23
Feb 14

R. KELLY – “I Believe I Can Fly”

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#764, 12th April 1997

kellybelieve Every so often on a project like this you meet records made by somebody who is widely seen as a monster. R Kelly has a lengthy history of accusations and lawsuits saying that he is a serial sexual predator, a man who uses his fame and power to exploit underage girls and escape the consequences. The details – to be approached with appropriate trigger warnings – are covered in this interview between Jim DeRogatis (a Chicago music critic who has reported on the lawsuits against Kelly for years) and Jessica Hopper. You should particularly read it if the extent of your awareness is that he’d been tried for something and acquitted.

There’s a class of writing based around the internal ethical gyrations of critics faced with allegations like this – or indeed proven crimes. Mostly, the feels of a critic dealing with good art by bad people are not interesting, particularly as they’re unlikely to be consistent (mine certainly haven’t been). At worst it makes a story about the handwringing of a music writer rather than about abuse and its enablers and victims. But critical attitudes and activity en masse can be revealing. In the case of R Kelly, there was a sudden burst of attention for – and belief in – the accusations, sparked by the interview I linked above. Two weeks before that interview, I watched a crowd of people dancing to R Kelly’s second UK number one at the Thought Bubble comics convention after-party, and it was a moment of great communal joy. How and why many critics and much of the public – me included –shrugged off the idea of R Kelly as a predator in 2003, and why many – me again included – believed it a decade later, is a story with important and uncomfortable implications, but it’s directly relevant to “Ignition (Remix)” and not to “I Believe I Can Fly”. I couldn’t write about Kelly without mentioning the allegations – because I can’t listen to him without thinking about them – but I’m going to park actual discussion of them until then.

On our first meeting with him, writing for Michael Jackson, R Kelly delivered a song perfectly tailored to its singer, a lulling ballad Jackson could fill with his tics, his sentiment and his presence. The main problem with “You Are Not Alone” is that it’s terribly static – any emotional tension is resolved by the first chorus, and Kelly has to deploy one of the most flagrant key changes we’ve ever met to get any sort of motion into the song. “I Believe I Can Fly” seems at first like it presents similar problems – like “You Are Not Alone” it hovers suspended in its forcefield of thick, stately chords, and the most memorable part of the song is a statement of apparently total self-affirmation (“I believe I can fly / I believe I can touch the sky”). Where can it actually go? The difference, though, is that “I Believe”’s positivity is constantly undermined: the song struggles against a tide of doubt, and even dread, before belief eventually wins out.

Flight isn’t just a metaphor for self-belief. It’s about escape, too – and in this song the two ideas entwine. “Spread my wings and fly away… I see me running through that open door…” – the door is open, the only thing stopping him running through it is himself, and the music moves to underline that, introducing notes of fear that turn the rising affirmation of “open do-o-or” into a cliffhanger. “I Believe I Can Fly” is a man trying to convince himself he can – a moment of awful indecision extended over five minutes. And if five minutes, why not longer? Exploring how long he can keep a song in this state of suspense is the main driver of Kelly’s “Trapped In The Closet”, which is, below its pantomime trappings, a descendent of “I Believe I Can Fly” – each (increasingly ludicrous) situation resolving into new, ever-more baroque tension.

In “I Believe” the tension can only be resolved by faith – on his own, Kelly can’t make the leap, and the crucial moment is when the gospel backing singers rise up into the song, with their staccato “I can fly! I can fly!” affirmations. This religious dimension is what separates “I Believe I Can Fly” from the wave of affirming, inspirational songs we’ve seen in the last decade, where the singer tends to address their audience directly (“You are beautiful… you’re a firework…”): people still need a nudge to believe in themselves, but now the singer plays the role of angel and self-help guru. R Kelly, though, presents himself as the supplicant – a weak man full of doubt – self-belief as a battle, and inner strength as something inseparable from higher power. This is the conceptual framework of addiction treatment – what underpins the recovery process. And from its gorgeous intro, where swelling, looming, heartsick chords find support from a lone oboe, “I Believe I Can Fly” reinforces that idea: you fly by reaching out in order to reach in.

This dramatization of a struggle is what has given “I Believe I Can Fly” a public life well beyond its origins on the Space Jam soundtrack or its place within R Kelly’s career – a staple for reality TV contestants, school choirs, marching bands and more. Pop songs are a set of tools used by many hands, as well as artistic statements made by a few, and instinctively I care more about the first. But these two sides are still connected by money, which makes “separating the art from the artist” a glib default position. So “I Believe I Can Fly”’s genuine power as a redemption song – it’s the most convincing self-help song I can think of – makes a lot of cash for a man who may well be irredeemable. And this is the tension “I Believe I Can Fly” can’t resolve and never addresses. Reaching out to a higher power is only the first step in the classical recovery process, which is designed to lead not just to personal change, but to restitution. So you can fly. Now what?

6

Comments

  1. 1
    Tom on 23 Feb 2014 #

    I would focus on the mark even less than usual here.

  2. 2
    Matt DC on 23 Feb 2014 #

    In my many idle moments I do find myself wondering about what it is that makes the basic difference between the kind of pop star that mud sticks to and the kind it just slides right off. Because R Kelly is one pop star who managed to sustain an incredibly successful career in the midst of the sort of allegations that would destroy a lot of other people. I wonder if it’s the terms of the debate, he basically invented the kind of self-consciously preposterous narcissistic dry-humping smooth loverman that would become a shorthand for every lazy dismissal of male-fronted R&B for the next two decades. So (up until Ignition Remix at least) the critical debate about R Kelly was always outright ridicule vs a kind of defensiveness that was always about the genre and rarely about the man himself, or indeed his music.

    It’s also that the sex was often so upfront and centre with his music that it seemed to obvious to event comment upon, but you need either a genuinely incredible voice or a Prince-esque twinkle in the eye to be able to pull it off and R Kelly has neither, although obviously he’s a very good singer. He would make much better records than this in the future and by the 00s you got the sense that people really wanted him to head into the Michael Jackson/Prince/Beyonce stratosphere but he was never good enough to do that, but he still had this weird teflon quality to him, until literally the last couple of months.

    I think this is a terrible record, it fails my self-imposed ‘imagine John Lennon singing it and tell me if it’s embarrasingly mawkish’ test and honestly this sets my teeth on edge almost as much as Imagine does. It’s one of those records, like You Are Not Alone, where the songwriting is so simplistic and flimsy that it just can’t support the grandiosity of the arrangement – a better performer might be able to do something with it but R Kelly is the vocal equivalent of a close talker who never breaks eye contact with you, so the end result is horrible and unnerving.

  3. 3
    lonepilgrim on 23 Feb 2014 #

    I hate this song.
    I used to work at a school where this song was used by a senior teacher as part of a programme, along with a mixture of phrases from Neuro-Linguistic Programming and a focus on ‘multiple intelligences’ to help ‘raise achievement’ among pupils. All of these were presented uncritically to create a feverish sense that anything was possible. It appeared to work, long enough for the teacher to earn a Headship and an OBE and by the time the approach began to fail they had moved on.
    I therefore associate the song with false promises and ambition, pumped up with simulated emotion – so it seems appropriate that this was Number 1 when ‘New Labour’ won the 1997 General Election by a landslide with a soundtrack of ‘Things can only get better’

  4. 4
    Tom on 23 Feb 2014 #

    (The dates are slightly deceptive – everyhit uses week endings not the date it actually got to #1 – so it’s actually the next song that’s at the top when New Labour get in.)

