Posts from 2019

20
Sep 19

DANIEL BEDINGFIELD – “If You’re Not The One”

Popular6 comments • 226 views

#943, 7th December 2002

There’s a trope – more apocryphal than actually seen, these days – of the serious songwriter who dismisses the crap in the charts as mere formula and hints that, were they so minded, they could churn out a hit to order too. Fortunately they have better things to do than write music they think is awful.

Not all songwriters are so selfless. Daniel Bedingfield, for instance, shut himself away with some Westlife records, figuring the path to success lay in making music he detested. Having found that making music he liked worked just as well, it’s a shame he didn’t drop the idea. Still, he was right – his calculated attempt at a pop ballad really did sell.

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15
Sep 19

In These Old Familiar Rooms (THE EAGLES – “Hotel California”)

New York London Paris Munich2 comments • 316 views

(Reached #8 in May 1977)

A byword for monolithic biggitude in their homeland, The Eagles never came close to a Number One in Britain. They did a solid trade in LPs, but they’re one of those groups who kept finding a ready British audience for “Greatest Hits” albums which – technically – are nothing of the sort. Their size and fame was more rumour and maybe wish, men buying CDs in service stations and dreaming of a denim-draped land far away where soft rock ruled the desert night.

Like most big album acts, The Eagles did have a signature song, and like many signature songs, it was long and ponderous and vaguely allusive, a rebuke to the idea that pop worked best as sharp jabs of feeling. I admit it, there’s a base appeal for me in the idea of the Prestige Rock epic as a grand statement, one I’ve protested too much against sometimes. It took years – decades! – for me to admit that while “Stairway To Heaven” is stupid in a dozen different ways, none of them actually stop it being great. “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” is distended and lumbering, mercury mourned by lead, but maybe more poignant because of that. Could you say something similar about “Hotel California”?

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8
Sep 19

3 and 9 could show you any fantasy

FT + Hidden Landscapes4 comments • 169 views

[This post originally went up at my PATREON: subscribers get to read posts and hear podcasts early — and help offset costs and time and help me do more of this kind of thing. Please share widely and encourage participation in the comments!]

Sometimes I wonder if it all ended on 2 November 1982, the night Channel 4 began. Silver Screen, the NME film and TV section, was edited by Monty Smith then – and almost everything about C4 in its first instance seemed perfectly pre-designed to suit the Silver Screen worldview. Except of course Silver Screen’s internal logic and tone demanded a response at once slantwise and happily disrespectful. This tone was largely set by ‘On the Box’, a what-to-watch-out-for summary of coming TV schedules, which was a tiny ruled-off square of page adjusted weekly to fit available space, full of two-sentence film squibs written at speed, a dozen at most, more likely half that. As a workaround for extreme space limitation, it had begun to evolve into a kind of script, a long-running skit full of intra-office chitchat about specific personal tastes (who liked Herzog, who preferred Hitchcock), its sense of humour derived from deep expertise lightly worn. It was reacting, as often as not, against assumptions made and attitudes struck in other film publications, with authority treated more as a pratfall than a value – and its tone, smart and playful, judgmental and unfooled, helped entice you the reader into discovering more. You sensed that if you paid attention week-on-week, you got a lot more joy from it, and knowledge too [Footnote 1].

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7
Sep 19

CHRISTINA AGUILERA ft REDMAN – “Dirrty”

Popular13 comments • 1,368 views

#942, 23rd November 2002

Christina Aguilera’s album title, Stripped, has an obvious double-meaning, one she’s been keen to point out to interviewers. Stripping off, yes, clearly, but also stripping back, removing the layers of industry wrapping to reveal the individual underneath. Raw or in the raw, she’s saying, this is the real thing. Or at least, realer than the last one.

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31
Aug 19

WESTLIFE – “Unbreakable”

Popular15 comments • 1,021 views

#941, 16th November 2002

They’re perhaps not intended to be, but Greatest Hits albums are often a sign of a band’s waning vitality, a signal to the fans that the group are moving to an autumnal phase, inviting listeners to tread their way through former hits like fallen leaves. The odd new track can’t truly hide the marks of age. “Unbreakable” is not an odd new track, in fact it’s relentlessly plain, an acoustic-led plod through the Westlife formula which does the things you’d expect in the places you’re expecting them. It’s unmistakable, indeed.

