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Making Pet Shop Boys: Yes

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Released in March 2009 Pet Shop Boys’ Yes found the duo teaming up with Brian Higgins and Xenomania, the UK’s top pop producers of the 2000s… By Ian Ravendale

Pet Shop Boys Yes

Pet Shop Boys’ Yes was the duo’s biggest-selling album of the 00s. But it almost didn’t happen.

Producer Brian Higgins had recently come away from a difficult week working with Franz Ferdinand and had a sneaky suspicion that Chris Lowe and Neil Tennant could prove to be as tricky, if not more so, than the Scottish art-rockers.

Higgins was all set to politely decline the duo’s approach but felt he had to do it face to face, rather than remotely via their respective managers. 

A meeting was set up in Higgins’ Xenomania studios in Kent to discuss the viability of a potential production tie-up. Much to their surprise, the producer told Lowe and Tennant why he thought he’d be bad for them and explained he had no interest in anything he didn’t like.

The pair had been expecting Higgins to snatch their hands off, and his approach made them want to work with him even more. They argued that Higgins would push their standards higher and even though he thought they could be difficult, Pet Shop Boys too had a clear vision of what they wanted.

The collaboration was on – although, in a move perhaps designed to level-out the playing field a bit, they decided to record Yes at London’s Abbey Road, not Xeomania’s own studios.

Speaking to Julian Marszalek of The Quietus in March 2009, Tennant described their reaction on meeting Brian Higgins; “We really liked him. He was a real character. He’s totally committed to pop music and making hit records – more so than anybody else that we met.

“The set-up at his studio was great… he has this house with all these different rooms with all these different people all making music. You’d have Girls Aloud and Alesha Dixon tripping through.

“Because we’re a duo, we welcome people to come and play on our records. We arrived there with very, very completed demos and we’re quite happy for them to play with them and do what they want.”

As part of this ‘open house’ the Human League’s Philip Oakey sang on Love Etc and Johnny Marr added his distinctive guitar playing to four tracks, two of which he also played harmonica on.

Read more: Pet Shop Boys: Actually

Read more: Pet Shop Boys: Top 25 countdown

Xenomania was formed as a production team in the early 2000s after Higgins had met songwriter and producer Miranda Cooper.

Since then the outfit has worked with artists including Cher (with Higgins writing Believe, her biggest-ever hit), both Minogues, The Saturdays, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, and the Sugababes with Round Round.

The organisation’s longest-standing arrangement was with Girls Aloud; all but one of their albums were written and produced by Higgins and his writers, and played by the Xenomania in-house musicians. 

According to a July 2009 interview with Tennant in The Scotman before Yes was conceived, half the songs were originally intended for Kylie Minogue. “This album is so pop,” Neil said. “Like every other songwriting team in London we were asked to write songs for Kylie two years ago when we were mid-tour. We wrote four or five, and never heard anything.” 

The subject matter of Love Etc, Yes’s opening track and lead-off single, is maybe not what the listener would expect: “The idea is that it’s Kate Moss singing about Pete Doherty. There’s total chaos going on – that’s where I got the lyrical idea.” 

Read more: The Lowdown – Pet Shop Boys

SONGWRITING THE XENOMANIA WAY

Once Higgins and Pet Shop Boys had agreed to work together, Tennant and Lowe jumped into the approach to songwriting favoured by Brian and his team.

From the Yes album, Love Etc, More Than A Dream and The Way It Used To Be were written by a combination of Neil and Chris and Xenomania’s Higgins, Cooper, Owen Parker and Tim Powell.

The opening melody and much of the backing track for Love Etc were actually generated by Brian Higgins and Miranda Cooper before Chris and Neil got involved.

The duo took what Xenomania had come up with, and developed it. “I don’t think Neil ‘got it’ initially,” reported Higgins in the July 2009 edition of Literally magazine.

“I think Chris got Neil into it. I didn’t want to play it [to them], and then thought… this is a move they could and should make. It was very different for them. It was much more aggressive – which is not a word you would apply to the Pet Shop Boys, particularly.”

In March 2009 Love Etc made No. 14 in the UK singles chart, while Yes hit No. 4 in the album charts the following month. The single and the follow-up Did You See Me Coming both became No. 1’s in the US dance chart.

Go to Pet Shop Boys’ official website

Read our article on the cover art of Depeche Mode

 

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Premiere: Listen to “Borderline” by Heidrunna

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I have another new Nordic electronic-pop artist to introduce to you today. Although, not a Danish, Swedish or a Norwegian one, this time. I have realised we have not made a new Icelandic music discovery on this blog in a long time. Where better place to start than with Iceland’s brightest new pop act, Heidrunna.

I learned about Reykjavik raised Heidrunna recently when debuting her dreamy, melancholic track “You Make Me Feel” in September. (Unfortunately, I was on holiday at the time and didn’t get a chance to write about it). I really liked all I heard, though. Like a magnet, I was drawn to her delightful, whispy voice. Being very celestial like and heavenly, in the same way as Little Boots or Kylie Minogue are. She (Heidrunna) has a lot of the Little Boots flair, I feel. There is something quite sweet, delicately nuanced about her. But, also, she is whimsical and effervescently glowing.

