vargas: «Most people, when they have a No 1, will go to the pub to celebrate, and get lashed. Whereas in the Xenomania house, if they have one, they go, ‘Okay, let’s beat it.’ You have to be made of a certain material to be able to survive in an environment like that. There are people that come and go very quickly because they can’t handle it. I’ve been beaten up, verbally, a couple of times.»
Brian Higgins speaks about Alex Vargas Higgins says he was attracted to Vargas (...) because he could hear in his head the music he felt the front man should be making. “You have to meet the right person. It’s not fate, I don’t mean that, and I don’t really believe in it. It’s all about chemistry and connection. As important as I knew I was for Alex, because I had a vision of where he could be, he was of critical, enormous importance to us, because of this sense that we would be able to move forward into areas we hadn’t been able to go to before, because there hadn’t been a voice of that nature.”
Alex Vargas speaks about Brian Higgins (...) [Higgins] is a man on a mission, and, says Vargas, never really switches off. “At one of the Christmas parties,” the singer recalls, “we had all the amps set up in the purple room, all these musicians, and we ended up having this blues jam. And afterwards, Brian goes, ‘That song, what was that? Could you do it again?’ ”
(...) "He’s a very intimidating man. I was so impressed with how he opened my eyes; just the brutal honesty — you don’t get that with many people.” Vargas is convinced the experience was good for him, painful though it was. “You know the expression ‘killing your babies’?” he laughs. “Well, please don’t highlight this, but Brian will kill your babies.”
Shayne Ward has revealed on his official web site that he has been working with Xenomania for his third album:
«I've also been spending time writing and recording with the amazing Xenomania - the guys behind some of Girls Aloud and Sugababes biggest hits. When I was recording with them I stayed in oldest room in the hotel nearby, the Henry VIII room - huge four poster bed, real old looking and I swear it was haunted! Was really spooky! Bring on Most Haunted, that would be mint!»
Like Leona Lewis, Shayne Ward was also a winner in the UK TV talent contest The X-Factor. Since winning the show in 2005, Shayne Ward has sold over 1 million records globally.
According to the Daily Star, Xenomania have penned five tracks for the follow-up of Leona Lewis' multi-million selling debut album.
Miranda Cooper told the Daily Star: «We are not going to change Leona's style but it's interesting for us to do something downbeat; tragic songs with a twist.»
Leona Lewis's second album is planned for a worldwide release in November 2009. Production is said to have begun in February 2009, including work with other (rumoured) producers/songwriters such as Ryan Tedder, Ne-Yo, Justin Timberlake, Timbaland, will.i.am and Jay-Z.
Leona Lewis was the first female winner of the UK reality TV series The X Factor. Her single "Bleeding Love" reached over thirty number one positions in charts around the world. Her debut album Spirit went on to become the fastest-selling debut album and the biggest seller of 2007.
The Guardian has published a short article about Vagabond. Angus Batey reckons that they could be «the world's biggest new band»: «Their music is the pinnacle of guitar-based pop perfection, where the full range of armaments - dynamics, orchestration, affectingly whole-hearted songs - are deployed with precision in an assault on the listener's heartstrings.»
Vagabond recently finished a number of dates as the main support to James Morrison on his UK tour. They'll play a few more shows with Morrison over the summer, but they will headline shows of their own from the end of April. See the dates on their MySpace.
A British rocking soul outfit who would have one foot on the rickety ladder to stardom even without the hit factory Xenomania.
"Rocking soul"? I'll get me coat.
Your loss. Their music is the pinnacle of guitar-based pop perfection, where the full range of armaments - dynamics, orchestration, affectingly whole-hearted songs - are deployed with precision in an assault on the listener's heartstrings.
Are they the new Maroon 5? I don't like Maroon 5.
Maroon 5 made it despite being uncool; Vagabond - and singer/songwriter Alex Vargas - look like scoring hits and good reviews. They could be the world's biggest new band.
It all sounds retro.
Vargas can come across like a mellower David Clayton-Thomas, from Blood Sweat & Tears. But Vagabond's epic, questing songs also have a lot in common with U2 and the Verve.
What could possibly go wrong?
Not a lot, though it's a shame about the word "sweat" in the debut single title.
They were considered one of the "production outfits that have done more to define the sound of British pop over the past few years".
The Music Week Awards look to recognise excellence in the industry, encompassing retail, live, broadcasting, digital, marketing, promotions and PR. The award ceremony was held last night at London's Grosvenor House Hotel.
