Jan 15

Popular Crystal Ball: 2014 – The Arse End

FT38 comments • 1,689 views

brunomars Back in July I had a quick listen and rate of the first half of 2014’s number ones. Here’s the sequel, picking up where that left off. As before, this is based on very few listens, and you can confidently expect my opinions and order to change should I ever get as far as this in Popular. Off we go.

1. MARK RONSON ft BRUNO MARS – “Uptown Funk”: Enormously believable aesthetic cosplay, as heartwarming and enthusiastic as the best cosplay is, too. Never did I imagine I’d be so happy to hear Bruno Mars.

2. DAVID GUETTA ft SAM MARTIN – “Lovers On The Sun”: Infectious splicing of the early 60s and 00s – cowboy exotica, Roy Orbison chorus, genteel strings, barely interlaced bloops and bangs.

3. SIGMA ft PALOMA FAITH – “Changing”: I have a drum’n’bass free version of this by accident which is some heinous Jools Holland bullshit, the risks of using Paloma Faith vividly illustrated. The proper single mix is as corny but irresistible as their other single, maybe even more so.

4. JESSIE J, ARIANA GRANDE, NICKI MINAJ – “Bang Bang”: The welcome return of the diva posse cut, doing what sounds like a Little Mix outtake. Truth be told I spend most of the song waiting impatiently for the Nicki verse, though.

5. LILLY WOOD AND THE PRICK – “Prayer In C (Robin Schulz Edit)”: The deep house wave of 2014 ends not with a bang but with the heat death of the universe. A sullen croak from a beach at the end of the world, cocktails till late.

6. NICO & VINZ – “Am I Wrong”: Probably the most 2014 of all 2014’s number ones – drowsy sun-swept beatscape meets hollowed-out soul vox has been such a sound, and brass has been big too. Goes on a bit, mind.

7. CHERYL AND TINIE TEMPAH – “Crazy Stupid Love”: There’s more to this than I’d expect from a Cheryl single – the bits of decoration (sax, flute, Tinie) are in intriguing conversation – but she weighs it down.

8. TAKE THAT – “These Days”: Unashamed, yet still rather desperate, Dad Disco. More awkward than awful.

9. WILL.I.AM ft CODY WISE – “It’s My Birthday”: Ever the businessman, Will.I.Am embraces the fashionable doctrine of the “minimum viable product”. Everyone has birthdays, right? This is most likely the only RnBass number one we’ll ever get, mind.

10. CALVIN HARRIS ft JOHN NEWMAN – “Blame”: Waste of one of the better current singers. Harris works mechanically through his repertoire of builds like a cruise ship magician.

11. CHERYL – “I Don’t Care”: When your selling point in 2014 is your singer swearing something’s gone wrong. The keyboards on this really could not sound any uglier, too.

12. MEGHAN TRAINOR – “All About That Bass”: Inhabits and owns its aesthetic as much as “Uptown Funk” but way more airless and finger-wagging, even before you get to the main reason for loving your body being the admiration of dudes.

13. RIXTON – “Me And My Broken Heart”: Why don’t the good One Direction songs ever get to Number One? “Best Song Ever”, that’s a cracker. “Steal My Girl” was decent too. Meanwhile, this existed.

14. BEN HAENOW – “Something I Need”: Cowell is now firmly, finally, in the don’t-you-think-he-looks-tired phase of his reign. As such the X-Factor winners can no longer afford to be distinctively awful – this is just a rather incompetent version of Ryan Tedder anthem pop. But not actively infuriating, despite its origin. Unlike…

15. MAGIC! – “Rude”: Tough luck my friend but the answer is no.

16. ED SHEERAN – “Thinking Out Loud”: Simply Ed more like. Naive voices argued around the time of “Sing” that Sheeran had changed, but I maintained a zero tolerance policy and I’m glad I did.

17. GARETH MALONE’S ALL STAR CHOIR – “Wake Me Up”: The song choice works, but the best bit of this is the spoken word bit at the end – “BUY THIS RECORD. BUY THIS RECORD – ECORD – ECORD”. My God. Maybe Bake-Off could do the Children In Need job next year and give us a wacky singing flan instead.

18. BAND AID 30 – “Do They Know It’s Christmas”: Worse than I could have imagined. Bob Geldof as Captain Metropolis in Watchmen – “Don’t you see? Somebody has to do it! Somebody has to save the world!”

Conclusions? A year with a distinctive sound broke down in late summer and partly went off a cliff – it doesn’t help that there’s a blank space (DO YOU SEE) where the biggest pop star in the world should be, and it also doesn’t help that the other much-pushed big international hits were Magic! and Meghan. And the year-end in the UK charts is always a minefield thanks to charity records and Uncle Si. But, despite some of the horrors above, I do think 2014 was a low-key strong year for number ones – not as varied in its excitements as 2013, and with a worrisome drop-off, but not a disappointment either.


