Feb 20

ELTON JOHN – “Are You Ready For Love?”

Popular11 comments • 1,593 views

#959, 6th September 2003

Elton John’s best moment at number one comes with a forgotten track from a barely-noticed late-70s EP, lucked onto years later by someone in Sky Sports’ ad agency, remixed (delicately and discreetly) by Ashley Beedle, used to promote the new football season, and received with delight as a lost gem from a national treasure.

Feb 20


FT + Popular10 comments • 1,143 views

#958, 9th August 2003

Dancehall stars have found many routes into the UK mainstream – cover versions and ads; tie-ups with hot producers; hardcore or controversial lyrics; or just basic novelty. Sean Paul found yet another way to make it. His thing was to strip down modern Jamaican music to its hookiest elements and present himself as a readymade star, his bearish baritone presence dominating this and most other tracks he turned up on.

Sean Paul’s sudden stardom came as dancehall itself was having a critical and pop-cultural moment. One of many – UK and US interest in Jamaican music has always gone in waves. In this case, R&B’s promotion of superstar producers – some of whom, like the Neptunes, were open about their debt to Jamaica – meant a new focus on riddims, the island’s own contribution to producer culture, and the way different acts would jostle to land the best voicings of the latest popular beat. “Get Busy”, Paul’s breakthrough hit, rode the perpetual-motion shudder of the ubiquitous Diwali Riddim.

There’s talk of Bob Marley whenever a Jamaican star breaks really big – but Sean Paul’s music fit the comparison better than most. Not, of course, because of any political or spiritual side – Paul, like most 00s pop stars, presented himself as someone for whom entertainment was mission enough. But like Marley he specialised in taking his homeland’s innovations and projecting them into music that was big and powerful and clear in its appeal. Sean Paul was a very easy star to ‘get’.

Also like Marley, he wasn’t averse to downplaying the reggae side when it suited him. “Breathe” is a Blu Cantrell single, but Sean Paul barges his way into the spotlight from the first bars and the song’s more duel than duet. Aptly – it’s about a relationship in meltdown – but Cantrell has to belt and bellow to hold her own against Paul’s gruffalo toasting. It doesn’t help her that the music’s on his side – it’s more beer hall than dancehall, a squelchy oompah-led stomp which turns out to suit him fine.

For Cantrell, that was a mixed blessing. The record’s no-nonsense heft went down very well in Europe, but Americans weren’t so receptive, and it stifled Cantrell’s nascent US career after her success with the sly and vampish “Hit ‘Em Up Style”. It’s a shame – even against this brash backdrop there’s a pleasing swagger to her performance.

And, in the end, you can say the same thing about this song, with all its boisterous honking. There are lots of 00s R&B jams I like more than “Breathe” – but it’s a sign of a genre in ruddy health when its second-division hits are this plainly enjoyable.

Feb 20

King William’s College Kwizz 2019. FT Round 15

FT3 comments • 70 views

Which dual enterprise:
1 could work wonders?
2 took over from West and Wyatt?
3 gives one a shot at Double Dutch?
4 exploited the unique qualities of Siberian Weasels’ hair?
5 created 33 complications in a limited edition of just four devices?

Feb 20

King William’s College Kwizz 2019. FT Round 14

FT8 comments • 115 views

Round and round and round:
 what slope is now chronometric?
 2 where is a duck bill followed by a dive?
 3 where might there be help from the north-westerly?
 4 what recalls the twin child nurtured by a lupine wet nurse?
 5 what would be recognised in Japan as a breed of dog or a battleship?

Feb 20

DANIEL BEDINGFIELD – “Never Gonna Leave Your Side”

Popular12 comments • 1,107 views

#957, 2nd August 2003

To make one Westlife-esque ballad may be regarded as a misfortune. To make two looks like… a bad mistake, as it turned out. Songwriting cameos aside, this is the last we see of Daniel Bedingfield, and it’s hard to argue he wasn’t the partial author of his own misfortune. The absurdly extended promotional cycle for his debut album didn’t help – 18 months after “Gotta Get Thru This”, and this isn’t even the final single lifted from it. But more damaging was the shift in image from a jack-of-all-genres bedroom pop savant to just another balladeer.

