Today I'm going to decide, once and for all, which one is my favourite. Debbie Gibson or Tiffany. pic.twitter.com/1sD5vl8lXO
— Susan Calman (@SusanCalman) February 18, 2014
I need to stop listening to this damn album, so I’m writing in this ever expanding box on the internet, the geography of the mind map I find myself in. Just in the hope that I can move on – just a little – to the next grid reference. I feel sorry for poor Little Boots and even Rudimental who only got a couple of weeks before relegation to listening time’s opportunity cost.
Every now and then an album digs its many hooks into me and just gloms on and drags me through a cycle of compulsive listening, through a trough of listening and hating-that-I’m-listening-to-it to to the exclusion of all else, and through to the other side to a place where I can consider leaving it, maybe a week, before coming back later with an ‘oh, yes this IS still awesome’. During that, listening out of order is hard (such an album rockist), and the point where I’m skipping around is the point where I know I’m on the voyage home to sanity.
This mania happened to me most recently with the Nero album (yeah, what of it?) but not as intensely (I found quite a few tracks on it patchy in the end), and I have to go back to when I lost all perspective over Late of the Pier (2008, 9?).
Which I think was also the last time I went to a gig (thinks again that doesn’t sounds right, wait there was that Scooter gig). And I did get to the point with Charli of hovering over a BUY button for an Islington Academy gig a few weeks back now. I had to stop myself, because then it started to feel creepy.
This post is my contribution to Harkive - an opt-in mass ethnographic record of a day in the lives of music fans worldwide. (A bit like Nick Southall’s Music Listening Day from the last couple of years). The post will be updated occasionally through the day, so read from the bottom up if you want a chronology.
Michael Jackson – “You Are Not Alone” (twice)
Once before I write the entry, once after. I often play other records when writing, but didn’t this time. The final play – and the overall intensity – bumps up the intended mark by 1. Hasty rewrites after I discover it wasn’t written by Jackson, then it’s good to go.
And that turns out to be it! I was about to put something else on but realised it’s turned midnight. John Newman wins the repeat play cup, Genius/GZA the best record I played today prize, and the best to actually work to award goes to the Cocteau Twins. Night night!
MIA – “Feel The Noize” (twice)
MIA – “Bad Girls”
Migos ft Drake – “Versace”
I have a bunch of Tumblr posts and Tweet links bookmarked with people’s picks of the best of the year so far, and I’ve been dipping into that. Looking for something to play while I did the washing up, I remembered I hadn’t heard the new M.I.A. single, so I picked up that on iMusic (good, spiky, bit like “Bird Flu”, though maybe I’m projecting because that’s a favourite). That made me want to hear “Bad Girls” again, so I cued that up on iMusic too, and also the Migos track I’d just read about on Tom Breihan’s tumblr. Standing in the kitchen cleaning plates with a speakerless iPhone playing YouTube quality sound out loud is about the worst possible way to hear new music, so I can’t really draw any conclusions from my listen to “Versace”.
Rudimental – “Feel The Love”/”Not Giving In”/”Waiting All Night”
Walking home from the station, playing the three Rudimental singles from this or last year, to remind myself of the context of the Newman song and because I’d not really given “Not Giving In” its due before.
Commenter Nixon, on another thread, asked this: “we’re now past the 40-year mark, long enough for trends to emerge… do you think that the list of UK number ones, taken as a weird at-a-glance sweep of British music history, very broadly accurately reflects that history?“. I gave a long reply, and writing it, it struck me that my answer was fairly central to the Popular project and that the question deserved more exposure than being Comment #44 on an Outhere Brothers thread was likely to give it. So here we are, slightly edited from its original form.This is sort of the central question Popular wanted to answer – it reflects *a* history, but which one? I don’t think “accurately reflects that history” is meaningful though – there isn’t an accurate pop history to reflect, there’s a sense of ‘what happened’ and ‘what mattered’ which is a mix of personal memories, received wisdom, critical takes and commercial realities, which themselves may not be realities given the distortions of sales data methodologies.
