Which Decade is Tops for Pops? (7/10) – 2005 edition.

Although the votes are still coming in, it’s already clear that voting on the Number Fives has been particularly decisive. Out of 26 votes cast thus far, 21 of you put Dead Or Alive in 1st place, and 14 of you put Beardy McSnoWash & Delta Goodrim (thanks David) in last place. Pop justice? ‘Twas never more true.

Will there be another runaway winner with today’s selection? I can’t quite tell which way you’re going to jump. As far away from them as possible? Yes, thank you, that man at the back. OK, release the traps… it’s the Number Fours!

1965: Keep Searchin’ (We’ll Follow The Sun) – Del Shannon
1975: Sugar Candy Kisses – Mac & Katie Kissoon
1985: Dancing In The Dark – Bruce Springsteen
1995: Cotton Eye Joe – Rednex
2005: Soldier – Destiny’s Child (featuring T.I. & Lil’ Wayne)
Listen to a short medley of all five songs.

With the last sizable hit of his career, poor old Del Shannon sounds even more like a man out of time than he did this time two years ago, with 1963’s Little Town Flirt (no, I can’t remember how it goes, either). This time round, I find that Keep Searchin‘s stylistic anachronisms actually work in its favour. Either that, or I’ve developed a certain fondness for that whip crack-away Wild West sound.

However. Ladies: 1965 wasn’t exactly a great time for you, was it? First, we had Uncle Val slobbering over your “special years”, twixt pinafore and pinney. Then we had Eric Burdon doing the old “I might rough you up a bit, but it’s only because I really love you” routine. Next came Wayne “Heterosexuality: It’s The Law!” Fontana and his Notbenders. And now here’s Cowboy Del, coming to your rescue, and carrying you off on horseback into the Colorado sunset. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Except for these tell-tale lines, not uttered until you’re safely mounted and five miles out of town:

Doesn’t matter, doesn’t matter what people might say; she’s mine and I’m gonna take her anyway.

Out of the f**king frying pan, eh girls? It’s all so gosh-darned unreconstructed! Can’t wait for that Summer Of Love to come along! In the meantime, just smile sweetly and knee the bastards in the knackers. Yes, I think that would be for the best.

Where 1965 snarls, 1975 is content to merely simper. Coming over like a cheapo K-Tel version of The Stylistics, Mac & Katie Kissoon‘s bubblegum Philly soul is all huggles and snuggles, kissums and swoons, big felt hearts and crepe paper flowers, skipping hand-in-hand through poppy fields in matching corduroy dungarees. (None of which stopped K from mis-hearing the lyrics as “You sucked me off my seat” and getting the giggles, but what can you do?)

After the hits dried up and Mac “split the scene”, Katie went on to become a much in-demand session singer. Examine any British album sleeve from the 1980s, and there she’ll be in the small print. Backing vocals: Katie Kissoon and Tessa Niles. (You never seemed to get Katie without Tessa.) Nice work if you can get it. Well played, Katie.

And now for Bruce Springsteen, over whom I feel horribly conflicted. On a base level, my instant reaction to Dancing In The Dark is to cringe – but only at the associations. We’re back to the snooty student Mister Trendypants again, I’m afraid, sneering at all the uncool supply teachers getting sweaty and living the lyrics just a little too much.

Which, by the same token, is why Dancing In The Dark is such a classic. While I may have had no truck with Bruce – too earnest, too self-consciously “ordinary”, not my musical idiom – this, for me, is his one great defining pop moment. Maybe it’s because with this song, he manages to define and describe a particular state of mind, or stage of life, which no-one had managed to identify before. It cuts through. It registers. It strikes a mass popular chord with such power and accuracy that it’s almost embarrassing to admit to it.

Like so many great pop songs, Dancing In The Dark manages to work on an individual and a collective level at the same time. Listening to it on your own, you can connect with a mass consciousness outside of yourself. Listening to it on a dancefloor, or in a stadium, you can feel that it has been written just for you. It’s a big dumb party song with an intensely personal resonance. Some people think it’s just a big dumb party song. But you know better.

