Apologies for being a bit of a tease. I thought it might be better to split the post as I have outdone myself in attempting to justify my no. 6.
Be gentle with me; I am but a music nerd…
10. Jar of Hearts – Christina Perri
An odd one this. Perri was unsigned when this big old angsty ballad was posted on her YouTube channel in June 2010 and quickly became a sizeable hit in the US. It wasn’t until a year later when the Glee kids did their version of it that it appeared in the UK radar. From there it began hovering around the lower regions of the chart before eventually becoming one of 2011’s bigger hits.
Again, maybe because I’m in a singing class now, I notice the deliberately flat note at the beginning (signifying her weariness, I presume) and then she gradually gets stronger and more defiant. It’s rather a good track to belt along to as a temporarily heartbroken teenage girl might.
I finally have a use for my old hairbrush.
09. Still Sound – Toro y Moi
Having been a fan of music since my formative 80s, I can’t help but draw parallels between current popsters and those that introduced me to pop to begin with. Although he’s all kinds of hipster, I’d love to think that Chaz Bundick, who is Toro Y Moi, is the alternative heir to Luther Vandross and Alexander O’Neal (ok, very experimental Vandross and O’Neal). In 2011 he moved on to his second album and it’s a delight: a woozy, futuristic soul/pop thing that moves tentatively away from the dreadful ‘chillwave’ genre he got chucked into.
He opened his set in Cargo in London in 2011 with this track and the crowd went a bit wild. It sounds like a soul track from about 10 years into the future and it grooves like a mutha. He went on to cover O’Neal’s ‘Saturday Love’ on the Freaking Out EP as if to spell it out, but I suspect most listeners had already made the connection.
08: A Day Late And A Dollar Short – Scritti Politti
“Scritti Politti? They are the ones who had to give back their award for not singing on their records, right?” my classmate in singing class said. The sad fact is that Scritti, despite having mid-table chart success since the 80s, has not entered popular consciousness at all. Their relative success means little to anyone other than those (like me) who adored them at at some point. Yet despite the lure (I’m presuming) of US 80s circuits, Green carries on exploring and expanding and remaining vital.
This is one of two new tracks done for the inevitable Best Of, Absolute, and Green sounds invigorated and engaged. ‘A Day Late’ reunited Green with David Gamson, who in the interim has gone on to be involved with super glossy chart fodder including Ke$ha. This track is no 80s throwback; it’s slick, relevant and catchier than many a contemporary has produced this year. We expect nothing less – Green is one pretty clued in dude..
On a side note, I see that my shoddy upload of the track on YouTube has been viewed more than the official version. Here’s my account of that process – and the comments are pretty interesting from a marketing point of view.
06 = Video Games – Lana Del Rey / Friday – Rebecca Black
Young American lass comes to sudden prominence via the web. The world pays attention with most of the blogerati in agreement about the quality of her work. Much discussion of varying quality about notions of ‘authenticity in rock’ ensues. Ultimately the mainstream just goes with the consensus ignoring a small, but significant, dissenting voice.
Lana Del Rey or Rebecca Black?
‘Friday’ was a vanity recording paid for by Rebecca Black’s parents as a birthday gift. For $4000, she got a song written for her and a video (while crucially retaining the full rights). Unlike many of her contemporaries who did the same thing, Black’s video was picked up by influential blogs as an example of an utterly horrific pop song, so bad were its banal lyrics and dreadful video. Black – a 14-year-old girl, lest we forget – received death threats for recording such a terrible song.
‘Video Games’ however was a different thing. Lana Del Rey is actually Lizzie Grant, a New Yorker whose daddy is a millionaire. After an abortive attempt at music in 2010, she renamed herself and managed to score a big label contract. So, ‘Lana Del Rey’, the “gangsta Nancy Sinatra” was (re)born. The track, a lush, melancholy things with ambiguous lyrics, quickly generated buzz on the blogs and then beyond, ultimately becoming a major hit.
Then the backlash. While critics began attacking Del Rey for being manufactured (‘she’s had her lips done!’), others began to rethink Black. I think both are fascinating.
It’s very difficult to dispute the quality of ‘Video Games’; it’s beautifully produced, sung well and the lyrics are fascinating. However the whiff of inauthenticity looms large and knowing that she has the radio plugging team behind Adele in her employ (hi Brad!) does seem to suggest that her internet chops might just be a tad engineered. It doesn’t really matter because the track is so good.
I just can’t discount ‘Friday’ though: it hasn’t left my head since I first heard it. Plenty of utter crap has become (in)famous via the web, but few have really captured mainstream imagination. The track itself is harmless teen pop which in a very sweet way manages to capture the carefree delights of being a kid. Yes, it’s stupid but it’s melodic and catchy as hell – who amongst you cannot recall the hooks? Admit it.
When one considers the amount of dollars spent to make Del Rey look authentic, it’s startling to think of how little Black paid to get her celebration of exuberant youth financed.
Black is pretty punk in comparison to Del Rey’s calculated trajectory.
Ultimately, both women have captured the imagination of popular culture. Video Games is beautiful, but “Friday’ is exuberant and unwittingly anarchic. It’s a teenager having some very innocent fun; the awkwardness of it all is a refreshing tonic when compared to the military PR/Promotional planning behind so many contemporary pop acts. Unlike Del Rey, there is very little doubt that Black actually is sincere. It’s amateurish, careless, the antithesis of slick and, crucially, catchy as hell. Del Rey’s campaign on the other hand is slick as bedamned and were it not for the quality of the music, it would be difficult (for me) to take her as seriously as her enthusiastic Facebook and Twitter fans do..
The critics will continue to debate the authenticity of Lana Del Rey, but the really interesting conversation about pop culture concerns Rebecca Black. ‘Friday’ is the most punk thing to capture popular imagination in many a year I think. It’s for real. The sincerity of this teen giving it her all not having a clue that it would blow up is, well, charming. ‘Video Games’ transcends this and weirdly I reckon as Del Rey’s career unfolds, she will be embraced even more by the mainstream.
Either way, we all win. But I do hope that Black gets a career.
I love that stupid song.
The top five is on it’s way….