The People’s Pop Polls

This is the homepage for the People’s Pop Polls on Twitter (@peoples_pop). I started doing them during the first COVID-19 UK lockdown as a distraction for me and others. They did this job extremely well – so I kept doing them, moving them to a dedicated account and setting up a monthly schedule.

How do you join in? Nominate tracks, and vote!

The CURRENT POLL (running from 15th August 2022) is the World Cup of 1994. Nominations for this are closed but join in with the voting and comments on Twitter!

The NEXT POLL will be the Black Pop History: 1973-1977 poll, coinciding with the UK’s Black History Month celebrations in October. Nominations for that will be on the 27th August. Any music made by Black artists in those years is eligible.

Read on! For the poll history and past playlists, explanations of things like B-Sides and Golden Beats, our “mission statement”, Disqualification Criteria, and of course a link to POLLHALLA (the list of tracks which have done well enough to be banned from future tournaments – playlist below, maintained by the mighty Dan Perry!)

HISTORY

Here are the tournaments we’ve run so far including links to playlists of the nominees (where possible).

If you want to look at a giant google doc with EVERY track we’ve ever polled in, it’s here.

JULY 2022: Death (And The Afterlife)

  • WINNER:
  • 2nd:
  • 3rd:
  • Ghoulden Beat:
  • Zombie-Side:
  • 328 tracks. Spotify – YouTube

JUNE 2022: The Year 1966

  • WINNER: The Four Tops – “Reach Out I’ll Be There”
  • 2nd: The Supremes – “You Can’t Hurry Love”
  • 3rd: Otis Redding – “Try A Little Tenderness”
  • Golden Beat: Buffy Sainte-Marie – “Little Wheel Spin And Spin”
  • B-Side: Norma Tanega – “A Street That Rhymes At 6AM”
  • 288 tracks. SpotifyYouTube

MAY 2022: Songs That Aren’t In English

  • WINNER: Panjabi MC – “Mundian To Bach Ke”
  • 2nd: Miriam Makeba – “Pata Pata”
  • 3rd: Nena – “99 Luftballons”
  • Golden Beat: Dengue Fever – “1000 Tears Of The Tarantula”/Letta Mbulu – “Mahlalela”
  • B-Side: Pongo – “UWA”
  • 320 tracks. Spotify – YouTube

MARCH-APRIL 2022: The Year 1998

  • WINNER: Massive Attack ft Elizabeth Fraser – “Teardrop”
  • 2nd: Beastie Boys – “Intergalactic”
  • 3rd: Hole – “Celebrity Skin”
  • Golden Beat: Isolee – “Beau Mot Plage”
  • B-Side: Freestylers – “B-Boy Stance”
  • 312 tracks. SpotifyYouTube

FEBRUARY 2022: Album Closers

  • WINNER: Prince – “Purple Rain”
  • 2nd: Nina Simone – “Sinnerman”
  • 3rd: The Beatles – “A Day In The Life”
  • Golden Beat: The Runaways – “Dead End Justice”
  • B-Side: Sister Sledge – “One More Time”
  • 328 tracks. SpotifyYouTube

JANUARY 2022: The Year 2021

  • WINNER: Mdou Moctar – “Afrique Victime”
  • 2nd: Wet Leg – “Chaise Longue”
  • 3rd: Olivia Rodrigo – “good 4 u”
  • Golden Beat: Ginger Root – “Loretta”
  • B-Side: Magdalena Bay – “Chaeri”
  • 288 tracks. SpotifyYouTube

DECEMBER 2021: Second Chances

A poll of tracks which had previously just missed the last 8 in an existing tournament.

  • WINNER: Otis Redding – “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay”
  • 2nd: The Human League – “Don’t You Want Me”
  • 3rd: David Bowie – “Ashes To Ashes”
  • 144 tracks. YouTube

NOVEMBER 2021: The Year 1987

  • WINNER: Public Enemy – “Bring The Noise”
  • 2nd: New Order – “True Faith”
  • 3rd: Whitney Houston – “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”
  • Golden Beat: Rosie Flores – “God May Forgive You (But I Won’t)”
  • B-Side: The Whispers – “Rock Steady”
  • 288 tracks. SpotifyYouTube

OCTOBER 2021: Black Pop History 1968-1972

Introduced the idea of the B-Side tournament for lesser known tracks.

