I didn’t realise my housemate was in when I got home. I managed to wake him up because I was laughing so hard, in another room. The cause of the anti-social mirth: The Guardian’s “Pickard of the Pops” where each
week Anne Pickard reviews a music video. So cruel, and yet so damn funny.

Youtube has had an amazing effect on my pop-education. I recently have become a little obsessed with music videos, and in particular with finding videos to songs I once knew and loved but never saw before. Given the number of ex-boy/girl bands from my yooff that seem to be reforming recently, its also been entertaining to compare the old with the new. The Spice Girls being a perfect example. Compare exhibit A, the 1996 hit “Wannabe” with exhibit B, the 2007 comeback pseudo-hit “Headlines”.

Exhibit A (note also that this is nearly all one shot…)

Exhibit B (yawn)

The former is cheap, ridiculous and catchy – exactly the kind of mayhem that got them famous in the first place. Its annoying for sure, but at the same time a hell of a lot of fun in the right dosage. The latter is about as humorous and enjoyable as a Victoria Secrets catalogue, which it resembles in many respects. It’s so self-consciously “sexy” and “classy” that its just a bore. In fact, the mansion they are pouting at each other in looks remarkably similar to the hotel their younger incarnations pulled apart in 1996.

Seeing the Spice Girls back together again was confusing. I couldn’t work out which blond was which – they used to be so usefully colour coded! Seeing the new Take That video, though, was confusing on a whole other level.

Exhibit C, new Take That Minus Robbie video, “Patience”.

Exhibit D, old Take That video, “Back For Good” (haha! little did they know how ironic that title would become…)

I know perfectly well that the correct response to a Take That video is a combination of “Ewh!! Make him stop gyrating!” “Ewh!! Make him put his clothes back on!” or “Ewh!! I’m not a paedophile, I just came across this video of hairless boys semi-naked in the rain by accident!” Which made my immediate reaction to the new video a little disturbing. Maybe its just that I’m older, or that they’re older, or that someone finally put them in a video where they hardly dance and don’t take their clothes off – but one or two of those Take Thaters look pretty cute… I’m resisting the urge to wash my own brain out with soapy water for thinking such thoughts, but its true. They’ve finally turned into fairly decent eye candy after all these years.

But my favourite video at the moment has to be Lily Allen’s “Littlest Things”, for its incongruities that work so well.

The very personal ordinariness of the story being told in the lyrics is brought to the fore by the contrast with the melodramatic trashy-romance genre of the video. As a love song, its hard to identify with – buying trainers and watching DVDs are hardly universally applicable indexes of romance. Which, of course, is what makes the song so great – its a love song on an album by one of the few commercial artists who sing about anything other than love songs. But its not a love song, or at least not one that can be used by anyone else. She conceads to make a song about love, but in fact makes it an anti-lovesong. The Mills and Boon video just goes so perfectly with this. It just highlights the “You want me to do something more girly and traditional? Fine. Here. The ultimate in Girly and traditional. Hah!” aspect all the more. After which she can go back to singing about getting a morgage or trying to get into a club again. I love it.

Thinking of Lily Allen, I’ve recently started trying to teach myself about Hip Hop using Pandora, and had been listening to and much enjoying Common’s Drivin’ Me Wild, without realising it was with her. Fantastic. My conversion to Hip Hop after years of hating it, embarrassingly enough, came about during a departmental seminar given by an anthropologist recently. Her talk was really inspiring – and opened my eyes (or perhaps, ears) to the fact that there’s a lot more to Hip Hop than the crap played on the Chicago radios. In particular, she talked about this video by Common, that everyone loved because its set in Chicago… (plus its a great song). Given that one of the main points of her talk was to describe the significance of the concept of place in Hip Hop, its kind of amusing how excited we all were to see ‘our’ city.

Hm, finding out about pop-culture through a seminar. How sad is that? Almost as sad as admitting that Take That look sexy… There is no hope for me.


[Additional note: Thinking of re-evaluating old songs once you see the music video, what the fuck was that all about??]