Tom Ewing

3
Jan 19

Popular Crystal Ball: 2018 – Gotta Get Down On Friday

New York London Paris Munich7 comments • 467 views

By annual tradition, my rankings – best to worst – of the year’s UK number one hits, with initial thoughts – very initial, I’d heard only one of these before last week and it wasn’t Ariana. Again, I didn’t adore any of these tracks, and perhaps quite liking is the best I can hope for. Pop has been good to me, after all,

I feel like this year acts have learned the ins and outs of the streaming game – none more than Drake – and turnover has settled down. The dominance of Spotify – and its editorial clout – still seems like a problem, and more fundamentally there’s no sense that the charts have any kind of niche in cultural life any more. But in terms of accurately reflecting what a lot of people are listening to… yes, here they are.

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1
Jan 19

Twenty Eighteen, A List (i)

Blog 7 + FTPost a comment • 218 views

This list was inspired by Brad Nelson in another place, and their excellent idea of just smushing together the things which stood out in 2018 regardless of media or format or whatever else. In practice the list is distressingly limited in scope. It’s been a weird year, a year when time got away from me – a combination of sudden leaps forward in my work life and huge challenges as a parent and a human being. My will to express myself atrophied. Of course I have regrets about that. But culture can be a comfort as well as a challenge, and that’s what I needed last year.

But last year is over. I’m starting up my album-a-day project again, to be mainly documented on a new Tinyletter I’m setting up, which will have brief notes on those and on other things I bump into. You can subscribe to that at https://tinyletter.com/tomewing if you like.

Here are some bits of flotsam from 2018, in the order they occurred to me.

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29
Dec 18

ATOMIC KITTEN – “The Tide Is High (Get The Feeling)”

Popular31 comments • 3,152 views

#935, 7th September 2002

Sometimes when this project stalls it’s because there’s a song too tricky or terrible to write about. You might think that’s the case here: it’s not. “The Tide Is High (Got The Feeling)” is indeed terrible, but its wretchedness is banal, readily apparent. There’s nothing here to get your head around: it’s a bad cover version, in an era of bad cover versions, performed mechanically by a band whose character was deliberately bleached out of them when success hit. There’s no long term plan, no devilishly clever marketing scheme – in fact the marketing is as transparent as the rest of the record.

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6
Sep 18

BLAZIN’ SQUAD – “Crossroads”

Popular32 comments • 2,876 views

#934, 31st August 2002

If Blazin’ Squad had never existed, would it have been necessary to invent them? You suspect record labels would have given it a so-solid try: a hydra-headed rapping crew, but full of youthful good looks and free of nasty predelictions? Too good to resist, at least in this weird, early-00s phase where it’s equally clear that the public want to buy rap records (maybe even British ones!) and the labels don’t have much idea what will or won’t cross over.

In fact, before I did my research, I assumed Blazin’ Squad were ‘manufactured’. Now I’d prefer to call it ‘sculpted’ – from the marble of an eager bunch of North London schoolfriends somebody carved this hit cover. Why “Crossroads”, though? A proven earworm; a familiar chorus and a structure with plenty of space for voices to gather and mingle.

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19
Aug 18

Incoming Content!

FTPost a comment • 102 views

Hello everyone!

This is just to say that the Pop World Cup and Popular will be back in September*. Thanks for waiting and huge apologies for disappearing – family health and work issues have taken their toll (again).

*very possibly before! But I’m not going to promise anything earlier.

13
Jul 18

Pop World Cup 2018 – Group C Match 1

FT + New York London Paris Munich/8 comments • 579 views

What if a World Cup lasted ALL YEAR? That’s the experiment we appear to be running with this year’s PWC, and a grand experiment it is too. Here we are with the fourth match, group C, which even features a team that is STILL IN the football tournament. France are one of the great exponents of the modern pop game, but Denmark have form too, and Peru and Australia are tantalising prospects. Listen to all four tracks below the cut, and vote for your favourite two.

Pop World Cup 2018 Group C Match 1: Pick TWO tracks

  • AUSTRALIA: Ngaiire 74%
  • DENMARK: Soleima 47%
  • PERU: Animal Chuki 37%
  • FRANCE: Keep Dancing Inc. 32%

Total Voters: 38

Poll closes: 19 Jul 2018 @ 12:04

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FRANCE (Manager: Sam Walton): Keep Dancing Inc. – “Life Goes On”

“Paris’ Keep Dancing Inc lead their country out for their first match with the kind of classically French, vintage but super-technical short-passing build-up play that will mesmerise fans, opposition and neutrals. Drawing from the proud traditions of French pop’s recent past, Life Goes On blends just the right levels of sleepiness, wobble and melancholy, with two deep-lying forwards in the form of shimmering guitar chords and rich arpeggiated synths supporting a central striker vocal full of youth, confidence and (of course) insouciance. It may appear to be an unassuming start, but like the great France performances of previous international tournaments, Life Goes On just keeps building, self-assured in its own class and irresistibility. Peruvian, Aussie and Danish defences should be very wary indeed, Clive.”

