Well, that was a year. It’s not what 2016 will be remembered for, but this was the year that streaming broke the charts – or fundamentally changed what they reflect. The structural impact is obvious – TEN records got to number one, meaning we’re back to the 50s as far as turnover goes. The aesthetic impact is more obscure – is the torpor I sense a function of a moody wave in current pop, or the sluggishness of the countdown, or my own elderly disengagement, or all of the above?
Best to worst, as usual. I liked very few of these very much, and even the higher placings don’t reflect much enthusiasm.
It was not immediately obvious that everything had changed. I was at an engagement party, and was introduced as a music fan to someone, and they asked me a question: “Will or Gareth?”. I didn’t really get what they were talking about. Pop Idol, of course. Oh, I haven’t been watching it. “You haven’t?” It seemed bizarre to them, that someone into pop music wouldn’t have felt the show was important. They were right.
There is an economic maxim called Goodhart’s Law: when a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure. Reality TV pop was the application of this to the charts. Being number one was the measure, already a shakily symbolic one, of popularity and fame. To be a pop idol meant having massive pop hits. And so the winner of Pop Idol would have the biggest hits anyone could. But what actually happened was the colonisation of the charts by TV, for several weeks a year. It became an annual event, like the flooding of the Nile delta. Instead of proving that Will or Gareth or Darius or anyone else could compete with the best, it made the weakness of the charts as a metric of best-ness – or anything else – absurdly obvious.
Greetings! I’m the Toilet Duck and I’m here to solve all your problems! It’s easy (*quack*) when I’m on your team. With my catchy tunes and the help of my squadron of all-terrain bathroom fixtures I will defeat the rebel bacteria menace that would otherwise evolve into a terrifying ‘super’ ‘bug’ and bring civilisation to its knees. My global presence means there’s nowhere for rebel scum to hide! I’ll even plant a tracking device under the rim of your toilet seat to make sure they don’t get away. Bye bacteria, bye worries!
Reassuring words from Toilet Duck, there. On to numbers #30-#21!
“Hi I’m Godzilla. No honestly I am. I know what you’re thinking, that doesn’t look like Godzilla, he stands up on his hind-legs and stomps Tokyo. Well firstly who are you calling a “he”. Godzilla, ie me, is a lady. And secondly, that Godzilla is stupid – I’m the kind of more realistic Godzilla that people were crying out to see in the 90’s.”
“They didn’t? What even with Matthew Broderick? Jean Reno? What about the twist of my babies? Jamiroquai? His song is the best bit? Well that just makes me angry, makes me want to destroy Manhattan with my atomic breath.”
“I don’t? Well nuts to that.”
“Sorry about that, it turns out that I’m not the crowd pleasing monster I thought I was, instead I am a punchline to a number of jokes and I have been assigned to one of the great flops of history. Well just as well I spent last year watching the ten films which appear to come in between #30 and #21 in the FT film poll.”
Thanks rubbish 90’s Godzilla and that is a remarkable coincidence isn’t it. Well here’s what I thought of this run of movies.
Hi, I’m Dr Zaius smoking a cigarette from The Planet Of The Apes. You know the proper Planet Of The Apes from the sixties where people acted as apes, rather than Andy Serkis wearing ping pong balls and making a fool of himself. OK it meant that Charlton Heston got a bit too personal about our personal hygiene but the allegory more or less worked. I also turned up in Beneath The Planet Of The Apes, which was surprisingly good despite Chuck ducking out and an even heavier handed Nuclear War Allegory. Since then I’ve been pretty quiet here in the potentially nuclear destroyed future, I didn’t travel in time to Escape From… and they didn’t get me back for the Tim Burton travesty and I think it is a bit early in the new cycle of Apes films for a doddery old Doctor type to turn up (though I must go see my agent just in case). Nevertheless all of this spare time has allowed me to look at the best films released in the UK in 2016, and help curate the Freaky Trigger Top 41 (because there are two number 40’s).
“‘Allo. My name is René Artois, cafe owner and reluctant assistant to the Resistance. You may be wondering what I am doin ‘ere, at the top of a German communications tower, ‘olding a large knockwurst with a fuse coming out of it (use your imagination – Picture Ed). It is a good question, one I am currently asking myself. As you remember, Michelle of the Resistance, ‘er with the beret, ‘ad an ‘are-brained scheme to steal the secret plans for the V2 rocket. I am to transmit the plans to Edith and Yvette who are sat atop that distant tree, ‘olding a colander as a makeshift satellite dish. Edith will then ‘ide the plans in ‘er undercrackers, and escape in a dustbin transported to the Resistance base by Monsieur Alphonse’s ‘earse. This sausage – which, did I mention, is filled with nitro-glycerine – is apparently a precautionary measure in case I am caught! Why is it always me left ‘olding the banger? This whole place could blow up at any second! It is madness, but of course I never get a say in these matters.”
