4
Mar 15

BRITNEY SPEARS – “Oops!… I Did It Again”

Popular107 comments • 8,461 views

#858, 13th May 2000

britney oopsHow do you follow “…Baby One More Time”? Perhaps you can’t. Britney Spears’ second album splits the job, starting with two songs that plainly exist in “Baby”’s shadow. One is an overt sequel, “Stronger” – eager, catchy dance-pop that’s more upbeat than the first instalment: “My loneliness ain’t killing me no more”, Spears sings. Glad to hear it. The other is “Oops… I Did It Again”, which hit listeners initially as a straight-up clone of “…Baby One More Time”: the mid-paced, dancer-ready stomp, the melodrama, the end-of-song pile-on. And as that half-mocking title signalled, the song knew it.

The similarities weren’t enough to dismiss “Oops”, because if you copy a classic you might easily end up somewhere very good. Clone or not, “Oops” became one of Britney Spears’ signature tracks – a highlight of her tours and now her Vegas residency. But the resemblance meant that what “Oops” does differently – its startling gamble with its breakdown, its development of the singer’s persona, and the uses it starts to find for her voice – was overlooked.

But if Max Martin had somehow restrained from ripping himself off for Britney’s comeback, he’d have been the only one. “Oops” sounds a bit like “….Baby One More Time”. But by Spring 2000 half the charts sounded a bit like “…Baby One More Time”. British acts showed themselves especially keen students of Martin’s Cheiron studios and the new Swedish pop. It worked, too – several upcoming number ones come decked out with Cheiron-style crashing chords and floor-friendly melodrama, crowding out more authentically Max-factor productions from the Backstreet Boys or N’Sync. “Oops” was never likely to end the sound’s hot streak.

You need to look at a different Britney song to best understand how the Max Martin approach worked and how it could fail: “Satisfaction”, her Rolling Stones cover. Just as “…Baby” or “Oops” don’t, in fact, reveal more of themselves when covered by a dude with a guitar, so “Satisfaction” exposes the methods and limits of the sound by breaking a great pop record upon its wheel. The Cheiron style is built around an excess of emphasis – massive boldface syllables, power chords, and single steam-hammer beats all hitting in unison. Tightly choreographed formation dancing – freezing into shapes or throwing down on the heavy beats – completes the effect. “Satisfaction” shows what this can’t do – the Stones’ track doesn’t have the primary-coloured chords that Max-pop needs, and is front-loaded with Keith Richards’ riff, which Britney’s cover simply can’t find room for but – fatally – can’t replace either.

But listening to a misfire like “Satisfaction” leads to a better appreciation of Martin’s tricks and tics, too. In the great Cheiron numbers, the first half of a song uses the bombastic emphasis to crank up tension, which breaks near the end – often with a key change – to give the climaxes of their tracks their delirious potency, as every hook rains down at once like a videogame combo attack. Like glam rock, it’s an immediately recognisable, and not terribly subtle style, and like glam, it enjoyed a brief moment of unmatched pop dominance.

Digging into the Max Martin and Cheiron way of pop is important, because “Oops…I Did It Again” uses and plays with it so magnificently. For me, this is a peak of Britney and Max Martin’s early careers – just as good as its template, perhaps better. As a piece of classic pop songwriting, “Oops” is inferior – “…Baby” has that dynamite sixties melodrama going on, and it feels so complete and satisfying it’s irresistible. But “Oops” takes it as a model and vaults it, going beyond its aspirations to lay foundations for the rest of Britney’s career.

For a start, she actually sounds happy on it. Her singles had been a sequence of teenage agonies, with “Born To Make You Happy” pushing her melodrama to an unnerving limit. “Oops” goes in a completely different direction – now she’s the one in control while her luckless boy makes a fool of himself. “Oops” isn’t a word you say when you sincerely regret anything, and Britney clearly doesn’t. It means she gets to sing the song in a rather different way from earlier singles – breaking out a sarcastic snap that’ll end up as one of her most recognisable styles. She still flirts with melodrama – “To lose all my senses…” – but knowingly undercuts it, makes a joke of it – “that is just so typically me.”

This shifting vocal style finds an echo in the record’s production: this is the single that begins the journey to the cut-up, fractured vocal lines of Spears’ great mid-00s records. Take the sequence at the start of verse two: “You see my problem is this” – sly and crackly, confidential. “I’m dreaming away, looking for” – the callous nasal jab that’s her main “Oops” register. “Heroes that truly exist” – a multi-tracked swoon. The form of the song – Britney’s voice flitting between styles – mirrors the content – Britney as a girl gleefully trifling with her suitors. Max’s lyrics aren’t brilliant – when are they ever? – but Britney’s singing and his production are a potent combination.

As Diamanda Galas – a woman who knows a thing or two about the uses of the unnatural sounding voice – said with approval, “She doesn’t even sound human!”. Galas delightfully characterised Britney as a producer’s “sick dream”, a “radioactive worm”, and these unlikely compliments get to the implications of “Oops”. What “Oops” is doing with its vocals is picking up on the potential of Cher’s “Believe” – moving away from the idea that a pop single should pretend to be a recording of a single, replicable performance. On the instrumental side, this illusion had fallen away a long time before. In dance music, loops and cut-ups and stretching meant that vocal naturalism was strictly optional. But in pop, there was still an implied hierarchy. The lead vocal was more important than the backing, which was more important than the video, which was more important than anything else the star did.

“Oops…I Did It Again” doesn’t dissolve that hierarchy entirely. But it presents a strong challenge to it. Not just in the vocal – whose treatments are quite mild compared to later Britney Spears tracks – but in its most audacious trick, not writing a breakdown at all and instead churning to a halt, then cutting to video dialogue with a sudden “All Aboard!” As the “Oops” chords bubble softly around them, Britney and her doe-eyed suitor discuss the gift he’s brought her. Not just any gift: The Heart Of The Ocean, the necklace from the film Titanic. The dialogue makes this absolutely obvious to anyone who’s seen the film – which is most of Britney’s audience, you figure. And Britney’s response to this impossible gift of the most symbolically romantic object in the entirety of late-90s pop culture? A slightly exasperated, “Aw, you shouldn’t have.”

(Just to make it even more absurd and amazing, in the video, all this is happening on Mars.)

Britney doesn’t perform this section live – in a gig environment, “Oops” gets forced back into song-shape, which emphasises how much the section breaks that shape on record. It’s a deeply weird moment – not even a spoken word section a la the Shangri-Las, more like a skit stranded in the middle of a track. It’s simultaneously clumsy and swaggering – Britney casually hijacking the biggest film of all time – and it explicitly declares that “Oops”’ as a song is a soundtrack to its video. Which in the era of Total Request Live and its UK equivalents, was a fair acknowledgement of how fans would encounter it.

The spoken video breakdown isn’t a trick Britney, Max Martin or any of her other collaborators would revisit – it risks the momentum too much. But in this one case, it works. The dialogue is such a perfect capsule of the song’s theme, for one thing – look how far this guy will go, and look how awkwardly misguided that is. But also the interlude does the exact job a bridge would do and does it splendidly – pausing the song so it can return stronger. If the first half of “Oops” is a patchwork of new ideas and old, its climax is the Cheiron pop machine on booming form. Once again, the idea of the lead vocal as the core of the song is dropped – the back end of “Oops” is mostly carried by backing singers, with Britney contributing licks of vocal fry at its edge. It doesn’t matter – any more than it matters that, when the massed vox come in after the break,on a modified chorus, it’s the same payoff trick as on “Baby One More Time”. It’s still the most joyful trick around, and Britney and Max work it even better. The skipped beat on the title – “Oops I — DID it again to your heart!” is my single peak moment of this whole wave of pop. Even when I’ve listened to the rest of the song so much it can only sound harsh and draggy, that tiny, explosive pause pulls me back to loving it.

We’ll be seeing a lot more of Max Martin and of Britney Spears. None of their later work together – before or after her breakdown and comeback – has the bright, self-aware confidence of “Oops”, a collaboration between a producer and singer both flush with early success and keen to consolidate their position at the very heart of pop culture. It would soon be time for Max to find other singers, and for Britney to decisively break from the “…Baby One More Time” model. But “Oops” was never meant to be that break – its new ideas and laugh-out-loud cheek are a freebie. Its only job was to be a triumph, and it is.

10

Comments

  1. 1
    Tom on 5 Mar 2015 #

    This takes Popular over the TWO THIRDS point (I think, by the way, that I messed up and BOMT should have been a 10, and maybe if that had, this wouldn’t be. Who knows? But this is one of my four or five favourite Britney singles on any day.)

  2. 2
    ciaran on 5 Mar 2015 #

    Whoa!

    Unbelieveable Jeff.

    You were true to your word anyway Tom.

  3. 3
    Tom on 5 Mar 2015 #

    Anyway, I shouldn’t equivocate. This was a bugger to write, but that was nothing to do with the song. (You’ll have at least one more 10 before 2015 is over, barring an accident of whim.)

  4. 4
    flahr on 5 Mar 2015 #

    I don’t agree, I’m afraid :( I think I preferred the tricks on “…Baby” and I don’t like Britters’s vocal style much on this either. Not that I usually have much problem with ‘nasal’ but maybe it’s because it’s a departure from her norm rather than what she always sounds like.

    Still got a great chorus, tho’. The spoken-word bit is wonderfully off-kilter though – particular props to the use of “the old lady” rather than “Rose” to ensure that you don’t actually have to have paid much attention to Titanic to get the ref.

  5. 5
    Billy Hicks on 5 Mar 2015 #

    Bloody.
    Hell.

