Friday, January 02, 2009

1001 Greatest Pop Songs Of All Time - #49 - Goody Two Shoes by Adam Ant

Alyson: A recent very flimsy attempt by an Australian paper to claim the girl in the film clip to this very song looks like Sarah Palin (you remember her - and even more unlikely are certain Youtube clips trying to claim Goddard looks like Julian McMahon) sparked a minor re-interest around these parts in Adam Ant - well, they played the clip at 3am on VH1. Anyway, as it happens, it had been many years since I had heard this song, my most normal exposure to Adam Ant is the long forgotten "Young Parisians" on one of my compilation tapes that has long succumbed to the ravages of time (and who makes tapes in 2009 anyway?). Hearing this song again was like being re-united with a faithful old friend from school - along with the singles of Nik Kershaw and early Bananarama and now Strawberry Switchblade, this was always one of my favourite 80s songs, and it sort of got forgotten about in my mind. I still remembered the basics about the song (the chorus, what it was about, the English press thinking he was boring, the girl in it was a Bond Girl I think, and it was a solo song not Adam And The Ants cos he trampled on the Ants). But hearing it again, even at 3am, was amazing. Of course some tedious sub Toby Cresswell VJ had to ruin it by making a crack about "the 80s", and his clothes, missing the point that one day their label dictated surf fashion will look utterly ridiculous on a compilation tape sometime around eh?

So here's what I love about this song and why it's on the list. Firstly, it's absolutely amazing. Obviously. By any fair assessment it's a fantastic song surely? It's got so much downright swagger, it's just infectious. It contains some wonderful drum work, a B side called Crackpot History that is dying for someone to cover it, and somewhat against the run of play was knocked off #1 in the UK by Charleen (not from Neighbours). There aren't many songs that pack so much creativity, energy and enjoyment into themselves in a short space of time. There's more ideas in this song than some peoples careers. That's the really main thrust of it for me - there's technical excellence, yes, and it's a very clever song, yes, but like Katrina and The Waves it's just so astonishingly FUN, that an accurate summation of it's prowess isn't really required. All that is required is probably an ability to get up and dance to it, and yes, toothpaste across the nose is mandatory...

However, it's mainly on the list because...who makes this much EFFORT anymore for their songs? Seriously. The TOTP performance was ridiculously energetic, with no fewer than four sets of dancers roped in for Anty to jump around with. One of them whacks him in the stomach and still he ploughs on. Who can you imagine jumping over a bed in the film clip these days and absolutely caning themselves when they don't land on the mat? It seems watching on the invaluable Youtube (though not as invaluable as it once was) that every single time he was on a TV show doing this song, something completely different would happen, but it was always packed with commitment and energy. One performance features dancing furniture and Anty slapping his own hand for making the peace sign, another is just him dancing around a lit up stage like a maniac, another features a hip smashing dance routine with the solid gold dancers, and yet another has him sitting calmly (well calmly for him) in a room filling up with foam. You just can't imagine in this day and age of tightly managed public appearances someone being so willing to, yes, be ridiculed just to entertain.

For that alone, he'd be on the list...a room full of foam? I mean...who!

Labels: , ,

1001 Greatest Pop Songs Of All Time - #48 - Song #1 by Serebro

Claire: When sourpuss UK commentators bemoan the lack of potential for a British victory, they tend to overlook the paucity of their own song selections. After all, a pop gem in the form of "It's You!" by The Revelations was overlooked in favour of a tedious wine bar ballad everyone has already forgotten. It is from the east of Europe that most of the Eurovision drama comes from, and no co-incidentally, they mostly provide the best songs, and then they win. Sure, there's some dodgy block voting going on, but quality is quality. They don't send Gemini now do they? In 2007, Georgia sent an excellent OPUS III style ballad from Sopho, that had a film clip which suggested Georgia invented the light bulb. And then there was Serebro, runners up in a hideous travesty of nonsense. A wonderfully old fashioned in the lab pop group, they even had a svengali and some kind of wonderfully made up back story that just read like complete nonsense. That they came out of the traps with one of the 00s best pieces of out and out pop is, as seasoned observers of this kind of thing would guess, not a massive surprise. They had it all figured out before they started...they even have a logo. Britain sent Scooch. Not rigged at all then Wogan?

