DONT STOP THE POPS EXCLUSIVE REVIEW OF PLAY'S NEW ALBUM UNDER MY SKIN


Play are back after years in mothballs. This time with the help of a TV show called Made In Sweden they’ve re-grouped and they've enrolled Sanne of Ghost Vs Sanne as part of their comeback trail. It is my absolute pleasure to review their new album. As kids they supported Destiny Child & were infamous for nabbing British pop tracks and sterilizing them within an inch of their lives. The perfect instance of this was their de-sexed version of Atomic Kitten's already pretty innocent number one single Whole Again. That was then though. Now they've gone for more adult sound to reflect the fact that the girls are actually women. Its worth remembering Play were the band that preempted the Jonas Brothers, High School Musical and all of that. Along with A-Teens, they were front-runners to the likes of Justin, Hannah Montana & the Cheetah Girls. From such embers of their early 2000 smash-hit sojourn they've returned with Under My Skin and its released in a few weeks in Sweden…

Famous


On the TV show there was a tremendous debate whether this should be the first single. It was the theme-tune from last years series too which meant it wasn't totally new. As the first track it seriously introduces Sanne's amazing voice. Sanne & Fanny sound wonderful together on this track & putting aside the difficulties we saw on the TV show surrounding its conception, its a bloody epic song. For sure, it never should have been picked over Girls as lead single but I think its a perfect "re-introductory" track and thus explains why this had to be the first single. Very much anthem alert! Indeed, that new Nickelodeon boyband Big Time Rush have already covered Famous. (3.5/5)

Best Lyric: Its your moment, time to own it. It’s the American Dream. You wanna be Famous!


Consequence of You


Slight shades of Lady GaGa here. Sanne dominates on the first verse and throughout this song. Is the shape of things to come? It kinda sounds like it. We also start to hear sounds of electro-synths appearing throughout this re-invented Play. The production team behind Play have utterly vanquished any previous over-innocent remainders of their teenage body of work. Play wanna talk adult themes and use metaphors that are gloriously rude and drenched in attitude. I love the little couplet in the chorus that goes "You're a drug, and I am an addict. I know I gotta kick a nasty habit. Its in my blood. The Shots I’m takin!". Yes, they compare love to taking drugs. Totally Sweet. This symbolizes a very much changed Play. If you like Like A Drug by Kylie Minogue from her last studio album you will like this. A very strong track. (5/5)

Best Lyric: You're a drug, and I am an addict. I know I gotta kick a nasty habit. Its in my blood. The shots I’m takin!".


Show Me What You Got


More very electro-pop. This kinda sounds like Daft Punk, Calvin Harris and Ke$ha mixed in with a bit of Monrose (Germany) and Kylie's Wow from X. Again Sanne dominates. A lot of studio space-age sounds mixed in with droplets of vocoder which don't take anything away from the freshness of the pop song. Its very much probably the catchiest and dirty track they've ever done. Going by the song, methinks this is a fun ode to getting potential tricks to drop their pants and grabbing that tape measure. Loves it! (5/5)

Best Lyric: “So, try you wanna your luck tonight? Well you gotta get in line!”


Not The One


Oh sigh. This is actually not bad. But it stands out for all the wrong reasons. It kinda sounds like something Kelly Clarkson rejected a few years ago. Screams album filler. I'd totally understand this track if the girls had recorded an entire album with this kind of sound but the rest of album is more Ke&ha/Lady Gaga/Kylie. Guitarpop is fine. I don't have a problem with it but Not The One just doesn't sit well with the other dance-pop tracks. Its a bonus song at best. Its certainly not the one. (2/5)

Best Lyric: “Could you stop for a minute. I can’t take another second”


Under My Skin


Musically great. Lyrically terrible. This is a kick in the head to feminists to everywhere and it makes you feel like Simone de Beauvoir did it all for nothing. Anyone studying gender politics will scream at a track like this. It is anti-women and sends exactly the wrong type of message to listeners. Remember girlbands sung about empowerment? In the realm of pop music this does its best to destroy the work of Spice Girls, All Saints, Sugababes and Destinys Child. It kinda pits women against women and suggests certain women who wear certain clothes belong to certain class of society. This recalls the judge that ruled the "provocative" clothes of the victim somehow suggested she deserved it & thus her attacker received a lesser sentence (this was thrown out on appeal). Look, I don't mean to be serious. This is just a pop record after all. But, sometimes there is a line and with this track the girls crossed it. If it wasn't for the shoddy message its a brilliantly composed song and an excellent production so I can hear why it was picked as title track. (0/5)

Best Lyric: “How can she leave the house in her underwear?!”