From the sublime to… hillbilly handbag house from Sweden, obviously. Like any reasonable sentient being, I loathed and detested Rednex when they inflicted this insidious little ditty upon us. (Indeed, my former guest blogger Danny has a particularly painful memory of it.) With the passing of the years, and now that Cotton Eye Joe can no longer be construed as the active enemy of all that is good and pure and true, I find that I have mellowed to it considerably. Why, I even caught myself smiling once or twice at some of the harmonica licks. Let’s move swiftly on…

…to Destiny’s Child, who have now been having hit singles for, I shit you not, seven whole years. My, but the years just whizz past when you get to this age.

It would appear that Destiny’s Child, like Michael Jackson before them, have now attained that level of surreal superstardom which completely cuts them off from the rest of the human race. Airbrushed and CGI-ed to perfection, they scarcely even seem real any more. You know that obscenely huge amounts of money are being spent on them, that whole divisions of multi-national corporations are dedicating themselves to them, and that the budget for Soldier alone could probably wipe out Third World debt in a trice. Indeed, listening to the inevitable who-the-chuff-are-they? guest rappers, I found myself thinking: Hah, you couldn’t even afford Destiny’s Child for the whole track! You had to drag in this bunch of no-marks to make up the numbers!

It makes me laugh, though. All that money. All those committees. All those strategic planning meetings, with sales figures plotted on gold-leaf graph paper. And still the song is a complete dog. Ha ha ha! You can’t buy inspiration!

I can sort of see what was being aimed for here: that stripped down, repetitive, less-is more “crunk” vibe, coupled with an “ooh them sexy soldiers” lyric that is presumably meant to enshrine Beyoncé and the girls as latter-day Forces Sweethearts. R&B Vera Lynns, if you will. But dear God, does it ever fall flat. Compare this to the might of Ciara and Ashanti, then hang your heads in shame.

UPDATE: Yikes, I’ve done it again! As several people have noted, the version of Cotton Eye Joe on this MP3 is not the same as the dancier version that got to Number One in the UK. WHY CAN’T PEOPLE JUST RECORD ONE VERSION OF THE SONG AND LEAVE IT AT THAT? Sheesh! (There was an Armand Van Helden remix of this as well, believe it or not. Bet he doesn’t like to be reminded of that one – but hey, we’ve all got to eat.)

Nevertheless, the version we have here sounds familiar enough … the vocals, the whoops, the fiddle … so maybe it’s just the rhythm track which is different. Perhaps this is Rednex Unplugged?

Worry not, tender souls – I’m not about to inflict a revised MP3 upon you. This sounds to me like the better version of the two – and besides, Rednex need all the help they can get, as they’re already trailing in last position.

My votes: 1 – Bruce “The Boss” Springsteen. 2 – Del “Ride ’em Cowboy” Shannon. 3 – Mac & Katie Kiss-Swoon. 4 – Rednex. 5 – Destiny’s Child featuring PiPi and PoPo.

Over to you. As Dead or Alive whup Brian and Delta’s collective asses, so the 1980s take first position back from the 2000s. Meanwhile, the 1960s are closing the gap at the back. Will The Boss send the 1980s surging further ahead? Or are we all having a group re-think about the Rednex? And if this version of Sugar Candy Kisses turns out to be a shonky remake, will anyone even care? Perspective, people!

Running totals so far – Number 4s.