  • WINNER: Curtis Mayfield – “Move On Up!”
  • 2nd: Stevie Wonder – “Superstition”
  • 3rd: Al Green – “Let’s Stay Together”/Freda Payne – “Band Of Gold”
  • Golden Beat(s): Estelle – “The Year 2000”; Eddie Harris & LesMcCann – “Compared To What”; Exuma – “Exuma, The Obeah Man”; Pastor TL Barrett – “Like A Ship”; Soul DeValents – “Grasshopper”
  • B-Side: The Staple Singers – “When Will We Be Paid?”
  • 320 tracks. Spotify Playlists: 19681969197019711972

AUGUST-SEPTEMBER 2021: Four Letter Words

The title had to have only four letters.

  • WINNER: The Beatles – “Help!”
  • 2nd: Gary Numan – “Cars”
  • 3rd: The B-52s – “Roam”
  • Golden Beat: Cymande – “Dove”
  • 336 tracks. SpotifyYouTube

JULY 2021: The Year 1999

  • WINNER: TLC – “No Scrubs”
  • 2nd: Len – “Steal My Sunshine”
  • 3rd: Blur – “Coffee And TV”
  • Golden Beat: The Aztec Mystic – “Jaguar”
  • 288 tracks. SpotifyYouTube

JUNE 2021: Short Songs

2 minutes or under.

  • WINNER: Ray Charles – “Hit The Road Jack”
  • 2nd: Eddie Cochran – “Summertime Blues”
  • 3rd: Gil Scott-Heron – “Whitey On The Moon”
  • Golden Beat: Bunker Hill – “The Girl Can’t Dance”
  • 320 tracks. SpotifyYouTube.

MAY 2021: The Year 1977

  • WINNER: Talking Heads – “Psycho Killer”
  • 2nd: Fleetwood Mac – “The Chain”
  • 3rd: ABBA – “Take A Chance On Me”
  • Golden Beat: Billy Ocean – “Red Light Spells Danger”
  • 288 tracks. SpotifyYouTube.

APRIL 2021: Around The World In 384 Songs

The title had to contain a placename. Our largest ever theme poll.

  • WINNER: Gladys Knight And The Pips – “Midnight Train To Georgia”
  • 2nd: OutKast – “B.O.B. (Bombs Over Baghdad)”
  • 3rd: Glen Campbell – “Wichita Lineman”
  • Golden Beat: Poni Hoax – “Budapest”
  • 384 tracks. Spotify – YouTube.

MARCH 2021: The Year 2008

  • WINNER: Estelle ft Kanye West – “American Boy”
  • 2nd: Beyoncé – “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)”
  • 3rd: MGMT – “Time To Pretend”
  • Golden Beat: Nneka – “Heartbeat”
  • 256 tracks. SpotifyYouTube.

FEBRUARY 2021: Album Openers

  • WINNER: Pixies – “Debaser”
  • 2nd: The Rolling Stones – “Gimme Shelter”
  • 3rd: Kraftwerk – “Europe Endless”
  • Golden Beat: Art Ensemble Of Chicago – “Theme De Yo-Yo”
  • 320 tracks. Spotify – YouTube.

JANUARY 2021: The Year 2020

  • WINNER: Christine And The Queens – “People, I’ve Been Sad”
  • 2nd: SAULT – “Wildfires”
  • 3rd: Bob Vylan – “We Live Here”
  • Golden Beat: Bob Vylan – “We Live Here”
  • 256 tracks. Spotify – YouTube.

DECEMBER 2020: Christmas Songs

This poll was divided into two – The Tree (big names) and The Stocking (lesser-known tracks) so there were no 3rd place matches.