    It’s neither the Britney #1 I’d have given the easy ten to (that would be the obvious), neither it is the 2000 #1 I’d give the easy ten to (that would be a forthcoming bunny), but I am kinda pleased that Sinead’s long run finally has a successor, as when BOMT missed out I did start to genuinely wonder if we’d ever get another top-marker ever again.

    My feelings of this song are the same as when I first heard it – thinking “Ooh, yay, it’s Baby One More Time” at first only to be horrendously disappointed when I realise it’s an inferior remake. But I can’t hate it, again it’s too evocative of a childhood era I’ve reminisced on these pages far too much already and too many positive Year 6 memories are intertwined with it for me to cast it aside too much. If it plays on a night out, I’m on that damn dancefloor.

    6, only because Lucky and Stronger are better.

  6. 6
    Ricardo on 5 Mar 2015 #

    I’d wager what most people (especially two sects of the world’s population) remember is Brit’s outfit in the video, though. :) Can someone say camel toe?

  7. 7
    anthony on 5 Mar 2015 #

    I love this song, but i prefer decadent brit, to early brit, which makes me feel guilty, in a joni mitchell free man in paris kind of way, but fuck is toxic amazing.

  8. 8
    Matthew K on 5 Mar 2015 #

    Such a great example of the Popular form – a true joy in the workings of pop singles, and an astute but not overladen analysis of how and why it achieved #1. Congratulations Tom – I will look forward to the print edition in 2020.

  9. 9
    mapman132 on 5 Mar 2015 #

    Well I didn’t see THAT coming until about halfway through Tom’s review. And even then I thought, nah he’ll give it 9 like he always does, until I got to the very end and…well, I always figured we’d get another 10 eventually, but uh, okaaaay….

    Anyhow, I’m not surprised to see the video mentioned so heavily in Tom’s writeup. I so associate this song with its video that I didn’t even realize the spoken word bit was part of the actual track until now (assuming it was a video only break). Like a lot of the hits we’ve encountered in 2000, it seems very much of its moment in time – not just the Titanic reference, but also Mars – I remember there were a couple of Mars movies out that year, and it seemed that now that we were in the 21st century, a trip to Mars was on a lot of people’s minds at the time. Due to planetary positions, a commonly mentioned target date was 2016. Ah, zeerust…

    Despite OIDIA being an Event Single with a capital E.S., it only reached #9 on the Hot 100. As mentioned in previous threads, American Britney fans (or their parents) were buying the album and radio play wasn’t as heavy as one might think (too bad TRL views weren’t included in the formula!).

    As you probably gather, I’m not nearly as enthusiastic about OIDIA as Tom, so I’ll go with 6/10.

  10. 10
    Matthew K on 5 Mar 2015 #

    Such a great example of the Popular form – a true joy in the workings of pop singles, and an astute but not overladen analysis of how and why this one achieved #1. I agree it’s the ur-Britney track from the early phase, even if my ageing brain provides a seamless mashup with BOMT whenever I try to recall either song.
    Congratulations Tom – I will look forward to the print edition in 2020.

  11. 11
    Tim Byron on 5 Mar 2015 #

    I always wondered if Max Martin was deliberately doing his version of ‘It’s The Same Old Song’ by the Four Tops here? (‘It’s The Same Old Song’, of course, being Holland/Dozier/Holland’s response after being asked to write another ‘I Can’t Help Myself’). Of course, Martin’s not one for interviews, so his thoughts on his process/his influences are a bit mysterious. But you have to imagine, given the sheer volume of his success, that he’s spent years carefully dissecting the product of various pop factories, and surely that includes Motown.

    Both ‘Oops…’ and ‘It’s The Same Old Song’ are both sequels using most of the same tricks as the previous hit (The Four Tops’ ‘I Can’t Help Myself’). Both have the title which can be taken as self-consciousness about unoriginality (despite lyrics on a different topic). And both are very enjoyable despite the obviousness (or perhaps because of?).

    Of course, many obvious, formulaic, sequel singles just don’t work – ‘I Got A Girl’ by Lou Bega comes to my mind, for example. I wonder what the difference between ‘Oops…’ and ‘I Got A Girl’ is; my gut feeling is that it’s about attitude. ‘I Got A Girl’ sounds like Bega’s saying, “hope you’re not bored yet…”, while “Oops…’ actively taunts anyone who has any issues with the brazenness of it.

    In 2000, I was 18 and at the peak of my rockism. In fact, I used to post to alt.music.radiohead, and I’m pretty sure there’s a record of me arguing against some poor Britney fan who posted there, where I go on about how Britney didn’t write her own songs and shouldn’t be taken seriously blah blah blah. But even then, I’m pretty sure I got the song stuck in my head a fair bit. And I kind of knew, then, that this was a bit genius in its way – it was the enemy, but it was only the enemy because it was so damn good at doing everything I despised.

  12. 12
    Mark G on 5 Mar 2015 #

    #10 the extended remix of #8

  13. 13
    Chelovek na lune on 5 Mar 2015 #

    Pop genius, undeniably. Maybe slightly weaker, as a composition, than BOMT, but the self-reverential knowing cheekiness of OIDIA (and the meta-textuality) goes some way to make up for it. 8.

    Great review, also!

  14. 14
    JLucas on 5 Mar 2015 #

    What a great choice for a ten. Your rationale is the same one I used for my possibly eyebow-raising top mark for Bag It Up. This isn’t a song for the ages, but it achieves exactly what it sets out to do, and it’s Britney being the best Britney she can be.

    We won’t be seeing her here again for a little while, and although her next two albums contained some of her best work, I don’t think she was ever quite this carefree again. There’s a sense that being a pop star was still *fun* for Britney at this point, which sadly won’t be the case for much longer.

    With all that said, I do prefer Stronger, a gloriously OTT Max-Martin-does-Gloria-Gaynor stomp. You signal ‘Oops I…did it again to your heart” as the peak of this wave of Max Martin pop, I think the “STRONGER than yesterday, it’s NOTHING but MY WAY” breakdown near the end of that song might just be mine.

    And of course the other big single from this album was ‘Lucky’, a rather strange, chintzy little thing on the surface that holds unexpected (unintentional) gravitas in the light of what happened to her in the years after this.

    8 from me, just because there are many Britney tracks I enjoy more, but I applaud the 10.

  15. 15
    Alan Connor on 5 Mar 2015 #

    I used to imagine a mashup with Woman In Love (the title phrases, anyway).

  16. 16
    Phil on 5 Mar 2015 #

    I’d actually never seen that video – and that at least is a work of genius. But I think you’re slightly wrong about the Titanic reference – what I like about it is the thought that a good slice of Britney’s audience wouldn’t have seen the film, and their friends would tell them about it. Instant playground buzz, in other words – very clever.

    As for the song, I find it very hard to hear past that foursquare Dit-dit-dit-dit beat, which for me sounds flat and childish for some reason – I know that there are more interesting things going on rhythmically above and below it, but the song still feels ploddy to me. It’s an enjoyable experience, though – never a dull moment. And you’re dead right about the vocals, & the construction of the single generally (I don’t say ‘the song’).

    I think you’re right: this and …BOMT are two brilliant pieces of work, which do a certain pop thing about as well as that pop thing could possibly be done. Which means one of them’s a 10 and one a 9; one of them’s See My Baby Jive and the other one’s IWICBCED, one of them’s Good Vibrations & the other one’s Heroes and Villains. The discussion of which way round it should be could be quite interesting.

    I won’t be taking part, though – I just don’t like either of them enough to devote much attention to them. On a purely subjective level, this one’s a 6 – which is averaged out from 10 (I can’t argue with this post) and 4 (I thought it was dreck at the time & it’s not sounding much better now).

  17. 17
    Tom on 5 Mar 2015 #

    #16 One of the things that’s very hard to estimate is reach of culture – how many people knew this song vs Titanic, for instance. Far more people will have heard OIDIA than bought it, obviously – especially as it was all over the video channels. (The link in the post leads to an excellent tumblr you should all check out, by the way).

    I suspect Titanic still wins it – it was the biggest move of allllll tiiiiiimmmmeeee plus it was out on video by that point so will have the home watching/sleepover watching factor to give it a second lease on life. I had never seen it (and have still never seen it, perhaps I’d hate this song if I did!) but I still picked up on the reference.

  18. 18
    wichitalineman on 5 Mar 2015 #

    Intreeging.

    The first time I heard this (I was driving through Chiswick for some reason) the vocal fry made me literally feel sick. Now I barely notice it. But that’s a good call on this being a step beyond Believe.

    The spoken part has a precedent of sorts in Jan & Dean’s 1963 US hit Dead Man’s Curve where the song is interrupted, via an ascending harp, to a scene straight out of General Hospital: “Well the last thing I remember, Doc, I started to swerve…” Similarly knowing and deadpan to Britney’s part on OIDIA’s breakdown.

    Good calls on Woman In Love (never noticed that) and It’s the Same Old Song.

    So it’s certainly part of a great pop lineage, and plays a very clever game. Not a 10 for me but like Tom I love its unshakeable confidence.

  19. 19
    Rory on 5 Mar 2015 #

    I first saw “Oops” on a hotel TV sometime in mid-2000, probably in Johannesburg, making it one of the late-’90s/2000 pop songs I associate with round-the-world adventuring. It’s my ur-Britney, so I have no problem with marking it higher than BOMT. Not my 10-Britney, though: that’s still to come.

    What a confident peak it is. The spoken-word interlude is a sign of that; who else would have the bravado to attempt it but a pop star at the top of her game? The song itself is irresistibly catchy; it may be very much of a piece with BOMT, but it’s the melody and lyric I always bring to mind first out of the two.

