Oct 12

Departing From The Script

FT//12 comments • 942 views

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:

PINK – “Blow Me (One Last Kiss)”: Best surprise of the year, the heroic, sympathetic fuck-you pop song it feels like Pink’s almost been making for ten years. My favourite bit is the second verse, “Say Hello Wave Goodbye” levels of bitterness and bridge burning.

RUDIMENTAL – “Feel The Love”: Still magnificent, playing its excellent hand with joyful timing – would be on top if I hadn’t played it to death since the last time I did one of these.

TAYLOR SWIFT – “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”: the most enjoyable – and well-crafted – pop performance of the year, maybe? Like, ever.

PUBLIC ENEMY – “Harder Than You Think”: sentimental of course, but also what makes this so great is the slightly rheumy heft Chuck D’s voice has now, he’s as much a soul shouter as rapper and the horns back him up in that.

CARLY RAE JEPSEN – “Call Me Maybe”: It would be rude to quibble.

WILEY – “Heatwave”: wonderfully captures the provisional, melancholy happiness of yet another crap British summer.

PSY – “Gangnam Style”: Enjoy it now before office party season starts, that’s my advice.

TULISA – “Live It Up”: very happy to see the likeable Tulisa make a good record – trap-influenced pop isn’t so much of a fixture in the Uk charts to be predictable yet.

GERRY AND THE PACEMAKERS – “You’ll Never Walk Alone”: yes yes I gave it a 3 on Popular, which says more about me being a fool than anything about the charts now, That said, its strength and conviction would stand out in this chart whatever the circumstances of its being here.

FUN – “Some Nights”: Preferred this big-drums trick in “Love Lockdown” or indeed in any given Red Box song, which is what (as well as Queen) this reminds me of, but it’s its own thing. Tries everything, some of it even sticks.

OTTO KNOWS – “Million Voices”: in its unobtrusive way, perfectly good, and the random occurrence of this bit of trancey techno pop sums up the enjoyably directionless vibe of the charts right now.

LITTLE MIX – “Wings”: The best bits are the ones which sound a bit like “The Clapping Song”‘ but they are a,so the bits that make me want to listen to “The Clapping Song” instead. MORE marching band drums!

COLDPLAY ft RIHANNA – “Princess Of China”: Ponderous, but the distressed synths won me over in the end.

KANYE WEST ET AL – “Clique”: if you didn’t know they pronounce it “click” in the US, well, now you do. Love the gloopy stalking robot bass, the rest just exists for a while.

FLO RIDA – “I Cry”: Flo Rida is very much a safe pair of hands, and the backing here is livelier than you’d actually know from paying attention to him.

DAVID GUETTA ft Sia – “She Wolf”: As with “Titanium”, Sia and Guetta bring out the best in each other. Her best these days is probably better than his, she usually sounds like something in the song might matter to her anyway.

NICKI MINAJ – “Pound The Alarm”: Excellent use of word guzzle, but away from the LP this is left beached by the receding EDM tide.

OWL CITY AND CARLY RAE JEPSEN – “Good Time”: in which feelgood hookiness is a fickle mistress.

STOOSHE – “Black Heart”: Catchy post-Amy bad boy melodrama, though it has the whiff of the focus group about it somehow.

NE-YO – “Let Me Love You”: Bosh-by-the-yard production does’t give Ne-Yo the chance to build on the promise of the intro. EDM totally the wrong look for him.

FLORENCE AND THE MACHINE – “Spectrum (Calvin Harris)”: Huge builds are so much a part of the flo-mac formula it feels a bit weird her outsourcing them to the hired help. She ends up sounding too big for her own song somehow.

MAROON 5 ft WIZ KHALIFA – “Payphone”: Granted they can turn out a chorus, but this is still a dumped-dude song where the reason why dude is dumped becomes more apparent minute on minute, play on play.

CHERYL – “Under The Sun”: harmless, featureless.

AMELIA LILY – “You Bring Me Joy”: A woeful trudge. Though still rocks harder than…

THE KILLERS – “Runaways”: How are they still this popular? Chugalug Brooce pastiche, half-arsed ideas piled on top of each other like a badly made lasagne. Not actively horrible in any way but that’s not enough by itself, surely?

