Tuesday, July 06, 2004


We're not going to pretend we didn't see it coming, but we did feel a twinge of sorrow for Girls Aloud when they failed to hit the number one spot yet again with their electropop masterpiece new single 'The Show'. We sensed that, brilliant piece of retro-yet-futuristic pop that it is, it might just be too quirky for an audience who enabled Atomic Kitten to get to the stage where they could release a Greatest Hits, or Dido to become one of the world's biggest selling artists.

We're beginning to wonder just what it will take to get Girls Aloud back to number one where they belong (we're fearful that it will involve dumbing-down somewhere along the line), but more than anything we're disappointed at what beat them this time. We had thought that if anyone kept them off the top spot, it would have been McFly, and while we'd have been disappointed, there would have been some relief in the fact that the Girls had been kept off by one of the year's three decent number ones so far (the other's being McFly's previous single '5 Colours In Her Hair' and Britney's 'Toxic'). The fact that it was Usher's 'Burn' that kept them at number two is significantly more galling.

It's not that we have anything in particular against Usher. We just don't really understand the appeal. He's already made a name for himself in America by having three singles in the top ten at the same time, or something equally ridiculous, but we really don't consider his current output to be his best work. His last single 'Yeah' was generic R & B by numbers, and current single 'Burn' is just plain poor.

So why number one? The reason seems to be that R&B is a far more marketable genre than pop at the moment, getting more radio play and more underground exposure, and also appealing to the teenage demographic that are likely to be buying singles as well as albums.

This leads us to a problem for pop. Where is the space for pop in all of this? The only pop that seems to succeed in the current climate is pop that pretends it isn't pop; either by pretending it's adult-oriented Radio 2 fodder (Will Young) or by pretending it's punky, grungy rock (Busted and their ilk). We're not saying that there's anything wrong with this (we're big fans of Mr Young and Busted, clearly), but it's worrying that pop that just wants to be pop (Girls Aloud) doesn't seem to have found its niche in the market yet.

We don't really want to live in a world where brilliant pop songs like 'No Good Advice' and 'The Show' are kept from number one by awful, uninspired fare like 'Ignition' and 'Burn', and even good urban music like Jentina's 'Bad Ass Strippa' is relegated to the lower echelons of the top 40.

We're keeping our fingers crossed for the breakthrough that will make everything right for pop again. It might be Mania. God, we hope it is.


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