Mostly Pop February 2017

BACK for a whole new year of popular music shenanigans, watch the “New year, new me” positivity drain from Mr Moth even as the first video cues up. To be fair, it’s Ed Sheeran.

Ed and the lads.

Ed Sheeran – Shape of You

Ed Sheeran would like you to know that he is ready to be thought of as a sexual being. A gentleman of the penis. Yes, sometimes his bedsheets smell of ladies, you know. Because he has made sweet sweet love to them right there. To be honest, I’m not sure I’m ready for this DTF Ed Sheeran; he’s no Fuck Monster Jason DeRulo. He is slightly less sexually threatening than his Muppet double, and I think he does know this, really.

It explains why we get a video full of charged romance with a Strong Woman™, then a grief-charged training montage with Ed showing himself to be alarmingly ripped for a man with the face of an adorable cartoon bear BUT plot twist – he ends up in a fight with a real sumo wrestler while dressed in an inflatable suit. Oh, Ed. How you self-deprecate. So winning.

Song yeah that exists doesn’t it? If it was from someone other than Ed Sheeran maybe it would be fun? Maybe? I just find him difficult to take to. He’s nice in all the wrong ways. It makes it hard to find the edges.

Missy Elliott – I’m Better

Speaking of edges, here’s Missy. She delivers everything smooth af but she’s made of edges. Snick, snick, snick, a thousand tiny cuts as you listen. 20 years on from Supa Dupa Fly and she’s refusing to settle down and be boring, be competent. Consider this – her career lowpoint was producing the Christina Aguilera cover of Car Wash in 2004. That’s 13 years ago, and she’s never made that kind of mistake again.

So what we got here? Another stripped-back production, is this Pharrell again (he was featured on the last single) or are we starting to hear the low-fi beats of Grime finally edging into the American mainstream? Desiigner’s excellent, excellent Panda was as good a version of the genre as America has produced (produced by a guy from literal Doncaster), and that got picked up by Kanye so maybe it’s getting some traction. That’d be nice.

Have I mentioned the video? You know I haven’t because I haven’t said things like “Um” or “Ahhhherrrrr…” yet. A Missy video is always a bit of an event, isn’t it? Bit special. She doesn’t just bang these things out, you know. A dance routine, in a swimming pool, using exercise balls. Ok. Bunch of dancers on ropes like odd marionettes. Fine, yes. People falling through previously solid floors into water. I see. Just watch it, yeah?

Jamiroquai – Automaton

Ah, a return for little-loved corporate music entity “The Jamiroquai” aka Jason “Jay” Kay. At first blush there’s not a lot wrong with this, in a sturdily uninteresting sort of way. It’s got a solid bassline that feels chunky and satisfying through headphones, and the little skips and stutters give it some texture. Jason Kay’s voice is yelping and unlikeable, as ever, but I guess if you like Jamiroquai that’s either your thing or you’ve made your peace with that a long time ago; a chirruping marsupial singing over it is a small price to pay for some epic mundanity that plays on the careers of far more talented people.

And the video is sort of fun, too, playing out as a nonthreatening version of THX-1138, in which Jason Kay, doing The Robot, hunts through post-apocalyptic tunnels in search of, rather than an escape from totalitarianism, his old hat. You know, the metal version of a Native American headdress. You remember. Don’t you? Are you not paying attention to Jamiroquai’s millinery iconography? For shame.

But look closer. The cracks show when you look at the scene in the video with the hundreds of TV screens. The budget clearly did not stretch to an Architect-off-the-bad-Matrix-films style room of monitors, so they just stuck a picture of them through a projector TV. And the post-apocalyptic tunnels? Aldwych tube station, which I know because I took a tour there a couple of years ago, quite apart from it turning up everywhere. Derek Acorah reckons there’s a race of troglodytes living there. And then there’s the song, which it turns out has the most hilarious chorus. It’s supposed to say “Automaton” but he quite clearly says “I’m a tummy-tum”. There’s no coming back from that. Jason Kay, you’re a Tummy Tum.

Little Mix – Touch

Off the back of Shout Out to my Ex, their monster Summer anthem inexplicably released in Winter, Little Mix have a lot to do. Somehow, I don’t really know how, Little Mix are massively popular and they can’t afford to take the pressure off the accelerator for even a moment, because let’s face it their time is fleeting. Makes you wonder how they thought the half-arsed Hair was an acceptable single to fart out last year, but hey, I’m not the market here. I’m not the market.

With that in mind, Touch will probably keep them in business. I find the song pretty enervating, with a sort of uphill struggle in the backing music that I can’t get past. STILL, it’s all about that fluttery weakness you experience when you’re young and the mere touch of a desired human knocks you sideways. I can still remember that shit, so it’s obviously a good aim at their audience’s experiences.

Plus a video full of half-naked blokes thrusting around because why the fuck not? Not that The Mix don’t do a fair bit of the same, of course, pouting their strange mask-like faces (The amount of make-up they wear in these vids means it must be easy for them to be anonymous in the street) and grinding against the walls in frankly batshit costumes. A flesh-toned corset over a hoodie? And does anybody in costume know that trousers exist? It’s like they get to crotch level and just think “Welp, that’s clothes I guess”. It’s up to the shoe department to frantically try to provide ad hoc pants.

ZAYN, Taylor Swift – I Don’t Wanna Live Forever

“I’ve been looking sad in all the nicest places” – Taylor 100% owns this one just with that line. It feels like a Swift line, too, doesn’t it? So that’s nice, swooping in with her material to be the boss, appropriately enough for a song designed for the soundtrack of the Empire Strikes Back of High Street BDSM movie trilogies.

It’s not a terrible song. It’s not a great song. It’s slow and has a few angles that might just elevate it above the mediocre but I’m yet to be thrilled by ZAYNin his solo career and Taylor is close to phoning it in. Also the video annoys me because they’re clearly in the same room at points so why are they looking all moony and lonely? Just fucking talk to each other, or at least indulge in some 15-rated spanking or whatever. Video might get pulled from YouTube, mind.

Blossoms – Honey Sweet

Is this video going somewhere? Oooh, it’s all set in the 80s, like, look remember the 80s? Well, obviously not because you’re all v young lads but hey we set sitcoms in the 40s back when I were a boy so whatever. You don’t have to have lived it. Anyway, we’ve all seen Stranger Things, we know what it looked like. So these grown-ass men go out on their child-sized bikes into the woods to play some shit game of Pooh Sticks, cycling past the Salford Lads Club because duh, following a map that has been blatantly made by one of them and soaked in tea. What do they find after this meandering, event-free and pointless quest (meandering, event-free and pointless can also describe the song, btw)? The deLorean from Back to the Future, of course. Of course!

WHYYYYY? What POSSIBLE reason could there be for that? Did one of them win it in a fucking raffle? It’s insultingly lazy, even by cheap British video standards. To be clear, there is no foreshadowing of this, no hints that they are searching for a time machine. Nothing. It just turns up at the end because Eighties! They don’t even have the basic fucking DECENCY to ride through some white dog shit and eat Spangles. Why isn’t one of them on a space hopper? WHY DOESN’T ONE OF THEM HAVE AN ORANGE BODYWARMER? This is worse than the end of the Jamiroquai video where he finds the communicator from ET. I mean, at least that was already a science fiction story! This is just A BIKE STORY. WHAT IS HAPPENING HERE?

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?

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