    In 2000 I was far too devoted to Millionaires, XTRMNTR, Kid A and the like to give Britney the attention I now recognize she deserved, but better late than never. 9.

    (This also gives me the chance to remove the antimacassar from the Max Raabe version, complete with spoken outro. Wunderbar!)

  20. 20
    Stuart on 5 Mar 2015 #

    Britney might not do the spoken bit live, but Jedward cheerfully did when they performed it on X – Factor.

    They did the dialogue to each other.

    The two brothers.

    Not a moment to be forgotten once seen.

  21. 21
    col on 5 Mar 2015 #

    Well said, Tom. It’s her best single for me, too—“Toxic” comes close but the sheer nerve and spectacle of this wins.

    I usually hate the “rock singer turns pop song into acoustic ballad” thing but the Richard Thompson version really works, because RT really gets into it and plays up the singer’s sociopathy.

    in re “Titanic” there’s no way the great, great majority of Britney’s teenage audience wouldn’t have seen the film. By 2000 it was on DVD and showing on TV nightly, and everyone over 5 knew what it was and probably could recite lines from it (this was in the US, mind; perhaps different elsewhere)

  22. 22
    punctum on 5 Mar 2015 #

    The difference between loving pop and patronising pop can be ascertained by how the artist treats Britney. Thus it is that the various strained attempts to convert “Baby One More Time” into a tortured, funereal ballad invariably read as glutinous, overblown and an indication of contempt towards both the song and pop in general; furthermore, since neither Travis nor Darius is Tim Buckley, they are incapable of making the emotional connection which the latter managed to find in, for instance, “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” (as preserved on his Dream Letter: Live In London 1968 album). The value of “Oops…” is, conversely, enriched by Richard Thompson’s good humoured but truthful interpretation as featured on his 1000 Years Of Popular Music collection; he clearly loves the song and manages to find himself in its deceiving corridors (“Britney’s classic reveals its own navel,” he remarks in his sleevenote), and by turning the chord progression into a Tudor estampie towards the end he indicates with a kind-hearted wink that everything comes from somewhere, no matter how far-fetched.

    The Britney/Stargate original is essentially “Daughter Of Baby One More Time” but none the worse for being so; its variegated angles of attack – the stuttering intro, the ‘phoned-in “You see my problem is this” before synths and beats hurl the song back into violent focus to accommodate her drawled “I’m dreaming away” – are inventive and involving, and there is plenty of room for the singer to examine her own internal ambiguity; she wants to think she’s merely a flirt (“I’m not that innocent”) who goes trampling over the expectant hopes of would-be Others (“That is just so typically me”) but nevertheless gets “lost in the game” – and then there is the record’s emotional crux with her plaintive “Wishing that heroes, they truly exist/I cry, watching the days”; as with its indirect ancestor, “I’m Not In Love,” she has a hard time convincing herself that she’s only in it for the fun, refuses to acknowledge her own capacity for getting swept away by emotional overhauls.

    The song then winds down into one of her dreams (“All aboard!”), the Titanic pastiche where the bold adventurer (portrayed by Max Martin himself) proclaims that he has gone down to the seabed to retrieve that ring, to which Britney responds with a smirkingly indifferent “Oh, you shouldn’t have” – in the video she is depicted in a spacecraft, which makes perfect sense; floating away into the ineffable but unable to unglue her boots from the roots of desire – before returning for a final chorus onslaught. Whoops. she’s fooled herself again, but underneath the supposed indifference loves it all – as do we.

  23. 23
    thefatgit on 5 Mar 2015 #

    Well, well, well! “Oops…” is probably one of my top 5 Britney songs, but it’s probably more to do with one of the chunkiest, most satisfying hooks in recent pop history. Britney defies you not to buy into her world of dangling her paramour on a string, like a cat with a new toy. It was my daughter who bought this, during her peak pop period; 12 years old and looking for someone new to emulate as Spice Girls were about to properly implode. “Oops…” was the one song that engaged her more than anything else at this time.

    For me, it’s a multi-layered thing. The vocal tic: that groan at the start of every line could be a dealbreaker for some, but not for me. It was almost a feline purr…she enjoyed her lover’s discomfort, she enjoyed that power over the fate of his heart. From a man’s perspective, it elevated her from dodgy schoolgirl fantasy into powerful femme fatale territory. The flame that us moths are doomed to immolate ourselves within. Of course, it does not help to objectify Britney in this manner, although many men did. “Oops…” is a singularly intelligent slab of feminist pop, with Britney firmly in the driving seat. With “Oops…” Britney is helping to change the game. (9)

  24. 24
    lonepilgrim on 5 Mar 2015 #

    this seems all of a piece with the growing dominance of CGI in movies – which makes the Titanic reference v. appropriate: the ‘star(s)’ of the piece caught up and shaped by a glossy, awe-inspiring environment.
    I like the idea of production teams remaking/remodeling previous hits – like car manufacturers. It may seem a step away from the currency of ‘authenticity’ and ‘soul’ that made some value Christina A’s talents more highly than Britney but I think it is to her great credit as an artist that she manages to protect/project her humanity through all of the digitally precise production.

  25. 25
    Tom on 5 Mar 2015 #

    The Richard Thompson version is a bajillion times superior to Travis, but I basically agree with Punctum (I think) that it’s even better when he does it as “Marry, Agen Hic Hev Donne Yt”!

  26. 26
    Kinitawowi on 5 Mar 2015 #

    Ubiquitous on the video channels at the time, I saw enough of this to know I didn’t particularly care to listen to it. Fast forward to now-ish, and bunging in Now! 46 to listen to it without the video is a very revealing listen.

    What it reveals isn’t good. The spaghetti-throw lyrical stylings; the three different concepts in one line at the start of verse 2 Tom highlights, trying on everything to see if something might stick. That spoken interlude in the middle of the song (which I’d always assumed was exclusive to the video); which exists in lieu of a proper bridge and cements it to its time period. It gets better towards the end – while BOMT got worse – but still never climbs to “great”.

    The video is where it all clicks; that’s where this song truly gets to be the Event it’s trying so desperately hard to be. Which made sense – the event in question was trying to convert Britney into Entertainer rather than Britney as Singer (or, god forbid, Britney as Musician). And it’s a fun watch. Everybody Hurts is a far more entertaining watch than it is a listen. But I’m trying to tackle this as a song; criminal when it’s a not-spectacular advert for the whole package, maybe, but the base elements need to hold up for the package to work (especially when, as later forays into other fields would reveal, the package doesn’t work).

    TL;DR: Romy And Michele’s High School Reunion may be my favourite film of all time, but I’m under no illusions that it deserves a 10.

    5.

  27. 27
    jim5et on 5 Mar 2015 #

    I would put this about an 8 – the obvious, unarguably Britney 10 is yet to arrive – but it’s great, and the Titanic bit absolutely makes it; the best chart spoken word bit since…Leader of the Pack?

  28. 28
    flahr on 5 Mar 2015 #

    You’re making Martin Fry cry big blubbery tears, Jim5et. FORGOTTEN SO SOON.

  29. 29
    chelovek na lune on 5 Mar 2015 #

    #28 nobody puts Martin Fry in the corner; that was surely a reference to the 1988 cover by he who was still then known as The Joan Collins Fan Club… (which, in its way, may have improved on the original’s spoken bit)

  30. 30
    Phil on 5 Mar 2015 #

    So you see what I’m saying, punters: he was the leader of the pack, but now he’s gone. It would no longer be true to say that he’s the leader of the pack, because he’s gone. I’m the leader of the pack now. I haven’t got a motorcycle, though; I’ve got a Sierra estate. It’s fairly nippy…

    Happy memories.

  31. 31
    Inanimate Carbon God on 6 Mar 2015 #

    If this is a 10, I’m Captain Haddock*. Great write-up though Tom, solid proof you still have unequivocal passion for this blog.

    But anyway, filing this under “the comment #14 on entry #331 effect” or “I’ll refrain from commenting further, as my reaction to the video at the time evoked emotions inappropriate for discussion on a public forum.” For many future bunnies, I really need to find a Plan B (ahem.) Anyway, anyone worried my reviews will devolve into lads-mag skeeviness will be reassured by my plans to point out plainly what’s wrong with bunny #1231.

    * Saw someone dressed up as him in Clitheroe today. Tres amusant. Not sure if a teacher on World Book Day or just modern fashion. The kids these days all look like Tintin himself, maybe it’s down to Sam S**** or an underrated bunny we’ll meet in 2009.

  32. 32
    Billy Hicks on 6 Mar 2015 #

    Titanic is the ‘Everything I Do’ of the UK box office chart, at least since 1991 when weekly sales are easily available – it hogged the #1 spot at the UK box office for *thirteen weeks* from January to April 1998 (and again for a week in 2012), with only Avatar’s nine weeks in 2009/10 coming remotely near. No films have lasted over three weeks at the top for over two years.

    Officially the rating was 12, but cinemas back in 1998 would have been much, much less strict on ID that they are now so I’m sure many pre-teens would have snuck in and watched it, and even more when it was released on video. Today it wouldn’t be an issue anyway as the 12 rating became 12A in 2002, allowing those under 12 to watch if accompanied by an adult.

  33. 33
    Matthew K on 6 Mar 2015 #

    #12 oops, I did it again!

  34. 34
    Ed on 6 Mar 2015 #

    Not (entirely) trying a challops here, but I rather like the Travis and Ed Sheeran takes on BOMT. Neither is remotely as good as the original, of course, in either vocal or production, but as evidence that the song is a masterpiece even when stripped down to just melody and lyrics, they are pretty effective.

