Welcome to my new blog. My name is Andrew, and I will be using this obscure platform to talk about the things that fascinate me, such as Impressionist art and modern politics. Yet strangely, most of the posts will appear to be about trash culture, such as reality TV shows, superhero comics, and the movie Gymkata. It’s going to be a white-knuckle thrill ride.
To launch the blog I’ve decided to conduct a scientific study into the changing face of pop music over the past quarter century by comparing the original Now That’s What I Call Music (released in late 1983 and rereleased this month) with the most recent volume in the Now series, Now 71, released late 2008. By comparing the first eight tracks from each compilation side by side, I hope to discover if today’s pop can hold a candle to the best that 1983 had to offer. Let us begin.
Phil Collins, ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’, verus
Girls Aloud, ‘The Promise’
Case For ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’: It’s a peppy Holland-Dozier-Holland Motown classic with an unbeatable swing!
Case Against: Or it was when The Supremes did it. Surely no song can be improved by replacing three sensational girls in shimmering silver dresses with one bald midget drummer?
Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z2YJjWdsHRI - featuring two - two - Phil Collinses.
Sample Lyric: “Now, break!” As near as I can tell, this is all Collins added to this song. Everything else, he took away.
Case For ‘The Promise’: It’s a Girls Aloud single. That’s generally a good sign. The retro-60s vibe isn’t entirely convincing, but the alchemical powers of producers Xenomania remain eerily effective.
Case Against: The verses are a bit saggy. Not ‘Phil Collins’ saggy, but saggy nonetheless.
Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSMosULG5GI - Five sensational girls in shimmering silver dresses! Well, four sensational girls and Nicola.
Sample Lyric: “My Aladdin’s lamp is down, / And I’ve got a fear, oh baby right here.” No, I have no idea.
Verdict: Victory for Girls Aloud. 2008’s spangly girl amazons take Now 71 into an early lead against 1983’s lacklustre little man.
Duran Duran, ‘Is There Something I Should Know’, versus
Katy Perry, ‘I Kissed A Girl’
Case For ‘Is There Something I Should Know’: It’s no ‘Rio’, ‘Save A Prayer’ or ‘Hungry Like the Wolf’, and it sounds suspiciously like a dry-run for ‘The Reflex’, but this lesser foot-tapper is still pretty catchy.
Case Against: It’s no ‘Rio’, ‘Save A Prayer’ or ‘Hungry Like the Wolf’, and it sounds suspiciously like a dry-run for ‘The Reflex’.
Sample Lyric: “Can you read my mind, can you see in the snow / And fiery demons all dance when you walk through that door”. They don’t randomly pull crap out of a hat like that anymore, kids.
Case For ‘I Kissed A Girl’: It’s got a good beat and you can dance to it.
Case Against: Ah, the complex sexual politics of Katy Perry. She thinks ‘gay’ is a synonym for ’sissy’ (in the spiteful Ur So Gay), but she’s happy to indulge in a little faux-Sapphism if it gets her some attention, which this shrieking ditty certainly did, even though it skirts safely within the boundaries of territory staked out by Tatu six years ago. Edgy stuff, Katy.
Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3fBdgZUtpBg (Note: Contains no actual girl-kissing.)
Sample Lyric: “I kissed a girl just to try it / I hope my boyfriend don’t mind it.” Putting the ‘what a cock’ into ‘what a cocktease’.
Verdict: One track is a lost gem, the other need never, ever be played again. The ’80s claims its first point.
UB40, ‘Red Red Wine’, versus
Pink, ‘So What’
Case For ‘Red Red Wine’: It’s a Neil Diamond song, and Neil Diamond is a genius; it’s a song about alcohol, and alcohol is brilliant.
Case Against: It’s Birmingham reggae. Thanks to the funereal pace and Ali Campbell’s snivelling nasal vocals, this may actually be the world’s first reggae dirge.
Sample Lyric: “Red red wine you make me feel so fine / Monkey pack him Rizla ‘pon the sweet dep line”. Actually, that’s from the ‘toasted’ 1988 re-release, but it’s so awful that I had to throw it out there.
Case For ‘So What’: Pink is the poet laureate of punchy Lambrusco-fuelled party anthems, and on that score this song does not disappoint.
Case Against: Songs don’t get much more obnoxious. When she married motocross racer Carey Hart she went on and on about how in love they were. After a failed two-year marriage (really worked at that one, huh?), she’s now going on and on about the divorce. The song also mixes playground chanting with an empowerment message that doesn’t apply to non-rock stars. Let’s face it, the world was not desperately waiting for a figurehead to speak out on behalf of poor, oppressed rock stars. Also; Pink is not a rock star. Pink is a pop star. Someone needs to mention this to her.
