Posts from September 2020

Sep 20

#7: Come sun come rain come hailstone pelt

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This is one of those brackets where I’ve pushed a few disparate things together. It’s a rap bracket, clearly, and rap that’s on the margins of pop (with a couple of big exceptions). But there are two distinct reasons why it’s on the margins. It’s split between underground hip-hop, which existed in a sometimes critical self-exile, alienated from rap’s glittering new mainstream, and British MCs, on the geographic margins of rap’s development.

Sep 20

#6: I’ll be the one to tuck you in at night

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In the 1990 poll we had a bracket for – to put it delicately – veteran rockers, acts like Fleetwood Mac and Van Morrison who were feeling their way into a fourth decade in the biz. The bracket returns for the 2001 poll, but its terms of engagement have shifted. For one thing the cast has changed (well, aside from Nick Lowe, back for the third poll in a row!) – people like Joe Strummer, REM and Depeche Mode fit into it alongside Elton and Macca. And where last time I had to throw our handful of country songs in, the 2001 poll has enough for a whole Roots bracket.

#5: Thought I wouldn’t sell without you, sold 9 million

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The music that excited me living through 2001 is spread across 4 or 5 of the brackets. This one has some of it – the bits where R&B was going pop, and pop was going R&B, with a sprinkling of other things which seemed to fit better here than somewhere else.

Sep 20

#4: I cry when angels deserve to die

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One of the phenomena of the 1990 poll was that we managed to get an entire bracket out of baggy – the pie-eyed marriage of British indie and dance music. We haven’t managed to get an entire bracket of 2001’s great hybrid, nu-metal’s splicing of rock and rap. But we’ve got some, and I’ve put it together with pop-punk, just-plain-punk, the remnants of hard rock and whatever the hell Muse imagined they were doing.

#3: When you’re lost I know how to change your mood

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This bracket is heavily informed by two European developments in the late 90s. The first was the release of Air’s Moon Safari in 1998, which pushed chillout music into the spotlight and (because dinner parties last more than 45 minutes) created a mini-boom among acts looking to follow-it – as well as creating a major headache for Air themselves.

Sep 20

#2: My head’s to the wall and I’m lonely

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A bracket dominated by indiepop – some established at this point, some emergent, some doing things a little differently. There was a lot of this stuff about in 2001; it found a natural home on internet mailing lists and proto-blogs, and if the bigger music press names kept it at arms length, plenty of new websites were cropping up to celebrate it.

I’ve mixed the big names and tracks with stuff I didn’t recognise by sight. In some cases this has meant a blurring of genre lines – for instance, Weeping Willows’ “Touch Me” has the self-obsession and airy post-Morrissey vocals that fit the bracket, but its more muscular guitar chug feels like it could be from a few years later, mixing it up with the Kaisers and the Killers.

#1: La la la la la la-la-la

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This bracket is for what you might call ‘pure pop’, though in the 2001 context that has very uncomfortable overtones, since the stuff in here – Kylie, Steps, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, and others – is mostly music that’s resisting the pull of R&B we’ll see elsewhere. Mainstream pop, maybe – or just traditional pop, pop that’s at least friendly to the tween audience of Smash Hits or Saturday morning TV.

2001: A Poll Odyssey

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As you probably know, I’ve been entertaining myself – and others, it seems – by running themed music polls on Twitter. The next one is based on the year 2001 – participants have picked 256 tracks which I’ve divided into 16 roughly genre-based brackets.
The last year poll we did was on 1990. This one will be very different. 1990 was the year I turned 17, I was paying close and voracious teenage attention to music and had a strong sense of what mattered and why the year was important. In fact one of the most interesting things about the poll was talking to people who thought 1990 pretty much sucked. What I heard as thrilling cross-fertilisation as pop came to terms with house and hip-hop played to them as embarrassing bandwagon-jumping or a lack of focus.