  • WINNER (TREE): Darlene Love – “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”
  • WINNER (STOCKING): Duke Ellington – “Sugar Rum Cherry”
  • 2nd (Tree): The Waitresses – “Christmas Wrapping”
  • 2nd (Stocking): The Wombles – “Wombling Merry Christmas”
  • Golden Beat: Cristina – “Things Fall Apart”
  • 192 tracks. Spotify

NOVEMBER 2020: The Year 1980

  • WINNER: Talking Heads – “Once In A Lifetime”
  • 2nd: Blondie – “Call Me”
  • 3rd: Dolly Parton – “9 To 5”
  • Golden Beat: The Sequence – “And You Know That”
  • 256 tracks. Spotify.

OCTOBER 2020: Duets

  • WINNER: Queen & David Bowie – “Under Pressure”
  • 2nd: Prince & Sheena Easton – “U Got The Look”
  • 3rd: Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell – “You’re All I Need To Get By”
  • Golden Beat: Positive K – “I Got A Man”
  • xxx tracks. Spotify.

SEPTEMBER 2020: The Year 2001

  • WINNER: Missy Elliott – “Get UR Freak On”
  • 2nd: Kylie Minogue – “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head”
  • 3rd: Shakira – “Whenever, Wherever”
  • Golden Beat: Jurgen Paape – “So Weit Wie Noch Nie”
  • 256 tracks. Spotify.

AUGUST 2020: Debut Singles

  • WINNER: Neneh Cherry – “Buffalo Stance”
  • 2nd: Frankie Goes To Hollywood – “Relax”
  • 3rd: Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell – “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”
  • Golden Beat: Charisma dot com – “HATE”
  • 320 tracks. Spotify.

JULY 2020: The Year 1990

Introduced the Golden Beat competition for the best discovery. 

  • WINNER: George Michael – “Freedom ’90”
  • 2nd: A Tribe Called Quest – “Can You Kick It?”
  • 3rd: The KLF – “What Time Is Love?”
  • Golden Beat: L7 – “Shove”
  • 256 tracks. Spotify.

JUNE 2020: Cover Versions

Our first poll on the Peoples_Pop Twitter account and our first with open voter nominations.

  • WINNER: Aretha Franklin – “Respect”
  • 2nd: Sinead O’Connor – “Nothing Compares 2 U”
  • 3rd: Isaac Hayes – “Walk On By”
  • xxx tracks. Spotify.

MAY 2020: The People’s Pop Poll

This was an open poll raising money for charity during the early Covid-19 pandemic – anyone donating could pick a track with no restrictions.

  • WINNER: David Bowie – “Heroes”
  • 2nd: Chic – “Good Times”
  • 3rd: Joy Division – “Love Will Tear Us Apart”
  • xxx tracks.

APRIL 2020: UK Number 2s

  • WINNER: Pulp – “Common People”
  • 2nd: Deee-Lite – “Groove Is In The Heart”
  • 3rd:
  • 256 tracks (selected not nominated)

MARCH 2020: UK Number 1s

  • WINNER: Donna Summer – “I Feel Love”
  • 2nd: Blondie – “Heart Of Glass”
  • 3rd: Kate Bush – “Wuthering Heights”
  • 192 tracks (selected not nominated)

FUTURE POLLS

Here’s the schedule for upcoming tournaments. I intend to do these as long as I’m having fun.

  • AUGUST-SEPTEMBER 2022: The Year 1994
  • OCTOBER 2022: Black Pop History Month 1973-1977 (provisional theme/years)
  • NOVEMBER 2022: The Title Is The Artist
  • DECEMBER 2022: TBD
  • JANUARY 2023: The Year 2022

WHAT WE’RE ALL ABOUT

Why spend so much time doing Twitter pop polls? The Peoples Pop polls are designed to encourage two things I enjoy: discovering music I don’t know and chatting about music I do.

In a world where the amount of music available is absurdly high and the barriers to hearing it are absurdly low, you need reliable filters. In my experience, one’s fellow music geeks make excellent filters, and the PPPolls are a way of herding a load of them once a month or so to recommend cool stuff with the focus of a theme or year to sharpen minds.

But it’s also nice to chat about old favourites, and a poll provides a frivolous framework for doing that and putting those faves in fresh contexts.

Those two aims – discovery and chat – are behind most of the tournament design decisions. I base it on tracks not albums to get the widest range of material in the time provided. I make the qualifying groups tough on the big names to winnow them out and make lesser-known tracks survive longer. I RT a ton of the replies to encourage more and make sure different perspectives feature. And so on. I *think* it’s working pretty well.

