Wednesday, 21 December 2011

MMT Reviews the Number One Singles of 2011 (part one)

In the interests of The History Of Pop Music, oh ye merry blog-readers, I thought I’d mark the end of this fine year by casting a genially paternal eye over each of the Number One Singles in the UK chart for 2011. Y’know, a kind of State Of The Union from the front line of contemporary rhythm sounds.

There were 30 number 1 singles this year, and as is now the standard, most of them only reached the top for a single fleeting week – though we did have some bona fide smashes: one shit / ironic / shit ironic dance anthem; one from an über-successful R’n’B mega-star (and not Beyoncé!); and one from a chunky lass with a shapely set of lungs on her.

Of those 30, you’d realistically not expect me to like very many in any given chart year. How has 2011 fared? Let’s have a look, innit.

Part One: Jan – Jun


“When We Collide”: MATT CARDLE (2 weeks)

A festive hangover lingering into mid-Jan like dry turkey sarnies from the X Factor – their fifth Christmas #1 out of the last six years. But I’m not going to get into that again here. Yet. Anyway, from what I gather Matt Cardle is one of the more ‘realistic’ characters Cowell & Co. have elevated over the years, but that doesn’t mean this isn't a disinfectedly limp rendition of the Biffy Clyro anthem – even down to the sanitisation of the title from the original “Many Of Horror”. Tiresome.

“What’s My Name?”: RIHANNA featuring DRAKE (1 week)

R’n’B Pop would appear to be by far the dominant musical genre of the age, if you flick around the music channels at least – and inexplicably, ‘Ri-Ri’ is one of the top predators of the ecosystem. Maybe it’s just me, but didn’t chart pop used to be a lot more fun than this? Still, it’s the first example of what turns out to be the typical 2011 phenotype: basic pop with some gently clubby flavours and what I can only describe as “ravy synths” for seasoning. Mid tempo, middle of the road. Clearly Rihanna finds her own output as forgettable as me, otherwise she’d be able to remember her own name.

“Grenade”: BRUNO MARS (2 weeks)

There’s a very mild flavour of soul on this, but the shiny production has ironed out any interesting wrinkles into a flat featureless surface. I know Bruno Mars (one of this year’s biggest new chart ‘playas’) is somehow hailed as an exciting character in the world of pop because he can write his own songs and play his own instruments, so he gets at least half a point for that, but otherwise meh.


“We R Who We R”: KE$HA (1 week)

Even though most of it is drawled in her annoying accent rather than sung, at least Ke$ha seems to get that pop music is supposed to sound exuberant, youthful and catchy. Sadly this ode to going out and ‘dancing like we’re dumb’ still sounds tacky and low-rent, though I suppose that could be what she was intending... And she’s “looking sick and sexyfied”? Um, no. In the vidjo she looks for all the world like hard-faced harridan Jordan. Yeesh.

“Price Tag”: JESSIE J feat. B.o.B. (2 weeks)

I guess Jessie J is probably 2011’s biggest new break-out pop star, but whether she’ll end up becoming a Lily Allen or merely a Natasha Bedingfield is yet to be seen. My favourite memory of this cheery bounce-pop single is seeing her playing it live on Comic Relief – when the lyric “it’s not about the money, money, we don’t need your money, money” turned out to be not perhaps the best-judged choice of song for such a mega-charidee telethon.


“Someone Like You”: ADELE
(5 weeks)

A notable chart-topper in that it wasn’t officially ‘out’ as a single when she performed it at the Brit Awards, but so many people downloaded it off the album that it hit the top anyway. I’m not a fan of this kind of thing either, but even I will grudgingly accept that it is ‘quite a good song’ (though given a choice I prefer “Rolling In The Deep”), and Adele is at least less airbrushed than yer standard chart character, so I don’t mind her elevation to the big leagues this year. And she managed to keep the worst Lady Gaga single so far (“Born This Way”) off the top of the pops.

