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Xenomania chart watch (week 40)
Posted at 8:33 PM, 28 September 2009 - 0 Comments

UK SINGLES:

Position

Last week

Artist

Title

10

9

MINI VIVA

Left My Heart In Tokyo



UK ALBUMS:

Position

Last week

Artist

Title

95

95

GIRLS ALOUD

Out Of Control

New Mini Viva single: "I Wish"
Posted at 11:57 PM, 27 September 2009 - 4 Comments


"I Wish" is the new Mini Viva single, set to be released in November. The single is the follow-up to "Left My Heart In Tokyo", which is still hanging in the Top 10 UK Singles for the third week.

"I Wish" has been described as «an instant modern pop classic» and as «the most brilliant, mournfully upbeat Xenomania production since 'Call The Shots'».

Listen to a live performance of the song:



Footage of the mini Mini Viva & JFK tour around Europe and LA:

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NiteVisions in The Sun
Posted at 11:52 PM, - 1 Comments


NiteVisions recently played to a packed crowd at London's Water Rats venue. Here's what The Sun wrote about the gig:
«HYPE is building for Eighties-style electro duo NiteVisions.
JAMES TAYLOR and ANDY TAYLOR played at London's Water Rats watched by record bosses and FRANZ FERDINAND frontman ALEX KAPRANOS.
NiteVisions are produced by the Xenomania team behind GIRLS ALOUD's hits, the last PET SHOP BOYS album and current hit duo MINI VIVA.
Expect them in the charts soon.»
NiteVisions is the project of Andy Taylor Jr. and James Taylor (sons of Duran Duran members Andy Taylor and Roger Taylor, etc.) They started playing together as The Electric City and formed NiteVisions in 2009. The London-based duo blends the dark pop qualities of Depeche Mode with the retro rock of David Bowie and a touch of New Order. They are currently in the studio working with Xenomania.

Listen to a clip of NiteVisions' "Fire":

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Xenomania news roundup
Posted at 11:43 PM, - 0 Comments

  • Girls Aloud's "Sound Of The Underground" was selected by The Telegraph as one of the songs that defined the decade. The article says that «Xenomania’s blend of electro and guitars set pop production standards». See the full list.
  • The new single mix of Jessie Malakouti's "Standing Up For The Lonely" premiered last Friday on Scott Mills' Floor Fillers - skip to 0:44:00 to listen to the song. "Standing Up for the Lonely" will be released in November.
  • The limited edition of Annie's Don't Stop is available to pre-order here. The special edition comes with an exclusive bonus CD.
  • Alesha Dixon's latest album will be re-released on November 22nd. The album, retitled The Alesha Show - The Encore, will include three new tracks.
  • Pet Shop Boys' Chris Lowe said in an interview that the reason the duo worked so well with Xenomania is because «there was such enthusiasm and such enjoyment of pop music»: «You don't meet that many people who are really into pop and the joy that you can get from listening to a great pop record — that euphoria, that shiny sound.»

    In another interview, Chris also said that part of the pleasure of recording Yes was being part of the “whole pop experience” that is the Xenomania hit factory: «Girls Aloud were hanging around. You’d go into the sitting room and they’d all be there with their laptops. We had lunch with Alesha Dixon.» The experience reminded the Pet Shop Boys of the 1980s music scene, when they were pivotal figures in nightclubs, the Top of the Pops studio and European music festivals.

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Mini Viva live: videos and reviews
Posted at 11:09 PM, 21 September 2009 - 0 Comments


Mini Viva were invited by The Sun to do an acoustic session. They performed their current single "Left My Heart In Tokyo", as well as future single "I Wish" and a cover of the Nina Simone classic "Feeling Good" (which was the song that Britt Love sang on her first Xenomania audition).

On September 16th, Mini Viva performed at the monthly club night Gold Dust. A few reviews from the show:
  • «The girls have a great chemistry, dancing with and working off each other to create a presence on stage. Fifth song I Wish finally brought with it the kind of impact that hadn't been heard since they started. An upbeat danceable number, it picks up where their single leaves off, and even Mr Xenomania himself Brian Higgins could be spotted singing along». MusicOMH
  • «The pop-duo’s performance was an assured quasi-glamourous fair as they strut their stuff, pouted their lips and basically had fun while being to be cool enough to match their music. Probably still buzzing from the number 7 chart position on Sunday they appeared to glow on stage, as if all was right with the world.» SoulSide Funk
  • «Frankee Connolly and Britt Love kicked off the Gold Dust night with hit Left My Heart in Tokyo. Synchronized dance moves set lads' pulses racing, Emotions Of Love was a sexy All saints-esque fest and Bedroom Viver was a sultry tease. Double the fun.» Daily Star







Labels:

Xenomania chart watch (week 39)
Posted at 11:02 PM, - 0 Comments

UK SINGLES:

Position

Last week

Artist

Title

9

7

MINI VIVA

Left My Heart In Tokyo



UK ALBUMS:

Position

Last week

Artist

Title

95

82

GIRLS ALOUD

Out Of Control

Labels:

Mini Viva: "The variation on our album will shock people"
Posted at 7:46 PM, 15 September 2009 - 0 Comments


After storming into the top 10 with their debut single "Left My Heart In Tokyo", Mini Viva are getting ready for the release of their first album, due in November.

