|THIS POET LOVES GOOD MUSIC|
But in the midst of the worst times, popular culture, at least these past 100 years or so, in league with profit-oriented impulses, has managed to precision tool craft, emotion, structure, style, skill and pathos into a heady mix of song, dance, film, that has often seemed to surpass the moment, and ease some of the pangs and traumas. No one in WW2, for instance, would begrudge the singers who gave the homes, bomb shelters and troop tents some measure of gladness in the dark. War is good for the entertainment business, as is economic struggle, and trouble in general. The darker it gets, the better the songs. As if in keeping with that general idea, 2016 appears to be a masterclass in top flight popular music. Here are the 8 tracks - some top 40, others decidedly indie - that most got us dancing, toe tapping, or swooning, on the sunny sad and sifting days of this most challenging of recent years. IN NO ORDER - IT IS ALL GOOD.
1. PILLOW TALK - ZAYN
If The Brill building boys had been writing today they would have nodded sagely at the excellence of this tune. The lyrics, clever, complex, and witty, attach to a passionate, romantic, grand song worthy of a 1950s Broadway Musical. One of the greatest pop songs about lovemaking, and love, ever produced.
2. FLOWER OF SEX - MERCHANDISE
4AD has a way with talent spotting. Merchandise - sort of on the radar as indie pin-ups - combine the white t-shirts, lanky bodies, and short 30s-era haircuts, one associates with American Joy Division tribute bands. This song is simply the best pastiche of The Smiths, The Cure, Simple Minds, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Church and Joy DivisIon, ever assayed. It is sort of The Waste Land of 80s indie homage. Canny, sexy, exquisite, and smart, it haunts beyond its antecedents, and opens new ways to be alternative now, belatedly.
3. SPIT IT OUT - SLAVES
There are few more rancid, angry, ugly new punk groups in the UK than Slaves, and their new single, involving someone purportedly sucking on a bitter sweet, is as good an anthem for Brexit Britain as any.
4. KISSING THE SCREEN - NITE JEWEL
Icy 80s synths a la Human League, married to a quirky pop sensibility the equal of Sia's leads to a video and song both funny, sad, and unexpectedly potent and poignant... one gets the feeling this peaen to FaceTime and other digital obsessions is going to be emblematic.
5. SLEDGEHAMMER - RIHANNA
Not since Tina Turner made a Mad Max theme song a major moment of the 80s, has a movie song been so resoundingly grand. This makes Bond themes seem wan and lacklustre. A real showstopper, and deeply moving in a sentimental way.
6. CHEAP THRILLS - SIA
Well, here she is, herself - Sia - that genius of pop hits for our time. Working with Sean Paul was a clever move, they play off each other so well. "Worth more than diamond more than gold" is unpexpectedly moving. Combining Lady Gaga and Abba, this becomes a classic celebration of dancing, and love. Both, in fact, which money cannot buy...
7. CAN'T STOP THE FEELING! - JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE
Continuing the disco-era celebration of summery dancing madness, here comes a track and video so upbeat and cheery it makes Fruit Loops seem colourless. A classic of its simply fun and clean-cut kind. Euphoric bliss. The Jackson 5 should maybe sue?
8. WARPAINT - NEW SONG
As if combining the dreampop indie nous of their earlier work, with the NYC influenced work of upbeat 80s New Wave (think Talking Heads) this is one of their best, and most, yes, danceable songs.