Welcome to the Ninth Freaky Trigger pop music Focus Group.

What’s all this then? We took twenty recent hit singles (released between July and September in the UK) 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.

Why wasn’t I invited? We’re trying to keep the numbers of participants down, so again 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 and Mark Sinker who also voted.

Nos. 20-16

20. DANIEL BEDINGFIELD – “Never Gonna Leave Your Side”
Score: 1.87 / Controversy: 1.96

He is a scary God boy, and if he said he was never going to leave your side you’d get the police involved very quickly. 6 (SH)

Another fade-up soundtrack entry for the ‘let’s talk and be meaningful’ kind of TV shows that for some reason refuse to die. 5 (MA)

I would slow dance to this in a school disco. But now I am 28. 5 (EH)

Okay guys, I’m envisioning a long tracking shot for this, from an airplane, and it zooms in on Daniel playing a piano on top of a mountaintop, with a scenic vista behind him. Other guys in the band are also up their playing their instruments – what? Where are they getting the electricity? Doesn’t matter. Just get the wind blowing through his hair for this one and I think we can get this baby onto the Top Gun soundtrack. 3 (SeC)

This is ‘If You’re Not the One’ minus the scope, the beat, and a chorus that pays off. What we’re left with is some pretty appalling lyrics. 3 (VP)

As a one-time Bedroomeyes booster I feel betrayed. Entirely limp. 2 (TE)

Creepy tiny Daniel. 0 (IE)

Strangely enough, the thing that annoys me the most about Bedingfield is the number of people (including PROFESSIONAL COPYWRITERS) who mis-spell his name. This is just boring. The MD of my company loves it. (Please don’t post that on t’ internet). Really, really zero. (Anon.)

Bedingfield feels like “a man without a soul”, “a bird without its
wings”, “a heart without a home” and all sorts of other things without
things, which means I now feel like a screwdriver without the orange
juice. Just something to get this gooey eunuch wombpop taste out of my
mouth. 0 (MP)

19. DIDO – “White Flag”
Score: 2.48 / Controversy: 2.18

The video is great, it features Angel on a night off from vampire doo-dah business. He’s obsessed with Dido, and she’s obsessed with him, they have shrines in their bedrooms to each other. They never declare their love! Oh Love! You are so cruel! 8 (JL)

The lyrics are about coping with a breakup by choosing not to
acknowledge it happened in the first place, a vaguely psychotic trick of
self-deception so at odds with Dido’s well-mannered recital that I
suddenly picture her brushing her teeth every morning to a dimly
supressed mantra of “it’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright, it’s
alright…” 6 (MP)

School concert stuff. 5 (MA)

I like Dido’s voice but hate her preference for new-agey, pastel-colored songs. She seems like she should be singing something stronger than this. As it is, Sarah McLachlan holds her market share. 5 (DL)

A Dido best-of will rule in the same way that Barry White’s Greatest Hits album rules; it’s all kind of the same song but over the course of an album the formula establishes itself as something worthwhile. Until then, though, there is really far too much more interesting stuff going on for me to bother with this. And I don’t think ‘Angel’ ever got to be as great as ‘Buffy’, though to be fair ‘Angel’ never had Alysson Hannigan. 5 (DR)

Someone will do a cover of this and it will be rather good. I can’t be alone in hearing Protection-era Massive Attack here – or maybe I can. Anyway, the version we have is by Dido, and her well-scrubbed voice is deeply unsympathetic. 4 (TE)

Not objectionable, which is a step up from her usual standard, it’s quite dull but nice enough in its own way. Just sounds like it should be advertising Ovaltine or BUPA or DFS or something. 4 (WS)

Won’t catch Eminem talking over this one. 1 (SH)

This has David Boreanaz in the video. He’s NO ANGEL. Do you SEE. 0 (KG)

18. BUSTED – “Sleeping With The Light On”
Score: 3.24 / Controversy: 2.42

Why all the vo-codering? 7 (SH)

Quite decent now I’ve heard it a few times, but that third verse with the hideous EMOTING – argh! make it stop! Rather like the chirpy guitar harmonics over the last chorus and the swooping instrumental break.. it’s not bad. Except the lyrics. 7 (EO)

Busted’s remit seems to be to provide justification for all kinds of juvenile behaviour that youthful folk shouldn’t really be very proud of. First it was fancying teachers, now this. 6 (MA)

Busted have saved British rock but that’s no reason to uncritically endorse everything they do. Well, maybe a little bit. 5 (TE)

Nothing affects the impression of songwriting ‘craftsmanship’ quite like
the old major chord to minor chord peelback, which Busted employ here.
They also do that trick where they start with just acoustic guitars and
a tambourine before springing the real song on us in the second verse.
If this sounds pat and calculated, it’s because it is. 4 (MP)

ARF if Busted were my children I’d be v.proud of them for getting into the proper charts and all that malarkey. And they’re practically young enough and this has made no impression whatsoever, so a completely inoffensive 3. (KG)

The ‘Uhhhhhh yeahhhhhh!’ bit before the last chorus, that’s good. The rest sounds like Busted doing a ballad in their horrid voices, and is a bit shit, really. 2 (WS)