They talked to the Daily Star about it: «I think the variation on our album will shock people. Each song is really different as we didn’t wanna just make the same song over and over again», said Frankee.

She added: «We demo’d so many songs with Xenomania, but we began to realise what songs sounded like Mini Viva». One of the songs they demo'd was Alesha Dixon's "The Boy Does Nothing". Frankee revealed: «We did a really laid-back version – Alesha’s is much better. And she cracks us up.»

Mini Viva will be performing at monthly London club night Gold Dust at Hoxton Bar and Kitchen, on September 16th.


Watch them perform "Left My Heart In Tokyo" on T4:



Also on YouTube:

Behind-the-scenes footage of Mini Viva on tour
Mini Viva on Fashionair
Mini Viva at The 5:19 Show
Mini Viva vs Luigi Science (The 5:19 Show)
Left My Heart In Tokyo on The 5:19 Show

Labels:

"Beautiful people" is out on October 2nd
Posted at 7:41 PM, - 0 Comments

The release of the new Pet Shop Boys single has been postponed to October 2nd. "Beautiful people" will be released in Germany on CD and digital download. The full track-listing is now:

1. Beautiful people
2. Fugitive (7" version)
3. Beautiful people (demo)
4. Up and down (Tom Stephan mix)

For fans outside of Germany, there will be 500 copies for sale from the Pet Shop Boys online store. The CD is already available to pre-order from Amazon Germany (which has the wrong track-listing on their site at the moment).

Labels:

Xenomania chart watch (week 38)
Posted at 7:04 PM, - 0 Comments

UK SINGLES:

Position

Last week

Artist

Title

7

--

MINI VIVA

Left My Heart In Tokyo



UK ALBUMS:

Position

Last week

Artist

Title

82

60

GIRLS ALOUD

Out Of Control

Labels:

Left My Heart In Tokyo debuts at number 7
Posted at 10:48 PM, 13 September 2009 - 0 Comments


Mini Viva's debut single "Left My Heart In Tokyo" has entered the UK Singles Chart at number 7, on sales of 29,103 copies. The song has also peaked at number 3 on the UK iTunes Top 100. It's a mini victory for everyone. Congratulations to Mini Viva and Xenomania!

This is this week's top 10 singles chart:

1. Pixie Lott - Boys & Girls
2. David Guetta Ft Akon - Sexy Chick
3. Jay-Z Ft Rihanna & Kanye West - Run This Town
4. Mika - We Are Golden (N)
5. Black Eyed Peas - I Gotta Feeling
6. Dizzee Rascal - Holiday
7. Mini Viva - Left My Heart In Tokyo (N)
8. Sugababes - Get Sexy
9. Muse - Uprising (N)
10. Little Boots - Remedy

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Xenomania - Inside Britain's top hit factory (BBC News)
Posted at 12:33 PM, 11 September 2009 - 2 Comments




Article: Inside Britain's top hit factory
Article: Xenomania's new crop of pop stars

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Mini Viva in the Live Lounge
Posted at 7:18 PM, 09 September 2009 - 3 Comments


Mini Viva were in Radio 1's Live Lounge this morning. Britt and Frankee performed their debut single "Left My Heart In Tokyo" and did a cover of Nneka's "Heartbeat" (via the Chase & Status remix). They were joined by Xenomania's house band JFK (Jason Resch - guitarist, Florrie Arnold - drummer, Kieran Jones - bassist).

Radio 1's website has videos, audio and pictures of Mini Viva's Live Lounge session. You can also watch the performances on YouTube: Left My Heart In Tokyo + Heartbeat.

Here's Mini Viva's brilliant version of Nneka's "Heartbeat":



"Left My Heart In Tokyo" was released this week. The midweek charts show that the single is sitting comfortably inside the top 10. Here are the newest reviews:
  • Xenomania return to form by producing the new duo's debut. So instantly catchy, it's a marvel that Sugababes didn't do it four albums ago. 8/10 Planet Sound
  • It’s a supercharged and sparkly affair with a simple chorus that enters your head (through your ears), sets up home and stubbornly refuses to leave, after the very first listen. Daily Star
  • They are the most exciting artists Xenomania have worked with in a while. They’re totally different to everybody out there at the moment. (...) The whole package is so cool and clever. The girls are young and are part of the real young generation, not the middle youth most pop stars are trying to convince themselves they’re not a part of.
    (...) The song itself is amazing and has so many little bits we love we’ve made a long list of them that’s pages long. The oriental touches and the bit three quarters of a way through when you think it’s finished and suddenly kicks in again is just pure Xenomanian genius. The Chemistry Is Dead
  • Considering that it was written by Xenomania it's no great surprise that 'Left My Heart In Tokyo' is, well, great. In fact, Mini Viva's debut single is nothing short of pure pop gold. (...) It's the arms-in-the-air, handbags-in-the-middle backing that really swings it - weaving dashes of funky house with unabashed, out-and-out disco beats and even the odd Japanese sample, the hooks come thick and fast and the pace never droops for a second. As a taste of things to come from Mini Viva, it's delicious. Orange Music Store

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Mini Viva lead the way in the next generation of advertising
Posted at 6:09 PM, - 0 Comments



Geffen UK is pushing Mini Viva online with free music downloads, a social networking widget and MPU ads featuring the video for "Left My Heart in Tokyo".

