Posts from September 2012
A song of many lives: we’re catching it at the end of its first, after a failed release in 1993 and a bounce around the charts. In three years time it’ll be changed for good, the soundtrack to Tony Blair’s first election win. From then on its critical fortunes are linked to its grinning patron’s, and at some point in the early 00s it stops being a naff take on real optimism and becomes a different kind of reflection: brittle, shallow, endlessly on-message.
Looking back on the Summer of Ragga (and indeed the Winter Of Ragga), what strikes me is how cuddly its chart presence was. Dancehall was a controversial import: for a pop audience used to reggae as good vibes unity music, the arrival of young lions like Shabba Ranks was a shock. Particularly as the sex, swagger and silk trousers might be mixed up inextricably with vicious homophobia. But none of that drama showed up in the charts. While The Word took time out from dousing students in beans to grapple with the issues, pre-watershed ragga was a brighter, sunnier experience.
The year that broke Popular! (nearly)
I gave every song a mark out of 10, now you can say which you’d have given 6 or more to, and reminisce about the year in general, post lists, discuss the merits of Back To The Planet, etc etc.
For their Christmas tearjerker, Take That – now comfortably the country’s biggest band – deployed their secret weapon: Little Mark Owen, a singer so awkwardly earnest he strips a layer of skin off even the hokiest of material. And what he has to work with here is pure melodrama – a song of a long-absent man who tracks down his lover to find not just her but – we presume – his unknown son.