Jul 15

Popular Crystal Ball: 2015 – What Are You Waiting For?

FT47 comments • 2,100 views

king1985 I’ll let you set the paaaace…. what? Only eight new number ones? Well, we’re not trying that again.

In order, best to worst. The usual caveats apply: don’t expect this to be much of a prediction of final verdicts when I eventually write about them! And obviously it’s a much shorter list than the last two – since the first two months, pretty much, were gobbled up by “Uptown Funk”. The number one position finally starting to match the sclerotic progress of the charts as a whole, then.

What did we get?

1. YEARS & YEARS – “King”: I feel hustled into this one a bit – BBC Sound Of Winner, Popjustice endorsements – especially as I can’t quite work out why I like it so much. Is it the rare hint of something unhealthy, unwholesome, mildly consumptive in the singing that’s getting my Morrissey glands twitching? Or is it just the way the hook threatens to break into “Tarzan Boy”? The stats don’t lie – this is certainly my most played of the year’s hits. Anybody’s guess how it’ll sound later.

2. JASON DERULO – “Want To Want Me”: Perennial will-this-do merchant comes good with a jump into electropop. Aims for Prince, ends up at Minor Royal, but if you set yourself high standards you might end up somewhere catchy. A future “oh it’s THIS one” floorfiller.

3. ELLIE GOULDING – “Love Me Like You Do”: An unpromising premise to say the least, but the best bit of the 50 Shades franchise is the one with no writer credit for EL James. The singer/producer combination is exactly right for this to work as softcore high-gloss escapism, a bonkbuster take on the “Show Me Heaven”/”Take My Breath Away” soundtrack smash.

4. OMI – “Cheerleader (Felix Jaehn Remix)”: This is the first reggae number one since… how long? Man! In the grand tradition of reggae number ones, remixed to fuck to make it sound less weird. Luckily, they haven’t totally succeeded. Potentially very annoying, but there’s enough going on and the ingredients are strong enough to make this potent in small exposures.

5. JESS GLYNNE – “Hold My Hand”: After the knock-down, drag-out, deep house death arena that was 2014’s number one line-up, a victory lap is only deserved. Huge, strutting, one eye on the sports montages. Not sure why I don’t like it more – a bit bludgeoning, perhaps?

6. TINIE TEMPAH ft JESS GLYNNE – “Not Letting Go”: Hard not to feel Tempah’s career has panned out disappointingly overall. Here he’s fake geek girling a lady who doesn’t know the verses to R Kelly songs. Oh, Tiniepaws. Jess Glynne provides chorus hook and datestamp.

7. WIZ KHALIFA ft CHARLIE PUTH – “See You Again”: The most indelible hook Puth is ever going to write – one of those that sounds like it’s always existed waiting for some chancer to grab it. Far weaker hooks get made to stand on their own, so I dunno why this one gets smushed into exhausting stadium rap. When I first heard this I thought it would be number one forever, but we seem more restrained now. A good thing. It’s still not going away any time soon.

8. SAM SMITH ft JOHN LEGEND – “Lay Me Down”: The first half of this is aggressively, suffocatingly worthy. The second half at least offers spectacle – a great half-British abase-off, Smith and Legend using melisma to tunnel under each other in their pleas for what sounds like ultimately quite awkward spooning. And there, with the future of British pop, the balance of payments’ darling, we shall leave it.


  1. 1
    Inanimate Carbon God on 5 Jul 2015 #

    Chuffed you picked Years & Years (is the ampersand their official name a la Mike “Plus” the Mechanics??!) – King as top dog. Worried when we get to the rest, I might be showing another procession of 5s.

    Those “get your Morrissey glands twitching” vocals remind me of 1994, and another slightly fragile, brilliantly understated and underrated #1 named after another artist who had a top 2 hit…. but speaking of that… wow! https://twitter.com/iamtonydibart/status/617723139640967169

  2. 2
    Chelovek na lune on 5 Jul 2015 #

    Hmm, my favourite of these has to be Jason Derulo, followed by OMI (last reggae no 1? last summer, effectively, if you’re not being too strict about definitions of genre boundaries), with everything else quite a way below those.

    Bottom of the pile: my least well regarded three are the same as Tom’s, but in the reverse order

  3. 3
    Mark M on 5 Jul 2015 #

    Yikes – what a grim bunch. I particularly dislike See You Again. I’m probably most favourably disposed to Tinie & Jess, partly for the lazy summer-iness of the song, but also admittedly because I’m doing some research into filmed representations of London council blocks, so it’s relevant to me (see also the current Skepta vid, in which the rapidly declining number of actual Brutalist social housing estates in London has led them to… the Barbican!)