Imperial Leisure, the developers of the interactive MPUs, say: «We helped Mini Viva lead the way in the next generation of advertising, allowing the users to control the girls live within the ad. Make them dance, perform ‘Left My Heart In Tokyo’, watch their video, get a free download and buy the single!»

Mini Viva's debut single "Left My Heart in Tokyo" is also being promoted with the help of AdMob, the world's largest and fastest growing mobile advertising platform, and leading media agency MediaCom.

Colin Barlow, president of Geffen UK, said: «With new artists being launched on a daily basis, we work in an extremely competitive arena and we're always looking for ways to capture people's attention. Technology now enables acts to raise their profile and start a dialogue with their fans in many new and exciting ways. The mobile channel provided an ideal opportunity to reach Mini Viva's prospective fan base.»

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"The Promise" wins the 2009 Popjustice Twenty Quid Music Prize
Posted at 10:24 AM, - 1 Comments

Girls Aloud's "The Promise" won this year's Popjustice Twenty Quid Music Prize, as voted live in London last night by a panel of invited judges. Girls Aloud have won the prize five times in the last seven years.

The Saturdays' "Up" came very close to knocking "The Promise" out, as well as Calvin Harris' "I'm Not Alone", which made it through to the final round - judges were split into five groups and asked to judge melody, lyric, production, vocal, and "everything else" respectively.

In an unexpected turn, Girls Aloud's "The Loving Kind" was nominated as one of the worst songs of last year, by none other than Nicola Roberts, who was there to collect the prize - Sugababes' "Girls" ultimately won the Twenty Quid Invoice Prize.

The Popjustice Twenty Quid Music Prize was established as a light-hearted antidote to the more serious Mercury Prize - where the winner receives £20,000. Peter Robinson, Popjustice editor and chairman of the 35-strong jury, told the BBC News: «The voting process is sort of a shambles. I draw up a shortlist of 12 songs and then, over the course of the evening in a pub with a lot of alcohol, a group of judges who have applied through the website eliminate one song at a time.»

Nicola Roberts arrived for the "ceremony" during a heated argument over whether her song or Tinchy Stryder's "Take Me Back" should remain in the running. «The best song won in the end», she said. However, Nicola expressed dismay that the £20 note came «in a little plastic container»: «You can't actually spend the money, but it's there on your shelf,» she laughed.

The shortlist:


"The Promise" - an example of what was considered during the judging
'Beat Again' by JLS
'Better Off As Two' by Frankmusik
'I'm Not Alone' by Calvin Harris
'In For The Kill' by La Roux
'Love Etc' by Pet Shop Boys
'Method Of Modern Love' by Saint Etienne
'New In Town' by Little Boots
'Take Me Back' by Tinchy Stryder
'The Promise' by Girls Aloud
'Up' by The Saturdays
'The Boy Does Nothing' by Alesha Dixon
'The Fear' by Lily Allen

Past winners:

2003 "No Good Advice" Girls Aloud
2004 "Some Girls" Rachel Stevens
2005 "Wake Me Up" Girls Aloud
2006 "Biology" Girls Aloud
2007 "Rehab" Amy Winehouse
2008 "Call The Shots" Girls Aloud
2009 "The Promise" Girls Aloud

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2000s: The first decade in which pop was never a dirty word
Posted at 11:41 AM, 08 September 2009 - 0 Comments

Pitchfork invited some of their favourite artists to share their thoughts and choices for outstanding records from the past 10 years. Bob Stanley from Saint Etienne is one of the guests.

He writes: «It's been the first decade in which pop was never a dirty word, not once. (...) It's been a time in which there was more of a willingness to squeeze adventure into pop than at any time since 1978-82.»

Bob Stanley mentions Girls Aloud's "The Loving Kind" and "Biology" as two of the highlights of the decade and also talks about the importance of the emergence of Max Martin, Timbaland, and Xenomania. Read the full article here:

Bob Stanley, Saint Etienne

THE DECADE WITH NO NAME

It's been the first decade in which pop was never a dirty word, not once. At the start of the 90s, Miles Hunt was telling girls they don't belong in studios and Jesus Jones were making hamfisted efforts to merge the magnetically repellent (in their hands, at least) rock and dance; now it's all a melting pot, we're in agreement, and all influences are up for grabs. It's all pop. In 2009 I read blogs by boys and girls alike writing beautifully about Britney/Dylan/Tinchy/Sneddon with the verve and bile of Lester Bangs or the NME's peak period writers. Possibly it's how the majority always felt before the internet gave them the means of expression, though the emergence of Max Martin, Timbaland, and Xenomania around 1999/2000 certainly helped to force the issue.

