January 16, 2013 Mostly Pop January 2013
Where Are We Now?
This month on Mostly Pop – old people! Well, some of them are merely getting on a bit in pop terms (ie they are now in their 30s), but some are proper old. Like David Bowie! Remember David Bowie? Ask your granddad etc. Anyway, as Jim touched on in his Music For Old People column last week, Bowie’s back after ten years of, I dunno, playing Call of Duty and wanking. This is his first single since some single literally no-one gave a toss about, and it’s my duty to review it because people apparently give a toss now, plus January is just the worst month for singles releases and I need material. Sorry, Jim, I do know he’s your turf.
It’s odd, though, this one. Bowie’s always had a quaver in his voice but now it’s gone full-blown quivery old man and listening to Where Are We Now is like watching anything with a David Attenborough voiceover made in the last five years. It gives the chorus a plaintive edge, with a doddery old fella tremulously asking his grown-up kids to check the sat nav because oh I don’t understand these gizmos. I expect Bowie does understand sat nav, being some kind of space-meerkat beamed down in the 1970s to confuse Earthlings with his orange hair and silver pants. And, to be fair, in the glimpses we get of him in the video, he still looks pretty good. Compare him to Dancing in the Streets partner and pro-celebrity beef jerky imitator Mick Jagger and he looks like the youngest member of Union J.
Rum sort of video, too. Very much in the tradition of Ashes to Ashes, in that it looks like total ass yet will almost certainly be talked of excitedly as arty and progressive. Also, is that Björk sitting next to him like Vic and Bob as Marvin Gaye & Otis Redding*? Why? I kept waiting for her to sing, but she never did*. Maybe she was just round his house that day and agreed to put her head through the digital equivalent of one of those things you get at the seaside with pictures of strongmen and busty ladies with their faces cut out. With or without Björk*, the song itself isn’t bad. Tuneful enough, wistful, distinctively Bowie-ish, it’s not going to be on any of my playlists and it isn’t really a home-run comeback but it asserts that David Bowie is making music again and that’s good.
Justin Timberlake ft Jay-Z
Suit & Tie
Like Bowie, JT here used to be the hottest thing around, a simmering sex kettle ready to whistle some steamy loving up your music hole. Then he disappeared from music, leaving a sharply-hatted smooth RnB vacuum into which rushed charmless no-marks like Ne-Yo. Also people talk about ‘Justin’ in pop these days and mean to refer to congealed foetus Justin Bieber. All wrong, my friends. But it doesn’t matter, because Justin Sr has decided to put making underwhelming films to one side and start making music again! Yay! Sadly, there’s no video to judge here, but if you think I’m not putting Justin into a Mostly Pop column you’re… I mean… that’s…
Suit & Tie starts unpromisingly with an intro I had difficulty sitting through but soon opens up into a sweetly old-fashioned sounding track, twinkly and summery, with Timberlake crooning in his trademark falsetto over the top. This could easily be from his first album, with Timbaland apparently channelling Pharell Williams at the mixing desk. Yeah, again, some names you haven’t heard from in a while. It’s like 2003 all over again in here, and I very much look forward to the triumphant return of Busted.
It’s notable, incidentally, just how much the song has to slow down when Jay-Z comes lumbering into view, like the Jurassic Park jeeps crawling past the rhyme-tyrannosaur pen. Ooh, no bad metaphor. Tyrannosaurs are cool (apart from the stumpy arms. Imagine a tyrannosaur working at Burger King. He’d burn his nose every time he tried to flip a burger). Ok, going past the rhyme-brontosaurus enclosure. That’ll do.
Christ on a unicycle, another bunch of superannuated goons from pop times gone by relaunching a career that’s been written off for a decade. Suede, however, were never as daringly influential as Bowie nor as cannily populist as Timberlake, settling for a position as mid-ranking indie darlings fading to modest post-Britpop success before disappearing in a puff of ennui. It all went downhill after Bernard Butler left anyway, so the biggest question here is “Who’s playing guitar – Bernard or that guy they hired who was, like, fine?”
