Single Review: CocknBullKid – ‘Hold On To Your Misery’

“Sounding like an artist trying too hard to think outside the box, with a side order of self-pity”

3 STARS

Digital Release: October 2, 2010

Physical Release: N/A

In the smorgasbord smash arena of unbridled teenage talent that forever roams the pubs, clubs and various other venues on the streets of London – the diamonds in the rough, if you like – it’s no wonder few ever have what it takes to make it to the big-time; that isn’t to say a mile-long list of pop credential is required, much more so the ability to carry a fair tune and average to attractive looks. Sure enough, a few smaller, more nationally-minded record labels take the odd pot shot and hope for a quick return before the six-month long hype-fest Radio 1 chucks at their various new offspring of witty pubescent popstars dies away. The problem is though, with this particular brand of home-grown, non-GM artist, you end up with awkward names like CocknBullKid, and a reluctance to try much else that exists outside the act’s comfort zone. And by the time an album materialises, a nicely-rounded, more easily digestible variation is all that remains of the genuine article that existed just months before; the record label’s hasty quest to conform their new starlet turns out something which, on paper, looks like it’ll instantly re-invigorate the sound of modern music but in reality, the diluted satire and plea for ‘alternativeness’ might make sense to the select few, but outside that narrow market of music journalists, hipsters, fashionistas and equally offbeat, Costa-dwelling denizens of the East London area it makes absolutely no sense at all. Not everyone can be hailed as the new Lily Allen, because whilst practically anyone can imitate the same irritating accent and master the vaguely disinterested gaze Allen dons frequently, few have the same lyrical finesse and ability to make even the most personal remarks seem universally empathic and slyly political.

CocknBullKid (or Anita Blay to her intimates) has always been a strange juxtaposition between rough and ready, street-tough warbler and shiny pop confectionary with a wide grin to boot. During the process of Island Records plucking her off the underground scene and stripping her of much of her sharp tongued wit, Grace Jones-esque style and M.I.A. bitchiness, they had transformed the weak-voiced Blay into just another popstar; a popstar whose tissue-thin voice was frequently swamped by her nursery rhyme melodies about being yellow and having bellyaches.

‘Hold On To Your Misery’, arguably a more successful cleave for her London roots than the majority of her album, is a delightfully chirpy chunk of pop that contains elements of 60’s doo-wop-infused soul-pop. It’s a solid yet unspectacular pop tune, perhaps a bit too regimented when looking at Blay’s earlier work. It feels as if she’s had to, upon signing her contract with Island Records, surgically remove all the most interesting contents of her character and music in order to conform to something they could market. When ‘quirky’ girls dominate the already saturated pop firmament like never before, it seems like an odd decision to change so drastically into something so generic. ‘Hold On To Your Misery’ makes her devilish sense of humour seem nonexistent, sounding like an artist trying too hard to think outside the box, with a side order of self-pity.

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