Mostly Pop August 2015

Another month, another selection of pop songs for excruciating “cool dad” Mr Moth to judge on the basis of whether or not they have “a good beat”.

The Shite Stuff

Drake – Energy

US hip-hop’s having a bit of a good time lately isn’t it? More like late 80s/early90s, Public Enemy shading into NWA – fierce and focussed, less of the gaudy showboating of the late 90s and 00s and I think we’re responsible. You couldn’t mistake this stuff for UK Grime, sonically, but it’s almost as if the approach has travelled where the sound hasn’t. Stripped back a bit, more politicised, more engaged with the social struggles hip-hop left behind when it became about who had the biggest car/gun/penis.

Consequently, because the UK Grime scene mixes sweet and sour like a sous chef at a Chinese restaurant, it’s like the song and the video are fighting. This track is pretty angry, like grr and swearing and casual misogyny but it’s ok because Drake (I guess? Not sure about that. He seems nice enough but still with the “bitches”?). Then the video is knockabout and silly, with Drake doing lots of goofy parodies of famous stuff. Some of the effects work is impressive – he’s Miley Cyrus, he’s Oprah, he’s… OJ? Identifying with OJ – is that a thing we do now? We’re fine with that? I’m not fine with that!

Selena Gomez – Good for You

This month’s “Songs that invite comparison to 1989” contender (see Carly Rae Jepsen last time) is this from noted Taylor Swift puncher Selena Gomez*. This goes as well as it did for CRJ, though to give Ms Gomez credit at least she’s tried coming at the sound from a slightly different angle ie. Sultry, ohh yeah, sex eh? Right up until A$AP Rocky turns up and gives not a single fuck about the tempo of the track he’s rapping all over, preferring the song to warp and crash around him while he does his thing. It’s kind of awe-inspiring, really, to see someone so shamelessly pull a “rap bit for pop song” off the shelf and jam it in like someone jamming an 8-track tape into a CD player.

That aside, the video is almost overbearingly designed as wank-fodder for teenage boys to try to hit pause on. THE PROBLEM BEING that Selena Gomez has the face of a small child. This makes the video pretty disconcerting, to be honest. It has the uncomfortable air of watching the Year Seven dance troupe doing a routine to “Anaconda”. Where does one look? You end up concentrating furiously on the furniture. That sofa is a bit shabby. Nice floorboards. Oh god is it over yet? I’m only here because my kid is doing a rap later. Oh there he is! HI ROCKY! DAD IS SO PROUD OF YOU!

*Not… I mean, not really. In the Bad Blood video. No real punches have been exchanged.

Rita Ora – Body on Me ft Chris Brown

Nice work making Chris Brown seem like the most terrifying neighbour imaginable. I assume that wasn’t the idea, but when he and Rita share a lift at the start of this video it’s not simmering sexual tension between them it’s more like she’s worried he’s going to nick her phone. And I happen to know it’s a nice phone because I see her using it EVERY FUCKING AD BREAK. To be fair, you’d be worried about being in a lift with Chris Brown. Especially if you look a bit like Rihanna, or a chair. Which, now I think of it, Rita Ora does a bit.

Anyway, my policy these days is not to give Chris Brown tracks the time of day but I sort of needed to put this video out there because the layout of the apartments in it does my head in. They clearly live in the same building, on the same floor, same corridor but Chris watches her out of the window. How? Does he have a complex system of mirrors set up? Bit rude, if so. Eventually his Peeping Tom antics convince Rita to go with him up to the roof. His nefarious endgame? Line dancing. Jesus wept.

Robin Thicke – Back Together ft Nicki Minaj

My court-mandated “ft. Nicki Minaj” single this month is courtesy of washed-up consent dodger Robin Thicke. Regular readers (lol) may recall me twatting on about about Maroon 5’s musical style being, uhm, somewhat singular. Who is it for? I lamented. Well, turns out it’s for Robin Thicke. I wonder if he asked before ripping them off or was it obvious that Maroon 5 wanted it?

Now you might think this is just a bit of a blah song, sounds like Maroon 5, let’s not get exercised about it, but that’s probably because the embedded video is the radio edit. The chorus, the actual chorus, goes “You used your love to tear me apart/Now fuck me back together.” Yes it does. Not “put”. Isn’t that just the creepiest? And he sings it with a smile! Like it’s not the most literally passive-aggressive statement put to music since God knows when. He just lounges about with barely-clothed women, wearing his shit-eating grin and singing “Now fuck me back together” like it’s a breezy summer romance song. Christ almighty, Thicke, get the fucking message – YOU. ARE. AN. ARSEHOLE.

One Direction – Drag Me Down

It’s not like this hasn’t been coming. The second Zayn left it was just a matter of time. Like Geri quitting the Spice Girls or Robbie leaving Take That, all fans could do was wait for the announcement. Mostly Pop has had a long relationship with The One Directions. I was here for their debut and here I am standing over the ashes of their career. Laughing like a supervillain in a 16-bit videogame. Ha ha ha ha, I say in a tinny voice.  This is the end of the line for you. I’ve probably got an eye patch. Go with me here, I need this.

So, this is how they sign off. Apart from the tour commitments until March next year. And a few farewell singles. Then a reunion in 2024, with Zayn making grudging guest appearances and Harry Styles looking like the embalmed corpse of Michael Hutchence. This is one of those songs that just looked like any other on the album, I’m sure, but gains a new resonance as a single. Very, very much like Steal My Girl, this is one of those stompy, declarative songs boy bands use to give their fans that “YEAH! YOU AND ME AGAINST THE WORLD!” feeling. In context, though, it now comes across half defiant – “nobody gonna drag me down” ie Zayn with his Twitter shade – and half desperate “If I didn’t have you there would be nothing left” – ie Zayn oh god man why did you leave us we’re bros. At least the video ends as it should, with the remaining One Directions being shot into the Sun. Goodbye, boys. Goodbye.

About Thom Willis

Thom is the curator of #microwrites - - and writes his own stories for He lives in London because, given the choice, who wouldn't?

2 thoughts on “Mostly Pop August 2015

  1. There’s a Stefan Dennis vibe to the Thicke video. I like the way Nicki Minaj appears from nowhere like a Mephistophelean demon to remind Thicke that really he has nothing and is nothing and will be nothing for eternity.

  2. Us rap is indeed getting interesting again. I’m horribly out of touch these days but following a Drake track I found butterfly by Talib kwelli (?). Fantastic. And I like your idea that uk grime scene has had an influence. I’m not sure I think it’s true but gosh darn it I like it!

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