1985: Dancing In The Dark – Bruce Springsteen (139)

  • Bruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuce. It’s no exaggeration to say that it took me fifteen years to get around to liking this song. In fact, I’m hard pressed to think of another song that I disliked so much then but love so much now. Maybe “Billie Jean”. Anyhow, it’s Fleetwood Mac’s “Gypsy” with the drums turned up to 11. You must dance! (Barry)
  • Loved it then. Love it now, right down to the simple but effective music video with Courtney Cox pretending to be a regular gal. It’s a party song- it’s an anthem- it’s all its own. (asta)
  • Well, it’s the Boss, innit? Springsteen in his glory years, stadium rock at its proudest, instantly recognisable and rabble-rousing from the opening bars. They don’t come better than this. (Nigel)
  • This was the tune that really turned me onto The Boss, long after the really cool people but just before the mass circulation media. Oh boy, I’m rocking in my dressing gown and slippers. Quite possibly the very best track so far in this year’s compilation. (Gert)
  • You either love him or loathe him… I came late but love him. This is not like him at all yet all the more wonderful for that. (NiC)
  • Always reminds me of reading Chris Claremont X-Men for some reason. Took me a while to come round to Bruce, too – I still only really like his pop stuff. Of which this is a supreme example. I also like how people who hate “crappy 80s music” often love Bruce and this despite it boasting one of the cheesiest synth sounds ever put to ‘wax’. (Tom)
  • Yes, nothing wrong with this. Pop Bruce is good. Not as good as Big Overblown Spectoresque Bruce, but lightyears ahead of Honest Stripped Down Bruce. (KoenS)
  • It doesn’t get much better than danceable Bruce tunes. He ain’t the boss of me though. (djg)
  • (“open the *limo’s* sunroof, I’m gonna hurl!”) real memory, real moment… Not a bad song, But Bruce always had a joe cocker aspect that made me uncomfortable. It does adequately represent the times. (timothy)
  • Isn’t this about having to write a song when he’s got nothing to say? Would beat Del if it weren’t for those horrible drums. Is it Clearmountain or someone? (Alan Connor)
  • Only liked it when I was snogging some bloke, and then only cos no bloke ever wanted to snog me before. He had a tongue like a broomstick. Yuck. (Clare)
  • I cannot even bring myself to type his name, or his self-aggrandising nickname. This is one of the first songs that I can remember ever truly despising, sung by a sleeveless man who has made more money out of being “working class” than the entire working class of the Western world put together. Having said that, “Born To Run” was a cracking good song…..by Frankie Goes To Hollywood. (Simon H)

1965: Keep Searchin’ (We’ll Follow The Sun) – Del Shannon (103)

  • This is the first good 60s track we’ve had, it sounds like a brazen attempt to keep ‘up to date’, fusing beat elements to Shannon’s basic unchanging style. Almost as driving as Rednex. (Tom)
  • Oh good, a cowboy song! Teenage Angst, given a slap-leather make-over. Simply crying out for a Shangri-Las cover, however. (Nigel)
  • I was only one year old, but It is nostalgic, Life was so simple then. (timothy)
  • …the chorus is so ridiculous that it had me laughing out loud in an empty room. * searchin’ searchin’* hahahahahaaaaaa (asta)
  • Hysterical. I too was giggling aloud, alone, a loon. (David ex-Swish)
  • Del’s maybe-madness in other songs like “Hats Off To Larry” makes me think this is an alternate ending to one of them, and makes me like his voice enough to warm to this cold fish. (Alan Connor)
  • Anything that vaguely smells like “Runaway” is good enough. Well, for third place. (KoenS)
  • Del Shannon. He sounds the same no matter what he does. No worse or better than any of the others. (jo)

1975: Sugar Candy Kisses – Mac & Katie Kissoon (87)

  • Never heard this before but i like it. Sounds like a sitcom/romcom themetune. (djg)
  • Perhaps a little too sugary, but still beautiful. (Simon)
  • I can understand why people liked it then. It’s all of a genre that embraced Three Degrees And foreshadowed Brotherhood of Man. But, so what, it’s bland and forgettable. Roll on 1978, I say. 78 and 81 were the two best years ever for pop music. (Gert)
  • Oh, Katie, my polished and plastic child, have you ever experienced a genuine emotion in your doubtlessly perfect life? Probably not. The kind of sugar-candy crassness which gave the seventies such a bad name. (Nigel)
  • ok, this is why punk happened (hedgerow)
  • I’ve fallen in a vat of molasses. (asta)
  • Nothing is happening. (Alan Connor)