    That’s a good spot by Punctum @22 on Tim Buckley’s wonderful You Keep Me Hanging On on Dream Letter, which might be my favourite out of all his performances. And although Buckley was a much better singer than Healy or Sheeran, the effect he’s going for is the same.

    I know “slow a pop song down so it’s really serious” has become a cliche, calcified by over-use by John Lewis and Simon Cowell. But techniques become cliched for a reason. As with any gimmick, I am prepared to accept there are good and bad examples. But why is the Travis BOMT worse than Thompson’s ‘Oops…’? Myself, I can’t hear it.

    Possible challops #2: I don’t think the lyrics of OIDIA are particularly feeble. The “new Britney” persona is sketched out very effectively. And you can hear Taylor Swift taking notes for ’1989′.

  35. 35
    Ed on 6 Mar 2015 #

    …Or, I now realise, Max Martin trying out some ideas that he could still be milking effectively a decade and a half later.

  36. 36
    Ronnie on 6 Mar 2015 #

    Count me in with @26, who provides a very necessary and well-written counterpoint to Tom’s equally well-written but baffling rapturous praise.

  37. 37
    Tom on 6 Mar 2015 #

    I don’t think Max’s co-write extends to Taylor’s lyrics? At one point I toyed with throwing a Blank Space reference into the review but a) it didn’t fit and b) the songs are about basically different things.

    Thompson doesn’t slow it down! Or not by much – he plays it as a folk song, but quite an urgent, slap-the-thigh folk song.

    I think if I could strip away the presentation and reception of Travis’ BOMT I might be able to hear it differently, but IDK. “The song is a masterpiece even when stripped down to just melody and lyrics” – yes OK this was the argument, but the way they framed this smacked of “…and when performed by a proper artist in a proper fashion” and also “songs that you can’t do this with are inferior”. Also, to be honest, the song ISN’T a masterpiece when it’s Travis doing it, it sounds like a mopey dude.

  38. 38
    Tom on 6 Mar 2015 #

    #26,36: I have seen the video exactly once, as far as I know. Which undermines my dissolving-hierarchies argument a bit – but for a very long time I just assumed they’d decided to put that spoken word bit into the song because, fuck it, why not. (The fuck it, why not element is maintained by the on Mars stuff, at least.)

    I am guessing that this will be the 10 with the biggest gap between the score and the reader average* – currently holding at a respectable 7 – which is fine, something has to be. And the things I’m holding up as features – the bridge, the chop-and-change vocals, Britney’s presence on the song in general – are VERY MUCH bugs for a lot of listeners, even pop listeners.

    *though a load of people hated the next nailed-on 10 at the time, but they were being stupid.

  39. 39
    Guy on 6 Mar 2015 #

    I think it’s time for me to accept that Tom’s taste and mine will never match. Max Martin and ABBA hit the exact same notes for me: Fussy, ornate, and utterly joyless. There is zero life in this song.

    Almost all Tom’s tens would be fives for me.

  40. 40
    Giroud on 6 Mar 2015 #

    I think it’s time for me to accept that Tom’s taste and mine will never match. Max Martin and ABBA hit the exact same notes for me: Fussy, ornate, and utterly joyless. There is zero life in this song.

    Almost all Tom’s tens would be fives for me.

  41. 41
    Ed on 6 Mar 2015 #

    Another ’1989′ – ‘Oops…’ connection: http://headlineplanet.com/home/2014/10/31/taylor-swifts-1989-sales-pacing-1-3-million-chasing-britneys-record/

    Agreed Oops… and Blank Space are lyrically about different things, but the insouciant unapologetic mood is the same.

  42. 42
    Rory on 6 Mar 2015 #

    #39: Who among us would match exactly, with Tom or with any other Populista? Personally, I’ve been keeping schtum while everyone gets their Travis hate on in this thread, avoiding mentioning that my album of the year in 2000 was The Man Who (though my retrospective album of 2000 nowadays wouldn’t be).

    I Iistened to “Oops” again on the iPod on the walk in to work today, and couldn’t possibly lump it in with other obvious 5-scorers we’ve heard here. Far too interesting for that. “Fussy, ornate, and utterly joyless” sounds like a description of “Paranoid Android” to me, not “Oops” (and I love “Paranoid Android”). As for ABBA, how anyone could find “Dancing Queen” utterly joyless is beyond me, but… see initial rhetorical question.

    I listened to the whole album of Oops on that walk to work, and it’s a mixed bag, still, but about half of it is good or very good – you can see the upwards trajectory.

  43. 43
    Tom on 6 Mar 2015 #

    #42 Ha, it’s a fair cop though. An exercise like this reveals my tastes and prejudices pretty well. I like a lot of things – thank goodness, or Popular would be very boring – but I adore a more limited set.

  44. 44
    enitharmon on 6 Mar 2015 #

    I was (mostly) pleasantly surprised that Tom’s tastes matched mine pretty well when he was discovering afresh “my” music (House of the Rising Sun notwithstanding – grrr!). This held up fairly well during the coverage of his own teen years, but began to fall apart with the emergence of electronic club music, which kind of does my head in. Fair enough I suppose, I’ve given it a go and some of that music I’ve come round to, though I’ve always had a horror the kind of environment it was intended to be heard in. Now we’re on the music of that part of Tom’s adulthood where he was enthusiastic for blogging about pop, so I guess that is reflected in the rather clinical approach to the music and its construction.

    This clearly isn’t close to a 10 for me. It’s pleasant enough to listen to, perhaps somewhat more so than most of its contemporaries. I’m surprised on tracking it down to find that I recognise it, but it doesn’t seem to jump out out of its surroundings. It doesn’t excite me, and it doesn’t make me want to listen to it again. Actually I find its clipped, precise production rather depressing and Britney herself about as erotic and exciting as a plastic blow-up doll – which in a sense is what she had become with the real, and we now know rather frail, young woman kept out of sight by her minders. It’s all part of a society which has become ever more sanitised and controlled by the big corporations.

  45. 45
    Rory on 6 Mar 2015 #

    The comments upthread on slowed-down covers of pop songs made me think of one most of you won’t know, as it was from before he hit it big in the UK: John Farnham’s 1980 cover of “Help“, a top ten hit in Australia (inspired, no doubt, by Joe Cocker’s “With a Little Help From My Friends”). I was so familiar with it as a 12-year-old that I was taken aback on hearing the original for the first time at 15.

    I watched Richard Thompson’s enjoyable cover of “Oops” on YouTube yesterday, and experienced full-on YouTube Comments Rage at the fans saying how rubbish the original is, dismissing Britney Spears as “manufactured”, slating her as a singer of other people’s songs (the irony of this in a discussion of a cover version escaping them). The “singer, not songwriter” charge is particularly annoying when it’s presented as proof of how worthless an artist is, and so often directed at young women who happen to sing pop. The response, surely, has to be:

    1. Frank Sinatra
    2. Luciano Pavarotti
    3. Roger Daltrey
    4. Fuck off.

    (I’ve surprised myself with how far I’ve drifted into “Leave Britney Alone!” territory over recent months, given how indifferent I was towards her in 1999-2001. Perhaps it’s knowing what lies ahead, in both her music and her personal life.)

  46. 46
    Cumbrian on 6 Mar 2015 #

    I don’t think the real problem with the Travis version of BOMT is any of the things that people have raised with it otherwise – certainly on the version I have heard. It’s the backing vocals on the “still believe” that betray its intentions. They’re ridiculous, delivered to be “funny” (I think they’re being done by Mark and Lard as well, to compound matters – if they’d wanted to do something with it, surely they could have get their mates to leave off). They call into question any sincerity in their thinking that the song is a “great” and that a cover in their style is intended to reveal anything about it. It shows them to be sneering at it a bit, to be honest. At least I think so. It’s utter tripe. A pox on their house.

    In so much as I could predict that Britney was going to get a 10 at some point, I figured she would by looking at some of the other records that have a got a 10. It looks like Tom has a liking for distinctive female vocals with a male involvement more on lyrics, music or production (Nancy, ABBA, Blondie, Madonna, Sinead, Britney all follow the template and depending on how you feel about Andrew Powell, Kate Bush could fit in too make up 8 out of the 16 tracks that have received a 10. If this is an accurate indication of the stuff Tom likes, Bey-Bunny is surely nailed on for a 10 – or Bey-Bunny’s Bunny Band).

    OIDIA. I don’t much like the lyrics frankly and the whole thing lurches like Frankenstein’s monster. BOMT is much better I think and Genie In A Bottle knocks both into a cocked hat musically (it’s got nothing to do with the vocals at all, in my opinion, Genie flows and slinks appropriately, which I am not getting at all from OIDIA, which I just find a bit lumpen). I’m on the cusp of 6 though, it’s undeniably impressive at what it does but is that enough for me to mark it up for the year end poll? I suspect I will have to sit with it a bit more to find out.

  47. 47
    Cumbrian on 6 Mar 2015 #

    My punctuation and grammar in that post is terrible. Apologies, hopefully it’s at least coherent enough for people to get the gist of it…

  48. 48
    Tom on 6 Mar 2015 #

    #46 This is fair too of course, with the caveat that unfortunately I haven’t had a lot of opportunities to hand out high marks to women artists WITHOUT male involvement in the production/music/lyrics. So I dunno to what extent the men being involved is a dealmaker or dealbreaker.

  49. 49
    Cumbrian on 6 Mar 2015 #

    48: Well, quite. The industry being what it is, there’s not that many female only productions out there at all, never mind getting to #1.