  5. 5
    Steve Mannion on 23 Feb 2014 #

    Love how threatening they’ve had to make Bugs Bunny look on that cover. I RT’d a link to the original Space Jam website only yesterday because brilliantly it still exists: http://t.co/QsBODYdqwA

    Nothing useful to say about the song or the man just now really – have almost always been repelled by the latter (just on record alone – not the kind of overt male voice I like – so inevitably I’d sooner listen to him for the comedy aspects he gamely seized on) and really hated this song for a long time (ironically a bit less so now – 4 for me as I like the dramatism of the “I-CAN-FLY!” gospellers towards the end as Tom described above). I preferred this sort of thing to come from groups in RnB (whether all male or all female…sadly you never got a mix) for some reason – maybe harmonies was a factor…I probably still do. Insert team sports > solo sports analogy here :)

  6. 6
    Weej on 23 Feb 2014 #

    In about 1998 I was visiting my grandmother in Speke, and (it being Sunday) found myself being taken to mass (I don’t think she missed one in her 92 years) When we arrived I found that the huge echoing brick & concrete rectangular church (a spire had been planned but it was next to the airport, so a featureless block it remained) from my childhood and that of my mother had been demolished and a polite little hut had been built in its place. Inside, the congregation remained, now able to fill up the little circle of chairs. The young people in the area didn’t go to church, and everyone over the age of 21 seemed to have moved away, but the funky new priest with big ideas didn’t seem to care that his flock had an average age of 80+ and insisted on trying out an experimental new sermon which all built to his playing a CD of R Kelly’s I Believe I Can Fly while we all sat in silence, then explaining at length the song’s relevance to our lives.
    My grandmother was not generally one to criticise priests, but this was all a bit too much for her. For me, this is how I will remember the song always. It’s ridiculous and I can’t be bothered to even try suspending my disbelief. 2.

  7. 7
    Chelovek na lune on 23 Feb 2014 #

    I find this cringeworthy, both musically and lyrically: Whitney’s ‘One Moment In Time’, while far from her best, is a far better ‘self help’ song of this type that correctly suggested that, apart from belief; effort, trial and error were required for a realistic chance of attaining one’s goals. Thus, Whitney got the Olympics gig, R. Kelly (never at his best on these slower numbers, even when, as here, he is not obscenely lascivious) got an Ali G parody – which shows up the shallowness of the song perfectly. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=COP3PQJJ66k

    For a 90s track that conveyed a similar message to this song, albeit with greater depth and consideration (and with a far superior presentation – although to be fair, with 30-odd singers, there is more scope), “Optimistic” by Sounds of Blackness, never quite the big hit it should have been, stands out.

    As it is, I find this almost unlistenable – and that has nothing to do with the character of R. Kelly.

  8. 8
    iconcoclast on 23 Feb 2014 #

    Deity, five and a half minutes of this? Mawkish, oversung, and underwritten, even without the key change for the last chorus or the Curse of the Drum Machine*, it’s a textbook instance of one of the least appealing types of ballad. Ultimately it’s not very interesting and somewhat of a chore to get through. FOUR.

    * Note that the drum pattern hardly changes for the entire length of the song; this isn’t likely to make a boring song interesting. (Personal gripe)

  9. 9
    AMZ1981 on 23 Feb 2014 #

    This record had a slightly unusual chart pattern – it entered at number two, vanished down to number five before climbing to the top (on the back of the film’s release). It was the first climber to hit the top since Professional Widow and the first climber to hold down the position since Ready Or Not.

    During its three week run I Believe I Can Fly held off three fanbase number ones. There was some surprise when IBICF edged out Supergrass’ Richard III and saw off Blur’s Song 2 the following week.

    Week three saw Robbie Williams hit the runner up slot with Old Before I Die, his first `proper` solo release (Freedom being a car crash of a cover in lieiu of any actual product) and set the Guy Chambers produced blueprint that would make him the nation’s biggest pop star when the Spice tide receded – this was far from obvious at the time.

  10. 10
    Cumbrian on 23 Feb 2014 #

    An anthem steeped in self doubt, willing yourself to be able to fly, really doesn’t sit well in another context too, i.e. that of Space Jam.

    Space Jam, for those who have not seen it, rests on the following story. Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player on the planet, quits the game in an attempt to make it as a baseball player (NB: for those not aware of Jordan, this actually happened in real life). Whilst away from the game, alien cartoons decide that (to make their theme park a success) they will kidnap the Looney Tunes. These aliens are small and not physically impressive. The Tunes, bargaining for their freedom, ask to play a basketball match against the aliens – if the Tunes win, they win their freedom. If they lose, they leave with the aliens. These aliens then capture five NBA stars, suck out all their talent and transform themselves into the greatest team possible. The Tunes, realising what is going on, persuade Jordan to return to the game to help them win the game (the aliens not being au fait with basketball prior to the challenge are unaware that the greatest player of the game is moonlighting in minor league baseball). The obvious then occurs – with a brief detour that allows Bill Murray – appearing as himself – to somehow get involved on the court.

    It’s a cartoon and is inherently absurd. Nevertheless, it rests on one thing that basically was the case in the NBA in the early to mid 90s. Jordan, singlehandedly, was capable of beating NBA teams by himself. He did have some good players as a supporting cast but he won 3 NBA titles, left the game, during which time his team failed to win the titles, returned to the game and immediately won 3 more times. Basically, the idea that Jordan could beat the best of the NBA by himself with only Bill Murray, Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig and Elmer Fudd for team mates was not that far fetched. He really was that good – and was reputed to be an utter arsehole and massively self possessed. Air Jordans came about because of his seeming ability to fly when dunking but his outstanding characteristic is probably the lack of even a scintilla of doubt in his own ability on a basketball court.

    I Believe I Can Fly then seems to fit as a title for a movie with Jordan as a star but because of the doubt that R Kelly brings into the song, the need to will himself forward being as powerful as anything else in it, it does not fit with Jordan at all. Jordan would scoff at this type of attitude. He’s just going to go out there and own it. End of story. Add in the fact that a song of this type might get kids singing along (witness the videos of children singing Let It Go from Frozen doing the rounds on Youtube) but is more likely to be too slow to hold their attention; it just seems really weird that this song got attached to this movie.

    As far as it goes, unmoored from Space Jam, I don’t think this is that bad – it’s getting a real kicking thus far – it’s miles better than You’re Not Alone for a start but I’m not convinced by R Kelly singing it. He goes to sell the sentiment of the song but there’s the odd thing that seems to undercut it – there’s this odd little whoop from him, very quietly done, somewhere early in the song, for instance; it seems to me that whoop says, “look at me, aren’t I killing this?”

    I would agree that discussion of R Kelly, his activities and the tension between that and appreciation of his work is probably better served for later. This is, as I said, not that bad, but it doesn’t quite work for me. Probably a 5, I think.

  11. 11
    Cumbrian on 23 Feb 2014 #

    9: Damn, this kept Richard III off number 1? I love that track – exactly the right length for a Stooges-esque gonzoid thrash. I am in the tank for Supergrass anyway though and love In It For The Money as an album in any case, so take my opinion for what it’s worth (i.e. not very much).