I must admit serious personal surprise that several "pop" websites who spent a lot of 2007 bemoaning the death of quality pop didn't get behind the Russians fully. After all, all the things bemoaned by said sites, namely that bands don't have a lot of glamour (Serebro had it in spades), songs with extended dance breaks (there's more or less two in Song #1s film clip), or don't really enjoy some serious lyrical trash (Song #1 has the best pie/sex interface since Noiseworks Hot Chilli Woman). They even went to the trouble to make no fewer than 13 remixes of the song, including a "black" version which was probably the second best song of last year. It is such a wonderful mix of fun and wonder and tongue in cheek camp without ever becoming disrespectful or parody, you wonder why everyone else struggles with it. They even went to the trouble of making about three or four versions of the film clip before settling on the one below, the dance mix version which revives the old pop tradition of dancing around in a car park for no apparent reason. And yet people still bought Rihanna albums...madness...absolute madness...

They don't seem to have followed it up with anything anywhere near as good - there is a song in which they stand amazed as a whale jumps over their head. Like Britney Spears, when you have such a wonderful debut single, it can be very hard to top. Unlike Britney Spears though, they didn't call Melissa Joan Hart, just the makers of Free Willy. On such delicate decisions can fates turn...this is amazing...lest we forget...

Labels: , ,

Saturday, January 26, 2008

1001 Greatest Pop Songs Of All Time - #47 - The Math by Hilary Duff

Claire: In the best possible way, this list is pretty much an open ended homage to people who don't get the credit they deserve. At some point, some of these artists have released at least one magical and uplifting pop moment that has cheered us all up massively, but who for some reason have to a back seat on great song lists to some tired old whinger singing about the hands on clocks. Most rock criticism ultimately renders itself irrelevant out of carping, and this list, for what it's worth, is all about the joy. The fact is, if a song is great, it's origin shouldn't matter, and as we've said before, that it is, well, if aliens ever land, they'll shoot us all out of confusion.

On some such godforsaken panel show that reviews the decade, tiresome alterna comedians will debate the brief Lohan v Duff feud with some incredible insights as "what was all that about" (Joel Stein will be involved). Both girls have had their highs and lows, most of Hilarys lows revolving around her sister or trying to claim she could rock, with Lindsays revolving around leaving the house to head to clubs and asking her daddy for a hug. Both artists made great pop music, then went pretty rubbish when they started seeking credibility and maturity. Duff at least ended up out the other end relatively sane as far as we know, which probably gives her a plus point. Musically, maybe Duff had the edge, once Lindsay started getting raw and losing the we said, we'll leave it to the lame comedians. Suffice to say, for a small period of time, they were both in an imperial phase, especially musically.

The Math, insanely never released as a single from the peerless pop album Metamorphosis, is arguably the best song released by either girl, at worst tied with Lindsay Lohans Ultimate. With an extended love is like maths vocal chant, a homage to the classic double meaning lyrics of the early bubblegum classics, this song is a fantastic and fun ball of energy and life. With no other inclination than to make people happy, this song is wonderful and delirious, with some surely subversive, baiting and sarcastic heavy metal guitars thrown in to keep the song motoring along. "If you can't do the math," sings Hilary, "then get out the equation!" - a million rock critics tut and tediously talk about pub bands, a million teenage girls sing along joyously into their hair brush. I have no doubt which camp I'd rather be in.

This is a majestic, hidden classic. Shame about her sister...

1001 Greatest Pop Songs Of All Time - #46 - Walking on Sunshine by Katrina and The Waves

Alyson: I've never been able to understand the shame that some reviewers seem to feel towards happy music. As most rock critics sit in judgement of bubblegum pop and look down their nose at the ability to create something with the ability to uplift, so mere "pop" and the ability to create great infectious tunes is not often analyzed. The fact is, the line between ringtone novelty and genuinely affecting pop tune is a fine one sometimes, and it takes a genuine effort to make a magical landmark pop moment. It's an under-appreciated skill, and one that hopefully this list will go some way to address.

