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...

Saturday, January 05, 2008

1001 Greatest Pop Songs Of All Time - #39 - Since Yesterday by Strawberry Switchblade

Alyson: In the sense that pop and pop bands are often fleeting and tuneful reflections of their time (and sometimes, of the technology in the production studio) it's a terrible shame that an endless treasure trove of fascinating stories are never printed or recorded. After all, how many times can you hear about the production of George Martin or the Beatles going to India until the end of time? The interband rivalrys and financial problems and diva like demands of the average two or three hit pop band make for a far more interesting read, but the stories are lost to time and fashion.

Strawberry Switchblade. It's a band that more than any other I will write about, it's Strawberry Switchblade who are the most difficult to explain. The Blade were scottish Punks Jill and Rose, who dressed in a unique and individual style of slashed wedding dresses, eyeliner and ribbon who defied anyone to ridicule them, but at the same time success, crowds and fame scared them (and inflamed the agoraphobia of Jill). A band who could be pop, funk, punk, indie, gothic and folk within one song. An intelligent, self contained band with their own world, but who's own self contained world would end up being their demise once personal relationships died. A band firmly (especially in the case of Rose) committed to the punk ethic (one report said Rose was officially the most committed punk in Glasgow) but who's sole proper hit had an unbelievably beautiful lightness of touch. A band who grew up in a scene of fanzines and rare singles, but who's appearance on Top Of The Tops saw them wreathed in smiles and joy. And a band who are only remembered for marginal success, but who's appearance on the cover of Smash Hits relegated the magazines coverage of the studio recording of the Live Aid single to a marginal mention at the bottom of the page. A band with two disparate personalities, one dark, hard and tough, one soft, shy and vulnerable. And that's just one casual paragraph, there was a lot more besides. Amazing how a band with one "hit", can be infinitely more interesting than Westlife with 200.

Since Yesterday, the "hit", came out in 1985, but it isn't drenched in anything production wise that screams 1980s. There are no overbearing synth drums, no dated production, nothing that would date the song or cheapen the melody with fancy of the day tricks. Instead, the production is beautiful, simple, strange and fragile. The song is defiant but timid, nervous but strong, happy and sad, all within one heartstoppingly wonderful package. The X factor is the girls bittersweet vocal chemistry, as they harmonise wonderfully well, around the subtly strange electro pop backing track. It's both hauntingly beautiful and sparse and wonderfully upbeat at the same time. It's absolutely and totally perfect and hasn't dated a day in 22 years.

The thing is, with The Blade, their one hit was the equal of about 20 of a vastly inferior band, and their story is a proud and fascinating one to tell. However, woe betide anyone seeking to remix it....

Friday, January 04, 2008

1001 Greatest Pop Songs Of All Time - #38 - Cartoon Heroes by Aqua

Claire: A desperate and tedious rock critic once, in dismissing the Irish band Ash, claimed the reason he didn't like them was because "bands are forever frozen at the first moment we see them" and when he first saw them, he didn't like them. Of course, this tiresome analogy doesn't apply to darlings of the indie set, such as Bob Dylan, who are allowed to evolve into whatever shapes they feel like, and be called "daring" even if all they've done is twiddle a knob on the guitar pedal. Pop acts seeking to evolve face a much harder time. They know the time in the spotlight is necessarily and generally short, but they have to cling onto the notion that just maybe they might be one of the survivors, that evolution might just see them through and avoid the chicken and scampi in a basket re-union tours of the cabaret circuit.

Aqua, of course, were we to freeze them at the first moment we saw them (in the Western markets - they had been around since 1989 in one way or another in mainland Europe), might have seemed a strange novelty, "Barbie Girl" ostensibly a colourful curio, a song that in 2008 would be a smash hit ringtone. People sneered, they had the critical acclaim of the Crazy Frog (and what was WITH the bald guy?). However, Aqua were far more angular and awkward to label than a dismissive listen might seem (the last time I saw them perform was at Eurovision where Lene delivered a positively ROCK performance full of demented, insane levels of energy), so the rumours started. Was Dr Jones about drugs? Was Lollipop about oral sex? Was future list induction Barbie Girl about sexual submission or stalking? No one seemed to mind as long as the tunes were not only silly and fun, but ridiculously entertaining, but there was always a feeling that just maybe, this band had more to say that anyone might care to admit.

