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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

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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 33
    Matthew K on 6 Mar 2015 #

    #12 oops, I did it again!

  4. 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′.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.)

  16. 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.

  17. 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…

  18. 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.

  19. 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)!

  20. 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.)

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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

  28. 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.

  29. 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)

  30. 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.

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