This Is Pop #8

Generally in this thread, with the exception of the post about Sugababes, I’ve featured pop acts who have made one, maybe two, records that I like.

This week though, a band who I love, who you probably do too, but who it took me some time to actually admit that I like them.

I’d been aware of the Pet Shop Boys since before they were famous, since Head Boy Neil Tennant was writing for the much-missed Smash Hits magazine when I first began getting my Mum to pay for it in the early 1980s, and I remember them getting quite some coverage when he left. There was one interview I remember where he divulged that prior to joining Smash Hits, he had worked for the UK branch of Marvel Comics, employed to anglicise the text, and to ensure that no drawings of female characters included any surreptitious nipples. Can’t think why that stayed in my mind.

I’d thought “West End Girls” was pretty good, liked “Suburbia”, loved “What Have I Done To Deserve This?”, their duet with Dusty Springfield (mostly because of Dusty, it has to be said), but not enough to actually, you know, buy any of their records.

Have a listen to a piece of impeccable pop:

Pet Shop Boys - What Have I Done To Deserve This

Pet Shop Boys with Dusty Springfield – What Have I Done To Deserve This?

There’s a bit in “What Have I Done….” where Tennant’s delivery always, without fail, makes me think of T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Arthur Prufrock”, a poem I had studied at 6th Form at roughly the time that the single came out, and which I had fallen in love with almost immediately. You can read it here.

And then there’s Dusty; the bit where she just breezes into the chorus is just…heavenly.

Yet still my shelves remained a Pet Shop Boys-free zone

And why would that be? Well, I’ve written elsewhere admitting that when I was growing up, I had a general aversion to any record which didn’t contain anything sounding even slightly like a guitar, and today’s group definitely fall into that category.

As well as this unjustifiable phobia, they had annoyed me by keeping The Pogues & Kirsty MacColl’s “Fairytale of New York” from the Number One spot in the UK with a bloody cover version, a heinous crime in my book.

By now, I had graduated from the glossy fortnightly pages of Smash Hits to the grubby weekly music paper NME.

And then, this happened:


This really annoyed me. Not in a Noel Gallagher “Jay-Z shouldn’t headline Glastonbury” kind of way; I had no issue with the Pet Shop Boys being on the cover of my beloved NME, it was the tag-line that got my back up.

“The Smiths you can dance to“.

The inference being that you can’t dance to The Smiths. This incensed me at the time. How they dare imply such a thing??

A few years ago I found myself in an Indie club, and the DJ dropped “This Charming Man”, and I suddenly realised they had a point. Have you ever tried dancing to that, without resorting to doing a Morrissey impression? It’s nearly impossible, the time signature is not conducive to anything other than an awkward Dad-dance shuffle.

So, in short, that tag line confirmed everything I thought: the Pet Shop Boys were the enemy.

I’m not entirely clear when that changed, but it was probably when Johnny Marr formed Electronic with Barney Sumner of New Order fame, and got Neil Tennant to make a guest appearance on a couple of tracks. Hang on a minute…if Johnny likes them, then what the hell was my problem?

Fast forward a few more years and one day I was in Cardiff’s branch of Fopp (R.I.P.) and there was their Greatest Hits album, “Discography”, going for £2.00. I examined the track-listing. How could anyone resist this list of supremely arch and, yes alright, danceable list of hits:

Pet Shop Boys - Discography trasera

Not one duff track to be found there. Why were these songs not already in my life?

Because sometimes I’m an idiot, that’s why.

I admitted defeat. I had been wrong. Moments later it was mine.

If I had to pick one song by them that I love more than any other, it’s this next one. The lyrics evoke “The Day Before You Came” by ABBA, which I’ve written about before.

Older and (a bit wiser) I now realise that a band who can make you think of one of the greatest pop singles ever recorded and poetry within two songs is a very special band indeed.