  12. 12
    taDOW on 23 Feb 2014 #

    thought maybe there was a gap between this song’s peak in the us and in the uk but apparently not. crazy he’d do ‘gotham city’ so soon after but not surprising, when he finds something that works he’ll mine it relentlessly for better or worse. when r kelly first emerged he had a ‘aaron hall clone’ tag applied to him (aaron hall had had a similar ‘charlie wilson clone’ tag applied to him) but he shed it pretty quickly and became the dominant force in r&b for the 90s and much of the 00s. shamelessness has been his vice and his virtue and it’s really the only aspect of his secular crossover hymn phase that i can admire, just the blatant positioning inherent in doing a song called ‘i’m yr angel’ w/ celine dion. w/ this and woody allen there’s been alot of discussion over whether one can or should separate art from the artist and nearly any answer seems fair to me (i generally do w/o a second thought but i can hardly blame someone for cutting someone’s work out of their life for some monstrous act), short of ‘but he made _______, there’s no way he could have _______’. what i’m curious about is whether ppl are more uncomfortable listening to a song where an r kelly plays the saint like this or one where he embraces the sinner? anyhow, 5 for me. in related news they might make a space jam sequel w/ lebron.

  13. 13
    thefatgit on 23 Feb 2014 #

    Oh, dear. Space Jam was a film that could only exist because of the marketing potential of Michael Jordan. As high-concept as it gets. I’ll not dwell on the plot, because it’s preposterous in the extreme. If Space Jam was made to sell basketball to the world, it failed. If the film was made to sell Looney Tunes to the world, it was unnecessary. If it was made to sell Michael Jordan to the world, Nike got there first. Despite everything, not least it being a terrible mess of a film, it was a box office success. Go figure.

    IBICF is as preposterous as the film, a champion-sized onion of a song, made of many layers of the kind of emotions associated with self-worth, self-determination and untrammelled hubris. Sporting people have to rely on inner-belief to make it through the challenges their chosen sport demands of them. Such emotions and physical exertions have nothing to do with believing in physical impossibilities, or our sporting “gods” fall like Icarus. Sportsmen and sportswomen dutifully set themselves goals and strive to achieve them. There is over-reach and there is failure, but there is still the will to succeed. This was the belief that underpinned “One Moment In Time”, albeit visualised through the lens of someone who could have soundtracked a re-imagined “Triumph Of The Will”. IBICF is all about Icarus and over-reach. And everything in this song is placed there deliberately as if to trick us, that gods walk among us and their power is ours to attain if only we could just believe. R. Kelly fails to sell that premise, with every imagined reach to the sky to grab that imagined power and clutch it emptily to his chest as if to become one with it. No matter how many times he visualised that in his mind’s eye, it remained unattainable. Yes, there are songs that show us the impossible is possible. “The Impossible Dream” is one of my favourite songs, but that’s a Quixotic, insane marvel of a song. R. Kelly couldn’t even hope to approach a song like that convincingly, because he can’t convince us here, try as he might. He is only human after all. Not a particularly admirable human, but I don’t even want to go there. It just makes me shudder in disgust. Bad film. Bad song. Bad man.

  14. 14
    James BC on 23 Feb 2014 #

    R really hit on a formula with this and You Are Not Alone. It can’t have taken him more than ten minutes to crank out another hit following this pattern – as he says in the song, “there’s nothing to it.” And he proved it by shamelessly cranking out about ten more along the same lines over the next few years, all of which had baffling levels of chart success. In the absence of a film tie-in, who was the target audience?

  15. 15
    taDOW on 23 Feb 2014 #

    obligatory the original space jam site from 1996 is still online post – http://www2.warnerbros.com/spacejam/movie/jam.htm

  16. 16
    flahr on 23 Feb 2014 #

    I can confirm this was 1x genuine playground hit, although with altered parody lyrics. (And come to think of it I would have been four at the time this came out, so it may have been a playground hit several years later if I’m able to remember it).

  17. 17
    Izzy on 23 Feb 2014 #

    I think Kells is amazing, he is so prolific and talented, and his output is high quality across a hell of a range – so it really pains me that his biggest hit, and to some extent signature number, is one I just can’t love. I find it too simple, too childish, but even so I can appreciate the craft.

    A (5) then, the pronunciation of ‘do-woah-woah-oar’ edging but just missing a (6).

  18. 18
    ciaran on 23 Feb 2014 #

    The Ali G parody was the first thing that came to mind. He also did a skit with Gail Porter singing ‘Every Breath You Take. Maybe too early to mention that yet!

    IBICF is just dross of the highest order. Made worse by being played almost every 10 minutes on the radio back then. It felt like I heard it about 1997 times that year! It was fairly warm that April so it’s sadly a perfect record that greeted the heat and longer days ahead. 2.

    No surprise that R Kelly threw his name to this and then did likewise with Gotham City a few months later. Very uneasy to hear him sing ‘City of Justice’ in that one given the stories that now follow him.

    Luckily ‘If I Could Turn Back The Hands Of Time’ just missed out in 1999.

    Never paid much attention to the allegations surrounding R Kelly but he always came across as an oddball. Basketball had Dennis Rodman – R&B had R Kelly. Wonder what will happen by the time we get to his next number one?

    The other song Fly Like An Eagle by Seal from Spacejam was pretty dull too.

    The 90s was something of a golden era for Basketball so it was no surprise this brought about a film absurd and all as it was. My 3 year old nephew was fixated with Spacejam around this time so I watched it quite a lot. This nephew also subjected me to a horrible Number 1 later in the year aswell.

  19. 19
    Doctor Casino on 23 Feb 2014 #

    I have nothing to say about Kelly or about “I Believe I Can Fly” (I can remember the chorus but the rest is just a lot of ‘inspirational’ mush in my brain, amazing since I must have heard it a hundred times), but the other thing about “Space Jam” is that the fusion of Looney Tunes and popular black stars would have made perfect sense: there had been a huge Looney Tunes “thing” through mid-decade in American youth culture. Big baggy shirts with Bugs and company striking “gangster” poses, themselves in big baggy shirts, backwards caps, one-strap overalls, etc. I have no idea why this became a ‘thing,’ but near as I can tell it was probably some executive’s dubious idea of making the cartoons ‘hip’ again – which, improbably, worked: I saw a ton of this stuff on my schoolmates (white and black) though I cannot confirm or deny with certainty my own participation. Between this and Tiny Toon Adventures, the Warner Brothers cartoons were probably more well-watched and well-liked among kids as they’d been in ages. So while Space Jam’s premise remains preposterous, and I agree with Cumbrian that Kelly’s song ill fits the concept, you can see why it made sense at that moment… and probably at no other. The hugeness of Air Jordans also being part of this mix, I’m reminded of the character in Max Barry’s Syrup who pitches to Hollywood a movie “starring Coca-Cola.”

