And so the 90s drain away, with a plughole gurgle of third and fourth singles from hit albums, marking time before the Christmas and Millennium big guns are fired. “She’s The One” is the first in a minor subgenre of hit, Robbie Williams Ballads That Want To Be Angels. The success of “Angels” established one mould for Robbie, something he might be uniquely good for, and naturally he tried to hit that target again a few times. Just as he’d begun by jumping tracks between boyband high life and post-Britpop lairiness, so “Angels” stood as a chimeric blend of 90s ballads, an arms-on-shoulders lads night out belter crossed with heartthrob devotion, “Wonderwall” with just enough Westlife spliced into its DNA.
Christmas traditions are funny things – some of the most fixed turn out to have relatively recent roots, and new ones are manufactured all the time. Witness much hand-wringing this year about the import into the UK of Black Friday, a notoriously busy shopping day that makes sense after Thanksgiving in the USA (people have the day off) but far less over here. Still, it worked, and having successfully taken culturally will surely stick around.
Part of the British Christmas has been a canon of Christmas pop songs – Slade, Wizzard, Shakey, Jona Lewie, Greg Lake, Kirsty and the Pogues, Wham! Et al. The Christmas Canon has been a part of Christmas since I was a kid in the 80s, it feels as firmly set a tradition as you might find. But I suspect that’s an illusion: it’s changing, and the canon as we know it is on the way out.
On Facebook I mentioned that we’d know a generation had fallen from cultural influence when Jona Lewie got booted off the Christmas Canon. This was met with much sadness and shaking of heads from fans of “Stop The Cavalry”, but the point wasn’t that I dislike the song. I was 7 in 1980, disliking the song would be like disliking Christmas itself. It was put on the office playlist last week, though, and it struck me how odd it must seem to somebody who hadn’t been around then – this lugubrious, kinda-sorta new-wavey thing that bobs along all about “nuclear fallout zones” and cavalry. It’s like that one ugly bauble you always hang on the tree because you bought it as a kid: the time will come when you aren’t decorating the tree any more, and the bauble might be quietly pushed to the back, then forgotten entirely.
The 15th Annual Freaky Trigger Between Christmas And New Year Pub Crawl : The Kentish Town Ducks Arse
Yes, it’s the most wonderful time of the year, it’s FTBCANYPC time!
This year for our 15th crawl we will be having a little saunter around Kentish Town. or at least down the hill from Gospel Oak to Kentish Town West, taking in Vines, pineapples and Tapping An Admiral or two…
Every year, on the 29th (except when it wasn’t) we go an a merry trail around a list of pubs, many of which may be closed, to appreciate the architecture, and, you know, maybe drink. This year’s route takes us from the foot of Parliament Hill to the heart of Kentish Town in our bid to never actually do a crawl in Camden.
The Route is as follows:
3pm Bull and Last (why not get a scotch egg?)
4pm The Southampton Arms
4.45pm The Vine
5.30pm The Pineapple
6.30pm The Oxford
7.30pm The Grafton
8.30pm Tapping The Admiral
There is a Handy Google Map here:
Look forward to seeing you!
Geri Halliwell may have broken away from her former band, but she knew a good release schedule when she saw one: the singles from Schizophonic form a rough parallel to the singles from Spice. The in-your-face pop manifesto; the upbeat follow-up; a smoocher as the nights draw in, and then a bit of disco. But just because she could retrace her steps didn’t mean she should – that master plan held one obvious flaw. When the Spice Girls did their big ballads, Geri was kept firmly away from the vocal limelight. On “Lift Me Up”, she gets a slowie all to herself. It doesn’t go well.
Between the smothering devotion of the Irish boyband model, and the slick looks and top-dollar sounds of the American one, a glut of likely British lads struggled for an angle. In general, the Take That vs East 17 rulebook still applied. Groups continued to split between street-smart loverboys (Another Level, Damage, Blue) and wholesome but cheeky (Let Loose, 911, A1). More often than not, bands rose and ebbed with hardly an idea to their name.
That’s basically ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW, so get those votes in. But if you CRAVE details like our chief sponsor SHAKO* craves MEAT then there are more below the cut.
If the abundance of Westlife could be narrowed down to a mere one signature hit, “Flying Without Wings” is it. Written by British ballad king Wayne Hector, it’s the one original song of theirs to become a reality pop staple and be picked up by other singers. It’s audibly more effortful than either “Swear It Again” or “If I Let You Go”, and it pushes Shane and Mark – who, yet again, do most of the vocal work – a lot harder than before. Mark especially takes this as an opportunity to go the Full melismatic Monty, turning his lines into chest-thumping note-drenched cascades of passion. (Their raw gospel power slightly undermined by his pronouncing “morning” like Officer Crabtree off Allo Allo).
When surface-similar acts emerge at the same time, there’s an urge to paint them as rivals – not just personally but aesthetically. A pop moment becomes such when you have points to draw a line between. How much of this is marketing strategy, how much media shorthand, and how much the micropolitics of fandom? It’s hard to say. All we know for sure is that Christina Aguilera’s own strong-willed progression towards a singing career was swiftly and sharply reshaped to fit a story about an emerging generation of new teenpop stars. And in particular, she was compared to Britney Spears: the women’s shared Mouseketeer background making the pairing irresistible.
‘Hi everyone! I’m long-haired Canadian warbler Alanis Morisette, and I’m here to remind you that you “oughta know” that submissions for the Freaky Trigger Readers’ Poll 2014 are now OPEN! I thought I’d been uninvited to last year’s poll but it turns out there wasn’t one! How ironic*. Now all I really want – is to know your favourite songs of 2014!’
Thanks Alanis. The rules are very simple:
- Send your top 20 tracks to firstname.lastname@example.org by 11.59pm GMT on 31st December 2014.
- As with previous years, we will be lenient on release dates. If you think it was released this year, it probably counts. If something on your list is egregiously out of place we’ll let you know and you can choose something else.
- The order of your top 20 is important! Your #1 will be allocated more points than #20.
- If you can’t think of 20 songs then 10 or 14 or 2 is just fine.
*In the true spirit of Alanis, this term has been used incorrectly.
“Blue” is the crest of the late 90s Europop wave – extravagantly successful not just on the continent but worldwide. Including – most startling of all – the US, where it picked up a Grammy, made the Billboard Top 10, and sent the Eiffel 65 album double platinum. You could draw comparisons with another parochial 90s movement that was big business Stateside for a moment or two: “Blue (Da Ba Dee)” is Europop’s “Wonderwall”.