And that record is this:


Pet Shop Boys – Left to My Own Devices

In 2010 I was at Glastonbury and was lucky enough to catch Pet Shop Boys’ headline set on The Other Stage on the Saturday night. They were incredible, without doubt one of the greatest sets I’ve seen, not just down on Pilton Farm, but ever. The set was a mix of “the classics” – Dusty made an appearance, albeit via a video screen – and new stuff which was so instantly loveable it felt like I knew them already.

There was even a cover of a song which I didn’t recognise as being by Coldplay until it was way to late to stop myself joining in with the crowd-singing.

Have a look for yourself:


Sometimes it’s alright to be late to the party, as long as when you finally arrive you’re able to admit that you wish you’d set off earlier.

More soon.

This Is Pop #7

Over the years, Sugababes, with their ever-changing line-up, which now consists of precisely none of the original members, have become the source of many a joke for precisely that reason. Since the line up has changed, Sugababes should no longer be called Sugababes, goes the argument.

I think that’s rather unfair. Nobody says Arsenal shouldn’t be called Arsenal anymore, just because it hasn’t got the same players as it had in 1886, do they? They might win more games if they did, mind (I know, I know: unwise words when the North London derby is on the horizon). No, any right minded football fan insists they should be called Woolwich, where the club was formed.

Anyway, formed in 1998, founder members Siobhan Donaghy and Mutya Buena – both aged 13 – had been signed by All Saints manager Ron Tom as solo acts, but met at a showcase and decided to work together. Buena invited her friend Keisha Buchanan to watch them rehearse one day, and Tom invited her to join the band, comparing the three of them to the United Colours of Benetton advertising campaign which was causing as much controversy as it could at the time.

Originally named the Sugarbabies, this was changed to Sugababes when they signed to London Records, to give them a more mature image. They had their first hit in 2000. Which makes them 15. I wonder: is it appropriate to foist the moniker “babes” on 15 year old girls?

I’m reminded of a routine by comedian Ed Byrne, who, believe it or not, has done jokes which are not about Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic”:

In 2001, Donaghy quit the band, and was replaced by former member of Atomic Kitten, Heidi Range. Of course, when looking for a new band member, your first port of call would naturally be someone who used to work with Kerry Katona.

To be fair, it seemed to work, for in 2002 the band enjoyed their first Number One single in the UK with the Gary Numan/Tubeway Army sampling cover of American R&B singer Adina Howard’s “Freak Like Me”, and their second with the follow-up “Round, Round”. There’s a cracking Soulwax remix of that which I posted some time last year, so the link’s probably dead by now. I’ll dig it out again sometime.

The next single was “Stronger”, written by the band along with a chap called Jony Rockstar. I suspect this may not be his real name.

A year later, they were back, with their third album, entitled “Three” (see what they did there…?), but not before they had released “Shape”, which sampled Sting’s “Shape of My Heart”. Critics were sneery about the sample, yet I don’t recall anyone complaining that 1994 classic movie Léon was spoiled by having the Sting song played in its entirety over the closing credits.

Buena left the band in 2005 and was replaced by Amelle Berrabah (you are keeping up with all of this, aren’t you?) leaving just Buchanan as the sole original member. Four years later, and with the band’s selling powers on the wane, she followed suit, being replaced by Jade Ewen who had represented the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest earlier that year (we’ve been here before, I think…). She performed the Andrew Lloyd Webber penned “It’s My Time”, which it clearly wasn’t as she came fifth.

Sugababes, I’m surprised to learn, have not officially split up, although they haven’t released anything new since 2010. For some time the remaining members occasionally announced that they were either in the studio or working on new material, as if it were the sort of announcement that should be immediately followed by a ticker-tape parade and the announcement of a public holiday.

But band members old and new have kept themselves busy: Mutya Buena appeared in, and walked out of, Celebrity Big Brother 6. She now owns the rights to use the Sugababes name on paper, cardboard, stationery and gift wrapping products, but crucially, not on any records. But you can’t move for Sugababes embossed paper, cardboard, stationery and gift wrapping products can you, so it sounds to me like she got a pretty sweet deal.

