The rude health of popular music

by robertmcnicol

It’s often claimed that popular music has died a death, never again to be resurrected; that the masses will abandon all sense of communality and that the long-reigning pop sensibility will collapse upon itself into its disparate component parts. At least by me it has. So I found myself curiously aroused (not like that, you dirty trollops) upon watching the latest top forty run-down through the tellybox.

Yes, alright – not every one of the songs currently featured are decent or tuneful or reasonably-crafted, but a significant number more than usual seem to be. Or I’m getting weak. Let me tweeze out the highlights.

4 Minutes – Madonna (featuring Mr. J Timberlake)

Currently enjoying her usual place above the rest, the astonishing Madonna has gone for a thoroughly crowd-pleasing number and I’m fairly sure it’s actually a fine slice of commercial nonsense pop. “If you want it you already got it/If you got it, it better be what you want”. Meaningless yet somehow alluding to some underdog success formula. And catchy as hell.

Black & Gold – Sam Sparro

What a name. Dirty and electronic. I know nothing about this fellow, but this song pulses along really very nicely. Again the words don’t tell us much but the production is super-spiffy.

American Boy – Estelle (featuring Mr. K West)

Both to Kanye and Estelle’s vocals there’s a wonderful looseness that isn’t often encountered in the pop/hip-hop genre. It’s refreshing and allows for Estelle’s thoroughly endearing voice to really show through. And Mr West manages to at least appear to have the smidginest modicum of self-mockery.

Mercy – Duffy

Much to our infuriance, by myself and Osmond the Younger had this on our brains all weekend. The riff it’s based on is really quite similar to Winehouse’s Rehab (which I expect helps explain the acceptance of this song) but it has a movement all its own, especially the break. I’m not sure that it would stand up without the arrangement but it is amazing to dance to.

Fascination – Alphabeat

Once again those Scandinavians show an uncanny ability to distill the essence of twenty-year-old British pop music and sell it back to us at thrice the price. Plus the band members are all punch-in-the-face cute.

I Can’t Speak French – Girls Aloud

It’s all about the chorus here, but their songwriters are on top form. There’s a melancholy slant to the chord sequence that underlies the whole song, and mercifully no accordions. And apparently the b-side to the single IS IN FRENCH! Oh, the wit.

I know what you’re going to say – Ashlee Simpson also features in this week’s top forty. Rough with the smooth I say. My point is that there are at least six actually good songs in the top forty, ones that I will happily listen to more than twice. And I’m really not sure that’s been the case for a while.

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