It's been a time in which there was more of a willingness to squeeze adventure into pop than at any time since 1978-82, from Oxide & Neutrino scoring a #1 single in 2000 which would have barely qualified as music 20 years earlier to Girls Aloud's 20th straight Top 10 hit-- "The Loving Kind", a four-minute purr-- in 2009. And at the other end of the spectrum, following hard on Westlife's ill-shod heels, we had the rise of the everyday balladeer on Pop Idol, X Factor and Fame Academy. The latter is almost forgotten but I feel obliged to mention it because it gave the UK its most musically inept #1 single ever-- "Stop Living The Lie" by David Sneddon. You think I exaggerate? It's impossible to hear the opening line: "He's drowning his tears in a bottomless cup of coffee" without exclaiming, "But surely...".

It's been "Get Ur Freak On", "Bound 4 Da Reload", and "Biology" vs. "Stop Living the Lie", Darius's "Colourblind" ("You make me colourblind"-- the decade's most confused compliment?) and indie landfill (too many offenders to mention). Pop is always at odds without itself, it's natural to take sides, but I can't remember a time when so many different musical camps were happy to feed each other. Ghettoization was out. It was smashing. My favorite single of the decade: "Flowers" by Sweet Female Attitude.

Also in Pitchfork:
  • The Decade in Pop - article by Tom Ewing that examines 00s pop - critically acceptable, mixed with hip-hop/R&B, and more transparent than ever.

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Vagabond: 50 years after the Beatles
Posted at 9:09 PM, 07 September 2009 - 0 Comments


Alex Vargas and Steve Carter
Ahead of the release of the digitally remastered versions of The Beatles' studio back catalogue, The Guardian has been trying to find out if the Fab Four continue to inspire new bands today.

Paul Morley talked with Alex Vargas and Stephen Carter from Vagabond to see what it's like to be a group going for it almost 50 years after the Beatles found their name and their purpose. Watch the video here.

Paul Morley writes: «The young, ambitious and very knowing Vagabond are not a boy band, although they are all male and possess looks that suggest they have been designed to send much of the pop-based world swooning in their jeans. Alex glows with casual pop star intensity and seems to be the result of a genetic experiment in pop star production that blended the DNA of Bolan, Kylie and Arthur Lee of Love.»


Beatlemania
He adds: «They are unlined, prepossessing and shapely, although Alex sings Vagabond's glistening soul songs as though he is a little lined, and shapeless, and potentially troublemaking, and while critics detect a little Wet Wet Wet and Simply Red, in his heart and soul he's hearing a little Tim and Jeff Buckley.»

In the interview, Paul Morley talks of how the Beatles were sonically interesting and at the same time created a hysteria with their fans, a formula that is the ultimate goal for a new young band. Alex Vargas agrees: «Someone wrote a review about us and wrote as a negative thing that we had girls screaming at the front of the stage and I don't get it, because one of the bands whose success we all aspire to reach, that's what they had».

Stephen Carter, who had his first taste of pop music with the Beatles, notes that they managed to be constantly surprising: «I think that to be a true great you have to surprise people... Sgt. Pepper's sounded completely different to Rubber Soul, and Rubber Soul to A Hard Day's Night because they wanted to evolve and test themselves. It's obviously quite arrogant in a way, but I think you have to be. To be able to do that, you have to test yourself and not be worried of what might come out or what people might think.»

Alex Vargas: «Four albums down the line, I would hate it if we sounded exactly the same as we do now. Hopefully I'll be a lot smarter and not just write about the things that I write about now, which is nothing wrong for a 21-year-old to be writing, but I dont want to write about that at 25».

When asked which Beatles song they would like to cover, Stephen mentioned "Got To Get You Into My Life", because it has «the big Motown influence, and we love Motown». However, he probably wouldn't like to cover "Eleanor Rigby" - «there was a video for Eleanor Rigby and I remember it just scaring the life out of me (laughs)».

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Vagabond's next single: "I've Been Wanting You"
Posted at 8:59 PM, - 0 Comments

The new Vagabond single, "I've Been Wanting You", is scheduled to be released on October 26th.

This will be the third single from Vagabond's debut album You Don't Know The half Of It, after "Don't Wanna Run No More" and "Sweat (Until The Morning)".

Vagabond's Thelondonpaper Headliners show on 16th September has been cancelled, in light of the imminent closure of Thelondonpaper. Refunds will be available for those who purchased tickets.

Labels:

Xenomania chart watch (week 37)
Posted at 8:57 PM, - 0 Comments

UK ALBUMS:

Position

Last week

Artist



Title

60 49 GIRLS ALOUD

Out of Control

92

122

GIRLS ALOUD



The Sound Of – The Greatest Hits

95

90

SUGABABES



Overloaded – The Singles Collection







Labels:

Mini Viva's debut single is out now
Posted at 12:00 AM, - 0 Comments

The debut single from Xenomania pop duo Mini Viva is out now. "Left My Heart In Tokyo" is a song written by Miranda Cooper, Brian Higgins, Annie Strand, Fred Falke, Carla Marie Williams and Xenomania.