Keisha Buchanan recorded 50 songs for a solo album which never saw the light of day; in an interview she explained “there is no particular musical direction” which might explain why she wrote that many songs. Either that or she mistakenly thought she had joined The Magnetic Fields.

In 2012, it was reported that Range was going to join the Spice Girls, replacing Victoria Beckham, a rumour quickly scotched by Emma Bunton. Instead, she turned her attention to television, where she was to be a team captain on ITV1’s “Totally Senseless”, along with Brian Dowling and host Steve Jones. Ever heard of it? Me neither. Probably because ITV ultimately declined to pick the show up.

Just let that sink in for a moment: a show so bad that even ITV won’t air it.

I’m shocked – how could a show with such a glittering line-up of talent fail?

In 2013, she was first to be eliminated from the 8th series of Celebrity Masterchef, when she presented Greg Wallace with a Pop Tart.

In 2013, Jade Ewen was one of the celebrity contestants on ITV1’s godawful diving show “Splash!”; she was the first to leave the show and revealed afterwards that she only did the show for the money. No shit, really?

Just let that sink in for a moment: “Totally Senseless” was considered by the powers that be at ITV to be worse than “Splash!”

In November 2015 Ewen announced that she had won the coveted role of Princess Jasmine in “Aladdin”, which is definitely a musical and definitely not a pantomime.

In 2006, British Hit Singles & Albums named the Sugababes as the most successful female act of the 21st century. Yes, you read that correctly: the most successful female act in a century that was a whole six years old.

But enough of this sniping. Sugababes genuinely did make some bloody great pop records, and today’s choice is where it all began, back in 2000,with this, which has the greasy paw-prints of one Mr Rockstar all over, it if I’m not mistaken:


Sugababes – Overload

More soon.

This is Pop #6

Blimey, where does the time go? Has it really been….oh wait.

It occurred to me after last week’s post about Blue, that maybe this thread has already become something different to that which I created it for.

See, the idea was that I wold write warmly and affectionately about Pop Songs which I genuinely love, and every post so far has been about exactly those sort of songs.

Yet, for the majority of the post, and last week’s was a case in point, I spend 95% of the time slagging the act in question off, then the last 5% confessing that they made one record I rather like and posting it. And it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, this is my way of proving that I like the one record, by demonstrating my dislike for everything else said act ever recorded, said, did, breathed, or farted.

I dunno. Maybe I’m thinking about this too much. But I decided that this week, I’d feature a pop song that I like by an act that I know nothing about, and know no other songs by.

As I’ve mentioned before, when I hit 30, I had what I now recognise as being Mid Life Crisis Number 1. (I’m currently just about over Number 3. Or maybe it’s 4. I think it’s probably healthy that I’ve lost count.) But at the age of 30, Mid Life Crisis Number 1 manifested itself by making me go clubbing. A lot.

But part of the problem with starting clubbing at that age is that you soon find out there are many sub-genres of what I broadly class as “dance music”. You also – and by you, I mean me – find out that you have no idea what any of those sub-genres are, or what they sound like, and even when they are played next to each other, you can’t tell the difference.

Two examples. I was once at a night upstairs at the Clwb Ifor Bach on Womansby Street in Cardiff, seeing some DJ or other, the name of whom perhaps unsurprisingly escapes me now. Stopping to have a cigarette break at the back of the room, I got chatting to a bloke, and it transpired we’d both been at a club night elsewhere a month or so previously. I asked if he had enjoyed it, and he kind of turned his nose up and said “It was okay…but not quite as breaky as I’d hoped.”

I’m sorry, what now? “Breaky”? As in “Achy Breaky”? Was he disappointed that there wasn’t an outbreak(y) of line-dancing? I decided rather than ask him and look stupid, I’d nod sagely, and then ask my mate what he meant a bit later.

