10 August 2010

The behaviour of the UK Top 40 Chart

Hello my dear owls.

So I was musing on the internet the other day, staring at the Facebook newsfeed screen here, looking at the news there, blah blah blah (No Ke$ha pun intended) and I ventured onto the BBC Radio 1 Top 40 Chart to have a gander over what the charts were like this week. I cannot help but think that there has been some sort of discreet yet rather landslidal shift in the commercial masses genre preferences. I was rather surprised. But first let me explain with my excitable typing fingers what the hell I'm getting at.

At the moment (mid-late 2010) we have major US stars clogging our charts arteries with their conveyor belt of saturated commercial muaic (although most of the songs are terribly catchy, like crabs...not that I would know of course) . Artists include Rihanna, Ne-Yo, Eminem, Christina Aguilera, Usher, Jason Derulo and any other pop/urban figurehead from the arena of mass-marketing that your brain cells can recall. They are there in the charts yes. But of late they just seem to be losing headway. They are starting to fizzle into a non-existent realm. But only just.

Take this analogy. A dorment volcano is acknowledged but not taken much notice of. Then picture this. A hungry obese child spotting a subway and wobbling full pelt towards the doors. And that is kind of how the charts appear to be constructed. The dorment volcano is the "new" style of music that is ever present like a lonely ghost in a village pub, and the obese child is the way the charts then change as a reaction by the music-loving public. Complex sounding I know. Basically, there is (in my opinion) a whole new wave of conventionalised dance/electro-y/house-y/dubstep music that is bulldozing itself rather confidently up the UK music charts. Shock horror.

Each year I have witnessed with my humble hazel-green owl eyes the Top 40 chart soak up "the new" like a greedy cactus in the Atacama. It's a strangely subtle process that most don't even really clock on to the fact the charts shift in unified taste. Yet juxtapositionally it is incredibly "new" and "variant". And surprisingly, no one in the UK has seemed to notice it that much this year, or commented on it; as if it's a college drop-out of a child who everyone turns their face away to to avoid conversing with 'it'. I mean, what the hell has happened? The once cocky and intrepid face of indie, of rock, of urban-pop is all but wrinkled and gaunt this year. So why have they shuffled back into the peripheral margin of that bright incandescent limelight? Am I missing something extraordinary in the commercial mainstream music world? Did the zeitgiest doze off for 40 winks?

The names in this week's chart are like an A-Z of current industry fodder; David "could I please be on more songs" Guetta, Inna, Example, Yolanda Be Cool And DCUP, Swedish House Mafia, Magnetic Man, Edward Maya, Tinnie Tempah, Kelis. Who, What, How, Why are all these acts there I ponder? I think it boils down to this movement; the yearly "Music genre of the summer" feel. Out comes the beer and ciders, cheap suntan cream, economy burgers and oozings of sweet ketchup...and amongst all that you need, in fact erase the "you" bit, in actual fact the UK craves and necessitates a wanting for a differing summer inspired music genre year on year to go with said economy burger. It wants something that is there, like a dirty old dog, but you don't pay it given notice, until the dog has a bath, then you love the doggy with all your sugary warm heart. And that's how the UK top 40 is. Dance/Electro/Dubstep/Latino-Italo House...it's always been around; alternative and marginally polarised from the mainstream. Then, by chance, one artist ever so slightly commercialises it straight into the bargain bin of mediocrity, and BOOM! That is the sonic sound of the public leeching onto the tantalisingly 'new' sound of the summer like how an OAP holds onto their walking stick for dear life amidst a gust of wind that could barely rustle a few spindly leaves. And, crucially, it becomes the "must listen to" sound. Finito, I have said what I wanted. Simples. I'm in no way complaining, I think it's amazing to be quite frank. And frank thinks so to. Thanks Frank.

Right, the overall point is this; these last few weeks show how transitional and crazily varied the UK music industry is whilst also being monotonised no end, to the point that it could insult a kaleidoscope . The charts are hungrier than a game of hungry hippos, and they will happily digest the teeniest ounce of 'new'...and then plop it out more than a chav 14 year old girl on a Croydon council estate can push out unplanned for babies. The industry; the people; the artists are like individual garden sprinklers dripping the 'new' and the 're-invented' over the canvas that is the mainstream and we love it. The UK chart exemplifies that to the extreme. So when you pour your ketchup onto your economy burger, think about the song you're listening to, just think, and remember what I said right here. Over and out.

Oh and check out this little firecracker; it's been around for yonks now and only gained headway thanks to Annie Mac, but it's a tune and now has an awesome video to boot, which means it definitely deserves some top 40 chart land rentage space. QVC channel take notes is all I'm saying...

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