The single has been massively acclaimed, receiving heavy praise from the NME («the catchiest single of 2009»), Popjustice («several different kinds of incredible»), Metro («an absolute monster of a pop hit»), Daily Star («nuts»), among many other places.

The CD-single comes with a remix by Chris Lake. Remixes by Fred Falke, Pete Hammond and Acid Girls can also be purchased digitally.

Buy CD: HMV.co.uk /Juno.co.uk / Amazon.co.uk
Download: iTunes (single, remixes bundle) / 7Digital (single, remixes bundle) /
Amazon.co.uk (single, remixes bundle) / Play.com

Reviews:


-- The catchiest single of 2009. NME
-- [Left My Heart In Tokyo] may be the feel-good hit of late summer. News Of The World
-- An absolute monster of a pop hit. Metro
-- Several different kinds of incredible - sophisticated future disco record and a flag in the ground for the post-Aloud pop generation. Popjustice
-- Debut single Left My Heart In Tokyo (...) is nuts. Daily Star
-- The spaceage duo's glacial treadmill-disco single "Left My Heart In Tokyo" isn't really like other pop music. NME
-- Four minutes of what the cultural documentors of the future will define as 'Pop Music Genius'. Whisper Mag
-- Sassy, bratty and downright cool. The Music Fix
-- Their debut single sounds like a chart invader. With its swooning chorus, inventive, disco-tinged production and lyrics that sound great even when they don't quite make sense, 'Left My Heart In Tokyo' is vintage Xenomania. 4/5 Digital Spy

Lyrics:
Left My Heart In Tokyo

Video:


Labels:

"Left My Heart In Tokyo" available for download now
Posted at 1:21 AM, 06 September 2009 - 5 Comments

From 0:01am this Sunday you will be able to download Mini Viva's long-awaited debut single "Left My Heart In Tokyo".

The CD-single will be out in shops tomorrow. These are the different formats and tracklists:

CD
Left My Heart In Tokyo (Radio Edit)
Left My Heart In Tokyo (Chris Lake Remix)

iTunes (single)
Left My Heart In Tokyo
Left My Heart In Tokyo (Chris Lake Remix)

iTunes (remix bundle)
Left My Heart In Tokyo (Acid Girls Remix)
Left My Heart In Tokyo (Pete Hammond Contemporary Remix)
Left My Heart In Tokyo (Pete Hammond Retro Remix)
Left My Heart In Tokyo (Fred Falke Dub)

7Digital (single)
Left My Heart In Tokyo (Radio Edit)

7Digital (remix bundle)
Left My Heart In Tokyo (Acid Girls Remix)
Left My Heart In Tokyo (Pete Hammond Retro Remix)
Left My Heart In Tokyo (Fred Falke Dub)

Mini Viva have a shiny new official website. Go and have a look: http://miniviva.com.
The girls will be special guests on Radio 1's Switch with Annie Mac and Nick Grimshaw today. Tune in from 7pm.


The latest words from the web:
  • This Spice Girl-loving UK duo captures the fun loving, footloose style of their heroes and producers Xenomania give them a slick, modern sheen that should have pop-loving British teens going goofy soon. Allmusic Blog
  • Sassy, bratty and downright cool, this could be 2009's 'That's Not My Name'. The Music Fix
  • It doesn't take a genius to detect the guiding hand of Xenomania behind all this - the exuberant tempo, the abundance of sass, the prioritising of the chorus above all else, the lyrics that make less sense the more you think about them. (...) What sets this apart from other generic acts of dance-pop is the infectious energy that singers Frankee and Britt bring to it: whether it's snarling out the verses, purring the bridge, or vamping the chorus, I can't help thinking that recording this single sounds like it was a lot of fun, and it's the sort of fun that they're generously passing on to all of our ears. BBC Chart Blog
  • ‘Left My Heart..’ is a top quality production, catchy but not irritating with an amazing STOP, the songs over – oh no it’s not moment about three quarters of the way through. The Razor Wire

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Xenomania - THE X FACTOR
(Q magazine article, October 2009)

Posted at 12:01 AM, 02 September 2009 - 0 Comments

Written by: Johnny Davis
Published: Q (October 2009)


In a Kent country house, Britain's pop factory cranks out hits for Girls Aloud, Kylie, and many, many more. Clock on at Xenomania - the "21st-century Motown"...


A Xenomania meeting in progress
Radio 1's Head of Music, George Ergatoudis, calls it "one of the most exciting pop records I've heard all year." Former Spice Girls manager and American idol impresario Simon Fuller was so taken with it he now manages the group. Even the Daily Star has declared it "nuts", in a good way. The general consensus is that Left My Heart In Tokyo is heading to Number 1 when it's released this month. For Mini Viva, the duo responsible for the striking disco-funk debut of pummelling strings, cheesy oriental synth motif, ridiculous rapping and indescribably great chorus, the journey from the North-west of England to the Radio 1 A-list has been a curious one.


