Mostly Pop returns, Mr Moth summoned from his dreamless sleep by the release of not one but two One Direction solo singles. Tremble.
Sign of the Times
At least Take That only gave us two solo careers (one Robbie Williams plus .25 Gary Barlow and .75 Mark Owen, I am just doing basic pop maths here). Zayn Malik has already got himself out there, going for the head start any early splitter will benefit from. Now here’s Harry Styles. Niall Horan is on it (more of him later), and there’s a Liam Payne single heading our way very, very soon. There’s been a Louis Tomlinson single, too, did you miss that? Course you did, unless you’re Scottish in which case it was a NUMBER ONE single. Yes, there’s a separate Scottish Singles Chart. How did you not know that? I knew that, I read it on Wikipedia ten seconds ago.
ANYWAY, this is the big one, the primo fish, the fat heart of pop. Everyone has looked at Harry, lead singer of a band with no hierarchy, waiting for his first track to drop. Will it be breezy pop? Aching balladry? Whatever the fuck Geri Halliwell’s Look at Me was supposed to be? Will it be any good?
The answer is, as always, ehhhh. This is, in the main, pretty good. Epic, somewhat apocalyptic, chunkily put-together and it’s got a nagging catchiness. But there’s no Earthly reason for it to be almost six minutes long. Pop songs shouldn’t be that long (CAVEAT: Unbreakable by Girls Aloud can because otherwise you wouldn’t get the good bit and Mirrors by Justin Timberlake NEEDS that time). Sign of the Times reaches its peak – musically and in terms of satisfying sonic narrative – around the 4:30 mark and everything after that doesn’t need to be there. It doesn’t do anything with its time. There’s no moment everything comes together, no sudden switcheroo, nothing. It just noodles around then ends, and you’re older for no reason.
Oh, yeah, the video; I hope one day someone invents a harness that doesn’t make everyone pretending to fly look EXACTLY the same, like local theatre Peter Pan. I’d buy into this waaaay more if he didn’t keep doing the same stilted poses as everyone and anyone in a flight harness. At least it didn’t ruin the line of his pea coat, which is very much a Look At The Mature Artist dressing up kit. All those close-ups make it clear he is trying to grow a beard but can’t… quite… make it. He’s a good looking fella but it’s an unexciting sort of handsomeness, isn’t it? He’s got a face that needs wearing in, I think.
REMEMBER GANGNAM STYLE?
People who remember Gangnam Style:
a) Yer Da
b) Ed Balls, the platonic ideal of Yer Da, celebrity edition.
Oh boy, does Psy ever remember Gangnam Style. The international fame. Breaking YouTube. Killing it wherever he went with his weird horsey dance that kids loved. He probably also remembers how no-one really cared about the followup single, Gentleman (Although I liked it, Psy. I liked it). Not fair, is it, Psy? So how do you bring them back?
How about with a bit of bouncy K-pop, a silly video and a new dance? That’ll work, right? Everyone loved that in 2012! Oh, mate. Psy. Mate. No. This will not work. It looks tired, hackneyed and desperate here in 2017. I’m all for a bit of colour and fun in this, the greyest and bleakest of all possible worlds we’re living in, but no-one is fooled by this attempt to relive past glories. Sorry. I don’t mean to be mean, but that’s how we are now. We’re mean.
BONUS PSY – I LUV IT to which the above all applies. Plus the sadness of releasing a song and video a week.
YEAHHH MILEY MALIBU GET THE PINA COLADAS IN! RIGHT? Cue mayhem?
No, gentle reader. I think this may be referring to a different Malibu. One that does not taste of coconuts and regret. Miley, you see, is now 24. She’s grown, as a person. As an artist. You know where this is going, right?
Yyyyep, that’s a song that happened and now is no longer happening and music was involved. I guess this is for the market that finds Carly Rae Jepsen “a bit edgy”. There’s clearly more of the country influence making itself known, but also a bit of the fey indie you’d find rubbing off on you if you spent any time with The Flaming Lips. Probably inevitable, but I was really hoping for a proper banger in this month’s batch. Psy is as good as I’m going to get, I think. What a swizz. Nice doggo in the video.
No video so I’ll keep it brief, but Niall needed a fair hearing with Harry up there getting the best part of 400 words. This is also… better than might have been feared. I think if someone I liked did this song I’d be like “Yeah! This is great, folks, go out and download the content stream today!”, but Niall is that CBeebies looking motherfucker from my arch-nemesis pop group so I’ll point out that it sounds like it was recorded in a fucking bucket and the whole thing about sweat dripping onto dirty laundry is gross. No one needs both sweat and dirty laundry shoved in their face by a pop song. It’s unseemly. Don’t like it.
It reminds me of something, too. Anyone? I’ve just looked at Wikipedia, which is no help but does say he was thinking about Don Henley’s solo career when launching his own, which is hi-larious. I look forward to his Girls of Summer. Don Henley. Oh, man, you kids. You idiot fucking kids. You weren’t there, Niall. You don’t UNDERSTAND.
I think everything worth saying about Galway Girl has already been said. I’ve read the reviews, the takedowns, the thinkpieces. It’s done. All that was left was for me to actually listen to the song.
Christ alive it’s AWFUL. Much, much worse than I was expecting, by some order of magnitude. I think I turned inside-out about four times in the course of the song (Meaning I’m back to normal again, so that’s cool – always turn inside-out an even number of times, kids. That’s a life-hack you can use), it is so cringingly shit. I realised on the third listen that, for all the “oooh, this was tough sell because it’s using traditional Irish music” shit, the chorus is the middle 8 from What I Go To School For by Busted with a fucking tin whistle; a fact initially obscured by the urgent need to relieve the abdominal spasms brought on by the lyrics. “She played the fiddle in an Irish band/But she fell in love with an Englishman” like… those aren’t mutually exclusive? You can do both, Ed. Makes me think this is something a woman has said to give him the brush-off before. “Ahh, Ed, it’s not going to work. I play the fiddle in an Irish band and you’re… English?” She meant to say “an awful person” but the terms used to be interchangeable in Gaelic so you see how it happens (She’d speak Gaelic, of course she would). This is before you even get to things like calling any human in TYOOL 2017 “My pretty little Galway girl” Jesus fuck, Ed, what IS this mess?
The video is a POV mess supposedly shot by Ed Sheeran himself but let’s be honest this is just him not being arsed to turn up for the shoot. “Yeah, get a stand-in and draw my tattoos on them,” Boy King Ed declared lazily from his Throne of Effects Pedals, adjusting his skew-whiff BK crown. “I’ll do a couple of shots to make it look like I was there the whole time. Oooh, a plate of Haribo!” and that was that. It’s like the guy who did Hardcore Henry was asked to film a Guinness advert with the specific brief of making it as tame as possible. It leaves Saiorse Ronan to do a lot of the heavy lifting and she’s just not up to the task. She’s too timid, too little-me to represent the manic pixie dream girl force of nature Sheeran is trying to summon through the power of a really strained wank fantasy.
Also, Ed. Edward. Edley. Edwington. The rapping. It’s not working out. It’s not me, it’s you.