Although our scoreboard currently remains unchanged from last time, the inconclusive voting pattern of the previous round has left our middle-ranking decades in a constant state of flux, and the gap at the bottom of the table is beginning to narrow:

Cumulative scores so far:
1(1) The Eighties – 19.81 points.
2(2) The Nineties – 18.44 points.
3(3) The Teens – 17.44 points.
4(4) The Noughties – 17.42 points.
5(5) The Sixties – 16.33 points.
6(6) The Seventies – 15.56 points.

After the grimness of our last selection, will today’s Number Fives restore our spirits? We can but hope…

1960: Cliff Richard & The Shadows – Fall In Love With You (video: expired link fixed)
1970: Dana – All Kinds Of Everything (video) (Tom’s post on Popular)
1980: David Essex – Silver Dream Machine (video)
1990: The Adventures Of Stevie V – Dirty Cash (video)
2000: Sisqó – Thong Song (video)
2010: Aggro Santos ft Kimberly Wyatt – Candy (video)

(Download the MP3)

Over the last few years, I’ve become a good deal more enthusiastic about going to see “legends” playing live, while there’s still some life left in them. With this in mind, I felt compelled to attend last year’s 50th-anniversary-slash-reunion-slash-farewell-tour by Cliff Richard & The Shadows – just to witness a bit of history, and to cross Cliff of my seen-him-done-that list.

To my delight, Cliff and the boys opted to play it straight, eschewing all expected showbiz cheese in favour of fond, faithful renditions of their joint back catalogue. There were no Millennium Prayers, no Don’t Cry For Me Argentinas… indeed, nothing that was released after 1966. Hank Marvin was a revelation, and the numbers that the Shadows performed without Cliff were the highlights of a superb show. But, just as Mick Jagger has become the least interesting aspect of the Rolling Stones, Cliff proved to the least interesting aspect of the Shadows. Like Jagger, he had perfected all the moves, delivering them in a confident, capable, entertaining manner – but also like Jagger, I sensed a certain void at the core of his performance.

Occasionally, though, glimpses of something more heartfelt would seep to the surface – such as on a touching version of “The Next Time” from the Summer Holiday soundtrack, which topped the charts in 1962 as a double A-side with “Bachelor Boy”. And although the song itself is nothing special, I can hear similar qualities in “Fall In Love With You”. Cliff’s vocal is a delight here: a supine sigh, a velvet-toned and vulnerable swoon of surrender, accented here and there by Hank’s sparing twangs.

If, as someone said in an earlier round, Elvis was turning into Cliff imitating Elvis, then here (and on its accompanying video clip) we find Cliff, not yet fully sullied by Tin Pan Alley acquiescence, drawing continued inspiration from Presley, and sounding really rather marvellous with it.

One of the fringe benefits of shifting “Which Decade” to May is that we get to examine the occasional Eurovision entry – and so here’s the first of two in this year’s selection, courtesy of the first of Eurovision’s pair of victorious Danas. Dana International’s “Diva” famously brought it home for Israel in 1998, while in 1970’s contest, the honour fell to Dana Provincial (old joke, sorry), after a closely-fought battle with the UK’s Mary Hopkin and her sprightly “Knock Knock, Who’s There?”

And what a battle it was! Forget Blur vs. Oasis, forget Joe McElderry vs. Rage Against The Machine, forget Victoria Beckham vs. Sophie Ellis-Bextor… for this was the MOTHER of ALL such showdowns, dividing lovers of Simply Great Music everyhere – and even, on occasion, splitting families down the middle. How well I recall the struggles at the family gramophone, as my younger sister’s copy of “All Kinds Of Everything” fought for airtime against my copy of “Knock Knock, Who’s There?”… you WEREN’T THERE, man, you JUST COULDN’T KNOW.

“All Kinds” might be tweeness incarnate, its debt to “My Favourite Things” barely concealed, but its kitschy innocence still resonates. And, soppy old sausage that I am, I’ll take “dances, romances, things of the night” over “take a dirty picture, take a dirty picture of me”, every time.

David Essex is someone else that I’ve ticked off my see-him-before-he-sods-off list; sharing a bill with David Cassidy, The Osmonds and Les McKeown, he soared above them all, demonstrating a noble dignity that the others conspicuously lacked. His hit singles had a habit of lurching between boundary-nudging artistry and cheerily undemanding froth, and I’m not entirely sure in which category I should be placing “Silver Dream Machine”.

