Introduction & Nos. 20-16

Welcome to the Eighth Freaky Trigger pop music Focus Group.

What’s all this then? We took twenty recent hit singles and got a focus group to rate them each out of ten and comment on them. You were allowed to play a joker on one of your scores, which would make whatever you played it on count double. To bulk up the statistics a bit we also played all 20 records at a Freaky Trigger club night and handed out a ballot for people to fill in. We also sent the ballot to a few people who couldn’t make the group itself, mostly from outside the UK.

How does it work? Each record has an average score out of 10, and also a controversy score – the higher the score, the more it split our panel. The result is a TOTALLY SCIENTIFIC determination of which pop is Best.

What happened to the Seventh Focus Group?? Um….er…we used to run the Focus Group every six months, with 35-40 records and a lot more participants. These took a lot longer to do and by the time they appeared they were often a bit out of date. Finally the seventh focus group never actually saw publication – I still have a huge Word file full of edited comments and will do something with it soon, so your commentary has not been wasted!

Why wasn’t I invited? We’re trying to keep the numbers of participants down, so I just grabbed some names from my address book and sent it out to them. Get in touch if you want to be included in the next group.

Who are these people? See the Top 5 page for a list of commentators. Thanks to everyone else who filled in a form at the club night, and thanks also to Alan Trewartha whose handwriting defeated me at the editing stage – sorry Alan!

20. MADONNA – “American Life” Score: 2.57 / Controversy: 2.54

Squirly squirky squirly squirky squirly squirky squirly squirky. Ptunt ptunt ptunt ptunt. Fffffffff. Nnn-nn-n-nn. Uh-uhhhuh-uhhu. Strum-strum-strumstru-ahh-ahh-ahheh. Ghhhhhh-eah ghh-ghh-eah-eah. Stopstartstopstartstopstartstopstart stompstompstompstomp untuntuntunt sqee-ee-ee-ee-ee blat fft ink shhshhshhshh vrhhhhhhhhh ykykyk bleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

She’s being a bit of a ponderous grown-up which is entirely her prerogative. This is really really ace, and I quite like the rap, so there. 8 (AL)

Raps as well as Brett Anderson. Good squidgy noises. Dreadful lyrics. 7 (SH)

The funniest song in the Focus Group – ever. Like watching a particularly nasty car crash. That more cars keep crashing into. When she raps a plane crashes into the whole sorry mess. 5 (PB)

The most disappointing of the selections, what was innovative has become old, what was fresh has become narrow. The only way she can hook up with Missy is a gap ad and everyone but her knows the producers that she should work with. For the first time since the 80s I no longer care what she produces. (The odd thing is that the sung vocals, stripped of their annoying production seems technically strong) 4 (AE)

I live in Archway / I buy things off eBay / I clean my own kitchen / But here I am bitching. 2 (MH)

**JOKER** This used to be my playground. **JOKER** 2 (JB)

A poor entry to her canon, entirely sunk by lyrics written for an O-Level English Empathy essay. 1 (MA)

That rap! Oh that rap! I quite like her Gap advert song, coz it’s like her old stuff. 1 (JL)

She should know better. 0 (AC)

Maybe this isn’t really totally unlistenable. It’s semi-OK until the rap…but the rap is so excruciatingly awkward it leaves me convinced that her once-peerless gift for saying exactly the right thing at exactly the right time has completely evaporated. She bares her soul and renounces the masks that made her both a star and a critical object of wonderment, and reveals herself to be obsessed with personal authenticity, somewhat insulated from the “real world,” and given to keeping people as pets — in other words, a dismally ordinary celebrity, something Madonna never before was, and never was supposed to be.