Trash

AAAAH! Guitars re-appear but this time they're drenched in bubblepop baselines that are not so dissimilar to Blur's Girls and Boys & Shakira's Te Dejo Madrid. Both absolute power pop anthems. So whats the problem? Its the continuation of the dodgy lyrics. Throughout the track they call a women trash. Nice one Play. The middle 8 includes the lines "First, you slit your skirt up ten inches, show some skin right up to the fringes. Then you pluck your brows like a ninja. You gotta get a grip and listen to me BITCH! YOU'RE TRASH!". Well ahem. Play, do you realize what your implying when you say that? There is something called respect, sensitivity and pop conveying a sense of strength & having the ability to instill inner beauty especially to those who've low confidence. A perfect instance of that is the wonderful landmark song by Christina Aguilera & her song Beautiful. This track Trash annoys me. I love the melody. I love the singing (the vocals are flawless) but the lyrics, specifically within the middle 8, are sadly disappointing. I think I know what the girls/songwriters were trying to write about when they put together this song. They were covering ground already successfully analyzed by the pop scientist Robyn in her 2005 release Crash and Burn Girl. Trash however isn't as succinct or eloquent enough & instead emerges as rather insulting to women. (0/5)

Best Lyric: “Enough is Enough”


Second Hand Love

Phew, with Trash out of the way we’re on more comfortable ground here with Second Hand Love. Second Hand Love is an incredibly strong. The return blippy electro synths soothes pop fanciers everywhere. The Sugababes would kill for a song like Second Hand Love to get them out of their current doldrums. Again, Sanne its pretty prevalent. The best bit is the bridge “I just can’t take it” repeated twice. It’s the little things that I love. The subject of this track is about a woman’s obsession with another woman. Seeing a lyrical trend here? Yes, it would seem lyrically Play are all about making this album a pop study examining the condition of women. Which is wonderful! (5/5)

Best Lyric: “I close my eyes and I see her reflection.”


Girls

Everyone will have heard this as it’s the b-side to Famous. I think this should have been the single. In many ways the tracks Trash and Under My Skin are actually ripping the very girls that are celebrated in Girls which makes their lyrical content and inclusion on this album all the more confusing. They’ve done something miraculous with this track by using the Cyndi Lauper line from Girls Just Wanna Have Fun and updated it with a modern twist. This is fresh, contemporary and fun. Everything the new Play should be about. I love the swearing as it punches it out the spirit of the song. (5/5)

Best Lyric: “Don’t fucking over-do it! Girls just wanna have fun!”


When love is bleaching bad

The ballad. And not just any ballad. If you like Vanessa Carlton you will adore this. Strings, pianos and wonderful vocals. I have a soft spot for ballads when they’re done right and boy they’ve hit all the right notes with this pop epic. Fanny is beautiful on the chorus. Overall, we hear Sanne taking a backseat and the original members emerge as the stars of When love is bleaching bad. When the middle eight kicks in the three vocalists sing like they were made for each other. Some stunning harmonies within this song. Anais is wonderful on this song. (5/5)

Best Lyric: “If the love you have is bleaching bad, you should paint it back in all your colours!”


Personal Victory

Wow. Amazing. This bounces up to Prince crossed over with the hit writer Jasmine Baird for similarity. The subject of Personal Victory is what pop should be about: empowerment and feeling good about yourself. Indeed within the middle eight Sanne clearly states ‘I’m never gonna let somebody own me or ever let somebody let me feel small’. Damn right girrrrrrrrrl! A brilliant album closer. 4/5

Best Lyric: “I’m making the decisions and their all mine. All Mine! All Mine!”


Bonus remixes:

Consequence of You: Better than the already brillo normal version. 5/5

Famous (Electro Remix): I would of released this version. Its very good. 5/5

Famous (Dance remix): Proper Ibeefah remix! Tis a Choon! 5/5


Conclusion

Play are back! And Sanne’s amazing vocals are put to very good use. When the girls are good they’re very good. When they’re bad they’re terrible. There are two tracks which stink. Only two. I really I hope this sees an international release and if so those two songs need dumping. Or tucked away as bonus Itunes tracks. Seriously. They’re prickly in subject matter and sloppy in execution. In both songs, they’ve attempted to explore areas of pop covered by Robyn & Destiny’s Child (Bootylicious & Nasty Girl for instance). But you know what, Robyn and Destiny’s Child get away with it. Just. Play, with Under My Skin & Trash, completely miss the mark & sadly send out the wrong message. Serious issue aside, this is their best album to date. Their playing with the big acts now and they’re clearly ready for a fight. I totally respect that. The epic ballad When love is bleaching bad is proof of this seriousness. However, they seriously need to do something about those two songs in the middle. The album is laden with uberpop tracks that scream potential hit singles (Consequence of You, Girls, Personal Victory, Second Hand Love, Show Me What You Got). One of the party pop albums of the year. Hats off to the girls. Highly recommended.


TwitterReview: The New Play album is rather poptastical. 2 tracks are “troublesome “ though.


Get Under My Skin through Bergans.Se and you'll get it signed! Clicky Click


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PS: DSTP will be doing a competition very soon which will feature something Play-related so fans, keep an eye out in the coming days.


17 comments:

Lisa said...