Taken from the soundtrack of Silver Dream Racer, in which Essex starred alongside Beau Bridges and Harry H. Corbett as a dashing motorbike racer of the Barry Sheene school, the song hasn’t worn as well as I had hoped – but typically for Essex, there’s a certain skewed oddness to its arrangement, underpinned by a rather fetching post-Moroder/pre-hi-energy ONG-DINGA-RONG-DINGA synth line. And you can’t go too far wrong with an ONG-DINGA-RONG-DINGA, can you?

I was a bit sniffy about The Adventures Of Stevie V‘s “Dirty Cash” when it came out, and I’ve never really understood why it did so well. Granted, its hook does the job – but there’s a doleful drag to its swagger, which drains it of life. In particular, there’s a fatal instrumental passage – just after the rap – where nothing seems to happen at all, transporting me right back to those dismal, blank moments on club dancefloors when the energy dips, and everyone around you looks a bit grim and a bit lost, and it’s clear that nobody’s much into the track, and you can’t remember why you’re dancing in the first place, but you’re kept in place by inertia and the vague hope that something better will come along in a moment. It’s not a memory that I welcome.

Consequently, I’m at a loss as to why Dizzee Rascal chose to update “Dirty Cash” as “Dirtee Cash” in 2009 – except that in Dizzee’s hands, the track becomes tighter, more purposeful, more provocative and heaps more fun. (We’ll pass over the recently charting Dizzee/Florence “You Got The Dirtee Love” mash-up, as nothing remains of Stevie V’s original composition.)

If, as has become axiomatic, we accept the assumption that 30 years ago = “timeless classic”, 20 years ago = “retro cool” and 10 years ago = “OMG, so naff, what were we thinking”, it would help us to understand why two acts from our 2000 Top Ten – Dane Bowers and Sisqó – fetched up drinking in Celebrity Big Brother‘s last chance saloon at the start of the year. The Reality TV gamble might have paid off handsomely for the Peter Andres of this world – but for the hapless, fifth-placed Sisqó (who largely came over well in the show), the rewards stretched no further than a chart re-entry for “Thong Song” at a lowly Number 97.

Although it would be silly to view it as anything more than a novelty hit, “Thong Song” has a counterbalancing elegance – a grace, even – which raises it a cut above your Lou Begas and your Afromans. I’m particularly taken by the stateliness of the string arrangement: as unlikely as a chamber ensemble in a titty bar, and all the more welcome for it.

One question remains, though. What are these pantechniconal DUMPS, of which our lisping, pint-sized, priapic Lothario so fondly speaks? I’m a man of the world; I know what HUMPS are. (Fergie has them!) But I am a stranger in Sisqó’s universe, and I require guidance.

As if two grime acts gone pop-dance weren’t enough, here’s a third: Brazilian born Aggro Santos, playing Taio Cruz to ex-Pussycat Doll Kimberly Wyatt’s Ke$ha. Once again, mucky photos are our loved-up twosome’s principal stock in trade. Once again, lazy raps and blank, bored, phoned-in vocals are plonked over lurching, juddering electro sound-farts. Once again, “candy” is deployed as a metaphor for slap and tickle. Once again, the influence of David Guetta and Fraser T. Smith looms large (although neither worked on this particular track). And yet, and yet… something about this particular configuration has drawn me into its clutches. It’s arguably 2010’s dumbest track yet – but there’s an unyielding ruthlessness to that dumbness, which I am powerless to resist.

Nevertheless, “Candy” is guilty of breaking one fundamental rule of contemporary pop: Thou Canst Never Sing About The Internet And Get Away With It. (Remember Mousse T’s “Horny”? That’s when the emergency legislation was passed.) Pop music should never reference the internet, just as politicians should never reference pop music (and to close the circle, perhaps new legislation should be drafted, limiting the internet from spouting off about politics).

Also, if you must sing about the internet, then a) don’t indulge in free product placement for bloody Facebook and b) don’t plug your bloody website, especially when all that greets you is a video for the same bloody song. (“Have you been to visit me at Aggro Santos dot com…” YES! I’M BLOODY HERE, YOU TURNIP!)

Sorry, folks. I had less than five hours sleep last night, I was in the office by 6:45, and I’m beginning to lose it. Let’s move on to the voting. Over to you, etc.