“He means break-beat,” was his reply. I again said nothing, nodded, and decided that I’d have to find someone else to ask what that meant, and keep going, asking someone different every time, until either I’d asked everyone in the world until I was back round at the first bloke again, or until someone gave me an answer I understood, which ever was sooner.

Another time, about ten years ago now, I found myself working in the worst job in the world: cold calling people, on their mobile phones, and trying to sell them a new mobile phone contract and, most importantly, persuading them to give me their bank details so I could set up a direct debit. You know those people trying to get you to donate to charities that you cross the road to avoid? It was like being one of them, except without the eye contact, without the “you’re doing a good deed”-ness of giving to a worthy cause, and, most importantly, with the added attraction of being told to fuck off approximately 97 times a day. I was terrible at it, which since the basic salary was so pitiful that you had to make some sales just to be able to eat, was not good news.

On top of that, bar one or two recovering alcoholics and/or junkies who’d been forced to apply for a job there to get them off the dole, I was by far and away the oldest member of staff there. The kids around me were all nice enough, but I didn’t really fit in. One was a lad who was a Dubstep DJ. I had no idea what that meant, and feigned knowledge if ever we happened to speak. He clearly wasn’t taken in by me.

Probably because we bumped into each other one night in a bar. There was a DJ playing some tunes I didn’t recognise. He seemed to be enjoying it, so I asked him if this was that Dubstep stuff he was always banging on about it. He looked at me with genuine disgust.

“This is Dizzee Rascal,” he said. I deduced from this that Dizzee Rascal does not make Dubstep records. And by the way, I have no idea if that’s really spelled Dubstep, or dubstep, or dub-step, or whatever. Dubstep, schmubstep.

So when I tell you that today’s choice is, apparently, from the bassline house scene, you can take it as given that I have no idea what that means and have read it somewhere. Besides, I was under the impression that all house records have a bassline, but what do I know?

Further investigation reveals that bassline house is a spin-off from the UK garage movement. Of course it is. That’s music that can be blaring from Kevin Webster’s tranny on Corrie, right? (Not having watched the show for about five years, I have no idea whether or not Kevin still owns a garage, by the way. I just wanted to use the phrase ‘Kevin Webster’s tranny’, if I’m honest.)

Now stay with me, because this is where things start getting complicated. For today’s song is by a duo called H “Two” O. H “Two” O hail from Leicester, and consist of Selim Ben Rabha, who is also known as “Solution”, and Simon McDevitt, AKA “Oz”. The pair also go by the names of “Hit ‘Em” and “Hard”, which I can’t decide between pathetic or pitiful to describe. That’s way more alter-egos than anyone needs to have, unless they are trying to remain undetected by either the police or the taxman. Or both.

H “Two” – no, wait. I can’t go on without saying something about the inverted commas around the word Two. The inference isn’t that the “Two” is somehow inaccurate, possibly knowingly so, but since there are actually two of them in the duo, then the inclusion of the inverted commas is entirely redundant. Which, since I’ve never heard anything else by H “Two” O, might make their inclusion a little more appropriate.

There is absolutely no need for the inverted commas around the word Two. I know that. You know that. But seemingly Selim/Solution/Hit ‘Em and Simon/Oz/Hard don’t know that, so I’m going to have to keep referring to them as such. Please be advised that every time I write it, it is through increasingly gritted teeth, my fingers bashing at my keyboard in barely suppressed rage.

Joining H “Two” O (grrrrrr….) on today’s track is a bassline vocal group called Platnum.

No, I haven’t misspelt that. I think we can safely say that nobody involved in today’s record were paying full attention in Chemistry lessons.