    I must confess I was drawing lines from Martin to Prince to Benny and Bjorn and then to Lee Hazlewood mostly though and the Kate Bush one is a real bend to fit scenario.

    On the plus side though Tom, you don’t have many more blokes with guitars to wade through at #1 either (no 10s since Dexys)!

  50. 50
    Rory on 6 Mar 2015 #

    While I would never defend Travis’s cover as a highpoint in their oeuvre – it very much deserves its placing as track 3 of CD2 of the fourth single from a second album – Wikipedia quotes Fran Healey as saying: “We did it for a laugh the first time. [..] And as we played it, the irony slipped from my smile. It’s a very well-crafted song. It [has] that magic thing.” So, tongue-in-cheek at first, but they soon saw the light. Not that different from how many of us first encounter some pieces of music we later come to love.

    The cover with Mark and Lard is from a radio appearance, some sort of live lounge thing, with the DJs getting in on the act. I’m not sure whether it was from before or after they started playing it live. I don’t think it’s the version they actually released as a B-side, but might be wrong. (I don’t own CD2 of the fourth single from their second album.)

  51. 51
    swanstep on 6 Mar 2015 #

    @Tom, 37. The deluxe edn of 1989 includes a bunch of Swift’s initial demos of the album (recorded on her phone) including one for ‘Blank Space’. Martin and Shellbeck (sp?) obviously may have contributed the odd lyrical idea and melody (i.e., not just arrangement and backing ideas), but it’s striking how much of the finished song and its personality-forward arrangement Swift had to begin with. BS sounds in demo like a grabby hit-in-waiting that any production crew would have been thrilled to be given the keys to; that BS probably would have been very successful no matter whom Swift chose to complete it with her.

  52. 52
    Tom on 6 Mar 2015 #

    #50 Interesting. I definitely remember the “we realised it’s a good song when we started playing it” line.

    I’m still quite a stickler on this stuff, though. This ties in with what I was getting at in the OIDIA review, really. It becomes harder and harder to usefully maintain the idea of a hierarchy of importance with “song” at the top and then “recording” and then “video” and so on. The separability of song from record is a false grail. It’s fine to cover Baby One More Time, and fine to do so in a way that emphasises the chords and vocal melody over the production and choreography, but what you’re not doing there – I would argue – is reaching any kind of privileged or central element in BOMT*.

    *Though I can see why it’s particularly tempting for bands with bad singers and dreary sounds to imagine this, of course.

  53. 53
    flahr on 6 Mar 2015 #

    I haven’t heard the Travis BOMT and why the hell would I want to but I seem to recall the Futureheads version of “Hounds of Love” being one of the top 20 songs of all time ACCORDING TO SCIENCE. So presumably if Travis were pissing about and doing it sarcastically and not taking it seriously that would be better.

  54. 54
    Rory on 6 Mar 2015 #

    #52 I agree. That’s why I got pissed off at those YouTube comments about Richard Thompson’s cover suggesting that he’d found some merit in OIDIA that Britney hadn’t. Yeah, right. I quite like his folking around with the song, but it doesn’t trump her version.

    #53 No reason why you’d want to hear the Travis BOMT – I think I’ve heard it once and a half, and that’ll do me, even as a fan of some of their albums.

  55. 55
    Tom on 6 Mar 2015 #

    #49 I think basically I like pop when it’s very performed – theatrical, artificial, dramatising an emotional situation. The Shangri-Las and ABC – mentioned upthread – are absolutely within my wheelhouse and it’s why the early 80s and early 00s are so dear to me.

  56. 56
    Phil on 6 Mar 2015 #

    Not crazy about that cover of Help, but it does bring out the melancholy that (according to Ian MacDonald) John Lennon originally meant to be the mood of the song. Too many dials turned to 11, though – it sounds less like the Dylanesque strum Lennon apparently started with than Dylan covered by Joe Cocker, produced by Jim Steinman.

  57. 57
    Ed on 7 Mar 2015 #

    I suppose you’d call this the negative of the acoustic cover then. But also, as the note at the end says, “created for parody purposes”.
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=QEiMIf512vM

  58. 58
    Shiny Dave on 7 Mar 2015 #

    Not convinced I could go as far as giving this a 10, but goodness you’ve made a case for it, Tom!

    Thinking about it, the vocal trickery applied to this makes it not so much a sequel to BOMT as the beginning of the producer-led pop era – although you could make a case for BOMT being that itself, “Oops…” is very much the Max Martin machine producing a model that happens to be custom-built for the singer piloting it, in a way I’m not sure BOMT quite counts as.

    A cursory look at the list of bunnies suggests the “Producer ft. Singer” model we meet a lot in the 2010s starts at #871 (can’t wait for the write-up on that one!). In actual pop terms, though, #871 is more like a better “Toca’s Miracle” and this is the track that points to the future of production-led pop.

    Between that and this being arguably the ur-Cheiron record, I don’t think I can go lower than a 9.

  59. 59
    Tommy Mack on 7 Mar 2015 #

    57 etc: I can’t really think of anything I much like done on an acoustic guitar: even Dylan, Cash and Young I much prefer with a band (or indeed THE Band in the case of the former) and I thought Paul Simon was a pious prick for using the live acoustic versions of the Sounds of Silence songs on S & G Greatest Hits. Joni Mitchell works solo for me because of the timbre of her voice and winsome melodies but she’s a very recent Damascene conversion for me, not a longtime love. Tori Amos’ piano and voice album worked surpringly well for me and I replayed it a lot during my Spotify binge after Tom’s Professional Widow review. Maybe the problem is that a lot of the singers who indulge in solo acoustica don’t have the voice or chops to carry it.

    I’m a big fan of scratchy lofi sounds that still manage to carry a lot of depth: The Slits’ Grapevine or The Gossip’s Careless Whisper for example. Or The Modern Lovers’ beautiful third album Rock and roll with… (the Egyptian Reggae album) which features acoustic covers of Desmond Dekker’s Coomah and er, The Wheels On The Bus, neither of which are among the best tracks. Not Arctic Monkeys’ hateful Live Lounge cover of Bunny Machine though. I’ve a personal reason for hating that beyond it just being shit which I’ll come to in context.

    As for OIDIA, I need to go back and listen again. I had it down as Britney’s All Day and all of the night: a superior rehash of her debut but less iconic for it but Tom’s excellent review suggests more. I don’t think it’s gonna be a 10 for me still but there may be a couple of Britney 10s to come though sad to see Toxic is apparently unbunnied.

    I’m always surprised how many of Tom’s marks and reviews I agree with to within at least a mark. Most of the ones where I’m out of step are high marks for stuff that does little for me but I can see why other people like it. The Troggs and The Clash stand out as a couple of favourites that got fairly short shrift but then in each case the individual songs weren’t personal favourites.

    #55 Tom, I’m with you on performance and theatricality in pop though I would say that obviously when it’s well done it doesn’t sound artificial: the middle eight of The Shangri-las Never Again for example doesn’t sound like performance, it sounds like controlled anger boiling over into rage. (a straight up 10 if it had got to #1, possibly my favourite Shangri-las single) I’d also add that ‘theatrical, artificial, dramatising an emotional situation’ could describe Kurt Cobain or Jim Morrison just as well as Martin Fry or Mary Weiss. Well, at their best anyway.

    In terms of shared taste what surprises me most on FT is the love a lot of posters seem to have for things like American college rock and post-Britpop stadium indie even. I had assumed it was pop, pop, pop on here (not that I have a problem with that although I can’t see me delving into the Matchbox 20 or Travis ouvres any time soon)

  60. 60
    lonepilgrim on 7 Mar 2015 #

    the problem that a lot of the indie bands have when they take the acoustic route is that they tend to strum away at the guitar with a busker like rhythm with little or no variation or subtlety. Joni Mitchell, who you mention, is well known for using unusual tunings for her guitar which create greater variety as does her use of a finger picking style that is more common with players from a folk background – although Johnny Marr uses that approach on occasions.

  61. 61
    Phil on 8 Mar 2015 #

    Agree with Tom #52 on the hierarchy of importance – the idea (which at one time we’d have called ‘rockist’) that The Song (without the production, arrangement etc) is the true, authentic thing. So Hey Ya is *really* about a neurotic boyfriend destroying his relationship through self-doubt, and Easy is *really* about an entitled git doing the Freebird thing and walking out. Actually what’s great about both those records is how the music – and the rhythm section in particular – transcends the song and carries the singer with it. Paring them back to the words and the melody leaches all the joy out of them – and that’s a lot of joy.

  62. 62
    Rory on 8 Mar 2015 #

    Tommy @59, you’ve been deceived by some overenthusiastic posts: T*x*c is very much bunnied.

  63. 63
    Izzy on 8 Mar 2015 #

    60: busker-style playing is terrible. It’s also the first thing you learn on guitar – open strings, undamped chords, every string played on every stroke – so it’s particularly dismal when it’s the only style some bands ever use.

    Noel Gallagher’s playing is the worst in my view – partly for the ubiquity, partly for the disproportionate volume, but mostly for the papery plectrums you can hear on every stroke.

    The instrument itself is as versatile and dramatic as any other guitar, as anyone who’s ever seen e.g. flamenco will attest. It’s also fine for loud stuff to a surprising extent. I’m sure I recall Keith Richards saying that Jumpin’ Jack Flash, and many others, were done on an acoustic and then overdriven via studio wizardry.

