Posts from April 2014

Apr 14

MADONNA – “Frozen”

Popular57 comments • 5,473 views

#786, 7th March 1998

frozen Madonna’s first seven Number Ones spanned five years – a major run in itself. Then there’s an eight-year break, and then her final six – which begin with “Frozen” – take a full decade. This second sustained period of success – taking an arc of gentle decline and bending it back to her liking and her terms – is astonishing. How did she do it?

Madonna’s years away from number one were hardly an exile – her experiments, her shifts in technique and priorities happened in public with a string of Top 10 singles. Ray Of Light seemed like a comeback because it felt so focused and complete, not because she’d been away.

But for these purposes, she has. And there are three main differences between the 1990 Madonna and the 1998 one. They’re not all completely positive, but they’re sustainable – they set her up for that long career still to come. “Frozen” is a showcase for all three of them – a perfect return, if not a perfect single.

Apr 14

PWC 14 Second Round: Japan v Uruguay

Pop World Cup 201414 comments • 1,054 views

nami Our third knockout game pits Patrick St Michel’s Japan team – victors in Group C with 7 points – against Matthew’s Uruguay side, who were Group D runners-up on 5. They’re competing to play Chile, who held off a much-fancied Cameroon team to become our first quarter-finalist.

R16 3: Japan v Uruguay - Which Do You Pick?

  • JAPAN: Nami Takami 67%
  • URUGUAY: Extravagancia 33%

Total Voters: 54

Poll closes: 3 May 2014 @ 14:00

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You have until Saturday to vote – songs are below the cut!

Apr 14

CORNERSHOP – “Brimful Of Asha (Norman Cook Remix)”

Popular81 comments • 6,286 views

#785, 28th February 1998

asha In the mid 90s, if you were looking for alternatives to Britpop’s domination of the media you’d find fertile pickings – so fertile, in fact, that it turned into a whole line of attack. Take Britpop’s nostalgic, ironised relationship with the country’s pop past, and contrast it with trip-hop, or drum’n’bass, and their rapid innovation and pace of change. To make the argument even more enticing, Britpop stars were mostly white, while black and Asian British musicians played huge roles in the scenes held up against them. Nostalgic white past versus thrilling multi-cultural futurism: it was an almost irresistible frame.

But it was also too simplistic. One of the things the analysis left out – because Britpop left it out – was the heritage of immigrant communities within Britain – which ran back well beyond the cultural memory of Swinging London. Nostalgia could be a poison, but it could also lead to splendid, resonant music, so why impose conceptual limits on who gets to make that music? Black and Asian Britons had a 60s and a 70s here too. Fight the past with the future, by all means, but other pasts, and other nostalgias, were available, and could be just as vital. “Brimful Of Asha” proved it.

Apr 14

PWC14 Second Round: Netherlands v Croatia

Pop World Cup 20149 comments • 742 views

lov Our first all-European tie in the second round sees Job De Wit’s Netherlands side – who topped Group B with 5 points – take on intothefireuk’s Croatia team – who came out of Group A’s nail-biting climax also with 5 points.

R16 2: Netherlands v Croatia - Which Do You Pick?

  • CROATIA: Mayales 59%
  • NETHERLANDS: Child Of Lov 41%

Total Voters: 49

Poll closes: 1 May 2014 @ 13:00

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Hear the tracks below the cut, and pick your winner.

Apr 14

Game of Thrones S04E03: Breaker of Chains

FT + The Brown Wedge4 comments • 868 views

Oh, GoT. Much has been written about “that scene”. I was pre-warned, thanks to Tumblr and deftly avoided watching it altogether. It genuinely upset me, because otherwise this might have been one of the best episodes in the whole season. I’m left with more than just a bad taste in my mouth. Yet I keep watching.

Apr 14

CELINE DION – “My Heart Will Go On”

Popular74 comments • 5,428 views

#784, 21st February 1998

celine heart Virtually everything I said about Aqua’s success and Europop also applies to Celine Dion, except at gargantuan scale. Longing is as universal as dancing, after all, and on “My Heart Will Go On” Dion produces the most straight-line expression of yearning she can, a record whose emotional aim is unmistakeable whatever your language, national or musical heritage. It was huge everywhere, but in Europe especially its conquests would make Napoleon blush.

Apr 14

Refried Dough

Popular2 comments • 1,064 views

As you’ve probably noticed, the Popular archives are fairly extensive. I often think it would be nice to do something with them, so (among other slow-brewing schemes) I came up with this.

Mouldy Old Dough

It’s a Tumblr, though you don’t have to be on that site to follow it, and its purpose is to advertise Popular count down the entire Number Ones list of the 1970s, from worst to best. It might attract new readers from Tumblr, and for existing readers it’s a bit of double nostalgia, that has the added bonus of being extremely quick and not cluttering the site up.

How have I decided the order? I haven’t. YOU have, by voting in the year-end polls. So “best” means “got the highest proportion of ticks”. This means it’s very easy to work out what the #1 is, please don’t do so and mention it in the comments. It also means I disagree quite strongly with the order in some places, but there you go, and we’ll find that out as we go.

Popular itself will continue trying to hit its 3-times-a-week target, and if this works I’ll do the 80s, 60s, 90s etc in due course.

Apr 14

PWC14 Second Round: Cameroon v Chile

Pop World Cup 201417 comments • 1,233 views

amanitas Welcome to the knockout stages of the Pop World Cup. At this point, the rules are very simple indeed. Two tracks, vote for the one you like best. Here we have Chris’ Cameroon, who topped Group A with 7.5 points, against lartsaegis’ Chile side, runners-up in Group B with 5.

AQUA – “Doctor Jones”

Popular83 comments • 4,456 views

#783, 7th February 1998

doctorjones Delightful as “Doctor Jones” is, probably the most interesting thing about this record is that I’m covering it at all. “Barbie Girl” – smart as it was – was also obviously a novelty record: for Aqua to return not once but twice shows that Europop enjoyed more commercial clout in Britain than it had in years.

The classic form of Europop is the holiday smash, which sets some ground rules for the genre: it has to be catchy enough for anyone to recognise it on a minimum of encounters, and it should be essentially a-lingual – simple and nonsensical enough to make the idea of a language barrier a mockery. Pop that the polyglot audiences of Europe could embrace, when brought together in a sangria haze. With European Union – and the rise of pan-European cable channels – big cross-continental audiences weren’t just for holidays any more, and the 90s were a boom decade for Europop.

Apr 14

PWC14: Group H Finale (South Korea, Algeria, Belgium, Russia)

Pop World Cup 201413 comments • 972 views

k3 Welcome to the final group stage game in the Pop World Cup! I’m sorry it’s been so delayed – the result is that we’ll have a truncated voting time: you have UNTIL FRIDAY AFTERNOON to get your votes in on this. So let’s see how things stand.

South Korea (managed by Iain Mew) are in pole position with 5 points. Anything short of last place in this game and they’re through. Below them it’s something of a dogfight. Algeria (Katherine St Asaph) maintain a slender advantage with 3 points to Belgium (Glynn)’s 2.5. Russia (Chelovek Na Lune) have 1.5. Russia need to go for the win, but all these sides really need to beat the other two.

Songs, votes, and a bumper results report below the cut.