PERU: (Manager: Garry McK): Animal Chuki – “La Venenosa”)

“Peru’s squad contains mastery of the full range of international tactics, but we’ve decided to open our tournament in a very modern Peruvian style. Animal Chuki were forged in Lima’s digital cumbia/tropical bass scene with strength at the back, relentlessness in middle and a skittish front line. We’re hope to harry our opposition all the way.”

AUSTRALIA: (Manager: James Errington): Ngaiire – “Diggin'”

“Far away from the oversaturated scenes of American and Eurasian pop football, Australia have spent the last four years quietly honing a team of gifted, polished players. Wisely, they’ve adopted the tactics of the All-Blacks and started looking to the wider area for talent. Ngaiire was born in Papua New Guinea, but moved to Australia as a child. Her music has been labelled “future soul” – but the futuristic elements are kept low key, tightly wound percussion and nervous synth stabs, while the soul is bared, often painfully so. Diggin’ is “a song about being found before you find yourself in a permanent state of no return.” and in a just world it would have been her worldwide breakthrough. Maybe it can be now.”

DENMARK: (Manager: Jack B): Soleima ft Hoodboi – “Breathe”

“‘Breathe’ is a slick, slyly addictive pop song, and Soleima’s understated, slightly wry delivery is perfect for it. ‘I wanna daydream with you, just so we can breathe’ goes the chorus, which as far as I can tell means what the Danish apparently call ikke noget, but is just lazy enough (in a good way) to fit the atmosphere of the song very nicely. It’s cold enough to sound cool, but warm enough to sound summery, and (more importantly) to sound good on a taxi radio at night, the best possible place to listen to this type of song. Even if this isn’t your cup of £6 Carlsberg now, I suspect that this is exactly the kind of sound that in a few years will make you feel oddly nostalgic for the mid to late 2010s, even if you’re not quite sure why. This is my Denmark team’s Claude Makelele figure, doing more than you think.”

RESULTS: Over in Group F, South Korea make a confident start to the tournament – not their most dominant performance but it’s still 3 points in the bag. Behind them in the Group of Death, Sweden slip up and lose second place to a stylish Mexico side. Germany’s tactics have been found out and they may be heading for the same ignominous exit their footballing counterparts suffered unless they can rally in the second game.

4
Jul 18

Pop World Cup 2018 Group F Match 1

New York London Paris Munich/15 comments • 554 views

An intriguing group for this third Pop World Cup match, with two of the sleeping giants of pop football – Sweden and South Korea – lined up against the always capable Germany and dark horses Mexico. Group of death? In a sense, they are all groups of death when YOU have the casting vote. Pick your favourite two tracks and may the best manager win!

Pop World Cup 2018 Group F Match 1: Pick TWO tracks

  • SOUTH KOREA: Taeyeon 64%
  • MEXICO: Clorofila 55%
  • SWEDEN: Those Dancing Days 52%
  • GERMANY: Wolkenfrei 17%

Total Voters: 42

Poll closes: 10 Jul 2018 @ 18:15

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25
Jun 18

Pop World Cup 2018 Group E Match 1

New York London Paris Munich/13 comments • 589 views

No, you’ve not missed any matches. We’re putting this year’s games up as we get the entries in, and so it’s a big thankyou to the prompt Group E gaffers of Serbia, Brazil, Switzerland and Morocco. It’s a group of veteran pop managers in the dugout this match, but only two can progress beyond the group stage, and you decide who those two are. Hear the tracks below the cut, and vote in the poll:

Pop World Cup 2018 Group E Match 1: Pick TWO tracks

  • BRAZIL: Karol Conka ft Tropkillaz 76%
  • SWITZERLAND: Steffe La Cheffe 51%
  • COSTA RICA: Triddi 49%
  • SERBIA: Rasta 9%

Total Voters: 45

Poll closes: 1 Jul 2018 @ 12:19

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17
Jun 18

Pop World Cup 2018: Group A Match 1

New York London Paris Munich/17 comments • 978 views

It’s here! The opening game of the Pop World Cup finds the four teams of Group A raising the curtain on the tournament. Pop football veterans Russia and Uruguay meet two Arab states – Egypt and Saudi Arabia – with less of a record at this level. Who will prevail? You decide. Spotify playlist and YouTube links below the cut with the team talks – go listen and vote for your favourite TWO tracks.

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14
Jun 18

Pop World Cup 2018 – Tournament Eve Update

New York London Paris Munich/5 comments • 306 views

This year’s POP WORLD CUP is almost here! I appreciate the Pop Football governing bodies have been quiet about the tournament since the initial announcement, but behind the scenes, we’ve been busy constructing stadiums finalising squad details. Well, almost. We have a shock eve-of-tournament vacancy for one of the favourites, SOUTH KOREA. So if you know your K-Pop (like, at all) and want to step into the hot seat, please let me know.

Otherwise, expect the first match at the weekend, and a fairly brisk clip of games across the summer. (The PWC takes a bit longer than that other World Cup). The managers are sending in their first tracks and the referees are counting their bribes. Because of the truncated time frame, the group games won’t follow the same order as the football tournament. If you ARE a manager, and didn’t get my emails this week, please shout! I might not have your current address.

If you’re following along as a spectator, we’ll have YouTube and Spotify links wherever possible and a playlist of available tracks. It’ll be a simple format so please do join in, listen and vote.