RITA ORA – “How We Do”: Jessie J would have rejected this supposedly party-ready snoozer, perhaps she did reject it! She’d have made it more annoying than the utterly innocuous Rita ORA though.

OF MONSTERS AND MEN – “Little Talks”: No idea what to make of this – a twee Scando Beautiful South? Mumford’s fault? But it’s too bloodless and pleased with itself to be worth the explanation.

CALVIN HARRIS FT EXAMPLE – “We’ll Be Coming Back”: the public keep rewarding Calvin H for his collection of nasty old videogame noises, and I keep being baffled by that.

ELBOW – “One Day Like This”: Nexus of some awful things about British rock – instant dignity! Just add strings! – but mostly I’m just a beard traitor.

DAVID GUETTA – “PlayHard” : suddenly, in the context of everything else going on in the charts, GUetta’s churlish blaring sounds dated not dominant. Whether the moment lasts I don’t know, but let’s hope.

CONOR MAYNARD ft NE-Yo – “Turn Around”: Mini-me of Ne-Yo’s own hit, makes the same mistakes, lacks the same class.

PROFESSOR GREEN – “Avalon”: Of all the things not to be a comedy sample! Chest-thumping serious Brit-hop: Prof G wants us to believe something’s at stake here, difficult to discern what.

SIMPLE PLAN ft SEAN PAUL – “Summer Paradise”: Pretty much every other record on this chart would be a better use of Sean Paul’s guest vocal time than contributing to this awful beach party strumalong. That said the thirty seconds Sean Paul does hand in are first class.

THE SCRIPT FT WILL I AM – “Hall Of Fame”: How come the most forgettable record in the whole chart (and there’s some competition) is also the highest selling?

SAM AND THE WOMP – “Bom Bom”: Balkan knees-up deep sixed by rentakook.

MUMFORD AND SONS – “I Will Wait”: the band doing for folk what Richard Dawkins does for atheism. (I feel bad for keeping this lame zing in from the plane notes but god what IS there to say about them)

ANGEL – “Wonderful”: Has a couple of ideas, uses them quickly, keeps repeating them, honestly they were quite irritating ideas in the first place, stop it, no really, actually stop.

ALEX CLARE – “Too Close”: Dubstep drops at the service of overwrought bro-angst. Maybe there’s a way that could work, he hasn’t found it.

EMILIE SANDE – “Read All About It Part 2”: Olympic legacy alert! A tiresome, wheedling record.

PLAN B – “Deepest Shame”: “She’s in the Plan B team” – B channels his inner Sheeran for a PSA about a junkie prostitute, simultaneously corny and gross.


  1. 1
    Another Pete on 1 Oct 2012 #

    Love it or hate it, Sam and the Womp has an almost nostalgic feel about it especially given the time of year. It has that September hit thanks to being ubiquitously played across the resorts of the Med for the summer that you seemingly don’t get any more. Whether it was is another matter it just feels like it might of been.

  2. 2
    Mark M on 2 Oct 2012 #

    Calculated it may be, but I’ve slowly come to feel that Black Heart is pretty good. And I don’t mind the Rita Ora song, although I think more than a Jessie J cast-off, it sounds like a Miley Cyrus left-over.
    Have you seen the Mumford video? It’s 17 levels of wrongness.
    I’m now fairly decided, though, that the enemy of the moment is Emily Sande – seemed like a good thing, in theory, when she first appeared, but she’s actually sleeping gas.

  3. 3
    thefatgit on 3 Oct 2012 #

    I’ve been actively avoiding the radio in 2012, so listening to snippets of stuff on TV and occasional forays on YouTube have meant that lots of pop has washed over me. This has been a conscious effort on my part to see if anything grabs my attention from leftfield or out of its usual context. Also, it’s been refreshing to discover stuff without being spoonfed by radio DJ, or trawling through acres of dross, just to find that one moment when something I REALLY like is played. Call it an experiment if you will, but something appears to be emerging. The quality of what I am exposed to, and not always on my own terms, appears to be improving. There’s always going to be the inescapable mega-hits like “Call Me Maybe” or “Gangnam Style”, but without radio in the background putting these out on heavy rotation, they stay fresher for longer. Even “Read All About It” still has an impact, although I preferred to listen to “Heaven” each time I wanted an Emeli Sande fix. I only very recently cottoned on to Rudimental (last night after Later With Jools Holland) and was pleasantly blown away by “Feel The Love”. A lot of the stuff that has caught up with me will mostly be Top 5, the stuff that breaks out into advertising or incidental music on TV, call it filtered if you like, but I’m sort of glad that a song that I’ve missed this year might be discovered in the future, listening to it when it comes to me.