Five years from now, drag queens will not be doing routines to this. 0.0 (MD)

19. ROOM 5 feat OLIVER CHEATHAM – “Make Luv” Score: 2.58 / Controversy: 2.14

Does what it sez, convinces you to do what it sez. Extra credit for deployment of cricketchirp guitars (I stand defenseless before thee). 8 (JB)

All bow down before the advertising industry. Or bend over. 4 (MA)

I wore Tom’s Lynx in Barcelona and no women danced around me. 2 (IS)

A night out in Cleethorpes. 1 (TH)

This is a cunt’s trick. “I like to party / Everybody does.” Right! So stop spoiling our parties! Room 5 has just taken over from Room 101. 0 (PB)

Offends most parts of me. 0 (AC)

Much though I love them Daft Punk are to blame for this. Fucking awful. 0 (TE)

18. COLDPLAY – “Clocks” Score: 2.74 / Controversy: 2.21

smart enough to let the hook be song, savvy enough to have his voice break on the word ‘home’, fast enough to skip past Radiohead directly to U2. 7 (JB)

Cocks more like. Better when he does not sing. 5 (SC)

I’m sure my boss would like this. This is just them recording their piano exercises. Rock on Grade Three! 4 – oh, and cocks more like. (MA)

Usual sludge. Nice piano. Also cocks more like. 3 (SH)

Tick tock, please stop. 3 (JL)

Cocks more like. The Moped version is much better. Strangely the song has made me acutely aware of the clocks in the room. Not their worst. 2 (PB)

The weepy and melodramatic nonsense a housewife hears in the record store while birthday shopping for an ungrateful son. She buys the album, thinks for the first time she was 17 she is cool. She isn’t. 2 (AE)

Cocks more like. More relentless than Benny B. Shut up you self-satisfied heir to a caravan fortune tosspot. 0 (TH)

17. FAST FOOD ROCKERS – “Fast Food Song” Score: 3.79 / Controversy: 3.39

Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! And it’s clever – ‘eat to the beat’. 10 (IS)

Eat to the beat! Best concept ever! A 10 for sure if it mentions Dallas Chicken. Ley change! Oh sod it. 10 (SC)

Cheap novelty, making the food is sex metaphor for the umpteenth time, so why
have I been humming it for an hour? 6 (AE)

It’s catchy, it sort of reminds me of Steps first single, when you thought they were just going to be a karaoke novelty act. FFR will be number one by Christmas, just give them an Abba or Bee Gee’s song to cover. Along with the Cheeky Girls watch them dominate the Tweeny market. 6 (JL)

How angry must the marketing director of Burger King be? Harmless playground fun and bonus points for planned obsolescence band name. Exactly as good as Electric Six. 6 (TE)

Pop is all about this: doomed romantic adolescents lay their souls bare. Passion and excitement and love. 4 (TH)

Never really convinces you of its desire
for or love of fast food (or “fast food”) the way David Trout’s “Fast Food
Song” did, and to pull off something like this requires you gotta mean it, man. 4 (JB)

Far too much verse! I had no idea! Needs a Scooter remix. 3 (SH)

Amiable chooon that would be much improved by being about ANYTHING apart from fast food and/or getting it on. Sparks would have done this so much better, and probably have. 3 (AL)

The first song played entirely on a polyphonic mobile phone. Fast Food Rockers promote healthy eating – and unhealthy listening. A song to get obese to. If you like this you are fast food rockists. 2 (PB)

Why is she singing in an American accent? This is how Steps started. 0 (MH)

My childhood set to a pounding beat. This is not good. Unrealistic portrayal of service in fast food places. 0 (AC)

16. PINK – “Feel Good Time” Score: 4.20 / Controversy: 2.75

When did Pink become my dealer for catchy sing along pop? When did she figure out when to make the perfect chorus? This must have come like a golden shower from Heaven, because something so perfect could not have contained itself in the studio. 10 (AE)

Beck wrote this ; it would be better if he sang it. 7 (MH)

Pink is the single worst artist currently working in any field of the arts anywhere in the world. I quite like this one. 4 (TH)

Destiny’s Child were assertive, sassy go-getting – attitude fired through hooks and beats to inspire admiration, ambition and respect. What on earth possessed somebody to replace them with Pink? 3 (MA)

She doesn’t sound like she would know any kind of good time. Her wretched vocals spoil what is quite good fun, hooky backing. Pink – stink more like. 3 (PB)

For god’s sake Pink stop trying to sound hard! The American Robbie. 2 (TE)