  64. 64
    Tommy Mack on 8 Mar 2015 #

    #63: Jumping Jack Flash is apparently acoustic guitars recorded and played back through a tiny speaker to get that eerie tremulous sound (though I think the main riff might be an electric). Britney should have covered that one instead though lyrically it’s more latter day Britney. For those that don’t know, her version of Satisfaction changes the lyrics of the second verse to ‘when I’m watching my TV and a girl comes on and tells me how short my skirts should be: she can’t tell me who to be, I’ve got my own identity’ which seems a bit rich: if anyone was telling girls how short their skirts should be…

    Busker playing is awful. The only thing worse is bands doing it on electric guitars. Oasis again guilty here.

  65. 65
    Tommy Mack on 8 Mar 2015 #

    Lonepilgrim @ 60, there’s a wonderful clip of Johnny Marr chatting to Tony Wilson and demonstrating on his red Les Paul how to write a Smiths song. Sadly I can’t find the clip on line but it basically went like: “My influences are English and American folk guitar (strums a few chords) but in The Smiths there’s a lot of space to fill so you take that and make it a bit more aggressive (chiming arpeggios of the same chords)” For years I loved that little riff he played more than any of their actual records (this was back when I hated Morrissey)

  66. 66
    Phil on 8 Mar 2015 #

    I always thought jit was a big influence on Marr – you can hear the Bhundu Boys in This Charming Man. Or is it just me?

    PS ‘bunny’?

  67. 67
    Mark G on 8 Mar 2015 #

    That reminds me of when Johnny Marr was on Radio 1 while some old guitars were being tried out. They had a sitar guitar, so he tried it out on his bands latest single, This Charming Man riff. Because he wanted to know what *that* sounded like, unselfconsciously. Decided he was cool, didn’t even know Morrissey from Adam in those days.

  68. 68
    Tom on 8 Mar 2015 #

    Phil: by convention we don’t directly talk about upcoming number ones in the comment threads. At some point it was decided that the “spoiler bunny” would mete out some kind of dire vengeance to those who broke this rule. Hence (ultimately) “a bunny” = “an upcoming number one”, “bunnied = Direct discussion is embargoed. This sometimes extends to the artists too but there’s not actually a reason it should – the Manics were “bunnied Welsh band” for ages but we happily chatted about them anyway.

    In most cases artists seem to either have a number of late career hits or have a lot of early career hits then stop. Britney in the UK is actually quite unusual for having a lot of early career hits but then carrying on being a significant pop force – so in theory we could talk about post 94 Britney but in practise we seem not to do.

  69. 69

    while the bhundu boys were actually recording in zimbabwe as early as 1983 — the year “this charming man” was recorded — it’s highly unlikely marr had heard them: they only arrived in the UK (more or less on the indie circuit rather than the ‘world music’ circuit) in 1986; tho their music was being played on UK radio (peel & kershaw) in 1985

    (this isn’t to say that african guitar styles more broadly — zairean soukous in particular — couldn’t have been something marr had heard and liked; there were london-based bands playing around with it from the early 80s, and obviously soukous was massive in the right clubs in paris from some time earlier, not to mention the right clubs in lagos)

  70. 70
    Izzy on 8 Mar 2015 #

    African guitar influence on The Smiths is definitely a theme that recurs in discourse from time to time. It’s either Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now or William, It Was Really Nothing which usually gets cited as Marr borrowing from high life.

    I say that like I know what high life is, or who plays it! Would appreciate a few pointers please.

  71. 71

    highlife is west african music, centred on ghana: figures like e.t.mensah, the african brothers, s.e.rogers, eric agyeman, a.b.crentsil, jewel ackah, prince nico, pat thomas

    it’s a laid-back music, doesn’t have the filigree prettiness or clubby discoid vim (to my ears) of central african guitar pop (which was always my favourite): highlife often favours a slightly sourer tuning also

  72. 72
    enitharmon on 8 Mar 2015 #

    Have I mentioned before that incident where Ms Spears was being interviewed by Jenni Murray on Woman’s Hour? A few gentle full tosses elicited a good deal of giggling “like, yeah, I mean cool” type responses and then Jenni asked her something about her personal life. Whereupon her (presumably) burly minders intervened, appeared to rip out every cable in the studio and brought the interview to a premature close. Not impressed, and this has coloured my impression of our Britney and her chums ever since. This would never have happened with Aretha Franklin I’m sure!

  73. 73
    Phil on 8 Mar 2015 #

    #69 – fascinating. I must have heard the similarity a lot later – circa The Boy With… perhaps – and read it back into the earlier stuff. But there’s definitely something there as early as 1983, even if it’s not jit – Marr’s guitar style didn’t just come from the Byrds (or if it did it came a long way).

    Tom – thanks for the explanation. Next question: why am I being told I’m posting comments too quickly? And why’s it let the comment go through the second time?

  74. 74

    the “comments too quickly” thing is a glitch (one of several) somewhere in the machinery — i’ve been confronted with it when my previous post was several months previously, which was a cheek in my opinion

    anyway it isn’t anything to do with your actual speed of posting as far as anyone knows

  75. 75
    Kinitawowi on 8 Mar 2015 #

    #68: On bunnies, did the spoiler formulation come about before or after Jive? (Or was the threat that we will sic Jive Bunny on you if you breach the embargo? “Those who discuss forthcoming number ones will be subjected to an hour of Swing The Mood on repeat”?)

  76. 76

    first bunnymention (i think), courtesy the swede formerly known as waldo

  77. 77
    Rory on 8 Mar 2015 #

    #75: Long before. I started following around 1975 Popular Time and commenting from 1983, and he was already watching over us like General Woundwort…

  78. 78
    swanstep on 9 Mar 2015 #

    @59-61, 63-65, etc.. I’m uncomfortable with equating good acoustic accompaniment with the virtuosic or near-virtuosic. There’s plenty of acoustic stuff from Cat Stevens to Jonathan Richman to Kristin Hersch that I suppose is pretty buskery but that works fantastically well. Or consider this from Thom Yorke; you can’t *get* any simpler and more open-stringed than that, and it’s a complete knock-out.

    I do think that in many cases the proper home for stripped back acoustic arrangement is live: there the tactile quality of the performance whether it’s virtuosic or rough-as-guts can come through in a way that it can’t elsewise. E.g. live Joanna Newsom is a world-beater whereas on record the very same tracks often fall flat.

    I agree that there are lots of shockingly unimaginative and uncommitted acoustic performances out there where the stripped-back-ness is a (lousy) kind of gimmick and has no meaning internal to the song and its playing – nothing particularly sensitive or raw was intended so it’s simply not clear what anyone thought they were doing. More generally, I agree that it’s rare for anything especially good to come out of stripping-back a very highly arranged, orchestrated and produced original, whereas songs that were conceived from the ground up in a minimal setting and where the intimacy of that setting is internal to the meaning of the song are often spectacular.

    On the thought that ‘The Song (without the production, arrangement etc) is the true, authentic thing’: there’s a lot right with that idea. We’d ordinarily say that the same song exists in its live instances as in its recorded instance, in any cover versions live and recorded (indefinitely many if it becomes a standard). That is, the song is robust across variations in performance and production and arrangement. And this notion of song as chords and melodies and words is in fact crucial when one’s writing and recording precisely because one wants the freedom to explore different arrangements, tempi, you name it. Committing too early to a specific instrumentation, tempo etc. is often fatal both because it can lead you to fool yourself about the strength of the underlying song (entirely parallel to film-makers these days spending months or years on more and more design and world-building rather than address objections 1a, 1b, 1c, etc. to their script) and because it can lock you in prematurely to some specific, e.g., performance, choice to the exclusion of other choices. I don’t think it’s at all ‘rockist’ to be concerned with the underlying song, rock’s generally been *very* performance-centric whereas Brill building and Motown and earlier song-book pop traditions really were song-centric.

    Anyhow, it’s fine if people dig particular performances or arrangements, and whole aspects of modern music from the riff to the groove to drone, in effect amount to shrinking song-craft – so the underlying song is close-to-trivial apart from the words (but sometimes the latter is trivialized as well) – to thereby give more of the spotlight to various kinds of performance (i.e., counting all of production as a kind of performance). At any rate, I think most people have quite catholic tastes and respond strongly to both performances and song-craft. We value our early Dylan and Elliott Smith but we wouldn’t want everything to sound like a minimally performed embodiment of just-the-song-facts-m’am, and happily we never have to choose.

  79. 79
    Phil on 9 Mar 2015 #

    My earlier comment was fairly extreme, so thanks for the pushback! I actually sing traditional folk songs, and in that context the song really is the words and the melody – it’s the same song whether you back it with an acoustic guitar, a kaossilator or (my preferred option) nothing at all. But then, *is* it the same song? There’s endless variation in words and melodies, both between different variants of the same song and between different performances. As for keys, chords and time signatures, as a folk singer the world’s your oyster. (The bare minimum for a Brill Building song includes a lot more than words and tune.) Traditional folk songs have no definitive version – the song only exists in multiple forms.

    But yes, for most songs – which have an author and a definitive version – there is a package of words, melody, key, time and chords, which is portable between different arrangements & instruments. What I was getting at was the idea – which I do think is rockist, or at least rock-and-roll-ist in the broader sense* – that stripping back an elaborate pop production to that basic package, and then playing it on a guitar, is an exciting thing to do and/or brings out something authentic about the song. Apart from anything else, it’s a bit imperialistic to declare that the songbook basics of words, music and chords *are* the core elements of a particular recorded song – as distinct from, say, words and music (folk) or time signature, BPM and bassline (dance). As we know, if you strip down Hey Ya! in this way (a track whose *real* core elements are a minor scale keyboard arpeggio and an interpolated bar of 2/4) the song you get is completely different – and much less enjoyable.