Merci, René. Let’s inspect our first batch of songs!
It’s taken them until their 10th number one, but Westlife finally bring us an original uptempo song. Within the band’s corpus “World Of Our Own” is a break from the norm, with half-hearted ‘party’ noises under the intro acting as cues for the lads to rise up from the stools and shake a tailfeather. On anyone else’s terms it’s reliable workhorses Steve Mac and Wayne Hector trying to write a Gregg Alexander song. The string of emphases on the bridge – “Took! For! Granted!” – feels particularly like a stab at New Radicals style euphoric lift-off, but Westlife is not a rollercoaster. It’s barely even a teacup ride. The chorus bumps repetitively along, its sing-song melody irritating before the first pass is even through. And the scenario is a standard Westlife one – our hero has strayed but regrets it and realises real happiness lies with the comforts of home. A decent metaphor for this mildest of experimental moves, then, which ends with the inevitable – and reassuring – key change.
“Hi I am Red Skelton, exceptionally annoying star of the 40’s and 50’s – trust me there was no comic turn I could flatten, or subtle humour I couldn’t mug into submission. Named Red due to my bright red hair often showcased in the black and white films I starred in. Trust me, I was terrible, just watch me in Neptune’s Daughter, or any number of comic MGM musicals I was shoehorned into to ostensibly make funny, but actually made the subbest of par. I can but have dreamt of being in a film nominated for the Freaky Trigger films of the year, partially because I was rarely in a good film, but mostly because I would have loved to have lived so long to see 2016. How are the jet packs?”
It worked so well last year, so what the hey, let’s spin the bottle on another Freaky Trigger movie poll. If we learnt anything last year its that the block vote of everyone who sees Pixar films will out. I wonder if everyone rushed out to see Finding Dory though or if something else has filled that hole? Batman vs Superman perhaps (hmmm).
The rules are the same as all of the other FT polls. Vote for UP TO 20 titles IN ORDER and send your vote to ftfilmpoll AT gmail DOT com. As long as the film was properly released in cinemas (VOD / Multi-Platform) 2016 in the UK it will be counted. I might tap you up for a write up or some words if your choice makes the list, so consider your responses. And if you only saw five films this year and still want to vote for Suicide Squad then do so.
I think it has been an interesting year for movies, and I’ll have no trouble identifying twenty great films, and there are loads I am catching up with over the next fortnight, as should you! Its better than Turkey with the family. Feel free also to use the comments to query methodology, remind people of a film that came out in January, question every aspect of this project… Votes will close on 11.59pm GMT on 5th January 2016 (to all a little catchup…)
– The order of your top 20 is important! Your #1 will be allocated more points than #20.
– If you can’t think of 20 films then 10 or 14 or 1 is just fine.
And see you for the rundown in January.
*Cos to qualify at lest two people have to nominate it.
“Hello readers! It’s me, last year’s winner, Missy Elliott! Although 2016 has been an eventful year, I definitely hadn’t forgotten about my triumphant song at all. Definitely not. And neither had the good folk at Freaky Trigger forgotten about this year’s poll until yesterday! Submissions are now OPEN so get voting…”
Cheers Missy. Here’s the shiz:
Email up to 20 of your favourite tracks of 2016 to email@example.com by 23.59pm GMT on 31st December 2016.
– You don’t have to send 20 tracks – 10, 5 or just 1 is fine.
– Tracks should be in order – your #1 song will get more points than your #20 (if you really can’t put them in order, I’ll do it for you randomly!)
– Release date should be this year, but realistically I’m not going to check. If one of your picks appeared in last year’s poll, I’ll ask you for another one.
If you really have no idea what happened in pop music this year, there’s still plenty of time to have a listen to everyone’s best-of lists and see if anything floats your boat. If you’ve already made one, why not plug it in the comments?
The 17th Annual Freaky Trigger Between Christmas and New Year Pub Crawl: The Highgate Upside Down Wales
To celebrate this milestone I thought on the 29th December this year we should go on a route which several milestones can be seen, and also have a metaphorical expeditionary force, a force for good of course. Good cheer. And considering sixteen years of this pub crawl, I have decided this year to be a little selfish and do one quite near to my house. And also a selection of rather decent fake country pubs rather close in. So I present you a self-indulgent Highgate pubcrawl.
Starting at the Woodman next door to Highgate Tube (high entrance) at 3pm we take a scenic walk to Highgate Village ending at the lovely Duke’s Head. Route below the cut: