Posts from 18th July 2013

Jul 13

Survival Of The Hittest

FT30 comments • 1,339 views

Now That’s What I Call Music! 85 (Not A Review)

It’s no secret that Popular, my main feature for this website, and a project that’s now run through almost 10 years of my life, spent much of last year beached – only 6 entries in 6 months. I never imagined I’d given it up, but I turned over possibilities as to why my enthusiasm had so clearly dimmed. More responsibilities? Sputtering energy? Reading too many comics? Maybe, maybe, but there was another factor too. Popular is a journey of indefinite length, but one where I can always see the future mapped out, and in 2011 and 2012 that map showed a miserable prospect. Clouds of grey hits in a chart I hardly paid attention to. Was this it? Had I stopped caring about pop? Bound to happen one day, of course – and it doesn’t need me as a listener. But if I had stopped caring, why care to write about it?

But then something happened. The pop songs I noticed seemed to be the ones a lot of other people noticed, but then – to my surprise – they were also the ones a lot of other people bought. Even better, songs people bought that I hadn’t yet heard turned out to be crackers too. 2013 has been a springtime for the Top 40, with a remarkable sequence of good Number Ones, some the kind of records I can’t wait to write about, others singles I know I’ll struggle to capture – but I’ll enjoy trying anyhow. Something has changed in my appreciation, though. For the first time I don’t have a mental model for who is buying singles, and how (and with whose money) – overall sales keep twitching up, setting new records each year, so “mostly digital, mostly cheap” feels like a good starting assumption. But how singles get to Number One? I could hardly even guess.