Mini Viva rehearsing at Xenomania
"It was a bit weird," confirms 20-year-old Frankee Connolly, one half of Mini Viva. "They told us we were being taken to a studio, but when we got there it was just a big house". "We could", suggests her partner Britt Love, also 20, darkly, "have been going to anyone's house, really."

The pair met in 2007 at an audition held by a record label calling itself Select Music UK. Connolly had been targeted via her MySpace; Love showed up "after I'd seen a flyer". Soon they were driven to a house in Kent. "We came in and we were, like, Oh My God," recalls Connolly. "Seeing all the gold records on the wall!"

They spent the next two years training to be pop stars. This May they found themselves in the seventh-floor boardroom of Universal Music Group International's base in London. Their audience: Lucian Grainge, Universal's chairman and CEO, and arguably the most powerful executive in the British music industry. It was 11am and Grainge was eating muesli. But they stormed through Left My Heart In Tokyo and Mini Viva had a deal confirmed before Grainge had time to down his spoon.

Six weeks later Mini Viva are sitting in the garden of that same Kent house. It belongs to Brian Higgins, co-director of Xenomania, the most successful songwriting and production house Britain has produced in 20 years. From here Xenomania have written, recorded and produced 20 of Girls Aloud's record-breaking run of 21 singles. They have proved hitmakers for the Sugababes, Kylie, Pet Shop Boys and more, shifting some 25 million records in their 12-year history. Their songs are defined by a compulsion to corral pop music down ever more thrilling and creative avenues. Sugababes' Round Round or Girls Aloud's The Promise crossed dancefloor electronics with rock club guitars, classic '60s songwriting and sparkling '00s production.

Lyrically, too, Xenomania patented their own lines in winningly impenetrable silliness ("Something kinda ooh/Jumping on my tutu"), so much so that one journalist was compelled to ask Cheryl Cole whether 2004 hit The Show was about anal sex (it wasn't). Aided by five winning personalities, it was songcraft that escorted Girls Aloud from the nadir of credibility (winners of 2002 proto-X-Factor, Popstars: The Rivals) to somewhere near its zenith (two 2009 Brit Award nominations, Wembley Stadium gigs with Jay-Z and Coldplay).


Xenomania: Nick Coler, Miranda Cooper and Brian Higgins
Higgins acts as musical director, steering a seven-strong team that includes Xenomania co-director Miranda Cooper, best regarded for her lyric writing and now the most successful female songwriter ever (Madonna, Carole King and the Brill Building's Cynthia Well have trumped her elsewhere); Nick Coler, who programmed all The KLF's indelible hits; Tim Powell who started out in 1989 "doing hardcore rave stuff"; and Matt Gray, whose early platinum sellers include Pogo Stick Olympics and Space Station Oblivion - he wrote music for Commodore 64 video games.


Xenomania wall
Reliably dazzling yet never the same, Xenomania's services are understandably in demand. Their autumn schedule includes Cheryl Cole's solo album (co-produced with Will.i.am), Kylie's latest and the first material from Magistrates, the fashionably tipped Essex four-piece signed to The White Stripes' label XL. "At the moment there are 17 named artists we are being asked to consider," says the 42-year-old Higgins. "For us to accept any of them, it's really got to excite us a hell of a lot. We must not be caught putting out bad records."

The way Xenomania work is unusual. Based 45 minutes outside London "to avoid all the distractions", the team would never do anything as straightforward as sit down to write "a song". Instead they each work on backing tracks, chords or beats, Higgins choosing the best bits and building up songs like jigsaws. Xenomania believes that for a song to be "sincere", the artist must always be involved, so melodies and lyrics are always collaborative. Higgins: "The melodic side, which is about life, is the essence of songwriting. There's not many 17-year-olds who have Number 1 hits. If you're giving a melody to them to tell their life story through that melody, you've effectively given them the experience of the older person."

Higgins and Xenomania have already achieved success that would seem more than enough for most people. But it would be a terrible mistake to consider Higgins and Xenomania most people. "Presidents of labels go, Why haven't you retired yet?", he barks. "You think, is that what you're in it for? That's surely indicative of what they themselves are chasing. It's not someone who loves music. It's someone who wants overnight success. Well, I don't want to work with people like that. If you're searching fr overnight success, then get the fuck out of the business."

Xenomania are playing a long game, the next stage of which is to "bypass the nonsense" of the industry by launching their own record label. Aiming to become, as the team's head of A&R Sheila Burgel puts it, "a Motown of the 21st-century", Higgins's team have spent the last two years scouring the world for acts to develop. Turning the traditional pop producer's role on its head, Xenomania won't wait for record companies to bring them artists to work with. Instead, they'll sell record companies the artists they've discovered and developed.

That means presenting them "99 per cent complete", with a finished album with its first three singles earmarked, pre-style, rigorously drilled in performing live (50 shows for all new acts is now a ballpark figure) and, in Mini Viva's case, with their own brand of so-bad-it's-brilliant synchronised dancing. "I don't think record labels have the skill set to develop acts any more", says Higgins. "You need to be outside of it."