“Don’t Hold Your Breath”: NICOLE SCHERZINGER (1 week)

I always believed that Pussycat Dolls were genetically created by some US über-producer, SO soulless and generic were their pop ‘tunes’, and Nicole Scherzinger seems to have carried this ethos on into her implausibly successful solo career. This is grown in a test-tube, from equal parts Gaga, Rihanna, Beyoncé and ‘flavour of the moment’ (in this case synthy diet-dance beats) and almost indistinguishable from almost everything else you hear in the charts these days.


“On The Floor”: JENNIFER LOPEZ feat. PITBULL (2 weeks)

Ah, the Lambada! (wipes a nostalgic tear from the eye) I mean, it’s hardly “Stairway To Heaven”, but the addition of some euphoric synths and whomping noises and an actual tune – even one cribbed from a shit late 80s dance craze – means that this pisses all over the previous tracks by Ke$ha and Scherzinger. If you do have to do this kind of music, I suppose this is how it should be done. An unexpected return to the top of the charts for the big-bottomed señorita. This Pitbull bloke looks like a dick though.

“Party Rock Anthem”: LMFAO feat. LAUREN BENNETT and GOONROCK
(4 weeks)

OMG. Fun for about the first two minutes and then you can just see a million exercise classes across the globe clapping their hands in time as they kick out their legs in a lame hokey-cokey. Disco music for eight years olds, dance music for people who find the Black Eyed Peas just a bit too edgy. I do however fear that repeated listens may cause infection. Proceed with caution.


“The Lazy Song”: BRUNO MARS (1 week)

Another chart-topper from one of the ‘faces’ of 2011, and as sonically lazy as the title implies. His ambition to have “some really nice sex” probably says it all. I quite like the chimp masks in the vidjo though. And am pleasantly surprised we’ve not encountered any covers of this at MK open mics this year (yet!)

“Give Me Everything”: PITBULL featuring NE-YO / AFROJACK / NAYER
(3 weeks)

This is like a who’s who of modern-day acts I have heard of but know nothing about! The quirky synth production slathered all over this year’s RnB standards continues, and is insistent at least. Compared to some of the rest of these #1s it’s… alright. I see (from Wikipedia) that this Pitbull character is also “a spokesman” for Kodak, which is presumably why he mentions them several times at the start.


“Changed The Way You Kiss Me”: EXAMPLE (2 weeks)

He may look like a proper dick, but I’ll take the Nineties Rave flavours of this ubiquitous Summer ‘chart banger’ every single time over the bloodless R’n’B of Rihanna or Scherzinger or the pap pop of Bruno Mars. The opening “I’ve never been afraid of the highest heights” hook is even one which I’ve found stuck in my head from time to time this year, which is something, to be sure.

To Be Continued...

Words by MMT (feat Pitbull)


Dill The Dog said...

Guess we're not the target audience for the chart any more. Don't know for certain, but it seems aimed at a younger age range, as this is the age range that will fork out for the music.

When I was 14 I was listening to chart music which was defined by what my elder sister liked. Now my 14 year old daughter listens to most of it and goes 'meh' like she's too old for it...

I don't actually mind this (as I don't particularly listen out for chart music anymore) EXCEPT those brief occasions when I do and instead of finding something new and 'fresh', I run back into my hole, stick the headphones on, and listen to the shit I like. They don't make em like they used to (said with tongue very much in cheek).

Also, I applaud the effort to be 'street' by spelling video as 'vidjo', but the first sentiment of 'one shit / ironic / shit ironic dance anthem' probably suits you better as grumpy old man bewildered by the times...

MMTXXX said...

Do the charts HAVE a target audience? Or don't they reflect who's buying what? I suppose if Dame Vera Lynn released a single and it was advertised correctly in SAGA magazine or what have you then she'd EASILY get to #1.

But yeah, the charts of the last few years are basically constructed from what's in stock in the music bay of Tesco, ASDA, Sainsbury's et al.