    Cheerleader is built out of a reggae song, but surely the selling point of the remix-that-is-the-international hit is the instrumentation that sounds to me more… something vaguely familiar but hard to pinpoint… maybe Southern African from the 1970s or early ’80s? I kept thinking I liked the song but didn’t, and have since decided I like the added stuff, but find Omi’s bits annoying.

  4. 4
    Tom on 6 Jul 2015 #

    #2 ha, how soon I forget! It’s the first number one for a while which sounds like it was ever on speaking terms with modern Jamaican music, though.

  5. 5
    punctum on 6 Jul 2015 #

    1. The problem is they sound like Bros.
    2. Want to be Maroon 5 morelike.
    3. Earned It is the one that’s going to be remembered, isn’t it?
    4/5. No problem with either of those.
    6. Forgot how it went while still listening to it. The same twenty people are now the only people allowed to have hits.
    7. Was on the side of this one until the rugby chant came in.
    8. Legend humouring Smith here, I feel.

  6. 6
    Tom on 6 Jul 2015 #

    “Earned It” is certainly the best ever chance at making The Weeknd a proper star – hence his guest star spot at the Apple gig a few weeks ago – and it’s probably a better 50 Shades soundtrack, if only because it’s boring and a bit creepy. I still feel rather guilty about using my sometime journalistic privilege to add to The Weeknd hype, what can I say, I was a sucker for a Siouxsie sample.

  7. 7
    Phil on 6 Jul 2015 #

    The charts – such a shame what’s happened to them in the last few(?) years. (Or is it just the loss of TOTP?) Most of the ‘current’ Popular entries are still hard-wired in my musical memory – and it’s not about youth; this time in 2000 I was pushing 40. These days I can absolutely guarantee that I won’t have heard any of the songs in a list like this – as indeed I haven’t. (Well, not knowingly – I haven’t listened to all of them yet to check.)

    King is rather good, although I rather doubt that it has any relation to old Welly-Boot Man up top. I found I was reminded weirdly of Beirut – I kept thinking “this is rather good, but if it was in 6/8… and if the percussion was real… and if there was a ukulele on there somewhere…” If you did do all that you’d end up not a million miles from here (no bad place to be).

  8. 8
    punctum on 6 Jul 2015 #

    What exactly has happened to the charts? As far as I can see they’ve become an unsatisfactory middleground between ’50s chart slowness and the continuation of hyping records into high positions; even in the iTunes/Spotify age it’s still all about promotion strategies rather than the creation of future classics.

    TOTP was dead in the water for years (assuming it was ever alive, and given the reruns that’s a big assumption) and I’m very glad that it’s gone. Did far more harm than good.

  9. 9
    Phil on 6 Jul 2015 #

    I don’t know what harm it did – I just miss knowing what’s in the charts, without being anywhere near motivated enough to find out for myself.

  10. 10
    Steve Mannion on 6 Jul 2015 #

    A good time to update on (Top 75) chart hit quantities per year since Tom’s post in early 2009: http://freakytrigger.co.uk/ft/2009/01/the-strange-death-of-the-uk-charts *

    2009: 422
    2010: 493
    2011: 457
    2012: 448
    2013: 469
    2014: 430
    2015: I think less than 200 so far so could end up being lowest for some time (you have to go back to the 70s for fewer than 400 Top 75 hits in one calendar year)

    Figures approx, calculated from Polyhex searches, http://www.worldcharts.co.uk/worldcharts/uk.htm and the actually v good acharts.us

    As long as it’s 100 streams to 1 sale when compiling the charts this bobbing around the 350-450 mark will probably continue. If the charts reduce that streams to sales ratio it could result in more chart entries…but if they’re not really converting to meaningful revenue there may not be much desire to do that (see Popjustice yesterday on the new Friday release rules). More likely some Apple-only combined chart will take more and more attention away from the Official one unless they merge (might as well given how often now artists encourage you to buy their music specifically from iTunes).

    UK chart hits of 2015 Spotify playlist is one way to keep up (I don’t update every week tho) https://open.spotify.com/user/stevem78/playlist/7JEQcrlElfYZBrMekV9Q4O

    * In that thread’s comments I declare my interest in the charts dead but here I am still interested in what gets in them (thanks to the convenience/control balance of Spotify playlisting mostly – hope someone invents a neat way to import them easily to Apple Music someday!), if not so much what’s actually #1, and they felt a bit more open (in a way and in terms of charting at all rather than massive hits from out of nowhere) for much of the first half of this decade for a number of reasons (including as the download market further expanding and the increase of ‘web-first’ viral hits).