And if Xenomania's USP has thus far largely been girl pop, the next six months will see them comprehensively edging out of whatever remaining comfort zone they have left. Following Mini Viva, there'll be Vagabond (lusty soul-rock band), Pageboy (Pink-esque pop), Alex Gardner (groove-based blue-eyed rock), Nite Visions (the sons of Duran Duran's Andy and Roger Taylor, and sounding like it) and Gerard O'Connell (who'll release his music, a sort of four-to-the-floor Coldplay, under the name of Goldmark). This comes at a time when pop is once again in the ascendant; the days of Dizzee Rascal's Holiday and Lady GaGa's Paparazzi.

"Pop was a dirty word", says Radio 1's George Ergatoudis, whose swap of indie Jo Whiley for poppy Fearne Cotton perhaps signals a subtle station repositioning." But quality, exciting pop music sounds fresh now. Xenomania are doing it."

The Xenomania house
Arriving at Xenomania HQ, you could be forgiven for thinking you had entered a cult. Or at least a commune. The sprawling 16th-century mansion edges onto a village green, complete with Tudor tea rooms and statue of Sir Winston Churchill. "Girls Aloud used to stay at the local pub," says Miranda Cooper, 34. "Brian got the guy from the gym, Nigel, to take them out on the green running at 7.30am. They weren't happy."

Alice Liddell, the inspiration for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, used to live here. A team of gardeners are attending to the not-insubstantial garden. There's a stream, and ducks everywhere. "There only used to be two", notes Florrie Arnold, one of two impossibly beautiful girls who float to greet Q, "Now they're breeding like rabbits."

At 20, Arnold turns out to be one of the grizzled old hands - a member of Xenomania's house band. Elsewhere teenagers sit around a wooden hall table, playing back music on MacBooks, writing lyrics in notebooks, and generally being so good-looking you feel like running screaming out the back door.

The house is a hive of activity. An east wing is off-bounds - Higgins's living quarters, with long-term partner Sarah ("I've no idea why it says 'danger' on the door," notes Arnold.) "We're churning out ideas all the time," says Nick Coler, who is currently "trying to get some beats together" for an undetermined artist for the St Trinian's II: The Legend of Fritton's Gold soundtrack. "You're trying to sell someone a feeling, and that's the feeling you're trying to get," he says. "It's easy to make something catchy. To be able to listen to it a thousand times, and still have that feeling - that's hard."


Boys in the attic:
Jason Resch & Kieran Jones
Elsewhere, house band members Jason Resch, 20, and Kieran Jones, 19, also known as JFK, are working on potential backing tracks for the same song, Tim Powell is tweaking mixes of Alex Gardner's music and Fred Falke, the noted Parisian remixer, is tackling a song by 2008 X-Factor winner Alexandra Burke. (Q stumbles across Burke at one point, before being shooed away by Higgins.) Falke divides his time between his own Toulouse studio and here. "The couch is very comfortable", he says admiringly. "Ikea."

Given all this, it's perhaps no coincidence one of Girls Aloud's albums was called What Will The Neighbours Say?." The villagers have generally got used to it," says Kieran Jones. "Though some do stand on the green and just stare at the house. That's a bit disconcerting."

Soon, housekeeper Pilar has lunch ready. Catering for 36, it's a feast comprising roast pork, cod mignon, hazelnut and vegetable salad, cabbage, beetroot and roast potatoes. There's a minor surge kitchen-wards. "Can you wait till Brian comes in first?" advises his PA Claire, in a tone that suggests it would be a good idea.

Lean and gym-fit, in his leather jacket Brian Higgins might bear physical resemblance to a Formula 1-era Damon Hill, but in temperament he's more Sir Alan Sugar: famously hard to please. A "work obsessive-compulsive" he's made no bones about packing pop stars he can't get along with on the train back to London, expects 12-hour days from his team and cheerfully admits to "binning 90 per cent" of Xenomania's work in his quest for the perfect pop song.

Franz Ferdinand excitedly proclaimed working with Xenomania on their recent Tonight: Franz Ferdinand album would be "a music marriage made in heaven" only to abandon the sessions three months later. "It didn't really work," said singer Alex Kapranos.

"I think Brian liked Franz Ferdinand... on a personal level," says Pet Shop Boys' Neil Tennant, whose 2009 collaborative Xenomania album Yes proved more successful. "But he works you very hard. He's very headmaster-ly. The first time I worked with, Miranda [Cooper] said, Right, now we'll try that with a different melody. And write some new words. I was like, What?"

"And you get marked," notes Tennant's partner, Chris Lowe. "He puts stars by your work, and comments. It's ruthless. It's fantastic!"

His self-belief is certainly impressive. In February, he had the first six acts signed to Xenomania perform for an audience of music business heavyweights that included six label presidents, two chairmen, 10 Radio 1 producers and key journalists. "One of the presidents said to me afterwards, If you'd fucked that up, you would have been fucked, Brian," he says. "But to me it was logical: the quality was there. And," he grins, "everyone left wanting to buy something."