Katrina and The Waves, for one, got it absolutely spot on one spectacular time. A driving new wave band who built up a fan base throughout Canada, and who would later fall apart through infighting and drugs, had the skill to make a song of sheer relentless optimism, and still retain their so called credibility. That their moment in the sunshine was so brief is a shame, as they worked long and hard to get to a certain point in their career. However, rarely, their one big hit was their best song, and it was genuinely difficult to see just how they could top a song of such absolute perfection at any other point in their musical career.

Walking On Sunshine, a song surely no-one on the planet could hate, is absolute bubblegum, cheerful irrestible sunshine froth. Despite repeated playings across the years, it still retains all of it's wide eyed delirious charm. A re-worked version of an earlier minor hit in Canada, it's the ultimate in feel good musical fun. It also has the benefit of one of the 1980s greatest, most relentless hooks, and one of musics greatest ever outros. Written with absolute precision by former Soft Boy Kimberley Rew, the joyous way that the song ends has more charm and magic than the collected works of every tired old "classic rock" song put together. Katrina almost becomes possessed by the songs final moments. Without a single doubt, this is optimism made tangible, magic on record, delightful and perfect.

It's still the happiest, least goth song of all time - bonus points for that...

Monday, January 21, 2008

1001 Greatest Pop Songs Of All Time - #45 - 3 Small Words by Josie And The Pussycats

Alyson: I am, it's without question, the worlds biggest Josie And The Pussycats fan. It's not even a question, and it's not so much the fun ears and long tails and sense of early 1970s girl power and fantastic merchandise (I bought a Josie frisbee at auction once, that glows in the dark - brilliant) from the cartoon, but also, the wonderful, lost classic album of bubblegum pop which contains such masterworks as Voodoo, La La La (If I Had You) (which is my all time favourite song) and songs as good as Lie Lie Lie, of which more later, Voodoo and which was described by one reference book as the best album the Jackson 5 never recorded. Of course, being "just" a cartoon band, the album sunk without trace, and fetches four figures these days at least for the lucky few who own it, but it's such a magical pop landmark, it makes your head hurt to think no one bought it.

So then i hear Disney are planning a remake live action film of the original capering cartoons (which were, basically, Scooby Doo episodes with girls) one day back in 2001, and for a few days, depression sinks in. After all, can you imagine this day and age a movie with Tara Reid being any good? However, such snobbish judgement befouls me. In fact, the spirit of the original Josie album (which fact fans featured vocals from Cheryl Ladd) is more than held up by the energy invested in the film and album by messrs Reid, Dawson and Cook in the lead roles. After all, while far from perfect, how can you not love a film in which Melody proclaims that if she could go back in time, her #1 goal would be to meet Snoopy?

Luckily, if the rest of the film has stunk (which it didn't) and I had felt like hanging up the ears, 3 Small Words would have made the entire excercise worthwhile. It remains absolutely perfect bubblegum pop from go to whoa. The song is nothing more than a wonderful sticky sweet trap of thundering guitars, lusty vocals and absolute enjoyment. Faster and sexier than the original Josie songs, it lives up to the original core rule of bubblegum - make the lyrics darker than you might originally think. The lament that "you can't see that I'm the one" is the sting in the frothy tail, a melancholy lyric that belies the bubbly arrangement. However, for that, this is nothing but fun, thundering power pop to be played loud and proud and whenever possible - and clocking in at just a tick over two minutes, it's a song no one could ever get sick of.

It is, without a question, a 5 star triple where are those ears?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

1001 Greatest Pop Songs Of All Time - #44 - Eurodisco by Bis

Alyson: In the truest sense, ridicule really isn't anything to afraid of. Given everyone cops it at some point in a self important music media, a band that you feel passionately about one way or another is surely a good thing. Ardal O'Hanlon used to say the third Oasis album acted like a cleaner for his CD player since after listening to it, every album he owned sounded better. After all, without a violent hatred of Creed, would you really appreciate majestic perfect pop? Without the slappable face of yer man from Nickelback, would you really appreciate, say, Into the Groove? Given the caution shown by say nothing pop stars, it's a shame controversy and creating music that actually causes opinion is almost dying out in radio land.