    The soundtrack’s much better single was a posse rap cut called “Hit ‘Em High (The Mon-Star Anthem),” with Method Man, LL Cool J, B Real, Coolio and Busta Rhymes all good-naturedly taking on the boastful role of the movie’s bad guys, with lots of good-clean-fun basketball themed rhymes (and one forced Bob Dole joke). That would be a fun, if pointless #1 for us…

  20. 20
    Kinitawowi on 23 Feb 2014 #

    It beat Song 2 to the top spot, and wasn’t even the best song on the Space Jam OST (that’d be Seal’s cover of Fly Like An Eagle; All-4-One’s contribution would be covered later to greater effect). Derivative, overlong, lousy. 3.

    Obviously the time for discussion will come later, but my awareness was the one mentioned in the article – the existence of the peeing on somebody video. The somebody and the implications of that were completely lost on me at the time.

  21. 21
    Rory on 23 Feb 2014 #

    Before the end of last year my awareness of R Kelly was limited to Adam and Joe’s discussion of the “Trapped in the Closet” series on their old XFM show, which made it hard to take him at all seriously. Then I came across Swede Mason’s remix of one of his TV performances, and couldn’t stop laughing.

    Then I read the Jim DeRogatis interview. And stopped laughing.

    Swede Mason, though: there’s someone worth your time.

  22. 22
    Rory on 23 Feb 2014 #

    Uh-oh: my comment is trapped in the closet (/moderation queue)…

  23. 23
    mapman132 on 23 Feb 2014 #

    I can’t be objective on this one so I’m not even going to try. Here’s my brief comments on the three #2’s instead:

    “Richard III”: I swear Supergrass had a minor US hit at some point, but I can’t figure out what and this wasn’t it. Listening to it, it isn’t bad, but I can’t really get into it. 5/10.

    “Song 2”: Like I’ve said previously, Blur’s most famous song in America. Not released as a single though (of course!). 7/10.

    “Old Before I Die”: So this would’ve been Robbie’s first solo #1, which is interesting because I’ve never heard of it before. Not great, not bad. We’ll have opportunity to talk about him again (and again and again and again). 5/10.

  24. 24
    Izzy on 23 Feb 2014 #

    At the time I couldn’t believe Richard III had nearly made no.1* – it seemed as extreme a record as could hope to get there, with the sound of the thing, the devil’s chord change, and all that. But Block Rockin’ Beats sounds a lot harder to me now, stripping out the most human touches like a vocal and a melody. Also a lot worse in fairness.

    * I read once, but now can’t remember, how close it came – iirc it wasn’t quite a handful, but it wasn’t particularly much. They might even have eschewed a promotional TOTP slot the week before which could’ve put them over the edge.

  25. 25
    punctum on 23 Feb 2014 #

    One of the most drainingly moving vocal performances of recent years is the one which Kevin Rowland gives to his reading of “The Greatest Love Of All” at the beginning of his 1999 covers album-cum-post-traumatic curative My Beauty. It is performed by two Kevins; one, the subject, singing, the other, his conscience – or his psychotherapist? – urging him on, gently nudging him along the road to redemption. Or not so gently in the viciously cutting whirlpool of the opening “It’s over it’s over it’s OVER!” as Rowland awakens from his nightmare of cocaine addiction, bankruptcy, prison and homelessness, still shaking, still mightily fearful, calling for his mum – but the other Kevin assures him that he’s OK, he’s made it through the tunnel and come out at the bright end. Then piano and strings usher in the cheesiest, most self-aggrandising song in all of pop, a song which even George Benson couldn’t make dignified, a song over which Whitney ejaculated predictable juices of overstatement – a song only Patrick Bateman could love – and Kevin makes the song matter for the first and perhaps only time in its miserably rich existence; he speaks the first verse, casting himself as one of the “children.” It’s impossible to listen to his plea to “give him a second chance” and not be moved, especially if you’ve been through parallel circumstances of horror yourself. “Give him a second chance…make it easier…” Anyone who knows the trouble Kevin’s seen, or a trouble comparable to it, or worse, would recognise instinctively and immediately what he meant. And he proceeds to sing the rest of the song with unapologetically blazing passion, not needing to scream his soul but determined to stand strong for fear that he might collapse again, with only one central change to the lyric: “No matter what they say about me/They can’t take my personal dignity” – lines which could only have been his (as indeed is the absolutely crucial lyric change from “I learned to depend on me” to “I tried to depend on me”).

    This demonstrates the magic of the great interpretations and interpreters of song; to coax out, flesh out and improve unpromising raw material – to make the listener believe, even participate. But I doubt that even Kevin could do much with “I Believe I Can Fly,” the “Greatest Love Of All” of its age. Never having been a fan of R. Kelly – his cold onion of a strangulated voice is enough to deter me without having to know about his sexual peccadilloes – it is easy to detest this nauseously narcissistic self-ode, derived from a film entitled Space Jam which apparently involved Bugs Bunny, Michael Jordan and overweening self-belief; the kind which ends up justifying Guantanamo Bay.

    “’Cos I believe in me,” burps Kelly two-thirds of the way through the song and he’s not about to let you forget it; musically he goes for the flat synth plus drum machine minimalism of “Lady In Red” – it actually sounds like a demo – before spreading his wings and, you guessed it, flying away, not to mention “leaning on the everlasting arms” (if only Mercury Rev’s “Everlasting Arm” had gone to number one instead!) and “miracles in life” which start “inside of me.” His pronunciation of the word “door” in the chorus is the pop equivalent of fingernails avec blackboard. His intermittent whoops don’t even seem to convince himself. There is a horrendously amateurish edit at the 3:02 key change which sounds as though pieced together with a rusty pair of secateurs, following which the inevitable choir, so not to speak, fly into the uninviting picture. While still unsure about his powers of flight, I can confirm that Kelly’s final ululatory melismatics are extremely reminiscent of an especially irritating wasp; but given that this ghastly anti-record managed to keep Blur’s “Song 2,” Supergrass’ “Richard III” and even bless-him-Robbie’s Oasis tribute (part 1) “Old Before I Die” off number one then it defies salvation. “Life was nothing but an awful song” bleats Kelly near the beginning, and by God does he set out to prove his case. Thankfully the Kevin Rowlands of this world remind us that there’s much, much more to life.

  26. 26
    Doctor Casino on 23 Feb 2014 #

    Let me add: Tom, thanks for linking the Hopper/DeRogatis interview. It’s given me quite a bit of pause, and a lot to think about.

  27. 27
    swanstep on 24 Feb 2014 #

    This track was *so* not my sort of thing and such an immediate channel-changer that I never heard more than a few bars of it at the time. Listening properly now, did I miss anything? Not really; the synth orchestral stuff is demo-quality, Kelly’s diction is the pits, and the lyrics strictly boilerplate. But vaguely religious self-affirmations just aren’t for me so what do I know… Living in Chicago at this time, I do remember hearing other musicians winkingly joke about how Kelly ‘liked ’em young’. Ugh.

  28. 28
    anto on 24 Feb 2014 #

    Sappy drivel.

    Wasn’t this the last chart topper under tory rule?

  29. 29
    JLucas on 24 Feb 2014 #

    Putting aside all the controversies, my main issue with R.Kelly’s music is how disingenuous he sounds. On sex songs like Bump ‘n’ Grind and even party songs like Ignition, he sounds agreeably sleazy. But his penchant for sap like this really turns me off. This was horrible, and the seemingly endless Unchained Melody rip-off If I Could Turn Back The Hands of Time was even worse.

