I can’t help but feel this column has descended week-to-week into unnecessary swaggering smug bile, and it doesn’t work. It doesn’t work for me because all it does is give my blood pressure a twenty point spike on a Sunday evening and it doesn’t work for you lot (whoever you are) because all you get is “snotty rock critic hates inane badly made music” which is hardly going to be the New York Times headline come Monday morning. In my dubious position as a rock journalist I’m supposed to be contributing to the discussion, or bringing new stuff to the table, not just sneering at what comes to the table, and then taking a big steaming dump on whatever this week’s chart toppers are. I think it all stems from my basic belief that a lot of these (hugely successful) people genuinely shouldn’t be making music. This week Ed Sheeran is number 19 and he’s a classic example. Genuinely great music either illuminates some corner of our wonderful world, or makes us forget, and this music does neither. It’s a meaningless advertisement for wealth, sexual success and dreary heteronormative lifestyles without any kind of explanation or defence. It’s designed to spit people off, and alienate them, make them feel more worthless and more alone all the while beaming while it watches its listeners stab each other in the ribs. Just look at the fan reaction to anyone who says anything bad about genderless pop-peddlers Wand Erection and Justin Bieber. It isn’t taking us forward, it’s taking us way back. Well now that I’ve whipped you into the appropriate baleful mood with the intellectual equivalent of a minute’s silence for rock and roll (rock and roll is dead, long live rock and roll)
#19 Ed Sheeran – Don’t
No, don’t. It seems the way to express your own aching internal crisis isn’t to demonstrate it with insightful lyrics or a piercing sense of disappointment; but to alternately eerily mumble to yourself like a tramp at a bus stop, and sing like reaching that C is the equivalent of storming a machinegun nest at Normandy. Recently I’ve developed a despicable earworm for Billy Joel’s Piano Man and Jefferson Airplane’s A Song For All Seasons, both are deeper, and funnier, and more profound, and hypodermically insert their ideas right into the base of your spine, never to be lost; while this Ed Sheeran song (and all the other songs by the Prince Harry-lookalike talent vacuum) have vanished as quickly as they came like a bout of queasiness at work. On a musical level, it doesn’t work, and on an emotional level it hits like seagull shit on a windscreen, unpleasantly and unnoticeably.
#10 Usher – Good Kisser
I include the above image only as testament that Usher’s fanbase is an utter cunt hive in need of urgent douchebag fumigation. And to attract such intellectual powerhouses Usher himself must be… yep.. yep he’s treading musical water in a sea of preteen sexuality. Mechanically the entire enterprise is as complex as a penny farthing. Like almost everyone in modern chart music he mistakes (or assumes his audience will mistake) ambiguity for depth. I’ve advocated for repetition in music on many occasions (Solid Gold Telephone by Man’s Gin and Rock and Roll by Edinburgh’s own Homesick Aldo spectacularly employ repetition) but this track just feels control-c control-v’d more than deliberately repeated to fourfold the power of a particular couplet.
#4 Example – One More Day (Stay With Me)
As a number of critics have already pointed out, the eighties seem to be back in vogue, and it makes sense. It takes about thirty years for something to stop being a complete embarrassment at the back of the wardrobe and become significantly historically distant that it becomes ironically cool again. It seems piano beats and synths are back and not entirely unwelcome. This Example track actually works. It’s hollow as a chocolate bunny and about as substantial as one but at least the bunny is made of chocolate and not frozen turd…
#1 Oliver Hendrens and Becky Hill – Gecko (Overdrive)
Probably achieved notoriety with its extremely trite video, this empty pathetic beat-driven repetition doesn’t deserve to be heard by man nor beast because it is utterly without meaning, neither emotional or literal. Moreover this kind of music creates an illusory wall, like heroin, to deep feeling and moral certainty that the world deeply needs right now. This is precisely what I was railing against; by saying nothing you aren’t just declining to contribute, but actively reducing the world by your presence. If you aren’t part of the solution, you’re part of the problem and songs like this are the problem. Their hazy plastic pointlessness obscures all light, when music ought to be light through holes in pieces of paper, momentarily lining up to allow us to see further.
I just rediscovered this Henry Flynt superb-ness, and you should too.
Written under duress by Steven.