And so to the record itself. This is not a record that a man of my age should like. I am clearly not the target audience. I’m so far removed from the demographic, I can no longer see the demographic. So, perhaps I like it because by the time it came out, in 2008, it was already old hat. A review of the single I found on Digital Spy described it as “as dated as a cassette recorder”, and that “its banal 2-step beats [Sorry, what’s this now? 2-step..??], characterless vocals and cheap, trancey synths…it sounds like an Ayia Napa also-ran from 2004.”

That must be why I like it: because by the time it came out, it’s chances of ever being played on Ayia Napa – a holiday destination I have no inclination whatsoever to visit – were already at nil.

God knows there’s no other logical reason I can come up with to explain it.

Brace yourself.


H “Two” O feat. Platnum – What’s It Gonna Be?

More soon.

This is Pop #5

Where do you start when dissecting the appeal of Blue?

Well, perhaps most importantly, I should start by pointing out that pretty much every record they ever made was, to put it as politely and honestly as I possibly can, shit.

Yet somehow they managed to rack up 40 number one hits globally and sell 15 million records. And amongst that, they managed to persuade Stevie Wonder and Elton John to not only allow them to record godawful covers of two of their hits, “Signed, Sealed Delivered, I’m Yours” and “Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word” respectively, but also got the megastars to appear on the record with them.

Let’s be honest, there’s very little to like about Blue.

Take Lee Ryan, for example. In 2001, the band were in New York when the attacks on the World Trade Centre happened. Interviewed afterwards they are asked not, as one might expect, whether they thought they may have been the intended targets, but for their thoughts on the atrocity generally, Ryan answered: “This New York thing is being blown out of proportion”, which shows not only a staggering lack of awareness, but only a gob-smackingly poor choice of words. “What about whales?” Ryan continued, “They are ignoring animals that are more important. Animals need saving and that’s more important.”  Yes, Lee, whales are important, but there’s probably better days and places than to raise this point, to be honest.

Ryan announced on 2008 that he was engaged to a woman he met on Myspace. Myspace! In 2008!! They were probably the only two people left on Myspace by 2008! He may as well have announced that he Asked Jeeves to find him a bride! Anyway, that relationship was short-lived after she accused him of assaulting her, although I should stress that all charges were dropped. Unlike that time in 2003 when he got an eighteen month driving band and a £2250.00 fine for drink driving. Or that time in 2007 when he was arrested and charged and successfully prosecuted for assaulting a taxi driver. His defence rested on him feeling “targeted because he is famous”. Well, there’s a very simple way that can be remedied, Lee…

Such was his dislike for being “famous” that he appeared in the 2014 series of Celebrity Big Brother, where he earned himself the reputation for being one of the most odious people walking the planet, quite some achievement bearing in mind he was sharing the house with Jim Davidson and Dappy from N’Dubz. He became involved in a “love triangle” with Casey Batchelor and Jasmine Waltz, two names which trip off the celebrity tongue closely followed by the words, “I’m sorry, who now…?”. After the show had finished, Ryan and Waltz briefly became a couple, until she ended it, citing Ryan’s ego as being instrumental in the break-up, as well as insinuating that the whole band were suffering from depression due to their lack of success since reuniting in 2011. But more of that later.

Blue split up announced they were going on a hiatus in 2005. I say Blue announced that; I imagine that, given the correct use of the word “hiatus”, someone at the record company wrote a press release on their behalf. You’d think that would give us some respite, but no, for two of the foursome swiftly turned their attention to the glittering prize that is The Eurovision Song Contest.

In 2005, Ryan wrote “Guardian Angel” for former member of 3SL (nope, me neither), failed ‘Pop Idol’ contestant, and, worst of all, sibling to Lisa out of Steps, Andy Scott-Lee. Alas, Andy (and Lee) lost out on representing the UK when Javine was selected in his stead, with her song “Touch My Fire”. (Javine is not Health & Safety trained. You should never touch fire, even if it does belong to Javine and she tells you it’s okay.) Now, I’ve never heard “Guardian Angel”, nor do I ever want to, but since it was deemed not as good as “Touch My Fire”, which managed to amass just 18 points and finish 22nd in the Eurovision Song Contest Final, I’m guessing it’s not much cop.