Oh, and at the end of all of this, a winner emerges.

PEOPLE’S POP POLL GLOSSARY!

Don’t know your B-Sides from your Golden Beats? Fear not.

  • B-SIDES: A poll-within-a-poll for lesser known tracks which survive the Qualifiers. Usually determined by vote counts in the Qualifiers.
  • BANLIST: The songs which aren’t eligible for a poll even though they meet the criteria. Usually includes stuff we’ve had very recently (eg in the previous poll) and things that have already done well.
  • BONUSES: All the nominations that aren’t someone’s Main. I make a big list of them and once I’ve put in everybody’s Mains, the rest of the poll is drawn from Bonuses.
  • CAP: The maximum number of tracks by an artist allowed in a single poll. Currently set at 2 for most polls.
  • CURATED GROUPS: A Qualifier where all four tracks are picked by the same nominator. Generally awarded as a prize for picking the Golden Beat or B-Side winner in a previous poll.
  • DISQUALIFICATION: A track being kicked out of a poll. A rare event! When it does happen it’s mostly the consequence of fan invasions.
  • FINAL GROUPS: The last 32 of a poll – 8 groups of 4 tracks.
  • GOLDEN BEAT: A poll-within-a-poll to reward the best new discovery of the tournament. Anyone can nominate 5 tracks they’ve discovered via the poll for the Golden Beat. The ones with most mentions go through to a final.
  • MAINS: Every nominator is guaranteed one track in the poll – this is their Main and it’s usually the top eligible pick from their nominations.
  • NOMINATIONS: Or “Noms”. Your picks for songs to go into each poll. You usually send in a list of four, though it’s very unlikely all four will make it in.
  • NOMINATIONS DAY: The day everyone sends me their nominations for the next poll, which usually happens at the end of the Qualifiers in the current one. It gets very busy very quickly. People can also DM me their nominations in advance, which I add in after the initial frenzy.
  • POLLHALLA: The People’s Pop Poll hall of fame. Any track which reaches the last 8 of a poll (or the final of a B-Side poll) enters Pollhalla, and is included on Dan’s playlist. Pollhalla tracks are forbidden from entry into all future polls.
  • QUALIFIERS: The opening phase of the poll, in which the tracks face off in groups of four, with the top 2 getting through to Round 1. If your nomination doesn’t make it out of the Qualifiers, rest assured you’re in excellent company.
  • REPECHAGE: A lovely word.
  • ROUND 1: The second phase (I know I know) of the poll, which usually involves overcomplicated qualification rules. Round 1 is also where YouTube comments deepen our understanding of the songs.
  • ROUND 2: A round of head-to-heads to determine who goes through to the Final Groups.
  • SUGGESTIONS BOX: A collaborative playlist on Spotify or YouTube where people can put in suggestions for tracks in an upcoming poll. Suggesting something isn’t a nomination and you don’t have to nominate things you’ve suggested.
  • THEME POLLS: A poll based around a theme – eg Short Songs, Duets, Placenames (songs with places in the title). Generally alternate with year polls.
  • TIERS: Ways I organise the Qualifiers so tracks of reasonably similar fame meet one another. Most relevant in year polls where a Tier 1 group leads off each day.
  • VIP LANE: If you nominate one of a poll’s Top 3 tracks, you get a VIP lane pick for the next two. This means you get to choose a main in advance of nominations opening, i.e. you get first choice.
  • WILD CARDS: Occasional opportunities given to random members of the community to save tracks from elimination.
  • YEAR POLLS: A poll based around an individual year. Generally limited to tracks released in that year (as opposed to hits from it). Alternate with Theme Polls. The selection of years (and themes) is usually done by a community vote on suggestions, though the January poll is always the year just ended.
  • ZOMBIE SIDES: A feature in the Death Poll where tracks knocked out in the qualifiers returned for a mini tournament. Replaced B-Sides that month.

HOW IT WORKS

I tweak the exact mechanisms (number of entries, qualification methods, etc.) each time, but broadly every tournament has four phases.