Cartoon Heroes, the lead single off poorly supported second album "Aquarius", is at first glance a song about, well, cartoon heroes, and it's a fantastic tune, sawing off the more overt novelty edges of even the best songs on their first album like Dr Jones, and creating credibly (as in a good way) perfect pop. However, it's the sheer darkness of the song that gets it straight onto the list. Think about it, who are the Cartoon heroes who are "All dots and lines that speak and say/What we do is what you wish to do"? Aqua. Tired, fried out, not going to take being slagged off anymore Aqua. And who do you think "Superman, from never-neverland" is? Why, that would be Aquas producers, pushing them for more novelty hits. This is the sound of pop band rebellion, every line straining with exhaustion and complaint and, yes, angst. In true ABBA style, the second albums recording was made difficult by poor personal relationships and break ups, and the result is pissed off pop. This is one of the darkest, most subersive tunes ever recorded, it's a darkly sarcastic classic. And of course, in true I don't understand the world fahion, it's the best song they ever recorded, and it sold like ice cream in a snow storm, and Aqua collapsed in a mardy huff within 12 months. However, they were a mile away from Barbies party by this point.

So much for first impressions....

Alyson: I REALLY don't like Dr Jones, oddly, out of all the Aqua tunes, and at first I didn't know why. After all, it's catchy kitschy novelty, just as most of the first album was. I think I took it as a compliment towards Aqua after a while, once people started slagging them off, I at least knew not "all the songs sounded the same", every song had a different sense to it. And is Barbie Girl still not the most censor baiting innocently played #1 novelty hit of all time? That takes skill and craft.

It took me a while to get Cartoon Heroes (I preferred the perhaps under-appreciated and unknown Roses Are Red) but I'm to this day amazed at the sheer pissed off undertones of not just the song but the clip. There's not a smile to be found in the whole clip, made more awkward by the cutesy cartoon aliens bouncing around in it. It's an implosion, but a tuneful one at that. It's like biting into the nose of a Bubble O Bill and swallowing a razor blade.

It's absolute black magic...

1001 Greatest Pop Songs Of All Time - #37 - 10,000 Nights of Thunder by Alphabeat

Jessica: My first contribution to this chart is by a band who I discovered almost exactly a year ago. It was one of those experiences where I knew instantly that this band were soon to become one of my absolute favourites. At the time they'd only released Fascination, which is an almightily ace song itself, but the follow-up was even better. 10,000 Nights of Thunder is a song which proves that to make magnificent pop music you do not need a hi-tech studio or a world-renowned producer. A bunch of ordinary (yet extraordinarily jolly) young Danes can make a song like this simply with a good ear for poptasticness and the enthusiasm and energy which makes their music completely infectious.

Alphabeat has 6 members, including a male and a female singer, and these two are both taking the lead on 10,000 Nights of Thunder. The sentiment in the song is lovely: "I was not looking for arty farty love, I wanted someone to love completely". They also seem to slip in a reference to The Safety Dance! It is impossible to listen to this song without smiling ridiculously, and how can you not sing along to those dododos and whoahohohs? This is pure pop magic exactly how it should sound in any era.


Alyson: It's a different era to my childhood, spoon fed down the throat by chart shows and radio programmes. Anyone with a computer and some foresight (like the lovely Jessica) can hunt out amazing, joyous pop and bring it to the masses. At a time when the charts are full of awful sub tunes, ballads and Eagles albums, the joys of the Internet open up a fantastic world of possibilites.

Alphabeat, of course, are wonderful, shining and radiating within a joyous and magical pop blur of happiness, and the best thing about it is the sheer pulsating almost casually generated energy that makes the song throb wonderfully. Another band who in another age might have snuck through the cracks are now easily accesible to the wider world to make us all smile, laugh and dance. Especially in this week where the Eagles top the album charts. We need all the joy from music we can get....

Thursday, January 03, 2008

1001 Greatest Pop Songs Of All Time - #36 - Sick With Love by Robyn Loau

Shane: Robyn Loau. Her from Girlfriend. The One That Left. The Camera Hog.

Yes, she did leave Girlfriend after getting jack of the bubblegum pop sound that they were known for, leaving the girls to reinvent themselves and eventually break up (some may have said that her leaving was the death knell for the group), but by leaving she was able to open herself up to all manner of crazy new directions. The Siva Pacifica project for one, in which she went from singing about boys, shoes and love to embracing her island heritage in the best way possible (take THAT, Christine Anu). Needless to say, noone was expecting her to do that - nor the next thing that came from her...

Sick With Love is dark, intense, almost nightmarish, adult, overtly sexual. Basically, all the things that Girlfriend weren't (let's pretend that Mel's spectacular rack wasn't there, shall we). The song came so totally out of left field that I seriously think the record buying public was a little scared. Sure, it hit the charts great guns (not a number one, but a pretty respectable showing) based on Robyn's Girlfriend name, but just as quickly disappeared from the airwaves. But not our hearts.