    The problem is definitely with him as a vocalist, as I think he’s actually a great songwriter. I Look To You is by far the best song from Whitney Houston’s last studio album (of the same name). It’s completely perfect for her dramatically reduced vocal range, simultaneously humble and fragile. Other songwriters on that album tried to recapture her glory days, while he seemed to completely understand where she was at that time. A whole album in that vein would have been wonderful. Even at her worst she was ten times the song stylist he could ever hope to be.

  30. 30
    Billy Hicks on 24 Feb 2014 #

    When I started stage school in 2000, this, ‘Killing Me Softly’, ‘Everybody Hurts’ and the old standard ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ were all part of our singing lessons, having to learn every note perfectly to the point where I hated them all after the first term. That hate hasn’t really gone away for any of them except the Wizard of Oz song, but even without the memories of having to sing this bloody song every week I’d still give it a low mark for most of the reasons said above. His next bunny is much better but more on that in six years.

    Perhaps the greatest thing R Kelly’s done is Trapped in the Closet Chapter 9, still a source of much mirth and quotes among my social circles many years on to the point where if I sing any line of it I’ll almost inevitably get the next one back, along with the final revelation of who the man in the cabinet is. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-L-Cp3qZfQ

    And is it slightly shameful that I don’t think I’d heard ‘Richard III’ before? Listening to it I’m slightly blown away by it, a noughties rock track at least five years before said sound was fashionable and brings to mind some of the more upbeat Muse numbers of the Origin of Symmetry/Absolution era. That and Song 2 would have been two remarkable #1s. Not as keen on Old Before I Die though, there’s only…ooh, maybe three Robbie tracks I genuinely really like, one 2000 bunny and two #4s. Again, though, that can wait.

  31. 31
    Billy Hicks on 24 Feb 2014 #

    …and for those wondering, these were the sales for #1 and #2 in the three weeks this song was at the top. They are *astonishingly* close…

    1- I BELIEVE I CAN FLY- R Kelly (51,281)
    2- RICHARD III- Supergrass (50,900)

    1- I BELIEVE I CAN FLY- R Kelly (76,000)
    2- SONG 2- Blur (75,000)

    1- I BELIEVE I CAN FLY- R Kelly (87,000)
    2- OLD BEFORE I DIE- Robbie Williams (76,000)

  32. 32
    Tom on 24 Feb 2014 #

    Wow – weird that IBICF kept increasing its sales to match whatever it was up against: an artefact of the film I guess. Where are those figures from, Billy? Is there a public resource?

    I’m not going to waste time defending this against the onslaught of hostile comments (though I think that this is the first time since Charlene that I’ve liked a song everyone else despises). I loathed it completely at the time, then found myself thinking “ah, not so bad” when I got all the #1s for Popular, and then “Trapped In The Closet” eventually gave me a way into actively liking it, as a lot of the techniques he does spectacularly well on the early episodes of that he is also using here – what Matt DC identifies as the close-talker vocal style.

  33. 33
    swanstep on 24 Feb 2014 #

    They believe it can fly. Hollywood trades papers are reporting that a Space Jam sequel or redux built around LeBron James has gone into development. Update: Maybe not, King James sources deny involvement.

  34. 34
    James BC on 24 Feb 2014 #

    When Old Before I Die came out it still wasn’t apparent that Robbie’s solo career was going to be a goer, but it get him a prescient early Brit nomination for Best Single.

  35. 35
    Query on 24 Feb 2014 #

    And with this rather sappy movie tie-in, we are officially in “my” era. I was about to turn six, and hadn’t yet begun to register the distant echoes of the pop charts (that would come at the beginning of 1998 with another sappy movie tie-in, this time a mega-hit) but I think April 1997 is an appropriate beginning, especially given the contemporaneous political happenings we’ll surely be discussing soon. Presumably the cognitive functions required to perceive the contours of a wider culture develop around the same time in children for both pop and politics. As with the pre-1997 charts, I have no memory whatsoever of John Major as a sitting Prime Minister; I do, however, have a faint recollection of the the strange apprehension I could sense in my parents and others in the weeks before the election: the polls were saying it would be a Labour victory – but then, they’d said that in 1992, too, hadn’t they?

    I didn’t see “Space Jam” in theaters, but the home video release somehow made its way into my family home – where it remains to this day, as far as I know – and I watched it incessantly. Perhaps more than any other film before or since. The film is one of those rare 90s creations that threw together a variety of cultural bric-a-brac – the Looney Tunes, Michael Jackson [edit: JORDAN], Bill Murray, aliens(?) – to make a product that actually managed to transcend the sum of its parts.

    As a result, all of the songs from the soundtrack, good or not, are engrained in my memory: the “Space Jam” theme itself, put together by Jay Ski of the Iowa producer duo Quad City, set thrillingly to a montage of Michael Jackson’s greatest basketball triumphs in the intro to the film (if that couldn’t sell basketball, what could?), the preternaturally (and appropriately) cosmic Steve Miller 1976 hit “Fly Like an Eagle,” the evil Monstars team theme featuring the absurdly eclectic MC-cast of B-Real, LL Cool J, Method Man, Busta Rhymes AND Coolio, of course no less a pop classic than Technotronic’s “Pump Up the Jam.” To be quite frank any of those (even Steve Miller!) would have earned a higher score from me here than this especially uncommitted R. Kelly contribution. 5.

  36. 36
    Cumbrian on 24 Feb 2014 #

    #35: I would love to see a montage of Michael Jackson’s greatest basketball triumphs. :)

  37. 37
    Query on 24 Feb 2014 #

    #36: Oops. WordPress isn’t letting me fix it, either. Well, they did play basketball together once. And let’s not forget the MJ/MJ collaboration for the music video of “Jam” (1991).

  38. 38
    iconoclast on 24 Feb 2014 #

    #37: so “Space Jam” was “Jam” IN SPACE!!, was it?

  39. 39
    23 Daves on 24 Feb 2014 #

    #31 It’s easy to forget just how big Supergrass were for a little while, and certainly I was among many people (that I personally knew, at least) who thought they were going to end up at least at Blur’s level of continued success, an act who could easily break free of the Britpop albatross – though to be fair, I suppose they managed better than most. “Richard III” seemed to be their last shot at the upper end of the top ten, though, and I must admit isn’t a track I return to often – it’s jolting, powerful and searing for the first few listens but once the surprise of it is eliminated, there’s not enough going on past its demonic melody.

    For what it’s worth, “The ITV Chart Show” did place Supergrass at number one on their chart for the first week of R Kelly’s run at the top of the official charts.

    And as for R Kelly himself, I really can’t be bothered to talk about “I Believe I Can Fly”, though suffice to say I don’t like the record at all and can’t really think of anything new to bring to this thread. I’ll just stay quiet.

  40. 40
    Andrew Farrell on 24 Feb 2014 #

    #32 – I actually think it’s alright, which surprised me as I didn’t previously rate it, but a few listens suggests it’s a song which sticks in your head a bit and does well from being absent mindedly sung to yourself (though my head appears to have the version where he claims he can fly through any open door).

    Though there’s probably an effect where people are not going to come out to bat for this, particularly if (as with me) they hadn’t sat down with that article before. Also I don’t really tend to comment on the songs – I’m a meta comment animal. Also also if I don’t really tend to comment on songs I’m definitely not going to make an exception just for this!