  11. 11
    Inanimate Carbon God on 7 Jul 2015 #

    Re 8: DISCLAIMER KLAXON I am no expert and am shamelessly jumping to conclusions late at night, but one reason could be the strange disappearance of many genres from the charts that a decade ago could break the top 10 with a mildly sizeable fanbase, mildly rotated video and mild promotion in Kerrang or NME (!) especially indie pop, indie rock, pop punk, (old or new) metal. I won’t deny TOTP helped but you see what all these genres (except perhaps trad metal) have in common? They’re more white and middle class than an Alex James organic chilli cook-off. Nothing against them as a whole as I’m W.M.C (!!!) by any other name. However in my decade long experience of social media the UK and US white middle class are the Western world’s most likely demographics to cotton onto social trends with a slightly hammed up air of moral superiority over who they see as “the bad guys.” This sometimes manifests itself in stiff upper lip patriotism at times of war and national crisis or Daily Mail BAN THIS FILTHery but it’s also inherent in YouTube comments like “Bring back real music with real instruments and it’s all Justin Bieber X Factor fault!!! Waaa”, Facebook memes making spurious comparisons between popular songs with almost irreconcilable contexts (I.e. Bohemian Rhapsody and Run the World (Girls) or Led Zeppelin/Nicki Minaj) and of course the Kanye West at Glastonbury furore which I don’t believe was in the majority at all intended to be racist but “intended” is the word… so many ugly unconscious roots going back to hidden 1950s picket fence “there goes the neighbourhood” bigotry (that’s Ukip, that is).. I.e. We like “black” music and treat them as equals, totes colourblind y’all but only if they are “nice guys” who don’t use sweary inner city words like big nasty Kanye or have a cuddly ironic pantomime aspect – i.e. The incredibly f**king patronising air of how Lionel Richie was picked for Glastonbury 2015, and the huge doubts whether 100,000 people would sign a petition not to have Eminem, the Prodigy or Sex Pistols at Worthy Farm – all similarly abrasive and divisive to KW, but, well.. I think the final verdict is adjourned until someone like Public Enemy headlines… okay they’re the white middle class “threatening” hip hop act du jour/30 annees but much more on that when I write that book I’ve been out. But what’s happened is that the REAL MUSIC FOR PROPER LADS AND HARD WORKING COD-MODS brigade have performed SAVAGE CUTS as THE CHARTS are for MANUFACTURED PAP because UNCLE NOBHEAD NOELYIANBROWNYDALTREY AND MY PERFECT COUSIN ALEX TURNER say so, and the mock hero worship of such dour anti-glamour outweighs any mission similar – and sometimes the same! bands had a few years ago to gatecrash the party. It’s a bit like Premier League teams not taking the FA Cup seriously – like the singles chart, another great British institution that has thrived over time because on paper, it’s an open meritocracy whose format throws absurd cultural sources together from backgrounds whose paths would otherwise never cross in real life, let alone share the same pitch /studio (for Macclesfield v Chelsea, read RATM v Joe McElderry) and watch the magnificent sparks fly. And like those who “win” the charts, most of the FA Cup winners go down in history, legend and folklore as British/English eccentricity lends prestige and excitement to something that’s in many other countries nothing more than a schedule filling box ticking exercise. Ironic that a lack of genres with a white middle class audience is causing a chronic lack of diversity in the charts but often the plainest or most obvious ingredients are essential to the most authentic recipes. Hence why Manchester United’s withdrawal from the FA Cup in 2000 so they could swan off mid season to a half baked tournament in Brazil was met with great offence; the same justified offence I feel when people like Ian Brown have a pop at Kylie Minogue when it’s his bastard offspring like Embrace who have caused much more damage to the creativity, imagination, social commentary, social change, and (loveable) sociopathy in this glorious, sickening, crazy, contradictory, tragicomic, beautiful, gruesome, daunting-but-simply-breathtaking infinite ecosystem we call pop music.

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    punctum on 7 Jul 2015 #

    That’s too simple an analysis.

    All the acts you talk about simply migrated to and concentrated on the album chart, same as they did in the late sixties/early seventies. Hence “heritage acts” like Black Sabbath and James Taylor demonstrate an underlying popularity (helped by good PR and better timing, e.g. release your album in time for Father’s Day) which does not carry over to the singles chart.

    As regards the latter, it has now become so narrowcast that it’s hardly worth looking at in depth. Even by 2009-10 standards the picture has deteriorated; now it’s all off-the-peg EDM or sub-Coldplay rugby chants/ballads and it seems that only the same twenty people are now allowed to have hits. So you end up with Tinie Tempah ft Jess Glynne, David Guetta ft Nicki Minaj and so forth (plus the obligatory one “new” act per year which the BBC orders you to like), and (impression of one’s parents coming up) it all sounds the same and stultifyingly so.

    As for “eccentricity,” think of bemused Americans coming over to watch TOTP in 1987 and they see footage of Spurs scoring a goal. No wonder they didn’t take our charts seriously even then, not that they really should because so many “classics” fell short of the charts in favour of fly-by-night stuff by people who were more available for TV etc. and which never gets played now.