Say what you want about the lovely Miss Loau and Sick With Love, but we did get a lot of now standard musical tricks from the effort. From the bombastic (some would say overly self-important) strings that announce the arrival of something new for the heady days of 97, through to the vocodering/echo layering of the voice, the dancing in a grungy room filled ankle deep with a myseteous liquid, to the overall
emo-ness of the lyrics - Sick With Love popularised almost everything that we now hate about the charts. It was different then, I swear - hey, at least THIS song is still good.

It's not, nor was it ever, a dancefloor filler. It was designed to show that Robyn was now an adult, and to harken her maturation as a performer. This, it did with aplomb. And the song, we all know is a keeper.

Claire: There's a telling story about the early days of Girlfriend (Australia's greatest ever girl band) in which Robyn Loau, the lead singer, was carpeted for using the word "tits" in an interview. At the risk of stating the obvious, there was no use of that word in Girlfriend because there was no sex in Girlfriend world. Robyn was a girl who had experienced racism and "real life" and who was a born cynic, so shoehorning her into a fun hat and jacket combo was never going to be her fullest musical expression, no matter how well crafted the tunes were. Unlike "the talented one Mel C", the talented one Robyn, had, you know, talent.

Robyn (crucially never bagging out Girlfriend but being IN Girlfriend and not getting paid, a big difference) may have seemed to the untrained eye to be another pop sell out, someone tediously whingeing about her back catalogue, Damon Albarn style, before unveiling her "real music", but the process of her re-invention never quite betrayed her pure pop roots. The songs from lost classic album "Malaria" (never released due to, sigh, record company politics) were much blacker and real, nightmarishly so, but they never lapsed in poetry and or tedium and always had a slick ear for a hook. The albums calling card, Sick With Love is one of the finest pop singles of the 90s, dark, awkward, and as much about hate and loathing as Girlfriend were about friendship and cheer. No matter what anyone thinks of the majesty of Girlfriend, they were unlikely to be singing "Every time I'm making love with you/Kind of makes me feel like I hate you" and wandering through sewers in the film clip. But for the frustrations of the unreleased albums, it would still be regarded as the most successful re-invention in Australian musical history, despite the "help" of Triple J to promote her.

However awkward her stance on Girlfriend is, was or ever will be, her ear for a tune remained solid, and she came up with a perfect musical moment. No wonder she hogged the camera...

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

1001 Greatest Pop Songs Of All Time - #35 - Who Do You Love Now by Riva featuring Dannii Minogue

Claire: Back in 2003 (I think) when Andrew Denton was launching Enough Rope, his tedious intellectual gabfest on Australian TV, he said "It'll never have Dannii Minogue on it", hilariously pointing out the inhertent intellectualism of his interviews with interesting celebrities, and not, of course Ms Minogue, who surely had nothing to say. What a great juxtaposition that was. Without any apparent irony, Denton sat down not six weeks later to talk with that endlessly fascinating and urbane Ledger. He said John Howard "sucks". Boy, that sure showed us Dannii Minogue fans. Put us right in our place.

We are in our friendship group unashamed fans of Dannii Minogue without the need for a cheeky ironic wink. In fact, we prefer her to Kylie as a person. One of the things a lot of people miss with Dannii, especially in regards to her music career, is that she operates within her own dance pop genre, where she can be counted on to deliver strident dance floor anthems and memorable tunes, without the distractions of tedious genre staddling. Kylie's ridiculous forays into credibility have undermined her career, and when she needs a hit, she retreats to a form of dance-pop aimed at her gay fans, and she does it very well, but she forgets what made her successful in the first place after that, and bores everyone again. Dannii is where she is, at the heart of the dance floor, and while she's probably not got an entire album quite right (arguably), she's released some outstanding disco and dance music singles, that were they not attached to the "lesser" Minogue, would be championed in much trendier magazines. In fact, the need to somehow defend someone for the sins of releasing outstanding dance music with no other aim than to bring pleasure to people seems somehow absurd to begin with.

It's a thesis explored in my new book, but I digress.

Officially Riva featuring Dannii Minogue, and also known as Who Do You Love Now (Stringer) for reasons I never quite found out (something to do with the sample I think or the original instrumental or something), Who Do You Love Now is one of the most outstanding dance pop singles of the decade. Riva, the Dutch production DJs behind the song, provide it's thumping and subtle beats, but it's Dannii's song obviously - some people will tell you that anyone could do the job of interpretation required to be the vocalist in a dance pop song is incredibly easy but in the wrong hands the songs attitude can fail miserably. Dannii delivers a swaggering vocal, and the whole song is so deceptively simple, it's easy to dismiss the care and craft required to make the song as loud and proud as it is. It's an under-rated skill to be a dance pop vocalist (see also, Tina Cousins) and not overplay your hand and make the song cheesy. And this song never lapses for a single second into cheese - it's wonderful dance music from start to finish, even on the longer remixes. A sheer triumph.

Oh, but Heath Ledger, he's got lots to say....honestly...