Z is for….”Zoom” by Fat Larry’s Band. Why write about bad music? Because every song, dreadful or sublime, means something to someone somewhere, and in a sense it’s the critic’s job to find out why. Usually that someone’s you, but occasionally and importantly not. The questions of why people like Celine Dion, or the Get-Up Kids, or UNKLE, are more interesting to me than the question of why I like the Magnetic Fields, say, because the mindset of people liking those acts is both tantalisingly close (they love music) and utterly alien (the music they love seems to me shockingly awful). What do they get out of it? How does it fulfil them? The day I stop asking those things is the day I stop writing.

Not that that’s got much to do with “Zoom”, a schlocky post-disco romp, heavy on the glutin and light on the appeal. But then again….”Zoom” was the song my friends chose for first dance at their wedding last week. When I heard about it I was mildly concerned that they’d blown it, that a smog of arched-eyebrow irony would obscure a lovely moment. Silly me: it was funny and moving at the same time, and though I never want to hear it again I’m glad I heard it properly once. So what am I saying, that anything’s good? No, just that if we lose sight of context – or rather, if we try to be all objective and authoritative and I-The-Critic about music – we lose our big advantage as listeners. I want (at least today) a criticism that’s as ephemeral, as inconsistent and as true as pop is. Picking 26 songs by what letter they started with seemed like a good way of doing that – six weeks later, I’m not so sure. But I hope you enjoyed it anyway.