Frustratingly, the video doesn’t really make it clear. Perhaps that’s the point, to judge not on who you think is playing but on what they are playing. Richard Oakes! That’s his name, sorry, been bugging me. Anyway, doesn’t really matter who’s playing (it is Richard Oakes) as the song is frankly not up to much. Yeah, sure, it sounds like Suede but who wants to listen to Suede in 2013? There’s no actual gain in that course of action. Their comeback was somewhat eclipsed by Bowie (somewhat… haha!), which is funny when you think about how their entire career has been lived in his shadow.
50 Cent ft Eminem and Alan Maroon
Hey, remember when I said it was like 2003? Look who’s here to bolster that feeling! Admittedly, Fiddy hasn’t gone anywhere, probably, I dunno, he’s been making videogames and films and an idiot of himself on Twitter, hasn’t he? Alan Maroon and the Maroon Fives made a listenable song once at the beginning of the noughties then came back back back last year with Moves Like Jagger (with fellow outmodee, Xtina). Eminem, well, blimey, he’s left and come back more times than a man with fifteen hats. Basically, I’m saying that these people should all have gone away by now. Their pop careers have been extended beyond the confines of their actual talent.
Having said that, I quite like what ¢50 is doing here, with a bit of proper old-school, RUN DMCish staccato rap rather than his usual mushy drawl. Usually he’s the worst bit of any track he features on, but here he is the best. I mean, Eminem is a great rapper and all but he disappeared up his own fundament after 8 Mile, deciding that the dreary stuff about his mum was better than the funny songs about poo. He was wrong. So very wrong.
I have actually forgotten Alan Maroon’s real name, so let’s just pretend that is his real name. Sure, I could look it up, but ehhh. He’s always collaborating with hip hop artists, isn’t he? Why’s that? I mean, his brand of whiny soft-rock-pop is hardly street, is it? I assume it’s the same blindness such artists have for cool mainstream rock figures that drives them to sample Phil Collins and Sting.
Video – boring, some good helicopter work.
So now, with the inevitability of someone self employed whining about having made so much money they have to pay a load of tax god it’s so unfair, in waft One Direction with their usual surrounding miasma of hairspray and stale semen. Why do they always have a single out when I’m doing Mostly Pop? Well, anyway, here they are again doing pop and that.
The difference here is that these are youngsters, new to the scene (though, god, doesn’t it feel like they’ve been around forever?) and sounding all, well, current. The twist here is that the video is consciously retro-styled! Hey hey, it’s like they knew what I was doing this month. Old acts trying to be current, here’s a new act trying to be old. Classic. They’re trying to be classic, vintage. But look at the hair – there’s no way that hair is anything other than straight-up 2013. Harry Styles’s hair is one of the great mysteries of our age – where did it come from? How can it sustain its shape and size? Are there any animals living in it? If it goes, will Harry lose his power to hypnotise the youth of the nation, indeed the world, into paroxysms of adolescent lust?
This song is prrrrrobably, grudgingly, the best 1D song I’ve had to review, by which I mean it was the only one I had stuck in my head after the usual Mostly Pop marathon video-watching session. This, coupled with the fact that they basically are pop right now means that, don’t ask me how, One Direction have actually won Pop this month. It’s done. Let’s move on.
Calvin Harris ft Tinie Tempah
Drinking From the Bottle.
I’m not embedding this, sorry Calvin and Tinie. I have thought about it and I won’t. It’s a video that’s gone to a sleazily exploitative place that I don’t think is necessary to promote a song which might be ok without this context. Sure, it’s pretty much Calvin Harris by numbers, but he can put together a tune and Tinie knows his way round a verse.
But it’s grim, people, to see this. Brad Dourif is phoning it in a little as the Devil in New York, but at least he gets to be a character. Women, on the other hand, are background or props, objects to be twisted and contorted for maximum impact. The equivalent would be for me to have made every third word in this review ARSES and every eighth word CROTCH. I’m not a prude, honest to god, I wouldn’t see this banned or anything. It just depresses the fuck out of me that pop stars feel the need to go down this route, and to such an extent. This is pornographic to an unnecessary degree for a pop video. Jesus, this is supposed to be played on music video channels and what? It’s intended to shock? I wouldn’t say it shocked me. It gives me, instead, a feeling of deep, eye-rolling weariness. It’s not pushing boundaries, or whatever it would like to imagine it’s doing, it’s just scrabbling harder in the already-bare barrel of pop video cliché and finding new depths of ugly misogyny. A low point for this column so far.
*It’s not Björk