    #19 – Lead singer of Cypress Hill or not, you have to reckon B Real went to sleep the night after making that video with a broad smile on his face.

  41. 41
    Kat but logged out innit on 24 Feb 2014 #

    I LOVED ‘Richard III’ because it sounded like Butch Vig era Nirvana. The whole of In It For The Money was very listenable AND more importantly, easy to play on the guitar.

    Couldn’t say the same about IBICF – it’s no ‘She’s Got That Vibe’, is it?

  42. 42
    Cumbrian on 24 Feb 2014 #

    In It For The Money WAS very listenable? To my ears, it’s still pretty damn listenable. But then I was 16 when it came out, so it’s probably my formative experiences talking. Objectively, I know it’s not “the greatest album ever” but it definitely hits my sweet spot. I’d have loved it if Supergrass had got to #1 – shame they got so close and yet so far, per the stats further upthread.

  43. 43
    Kat but logged out innit on 24 Feb 2014 #

    Well I haven’t listened to it for around 10 years! But I had In It For The Money on a tape in the car with Queens of the Stone Age’s Rated R on the other side, and I have very happy memories of driving all over the place with my 6th form chums, (badly) singing along to both.

  44. 44
    Cumbrian on 24 Feb 2014 #

    Rated R. There’s another monster. I suspect that we drove around to similar tapes at similar ages, to be honest.

  45. 45
    DanH on 25 Feb 2014 #

    Now this song I was well aware of, but wasn’t overly familiar with at the time. I didn’t even bother with Space Jam the movie, though I have to wonder if it was partially responsible for that regrettable but brief phase of clothing with Bugs, Daffy, and other WB characters looking all gangsta. Actually, I think I had heard Seal’s superfluous Steve Miller cover even more at the time.

    Mapman: According to the charts, the only U.S. chart action Supergrass got was “Cheapskate,” (#35 on Rock Charts) which wasn’t even a single in the U.K. Been a long time since I checked out their stuff, but my favorites were “Alright” and “Sun Hits The Sky.” Don’t remember “Richard III.”

  46. 46
    AMZ1981 on 25 Feb 2014 #

    #34 I think the Brits had a cut off point (since changed) that meant Angels wasn’t eligible to be nominated as best single which meant that they had to give Old Before I Die the nod – which in my mind is one reason I never bother with the Brits.

    As per comments above In It For The Money is actually the only Supergrass album I own (I have a greatest hits as well). I think I bought it for £2.99 in WH Smiths years after the fact – I must dust it off this week (or select it in Itunes at any rate).

  47. 47
    Billy Hicks on 25 Feb 2014 #

    Tom @ 32 – A forum thread on Popjustice that lists some of the closest near-misses to #1, compiled from various chart sources.

    Later in 1997 we’ll see the flipside of this, the biggest ever difference between a #1 and a #2 sale, but that’ll be obvious to all when it comes.

  48. 48
    tm on 25 Feb 2014 #

    Did Supergrass not manage a number one with a below-par single in a quiet week, this or next year (although that might have been ITV Chart Show rather than official)?

  49. 49
    Cumbrian on 25 Feb 2014 #

    You’re probably thinking of Richard III to be honest. Supergrass got to #2 twice, with Alright and R3 and thereafter only scraped into the Top 10 a couple of more times, so I can’t imagine that they managed to get a Chart Show #1 otherwise.

  50. 50
    Andy M on 25 Feb 2014 #

    ‘Pumping on your Stereo’ gave the impression of being a bigger hit than it was because that video was everywhere, surprised it only reached #11.

  51. 51
    Tommy Mack on 25 Feb 2014 #

    It was Going Out that I was thinking of, which would have been a real With A Girl Like You to get to number 1 after a brace of great singles and before another iirc.

    As for R Kelly, I remember She’s Got That Vibe being popular at school but this got the piss roundly taken out of it: my friend Kelly (same girl I had the ‘should you buy a record if you fancy the singer?’ argument with) was subjected to people saying ‘alright, our Kelly’ in a Manc accent for weeks. God, we were witty.

  52. 52
    mapman132 on 25 Feb 2014 #

    #45 Yep, that’s the one I remember. The video very much says “attempt at US breakthrough” right down to the band member introduction at the beginning. #35 on the rock chart shows the breakthrough never really happened although strangely enough I remember a DJ once incorrectly attributing an old Supertramp song to Supergrass.

  53. 53
    Izzy on 25 Feb 2014 #

    Supergrass scraped the top 75 right at the start of their career with a Sub Pop import of Lose It. I have a copy, it came in a lovely thick unadorned sleeve. Great tune too.

    Presumably this was a first attempt to launch them in the US off the back of The Grunge Rocket. It evidently didn’t take either.

  54. 54
    Tom on 25 Feb 2014 #

    “Going Out” is my favourite Supergrass single. I assumed they were primed for big things too, I had a Jennifers 12″ I carefully held onto on the assumption it would land me big money at some future date when the band were massive. I don’t exactly know why I thought they’d be massive.

  55. 55
    Tommy Mack on 25 Feb 2014 #

    Ha, I was (thinking mistakenly that it got to number one) all ready for you to give it a kicking for its 60s retro dadrock leanings! Always seemed a strange one to get to number one to me (but then it didn’t anyway!) – a bit of an obvious pastiche after and before other singles that mixed and blended their influences more skillfully. Though it does have some lovely noodly hammond on the chorus, recalling Ogden’s…-era Small Faces.

    I am quite a fan of Moving’s Madness-do-Jamiraquoi chorus these days…

  56. 56
    Tom on 25 Feb 2014 #

    I think its compactness mitigates against its daddery – one riff, couple of ideas, loud and tight, and out of the door in three or four minutes. I liked the thickness of it – it’s like a lazy 90s britrock track that’s been through a car compressor.

  57. 57
    23 Daves on 25 Feb 2014 #

    You can chalk me up as a fan of “Going Out” as well, and “Moving” to a greater extent – the latter song in particular has just the right mix of mournfulness and pounding, forward propulsion to describe the homesickness of anyone who has ever held down a busy job that involves travel, whether that’s as a musician or something else. In a previous career, I derived quite a bit of comfort from that track, comfort I can’t imagine getting from an Ocean Colour Scene ditty.

    Actually, Supergrass’ run of singles was pretty enviable and I’d probably defend the majority of them from the Dadrock critique. They were definitely a conservative and trad band, but their songwriting chops were a cut above most of their peers. You could clearly trace certain elements back to certain sixties groups, and it could be a coincidence, but it always seemed as if they cribbed some of the sound from the first flop Marmalade single “I See The Rain” (http://youtu.be/UCn61DuBrgo) more than a few times (It was Jimi Hendrix’s favourite single of 1967, fact fans!). At their best, though, they did manage to pull their influences together to create a clearly identifiable sound of their own. Moreover, they were actually good (and in the case of the drummer, great) musicians who were capable of creating strong pop records, rather than good musicians who got into the habit of drowning their recordings in flashy rock cliches.

  58. 58
    Mark G on 25 Feb 2014 #

    A few times they would get away with stapling two diffferent short song ideas into one. ‘Moving’ worked, whereas In My Opinion (ok?) ‘Sun hits the sky’ did not.

    also never really liked ‘in it for the money’ as much as the first, but a lot of britpop had a bad case of ‘one album is all you really need’ at the time. Same thing happened to Pulp..

