Tom Ewing

19
Jan 20

EVANESCENCE – “Bring Me To Life”

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#955, 14th June 2003

Corporate rock, a vignette: the label wanted Evanescence to add a male co-vocalist all through their debut album. The band said no, and so a compromise was met – Amy Lee would be joined by a growly dude only on this first single.

10
Jan 20

Top 100 Tracks Of The 2010s Part 1

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I’ve been running this on the Patreon – available to patrons of any tier – but the intention has always been to export the entries onto this site in chunks. So here’s the first set! Track #100 serves as a fair intro to the project as a whole. Expect a leisurely pace on this stuff.

100. MANIC STREET PREACHERS – “Postcards From A Young Man”

8
Jan 20

A Great Philosopher (DR ALBAN – “It’s My Life”)

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(Reached #2, September 1992)

In Britain, Alban Uzoma Nwapa was known for two things. This song was one of them. The other was his dental practice – teeth had brought him to live in Sweden, and music paid the dentistry school bills. A dip into Google suggests there are now many rapping dentists – there are many rapping everythings – but Alban was the first, and the combination seemed amusing. A touch provincial, maybe – it had the same vibe as when England go up against Andorra or the Faroes in football, and the commentators hold up day jobs in the post office or the doctors’ surgery as the bona fides of plucky authenticity.

4
Jan 20

R. KELLY – “Ignition (Remix)”

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#954, 17th May 2003

So here we are. In 2014, when I wrote the entry for “I Believe I Can Fly”, acknowledging the monstrousness of R Kelly, I had plans to make this piece some sort of grand follow-up. Here is a song that – when I started Popular – was the most beloved of its year. I’ve heard “Ignition (Remix)” in clubs; I’ve danced to it; I’ve watched threads online spiral into giddy delight over it. I expect it was played at my wedding. I expect I played it.

Will I ever play it again? I doubt it. I remember its creamy confidence, its conspiratorial, tale-telling joy well enough not to bother. To this day, any time I’m in a hotel lobby my brain jumps a track and “after the party, the hotel lobby” wanders into my mind. Not as a welcome or unwelcome guest, either, just a well-used connection whose spark lies somewhere below the conscious. “Ignition (Remix)” is part of the mental furniture.

31
Dec 19

Popular Crystal Ball 2019: You can say I’m hatin’ if you want to

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As is the annual tradition, a look over the year’s number ones, from best to worst. After a couple of years where this was an exercise in barely managed apathy, there are songs here I actually love. Save a chart, ride a cowboy! Behind the scenes, the machinery required to shape “the chart” is creaking badly, though.

TOMCRAFT – “Loneliness”

FT + Popular15 comments • 1,161 views

#953, 10th May 2003

Artwork for the single Loneliness by TomcraftAndrea Martin’s “Share Your Love” is an attractively crafted 1998 R&B tune about loving a philanderer. She opens with a sad idea, “Happiness seems to be loneliness, and loneliness killed my world / How could you guess, when you’re only thinking of yourself, and how you look to other girls”. In Martin’s song, she develops the feeling, but Tomcraft, a German DJ, saw the potential in the lines as a pure moment.

28
Dec 19

BUSTED – “You Said No”

Popular18 comments • 1,124 views

#952, 3rd May 2003

While Busted enjoy a warm second career on the reformation circuit, time hasn’t always been kind to the hairy-palmed pop-punk they kicked off with. The line between cheekiness and creepiness has shifted in the last fifteen years, and a song like “Britney” (“Tracking you down on the internet / Cos I ain’t seen you naked yet”) was likely on the wrong side to begin with.

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18
Dec 19

ROOM 5 ft OLIVER CHEATHAM – “Make Luv”

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#951, 5th April 2003

The sound of a subgenre on its deathbed. We’ve had some good times with filter-disco, or French touch, or whatever you want to call this woozy sound. At its best the filter effect worked like shades in a solar eclipse, a hazy distancing effect protecting you from druggy emotion too bright and stark to confront head-on.

“Make Luv” is the sound long past its best, though. Everything about the record feels half-arsed, as if adequacy was the aim. (It’s achieved, not that it matters.) The name of the act – a disguise for Italian house producer Junior Jack – the title, the earthbound trundle of the sounds, even the origin of its popularity in an ad for tacky lad’s deodorant Lynx… it could all have been designed to feel as devitalised as possible, a set of words and images entirely free of resonance. Poor Oliver Cheatham, sampled to give the record its hooks and spine, ends up just another part of the listless whole. “I like to party,” he sings, and then, in case you thought he might be staking a claim on a life of devil-may-care hedonism, “everybody does.” Well, quite.

17
Dec 19

GARETH GATES ft THE KUMARS – “Spirit In The Sky”

Popular13 comments • 1,182 views

#950, 22nd March 2003

This is Comic Relief getting back to its roots – a familiar song, disrupted by the comic turn. I never watched the Kumars, and the clips I looked at for research don’t make me feel I missed too much – a take on the fake chat show subgenre, cosy enough to be long-running (i.e., it didn’t make idiots of its guests). This single mirrors the set-up – Gareth is the bemused outsider, Sanjeev the earnest wannabe, the rest of the family scuppering his plans and his “big sitar solo” in their bustling eagerness to get involved. And the cast get stuck in to the concept with professional gusto. Fun is being had, though perhaps not by you.

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27
Nov 19

CHRISTINA AGUILERA – “Beautiful”

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#949, 8th March 2003

One of the notable things about “Beautiful” is that having written it, Linda Perry wanted to keep it for a proposed solo career – it was one of her “personal” songs. So the question is – would the song make more sense sung by a woman staring down forty, her big hit a decade gone, in a business that’s notoriously unforgiving to women who age? Is its scenario – panic’s sudden grab at the throat – one that transfers?

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