Popular

1
Feb 15

MANIC STREET PREACHERS – “The Masses Against The Classes”

Popular11 comments • 332 views

#845, 22nd January 2000

masses classes “All over the world I will back the masses against the classes” – William Ewart Gladstone.

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.

2
Jan 15

Popular: The 90s

Popular15 comments • 1,035 views

This is another one of our decade polls, where we ask: which year was best for pop? Pick one only! Using the Popular vault of scores as a guide, I’ve selected a few songs to act as a reminder BUT – you should make your judgement on whatever criteria you see fit, not only the number ones.

Which year of the 1990s was best for pop?

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And don’t forget our 1999 poll, which I put up yesterday.

1
Jan 15

Popular ’99

Popular34 comments • 1,127 views

I give a mark out of 10 to every Popular entry. In these year end polls, you get to tick any of the singles that you would have given 6 or more to.

With the most #1s yet, 1999 saw me give my highest scores (9s) to Britney and Fatboy Slim, and a brace of 1s to Baz Luhrmann and (less controversially) Sir Cliff. Over to you, and use the comment boxes to talk about the year in general. Tomorrow I’ll put up a decade poll too.

Which Of The Number Ones Of 1999 Would You Give 6 Or More To?

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Poll closes: No Expiry

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31
Dec 14

WESTLIFE – “I Have A Dream”/”Seasons In The Sun”

Popular39 comments • 1,759 views

#844, 25th December 1999

westlife dream In that other great Irish exploration of the experience of death, Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman, the protagonist endures an afterlife built on the principle of recursion. Having murdered a man to fund a quixotic and obscure self-published project – I can only sympathise – he finds himself subject to a string of comical and terrifying events which, the novel implies, he will repeat in minor variation for eternity.

28
Dec 14

CLIFF RICHARD – “The Millennium Prayer”

Popular52 comments • 2,449 views

#843, 4th December 1999

cliffprayer How do you mark a millennium? British pop culture has its rituals to accompany a change of the date: fireworks, lists, and Jools Holland feature prominently. They’re geared for a shift in year. They can be scaled up, just about, to a decade. But a century? A millennium? We were, with hindsight, hopelessly and inevitably unequal to the event, however arbitrary it was. Schedulers flailed, putting together “best of the millennium” shows in which – and how could it have been otherwise? – 900 years went begging. In a milieu where “of all time” means a lifetime at best, a millennium is a preposterous span. Imagining people could think about it seriously was always folly. But in the gap between people’s sense of what the occasion ought to merit, and what was actually on offer, strange things could thrive. This is one of them.

23
Dec 14

WAMDUE PROJECT – “King Of My Castle”

Popular40 comments • 1,903 views

#842, 27th November 1999

wamdue A question that haunts a project like Popular is how you review things that have a very specific context – no, more than a context, a specific use – when you have never put them to that use. We’re now shifting out of the time when I was going, even occasionally, to clubs that played mainstream dance music, and a record like “King Of My Castle” is plainly built for those clubs. Not just in an “it’s good to dance to” sense. While the Wamdue Project obviously bring a hook or two, this is still one of the track-iest of number ones, built from the crunchy house beat out.

22
Dec 14

ROBBIE WILLIAMS – “She’s The One” / “It’s Only Us”

Popular28 comments • 1,422 views

#841, 20th November 1999

robbieshes And so the 90s drain away, with a plughole gurgle of third and fourth singles from hit albums, marking time before the Christmas and Millennium big guns are fired. “She’s The One” is the first in a minor subgenre of hit, Robbie Williams Ballads That Want To Be Angels. The success of “Angels” established one mould for Robbie, something he might be uniquely good for, and naturally he tried to hit that target again a few times. Just as he’d begun by jumping tracks between boyband high life and post-Britpop lairiness, so “Angels” stood as a chimeric blend of 90s ballads, an arms-on-shoulders lads night out belter crossed with heartthrob devotion, “Wonderwall” with just enough Westlife spliced into its DNA.

15
Dec 14

GERI HALLIWELL – “Lift Me Up”

Popular24 comments • 1,733 views

#840, 13th November 1999

gerilift Geri Halliwell may have broken away from her former band, but she knew a good release schedule when she saw one: the singles from Schizophonic form a rough parallel to the singles from Spice. The in-your-face pop manifesto; the upbeat follow-up; a smoocher as the nights draw in, and then a bit of disco. But just because she could retrace her steps didn’t mean she should – that master plan held one obvious flaw. When the Spice Girls did their big ballads, Geri was kept firmly away from the vocal limelight. On “Lift Me Up”, she gets a slowie all to herself. It doesn’t go well.

14
Dec 14

FIVE – “Keep On Movin’”

Popular28 comments • 1,459 views

#839, 6th November 1999

FiveMovin Between the smothering devotion of the Irish boyband model, and the slick looks and top-dollar sounds of the American one, a glut of likely British lads struggled for an angle. In general, the Take That vs East 17 rulebook still applied. Groups continued to split between street-smart loverboys (Another Level, Damage, Blue) and wholesome but cheeky (Let Loose, 911, A1). More often than not, bands rose and ebbed with hardly an idea to their name.

8
Dec 14

WESTLIFE – “Flying Without Wings”

Popular27 comments • 1,664 views

#838, 30th October 1999

westlife wings If the abundance of Westlife could be narrowed down to a mere one signature hit, “Flying Without Wings” is it. Written by British ballad king Wayne Hector, it’s the one original song of theirs to become a reality pop staple and be picked up by other singers. It’s audibly more effortful than either “Swear It Again” or “If I Let You Go”, and it pushes Shane and Mark – who, yet again, do most of the vocal work – a lot harder than before. Mark especially takes this as an opportunity to go the Full melismatic Monty, turning his lines into chest-thumping note-drenched cascades of passion. (Their raw gospel power slightly undermined by his pronouncing “morning” like Officer Crabtree off Allo Allo).