  59. 59
    tm on 25 Feb 2014 #

    I’d stick up for Sun Hits The Sky’s zesty power pop. Besides, I think it was the first time they tried the cut n paste thing so it had a bit of novelty. Plus the intrigue of the line ‘I am a doctor’ AND it was, I believe, the first single to feature Gaz Coombes’ brother Rob on keys.

    I’m with 23 Daves on Super grass as the band dadrock should have been: craft and knowing your history as means to great hooks and a sense of fun rather than craft and history as ends in and of themselves. I’m feeling rather mean about Going Out now I realise it wasn’t their only number 1 though it’s still one I hear and think ‘oh yeah, they did that one too’. At the time, I hated Richard III: I didn’t really get anything that wasn’t instantly catchy back then. Partly I’d argue because when CDs are £15+ a pop, you’re loathe to takes risks on esoteric stuff but also because I was a bit of a dweeby kid who was turned off by rock racket.

    If the festival set I saw in 2007 or 8 was anything to go by, their last album was an awful, dragging bore. They were really, really boring until they through in Moving and a couple more oldies. About the most interesting thing is that by then there were two sets of brothers in the band, Danny Goffey’s brother Chris helping out on rhythm guitar. Then Iggy came on (next, not guesting with Supergrass!)

    And Pulp a one album band? No way, dude! I’d say I play Pulp’s three 90s albums way more than any other britpop stuff and Different Class the least (mainly because it was my favourite album in 1996 so I played it to death while playing Worms on the PC. I was such a cool kid.)

  60. 60
    23 Daves on 26 Feb 2014 #

    I have to completely disagree on that one as well. Pulp had several strong albums – the run through from “His ‘n’ Hers” through to “We Love Life” is fantastic. Of all those albums, “This Is Hardcore” is the patchiest (it could easily lose the likes of “TV Movie” and “Seductive Barry”) but there’s more than enough to make up for the slack. I also agree that I listen to “Different Class” less these days, but that is purely because it’s become so over-familiar. I loved it to death at the time.

    Supergrass, on the other hand, never did really release an A grade album, but most of their singles are worth anyone’s time and there are some pearls scattered throughout their album tracks as well. In fact, I’d say that only the last LP, “Diamond Hoo-Ha”, is a complete dud. The penultimate LP “Road To Rouen” gets some stick for its downbeat, moody tone, but I enjoy that side of it. I almost get the impression that the only reason they didn’t close their careers with “Rouen” was because it would have been a very subdued, despairing exit, though that’s possibly reading far too much into it.

  61. 61
    Alan not logged in on 26 Feb 2014 #

    I have a very indie looking “Oxford Bands” sampler CD with that one Jennifers track (Tightrope?) on it. A 96 of playing Different Class and playing Worms on the PC is something I can identify with. A 90s in CDs+game… before would be 94/95 is MarsAudiacQuintet + Starfighter 3000, and after 97/98 Riven+… er probably If You Are Feeling Sinister :-O

  62. 62
    Weej on 26 Feb 2014 #

    Obviously I’m not about to agree that Pulp are a one-album deal – in fact I listen to Different Class & This Is Hardcore less than a few other of their albums. DC is good of course, but you’ve got to remember that it was written and recorded in a very short time, and side 2 of TIH is definitely not the group at their best. For their most consistent long-player I’d go for Intro – though it’s not an official album it works as a piece better than any of their others. (Is this a good time to plug my Pulp Songs blog? It’s here – http://pulpsongs.wordpress.com/ I’m just approaching the end of His ‘n’ Hers now and some of the b-sides are better than most of what went on the actual album)

    I also listened to DC while playing worms, If You’re Feeling Sinister was more Civilization II.

  63. 63
    tm on 26 Feb 2014 #

    #60 I enjoy TV Movie and Seductive Barry; the tracks I always skip are Party Hard and The Day After the Revolution (boring song and no way that 14 minute drone outro’s taking up space on my iPod nano although the two times I did listen all the way through, it does seem to have some interesting Steve Reich-y undulations to it but then if you stare at a candle flame long enough, you’ll see all sorts of stuff)

    #61 My other 1996 gaming soundtrack was Stanley Road which, like people have said of Supergrass, was Weller using his rock chops to make hooky pop songs before he started releasing an album every six months, most of which sounded like they were written in the rehearsal room. Though admittedly I haven’t heard any of his most recent stuff.

  64. 64
    Tom on 26 Feb 2014 #

    Just to say the next entry will be up tonight (it’s a day late cos some paid freelance work turned up)

  65. 65
    tm on 26 Feb 2014 #

    Looking forward to it. I’m loving this renewed fecundity!

  66. 66
    Izzy on 26 Feb 2014 #

    Will that thread feature some discussion about R Kelly?

  67. 67
    wichitalineman on 26 Feb 2014 #

    Re 54/56: The Jennifers were good looking, a lot of 20-something girls I knew fancied them (guiltily, as they were teenagers), and they weren’t the finished article but clearly had potential.

    Yes, the ‘car compression’ was their secret weapon – it made Caught By The Fuzz twice as exciting too. It was down to engineer John Cornfield, who worked on the first Kenickie album as a direct result of his ace work with Supergrass.

    With Richard III and I Should Coco, I’d also guess there’s some tape speed manipulation going on. Just a teeny bit faster than the actual performance.

  68. 68
    Rory on 26 Feb 2014 #

    What’s this – the thread has turned into a Supergrass and Pulp discussion while I wasn’t looking? *Vapours*

    Hearing “Caught by the Fuzz” for the first time over an in-store sound system was one of the most memorable record-store moments of my 20-odd years of hanging out in record stores (which I can’t say I’ve done much for the past 5-10, for reasons of Small Children as much as half the stores vanishing). I bought the single immediately, and was convinced, convinced that I was helping along a dead-cert number one.

    I’m not sure it even charted in Australia. Nor did I Should Coco, which I also loved. From then on I accepted that I was totally out of touch with the charts, and also bought every Supergrass release I could get my hands on.

    In It For the Money I liked well enough, although not as much as Coco, but it was Supergrass and Life on Other Planets that confirmed them in my affections as one of the nineties’ best (although the latter came out in the post-Britpop doldrums of 2002 and didn’t sell as well as it should have).

    Their later albums didn’t do much for me, but I was looking forward to Release the Drones, their “almost finished” krautrock-influenced seveneth album that never appeared. Gaz Coombes’s solo Here Come the Bombs was alright.

    As for Pulp: #60 “the run through from “His ‘n’ Hers” through to “We Love Life” is fantastic” – yes, this, although I’d start the run at Separations, which after His ‘n’ Hers is my second-most-listened-to Pulp album. I put His ‘n’ Hers on the other side of a C90 with Suede’s Coming Up for commuter listening, which made it one of the two albums I listened to most in the mid-1990s, and it still sounds like the definitive record of their 1990s sound, but Separations is the one I return to nowadays. They’d put all the pieces in place but the public hadn’t noticed, and there was still no real sign that they would.

