Be Here Now was a triumph that turned, with rapid hindsight, into a crisis. By “Go Let It Out”, the lead single from its follow-up, the crisis had become material. Two members and a record label down, Noel Gallagher was forced to re-record much of the music on Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants by himself. Meanwhile, the world had changed. For all the big talk – the band whose only peers were the classics – Oasis had hit their peak very much as part of a movement, coming up alongside Britpop and then becoming big enough to carry a revivalist rock wave with them. Now that lairy peloton had fallen away, and Oasis found themselves just another part of a broad and comfortable pop establishment: ensconced on Sony and with Mark “Spike” Stent producing. Stent, who had won his rep working for the KLF on their Stadium House 12”s, had become the safest imaginable pair of hands – he mixed everyone from the Spice Girls to Massive Attack, and his approach seemed to be running highlighter over things that made a band themselves, making sure the British pop ecosystem sounded diverse. So where did Oasis fit in?
It’s not only teenagers who can take pop as a model for their circumstances. At the time “Rise” was in the charts I had a friend who related to it very strongly – slowly getting over a passionate, disastrous long-term relationship. For her, the song was a precious co-ordinate in mapless territory. Privately, I disliked it: its frankness, its straightforwardness, its patience in picking over and cataloguing the bones of a feeling. It felt too grown-up, because I was none too grown-up.
There’s a lottery aspect to number ones: some acts routinely end up here with second-rate hits, others hardly appear at all. Britney Spears is a rarity: an artist whose less interesting singles are the ones that miss out – since “Baby One More Time” we’ve had the winsome shy-girl ballad “Sometimes” and “Crazy”, a less demure Cheiron stomper which – even three singles in – isn’t showing us anything new. “Born To Make You Happy” is showing us something new, though. The question is whether it’s something you want to see.
There might have been hints of it in “…Baby One More Time”, but the hunger and confidence of her debut turned them into red herrings. “Born To Make You Happy” is almost as striking a performance, but it’s also the first of Britney’s singles where she sounds abject, where romance is imagined as something dangerous, self-negating, even poisoned. This is an idea her songs keep coming back to – and the ones that dwell on it most are often her most famous. The Britney Spears discography is few people’s idea of a healthy relationship manual, and “Born” delivers the desperate self-denial its title promises. An argument against becomes easy to make: if Britney is any kind of role model, then this is a perilous way for her to operate. Is she, though?
Hello, it’s us again. Welcome to Popular. Welcome to 21st century pop music, now fifteen years old and dreadfully teenager-ish in its surly refusal to admit to any pigeonhole you might want to place it in. Putting the pop culture of this century’s first decade into a historical context is an unsatisfying job: it’s wriggly and shapeless. Some would gloomily have it that pop descended into an ahistorical inertia in the 00s, cycling through a tatty parade of old signifiers. Others would point to this tribe or that as keeping its vital spirit alive. From either perspective, trying to grab onto this century’s music through its number one records seems a strange proposition.
Maybe Gladstone can help. His famous placing of bets is no kind of socialist endorsement: he was appealing to his notion of a spirit in “the masses” that transcends factional (class) interest – the surges of support for a noble cause that led, in his eyes, to many of Victorian politics’ grand reforming moments, and overturned any partisan support of particular classes for the status quo. By focusing critically on only the best-selling record of any given moment, I’ve tried to place myself to pick up on as many of pop’s broad-based swells of sentiment as I can. There’s a nagging feeling that those kind of hits – the ones that stick around and define a summer, a winter, or a year – are more genuine and worthy of note than the mayfly one-week wonders that might surround them. But this is misguided. The pop charts have always also been about the classes – a mess of overlapping factions and specialisms that sometimes, somehow, get their message through. And the format of Popular also forces me to pay attention to this jabber of enthusiasms that a smoother history might overrule.
So number ones are a volatile balance of the masses and the classes, and that’s why I like to write about them. Still, though, 2000 is a shit of a year for doing it.
Before I start writing about Number Ones again, a quick bit of stattery around the current state of the charts. This is an extremely wonkish post, so reader beware.
The official Top 100 Streaming chart was launched 30 weeks ago. Let’s see what’s up with it.
Of the 100 songs in the streaming chart.
44 have been in it for 30 weeks (i.e. since the first ever chart)
38 have been in it between 10 and 29 weeks.
18 have been in it for fewer than 9 weeks.
Compare this to the official chart – which incorporates the streaming chart, of course.
33 in it for 30+ weeks
36 in it between 10 and 29 weeks.
31 in it for fewer than 9 weeks.
In what is not remotely an attempt to fill in space before Popular comes back at the weekend, we present an important POLL concerning the word “American” as used in film titles. Obviously this is topical, thanks to the Oscar nominations received by AMERICAN SNIPPER, the gentle Clint Eastwood comedy about a guy helping out the people of war-torn Iraq by opening up a barbers shop (pictured). But there have been a lot of other films using this naming convention and now is your chance to determine which of them are GOOD. (You can pick five). Pete is promising a thinkpiece on this very topic so fill the comments boxes and he can nick your ideas. Also you can name the ones we forgot. And argue the merits of “American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt” and “American Ninja 4: The Annihilation”, for that matter.
We promised we wouldn’t write about the Freaky Trigger #1 comic of 2014 any more, but luckily a MUCH MORE AUTHENTIC AND REAL comic has come along for us to write about instead, thanks to this interview falling through a dimensional gateway from the evil alternate world of Earth-3. Caution – contains implied spoilers for The Wicked And The Divine #5-#7.
Few comics in recent years have attracted quite as much attention and praise as THE SOULFUL AND THE ARCANE, the groundbreaking Gods as classic rock fantasy by writer Kieran Giggin and artist Jimmy McLP. Only seven issues in, it’s already built up a strong following and – like its protagonists – looks set for an immovable place in the canon.
We caught up with Giggin and McLP after the Q Awards, to talk about THE SOULFUL AND THE ARCANE: the series so far, the gods, and how it’s been received.
Breaker breaker, Trigger Digger buddies! You got the Big A, Ace Garp, the tucker trucker so tumshy they had to croak him twice, comin’ in atcha with the top ten of the Freaky Trigger comics poll, no bluberoni! You voked your votes and now you can eyeball the results, so crack your eggs and let’s bang in them goomballs and hammer down with the best comics of 2014! Ten-ten, good buddies!
Nice to have you with us, Ace, give our regards to Feek the Freak. And as you probably gathered, it’s the comics poll Top Ten.
Back in July I had a quick listen and rate of the first half of 2014′s number ones. Here’s the sequel, picking up where that left off. As before, this is based on very few listens, and you can confidently expect my opinions and order to change should I ever get as far as this in Popular. Off we go.
“Wotcher, HUMES! Sewer robot RO-JAWS here, taking time out from cleaning THARG’S CLUDGEY to bring you the second part of the 2014 Freaky Trigger comics poll. And MANKEY MOSES, it’s taken some bringing! Those nurks at Freaky Trigger have tried to cram FIFTEEN of 2014′s best comics into ONE post. Like HAMMER-STEIN says when stepping out of the ROBO-LAV after a hard night on the oil — GIVE IT SPACE TO BREATHE! They’re round the bend – THE U-BEND! The last time I saw anything this full, I was -”
That’s, ah, all we have time for from Ro-Jaws, but he’s right – we’re into the list proper of the 2014 poll, your Top 25 comics of the year. And here they are –