Listen on Apple Music

It was clear to me that Heidrunna is an 80s pop girl at heart. Without question being, the vibe she is channelling into her newest offering, “Borderline“. If you were wondering, it isn’t a reimagining of the Madonna 1984 hit of the same name. However, what the track does have in common with the Queen of Pop, one is. It is softly melodic and sparkly disco, synth-pop in style. Madonna’s Borderline” became her first Hot 100 top 10 & ignited one of the most impressive streaks in chart history“: writes Billboard. From what I have heard from Iceland’s Heidrunna, she is keeping on with continuing an impressive, hot streak of her own.

We need to also speak about the accompanying visuals for the track. The clip details a colourful almost, watercolour painting in style aesthetic. That has been showcased throughout all of her musical creations thus far.

If you have forgotten how blissful it feels to be spellbound under a sparkling mirror ball, listen to Heidrunna, more specifically “Borderline” for the same feels.

Heidrunna’s debut album – “Melodramatic” is coming out, early 2022, on board for production is Liam Howe (Lana Del Rey, MARINA, FKA twigs and Ellie Goulding).

Connect with Heidrunna
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/heidunannabjornsdottir/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/heidrunnamusic
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/heidrunna/





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Duran Duran share new song Anniversary

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Duran Duran Anniversary
Duran Duran Anniversary

Duran Duran have unveiled the video for their latest single, Anniversary, directed by BAFTA-winning artist, photographer and filmmaker, Alison Jackson. The song is taken from the band’s upcoming 15th studio album Future Past, set for global release on 22 October via Tape Modern for BMG. Pre-order it HERE.

The video was shot over three days at the historic Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire, and features the band alongside a gaggle of celebrity lookalikes including Elton John, The Queen, Daniel Craig, Lady Gaga and Dolly Parton.

Speaking about the video, Jackson said; “I’m thrilled to have been asked by Duran Duran to make their music video – creating an iconic party for their 40th anniversary, bringing celebrities together from past and present.”

Additionally, on 21 October at 8pm BST, a special livestream event via Dreamstage will include an exclusive, live Q&A with the band and Billboard editor Larry Flick as they reveal untold stories about their time together. They will be joined by Alison Jackson for the global premiere of Double Take – a half-hour documentary film by award-winning director Gerry Fox and Una Burnand, that gives viewers an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the video for AnniversaryWatch the trailer here.

The performance will replay for US audiences as 1am BST, followed by a 72-hour VOD period. The livestream will be the first event to be broadcast from the Now Arcade at the Outernet in Soho, London, prior to the venue’s opening later this year.  Tickets are available HERE.

Duran Duran’s John Taylor revealed, “Anniversary is a special song for us. Obviously, we were conscious of our own impending 40th anniversary of making music together, but we wanted the song’s meaning to be inclusive in the broadest possible way. After playing and working together for so long, we very much appreciate what ‘being together’ and ’staying together’ can really mean, it’s not something we would have thought song-worthy 40 years ago but we do today! It was also fun to build a track with hints of previous Duran hits, they’re like Easter eggs, for the fans to find.”

Future Past, which features guest appearances from such artists as Graham Coxon, Tove Lo, Ivorian Doll, Mike Garson and Chai, is out 22 October.

Want more from Classic Pop? Try an issue for only 99p today. Click here for more details.

Read more: Top 40 Duran Duran Songs

 

 

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Watch “Broken Mirror” by Elderbrook

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Wow, producer/multi-instrumentalist Elderbrook really came through with the video for “Broken Mirror“. He has linked up with the LGBTQ+ working director and photographer Jordan Rossi for a bold statement piece. The clip follows the day in the life of a queer performer, and no stone has been left unturned.

We see the multidisciplinary artist and creator Darkwah as they go about their daily routines. However, normal these activities and everyday situations may seem. Rossi’s direction and Darkwah’s performance in the visual make us acutely aware there are red flags everywhere they go and in everything they do.

Listen on Apple Music

Additional to the stunning electronic soundtrack provided by Elderbrook, as found on the musician’s “Innerlight” EP. Darkwah finesses the track with a new spoken word verse of commentary of their own. Sparing none of the authenticity of the hard-hitting truths.

“I cannot tell you how exhausting it is being told, be yourself, we love you. We love everything about you… and then as soon as you are your whole self, you are told to go back into a box…” is just an excerpt of what is shared.

Tune in. The whole speech is enlightening. Very emotional, highly charged and poignant. But it needs to be this way.

“Having these occurrences shown at this level in conjunction with an artist like Elderbrook, I hope, will not only generate more conversation but result in change for the better as people check the ways in which they interact with performers, queer performers and queer people. I’m incredibly grateful to have been part of this project. I’m super excited for the change it will start to incite.” Darkwah shares.

Well said. Applause all around for this important statement piece. I do love a music video that is both knowledgeable and educates. “Broken Mirror” certainly does this. To my mind, it should have millions of views. Do your bit, humans. Give it a watch NOW…

Connect with Elderbrook
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Elderbrookmusic/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/_elderbrook
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/_elderbrook/





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