Thanks so much for this review! I'm really looking forward to the album! :)

Ashley said...

I am a huge Play fan, am glad they're back. I found your review pretty helpful. I'll know what songs to stick away from. Thank you! (P.S. Congrats on the honor of hearing the CD first!)

Fredrik said...

Funny that this band have a song on their album called Trash. In Sweden, we never really took them seriously. They were pop puppets. Its nice to see them given the space they deserve. They are talented singers and women after all!

So this is a great turn. Famous wasn't so good. But I trust you Bobby. Your reviews have been pretty spot on in the past.

Fredrik said...

By the by, Rosanna has a club night here in Stockholm now. Very trendy.

I wonder whether she'd play a track from this album?

Lance said...

I wanna say lighten up dude!

But

Hey

Only you could refer to Simone de Beauvoir in a review about Play.

Great review. And yes, I just ordered my copy.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the review, very helpful indeed :)

James said...

I really like Famous. I was determined not to "get" Play. They're previous efforts were all emotionless examples of crap pop music at its worst. But Famous is on fire.

Paul said...

I liked old Play. I am unconvinced by new Play so far, though I will probably give the new album a whirl. I'm strangely more excited by this dodgy sounding Nickelodeon boyband though!!

Jacee said...

Thanks for this review! Can't wait to buy the album!

* Reposted at http://fanny-hamlin.net *

tommie said...

Funny you give Trash 0/5 considering it was in the running to be the single!

fuckyeahfayehamlin said...

...Is your idea of feminism really the shock tactic side dedicated to using hypersexualization of the female form as the so-called "antithesis" of its subjugation at the hands of men? I hate to tell you, but the world is not yet at that point, and if Play -- or any woman -- thinks that another woman is "trashy," it is because that woman is, in essence, hypersexualized to appeal to men.

I don't see how Play's lyrics emphasizing that are "anti-feminist." I would, in fact, venture to say that the opposite rings true -- if they sang about encouraging women to "slit their skirts up ten inches" to catch a man, that would be "anti-feminist."

Play are now, and have always been, about girlpower for the sake of girlpower, despite the opinions of men or the heteronormative view that we see as common in America (recalling that Play are not an American girl group in the first place, and this is a Swedish album, may help you place your "value system" more accurately). Their songs are decrying the women who live for male sexual attention, and that, to me, is the epitome of a feminist-empowered pop record.

Mike said...

I'd love to hear this!

Robpop said...

Tommie:

Gosh yeah. Trash is a very strong song though. Musically its incredibly catchy. I really like it: despite the dodgy lyrics.

fuckyeahfayehamlin:

i'm fascinated by your reply and i am glad that points on Trash and Under My Skin evoked such a passionate and well reasoned & well argued analysis.

My point is within those two tracks (which have yet to be released). Maybe your analysis would be improved on hearing the entire tracks. Putting that aside:

Naturally I couldn't actually go into full length here due to space and time. However, both songs display an attitude that left an unsavory taste in my mouth. On one stand they celebrate women through the songs such as Girls. Yet, the the next they condemn women because of the clothes she's wearing and this loose attitude somehow spills onto her having some kind of pull over a man/boyfriend which of course reveals the anger held against this woman of "loose virtue". (yes, the rest of the song goes on about that)

Not once do the lyrics hurl abuse at the men of this world who construct this (hetero)normitive design of the female body. Nor do the lyrics succinctly disclose, as you have done, the condition of women who have to perform roles within this hypersexualized world consolidated by men. They refuse to deconstruct the constructs of sexuality and gender and instead do something far worse: in those two songs they judge women. Lyrically of course.

Then there is your last point. Which is most problematic.

What is wrong with women who want male sexual attention? Are you judging people who actually want sex? Who want to be valued sexually? This is dangerous territory here. Especially if you argue against it (sexual expression). Why? Because you could find yourself in a feedback loop where your defending a regulation of bodies, sex, gender and sexuality. You find yourself actually postulating an argument that leads you to regulation of sexualities and repression of women rather than empowering.

You see, this is what put certain feminist theory in the very same line of argument as the right wing religious leaders/moral crusaders of the 1970s.

Listen to Trash/Under My Skin. There is nothing at all in those lyrics that convey a sense of "feminist-empowered pop". Quite the contrary.

Robpop said...

btw..this also concerns the track Under My Skin.

;-)

Besides that, the album is very good.

the writer said...

I wish i could download this album because i can't afford for it and i live in Greece, that means i can't buy it. Could you please put a download link because i know you own the tracks? You are the best!

the writer said...

i didn't receive any response yet. Please give me an answer. Remember that there are people that may have listened to the previews or the lead single but they live outside Sweden or they can't buy the album. I would appreciate it if you did.

swedish lady bug. said...

wow 16 comments. well i geuss i'm the 17th. any way this is a good blog. so i think you should go to the blog "JUST STAY HERE FOR THIS". and try and get her convinsed to get your blog in the contest. just read about it and think.