Scot poppers Bis, for instance, set themselves up as a love them or loathe them musical act by singing about Sweetshops and Kids in a bratty bubblepunk way without a care in the world, twenty somethings with the carefee attitude of ten year olds, and then appearing on Top Of The Pops before technically they were signed (the first band to do so). To their fans though, who showered them with immediate devotion, their audacious energy and tuneful shouting was wonderful and childlike and of course it was sniffed at by snobby music critics. However, with 1999s "Social Dancing" album (one of the 90s best albums), the punk discord and railing against tuneless techno and faceless dance, combined with stunning pop and disco tunes, was a mature, perfect revelation, designed to move head and heart. The best song you never heard is future list induction Listen Up, and having glammed up lead singer Manda Rin - as well as turning her into a singer rather than a shouter - and beefed up the production budget, mega stardom should have been theirs. Alas, it was not to be, as you got the feeling they always knew deep down. Still, at one point they had the fastest selling foreign album for a foreign act in Japanese history, so someone out there was listening. This is the nation that embraced Shampoo as well, so they seem to be onto something over there...

Lead single from Social Dancing, the late 1998 single Eurodisco, is a revelation in more ways than one. Not just tunefully, with a throbbing bass line and an incessant nagging beat that's perfect to dance to. But lyrically, tearing into the very genre the tune comes from, dancefloor rooted disco, the song makes you think if you take the time to stop and listen to the lyrics - and tearing into disco with a disco song is the kind of conundrum rock critics lose their hair over. Whatever. Eurodisco is fabulous fun, mixed with a world weary and unique Scottish brand of tired cynicism. No wonder it didn't sell, just describing how pop this sweet can also be so tart is tough enough, let alone selling it to the public. A band supposedly so dumb made one of the cleverest albums of the last decade. Figure that one out rock critics...

This is majestic. Lest we forget.

Friday, January 11, 2008

1001 Greatest Pop Songs Of All Time - #43 - Vacation by Vitamin C

Claire: If the magical period of the late 90s goes down as the last great period for shiny plastic pop, the last time labels invested in proper pop music without sticking in a pointless Timbaland beat or a tacked on rap verse, at least our pop went out with a bang. Strange as it may seem, the ultimate soundtrack to this glorious Pre-Idol era was the soundtrack to a cartoon that still makes absolutely no sense. The soundtrack to Pokemon The Movie might have contained the odd duff time filler (Blessd Union Of Souls anyone?) but the rest of the line up? Britney. B*Witched. M2M. Emma Bunton. Christina Aguilera. Billie Piper. N-Sync. And more, truly ensuring that chronologers of the late 90s pop scene need a copy of the Pokemon soundtrack to truly relive the era, of course, even if that gives money to the most baffling cartoon rubbish (and the movie, incidentally, was apparently SO confusing, it killed the franchise, so consider how odd it must have been) of all time.

Oddly, the alumni of late 90s Pop are gathered together in one place and then comprehensively outshone on the soundtrack by the greatest piece of pop you never heard made by a relatively minor pop name. Having attacked Ricki Lake in Hairspray, Colleen Fitzpatrick pottered around the fringes of (ugh) indie respectability with Eve's Plum, but her correct desire to be Debbie Harry shone through even then. Citing Blondie as an influence in every single interview was another positive step. However, recast as Vitamin C, mystifyingly her only hit was the dreck that is Graduation (Friends Forever), sloppy American high school rubbish akin to listening to that musical that boy with no penis made last year that made her rich but did nothing else. A shame because her work otherwise is nigh on peerless. The Itch, her indie baiting cover of Last Nite, the vastly under-rated Smile, all stayed shamelessly to the ideals of plastic pop, and best of all, she truly craved fame and would do anything to get it. Truly, the best kind of pop star. Alas, she never quite got there, as much as anything, for burying her best cut in the midst of a poorly purchased movie tie in.

Vacation is without doubt one of the greatest pop songs of all time. Based around the pop theory that while a guitar in it's place is sometimes OK, a surf guitar is much better, there is so much to enjoy. Whether it's the rampaging child like chorus, the breakdown in the middle with as much old skool scratching as your heart could desire with organ madness mixed in, the burnt through pop desire to escape the mundane of every day life and head to the beach of the lyrics, this is classic over the top throw in the kitchen sink pop production, in the best possible sense. The vibrancy and fun throughout the song propel it into top league of pop perfection.

