Sunday, February 13, 2011

Immaculate misconceptions in Top of The Pops

I miss Top of The Pops. I don't particularly miss the music and certainly not the amateur DJs of the later years but it was nice to know what was in the charts and to get some idea of who the artists were, how good they were at miming and what sort of outlay their record company had put into the promotional videos.

Now, until today, I have had no idea of who or what comprised the best selling singles, apart from the obvious ones and the occasional track that made it across the Great Divide to Radio 2. I find Radio 1 virtually impossible to listen to at the best of times so that doesn't help. But today I found a chart programme on ITV7 or something way down the digital guide and actually discovered what all those mysterious names were. I even recognised quite a few. But what an extraordinary list it has become! The majority were so-and-so Ft so-and-so. Lots of female singers and lots of black or pretty brown guys. Big expensive cars, with the guys as walking ads for Nike or whatever the latest brand to be seen in is. The guys strutted around in black suits or something expensive-looking and were invariably in a club with an abundance of expensively barely clad girls who worshipped them regardless of how ugly they might have been. Shades appear to be essential these days for black men, probably to hide the bags under their bloodshot eyes.

Where are the groups? JLS, that's where. Just one group and even they were ft-ing someone Tiny. Every girl, with the possible exception of Adele was really pretty and damn near immaculate as well as quite frightening. The guys were mostly a bit boring. Oh, I forgot The Black Eyed Peas. They're still going and the girl was OK although still pretty unclothed and the guys were doing their thing like the rest.

I was just thinking to myself how wrong all the bling and immaculate bodies must be as a guide for today's teenagers and how little I could actually do about it. So many of the angry girls' tracks were about how immaculate their man would have to be and you got the distinct impression that not only can't white men dance but they can't sell records either and probably don't have much chance of appealing to Rihanna, Kei$ha, Beyonce and friends either unless they come equipped with the requisite six-pack, gym membership and attitude reminscent of the old ex-Majors in Africa towards their worker slaves. Brains probably needn't apply. As I said, I was just thinking when I struck on a track by Pink and then another, now at Number 1 on the charts, Jessie J.

Pink's track is titled Perfect. It's about how you don't have to look right to be perfect. Brilliant. A wonderful antidote to the Mercedes with blacked-out windows. Then Jessie J trumps everyone with a great number basically taking the piss out of labels and everyone spending a fortune worrying about their outfits, tan or whether they look angry enough today.

So there is hope! Add Enrique Iglesias to the mix at 9 and some fun people called the Dragonettes singing Hello at 20 and a couple of really very well-written tracks by Bruno Mars and life does look a bit more bearable. I guess the chart really doesn't matter that much any more. I am just still amazed at how they're so inundated by solo artists.

Listening to all this made me realise why I enjoy X Factor and American Idol so much. They're more shows for me than they are for the track-buying kids. A few will land in the charts for a while but they really don't make much of a dent. And why I got so many blank faces when I thought I was being cool at College by talking about the various programmes in class - only one or two had the faintest idea of what I was talking about.

Despite all the above, well most of it, I have to say that whoever writes and produces tracks for Rihanna, Bruno, Kei$ha and the rest, with the notable exception of Wretch32, do a great job. They're good and deserve their places in the chart, no question. Yes, I'd prefer fat Celo to quit the stupid business of being oh so ruddy hip-sounding by having F*** You as his single title. Yes, I'd rather my kids didn't have to grow up wondering how on earth they'll ever meet the high standards of body perfection and sexual performance that the angry black and brown girls seem to demand and which could trickle down into the brains of the teenies now singing along to the music. But no, it's not bad music. In fact some is extremely good. Let's hope the Jessie J and Pink message gets through. And some real groups.
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