Sample Lyric: “The waiter just took my table / And gave it to Jessica Sim”. Did I mention that this song is obnoxious?
Verdict: In addition to being obnoxious, ‘So What’ is also kind of awesome, and I’d rather drink cold vomit than listen to ‘Red Red Wine’ again. Victory for the ’00s.
Limahl, ‘Only for Love’, versus
Kings of Leon, ‘Sex on Fire’
Case For ‘Only for Love’: The Kajagoogoo front-man’s solo debut has not gone down in history as a classic, but the video has its charms. ‘Limahl has decided to travel to Earth to explain love to his sidekick Toby’, we are told. This involves donning high-waisted ladies’ jeans, sitting in a café with a piglet, and abducting a surly fashion model. Quite what sidekick Toby gets out of all this is not clear.
Case Against: What is this thing you Earth-people call ‘Limahl’?
Sample Lyric: “Love was never planned ever before / Some have spent their whole life searching, cold and insecure”. Bitch.
Case For ‘Sex on Fire’: Three minutes of dirty, writhing pop grind.
Case Against: Do those boys look like their sex is ever on fire? At best, their sex is on futons.
Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HHhhcKxflMY Steamy barnyard shenanigans. I fucked a goat and I liked it.
Sample Lyric: ”Hot as a fever / Rattling bones / I could just taste it / Taste it”. Do you know, I think he might be talking about something naughty?
Verdict: Neither act should be relied on for sex education, but the Kings have the more engaging curriculum.
Heaven 17, ‘Temptation’, versus
Kid Rock, ‘All Summer Long’
Case For ‘Temptation’: It’s an ’80s futurist electronica church hymn. Can you imagine how awesome those ’80s futurist electronica churches must have been? We didn’t have one where I grew up. We didn’t even have a McDonalds until I was about 12.
Case Against: This song may have been partly responsible for the entire concept of the ‘dance remix’.
Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1jSODuSo6×8 - A classic from the days when all music videos were made out of cardboard.
Sample Lyric: “Adorable creatures (Temptation) / With unacceptable features (Temptation)”. An early reference, there, to the cast of High School Musical.
Case For ‘All Summer Long’: There is no case to be made for ‘All Summer Long’. There are good things to be said for ‘Werewolves of London’ and ‘Sweet Home Alabama’, which it pillaged for parts, but nothing at all to be said in defence of this steaming wank-trap.
Case Against: Have you heard it? Kid Rock hazily recalls long dull summers spent drinking, smoking and listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd in Northern Michigan, way back in 1989 when he was a mere 37. They don’t even have summers in Michigan! The whole thing is a lie!
Video: Redacted, for decency’s sake.
Sample Lyric: “And we were trying different things / We were smoking funny things”. Rhyming a word with itself is slack at the best of times, but it’s just embarrassing when it’s the non-word ‘things‘. Kid Rock also recalls, “Now nothing seems as strange as when the leaves began to change”. Yes, autumn is the most remarkable experience of Kid Rock’s life. Repeated arrests on assault charges seem unexciting compared to the wonder of trees.
Verdict: ’All Summer Long’ is actually the worst song ever recorded, so any song would have beaten it. It just happens that in this instance it got beaten by a bona fide classic.
KC & the Sunshine Band, ‘Give It Up’, versus
Case For ‘Give It Up’: In theory this is an awful, awful song, like Kool & the Gang’s ‘Celebration’. And in practice this is an awful song, like Kool & The Gang’s ‘Celebration’. But without these tracks you’ll have an awkward six minutes of silence at your office Christmas party where everyone is just staring at each other, uncertain what to do.
Case Against: Office Christmas parties.
Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtQlRsYqpWE - Derek Jarman Lite.
Sample Lyric: “Na na na na na na na na na na na / Baby / Give it up / Give it up / Baby / Give it up”.
Case For ‘Disturbia’: With its sinister synths and gibberish lyrics, it could easily pass as the Transylvanian entry in the next Eurovision Song Contest.
Case Against: Having never quite got to grips with the pronunciation of the word ‘umbrella’, Rihanna has retreated to the safety of made-up words. ‘Disturbia’ is the title of a Shia LaBeouf film to which this song has no connection; such is the cultural import of Mr LaBeouf. I presume this is from a Shia LaBeouf concept album, featuring such hits as ‘The Even Stevens Movie’ by Chris Brown, and Lil’ Wayne’s ‘Crystal Skulls (Fuckin’ Da Franchise)’.
Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a6zdhHLvT7k - Silent Hill meets grinding mound.
