Tom Ewing

7
Jul 14

Popular Crystal Ball: 2014 – The Story So Far

FT9 comments • 861 views

timburr SPOILERS AHEAD! A glimpse now into Popular’s gleaming but dystopian future, i.e. the first half of 2014′s number ones, ranked from best to worst based on how much I liked them when I played them just now. No marks, obviously, but consider this a hostage to future fortune. Assuming I get that far. But how could I not with so many bittersweet deep house tracks to write about?

1. DUKE DUMONT – “I Got U (Radio Edit)”: My favourite iteration of the year’s signature sound – wonderful poise in the vocal (#Justice4KelliLeigh!) and the backing is gorgeous. Why isn’t all pop like this right now OH WAIT HOLD ON

4
Jul 14

ROBBIE WILLIAMS – “Millennium”

Popular49 comments • 3,076 views

#801, 19th September 1998

millenn Expansive of theme, expensive of sample, “Millennium” is a self-conscious event single, carrying itself as if Number One was never in doubt. But while Robbie Williams was the biggest star in Britain, he’d fluffed getting to the top with several iconic songs. Robbie’s most famous track of all, career ignition ballad “Angels”, had missed by several places. He was taking no more chances. Sweeping into the charts wearing a borrowed John Barry tuxedo, “Millennium” is as brazen a Number One as I’ve ever covered, but as needy a one too.

3
Jul 14

PWC14 Third-Place Match: Chile v Iran

Pop World Cup 201410 comments • 299 views

alex daniel Welcome back, my friends, to the competition that is about to end. Rather behind schedule – not quite a month! – but when the football world cup has been this entertaining who can blame us? There are two matches to go. On Monday we’ll put up the POP WORLD CUP FINAL – England v Nigeria – which will then be set to end at the time the actual World Cup final kicks off (it’s almost as if we planned it). But before, this traditional appetiser, the third place match between our losing semi-finalists, lartsaegis’ Chile and Wichita Lineman’s Iran.

Both teams have given us some real highlights at this Pop World Cup. Chile got off to a slow (or maybe just long) start, gathering steam through the group stage before taking down the much-fancied Cameroon and Japan teams in the group stage. They’ve had a magnificent run, as have Iran, who have mostly stuck to an unusual and beguiling electro-tactic that neither the Swiss nor the Koreans could find a way past. In the end it was Foals who ended their winning run.

So now these sides take the pop stage one final time, and fight it out for third place. Iran have been here before, in 2006, Chile are new to this level. Tracks and poll below the cut – good luck both managers!

29
Jun 14

ALL SAINTS – “Bootie Call”

Popular20 comments • 1,627 views

#800, 12th September 1998

bootie All Saints’ pitch to be the classier girl group option rested on several things: their fashion sense, their songwriting, their metropolitan sophistication. But also their comfort with R&B – British cool, not for the first time, was being underwritten by familiarity with the music of black America. So “Bootie Call” is All Saints’ tilt at a straightforward, state-of-the-art, late 90s R&B single. It almost works.

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Jun 14

THE MANIC STREET PREACHERS – “If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next”

Popular119 comments • 4,673 views

#799, 5th September 1998

tolerate “You can interpret the lyrics,” huffed a Nazi goon caught nicking this song for the BNP’s website, “any way you want.” The specific double meaning of “if I can shoot rabbits, then I can shoot fascists” eludes me, but it’s true enough that the Manic Street Preachers’ lyricists had a taste for the oblique. Simple polemic was rarely their style: on their early records they favoured harsh, dense word-blocks, crushed by the transition to song into something barely singable, their uneasy imagery delivered by James Dean Bradfield as a compressed bark. But for all their rough treatment, the words mattered – for The Holy Bible the band took out double-page ads printing the record’s scorched, self-lacerating lyrics in full. They made records About Things, things number ones only occasionally break bread with: self-harm, depression, the decline of class consciousness. And here, apparently, the Spanish Civil War.

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Jun 14

Is It Is It Wicked?

