Britpop Is Back! That’s the premise of this Sunday’s Observer Music Monthly cover story – but here’s the twist: Britpop now means Busted and Sugababes, who are posed like synchronised swimmers on a monster Union Jack. The story’s by NME pop advocate Peter Robinson, who unless memory fails me also set up Popjustice, so it ought to be good. In fact I’m quite excited by it, an excitement only tempered slightly by the fact that I was planning an article along similar lines and am probably going to spike it. For one thing it’ll really piss off some fans of Britpop Mk I.
Anyway I expect I’ll agree with the piece – UK pop feels on a creative high at the moment, even discounting the underground (and the excitement around grime etc. will mean Good News for mainstream pop soon enough anyway – the industry’s too small and hectic for good sonic ideas to go unexploited for long). I think one reason is that there’s a big market for songwriters at the moment: a glut of new boy and girl bands, solo careers for previous pop band members, plus careers to be forged for the winners and runners-up from three or four separate Reality TV shows. The competition to get the best new songs must be fairly intense, particularly as weak singles do get punished in the charts (whither One True Voice?). The side effect of celebrity overload in pop culture, in other words, is that to stay famous and keep public attention celebs have to stand out more – and if you’re a singer or in a band, one way of standing out is to bother making good records.
(Of course, if you don’t agree that UK chart-pop is good at the moment then all of this is nonsense, oh well.)