    In the meantime I have been listening to lots of stuff from the last decade.

  4. 4
    swanstep on 3 Oct 2012 #

    Hmm, I hadn’t looked at any charts for a month or two, and I guess I’m surprised that Grimes’s Genesis isn’t anywhere to be found (either in the UK or NZ). It’s all over the music video channels down here, has several million youtube views, and she did it quite well/intriguingly on Jools Holland’s show etc., and I just assumed that it had broken out to some extent. But no, not at all.

  5. 5

    I lasted literally 3 seconds of the the Mumford video.

  6. 6
    Billy Hicks on 3 Oct 2012 #

    So last time I mentioned I was too busy with finals to know half the songs in the chart. One summer of graduation and adjusting to a post-study life later, I can at least say now the likes of ‘Heatwave’, ‘Pound the Alarm’, ‘Bom Bom’ and most of all – ahem – ‘Gangnam Style’ all provide me with at least some happy memories of the last few months at least. And I’m immensely chuffed that One Day Like This is finally the proper hit it never was until the closing ceremony bumped it into the top reaches of the charts.

    Even so, again, much less than this time last year, although it was slipping even then compared to that 2011 summer when the entire top 40 was the soundtrack to my life. Now as the job search continues we’ll see what tracks if anything take me into 2013.

    And I am so ridiculously looking forward to if/when (no, when!) Popular gets to 2012 and we debate the merits of the likes of Bom Bom and Gangnam Style :D

  7. 7
    flahr on 3 Oct 2012 #

    Taylor Swift: you’re not in a position to make cheap cracks about how lame indie kids are when your video features a furry playing an Autoharp [8]

  8. 8
    Tom on 3 Oct 2012 #

    Obviously the first law of Being Indie is that you slag off indies.

  9. 9
    swanstep on 3 Oct 2012 #

    @7, flahr. But Swift’s line is more of a poke at her ex (and a plauible memory of being condescended to) than at indie kids in general. God only knows what the vid is supposed to be about (it feels like just visual wall-paper to me, so the equivalent of wheeling out Max Martin on the music side to get a big mainstream pop hit).

    Swift’s and Pink’s songs feel very formulaic and dull to me. Both artists have the chops to do interesting stuff, but these tracks catch them at their most boring and commercially calculating and personality-less.

    Hate the PE (get those horns out of there!) and ‘Feel the love’ leaves me cold.

    Like ‘Little Talks’ more than Tom does. Production maximalism a la this and Florence is getting old tho’. Between this stuff and the chant along, mainstream pop-dance ears get tired very quickly I find, and if that’s inevitable then winning novelties like Bom Bom and Gangnam Style definitely feel like the best use of my communal ear time!

  10. 10
    flahr on 4 Oct 2012 #

    “it feels like just visual wall-paper to me”

    Hopefully knitting-based!

    ‘cheap crack’ was my being unfair for the sake of my own cheap crack, of course – it’s a good line* in a very good song and (given it’s apparently falling in the midweeks) it’s a shame we won’t get to discuss it in twenty Popular years’ time. When I bought it off Amazon there was a bad review from someone complaining that for the first few seconds they thought it was going to be country but then it turned out to be pure pop instead. Reader, I laughed.

    On the other side of the spectrum: there are in fact many, many things to say about Mumf*** and S*** but this is a family website. Certainly they’re worse than “Too Close” which is a wonderful record. You can tell because it goes “WUB WUB WUB”.

    *and you could always interpret it as “some indie record that’s much cooler than [my indie record]” if you were so inclined

  11. 11
    Another Pete on 4 Oct 2012 #

    Alex Clare looks like he could be Bomber (Pat Roach) in a junior version of Auf Wiedersehen Pet

  12. 12
    jeff w on 4 Oct 2012 #

    That Fat Em song isn’t really subtitled “Calvin Harris” is it? Strewth.

    I’ve heard shamefully few of these, precisely 5 in fact. Agree about P!nk=punk song tho – great stuff.

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