«There can be few production outfits that have done more to define the sound of British pop over the past few years than Brian Higgins and his writing and production team at Xenomania.
Since 2000, Xenomania has written, produced and remixed tracks for a string of successful artists including Sugababes, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Dannii and Kylie Minogue plus Texas, defining a sound and style that brings with it almost guaranteed success.
According to Higgins, Xenomania is so named because it represents a "love of everything", and the outfit's production work certainly reflects that, incorporating a diverse range of influences and styles while retaining a distinctly ndividual and recognisable sound.
It is Xenomania's flagship artists however, Girl Aloud, with whom they are most commonly associated. Since their formation o the back of Popstars in 2002, Xenomania has written and produced for the group exclusively, playing a defining role in their success.
Girls Aloud's fith and most recent album, entitled Out Of Control, was released in November last year and has provided perhaps the greatest recognition of Xenomania's talents yet. The album debuted at number one on the UK charts with the first single The Promise topping the charts and giving the group their fourth number one. The single also helped the girls to their first Brit Award in the publicly voted Best Single category.
The Xenomania writing and production team includes Nick Coler, Giselle Sommerville, Miranda Cooper, Lisa Cowling, Tim Powell and Matt Gray, while their successes last year also took in Gabriella Cilmi and Alesha Dixon. The latest string to their bow is coming in the shape of Vagabond, the recent Geffen signing whose debut is due later this year.»
Frankee Connolly and Britt Love, who make up Mini Viva, formed last year and are being looked after by Xenomania. Last October, new label World’s Finest Records put out a limited 10'' single of "I Left My Heart In Tokyo", with a Fred Falke dub mix on the a-side and an instrumental mix on the b-side. Fred Falke's dub mix recently appeared in the Hed Kandi compilation Nu Disco: The Future Sound Of Disco (CD2).
Catch Mini Viva live on these dates:
9 April, 19:00 - Water Rats, London 24 April, 20:00 - Camden Crawl
Here's something intriguing from Keisha Buchanan's Twitter page... Someone asked her why the Sugababes have stopped working with Xenomania. She then replied saying that they did so to prove that they're not "puppets", because they wrote "80% of the songs" and never got any "props"...
Keisha Buchanan: «we left them b coz we wrote 80% of the songs & never got any props lol So we've kept moving ever since 2 prove we're not puppets»
It would be interesting to know precisely what she means by "props" (The way people perceive Sugababes' input on their music? How the song royalties were calculated?) and what exactly those 80% refer to...
Vagabond's frontman Alex Vargas recently spoke in an interview about the group's history and ambitions. The band is currently playing a series of gigs as the main support for James Morrison's UK tour: «We want to become one of the best live acts in the business and that is why we have been touring so much.»
Vagabond formed about a year ago, pretty much by accident, as they were all working in Xenomania's studios. «I was busy working, writing material for my producer, when I met Stephen [Carter] and Luke [Fitton], who had come to do some work with my producer», Alex said. «We hit it off very well and decided to form our own band.» They then came across Sam Odiwe and Karl Penney, and the band was complete.
«The most important and key thing for us is that our music is soulful. We are influenced by many genres of music — pop, rock, lounge, funk and blues — as we all come from different parts of the world, but we always come back to soul.»
Alex Vargas also speaks about what sparked his interest in music: «From the age of 12 I knew I wanted to be a professional footballer — a typical boy’s dream — but then got interested in music. I picked up the guitar when I was 15 and began writing songs and knew this was my destiny.»
Click here to watch a video interview with Vagabond.
Vagabond have posted a live video of "I've Been Wanting You", from a "busking session" they did at the Hammersmith underpass after their Apollo show:
Sounds like a hit already! (fingers crossed, etc.)
The debut album from Vagabond, titled You Don't Know the Half Of It!, arrives June 22nd. You can pre-order it on Amazon. Their first single, "Sweat (Until The Morning)", is due June 8th.
According to Billboard, Pet Shop Boys' Yes is the highest pan-European album debut entry of the week, at No. 3. That follows first-week showings at No. 3 in Germany, No. 4 in the United Kingdom, No. 5 in Austria and No. 10 in Spain.
Xenomania is a songwriting and production house based in Kent, England. It was founded by songwriter and producer Brian Higgins.
Since 1996, Xenomania have written, produced and remixed tracks for a string of successful artists including Girls Aloud, Pet Shop Boys, Sugababes, Dannii and Kylie Minogue, Saint Etienne, Cher, Gabriella Cilmi and many others.