This is pure 100% pleasure. If anyone could resist a homage to the faux surf parties of the 50s, they have a heart of stone. However, if you want a homage to "everyone leaves school and they'll get along forever", well, for some reason, THAT was a single...gee...can't figure out what she never made it to the big time...

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

1001 Greatest Pop Songs Of All Time - #42 - Picnic In The Summertime by Deee-Lite

Tina T: Contrary to popular belief, the early 1990s weren't some barren musical wasteland while everyone was sitting around waiting for Nirvana to invent themselves and hair metal to die out. In fact, in Australia, it was a magical time for pop, although a nostalgic fondness for youth blots out the worst excesses of the day. Fine to focus on Girlfriend, say, or Melissa, but Phil Collins was still a viable artist, and so was Michael Jackson. However, the one musical trick an early 90s pop fan could count on was a languid summer jam at some point. Contrary to popular belief, not all "songs of summer" ring with bombast and hystrionics. There are days of lying around in the heat that require a soundtrack as well. After invocations from DJ Jazzy Jeff and De La Soul (not pop but the groove was), the practice more or less died with Inner "sounds of summer my arse" Circle in 1993, but there is still a great attraction to a song that invokes the feelings of summer in the same way an early 90s summer jam does.

Deee-Lite, of course, remain one of the best bands of all time. Certainly it's a strange mystery than none of their other songs kicked into the higher reaches of the charts. In Lady Miss Kier, self styled after the drag queen Lady Kier (a man, baby), they had someone with the requisites to be a superstar. Fashionable, beautiful, and a fantastic dancer, backed up and connected with the likes of Bootsy Collins and DJ Towa Tei, it's strange Deee-Lite rank as one hit wonders, but still, what a one hit. They carried on making sumptuous music to those of us still listening however, and the majesty of LMKs harlequin jump suit shimmying to the beat is enough to assure them a forever glorious status within the pop community.

One of the non hits (remember, we're as dedicated to them as were hits, although if Groove...isn't on this list, something is very wrong), 1994s Picnic In The Summertime (from the album Dewdrops in the Garden) is the most undeserving of it's commercial failure. Perhaps more than anything else, it's fantastically stylish and cool, subtle and funky without ever over playing it's hand. It's unsurprising that a Lady Miss Kier song should have such a fantastic groove, although it's lazy and loping rather than loud and proud. The songs light, breezy qualities perfectly invoke a feeling of long days in the sun, thinking the world will never end. LMKs vocals are delightfully laid back and tropical, and the song radiates with positive energy without ever sounding like the work of hippies. In short, it's absolutely magnificent.

One hit wonders on sad VH1 lists maybe, but devotees know better. Deee-Lite always groove just right. In the heart, and in the park.

1001 Greatest Pop Songs Of All Time - #41 - Ultimate by Lindsay Lohan

Claire: As I write this, the worlds single greatest pop star is somewhere or other, on some substance or other and avoiding Dr Phils sweaty clutches. The worlds single greatest pop band of all time are on a chicken, scampi and cabaret included style re-union tour that seems somewhat less dignified than your drunken auntie doing karaoke (which accounts for Geraldines singing). And for what's it's worth, the potentially greatest pop star of your generation has to all intents and purposes nailed the coffin shut on what should have been a glittering and dazzling musical career of magical pop trash tunes, with the occasional dabble in high quality balladry thrown in. And somehow, Alicia Keys is allowed to keep singing. It's just not fair. Some things just aren't meant to be. I smell a conspiracy from people who want the boring to prevail. Anyway, so who was this high quality pop star?

Her name was Lindsay Lohan. She was going to be fantastic.

Oh sure, don't believe me, but admit it, it started SO well. Well, if you ignore the Parent Trap. What the hell was all THAT about? But Freaky Friday? Mean Girls, the Clueless of it's generation? Confessions? Great, great movies, admit it. And the music career, it was wonderful, for a time. For it had absolutely NO merit other than the sheer desire to entertain, and if you don't think Speak is the greatest pop album of it's year, I can't help you. It's glittery, shimmery, tuneful and sensational. And what about Drama Queen (That Girl)? And if you wonder what really killed Lindsay Lohan, well, yes, the skankiness and the drugs and not turning up to things like, you know, the set, that didn't help. But in truth, it's the self importance. Once pop stars of her potential start thinking and getting earnest (raw), it's never going to work. You can scream for Daddy to give you a hug, but you won't be getting one red cent from the pop demographic. Down the route of self importance (raw) lies Bob Dylan and sodding Alicia Keys. It could never ever work.