When Bedingfield did come back with new material – “Nothing Hurts Like Love” in 2004 – it was more soulful and more imaginative than this. But by then, as we’ll see, the market for broad-based ballads was shifting, becoming more industrialised as a reality TV production line settled into place.

“Never Gonna Leave Your Side”, like “If You’re Not The One”, falls between stools, squeezing its author’s idiosyncrasies into the ballad mode like a man putting on a badly-fitting tuxedo, while leaving just enough of his individuality intact for the song to feel a touch off. Bedingfield, as ever, is awkwardly earnest, his song a rubbing together of romance and neediness, the verses’ pile-up of bereft metaphors aligning oddly with the chorus’ pledges of devotion. On “Gotta Get Through This”, Bedingfield’s neurosis played as refreshing, unusual frankness; on “If You’re Not The One” his self-abasement was at least uncomfortably sincere. But here the novelty’s worn off – my main response to this is rolled eyes and a muttered “for God’s sake man, move on!”. He couldn’t, so the public did.

Feb 20

King William’s College Kwizz 2019. FT Round 13

FT7 comments • 115 views

 1 whence the ‘two-spotted’ duck?
 2 where were the forgeries sunk after Bernhard?
 3 where did Alexander defeat the crusaders on ice?
 4 whence the winter’s spray, washing through the bars in high winds?
 5 over what stretch of water did Cat escape with her lover in Emilio’s boat?

Feb 20

The Freaky Trigger Movie Poll 2019: #20 – #11

Do You See + FT5 comments • 264 views

Here we go into the top twenty. At this point, those of you who have a big picture view of this kind of thing can probably do the maths and work out that there are more than ten obvious films left – so some things didn’t make the cut.

From this batch we start to get films which had over four nominations, often the big blockbusters and crowd pleasers start to appear. But also still a smattering of smart arthouse choices – you have sports bars, resurrection and electrical monsters solving crimes in here…


Jan 20

King William’s College Kwizz 2019. FT Round 12

FT15 comments • 175 views

What currency of which country is suggested by:
 1 a nip?
 2 6.76 metres for gold?
 3 a Balkan amphitheatre?
 4 a sweet-tasting carbohydrate?
 5 a converted Muslim place of worship?

Jan 20

King William’s College Kwizz 2019. FT Round 11

FT5 comments • 101 views

 1 did Rajam captain the MCC?
 2 did the chauffeur confess to Pinky’s hit and run?
 3 did the doomed old man ride on a long-eared, cream-coloured donkey?
 4 did the Irish orphan play his eponymous Jewel Game in the spymaster’s shop?
 5 was the elephant, earlier acquired for £2,000, given to the mahout by the grateful globetrotter?

Jan 20

BEYONCÉ – “Crazy In Love”

Popular22 comments • 2,182 views

#956, 12th July 2003

History in the making,” says Jay-Z in the intro, and he’s been proven right. As I’ve said before, there’s a temptation with Beyoncé to treat her big moments as inevitable steps in a process of becoming. Her control over her career and image in 2019 – and the directions she’s gone and grown in – exerts a retroactive gravity on the rest of her story. “Crazy In Love” really does feel like a historical landmark, which can make it difficult to recover as a living single.

It’s difficult for Beyoncé too – on her 2019 Homecoming live album she drops it at the start of her set, in a place of honour, and at first treats it with the warmth an old friend deserves. It’s a way to show how she’s grown as a singer – her voice on the first verse is richer, fuller of feeling, than it was on the original. But halfway through the song she turns away from it, first following the line of its beat into a funk jam then switching out from it entirely.