    *The sense in which Mott the Hoople could barely get through a song without mentioning ‘rock and roll’ (generally in laudatory terms).

  80. 80
    anto on 9 Mar 2015 #

    One of the best ever reviews on ‘Popular’ – the song itself I consider to be good but not great and Britney is one of the few vocalists who could sing that title phrase with such loopy conviction.
    I don’t feel the need to repent for preferring Billy Corgan to Max Martin as much other people seem to, I still do now even if I haven’t listened to any Pumpkins for a while. At the time when ‘Ooops!…’ came out I had reached a landmark age and, quite simply music no longer seemed like the centre of everything for me as maybe it had done 3 or 4 years earlier.

  81. 81
    swanstep on 10 Mar 2015 #

    Musicless OIDIA vid is somewhat amusing.

  82. 82
    Ed on 10 Mar 2015 #

    @66 etc: I always thought the African influence on Marr came through King Sunny Ade, whose Island debut Juju Music was released in 1982, just as the Smiths were getting going.

    Listen to this, for example, and you could easily believe it was Marr playing:

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=AsC0QY8ECqg

    With the Bhundu Boys, I always guessed it was a combination of parallel evolution and reverse engineering. The band came up with a Marr-like guitar sound quite separately – although possibly with some of the same influences? – and then marketers realised they could be sold to that segment of the UK indie audience who listened to The Smiths for the guitar playing.

  83. 83
    Ed on 10 Mar 2015 #

    I was right! Maybe…

    http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=7580

    I remember the review of the Smiths’ Ask in the NME described the guitars as “gorgeous in that kinda folk, kinda highlife way…”

    But the writer may not have heard much highlife.

  84. 84
    DJBobHoskins on 10 Mar 2015 #

    Massive sigh. This is nothing much more than a re-hash of BOMT and gets a ’10′, yet ‘Belfast Child’ gets 1? Sorry. I love this site, but that’s off the scale of wrong.

  85. 85
    Tommy Mack on 10 Mar 2015 #

    Enimarthon @ 72, she was pretty crap in interviews iirc, as a performer, she’s an Elvis not a Dylan (although I don’t see why R4 listeners have a right to hear about her private life – reminds me of the story about Col Parker banning Elvis from giving interviews after he said ‘ you don’t buy a cow when you can get free milk’ when asked if he planned to marry.)

    The thing that really pissed me off about Britney came later, after 9-11. Probably more relevant for a later thread.

    FWIW, I never read this song as being about a cruel femme fatale, rather Britney being kind of bemused and slightly frightened by the power she suddenly had over men. The spoken word bit suggests I misread it though.

  86. 86
    Tom on 10 Mar 2015 #

    It’s not something I’d really thought about before, but the rise of my interest in pop in the 00s coincided with the decline of any interest I had in reading interviews. Not just because PR managed interviews are pretty deadly, but because I suddenly had access to so many other fans and listeners, and I found what they had to say far more entertaining than most of the artists. To this day I don’t actually follow any musicians on Twitter (except Wichita Lineman).

    The upside of this is that when artists like Britney say idiotic things occasionally – and they do, I’m well aware – I don’t really notice much.

  87. 87
    Tommy Mack on 11 Mar 2015 #

    That’s probably the best way! There are a couple of forthcoming bunnied performers whose social media presence has seriously tested my affection for their music. In one case pretty much to breaking point.

  88. 88
    Tim Byron on 16 Mar 2015 #

    Conversation about the role of ‘the song’ above (e.g., #78-79) is very interesting. For me, ‘the song’ isn’t intrinsically better or more important than ‘the performance’ or ‘the production’ – a great recording can be based around a fairly average song. But I do feel that the song matters in some ways that the performance/production cannot – namely, in the way that a song becomes part of people’s lives. We can sing a song to ourselves, but unless we’re musicians or producers, we can’t really perform or produce a song to ourselves. It’s the song that matters when it comes to picking something to do karaoke with, it’s the song that matters when it comes to having music stuck in our heads (or at least, it is for me – people differ in terms of how vivid their earworms are, but they seem to be largely based around vocal hooks).

    And I think that, generally, ‘the song’ isn’t something you need to be a specialist in to understand. You might need to have a knowledge of 1990s electronic music (or the Beatles in the mid-1960s) to really understand where the Chemical Brothers’ ‘Setting Sun’ is coming from, production/performance-wise, but you don’t really need to know much about anything to decide whether you like the melody and chords and lyrics.

    Which isn’t to say that ‘the song’ is all important. I mean, there’s stuff like, say, Dylan’s and Hendrix’s versions of ‘All Along The Watchtower’, where it’s clearly the performance and production of Hendrix’s version that makes the song work, which made it a hit at the time. It’s because of the way that ‘All Along The Watchtower’ sounds that it gets used to denote the Vietnam era, etc. But it is also true that Hendrix’s version works better than Dylan’s not only because of the sound, but because his version improves the stuff of the song – Hendrix’s version obviously adds a fair few guitar melodies, and he changes the basic rhythm of the vocal melody in a lot of places (etc).

    So anyway, I suspect that ‘the song’ tends to play an outsize role in how most people think about and use recordings from the past – hip new production styles often become passe, and a great performance loses its ability to surprise after you hear it a few times. But the song lingers on.

  89. 89
    Mark M on 16 Mar 2015 #

    Re88: ‘it’s the song that matters when it comes to having music stuck in our heads (or at least, it is for me – people differ in terms of how vivid their earworms are, but they seem to be largely based around vocal hooks).’

    Just off the top of my head, a few none-more-obvious moments to contradict that notion: the drum intro to Be My Baby, the sax riff on Baker St, the sax break on Careless Whisper, the keyboard riff on Depeche Mode’s Just Can’t Get Enough, the bassline from Walk On The Wild Side, the baseline from Good Times, the guitar solo to Hotel California… the way that when people sing Sweet Caroline they sing the horn (?) bit from the chorus (likewise God Save The Queen (national anthem one))…

  90. 90
    Adam on 23 Mar 2015 #

    Great essay. I agree that the skipped beat makes the song… any other examples of this in pop? Seems like a common trick but I can’t think think of any… there MUST be a Jackson song that does this.

  91. 91
    Izzy on 24 Mar 2015 #

    TLC’s Creep, at 0:33 – though there the dropped beat is in the accompaniment, rather than the vocal line.

  92. 92
    ciaran on 14 Apr 2015 #

    A good write-up one would have to say but I’m not as enthusiastic for OIDIA and I find the 10 a bit extreme. A ‘Vincent’ in reverse!

    BOMT was the A grade Britney, and whilst OIDIA is a decent effort I just find it a bit less exciting than a lot of her other hits. Maybe by this stage I was a bit worn down by the rampant US Teen pop boom but I don’t think that this would have had anything like the success of BOMT if it was chosen as her debut single.

    For all that though I reckon it merits a 7.

  93. 93
    Paulito on 15 Apr 2015 #

    I’m rather baffled by Tom’s 10 in this instance. For every other maximum he’s awarded, I find that the accompanying review has built logically and eloquently towards that magic mark – even where I don’t agree with said mark. Here, though, he’s describing a tune that – as he freely acknowledges – rehashes a formula already established. For my money, no matter how competently the trick is repeated, the act of doing so diminishes the lustre. All the other 10s that Tom has awarded have, quite rightly, been for songs that are utterly original, even unique.

    One other thing that struck me about this review is that the song’s narrative – Britney as a tantalising tease stringing a hapless chappie along – is apparently something to be applauded on its own terms or, at least, relative to the submissive Britney presented in some of her previous hits. Tom, would you be so approving if it was some cocky bloke singing about making a fool of some silly filly? You’ve expressed some unease about songs that depict unequal relationships in which the guy is gleefully exploiting the girl or where the female party is otherwise subservient – ‘Baby One More Time’ and ‘Born to Make You Happy’ being the obvious cases in point. I don’t see how reversing the usual roles renders ‘Oops’ somehow superior from any perspective.

  94. 94
    Andrew on 15 Apr 2015 #

    #93 at a hunch, because years of patriarchy and male entitlement being casually deployed and reinforced in pop songs just do make this type of lyric much less skeezy coming from a woman.

  95. 95
    Tom on 15 Apr 2015 #

    I expected this to be the most controversial 10 (well, so far) – I think “brilliant execution of a successful formula” is part of pop’s great jigsaw, so I’m comfortable with there being at least one 10 handed out for that.

    The other point is an interesting one. I think the difference in power, influence and expectations between men and women usually makes “What if it was gender-flipped arguments?” specious, because when you do flip the roles the whole tone of the song changes – witness “Love Won’t Wait”: the pressure Gary is exerting there becomes much more sinister coming from a dude. So if “Oops” was flipped – yes, it would be crueller. It would also be firmly in line with a long tradition in rock where a guy has to be free, move on, sow his oats, etc. – a callous, gender-flipped Oops would fit emotionally, if not musically, onto Aftermath. I like a lot of that kind of rock, but no, I probably wouldn’t give it a 10.

    On the other hand, things not being equal, when Britney does it, it has a different weight. I actually was very careful to avoid words like “tease” in the review, because I know that ‘teasing’, ‘leading on’ etc are ideas that get used to justify awful actions against women. (I’m not saying you are endorsing those, of course! Just I made a choice to shy away from particular language.) More broadly, my hypothesis is that when women misread emotions, they often blame themselves, but when men misread emotions, they often blame women. So yes, I quite like the fact that in “Oops”, Britney acts unapologetic for being a bit mean. I like that there’s a song which says that, you know what, it’s OK to be capricious sometimes – and I particularly like that it comes after songs that have legitimised much more self-negating reactions.