Sample Lyric: “Bom bom bee dam bom bom bee dam dam / Bom bom bee dam bom bom bee dam dam”. Lyrics that reveal the heretofore unimagined sophistication of KC and the Sunshine Band’s “Na na na na na na na na na na na”.
Verdict: A surprisingly close one this; ‘Give it Up’ is an awful song that’s somehow irresistible. ‘Disturbia’ is decent, yet ultimately resistible. I’m going to have to call this one a draw, making it 4-3 to the modern era.
Malcolm McLaren, ‘Double Dutch’, versus
Ne-Yo, ‘Miss Independent’
Case For ‘Double Dutch’: Surely the greatest skipping song ever to receive a commercial release! That Malcolm McLaren, he knew what the kids were into.
Case Against: Malcolm McLaren was not a man gifted with a great singing voice, or indeed any kind of singing voice. His spoken-word delivery on Double Dutch has the gentle, alarming tone of a well-meaning art teacher trying to suppress his darker urges while on playground duty.
Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rt6Co7EMNCU - World class championship skipping.
Sample Lyric: ”The skip they do’s the double dutch / That’s them dancing / The skip they do’s the double dutch / That’s them dancing”. Punk lives!
Case For “Miss Independent”: It’s a hooky little pop hit with a pumping angry chorus. No, wait, I’m thinking of the Kelly Clarkson song of the same name. This one’s shit.
Case Against: Mr Yo is a big fan of female empowerment because he thinks empowered women are sex-ay. I’m so proud that we live in an age where women can be patronised because they’re independent. We’ve come so far.
Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wtm8v6MryBk - Ne-Yo wears his silly little hat indoors, even during boardroom meetings. Young men today have no sense of style.
Sample Lyric: “There something ooh so sexy about the kinda women / That don’t even need my help”. This is what passes for progressive thought in hip-hop. Ladies, if you can open a pickle jar on your own, Ne-Yo wants you. “Cuz she walk like a boss, / Talk like a boss, / Manicured nails just set the pedicure off”. If there’s any justice, this man will never be allowed anywhere near a woman again.
Verdict: The creepy skipping song edges out the patronising douchebag song, meaning it’s honours even and it all comes down to this…
Bonnie Tyler, ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’, versus
Pussycat Dolls, ‘When I Grow Up’
Case For ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’: It’s difficult to understand why people still write power ballads when they know the form has already been perfected. This grand high opera of a song defined a decade and set an unreachable standard. It’s pure, undiluted greatness. Bohemian Rhapsody wishes it could be this song.
Case Against : The full length version is only seven minutes long. After just seven minutes the song goes away again, leaving you cold, alone and empty in a Total Eclipse of the Heartless world.
Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=840B27zYfOk - Choirboys with glowing eyes; angels; foodfights; athletic young men in their underoos. I have no idea what’s going on, but as soon as someone cracks the code I think we’ll all be rich.
Sample Lyric: ”I dont know what to do, I’m always in the dark / We’re living in a powder keg and giving off sparks”. Incredible.
Case For “When I Grow Up”: The song is fractionally less irritating than its spiritual sibling, ‘Rock Star’ by Nickelback. Just as the members of Nickelback are still yearning for the day when they get to be rock stars (nope, not today), so the interchangeable girls providing the wind beneath Nicole Scherziger’s leathery bat wings are hoping they’ll one day grow up and be famous. So long as you can readily be replaced by any of the infinite pool of vapid grasping ambitious jiggling tramps at any spring break resort, you’re never going to be famous, love.
Case Against: First of all it’s a ringtone expanded to four minutes in order to better sell the ringtone; second, it’s performed by girls who were thrown out of pole dancing school for being too cheap; and third, it is probably the death of civilisation.
Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcEZrEPDV9k - Or you could download some porn.
Sample Lyric: ”When I grow up, / I wanna see the world, / Drive nice cars / I wanna have groupies”. I know I’m not alone in thinkingthe lyric here was, “I wanna have boobies”. I’m sorry to disappoint you.
Verdict: Bonnie Tyler could out-sing the Pussycat Dolls with one lung tied behind her back. She could also out-fight them, all at once or one at a time, and I for one would like to see that.
Now 1/1983: Five points
Now 71/2008: Four points
A surprisingly close-run thing, but the original Now squeaks a victory. I think the real lesson to take from this, though, is that no song released in 1983 was ever as bad as “All Summer Long”, and nothing from 2008 was as good as “Total Eclipse of the Heart”. Standards are slipping. Can 2009 turn things around? A heavy burden rests on the shoulders of poor Lady GaGa.