A quick scan of the charts finds French DJ David Guerta and collaborators nestled all over the damn place, the number one song in the nation is Guerta’s remix of Akon’s “Sexy Chick”a synth overload with all the hooks vocal and the rhythm broken up between drums and keybs bass. It dererves to be number one and Black Eyed Peas “I Gotta Feeling,” was also actually produced by Guerta. I thought Feeling was a remarkable feint from the gitgo -coming on like indie rock before heading West into dance, and it sounds even better on the radio than on the dancefloor. Also Guerta will be found at number nineteen: three songs in the top twenty by a world class dance DJ. Impressive and unimaginable Stateside. Calvin Harrie’s “Ready For the Weekend” is pop rock with a hard bass sample behind it, Little Boots at # 6 is second generation Gaga and already broken in the US. Cascada at # 17 is Kraut dance rock. Finally,have you noticed how Universal dance is? That’s because, unlike rock, it’s about only sound so the language problem makes no difference.
You will also find a whole heck of a lotta names you will know: Beyonce (5), Mr. Hudson (8), Sean Kingston (13), Pitbull (14), Jerimih (15), Lady Gaga (18), and if you include Black Eyed Peas at #2, a clean 35% of the charts is American pop.
You might have noticed a complete lack of rock, country, r&b… at # 3 is an English rapper who sounds way more like Drake than Wiley (or the Streets for that matter). The guys name is Tinchy Stryder and though his London accent is a little off putting at first, “Never Leave You” is pretty damn good and should break stateside. Esmee Denters at # 7 is Dutch pop but it sounds like American pop by the numbers.
30 years on what I notice is how few homegrown acts there are and how homogonized the sound is: this isn’t nececcesarily a negative, out of twenty songs I didn’t dislike one… but I wasn’t changed by one either. In 77 the UK charts were armageddon in 09 they are the world in minituare but if what the British want from their music now is usefulness their are much worse things to want and though the sounds are not the sounds of a revolution they are the sounds of an industralisation and, for better or worse, and not unlike Northern Soul itself, they are all Saturday Nights and Sunday morning
I was watching Youtube with eight year old Miriam last night and what she watched was dance songs where they explained the moves and then she followed the moves: she didn’t want to consume the music, she wanted to release her energy in rhythmic, synchronized movement. At the heart of the UK today is precisely that: synchronized, utilitarian sound. Reading the New Musical Express, the rock band, Arctic Monkeys are on the cover, are not simply not very popular, they are also not very glamorous even if the glam aspect, as it was with punk, is antiglam in appearance. They aren’t cool. The pop musical tabliods, once the template of modern English music, are now a cipher at best. The last musical movement they had a hand in was grunge and now they are flavor tasters for teens with the possibility of cool in their haircut. Worse is “Q” -where remnants of the 70s golden age of tabs go to die and write about retro rock bands (MUse was on the cover this month) and “Mojo” where the same writers analysis the recording of Dark Side Of The Moon for the umptenth time. It’s all very early seventies, all very uncool.
But neither is dance really cool: it is the musical equivalent of the Euro or sanscript. If it is art it is art without social impact, all the artistry lies in organizing principals of sound based upon a one world culture but, like LeGuin’s one world in “The Lathe Of Heaven” it is all one shade of gray.
I think the oddest thing about UK music in 2009 is there is nothing to have missed.
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