Ultimate (the closing song of Freaky Friday) is as good as a lost jam session single from the almighty Go-Gos (the start is very Vacation, for what it's worth). In the best possible way, this song is chaotic, dis-organised and messy, and in the best possible way (ie. it's not done for some Santana style wankfest) it has a fantastic short guitar riff. There's something so energetic and fresh about the whole song, at a time when Lindsay Lohan could have been something other than just a sub Tara Reid. The way she says "You're it!" is wonderful and child-like. It's still one of the best bouncy pop rock songs, nay, pop rock anthems around. The thing about it is, in contrast to Lohan these days, it's so much damn FUN. In many ways, this should have been the launch of quite a glittering pop career. Lord knows, as we've found out, she had the attitude. If she'd stuck to making such peerless psuedo-innocent pop songs, the world was her oyster.

And then, she lost it. And the world was left with Alicia Keys "singing her heart out". Sigh, the world is cold and unfathomable...

Monday, January 07, 2008

1001 Greatest Pop Songs Of All Time - #40 - Bouffant Headbutt by Shampoo

Claire: In the way that a far more tedious list than this (hi Toby!) would obsess over such boring things as lineage and creative debts, the only thing we probably will care about in this list is the origins of the phrase "Girl Power". Girlfriend said it in 1992, Helen Love said it 1993, and of course, the sensational Spice Girls put it on a T-shirt in 1996 and trademarked until the second Geri left (at which point, they trademarked Lame Power, but that's another argument). However, the true holders of Girl Power, with a song with the same title, came from Plumstead and would smack you in the face if you tried to mention trademark or copyright issues. It's hard to imagine someone making a line of crisps with these girls on the packet - in the best possible way, this entry is dedicated to the Sex Pistols (after all, just as "contrived") of bubblegum, a band who would never engage in bonding sessions on Channel 5.

Shampoo, the creative sneering creation of Jacqui and Carrie, lived entirely in their own world, and are in many ways the single greatest pop band in the history of the word. Unapolagetically trashy, rude, and desirous of your very heart to burn, they are also fantastically funny, witty, bratty and entertaining on and off record. Of course, there is an act at the heart of it all, but as they gloriously slaughter everything that is sacred in mid 90s Britain in a far more insightful and genuine way than Blur ever did. Long before Avril Lavigne, Shampoo were doing trashy bubblegum pop punk and making an album called "We Are Shampoo" which is unstopabbly perfect. That this is a cruel world, such genius and such dedication to NOT being a two dimensional easy to pin down dumb bimbo while still bringing the wonderful tunes and changing their mind mid interview on which bands they liked group meant they were never the world straddling band they should have been. In the best possible way, Shampoo were kitsch, plastic and oh so very mighty.

Just ask them, they'd tell you. Is that not inspirational?

Bouffant Headbutt, often listed as the girls debut release (no one seems to remember Blisters and Bruises) and of all things released on an independent label set up by St Etienne, would be on here simply of the strength of being a Shampoo song from the mid 90s even before the greatest chorus of all time kicks in ("When we get you outside/your fucking dead" - who can't appreciate that?). Chanted over and over again like a spell, it was no surprise that the film clip featured a shot of a Barbie doll with a firework up it's arse. In fact, in a wonderful piece of lineage, in the 1960s, on the (actually fantastic) song "Nobody Taught Me" by Barbie and Ken, Barbie sings of the virtue of learning how to "sew and cook". It's unlikely anyone dared try and teach Shampoo the same girly virtues. There is not a single second of "Bouffant Headbutt" that isn't absolute perfection, as guitars chime, vocals chant, and the seconds tick by until some unfortunate baby girl or bastard male gets a "platform in the face".

And the world seems a better place in the cab home. They should have statues built to them...