  13. 13
    Inanimate Carbon God on 8 Jul 2015 #

    Sorry for risking sounding reductionist, but bloody good points Marcello. It’s excellent that when TPL gets to this decade we still get to hear from artists who by now have been given a life ban from Popular because they don’t look fitter in their MySpace picture (I know that’s an archaic cultural reference but I need to use it to give people advance warning of a 2010 bunny as it ain’t gonna be pretty.)

    Actually, I don’t think there was any closet racist subtext to Lionel Richie appearing at Glastonbury in an effective semi-ironic “heritage” slot, as the same motives were deployed for Dolly Parton last year; the problem is its the same dubious smirking-behind-one’s-back motives you discussed c. 1976 in Popular time re. The “Guilty Pleasures” compilations. There’s plenty of THAT to come in Popular’s near future.. :-/ Don’t worry though, as I’ll have plenty to say. I know what 2002 Spanish Condiment Bunny was like, maaaan. I was (17 and) there…

  14. 14
    AnotherPete on 10 Jul 2015 #

    Congratulations to Lost Frequencies in becoming a future perennial pub quiz answer.

  15. 15
    DanH on 12 Jul 2015 #

    Eight #1’s? That’s twice as much different #1’s as we’ve had here in America this year. The first two weeks were “Blank Space” that peaked late last year, followed by 14 weeks up “Uptown Funk,” then 13 and counting of “See You Again,” interrupted by a one week stint by “Bad Blood.” Chart watching sure is boring here.

  16. 16
    flahr on 13 Jul 2015 #

    I was going to call everyone upthread ^ miserable b************s but actually I only really like 2.5 of these so

    HOWEVER you can construct a pretty TOP NOTCH THUMBS ALOFT alternate list by allowing yourself to shuffle the Top 10 around arbitrarily in any given week so PFFFFFFFFFFFFFT

  17. 17
    punctum on 13 Jul 2015 #

    Many thanks for your help in this matter.

  18. 18
    flahr on 13 Jul 2015 #

    I suppose the issue with doing ‘youthful enthusiasm’ is that young people are notoriously intellectually vapid and their opinions of anything of consequence are thus irrelevant.

    What has happened to the charts is presumably that as consumption of music becomes increasingly personalised and fragmented the idea of any sort of communal framework becomes increasingly bizarre and irrelevant; what other people (who aren’t your friends, in either real life or your social network[s] of choice) listen to and like is a matter that never has to affect you if you don’t want it to, and why would you want to?* In this new word of no crossover where you have several distinct groups of listeners all of whom listen only to non-overlapping sets of songs it is I guess no surprise that we will find the charts dominated by the things that the largest of these distinct groups of listeners listens to.

    I think it’s unlikely that the majority of chart music is being bought/listened to be people who don’t actually like it.

    I would say something here about how Apple’s attempt to reimpose a curated monoculture thru Beats1 is embarrassing and pointless and doomed to failure but Apple have a track record of successfully doing embarrassing pointless things that are doomed to failure through sheer force of marketing, the dicks.

    *this is a bit disingenuous but what I think it is saying is there is a fundamentally technology-enabled shift from “talking about music with people you like” to “talking about music you like with people” – hopefully also people you like but that is of secondary importance

    I do at least find it slightly amusing that the apparent twin problems with the charts are fly-by-night marketers’ darlings that no one has actually heard or likes and songs that stick around for ages and are always on the radio and should just go away instead of slowing things down.

  19. 19
    Tom on 13 Jul 2015 #

    FWIW I wrote an extremely long semi-response a few days ago and then lost it because firefox crashed. I am broadly with FLAHR (or is it Flahr) here – if there was a huge gulf between the streaming (representing long term repeated listening) and sales charts there’d be a case for saying that the problem with the latter is fly-by-night hits nobody has heard of. As was the case, partly, in the chart bloat of 2000-1. But that really isn’t what’s happening. Inasmuch as anything has a broad listening base – and several hundred thousand plays a day seems broad – this is what does.

    What’s happened is two things. First, there’s no longer much of a public space for pop – no TOTP, not as much radio in public workplaces (I’d guess) (no place for radio in a call centre), even shops playing branded playlists not the latest NOW album. “Monoculture” was always about space and access, not taste. The Spotify/YouTube/iTunes front page is the worst of both worlds – easy to escape from into your personal familiar, hard to discover stuff from.

    The second thing is that pop has never had, as part of its remit, “be familiar to fortysomethings”. Occasionally it is anyway, but I don’t think the fact it isn’t means terribly much.