  • NOMINATIONS: Pre-tournament. We open nominations during the previous month, and they are open for up to 24 hours (they tend to fill up VERY quickly). I then create a Spotify playlist, a YouTube playlist for the stuff which isn’t on Spotify, and I put the brackets together.
  • QUALIFIERS: Weeks 1-2. This phase involves cutting the nominees down by half. This is the “discovery” phase, where you get to hear lots of new-to-you tracks (if you so desire). It’s pretty intense, so some people might prefer to jump in for…
  • THE MIDDLE BIT: Weeks 2-3. Two rounds, reducing the surviving tracks to 32, while also gradually shrinking the differential between popular/less popular brackets. We also sometimes split off lesser-known entries into a B-Sides tournament here.
  • FINALS: Week 4. Final groups and the knockout stages, modelled shamelessly on the FIFA World Cup tournament. Anything which reaches this stage may be excluded from future tournaments.

THE MOST POLLED

All the acts with over 10 tracks polled. Acts in italics are yet to make it to Pollhalla.

  • Prince: 25 tracks, 6 in Pollhalla
  • Madonna: 24 tracks, 2 in Pollhalla
  • David Bowie: 23 tracks, 5 in Pollhalla
  • The Beatles: 21 tracks, 5 in Pollhalla
  • Pet Shop Boys: 19 tracks, 4 in Pollhalla
  • Stevie Wonder: 16 tracks, 1 in Pollhalla
  • Taylor Swift: 16 tracks
  • Bruce Springsteen: 16 tracks
  • REM: 15 tracks
  • ABBA: 14 tracks, 2 in Pollhalla
  • Saint Etienne: 14 tracks
  • Kylie Minogue: 13 tracks, 1 in Pollhalla
  • Kate Bush: 13 tracks, 1 in Pollhalla
  • Girls Aloud: 13 tracks
  • The Rolling Stones: 12 tracks, 2 in Pollhalla
  • Tori Amos: 12 tracks
  • The Fall: 12 tracks
  • Queen: 12 tracks, 1 in Pollhalla
  • New Order: 11 tracks, 2 in Pollhalla
  • Britney Spears: 11 tracks, 1 in Pollhalla
  • Pulp: 11 tracks, 1 in Pollhalla
  • Rihanna: 11 tracks
  • Bob Dylan: 11 tracks

OTHER STATS

The record vote total for a single match is 1,651 for Talking Heads vs Althea And Donna in the Quarter-Finals of the 1977 tournament.

Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer” got 1,014 of those votes, which is the highest raw vote to date.

The highest verified tie is “Lovely Day” v “Mr Blue Sky” in the 1977 poll – it was level at 1,168 (though given the closeness of the eventual result it probably levelled higher too).

The winning track to get the highest number of votes in a final was “Psycho Killer” (1977) with 536. “Under Pressure” (Duets) has the highest proportion of final votes – 66.5%.

No track has ever finished a qualifier on zero votes. The track which has gone the longest with no votes is Soil’s “Halo” in the 2001 poll, which had 0 at 156 total votes.

DISQUALIFICATION PROTOCOL

Twitter being Twitter, occasionally enthusiastic fans RT individual matches looking for support for their fave. This is fine – but not if they overwhelm the poll.

There is a disqualification protocol, as follows.

At my discretion, a track can be disqualified (or an anonymised rerun declared) if it fits all three of these criteria:

  • There is a detectable effort to affect voting in favour of one track.
  • It changes the outcome of the match.
  • The match in question has more than 50% more total votes than the average for its day.

i.e. if I can’t tell for sure where the vote surge is from, or if it doesn’t actually change anything, or if the fans rush in but vote on other matches too, I won’t take any action. It’s a drastic action and I want the bar to be high to taking it!

Examples: George Michael and PWEI fans brigaded the 1990 poll and changed match outcomes but they did vote in the other matches. Chaka Khan fans brigaded the Neneh/Chaka/Britney Debuts match but didn’t change the main outcome (Neneh winning).

I block ‘stan accounts’ which RT matches but don’t follow the polls more widely.

FUNDING

The time I take to run and curate the People’s Pop Polls is partly paid for by the wonderful people who contribute to my Patreon.

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