A year later, 2006, all eyes turned to the next member of Blue destined to restore some national pride. Step up to the plate one Anthony Costa. On “Making Your Mind Up”, the show where the UK entry to the competition was decided, four music biz types renowned for not just their knowledge of pop music, but also their availability, sat on the panel, invited to pick a winner from those delicious talents on show. Two, Fearne Cotton and Bruno Toniolo, plumped for Costa and his song “Its a Beautiful Thing”, whilst the other two, Kelly Osbourne and Jonathan Ross, sided with eventual winner, “Teenage Life” by Daz Simpson. (Seriously, what sort of middle-aged crisis do you have to be going through to insist people still shorten your name to a three letter word ending in a ‘z’?)

You’ll remember “Teenage Life”, of course. No? Brace yourselves:

Yes, the UK public picked that indescribably cringe-worthy piece of pap as not only the song most likely to win the Eurovision Song Contest, but, more importantly, a song which was better than Anthony Costa’s effort.

“Teenage Life” finished in 19th place with a 25 points. The wiki entry regarding the 2006 competition contains quite possibly the nicest thing ever written about that record: “Coming up to the 1,000th song, the United Kingdom’s entry this year was the 994th song in the Eurovision Song Contest’s history.” High praise, indeed.

But what about our boys in Blue? What happened to them next? Well, spurred on by Costa’s celebrity endorsement by no-less a respected luminary than Fearne Cotton, they reformed in 2011 and were promptly snaffled up to represent the UK with their song “I Can”, which always sounds like it should have the words “Tina Turner” at the end of the title. They came 11th with 100 points, which to be fair, is a whole lot better than we’ll ever score again, now that we’re telling the rest of Europe to do one. See, that’s a side-effect of Brexit that brown-nosed toad Farage et al forgot to mention, wasn’t it?

Duncan James insisted that the result wouldn’t affect their UK comeback. “Should the worst happen,” he said, “we’re still going to press ahead with the album”, not fully comprehending that them pressing ahead with a new album was pretty much exactly, word for word, the dictionary definition of the worst happening.

In the meantime, there was of course “Blue Go Mad in Ibiza”, a show which I never saw (it premiered on ITV2, would you have watched it??), and which followed the band as they ran their own bar out on the white islnd. Little did the boys know, but the whole show was a set up: everybody involved with the bar (excluding Blue themselves) were actors who purposely made things as awkward for them as possible. I’ll be honest, I wish I had watched that.

Of course, now Lee Ryan has met some actors, he’s decided he can be one himself. He is about to – if he hasn’t already, I’ve no idea, if he has then he’s not had any scenes with Danny Dyer – appear in ‘EastEnders’ as (of course) “bad boy” Woody Woodward, so I can learn to hate him all over again if I choose to. By the way, a measurement of time has not yet been invented which is brief enough to describe how long it took the scriptwriters to come up with that name. Woody Woodward. They may as well have called him Cocky Cockcock and been done with it.

I’m reminded of the time when Ryan appeared on “Never Mind The Buzzcocks”, and seemed less than keen to promote the gangster film he had just appeared in. If I were writing a click-bait ad, it would read something along the lines of “Watch Lee Ryan get totally destroyed” now, but I’m not, so I won’t:

Anyway, now I’ve said all that, I must confess, I have a real soft spot for this, their debut single, despite its studious following of the each-member-must-take-it-in-turns-to-sing-a-line boyband template, it’s dubious use of vocoders, their insistence to holler things like “Yo yo yo” slightly off-mic, and them all being, y’know, total dicks:


Blue – All Rise

More soon.

This is Pop #4

I’ve spent the past couple of evenings binge-watching “Search Party” on All 4, the online streaming service of the UK’s Channel 4.