  69. 69
    Kat but logged out innit on 26 Feb 2014 #

    Was just listening to [2000s-era Bunny] and LORDY there’s a particular (British) artist who adopts a lot of R Kelly’s mannerisms, which I’d never really twigged before. The whole video is like Trapped In The Closet but in West London and a couple of years too early. I am just putting this here so I remember to pick up on it when we get around to it.

  70. 70
    23 Daves on 26 Feb 2014 #

    #68 I used to love “Separations” as well. I back-tracked to it after “Different Class” turned me into a full-blown Pulp fanatic rather than just a fan (like many, I suspect). I don’t return to it very often these days, though. The songs themselves are largely on a similar level to a lot of the work on “His ‘n’ Hers”, but the production and cheap-sounding nature of some of the arrangements does them no favours. It would be interesting to find out what it would have sounded like with a more impressive recording budget.

    Even the much-dismissed “It” is half a good album. Or, er… half a good mini-album, anyway. Perhaps it should have been released as a great EP. The Peel Session version of “Wishful Thinking” is better than the final LP version as well.

  71. 71
    Baztech. on 26 Feb 2014 #

    I am also rather upset Richard III didn’t make top spot, although Dave’s comment earlier regarding initial oomph is a fair point. Definitely sounds best on first 2-3 listens, not usually a good trait for a song to have.

    Love this discussion about computer games and albums being playing in the background, I can only remember a couple. PlayStation game “Circuit breakers” was often being played to the sounds of Gorillaz’s self titled debut. I also recall going back to Super Mario 64 to the sound of Street’s “Original Pirate Material”. Not sure many people can say they have done that….

    To be honest a lot of my memories are with Crash Bandicoot and Marc Radcliffe’s voice…

  72. 72
    Erithian on 26 Feb 2014 #

    I’ve turned to this having just put little Thomas to bed in his Superman pyjamas complete with cape. Some Superman pyjamas come with a little warning note saying “Caution: does not enable you to fly.” I think “I Believe I Can Fly” should come with a similar warning saying “Pssst, R – you can’t, mate.”

    It’s heartening to find I’ve come up with the same idea as Punctum, but when I listened to this just now for maybe the first time this century, the drum machine track jumped out as something they’d put on a demo and normally replace later with something worthwhile. Instead they leave it there and add a none-too-convincing vocal, a few fake whoops and a song that aims for inspirational and misses by a few miles.

    What it does bring back to mind, weirdly you might think but stay with me, is the Estonian Eurovision entry from 2002. There was a documentary – a quick Google suggests it was called “Estonia Dreams of Eurovision” – showing the rivalries between entrants in the national heat to choose the song that would defend the title Estonia won in 2001. As the winner, Sahlene, reprises her song “Runaway”, the losers gather in the green room and cheerfully (and bitchily) sing the lyrics of “I Believe I Can Fly” over the chorus, which it resembles pretty closely. “Runaway” eventually came third for the hosts, and I’d be happier to spend time with the song – and needless to say, the singer – than the one under discussion here. Compare and contrast (with added Wogan): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tky7vWXSZrs

  73. 73
    Cumbrian on 27 Feb 2014 #

    Re: Playing games whilst listening to music. I only have two that really stick in my mind: I played Metroid Prime to Depeche Mode’s Violator a lot – the music seemed to chime with the landscapes I was running around. The other would be listening to Permission To Land by The Darkness a lot whilst playing F-Zero GX – you could get through 2 championships in roughly the time it took for the whole album to play.

    I also listened to a lot of music whilst playing Championship/Football Manager – but that game lent itself to just bunging on whatever, so there was no fixed soundtrack to that one.

  74. 74
    Kinitawowi on 27 Feb 2014 #

    I’m usually not in favour of overriding game music… but a friend and I at university whiled away many, many hours playing through Bubble Bobble to Fatboy Slim’s You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby. Its sequel, Rainbow Islands, was played along with the Divine Comedy’s Best Of.

    We were odd people.

    I’ve seen several people argue that the Need For Speed games are begging to be resoundtracked as personal tastes dictate; probably as the equivalent of bunging CDs into your own car. And then there’s Guitar Hero, of course.

    I don’t think any music directly related to a video game has bothered Popular, has it? (Well, one of the Chemical Brothers songs might have been on Wipeout 2097, but Dr Spin’s version of the Tetris theme only ever made number 6 and Wiz Khalifa’s “Never Been”, based largely on a sample from Chrono Trigger, was never likely to turn up…)

  75. 75
    Andrew Farrell on 27 Feb 2014 #

    The entry on Firestarter also talks about Wipeout 2097, IIRC.

  76. 76
    Tom on 27 Feb 2014 #

    Yeah, I have to stretch to bring videogames into Popular to any real degree – it’s one of the areas where the charts-as-cultural-seismograph aspect I like breaks down (perhaps fittingly, as videogames have stolen some of pop’s, and pop criticism’s, fire)

    Most of the games I play are long, multi-session, strategic/RPG ones, and I just listen to whatever I’m listening to for those – rarely the in-game music, as it tends to suck. On short-session or arcade games I will listen to the actual music, as it tends to fit better than anything else. So you’re left with the rare games that use actual pop music well – Wipeout, GTA, etc. (I never played GTA Vice City but used to enjoy being in the room when people did, the music was so effective.)

  77. 77
    flahr on 27 Feb 2014 #

    We are still twelve years away from the first chiptune number one :(

  78. 78
    Cumbrian on 27 Feb 2014 #

    Re: games meeting Popular. There is at least one bunny on the GTAV soundtrack on the Pop station hosted by Cara Delevigne (whose name i am bound to have garbled there). In fact, there may well be 2 or 3. Upcoming Spice Girls rivals are the ones I am thinking of.

  79. 79
    Auntie Beryl on 28 Feb 2014 #

    There are actually four bunnies – you’re OTM re the Spice Girls rivals, plus there’s a French dance act (but not *that* one), a Swedish female vocalist, and somebody we will be discussing repeatedly in the fullness of time, but not for many Popular years yet.

    Oh, and “West End Girls”.

    I may have played GTA V a little too much of late.

  80. 80
    Cumbrian on 28 Feb 2014 #

    3 of those are genuine bunnies though aren’t they, with the fourth being just a bunnied artist (i.e. the track in question didn’t get to #1 in the UK)? I say just – massive artist obviously.

    West End Girls being on it is class actually. In previous games, I spent a lot of time listening to the classic rock station but I’m not that impressed with that station on V. The pop station has many more great tracks on it – as does the classic soul station.

    I battered GTAV to death and was enjoying the multiplayer but put it down prior to Christmas and am yet to go back. I enjoyed it but I said elsewhere that it might well be the video game Be Here Now. I might flesh this though out imminently.

  81. 81
    Auntie Beryl on 28 Feb 2014 #

    #80 Wiki & Polyhex have the four bunnies I’m thinking of as UK number ones. perhaps we’re talking about different artists here?

    [Off topic: I loved the single player GTA V, but online had filled with griefers by the time I got there. Shame.]

  82. 82
    Cumbrian on 28 Feb 2014 #

    I think we are. I hadn’t remembered Barbadian Bunny and was thinking of North Western France and Ferry Running Bunny.

    That’s frustrating. I had hoped that the reputation system that they had put in place to combat griefers would prevent that. Seems it hasn’t worked.

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