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  1. 26
    Alan on 25 Jan 2015 #

    Shane Richie and Coleen “From the Nolans” Nolan. A fact more memorable than this single

  2. 27
    Mark M on 25 Jan 2015 #

    Re25/6: When I was at my old job, where we had headlines like ‘Coleen terrified for Jake’ (because who knows what might happen to the poor poppet touring the US), I managed to work up quite a hate for Rixton. But now I find them fairly easy to ignore, and thus not worth my ire.

  3. 28
    Tommy Mack on 26 Jan 2015 #

    Re: 25. I felt the same way about Lily Allen when I found out from whose fetid loins she sprang. I’ll save most of my thoughts till she appears in Popular proper but it’s hard to find someone’s cockiness charming any more once you know her dad’s a bona fide arse.

  4. 29
    Tommy Mack on 27 Jan 2015 #

    I like Meghan Trainor*, so help me God… (*after listening for the first time, yesterday). The bubblegum frothiness is a lot more fun than most of the earnest retro-soul we’ve had over the last ten years and it feels like it’s done with enough verve to transcend its sillier elements (those knowingly mangled vowels etc). But, yeah, the gender politics are a bit queasy, aren’t they? There’s a lot of ‘Be a strong independent woman…so then guys will respect you more and you’ll end up with a good one who’ll treat you right’, ‘Love your own body on your own terms…most guys secretly prefer curvy gals anyway’. Maybe she’s trying to square post-feminist ideals with the boy-girl tropes of the 60s bubblegum and soul she references but it does feel like she’s selling her gals a bit short, taking the same tack as the otherwise excellent stand-up Wil Hodgson when he brags about being into voluptuous women as though that makes him a feminist crusader, rather than just a bloke who’s into a different beauty ideal. I guess being objectified as desirable is better than being objectified as ugly or comical but I can’t imagine it’s the outcome most people would hope for.

  5. 30
    Tom on 29 Jan 2015 #

    It seems like the public have, in a considerate piece of scheduling, made sure my month off writing Popular coincides with a month off anyone who isn’t Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars having number one records.

  6. 31
    weej on 30 Jan 2015 #

    Every time a track sticks around at #1 I breathe a sigh of relief, but the charts always seem to recover and speed up again. Maybe this is a sign of vitality, and when songs start sticking around a bit longer it will just be a sign that the charts have finally entered their moribund phase.
    It makes me think of this David Devant lyric:

    This morning a fan letter
    Came through his door
    It said oh last pop star
    Please play once more
    And so he took the final curtain
    And knew his job was done
    Because the last ever love song
    Was the last number one

  7. 32
    Tom on 30 Jan 2015 #

    “Happy” stuck around for ages this time last year – and “Rather Be” had a good run too – and then it was back to massive turnover. The effect of streaming will be to gum things up more*, so I’m expecting fewer number ones this year – but it feels like record companies have worked out how to game the charts again, so we might just get 2014 redux. Looking at the Top 100 of 2014, though, it looks like the list of #1s is still a decent proxy for actual popularity, imperfect but no more imperfect than it’s ever been.

    *of the Top 100 streaming songs this week, a sizeable 44 have been in the charts for 30 weeks, i.e. they were in the very first streaming chart and have been there ever since. I may keep an eye on this figure.

  8. 33
    weej on 16 Apr 2015 #

    Just to note, we’re in the tail-end of April now, with only four new #1s so far this year – compared to nine at the same point in 2013 (and a similar number for the previous few years.) Of course this may still be a fluke, but this is what today’s popbitch has to say – “How streaming changes the charts: Nick Jonas had the biggest selling single of the week last week; but Jess Glynne was number one.”

  9. 34
    Tom on 16 Apr 2015 #

    Some of it’s the double whammy of a full-on massive hit and then a blockbuster theme song in January/February, which isn’t when you expect either of those. But there is a change going on – for the first time since I started bothering to look at the midweeks, it’s been wrong a few times.

  10. 35
    Tommy Mack on 16 Apr 2015 #

    I’m genuinely at a loss to think what the blockbuster theme song is. I was quite hip to the 2014 charts but now I am a dad I am becoming suitably out of touch. Are The Dire Straits still making LPs? I liked them…

    (actually I am listening to Sky Ferrera who I rediscovered on my Spotify after downloading on your recommendation!)

  11. 36
    Tom on 16 Apr 2015 #

    If I’d said bonkbuster it might have been more of a clue.

  12. 37
    Tommy Mack on 16 Apr 2015 #

    Oh, that bag of literal and figurative bag of wank! I actually heard the song on the trailer. It sounded deece though I’ve heard the movie’s terrible which I can well imagine and pontificated about at length on another Popular thread.

  13. 38
    Tommy Mack on 16 Apr 2015 #

    One bag too many…

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