    This was all stuff I was consciously thinking when I wrote the review, and with hindsight should have found room for, but it was already a bajillion words long. So thanks for giving me the chance to articulate it a bit more.

  96. 96
    DanusJonus on 15 Apr 2015 #

    Being very new to the site, this review was the first new one posted when I was reading. I think the first thing I did was go through the old reviews to investigate what marks Tom had given everything, particularly very famous singles (alright, Beatles and Stones stuff mainly!) I was therefore shocked to see this get a ten, particularly as when the tune plays in my head I can splice it into Baby One More Time.

    However, when I then did some background research on the site around the marks, the idea of giving something a mark based on how Tom feels about it at that time seems to perfectly reflect that instantaneous magical cluster of ingredients that draws us all to music and certain songs from a young age. It has to be subjective really doesn’t it? There’s a debate on one of the reviews (Livin’ Joy’s Dreamer?) about somebody thinking in that instant that Dreamer was the best song ever written. I think Tom then mentioned that he’d had an idea once to record and detail every song he’d at one point thought this about. I like that concept and it rang true when for some reason I decided to put The Small Faces Itchycoo Park on the other day (it’s on the advert for the snooker World Championships). Hadn’t listened to it in ages, but in that 2 minutes 30 seconds I thought it was the best song ever written. Just the line and melody of ‘Over bridges of sighs’ gets me every time.

    Defining what you love about a song of course gives your view credence and I think this review goes a long way to justifying the ten mark. But sometimes, to perfectly express how music can make you feel just isn’t possible. Hell you sometimes can’t articulate it on a second listen to something. Years and years of loving music, learning instruments, chord patterns and all the reasoning why a song can have such an impact on someone still hasn’t helped me understand why sometimes a piece of music resonates with me. To be honest, I don’t think I want to know why half the time.

    So, just a few points from a newbie. Apologies if this debate has been had many times before. I’m trying to read through as many previous comments as I can, but well, it’s a daunting task.

    I’m off to put Itchycoo park on repeat again…

    One question though. Can someone please explain ‘The Bunny’ thing to me please!?

  97. 97
    Mark M on 15 Apr 2015 #

    Re96: Bunny is short for the ‘The Spoiler Bunny’, a mythical creature used as a reminder of Tom’s (understandable) rule that he doesn’t want discussion (or naming) in the comments of No1s yet to be reached by Popular. Extended by the zealous to also avoid naming acts whose first No1 has yet to be covered.
    See comments 68 & 76 on this thread.

  98. 98
    Mark M on 15 Apr 2015 #

    Re93 ‘For my money, no matter how competently the trick is repeated, the act of doing so diminishes the lustre.’

    Here’s my attempt, in the context of the Astaire-Rogers movie Top Hat, to argue the opposite.

  99. 99
    DanusJonus on 15 Apr 2015 #

    Thanks Mark, though I’m now hanging my head in shame after realising the explanation was in the sodding comments section of the review I was commenting in. Though possibly worth it to know that the bunny is also a mythical creature, though I must admit to now thinking the bunny to be the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog.

  100. 100
    Paulito on 15 Apr 2015 #

    @98: that’s a fine article, and I agree with pretty much everything you say in it. However, while Top Hat may follow a similar formula to The Gay Divorcee, there are plenty of differences over the course of 80 minutes or so. Whereas the 4 or so minutes of Oops are extremely similar to the four or so minutes of Baby One More Time (which I love, btw). It’s a pretty blatant and, to my ears, cynical rewrite.

    I’ve no problem with musical acts repeating the formula up to a point (e.g. I love most of T. Rex’s stuff from ’70 to about ’73), but there’s invariably a detectable whiff about it – whether it’s of laziness, lack of ideas, cashing in, or just plain fear – that takes the material down a peg or two in my estimation.

  101. 101
    Tommy Mack on 15 Apr 2015 #

    #100 – what about All Day And All Of The Night? That’s a better song than You Really Got Me. Does it detract from it that it loses the shock of the new by virtue of being cut from the exact same cloth as its predecessor? For me probably not, mainly because the better song came second, suggesting that The Kinks felt they weren’t finished with the formula and could better YRGM (possibly Britney/Cheiron with OIDIA vs BOMT too. Dunno, I’ve not heard much early Britney for ages) whereas with T-Rex who you mention, I’d agree with Tom in his review that Telegram Sam doesn’t do anything that Get It On and Ride A White Swan didn’t do better before and with less fuss.

  102. 102
    Paulito on 15 Apr 2015 #

    “I think the difference in power, influence and expectations between men and women usually makes “What if it was gender-flipped arguments?” specious….”

    The thing is, I’m not sure that this idea of a power imbalance – at least in the game of lurve, if you will – is all that valid. The idea that men generally have the upper hand in relationships, and that women need to give them a taste of their own medicine, is a well-worn feminist truism. But since the year dot, popular song has been chock-full of hopeful male suitors whose happiness depends on whether the lady in question deigns to accept their attentions. Womenfolk wield all the power in that evergreen scenario. The great popular songbook is equally full of spurned, thwarted or cheated lovers, both male and female – some resigned to heartache, others fighting back. For every helpless, lovelorn “Crazy” or “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me”, there’s the defiant schadenfreude of a “Cry Me a River” or a “Who’s Sorry Now”. And for every “Under My Thumb” there’s a “These Boots Are Made for Walking”.

    And the songbook reflects the realities, as far as I can see. We don’t live in a world where men hold all the aces, and I’m not sure we ever did. Yes, of course there was a time when a woman had to find a husband (whose legal property she then became) as quickly as possible or else face being “left on the shelf”. There was also a time when women had little or no personal autonomy, no career prospects etc. But that’s a long-vanished world and certainly not the one Britney was speaking to 15 years ago. In any event, relationships between men and women have always been more complex than what might have been suggested by their relative places in the societal pecking order.

    So, in short, I don’t buy into the trope that it’s “refreshing” when a female narrator asserts control in a pop song or in any other narrative. To me, it’s just another reflection of the power struggles/imbalances that can apply in romantic relationships, and no better or worse for that.

  103. 103
    Izzy on 15 Apr 2015 #

    There’s also the fact that whatever one’s view of where a power balance may lie as a generality, that says nothing about a situation involving actual individuals.

    Which obviously doesn’t really matter to the fictional people in Britney’s tune. But one can easily imagine an ‘oh noes the poor white man’ response to the Craig David guitarist story that’s currently latest on the Fill Me In thread, yet that’s an actual guy and his career on the line there.

    For what it’s worth, I assumed the 10 here is marker’s remorse for scoring BOMT as a 9. Which I’m basically fine with – as others point out, recycling is and has always been a big part of pop, why should reviews be any different?

    Plus I’m pretty sure Atomic got its 10 for Heart of Glass, and I personally prefer Atomic.

  104. 104
    Paulito on 15 Apr 2015 #

    @101 That’s a very good call on those Kinks songs. Yes, ADAAOTN is superior to YRGM – a 10 to the latter’s 9, in my book – and yes, it’s cut from the same cloth sonically and stylistically. But what ‘All Day’ does is take the template of its predecessor and strip it down to an even simpler, noisier and more brutally effective model. The riff is slightly more intricate (though still brilliantly Neanderthal), but the tune and the song structure are even more basic than before and owe less to American R&B. YRGM is a crunching, squalling, cranked-up approximation of that particular genre – but it’s still identifiable as such. The genius of ADAAOTN, however, is that it uses the YRGM ‘sound’ as a starting point and then bludgeons it into something entirely new (‘eavy metal, innit). It’s a totally different song to YRGM and, in its own way, utterly groundbreaking.

  105. 105
    Tom on 15 Apr 2015 #

    Atomic got its 10 totally for Atomic! Which you are quite right to prefer :)

    I think I said upthread that on another day, BOMT would have got a 10, and Oops a 9. There’s usually a mark or so’s variance either way: a lot of 9s might have got 10s if I’d felt like it*. Marker’s remorse is a nice way of putting it in this case, but as I said on Facebook when the review went up, my answer to “which song do I prefer?” is generally “whichever’s playing”

    *there are also tracks which I am a bit shocked I went as high as 9 for.

  106. 106
    flahr on 16 Apr 2015 #

    Didn’t someone in these parts define poptimism as the opinion that the best song of all time is the one playing on the radio at the moment?

  107. 107
    Tommy Mack on 16 Apr 2015 #

    #106 Not wanting to sound like a surly prick, doesn’t that describe a complete lack of discernment? The sort of OMG! Best Ever! overreaction as standard that permeates social media? Or the liberal sprinkling of four star reviews that’s devalued much of the music press’s critical faculties (this far more cynical, driven by ad revenue)

    I mean I love that you can change your favourite band/singer every week but in order for ‘love this’ to mean anything there has to be something you dislike or at least feel indifferent to.

    I think that’s part of the cause behind pop tribalism (good thing) and canonism (bad thing) – to narrow the dizzying array of choices for the pop consumer. Now you don’t have to spend money on music, the tribalism has faded though I’d say not disappeared and the lists have sprawled into the thousands.

    Actually, I was thinking about this. Is it possible to be too open minded about music or art in general? My instinct says No, since when I’ve had the narrowest taste in music is generally when I’ve had the worst taste but at the same time, if we like or at least appreciate everything, do we love anything? On a more pragmatic level, how much time should you allow for music about which you’re dubious vs repeat listening of favourites.

    Thoughts?

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