POP-EYE 27/01/02

A slightly late Pop-Eye this week – and why is that you may ask? My friends and readers I have thrilling news. I am converted! I have seen the light and been born again in the Wisdom and Love of Our Lord Jesus Christ. I know you will all be as excited as I am by this, and also that you will want to know what led me to accept His truth? Well, my Sunday was proceeding in its usual sinful fashion when suddenly I heard a song on the radio and its positive message and powerful music Saved me. That song was “Alive”, by P.O.D., and….

What’s that? You don’t believe me? You detect an unlikely element in my tale? Bah. But it’s a fair cop – the notion that P.O.D. could have any kind of inspiring religious effects on the Great British Listening Public is an absurd one, as absurd in fact as the idea of Christian Nu-Metal in the first place. The great thing about this absurdity though, is not that an awful record results (though “Alive” is surely that), but that the record sheds light on the overarching macro-absurdity of Nu-Metal itself. In fact if this week’s rather insipid chart has any high-falutin’ theme it’s the theme of records trying to be what they’re not, and in the process bringing shame not just on themselves, but on the pop styles they’re adopting.

Take A1 for instance. A1 would love to be the biggest boy band in the UK, and must have got the champagne out when Five split – but they’ve found themselves eclipsed by the rough-hewn charms of Blue. So their claim on our attention now is that they Write Their Own Songs. And “Caught In The Middle” is a prime example of what happens when a pop band Writes Their Own Songs. It has nastily high-mixed rhythm guitar (because songs are written on guitar, always). And like all such efforts it sounds exactly like “Torn” by Natalie Imbruglia. The secret lesson to be drawn from A1, then, is that songs not written by professional songwriters tend to be a bit tiresome and have too much guitar on them – further evidence in this week’s Top 40 comes from Haven and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.

Mind you on this week’s evidence the songs which are being churned out by the hit factories aren’t all that great either. “Overprotected” has a more interesting theme and plays with its star’s persona better than any other record in the charts – especially this week, with the Britney virginity herring redder than ever – but its chorus feels clumsy and unmemorable. Compared to Enrique Inglesias’ “Hero”, though, it’s a masterpiece. Just when I think I’m starting to like pop ballads a bit more along comes another real stinker. Have we learned nothing from the fame of his wretched perma-tanned father? “The highest selling Spanish-speaking artist worldwide” touts the radio, which is great and all that but he’s not singing in fucking Spanish now is he? No indeed I can readily comprehend every over-stressed word of this feel-your-pain emetic.

But back to the ahem theme of the chart. P.O.D.’s secret lesson, of course, is that Nu Metal is not the natural expression of a generation’s frustration, it is a shouty way of singing which could be applied with equal conviction to the phone book. That doesn’t mean nu-metallers don’t “mean it” – P.O.D. do, oh goodness yes – but it means that the question might as well not come up. And Kaci‘s secret lesson is to cruelly show up the way right-now pop and back-then pop differ. On her pre-pube schooldisco version of bubblegum smash “I Think I Love You” we hear a voice trained for mocked-up R&B swoops struggling with the much more wordy pop structures of the early 70s, and coming up short. Different times ask different skills of their starlets, and pop – even pop as sugary as this – does change.

So does hip-hop. The next time you hear someone talking about Old Skool rap, play them Afroman‘s “Crazy Rap” to remind them what the earliest rap was actually like – painfully slow, with the word “Rap” in the title to tell you what it is, and full of feeble jokes. Thank goodness that nowadays we have the likes of Ja Rule who raps…well, painfully slowly. But no jokes!! Oh.

January is generally an odd month for the charts – the dregs of last year’s albums getting release, hopeful punts by minor pop stars, and the odd gem. This week’s records seem very January – ill-fitting, a bit pointless, marking time until the big Spring album releases start getting trailed next month. The best new entries are either an OK Nas record lurking down at No.30, or Flip and Fill, which I can’t remember anything about (a better result than P.O.D.). In other words, no conversions in sight.