Sounds like a particularly mediocre Ash song. 1 (RT)

Never heard this, but it’s Busted, so it’s rubbish. Look, I just graduated, and memories of people who were actually like these aardvark-kissers are far too fresh in my mind to find their antics droll. Fucking thirtysomethings. 0 (DR)

17. ULTRABEAT – “Pretty Green Eyes”
Score: 3.30 / Controversy: 2.26

Five years ago I’d have hated this. I’m not sure I still don’t but the surprise of hearing something like this in the charts again has shocked me into giving it a 6 (RT)

Rather decent, quenching high chords are a nice touch. Can’t imagine it working for the heart and the feet, which might have been the intention with the sort-of-searching vocals, but not bad as these things go. I’d dance to it. 6 (EO)

Isn’t it a bit early to do retro 1997? This is the new folk. 5 (MA)

I knew if I held out long enough that I’d finally get a chance to unload my 2 Unlimited albums for top dollar on eBay! 4 (SeC)

Augh. Cheeseball unst-unst-unst and pounding gargantuan three-sided
prism/phaser synth stab bullshit. The soundtrack to every singles
chatline TV infomercial ever. I hate this. 3 (MP)

Good old trance, you could set your watch to it. 2 (TE)

Stuff like this is what makes watching MTV so excruciating when I visit Germany in the Winter. I have no use for Trance (at least not when played straight), no use for vocalists that sound like they didn’t quite make the cut to be in Westlife and, apart from that Shakira song, I have no use for pan pipes either. 2 (DR)

Ultraman was the evil version of Superman. This is obviously the evil version of Superbeat. They must have been rubbish. 2 for the pan-pipes. (PB)

It starts off with pan-pipes. Then burbles on a bit. It is very boring and I do not like it. Could there possibly be a big whooooooosh and then the beat ‘kicking in’ to come? Ah yes. Sorry if I am a curmudgeon. 1 (KG)

16. BLACK EYED PEAS – “Where Is The Love?”
Score: 3.48 / Controversy: 2.66

Even I got sick of it by the sixth week at #1, but I still maintain this is a brilliant record, with a lovely arrangement, a wonderful candyfloss-soul chorus, and lyrics that on close inspection are less trite than you might think. The best thing Justin Timberlake has been on, in fact. 10 (TE)

Cynically, I’d call them the new Fugees and sit back and watch them implode. That’s not my style though. There’s not a lot that can be said about this song, yeah it’s good, but I don’t care if I ever hear it again. So, a perfect piece of pop then. 8 (JL)

The instructions on a packet of Black Eyed Peas – submerge in a pint of water, soak for 8 hours, then boil to death. (But it’s a pretty good record.) 7 (PB)

Six weeks! Who is buying this?? The anti-war Arrested Development. Also the second number one of this year you can sing ‘Torn’ by Natalie Imbruglia to, after Evanescence. 6 (SH)

My little brother goes to a Catholic high school and is forced to attend
mass on a regular basis. Before last month’s ceremony, the church
planted leaflets containing the lyrics to this song in all of the pews.
I can’t remember if they ever did anything that when I was a kid, but if
so, it was probably for something by Sting or Bobby McFerrin. 5 (MP)

Quite moribund. 4 (MA)

I tried, I really did. I’m still enough of a wimp to want to give positivity a free pass. But bloody hell, they make it hard! ‘The CIA, the bloods and the crips and the KKK’? I mean, WHAT THE FUCK??? I’m sorry, maybe it’s Former Lennon Fanatic Guilt, but in this instance, the lyrics *do* matter. I recommend Nas’ ‘I Can’ instead, which has a better hook and lyrics that establish him as the Hip-Hop equivalent of They Might Be Giants, surely the greatest thing ever. 4 (DR)

Longest goddamn commercial I’ve heard in a while, but I still couldn’t figure out what it was trying to sell. 3 (SeC)

I’m just glad someone is finally taking a stand against hatred. 3 (VP)

This is the kind of song that would have driven me crazy hearing 10 times a day from my boss’s desk radio during my college telemarketing days. Oppressively bland. 1 (DL)

I’m sure they are Bran Van 3000 in disguise i.e. having cunningly ditched the orange boiler suits. I do not like it. I am sorry but this top 40 music by and large is not my bag. I ph34r I have ruined the focus group. 0 (KG)

This record doesn’t even deserve to be hated vehemently, even though it’s definitely quite bad. It’s just kind of there, without a focal point, a catchy bit, a reason to exist. It’s needlessly soppy, criminally hookless, yet another despicable great-by-association rubbish single by a rubbish group who have always been crap (LISTEN to Joints and Jams, people, they’ve been precisely this horrible for YEARS), and even though the video has people lipsynching the chorus and it was number one for nine years, the fact that this record has connected emotionally, or even viscerally with ANYONE goes right over my head. It’s beyond belief to me that anyone would like this enough to go out and buy it – Timberlake factor notwithstanding – let alone hundreds of thousands of them. Was very tempted to stake out HMV and do vox pops on people buying it to try to understand – Why? Why? Why do you like this? I do NOT get it and I do not WANT it. 0 (EO)

Sinners vs Winners man quoted them. I rest my case. 0 (EH)