In case you’ve not watched it yet (and I recommend that you do), it’s a ten part dark comedy series set in Brooklyn (the suburb of New York, not the Beckham) following Dory, who learns of the disappearance of her school friend Chantal, becoming obsessed with finding her, dragging boyfriend Drew, and friends Elliot and Portia into her efforts to track her down.

There’ll be no spoilers here, but suffice it to say that the conclusion ties things up in exactly the way that most TV shows don’t.

It’s a lot better than I just made that sound, trust me. For a start, referring to having binge-watched it is not entirely correct, since each episode only lasts a little over twenty minutes, you can plough through the whole lot in one evening if you put your mind to it. Oh, and a word to All 4: if you can remember what shows I’ve watched, and where I’ve got to in a series I’m watching, then it shouldn’t be too much of a stretch to remember that I’m over 16 after you’ve asked me once and not ask me again before every episode. And anyway, has anyone ever been asked that question when they’ve been under the specified age and thought “Ah well, that’s me out then”? (This isn’t a rhetorical question; I was way above the age of eighteen when a situation first arose where I was asked to confirm my age before watching something online, but that’s…erm…another story…)

Ahem. Anyway. in Episode 3, at an all night vigil for the missing girl, an a capella group perform a version of today’s song, with results guaranteed to make you cringe:


Kelly Clarkson – Since U Been Gone

Clarkson, of course, was the winner of the first ever series of American Idol, which should mean that I hate this, but I don’t. In fact, the only thing I don’t like is the spelling of the title. For a start: you’re not Prince, you’re not even Slade, so let’s have less of this “U” nonsense. And it should be You’ve, in any event.

Anyway, “Since U Been Gone”, if I really must call it that, was originally written with Pink in mind, but she rejected it, the fool, whilst Hilary Duff declined it as she couldn’t hit the high notes. It’s yet another song of positivity (aren’t they all in this thread?), an expression of relief by a woman escaping from a troubled relationship, something which is demonstrated not just in the lyrics, but in the way the song just explodes at the chorus.

I walked into a bar once when I was living in Cardiff, to find my friend and former flatmate Llyr involved in a heated discussion with Jamie, a guy we knew, who was attempting to ridicule him for having voiced the controversial opinion that he liked this record.

“No,” I remember Llyr saying, “just because I like something that you don’t, doesn’t make you right and me wrong. In fact, from my point of view, it’s completely the other way round.” Or put another way, Llyr wasn’t wrong for liking it, and Jamie wasn’t wrong for disagreeing, a notion which should ring a few bells with some of you.

So this one’s for you, Llyr.

More soon.

This is Pop #3

Oh where do you start with a band like 5ive?

Do I ridicule them first for the way they wrote their name 5ive, as if it were a personalised number plate (although they appear to have ditched this by the time today’s single came out)?

Should I scoff over the fact that for what seems to be the bulk of their career, there don’t appear to have been five members in the band?

Maybe I should laugh unsympathetically at the fact that band member Sean Conlon failed to get past the audition stage of The Voice UK in 2012?

Or perhaps guffaw at the fact that manager Satan Cowell tried to get them to record Baby One More Time” (presumably not dressed as schoolgirls in the video), only for the writer to elect to give it to Britney Spears instead?

No, none of these will happen on my watch, for I do not come here to bury 5ive, but to praise them. For a brief period at the tail end of the 1990s, they released some bloody marvellous pop singles. No, really.

5ive were put together in 1997, having answered, along with 3000 other deluded warblers, including Russell Brand, an advert in a newspaper placed by Bob and Chris Herbert. You know, Bob and Chris, right? Sure you do. The Herbert Boys. The chaps who put the Spice Girls together? Yes, that Bob and Chris.

