Jan 09

Will Twitter Replace Pop Criticism?

FT5 comments • 568 views

Partly as a way of getting a ‘feel’ of what people (who aren’t necessarily social media wonks) use Twitter for, I’ve conducted a little experiment – I’ve put each of the Top 40 UK singles into a Twitter search engine and typed out the first substantive* tweet I found.

So here’s what the Twitterati think of current pop music:

1. “creeping myself out with how much i like the lady gaga song. really? the hook is just so…infectious and… lady gaga drew? really?”
2. “is still loving Kid cudi day and night (crookers remix) Love my hip hop but this house remix rocks.”
3. “broken strings is no 3, Diabolical”
4. “OK I have to buy Issues by the Saturdays, it’s such a catchy song. I’m going to ask if I could go to HMV when we go to the Chinese”
5. “Confessions of someone with decent music taste: sadly, the Kevin Rudolf album – complete with its poppy hooks – is too damn fun to hate on.”
6. “gritting teeth as the horrific cover of ‘hallelujah’ gets played again. give me jeff buckley, rufus wainwright or leonard cohen any day”
7. “Confession: when I hear Beyonce’s single ladies song I can’t change the station”
8. “Just back from band practise. Did new Kings of Leon – Use Somebody – ‘salright, I suppose.”
9. “Leona Lewis version of Run is so crap. Shows what a name can sell. Poor show.”
10. “i have new hair and i’m loving it. also listening to girls aloud the loving kind, there addictive.”
11. “kanye west – heartless. i won’t stop, won’t mess my groove up cos i already know how this thing goes. hey, spring semester – BRING IT”
12. “if beyonce really was a boy, would she really do the things she said she’d do. just a thought.”
13. “can someone please explain to me what the hell the lyrics to human by the killers means? are we human or are we dancer? i don’t get it”
14. “kings of leon: sex on fire can NOT be overplayed. flip this is a good song!!!!!”
15. “Life is so unpredicatable: reminds me of Katy Perry’s song, hot&cold”
16. “Someone needs to make a really good techno remix of Akon’s Right Now (Na Na Na)”
17. “Would love it if the hip-hop song tongiht was Britney’s Circus…guilty pleasure”
18. “ne comprends pas pourquoi la bombasse latine de Guru Josh Project se desappe a chaque fois pour casser le mur ou le tele”
19. “i miss fighting with my brother :[ and the stupid way he sings “mad” by ne-yo :[ and how he’s terrible at arguing :[”
20. “totally thinks TI and rihanna’s live your live stole from numa numa. anyone else with me?”
21. “Huh…”Kids” by MGMT isn’t too bad.”
22. “Britney Spears is underrated (read: overly hated). Circus is OK. Womanizer and Circus are good. Hating on popular culture has gone too far.”
23. “Alesha Dixons new song! breathe slow OMGG! its so effing good!”
24. “The Script met breakeven :) luistert wel lekker weg met zo’n regenachtige dag…”
25. “The Fred Falke remix of the Boy Does Nothing by Alesha Dixon is properly amazing.”
26. “”The silence scares me cos it screams the truth” I like how song lyrics can have the same meaning in everyday life (Song:”Sober”-Pink)”
27. “right anthems for today either Greatest Day by Take That or Proud by Heather Small”
28. “Mraz’ I’m Yours. Just upbeat enough to get me through the afternoon blahs.”
29. “Fact: listening to “Get Up” by 50 Cent while working out increases stamina. True story.”
30. “has lady gaga on repeat and wonders what a “poker face” means wahahaaaa”
31. “feeling guilty about liking the last (dancey) part of the Pussycat Dolls’ latest toon”
32. “Right now I’m at the phase where Rihanna’s Rehab is my theme song. Just saying! Haha!!”
33. “Saturdays are boring…but I like The Saturdays – Up!”
34. “I don’t like Kanye, for the record; however, I can’t get enough of the drums in his new song Love Lockdown. I’m breaking it down over here.”
35. “White Lies To Lose My Life is basically a pop record about suicide.”
36. “Dammit so what by Pink get out of my friggin head”
37. “Now warbling along to Girls Aloud The Promise the most stupidly addictive song ever…”Here I am…walking primrose””
38. “Obsessed with Jordin Sparks’ (American Idol) song “One Step At A Time” for some reason. And just read that she’s a plus size model.”
39. “I love Take Me Back but Tinchy Stryder doing The Fear on Live Lounge is ear rapingly awful.”
40. “Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah beats Leonard Cohen’s any day. For 7 minutes it just grabs you by the throat and tugs at your heart.”

*”substantive” meaning “the first one which isn’t just a ‘now playing’ notification” – which actually describes the effect of the track, or puts it in context.

This ended up – for me at least – surprisingly rich: a nice snapshot of the personal context of music, its social context, and the performative aspect of Twitter (on the one hand just sayin’ what’s on your mind, on the other allowing a certain defensiveness about your preferences to creep in). Some tracks were a lot more talked about that others – searching for “Up” and “Breakeven” was a particular headache. Only for “Single Ladies” was most of the buzz about the video, not the song. It’s reassuring in a way that even if the economic bottom has fallen out of the industry, people are still relating to and using pop music in the same ways they always have.

(I’m @tomewing on Twitter, by the way)


  1. 1
    Pete Baran on 20 Jan 2009 #

    Is the first sunbtantive post the first chronologically? The “first reaction” type posts I would find particualrly interesting. Also I would say about three quarters of these are positive which is also worthy of note.

    (Hmm I may beed to do a Tweet Aggregator of films, which strikes me as even more useful – as I can see people will be quite likely to Twitter post film.)

  2. 2
    Tom on 20 Jan 2009 #

    Should have made clearer – it’s the most recent substantive post. You’re right – first reaction would be interesting!

    I think it’s interesting that most are positive, too – I guess there’s a higher barrier-to-action for negative opinions than I might have thought. (I also didn’t count a lot of “love this song” tweets as substantive, so it’s a higher proportion than my innaccurate sample suggests.)

  3. 3
    Michael Daddino on 20 Jan 2009 #

    Taken in toto, it’s rich, satisfying, but individually most of them aren’t especially insightful. On the other hand, I’m not sure I WANT to read artfully-wrought 140-word reviews rather than 140-word snap decisions, if that’s the decision I’m faced with.

  4. 4
    Lex on 20 Jan 2009 #

    “i miss fighting with my brother :[ and the stupid way he sings “mad” by ne-yo :[ and how he’s terrible at arguing :[”

    this is such a ne-yo tweet

  5. 5
    koganbot on 20 Jan 2009 #

    Was intrigued by how many of the comments were about the music overcoming the fan’s resistance in some way or another, and then others were about the songs either capturing or infecting the fan.

    For what it’s worth, one of my most successful structural devices, at least in my early years of reviewing, was to go “song gets critic, song loses critic, song gets critic via the very feature that had lost him.” So it’s “song overcomes resistance” given the structure of a Hollywood romantic comedy (boy gets girl, then boy loses girl, then boy gets girl to come back).

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