    Flahr puts his finger on another issue, though – the sales based chart used to be a place where a bunch of different constituencies could rub shoulders – sometimes even score bigger hits. If you look at the streaming charts, that seems to have completely gone – the softcore end of hip-hop, pop, dance, and singer-songwriter glurge, and that’s yer lot, and all of those share more DNA than they used to. The overall Radio 1 playlist – featured on Spotify too – has a lot more diversity, presumably cos it includes specialist shows. But it doesn’t get reflected in the charts any more. Maybe I overrated the extent to which it did.

  20. 20
    Phil on 13 Jul 2015 #

    #19 – re 40-somethings, it just struck me as odd, looking back, that the UK’s Number One had gone from rock-solid, nailed-on, unthinking levels of familiarity (half-a-pound-of-twopenny-rice to-be-or-not-to-be and-if-this-ain’t-love I-don’t-wanna-rock-DJ) to Oldie-subscriber levels of bafflement (David who did you say featuring what?) in what seems in retrospect like a matter of months. I’m an old fart, fair enough, but I was already an old fart when Robbie left Take That; I was pushing thirty when Take That formed, for goodness’ sake.

    So I’d ask the question the other way round: given that it’s never been any part of the remit of pop music to stay on the radar of people far too old for it, how come it did, until quite recently, and why did it stop? (Generalising from a sample of one, obviously.) The answer (for me personally, again) seems to be nothing more or less than TOTP: the downslope of my awareness of the charts shows a real inflection point when the weekly programme moved to Sunday, and drops off a cliff when it stopped altogether. I suspect I’m not the only old fart so affected.

  21. 21
    Tom on 13 Jul 2015 #

    Yes, 100%. The loss of the public space for pop meant a loss of the spillover of accidental encounter beyond the target market. Probably still happens for parents of teenagers (I’ll find out in a few years) but even by 2000 I’d started making an effort to follow, rather than bumping into it as much.

    The Bannister revolution at the BBC – an occasional subplot of 90s Popular – was another big step.

  22. 22
    punctum on 14 Jul 2015 #

    I think it’s unlikely that the majority of chart music is being bought/listened to be people who don’t actually like it.

    Or don’t actually listen to it, i.e. have it on in the background, and if it’s an abstract thing on iTunes/Spotify (which, strictly speaking, you are renting; you will never “own” these downloads), that removes the emotional attachment involved with investing in something physical. I remember reading something in the Guardian about the 2001 Xmas #1 (obviously yet to be reached here, so I’ll say no more) and at least two buyers in the big old Oxford Circus HMV admitted, no they didn’t really like it, but everyone else was buying it, so why shouldn’t they?

    not as much radio in public workplaces (I’d guess) (no place for radio in a call centre)

    Well, even when there is a radio in the public workplace, it’s usually tuned to a very mainstream station which will just loop the same twenty records in a slightly different order for hours on end (though you’re only supposed to listen to the station for about half an hour at a time; the “Carousel” system originated on fifties American radio). And because there’s this perhaps not too huge, but very vocal (when pushed) middleground of consumers (see also the underlying problem with General Elections), the consensus, the blandest of compromises, always comes through.

    But even in fly-by-night 2000-1 I don’t recall the charts shutting down as firmly on anything different (or anybody older) to such a terminal extent. I look even at the 2009-10 charts (a lost golden age; trust me) and think: virtually none of this stuff would make it through the door now. I said on Twitter recently (and probably even elsewhere here) that it’s a situation where only the same twenty people are allowed to have hits any more. Which is enormously tedious and removes the remotest scintilla of commitment.

  23. 23
    Phil on 14 Jul 2015 #

    Losing the physical format is obviously a good thing – I do sometimes buy new vinyl (usually on Record Store Day), but the first thing I look for is the download code. But the suspense, the excitement, the sense of an event – poring over the sleeve on the bus home, getting the door open, getting the record on the turntable… All gone.

    Similarly, losing the gatekeepers is obviously a good thing – the last new bands I got into* were people I’d never heard on radio, let alone on TV; there were odd bits of press, a track on a cover-mount CD, and in one case a Youtube link on a friend’s blog (that’s basically word of mouth these days). But the shared experience, the did-you-see, the sense that music was news or made news… All gone.

    I wrote a while back that all music has, effectively, turned into radio – and the spread of streaming makes this even more true. The interesting thing is that these aren’t trade-offs anyone really chose – and yet, when the choices were technologically possible, they seem to have been inevitable.

    *Not that I’m too old to get into new bands, just that I got into traditional folk a while ago & catching up has been more of a priority. Come to think of it, the fact that I’ve got several hundred tracks by Peter Bellamy, and I’ve never heard any of them except when I’ve chosen to play them to an audience of one, is… odd.

