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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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Listen to “Still Think About You” by thisisNAMASTE

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The last time I featured thisisNAMASTE on the blog, the track I spoke about, “I Like Your Face“, got a play on the reality TV show Love Island UK. Which was a pretty, awesome thing to happen. And so lovely for Natasha Marie Stewart (AKA thisisNAMASTE) to receive this kind of recognition. It just goes to prove how relatable her lyrics are and that she hits the right vibes with a pop audience that spans all ages. In follow up, as summer finally kicks in. She is out with another glorious, shimmery bop. Come rain or shine, “Still Think About You” provides the taste of Summer in song form. Delivered by a joyous, uplifting melody and thisisNAMASTE’s straight-up glowing vocals.

The lyrics are self-explanatory on this new banger. It is a break-up song of sorts steered by lyrics that spin on a positive axis. “We said forever, but I’m thankful we’re done. Now I’m number one” she sings. While further issuing a bolder statement. “Boy, don’t get it confused, now your gone, yeah, I’m thriving, no point in denying I still think about you.”

Listen on Apple Music

Another way of looking at the track is that it also celebrates new beginnings. But that’s just the way of thisisNAMASTE’s open and honest pop brilliance. She goes out of her way to empower through her lyrics. Giving us much to take on board and be optimistic about set to a glittery pop beat. “Still Think About You” is a must-have track on your summer playlist. So catchy, melodically led, pop perfection. In fact, she has now amassed a plentiful supply of beautifully crafted songs where each one directs us with ease to become addicted to the repeat button.

Still Think About You” continues to solidify thisisNAMASTE’s presence in the pop realm. In that, I know who to come to when I have cravings for super catchy and accessible pop. thisisNAMASTE always sees me right.

Connect with thisisNAMASTE
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thisisnamaste
Twitter: https://twitter.com/thisisNAMASTE
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thisisnamaste/





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‘Lost’ Donna Summer song drops ahead of new remix album

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I’m A Rainbow: Recovered & Recoloured
I’m A Rainbow: Recovered & Recoloured

The late Donna Summer is back with a new track from her hotly-anticipated next album.

The song, You To Me (Oliver Nelson Remix), is the second single to be taken from I’m A Rainbow – Recovered & Recoloured, a 10-track album which completely re-imagines Donna Summer’s ‘lost’ 1981 LP I’m A Rainbow mixed by a host of international producers; Junior Vasquez, Le Flex, Figo Sound, Jean Tonique, Ladies On Mars and Oliver Nelson – who has just signed to Atlantic Records – have all added their touch. 

Forty years ago this September Donna Summer’s new album I’m A Rainbow, produced by Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte, was weeks away from being released. During 1981 the musical landscape was changing, production techniques were developing and Summer’s label wanted a more R&B-influenced album and took the decision to withdraw the album just before its release.

It languished in the Geffen vaults until it was eventually issued in 1996 as an 18-track CD with no fanfare at all.

Fast-forward to 2021 and I’m A Rainbow has received a fresh coat of paint. 

Album curator Michael Neidus on this second track to be taken from the album: “You To Me has always been my favourite song from the album but have always wondered how it would sound slightly more up-tempo. Whilst in Los Angeles in 2017, I kept hearing this cracking dance track over the poolside speakers. ; it was a remix by Swedish producer Oliver Nelson, of Habits (Stay High) by fellow-Swede Tove Lo.

“It had been a UK Top 10 hit but somehow I had completely missed it. I kept hearing Oliver’s remix, then discovered his other work and knew that I’d want him to work on a future project; You To Me just seemed the right track. He delivered a great version, respecting the original but adding new elements to it and giving it a little more pace. I suggested to remove the original intro and introduce a drum rise, which he did and it gave more impact to the start of the track, especially stylistically in a Love Unlimited vein. Within two seconds its warmth made it sound like an old and familiar friend.”

You To Me is available now with I’m A Rainbow – Recovered & Recoloured following on 8 October.

