Jan 12

The Freaky Trigger Reader’s Poll 2011: #10-#1

FT//35 comments • 2,650 views

Hi, I’m Lauryn Hill circa my breakthrough role in Sister Act 2: Back In The Habit, and it is a real pleasure to be able to present to you the top ten FreakyTrigger tracks of the year. When my mother told me I couldn’t join the choir run by a fake nun, I got really surly and pouted a lot – which some of you may recognise from my recent career. Later in the film I stepped up to the plate and delivered this inspirational, hip as 1993 could ever be, version of Joyful Joyful. But enough of my career highlights, back to the FreakyTrigger top ten of 2011.

Its a real privilege to reveal to you that this top ten is entirely female, so much so that I might be inspired, much like Whoopi Goldberg inspired me in Sister Act 2: Back In The Habit to make a comeback and win next year. I’ve got a soup tureen full of Grammy’s you know.

10. Nicola Roberts – ‘Lucky Day’

For chrissakes put some trousers on woman:

9. tUnEyArDs – ‘Bizness’

I’m listening to WhoKill as I’m typing up this list, and “Bizness” is definitely the best track on it. Well done, voting public! If you haven’t heard any tUnEyArDs yet then watch the video, it’s a corker.

8. Nicola Roberts – ‘Beat of My Drum’
Along with Gaga and Katy B, Nicola suffered badly from a split vote across many songs, though I’m sure Team Ginge will be consoled by having two songs in the top 10. Video AGAIN features inadvisable fashion choices but at least those are sensibly shaped pants she’s got on:

7. Beyonce – ‘Countdown’

This year I watched Beyonce’s 90-minute Glastonbury set, enthralled, but it was only later that I really appreciated how good it was. Not only can she holler and dance at an unbelievable level, she can do it while she has morning sickness. I am starting to think Beyonce may actually be a new evolved species of superhuman.

6. Robyn – ‘Call Your Girlfriend’

FT Reader Favourite Robyn was in the lead during the early stages of voting, but eventually had to be satisfied with 6th.

5. Nicki Minaj – ‘Super Bass’

If Nicki hadn’t released this song then she probably would have been relegated to Guest Rapper status for the rest of eternity. Thankfully this has been avoided!

4. 2NE1 – ‘I Am the Best’

Tireless efforts by Frank Kogan and the Singles Jukebox crew have finally made Korean pop much more than a curiosity for us ignorant westerners this year. Non-ugly girlgroup 2NE1 have only been going a few years but they are the cream of the K-pop crop and BLIMEY don’t they know it.

3. Nadia Oh – ‘Taking over the Dancefloor (Kate Middleton)’
My personal favourite! If you’ve not heard or seen anything of Nadia’s before, have a look at this. Go on, it’s only 90 seconds long. What’s the worst that could happen?

2. Lana Del Rey – ‘Video Games’

‘Divisive’ might be one word to describe Miss Del Ray this year, but it seems that plenty of you lot are fond of the ol’ Pong (or Playstation, whatever).

1. Azealia Banks – ’212′

Well clear of the field with 199 points to Lana’s 149 and Nadia’s 147 we have sweet little ‘street urchin’ Azealia Banks, who has done alarmingly well considering ’212′ only fully emerged in the last few months of the year. Here she is – make sure the kids are out of the room…

There we go! Thanks again to everyone who voted – see you next year!


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  1. 26
    koganbot on 12 Jan 2012 #

    I enter sooner through music than words as well, usually. Which doesn’t mean that if I hadn’t known English and had never seen a translation or synopsis, my experience of “Leader Of The Pack” wouldn’t have been significantly different from what it was. But I’d probably still love it.

    But not understanding the lyrics to “I Am The Best” seems more akin to not understanding the lyrics to “Be Bop A Lula.” What’s not to understand? Also, the K-pop groups are aiming at all sorts of foreign markets, esp. in East Asia, the vast majority of whose consumers do not speak Korean; and so the K-pop strategy is to insert a lot of lines and phrases in a foreign language that is a second language to many many many Asians, i.e. English. And further, record labels will often provide English subtitles [click CC if you’re not getting it], and when they don’t, fans will. Plus, 2NE1 have created a new universal language called “Bam Ratatata Tatatatata.”

    Which doesn’t mean there can’t be cultural barriers to understanding K-pop no matter what the languages or the translations — or for that matter that there might not be plenty of good reasons not to like a lot of K-pop. And there’s plenty of American music, in English, that “all sounds the same” to me or goes in one ear and out the other.

    I’m pretty certain that Lex will one day love some K-pop, just as I was certain a bunch of years back that he’d one day discover and love some Teena Marie tracks. Actually, I’ve a campaign mapped out for the K-pop conquest of Lex, starting with dancing and freestyle and hip-hop. But now I’m getting far afield from the topic of this thread.