  24. 24
    flahr on 14 Jul 2015 #

    What I don’t understand is why rock fans don’t seem to buy singles any more, and why rock bands don’t seem to care about that any more. Drones, for instance, ‘sold’ 73k units in its first week; that’s more than Jase sold in the same week (65k). How have a band with that sort of fanbase not even got into the Top 40 since 2012? I remember when Coldplay tweeted the release of “Christmas Lights” and all the replies were “Is this going to be on the new album?” “Does that mean a new album campaign is afoot?”. How did this situation come about? (Well, I suppose it’s because albums are more profitable than singles, if you can sell them…)

  25. 25
    punctum on 14 Jul 2015 #

    Losing the physical format is obviously a good thing – why, and why is it obvious?

    Similarly, losing the gatekeepers is obviously a good thing – same questions. This is one of the main reasons why I can’t get any music writing work. Nobody wants it now.

    #24: because nobody in the mainstream media will promote or even play rock “singles.” The balance is weighed towards young people who go to Top Shop at the weekend and buy off-the-peg dance music. And that goes for American R&B and hip hop acts who can’t even get a release in the UK, or only a minimal release, because the “industry” here is promoting hyped-up British crap.

  26. 26
    flahr on 14 Jul 2015 #

    This thread will look very foolish once NME’s ‘brand transformation’ is a massive success and the Top 40 becomes WALL-TO-WALL CATFISH & THE BOTTLEMEN

  27. 27
    punctum on 14 Jul 2015 #

    It’s only a matter of time and cider.

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    Phil on 14 Jul 2015 #

    #25 – b/c I listen to most music on either my Mac or my iPod, and the physical format ties me to my hifi. I keep trying to get (back) into the habit of listening to music that way, but it’s an uphill struggle. Obviously (well, it was meant to be obvious) I don’t think it’s an unalloyed good thing. Ditto with gatekeepers – I’m aware of what wouldn’t have been available to me in the days when everything was filtered through TOTP, Peel or NME (or two of the above – rarely all three), but it doesn’t stop me missing those days.

  29. 29
    punctum on 14 Jul 2015 #

    Don’t be ridiculous; you make it sound like somebody put a rope around you and bound you to your stereo. I spent twenty years listening to music on my Walkman and then Discman as well as on my stereo. It was never either/or. You haven’t explained why “it was meant to be obvious.”

    Are you listening to music now, or merely hearing it?

  30. 30
    Tom on 14 Jul 2015 #

    I’m not totally sold on “the emotional attachment involved in investing in something physical”. I can see it in the case of vinyl – and we’re seeing the consequences of that with mediocre old LPs getting upwards of thirty-quid reissues on vinyl thick enough to plate a battleship. But an LP is big, needs looking after, has a lovely sleeve, etc so sure, the ritual would act as an amplifier to the aesthetic experience there. I just don’t think it’s the same for tapes and CDs, which were always the bulk of my physical listening.

    I do think there’s an emotional attachment involved in PAYMENT (using the sunk cost fallacy for good, basically!) – though that has less comfortable implications, so people tend to make the payment argument on ethical grounds rather than “capitalism is so wired into our skulls that we need a price tag to trick our brains into valuing something”.

  31. 31
    Phil on 14 Jul 2015 #

    CDs can be fetish objects if the packaging is well enough produced (see other thread), but I agree that it’s not the same as vinyl. As for cassette, I’ve only ever bought a handful of pre-recorded tapes, and I think this one is the only one I’ve had any investment in as a thing. (Came with download code. I’ve played the actual cassette about twice, partly because the deck in my main system seems to have silted up beyond my power to clean it.)

    Not ignoring you, Punctum, but I’m really not sure what you’re challenging. What was ‘meant to be obvious’ was that I miss a way of listening to music that I’ve mainly given up on for reasons of convenience.

  32. 32
    punctum on 14 Jul 2015 #

    That’s the problem right there. “For reasons of convenience.” So it doesn’t matter how much music you download, it all becomes wallpaper which you can ignore or pay attention to as you please.

    I have, possibly uniquely among my generation, no emotional attachment to vinyl at all. That’s infantile looking back and covert fear of death – you’re never going to be sixteen again, get over it – and it’s good to see so many solvent mugs having to hand over £25 for a slightly cleaner version of something they shouldn’t have got rid of in the first place. CDs are great; you can stack/shelve more of them, much easier to handle than hoary old LPs, they don’t smell of digestive biscuits and provided you don’t skateboard over them they don’t scratch. Cassettes are fab too but then Kids Today don’t even know about things called CDs, have only ever known downloads, so whom am I kidding?

    Totally agree with Tom’s PAYMENT thing, though; if more people had thought about that back in 2000-1 rather than lazily downloading everything for nothing then maybe things wouldn’t be in the mess that they are in now.