‘I’M A RAINBOW – RECOVERED & RECOLOURED’ 

CD TRACKLISTING 

I’m A Rainbow [Junior’s Shiny Rainbow Remix] 

I Believe (In You) [Figo Sound Version] – duet with Joe ‘Bean’ Esposito

Back Where You Belong [Jean Tonique Remix]

You To Me [Oliver Nelson Remix]

Don’t Cry For Me Argentina [Ladies On Mars “Buenos Aires” Remix]

Sweet Emotion [Le Flex Remix]

Brooklyn [Ladies On Mars “Child Of Rhythm” Remix]

Romeo [Ladies On Mars “Luv NRG” Remix]

Highway Runner [Ladies On Mars “Street Race” Remix]

Leave Me Alone [Ladies On Mars “Independence” Remix]

Brooklyn [Ladies On Mars “Child Of Rhythm” Remix-Radio Edit]

I Believe (In You) [Figo Sound Radio Version]

Highway Runner [Ladies On Mars “Street Race” Extended Mix]

Brooklyn [Ladies On Mars “Child Of Rhythm” Extended Remix]

Romeo [Ladies On Mars “Luv-NRG” Extended Remix]

 

LP TRACKLISTING 

SIDE ONE

I’m A Rainbow [Junior’s Shiny Rainbow Remix]

I Believe (In You) [Figo Sound Version] – duet with Joe ‘Bean’ Esposito

Back Where You Belong [Jean Tonique Remix]

You To Me [Oliver Nelson Remix]

Don’t Cry For Me Argentina [Ladies On Mars “Buenos Aires” Remix]

 

SIDE TWO

Sweet Emotion [Le Flex Remix]

Brooklyn [Ladies On Mars “Child Of Rhythm” Remix]

Romeo [Ladies On Mars “Luv NRG” Remix]

Highway Runner [Ladies On Mars “Street Race” Remix]

Leave Me Alone [Ladies On Mars “Independence” Remix] 

 

SIDE THREE

Brooklyn [Ladies On Mars “Child Of Rhythm” Remix-Radio Edit]

I Believe (In You) [Figo Sound Radio Version]

Highway Runner [Ladies On Mars “Street Race” Extended Mix]

 

SIDE FOUR

Brooklyn [Ladies On Mars “Child Of Rhythm” Extended Remix]

Romeo [Ladies On Mars “Luv-NRG” Extended Remix]

 

Donna Summer: Encore boxset review

 

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Watch “are you?” by zeph

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I have New Zealand singer-songwriter Thomston to thank for an early introduction to Maryland-based bedroom pop auteur zeph (Zephani Jong). She featured on Thomston’s recent, dreamy offering “Magnolia” (review here), providing a splash of liquid gold harmonies to the sonically driven piece. She is also the latest artist to be snapped up by Neon Gold Records as a part of their fantastic roster of artists and has released her first single on the label. The catchy and fresh alt-pop track “are you?” arrives ahead of her forthcoming debut EP slated for arrival in the Autumn.

Her vocals are shimmering and hypnotic, with a notable breeziness about them. The best way of describing her style is that it is really, quite indie-pop angelic. And she is into creating vibes from the ground up. The debut “are you?” is written, recorded, and produced by, Zeph herself. She also exudes some quirkiness, which I love to see in pop artists (in fact applies to people in general). I am, loving that quite a lot of quirkiness has spilt over into the music video also. It is sweet and adorable to watch and is making me want to jump into the screen to join her because it looks like Zeph had the best kind of fun making this Erik Rojas (Isaac Dunbar, Rich Brian, Jessie J) directed video.

Listen on Apple Music

The track endearingly broaches the topic of relationships. Does this guy still want to be with Zeph? If only he would quit the mind games. Speak up, reciprocate with some answers and not be so vague and distant, Zeph politely inquires.

Zeph has a voice that is sweet enough to charm. Yet her honest, straight to the point style of lyricism is her weapon of choice and the embodiment of her signature style. This is the winning formula that culminates in the whimsical banger “are you?“. Dive into this fiercely cute pop track now. I guarantee after just one listen, it will be in your head for the rest of the day.

Connect with Zeph
Twitter: https://twitter.com/zephanijong
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/zephanijong/





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