In 1997, Bob and Chris Herbert decided that the time was right for a new boy band to be created. 1997 was, as we all remember, those dark days when the Great Boy Band Shortage was at its very peak. Doubtless, they had noticed the hordes of miserable teenage girls, aimlessly wandering the streets, clutching their Take That dolls (except the one of Gary “Boss-Eyed” Barlow: nobody bought them), wailing inconsolably that they only had N*Sync, Let Loose, MN8, 911, E.Y.C., Code Red, Damage, No Mercy (who pleasingly had hits called “Please Don’t Go” and “Where Do You Go?”, admittedly, annoyingly, not in that order though), Another Level, All-4-One, 3T, Backstreet Boys, Boyzone, and Caught in the Act,  (and probably lots more that I can’t think of…) to idolise.

Abz from 5ive was the runner up in Celebrity Big Brother 12; we were discussing this where I used to work one day, and I remembered that my former flatmate Hel had met him once, when she was working for a record label. My workmates refused to believe this, so I emailed her and asked her to confirm. She replied, confirming my CLANG! namedrop on her behalf, that he had been to the label’s recording studios, and that he was “the sweetest smelling man” she’d ever met. She had been living with me for a couple of years, mind, so the competition wasn’t exactly stiff.

But enough of these dewy-eyed nostalgic recollections of days when we were so bereft of boy bands; you need some evidence that 5ive produced some great pop records, despite the guiding hand of Satan Cowell.

Fair enough. Here’s their finest moment and first UK #1, another upbeat belch of pop positivity and goodwill. Read into that what you will about the quality of the rest of their back catalogue.


5ive – Keep on Movin’

Oh dear. I seem to be having an issue adding a link to the mp3. I’ll try to get that sorted (Sorted now!); in the meantime, I’d hate you to miss out, so here’s the video instead:

More soon. Hopefully.

This Is Pop #2

I’ve never really been all that bothered about Katy Perry.

Didn’t really care that she’d kissed a girl, much less whether or not she liked it. I  yawned with indifference when she duetted with Snoop Dogg on “California Gurls” (and probably would have moaned about the spelling of “Gurls” too, had it not been for Big Star’s “September Gurls”), or with Kanye West on “E.T.”. I shrugged with disinterest when she married Russell Brand, turned over the page of the celebrity gossip column when I learned they had split.

Then one day, I read that Miss Perry had brought forward the release date of her single “Roar” to September 1st 2013, which just so happened to mean it was coming out in the same week as Lady Gaga’s “Applause” (I swear I remember reading this, although everywhere I have looked when fact-checking this article contradicts my memory; “Applause” first charted in the UK on 24th August 2013). Anyway, I remember thinking this might be the latest instalment in those famous pop rivalries that crop up every now and then, a la Beatles v Stones, Blur v Oasis.

I’d briefly quite liked Lady Gaga when I heard her first album, which I’d stumbled across long in advance of her becoming the international icon she is now, courtesy of a blog that has long since perished, and which to my eternal shame I’ve forgotten the name of. But like the shallow idiot I can be sometimes, I’d quickly gone off Lady Gaga when she got famous, not because she got famous, more because I was just sick of hearing about her and her bloody meat dress.

But the article piqued my interest; I mean, what if I liked Katy Perry’s “Roar”, but I also liked Lady Gaga’s “Applause”, how would I know which was best? There was only one way to find out…

Listen to them both and make an informed decision, of course.

Secretly, I had already decided that Gaga would undoubtedly triumph, she was the undisputed (current) Queen of Pop, right?


“Roar” is an absolutely monster of a record, a perfect piece of pop, full of pomp, positivity, determination and defiance in equal measures. So there:


Katy Perry – Roar

Ah, you may as well hear the Lady Gaga tune too:


Lady Gaga – Applause

I mean, s’alright but it’s no “Poker Face”, is it?

“Applause” peaked at Number 5 in the UK chart; “Roar” made Number One and stayed in the Top 100 for 49 weeks. It was the first time in years I’d liked, or even knew, a record that got to Number One.

More soon (and there’s a clue somewhere in all of that as to where we’re going next week).