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    thefatgit on 14 Jul 2015 #

    I can confirm Marcello’s point @22. I have recently been going to the gym (yes, the gym…end times coming, etc.) which pipes Capital all the freakin’ time. I’m usually concentrating on my workout, until it’s time to go to the changing rooms and Marvin Humes plays the same bloody songs again and again. I don’t normally listen to radio for this very reason.

  34. 34
    flahr on 14 Jul 2015 #

    I’d like to see a logical extension of this where you make music less convenient to listen to in order to make it better. Maybe glue razorblades to the CD case.

    Although it occurs to me that live music is a sort of maximally-inconvenient flipside to digital music; you have to actually travel somewhere physically in person after forking over a large amount of money, someone spills a practically full pint over your snazzy Helen Love t-shirt, the space between you and the stage seems to be filled exclusively with basketball players, you don’t have any choice over the tracklisting (or, if you bother to turn up for them, the support acts), Grace Chatto is on the side of the stage furthest away from you and thus can’t hear your devotional pleas, and you don’t even get to listen to the music more than once. And, indeed, live music is, I think, doing pretty well at the moment, although this may as much be because it’s the only thing musicians can do right now that is actually profitable. (Wasn’t it the case in the recent past that touring was a lossmaking activity you carried out to sell records?)

  35. 35
    Tom on 14 Jul 2015 #

    From my memory of the few times I had jobs which played Radio 1 in the late Smashie/Nicie era there wasn’t much more variety! (Though there was Bates, I guess.)

  36. 36
    StringBeanJohn82 on 14 Jul 2015 #
  37. 37
    Phil on 14 Jul 2015 #

    Punctum, with the greatest of respect, you don’t know me. I’ll unpack ‘for reasons of convenience’: I work and listen to music in a rectangular room with the desk on one of the long walls and the speakers, until recently, standing in front of the other long wall. A while ago I noticed that I was getting a better sound entering the room or standing in the doorway than I was while sat at my desk. This struck me as unsatisfactory, so I read up on speaker placement and concluded that the best option would be to stand the speakers in front of the short wall and listen from the sofa in front of the other short wall, with the length of the room making for a fairly tall isosceles triangle. On the rare occasions when I sit on the sofa and listen to music this works great. However, it means I can never listen to music while using the Mac, except through my Mac’s speaker or through headphones. I’ve got a large head & find most headphones pinch my jaws uncomfortably; I’ve shelled out for what seemed like a comfortable pair in the shop, but still find them a bit much to wear for any length of time. So, while I’m working – but not while I’m concentrating too hard to listen to music – I tend to play music on my Mac rather than through headphones. For reasons of convenience.

    I’ve probably downloaded about 1000 tracks (out of a total of 8000-odd), although half of those are from two sources*. And no, it’s not all wallpaper. To a surprisingly large extent they’re songs that I learn and end up singing.

    *Jon Boden’s A Folk Song A Day project and this American set.

  38. 38
    Phil on 14 Jul 2015 #

    FLAHR – it’s not the difficulty as such, although getting that Durutti Column album out of the sleeve unscratched was always interesting (after a while I told myself the inevitable scratches added to the, er, ambience, kind of thing). Just that you have to make your own sense of occasion.

    Live music, as you say, is all occasion. Not sure it makes money, though – much more money (than none at all) going in, but much more going out as well. AIUI merch (and ltd ed box sets ect ect) is where the money is, what money there is anywhere. One of the moments I felt most alienated from Damon Albarn* was an interview when he talked about his father’s experience doing the lights (I think) for Soft Machine. Damon mused on how different the gig-going experience was back then – as in, you went to a gig and that was pretty much it. The band didn’t have special pressings on sale, they didn’t have tour posters, they didn’t even have official teeshirts. “The idiots!” he concluded. Hands across the decades.

    *Can’t help feeling there’s a feature in there, or possibly a series.

  39. 39
    pink champale on 14 Jul 2015 #

    Ha, I like Damon for concluding that, rather than some rosy nonsense to show he’s all sensitive like.

  40. 40
    punctum on 14 Jul 2015 #

    #37: What have you learned from all of this? I see a lot of Hi-Fi News stuff about set-ups and placements but nothing to indicate that you’re actually touched or moved by listening to music, if listening is indeed what you’re doing (for you could be listening to your sound system rather than what it’s playing). Music isn’t there to make your life easier but to help make your life worth living.

  41. 41
    Tom on 14 Jul 2015 #

    We’re moving into pointlessly ad hominem territory here, I think. Phil’s very lucid and interesting comments have proved he’s just as much a music lover as anyone here.

  42. 42
    James BC on 15 Jul 2015 #

    My rank – Tom’s rank – Track – Thoughts

    1 – 4 – OMI – Shades of No Letting Go here. Beautiful. My love for chart reggae cannot be conquered.