Higgins was born in Whitehaven, Cumbria, the second eldest of five siblings. His father was a GP, his mother an actress. Aged 20, he co-wrote the song that would become Cher's Believe. At that stage he was a sales director at magazine publishers Reed. At night, he'd start his second job, writing and remixing pop songs into the small hours.

Along with Tim Powell and Matt Gray, he wrote All I Wanna Do, a Number 4 hit in 1997 for Dannii Minogue. "That was my entry fee," Higgins says. Executives at Warners asked if he had anything good for Cher, then hankering after a pop-dance direction. He'd spent eight years sitting on just the thing. Believe went to Number 1 in 23 countries, sold 10 million copies and ensured Higgins would never have to do a day's work again - an unlikely scenario.


Miranda Cooper & Brian Higgins
He set up Xenomania - the opposite of xenophobia, apparently - recruiting Cooper with what would become a trademark, a "talent in spotting winners" in the strangest places. Cooper, daughter of a former director of royal jewellers Asprey, was employed as a backing dancer for Eurovision hopeful Gina G. Later, Higgins would recruit A&R Burgel from US publication Bust ("the magazine for women with something to get off their chests") after bonding with her over the finer points of Simone Jackson and Anita Harris on the Here Come The Girls: British Girl Singers Of The '60s compilation. "We agreed that we're on a mission to destroy mediocrity," Burgel says. "Those 'alright' records. Throw them in the bad category. It has to be brilliant, or nothing."

Xenomania set about mastering pop. "As far as songwriting's concerned, we're fucking scientists", says Higgins. "I went through the whole of The Beatles songbook once, playing the chords on my left hand and working out all the melodies on my right. I just don't think there's that level of analysis of melody and chordal structure anywhere else."


«Wake Me Up was a fucking brilliant pop record»
- Popjustice
£20 music prize on Xenomania's wall
They struck gold with Girls Aloud. "I can still remember the girls' faces when we gave them [drum'n'bass/ surf guitar debut single] Sound Of The Underground," says Colin Barlow, now president of Geffen Records, then overseeing their label Polydor. "But coming from that TV show format, we wouldn't have got anywhere unless we'd taken a risk."

Over the last two years Higgins has "sunk hundreds of thousands of pounds" of his own money into the next stage - establishing Xenomania as a label.

After lunch, there are rehearsals, in 72 hours, Xenomania will host a room at the iTunes Live London Festival '09 in Camden. Alex Gardner's album isn't out until at least January 2010, but it's all part of a long-lead build up to launching Xenomania's acts; and generating as much industry and media anticipation as possible while simultaneously honing their live performance. Backed by the Xenomania house band, Pageboy's singer Brooke X romps through Heartbreak and Red Wine - a sultry pop-rock tune that lodges itself in your head.

The next day Q return to find Danish pop types Alphabeat in the hallway. Later Gerard O'Connell, Mini Viva and Jason Resch perform. Cooper and Higgins look on, the former bouncing on her hands, while Higgins stares ahead inscrutably.

"With this job, it's your life more than your job," says 19-year-old Alex Gardner, who'd come to London from Edinburgh to model before being earmarked by Burgel. "Everyone wants to make it work as best as possible for each other. It's like a big family." He's recently signed to Duffy's label A&M, with whom he's already drawing similarly "potentially massive" comparisons.


Pageboy rehearsal
Brooke X, on the other hand, caught Burgel's eye performing in a New York all-female Led Zeppelin tribute band - Lez Zeppelin. "Sheila emailed and asked if I wanted to come over to England," she explains. "I was, like, What's this? Who are Girls Aloud? Cher? OK, cool. But it's made me see how creative pop can be."

Can Xenomania become a Motown for the 21st century? In attempting to do so, they're diverging from their success with girl pop - which has upset some of their faithful fanbase.

"The hardcore Xenomania fans have been, What the hell is going on?", says Vagabond's singer Alex Vargas. "What is this Vagabond?"

In fact Higgins has already spent three years steering Vargas from dreams of becoming Robert Plant, into a more soulful direction. "That was a blow, but good in the long run. I was 18; slightly arrogant. Brian showed me that melody is the key to everything. I'm glad he pointed that out".

"What Brian is attempting is a big task," says Colin Barlow. "But I can't think of anyone else who could create something like that. With that work ethic, talent and passion, he has every chance."


Two days later, Alex Gardner is onstage at the iTunes night. It's a compelling four-song performance. Cooper, Burgel and Higgins stand directly in front of the stage, two of them dancing, Higgins standing stock still and mouthing every lyric. Afterwards Fred Falke is effusive. "How can you not enjoy it?", he beams. "You have to be deaf, dead or drunk."

Higgins is more cautious. "I'm standing here thinking of all the things that can be done better," he says. "But it's only his 25th performance."

Twenty-five more to go? "Something like that," he says. "We'll get there." Don't doubt it.

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