  2. 27
    Mark M on 12 Jan 2012 #

    Count me in on the music more than words side, too (note: that’s not ‘music not words’). I’ve always been amazed at how many people can sing (or rap) along to the words of hundreds of songs. There are probably nine or ten songs I can get pretty near (Different Drum, Hotel California) but there’s normally a line or two than eludes me.
    Likewise, although I can appreciate how much a critic Greil Marcus seems to get from the lyrics of a song, I seem to conjure up something a lot less rich in my mind. And I often find myself suddenly working what the (presumably) intended meaning of a song I’ve heard for ten or twenty years is.
    There are lots of lyrics I love and make the songs more valuable to me – and indeed lyrics that put me off.
    But equally, there are plenty of French songs I love and only have the vaguest idea what they are about, and ones from further afield that are way beyond my linguistic capabilities and that doesn’t spoil my enjoyment at all. And as a flip to that, I remembered being surprised in Italy by the vast numbers of books of translated lyrics, implying a desperate desire to mine wisdom from the Doors or Depeche Mode. Good luck with that.

  3. 28
    koganbot on 12 Jan 2012 #

    I’ll say that hip-hop often hits me much harder as sound than a lot melodic pop does.

    Once I do get the lyrics to a song, those words can have massive importance to me, far more than equivalent words in a poem or novel.

    Mark S., I doubt that you actually believe that, when I was 17 and wrote The What Thing, I was paying too much attention to lyrics. One could argue that it might have been good for me, in some of my other writing at the time, to have paid better attention to the music, and learned to be more articulate about it. But, as the person who has paid perhaps the most attention to lyrics of anyone you know, I most certainly don’t think I should pay less attention to lyrics.

    (I think you inadvertently set up a zero-sum slice-of-the-cake either/or when you said “pay them far too much attention,” which led to a bit of misunderstanding.)

  4. 29
    swanstep on 13 Jan 2012 #

    Interesting thoughts from everyone here. My apologies for my last post coming out a little more combative than I intended. I do think that Brion’s distinction is a helpful one tho’, and like him I tend to calibrate with respect to the Gershwins, Berlin and all that crowd: my Songs you wish you’d written playlist embodies this perspective. Anyhow, back to the main topic, notwithstanding that the sonic impact of hip-hop can be incredible, I think that hip-hop’s lyrics are often better, and just more central to the experience than in melodic pop. The backing track to

    I got a letter from the government
    The other day
    I opened and read it
    It said they were suckers
    They wanted me for their army or whatever
    Picture me given’ a damn – I said never
    Here is a land that never gave a damn
    About a brother like me and myself
    Because they never did

    *kills*, but the words and the fast-shifting underlying attitudes do too. Listeners who have no English can get almost all of Off the Wall or Thriller, say, whereas they’re only going to get a fraction (1/2?) of PE or Missy E. or Kreayshawn. And my rough claim was that 2NE1 felt to me like they might be the same way (whereas the J-pop stars felt more down the will-travel-well, MJ end of things).

    Of course, after the fact translation can help quite a bit as Frank says and just-in-time subtitles for music videos would help even more (good business opportunity for someone?). And setting aside translation issues as such, notwithstanding my Gershwin/Berlin leanings, my own experience of popular music is often of being grabbed by the overall sound first. I’m thrilled though when the lyrics pan out later to something good (Fucked Up!) and disappointed when they don’t (Bon Iver! Thank god no one can understand a word he’s saying – it’s best that we all agree to treat it as in hopelandic/Sigur Ros-ese).

  5. 30
    Matt DC on 13 Jan 2012 #

    One of the things that various FT international pop tournaments have taught me is that you can actually appreciate whether a rapper is any good or not without understanding a single word, there’s enough to appreciate in just riding an MCs flow and enjoying the presence and the rhythms and the cadence. Same goes for great singing in a foreign language.

    Same goes for English actually. I’ve listened to Super Bass dozens of times this year and I’m buggered if I can tell you what it’s actually about. The meaning is of secondary importance, it’s all about the click and rush of the sound of the words.

  6. 31
    wichita lineman on 13 Jan 2012 #

    Re French pop. When I was obsessing over it in the 90s I met plenty of French people who said ‘ah but you will never really understand the wordplay’. Air were always keen to say the same when the likes of Beck were lauding Serge Gainsbourg. Only trouble, when the wordplay is easily understood – Baby Alone In Babylon (Gainsbourg), For Me Formidable (Aznavour), Merde In France (Dutronc) – it’s fucking dreadful.

  7. 32
    Erithian on 13 Jan 2012 #

    Or, around the time of “Let’s Dance”, “Beau oui comme Bowie” (Isabelle Adjani). I never heard it, for which I’m quite grateful.

  8. 33
    wichita lineman on 13 Jan 2012 #

    If you had heard it, you wouldn’t have got it.

  9. 34
    Erithian on 14 Jan 2012 #

    OK, now I’ve heard it… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cw3EHd_ovjY&feature=related

  10. 35
    Tom on 11 Jan 2013 #

    With hindsight I liked that Nadia Oh record a bit too much. But who cares about hindsight!

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