The Brown Wedge3 comments • 574 views

wicdiv page

The Wicked And The Divine #1, by Freaky Trigger friends and favourites Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, is out this week. There’s going to be a bit of coverage of it here, partly because I interviewed Gillen and McKelvie about it last week for Pitchfork and the full transcript is long and interesting. But mostly because it’s a very good comic, which promises to use pop and pop stardom to tell a story about life and death.

I wanted to have time to write a proper review, but I want to have time for a lot of things, and I don’t always get it. So instead here are twelve excellent things about the Wicked And The Divine #1, arranged to give an illusion of coherence.

THE PREMISE: What first excited me about WicDiv (as the kids might be calling it) was the simple conceit. 12 gods are resurrected on earth every 90 years – this time it’s as pop stars. Fun, high concept. But look at what’s being claimed here: the Gods aren’t coming back to Earth as actors or, god help us, entrepreneurs. They’re pop stars – recognisable modern stars as well as archetypal ones. So the comic makes an argument that pop IS vital in 2014, that pop stars CAN be as vibrant and life-changing as they ever were. As a pop fan, that thrills me.

All the other eleven things include SPOILERS – don’t read the rest of this piece before you’ve read the comic!

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Jun 14

BOYZONE – “No Matter What”

FT + Popular48 comments • 2,712 views

#798, 15th August 1998

nmw “No Matter What” has an elevated position in Boyzone’s catalogue. It’s their big crossover hit, the one by songwriters of real mass-appeal pedigree – Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jim Steinman – and the only one to have done well in the USA. You might see it as Boyzone asking to be taken seriously, except it fits so well with the stately, windy ballads they were already making: this isn’t a stylistic change so much as a levelling up in songwriting competence. There’s an efficiency to the hook and a solidity to the structure here which you’d expect from two men made swinishly wealthy by their ability to pull out a show-stopping ballad.

10
Jun 14

PWC14 Semi-Final: England v Iran

Pop World Cup 201416 comments • 687 views

foalz هشت سال از صدمه هرگز من خواب – for those of you not fluent in Farsi that is (er, according to Google Translate) “Eight years of hurt never stopped me dreaming”. Yes, Iran – managed by Wichita Lineman – are back in the semi-finals of the Pop World Cup after their 2006 defeat at this stage, but standing in their way is England, managed by Ronald, at this stage for the first time in the PWC era. And whoever wins will have to take on defending champions Nigeria, aiming to make it two in a row after very narrowly beating Chile – who will fight the loser here for third.

SF2: England v Iran - Which track do you pick?

  • ENGLAND: Foals 56%
  • IRAN: Persian Empire ft Rai 44%

Total Voters: 89

Poll closes: 16 Jun 2014 @ 13:00

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We’ll run this game until Monday – songs under the cut and our final farewell to South Korea.

4
Jun 14

PWC14 Semi-Final: Chile v Nigeria

Pop World Cup 201417 comments • 442 views

kalimutsa Four more games to go in this Pop World Cup, and our first semi-final sees lartsaegis’ Chile face off against Cis’ Nigeria. Nigeria got here with a win over Ghana, and as defending champions will be used to the pressure at this level. Chile, meanwhile, enjoyed a narrow victory over Japan and will hope to be peaking at the right time for another giant-killing.

SF1: Chile v Nigeria - Which track do you pick?

  • NIGERIA: Starboy ft LAX & Wizkid 55%
  • CHILE: Kali Mutsa 45%

Total Voters: 49

Poll closes: 9 Jun 2014 @ 21:00

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The match is up until Monday – songs are below the cut, along with a tribute to quarter-finalists Croatia.

3
Jun 14

SPICE GIRLS – “Viva Forever”

Popular47 comments • 2,811 views

#797, 1st August 1998

spiceviva A single overtaken by events, “Viva Forever” found its modest theme – the embers of holiday romance – completely sidelined when it turned out to be the Final Spice Girls Single, meaning the last single by the founding quintet. Suddenly the pressure of attention warped just another enjoyable Spice ballad into a grand valedictory statement. “Viva Forever” still just about bears that weight, though “fleeting, doomed and bittersweet” wasn’t quite the emotional note the band would have picked for a send-off. And sure enough the remaining four members decided to take a second shot at mythologising the Geri Era (and the band), which we’ll get to in time, and means I can take this track at face value.