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10
Dec 12

Sic Transit Gloria Barlow

FT42 comments

When Was The X-Factor’s Imperial Phase?

I got bored with the recent series of the X-Factor, and I was not alone: the ratings this year have crashed by a few million. The post-mortems are beginning: the editor of the Radio Times wasted no time in crediting the Olympics and its awakening of a public desire for real heroes who train and sweat and ACHIEVE and BELIEVE. Stage school is no picnic, honey, you might reply – but the claim debunks itself anyway. The ratings crash this year is no one-off – it’s now a trend, after an even more dramatic tumble in 2011, a year with no whiff of gold.

21
Oct 12

Barlow Is A Feeling

FT5 comments

X-Factor 2012 Live Shows, Week 3

“Club Classics” week – but what could this mean, in the land of the X-Factor? If you guessed maximum rave alert, go to the back of the class. If, however, you guessed ballads and acoustic guitars, you win, and your prize is the approval of BARLOW, whose benedictions this week were in exact proportion to how unlikely you were ever to hear the music in an actual club.

We’re still in the “shaking out the no-hopers” phase of the proceedings here: it doesn’t, in the show’s narrative, matter in which order District3, MK1, Christopher, Rylan et al get the push, but drama there must be and so drama there will be.

To the disco!

7
Oct 12

Taking The Positives

FT11 comments

X-Factor 2012 Live Shows, Week 1

Last year I managed only two weeks of this before the faffery and tedium of the AGE OF BARLOW drove me away. So let’s see what happens this time. As usual I haven’t watched a second of the auditions, judges’ houses, etc – this is my first encounter with all the contestants.

The narrative around the X-Factor this year is one of decline – the show’s losing viewers, the format (apparently) feels tired. Also, while it’s the biggest entertainment TV draw in the UK just about, like Premiership football it took a bit of a moral hiding this year from sanctimonious Olympics-inspired columnists, keen to elevate people who run and jump over people who sing and dance. (Big secret: you can like both). Against the Real Role Models Of Sport the show ranges its usual parade of worthies and wasters – perhaps fewer of the latter this time, though. It also converts “Heroes Week” into “Heroes Week (Inspired By The Olympics)” though nobody does “Bonkers” so it’s no Olympics *I* remember.

So what happened?

1
Oct 12

Departing From The Script

FT12 comments

It’s time for my quarterly listen to THE UK TOP 40. Actually it was time a week or so ago but I didn’t write it up until a plane journey yesterday. So this is the Top 40 from 2 weeks ago (when our New Gangnam Overlords had only just entered at #37). As before, tracks are listed from best to worst order. No appeals allowed!

I think the number of records I liked is around the same this time as 3 months ago, but the chart feels more interesting – the grip of EDM is loosening, and it’s one of those charts which has a sense of nobody quite knowing where to go next or what’s going to work. Some of the variety is post-Olympics hang-abouts, though. Over to the countdown:

27
Jun 12

It’s The EDM Of The World As We Know It

FT11 comments

It is time for me to get back in touch with The Kids, by listening to the UK Top 40 and putting it in order of how much I like it as I go. Best to worst.

15
May 12

JAZZYJEFF AND THE FRESH PRINCE – “Boom! Shake The Room”

Popular52 comments

#695, 25th September 1993

At this point, what differentiates the hip-hop that tops the UK charts from the stuff which peeks in lower down is legibility: not too much slang, metaphors spelled out, a flow any kid could follow. At a time when the public face of rap in Britain was Snoop Dogg on the front page of the Daily Star – “KICK THIS EVIL BASTARD OUT!” – the material crossing over commercially wasn’t likely to cause any moral panics. So the “harder edge” promised by DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince on their final album, Code Red, was highly relative.

28
Dec 11

The Freaky Trigger Readers’ Poll 2011

FT7 comments

Unlike the rest of the internet, here at FT Towers we like to make our end-of-year list at the Actual End Of The Year! And we need YOUR help to do it!

Send your top 20 tracks of 2011 to poptimistspoll2010@gmail.com* by 1am GMT on 30th December and we will post the results during the first week of January.

- ‘Tracks of 2011′ can mean something released as a single or on an album this year, or a track that emerged this year on the internet or a young person’s trendy mixtape, or singles taken from a 2010 album released this year. To be honest I will be pretty lenient about the whole business so put whatever you like.

- The order of your top 20 is important! Your #1 will be allocated more points than #20.

- If you can’t think of 20 songs then 10 or 14 or 2 is just fine.

- As per last year we are running this poll in conjunction with the Poptimists LJ community, so if you’ve already sent me your 2011 list over there, there’s no need to do so again.

That’s it! Get voting!

*Yes yes I know it’s last year’s email address. A big ‘whatevs’ to you too :)

9
Dec 11

What Was I Thinking? (Part 1)

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Today’s Poptimist column – up now at Pitchfork – is the last one: a decision entirely taken by me, quite a while ago. Being able to give up a paying gig is an outrageous privilege, but so was the whole column – I filed copy on whatever took my fancy and I can’t think of a single time when I was editorially interfered with (1 of the 45 columns – numerological significance ahoy – came about from a Scott Plagenhoef suggestion, and a very good suggestion it was too.) I was handed the largest audience of music fans I will ever write for on a platter and I hope I occasionally served up something interesting in return.

So to celebrate five years of indulgence here is one last monstrous one: links and brief annotations for all 45 columns, spread over three posts.

25
Nov 11

What Is The New Rock’N'Roll?

FT20 comments

On the “No Limits” thread I was reminded that it’s been almost 20 years since first comedy and then computer games were the new rock’n'roll. Are they still, I wondered? Surely the meme has spread, mutated and diversified since then? BOY WAS I RIGHT.

In the poll below you will see the first-page results of a Google search for “the new rock n roll”, in order. Hats off to the magical SEO monkeys of theosophy! Comedy is still flying the new r’n'r flag, thanks to Jimmy Carr: everything else is testament to the enduring (albeit tongue-in-cheek) pull of one of the great bullshit phrases of the 90s. All you have to do is vote for which of these pretenders is the real thing.

Which of these is actually the new rock n roll?

  • Maps 24%
  • World Sheep Dog Trials 23%
  • Knitting 16%
  • Theosophy 12%
  • Comedy 9%
  • Economics 4%
  • British Poetry 4%
  • Entrepreneurialism 3%
  • Transport 3%
  • Dance 1%

Total Voters: 95

Poll closes: 2 Dec 2011 @ 15:23

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15
Oct 11

X-Factor Live Shows: Week 2

FT6 comments

(Crossposted to Tumblr)

This week – “Love and Heartache” – or as I anticipated DAWN OF THE BALLADOSAURUS. But was I correct? Well, not entirely…