When pop history is written – literally written, in books or articles or lists, the version of pop history that is PLAYED is different again – it’s usually written by the critical winners, not the commercial ones. So if the question is – how well do Number Ones map onto that? – the answer varies. If you look at it by genre, then for some things – Merseybeat, glam, new wave, the house music revolution, 00s R&B – it does very well. For others – metal, punk, Britpop, progressive rock, hip-hop up to a point – it seems to do quite poorly.
Young Avengers 2, by Jamie McKelvie and Kieron Gillen (post will contain SPOILERS)
Let’s think about pop and parents for a moment.
Pop from the 50s on may have been about the generation gap, but it was rarely about the generation gap. Parents showed up occasionally as a force of denial, a brick wall, an elemental “no”, but from the start – “Yakety Yak”, say – they’re a figure of fun, too. Gradually they fade from the picture entirely – the dramas and crises, the lusts and dreams of pop are played out in a world emptied of parents. Parents become ever less threatening, more petty, more ludicrous. As the generations turn, they also become the people who failed – and were failed by – pop, fans themselves in some laughable old time, long gone. But now? Aw Mom you’re just jealous it’s the BEAS-TIE-BOYS.
And yet some trace element remains of real struggles, a genuine gap in which the Midwich Cuckoo boomers – hip to pop – faced a parental force whose own shaping experiences (wartime, the depression) were utterly alien. The unbending parental authority of the American 50s and 60s quickly passed into pop culture myth, so much so that it’s impossible for someone like me, born to post-hippie parents, to truly comprehend how real it might have been. But as a myth it lingers, pop’s chthonic enemy from pre-Beatles deep time, remembered in certain phrases or ritual gestures.
1. Take a large number of individual tracks.
2. Put the first 64 into a playlist.
4. Play (no skipping allowed).
5. After two tracks, decide – as quickly as you can – which of the two you want to hear again.
6. Delete the other.
7. Repeat until playlist is over. You will have 32 tracks left.
8. Shuffle again.
9. Play (no skipping allowed).
10. Using the process outlined in 5-7, go through the playlist until you have 16 tracks.
11. Add another 48 tracks to the playlist.
12. Repeat steps from 3.
This is – mostly – how I’ve been listening to music for the last month or so.
So here they are. I haven’t gone through hunting YouTube/Spotify links because I was too
The death that shocked me most that Spring wasn’t Kurt Cobain, or even Ayrton Senna. It was the passing of an owlish man in his 50s who people assumed – and hoped, in many cases – would be running the country before too long. Later on, John Smith’s heart attack became a locus for all sorts of counterfactual speculation – after the landslide of ’97 you heard people saying, well, tragic of course, you understand, but as things turned out not all for the bad…? And later – as the golden era of the Great Empathiser sank into a miasma of gossip, inertia and war – the wondering and what ifs turned sad and angry.
At the time – and since, really – what hit me was a sense of unfairness, based mainly on how hard Smith and his colleagues had worked. Also – and this didn’t last, at least not in this form – an irrational gloom, the feeling that things would never change, and that somehow the moribund, comical Tories would pull through again.
But then everything did seem to change, and quickly, with the facts of politics shifting last of all.
(While I am in slow recovery from virus mode, here’s an article from the Tumblr vaults.)
I have been listening to the Village People’s discography recently. Village People albums may not have seemed especially good value for money, because they are all very short. But! While lesser bands might have wasted their time and yours on things like “experimentation” or “developing their sound”, every single track on the first few Village People albums sounds EXACTLY like the Village People.
That doesn’t mean the Village People can’t surprise you! On their second album there is the valuable Biblical history lesson “Sodom And Gomorrah”, for instance. “GIVE ME! JUST FIFTEEN GOOD MEN!” bellow the VPs. There is nothing quite as striking on Cruisin’ but it does have YMCA on it. If you were going to make an equation for Village People song quality it would be something like:
Q = Y
Where Q is the quality score and Y is the extent to which the song sounds like “YMCA”. So by critical science we deduce that “YMCA” itself must be of the highest possible quality, and so it is.