After the story, the appendix. Back in March, 550,000 people put a full stop on Popstars by making “Pure And Simple” number one. Around 1 in 7 of them showed up for the inevitable, pointless follow-up: “The Way To Your Love” makes it here by simple momentum. It exposes the problem with reality TV acts – the way the end of their story isn’t naturally a beginning of anything else.
Still, you might imagine that was enough interest for Hear’Say to eke out a career. But they were never more than the sum of their parts – recall how the viewing figures for Popstars plunged once the band was actually formed. And those parts – Kym and Myleene especially – were canny enough to realise they’d won themselves a future that would vanish again if they spend too much time flogging this nag.
Behind all that, a song. One which helps prove why the group had no future. The disjoint of five voices had been a potential selling point of “Pure And Simple”, at least – seeing how they might work together was a hook, of sorts. Here’s where it became obvious that the answer was “they don’t”. “The Way To Your Love” is built by producers Stargate along Backstreet Boys lines – individual voices rising together into a unity of yearning. As such, it’s serviceable, but it doesn’t fit a mixed-gender group and Hear’Say can’t give it the lift it needs. “We’ll be stronger together / Than we would be apart”, this record pleads. It’s a lie, and they know it.
“Greetings people of Earth. It is I, Servitor Vek of the Doomlords of Nox. My all too convincing alien visage has come among you to pass final judgement on your species. I expect to reach a guilty verdict. Perhaps the comics you have selected in the Freaky Trigger poll can persuade me that despite humanity’s many imperfections, you deserve to be spared cosmic annihilation… for another few weeks.”
Gosh, thanks Doomlord. This is the – slightly delayed – second section of this year’s comics poll, and also has the honour of being the section where I have read fewest of the titles voted for. Will that stop me making brief and ill-informed comments? No, it will not. (An asterisk means I haven’t read it AT ALL, though)
Patti Labelle was scandalised, so she said, to learn “Lady Marmalade” is about a hooker. But it’s also about a john – on paper, the payoff of the lyric is that last verse, where the guy goes back to his “grey flannel life” and can’t get Marmalade out of his head. Kenny Nolan and Bob Crewe were tapping into one of the world’s oldest folktales, likely without intention but that’s why folktales work: the man who spends a night of bliss in the otherworld with a magical temptress, returns to his world, and can never be the same.
That tale is rarely told from the temptress’ perspective. In the lyric, Marmalade of old New Orleans is there to be the Other – in race, in language, in location, in profession. But the song “Lady Marmalade” and its singer Patti Labelle fought against its lyric, took it back with a riff, a cry, a vocal hook that centres the song firmly on Marmalade, stops you caring what happens to the guy but still makes you feel what he was drawn to.
I wrote a thing for here about David Bowie and how I felt about him and what he meant to me, but then Pitchfork kindly decided they wanted to run it, so it’s below. (Original title: He Could Be Dead, He Could Be Not, He Could Be You). And to any other good pieces I see, or that you want to point me to, or memorial threads.
Meanwhile this feels like it deserves more than an RIP on a Popular entry, so by all means use this thread too to post, comment about Bowie, list your favourite songs, fit him into your history or pop’s history. Whatever, really.
David Bowie: RIP
Translation: “Good morning, everyone. I’m Rasher, the porcine companion of that young shaver Dennis, and I’m delighted to introduce the 2015 Freaky Trigger Comics Poll. In a year when pigs have had rather a rough ride in the news, it’s wonderful to be able to show that we are cultured animals with a deep appreciation of the ‘Ninth Art’. Some of the comics here may not meet my high aesthetic standards, but I think you’ll agree that the diversity of the list is a credit to its voters and our shared hobby. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have an appointment with some week-old cabbage.”
Thanks Rasher! We had more voters, and more nominated comics, than last year, with the happy result that I’ve actually had to leave off some titles to produce this Top 50. I’m still greedy enough to go up to 50, mind you. The Comics poll is unique in that the same titles can, in theory, win it again and again if they’re being published year on year. So it’s worth reminding you all that last year Image Comics’ The Wicked And The Divine pipped Marvel’s Ms Marvel to first place by one solitary point, with Loki: Agent Of Asgard in third. Will any or all of those show up this year? Wait and see!
I must glumly report that my relationship with contemporary music seems to be broken. Not because I dislike it. The distillate of year-end lists I’ve been playing this week is full of wonders. But the part of me that knew where and how to find those things for myself has vanished. My desire to gatekeep went years before. And often once I do find new music, it’s like parts of a jigsaw where I’ve lost the box and half the pieces. What consequences this will ultimately have for Popular are uncertain. Still, the hits keep coming and they don’t stop coming, and some of them are better than others. Here are the records that reached Number 1 in the second half of 2015, arranged in order, from best to worst.
“Angel” looks like a momentum hit – a song carried along in its predecessor’s slipstream. It’s the weakest Shaggy song we meet, with none of the chutzpah or fun you’d expect from him. But three weeks at the top here and a Billboard #1 suggest this more reflective, romantic Shaggy won an audience in its own right. “Angel”, after all, is kit-built for wide appeal. It has the bassline from Steve Miller’s “The Joker”, the melody line from a much-recorded country standard, and Shaggy’s gruff toasting deployed – as on “It Wasn’t Me” – in brief, newcomer-friendly, patois-free bursts.
“Jump, don’t ever stop”. One fascinating and melancholy thing lately has been watching dance music grow old. Not just as a genre, coming to terms with itself as something that has a history outside the annihilating 3AM now of the club. That work has proceeded as you might expect (lots of homages). But also as a public, a group of people who invested their youth in its sound and momentum, and now have boxes of records, decks in the shed and over-30s raves on a Saturday. Pride, and bittersweet fondness, no more or less than most of us take away from music.
This is about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. You should not read it if you plan to see the film, care about spoilers, and haven’t yet. I haven’t spelt out what happens but you’ll work it out.
As last year, we are running a COMICS POLL. This was an intimate occasion in 2014 with a small but magnificent body of voters, so if you want to vote in a poll where your opinion really will count* then face front, true believer, this is the poll for you!
The rules are the same as last year. Vote for UP TO 20 titles IN ORDER and send your vote to freakytrigger AT gmail DOT com. These can be ongoing monthlies, original graphic novels, one-shots, web comics, individual strips within anthologies, anthologies themselves, or really anything except that I’ll fold single-issue votes up into the overall title, and it should have come out in 2015! (OR have seen its first English edition come out in 2015)
I think it has been a smashing year for comics and – if you read them – I hope you think that too. I have a shitload of stuff I haven’t even got to yet, but I do also plan to write some kind of personal best of list and by all means use the COMMENTS to remind people of worthy titles as by god there are a lot of comics out there.
*as long as at least one of your choices is voted for by somebody else somewhere, blah blah.