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28
Aug 19

they laugh a lot (behind the clean door)

Hidden Landscapes1 comment • 220 views

[This post originally went up at my PATREON: subscribers get to read posts and hear podcasts early — and help offset costs and time and help me do more of this kind of thing. Please share widely and encourage participation in the comments!]

Reviewing “Clean –– One woman’s story of addiction, recovery and the removal of stubborn stains”, by Michele Kirsch (Short Books, ISBN 978-78072-381-5)

Several years back I was grousing to a pal about a new book by a clever and successful mutual acquaintance, a history that encroaches on territory I had one day hoped to stake out (but of course I have done nothing about this, since my pop timing is always terrible). My gripe is this: music writers endlessly re-interview the wrong people — or more precisely, never enough of the right people. Revisit the original moves and shakers and they mainly double down on what went over well the first the time, especially conceptually. Which is the way a moment of open possibility get congealed back into cliché. “If you want to know what a radical scene’s actually about,” I airily declared to my chum, “you should talk to the club’s hat-check girl.”

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23
Aug 19

DJ SAMMY & YANOU ft DO – “Heaven”

Popular18 comments • 1,402 views

#940, 9th November 2002

Before writing this entry I scoured the Internet to see if DJ Sammy had ever said or done anything interesting. I drew a blank. He’s the model of a jobbing Euro-DJ, lucky enough to get one big break in his 30-year career and canny enough to ride it. In the most recent interview I could find, an Australian journalist asks him if he’s bringing any new material to tour Down Under? Yes, he replies, a new remix of “Heaven”.

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18
Aug 19

Omargeddon #10: Despair

FTPost a comment • 67 views

2009 was a prolific year for Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, with a total of six albums released. Cryptomnesia and Xenophanes are comprised of material that was originally intended for the Mars Volta but took a left turn at Albuquerque. Solar Gambling features the magnificent Ximena Sariñana on vocals, as do three of the five songs on the live album Los Sueños de un Hígado. Megaritual is a glorious exercise in trippy jamming, recorded in Amsterdam with longtime Volta member/even longer time brother Marcel.

And then there’s Despair.

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17
Aug 19

NELLY ft KELLY ROWLAND – “Dilemma”

Popular26 comments • 2,366 views

#939, 26th October 2002

Nelly spent some of the year before his second LP dropped in a beef with the perennially grumpy KRS-One. The feud was not a dignified one. KRS-One called out pop-rap in general, Nelly took it personally, spent a summer trying to goad KRS into a response, finally succeeded (“You the first old man to get a rappers pension / No hits since the cordless mic invention”) and was rewarded by KRS-One calling for a ‘boycott’ of Nellyville.

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8
Aug 19

Great News For All Our Readers!

Popular17 comments • 1,024 views

Hello Popular readers!

After sixteen years, and suffering from (as you’ll have noticed) a much slower posting rate, I’ve come to a decision.

I’m going to crowdfund this project, using Patreon. HERE’S THE LINK. This coincides with me leaving my day job and going solo, which opens up a lot of spare time. But billable time being money in the freelance world, I want to be able to devote time to Popular, and Patreon is a way to do that. It’s not a perfect platfornm – what is? – but I’ve been able to set up tiers and goals which I think might appeal to people who like my work.

Very importantly, if you decide not to contribute, nothing will change – Popular will still appear here, on Freaky Trigger, and hopefully a lot more regularly than it has done recently.

UPDATE: We’ve already reached the point at which I am happy to guarantee 4 entries a month – I am enormously grateful and delighted by how quickly this has happened and how much support this funding initiative has had. Thanks, you lovely lot.

If you DO become a patron, you’ll get early access to main entries, very early access to certain other entries, and exclusive access to some other exciting things. THAT LINK AGAIN.

Whether you join up or not, it’ll mean more Popular, sooner, and I hope you agree that’s something to celebrate!

And finally, other fantastic FT contributors have Patreons of their own which also deserve your support! Mark S is creating podcasts and articles around the topic of his excellent book, A Hidden Landscape Once A Week and Hazel is crowdfunding her motorsport journalism by dishing the (some) dirt on a Patreon.