    2 – 5 – JESS GLYNNE – Something about this seems a bit rote, but it’s still good. The post-chorus is the thing, and Jess sounds infectiously happy.

    3 – 1 – YEARS & YEARS – These guys are really good but I don’t think they’ve released their classic yet. How come this can be number 1 when the Delays never got anywhere?

    4 – 6 – TINIE TEMPAH ft JESS GLYNNE – I’ve only heard this a few times so it might be better than 4th later. I do like Tinie’s lyrics.

    5 – 2 – JASON DERULO – This would be miles better if it was sung by someone with a bit more charm, namely Olly Murs. Never mind though, I’m sure Olly will be bringing out a copy in a few months’ time, shortly after his Uptown Funk copy, also eagerly awaited by me.

    6 – 7 – THE WIZ – Echoes of Hope (Twista) or See You When You Get There (Coolio!) but doesn’t quite sweep me along with it they way they do. I have a family, but I find the intense way Wiz (and Vin Diesel) talk about “family” a bit alien, and alienating.

    7 – 3 – ELLIE GOULDING – I’ve just discovered that Tove Lo wrote this. I’d assumed from the repeat-one-line-again-and-again chorus that it was Ryan Tedder (or Sting). Bit dreary, anyway. “Love Me Like You Used To” might have had more mileage as a title.

    8 – 8 – SAM SMITH ft JOHN LEGEND – I much preferred the novelty song approach to Comic Relief singles. This is about as funny as it is erotic.

  43. 43
    Mark M on 15 Jul 2015 #

    Re: 42 It has to be Love Me Like You Do for the purposes of the movie – she’s saying ‘I’m OK with the fact that you are a fifth-rate Patrick Bateman wannabe with a thing for whips’.

    (The sons of Bateman are plentiful: as well as Christian Grey, there’s the Michael Fassbender character in Shame (oversexed Bateman), Barney Stinson in How I Met Your Mother (Comedy Bateman), the main character in Nightcrawler (part-Bateman, part Norman Bates, part Rupert Pupkin) and the bloke in that London property promo, just for starters).

  44. 44
    Phil on 15 Jul 2015 #

    Barney as comedy Bateman is an excellent spot. I think it’s partly the actor, tho. Have you seen NPH’s “choose your own autobiography”? I was going to get it for my son – a massive and proprietary HIMYM fan – but then I read a bit of it. Um, no.

    The Delays! They should so have been huge. I’m playing that single when I get home.

  45. 45
    mapman132 on 20 Jul 2015 #

    And now a new candidate for Shortest Book Ever Written, The Hot 100 Number Ones of 2015 So Far:

    “Uptown Funk”: I initially liked this song and was glad it hit #1, then got sick of it, then got concerned it would actually break the weeks at #1 record, then wondered what was so sacred to me about the bland mediocrity known as “One Sweet Day”, which caused me to accept the inevitable, and then it fell short of the record after all. 14 weeks seems to be some sort of invisible barrier: something like eight songs now have reached it, only OSD has passed it. And so just like last year, the race for top single of the year is over before it began. Ho hum.

    “See You Again”: Mildly surprised to see the negative reaction to this here. To me, this is as good as Diddy circa 1997 was terrible. Puth’s part in particular sells it for me (apparently he was inspired by one of his own friends who was killed in an accident). That being said, 12 weeks at #1 was perhaps a tad excessive.

    “Bad Blood”: I don’t hate Taylor Swift, but I don’t quite buy into the hype surrounding her. Is she really so much better than a lot of other female performers of the moment? The one week break in SYA’s stay at #1 was due to the much-hyped release of the BB video, which I haven’t bothered to view myself yet. Anyone want to start a betting pool as to when (or if) Taylor gets bunnied?

    “Cheerleader”: One week at #1 so far. The obvious candidate for Song of the Summer (something that Billboard seems to want to make the US version of Xmas #1). Certainly a much more authentic sound than last summer’s reggae Rude-ness. Jury’s still out: I’m either going to grow to love this dearly, or want to smash the nearest speakers every time I hear it.

  46. 46
    Phil on 3 Aug 2015 #

    Finally got through all 8. The Wiz Khalifa was the only one that prompted an “oh, it’s this one” reaction – and that one sounded so familiar that I was almost convinced I was being reminded of another song (one I could actually put a name to). Jess Glynne is OK, Derulo is adequate, OMI is inoffensive (musically at least), and Years & Years are ace. The other three… meh at best. Ellie Goulding kept asking me what I was waiting for; by the fifth repetition I was waiting for her to finish.

  47. 47

    Sorry if this is hardline bunnying meets Schrodinger’s Cat, but on the last three weeks’ evidence the best is yet to come. There, I said it.

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