2005: Soldier – Destiny’s Child (featuring T.I. & Lil’ Wayne) (68)

  • I absolutely hated this the first few times I heard it. I thought it was dreary and had no hookline. Then I grew to totally love it.. funny how that can happen. (David Dubmill)
  • (1st place) if only for the dropped last syllable in “cheat’eh’, those Texas girls trying to pull a Bronx accent. Hilarious! (Joe.My.God.)
  • That’s one killer bassline. It’s too bad that there’s nothing else I like about the track. (Barry)
  • …. they’ve had their moments and they sometimes grow but this one has failed to so far. (NiC)
  • On the evidence of their last two singles, they have completely lost their way. A damn shame after some really good singles in the past. (Chig
  • Bloody hell this sounds cheap. Is this the real version Mike? (har har) How the mighty have fallen, it’s no “Bootylicious” let’s face it. (Tom)
  • What on earth have they done to their musical careers? (djg)
  • Used to be a time when a DC single was a fiesta of hooks. This is the absolute antithesis of that. Two guest rappers. Thoroughly unable to rescue this turd. Down the drain. (KoenS)
  • This song is the canary in the coal mine. this group is on life support no matter how many interviews the girls give to the contrary. Shame, because I’ve been a fan. Even the video for this is bad. Because this is just a sample, it spares unfamiliar listeners from finding out that this is all there is. It doesn’t go anywhere. (asta)
  • Dim the lights, get another alcopop from your mum’s fridge and put this on, Shag music for the acne-ridden. Three minutes later and it’s all over, it’s been a massive let-down and a sticky embarrassing mess, and you’re wondering what all the fuss was about. Now, don’t even get me started on the song. (Nigel)
  • The military-industrial-entertainment complex always takes last place. Even if it’s only inadvertent propaganda that hopes to earn more $ as incidental music for news-war-porn, no thank you. Save it for your own mad country. (Alan Connor)

1995: Cotton Eye Joe – Rednex (68)

  • For the love of Mike (see what i did there?) people, do NOT choose ‘1995: Cotton Eye Joe – Rednex’. Do you remember this? Do you? That irritating nasal drone mixed with the yeehaw? Why? Why then, and certainly why now. Don’t do it! (Southern Bird)
  • It takes something for two songs to come lower than this, um, not-sensitive reworking of the tale about an unwanted pregnancy. Michelle Shocked, Terry Callier and Nina Simone don’t make it sound such fun. (Alan Connor)
  • What a lot of awful dance tunes there seem to have been in 95. (djg)
  • And we thought Malcolm McLaren was bad. (Nigel)
  • Is this the original? It sounds even more plastic than I remember. Actually, I shouldn’t even hint at that, or you’ll be digging out other versions and inflicting them on us… (Adrian)
  • This isn’t the version I know. The one I’m used to is in a Euro-trance style. Fortunately, both versions suck, so I’m not conflicted about where to rank this song. (Barry)
  • this is completely the wrong version. I was given a free cdrom of the game which accompanied this single when I bought my first mac, so I regard the (proper) version with a kind of grudging affection, tho’ it wasn’t much of a game, at least it was free. (Dymbel)
  • I appreciate the vocal dynamics, and harmonica is hard to play like that, but why? (timothy)
  • I’m pretty sure I hated on “Cotton Eye Joe” when it first a hit, but it soon got to me and I would find myself singing it (with made up onomatopoeaic sounds for the real lyrics) at odd moments. (zebedee)
  • Heh, heh… hated it at the time but now it makes me smile. (NiC)
  • This is a really good version! Rednex were No.1 in Norway for something like 15 weeks on the trot with this, and were replaced at No.1 for another 10 weeks by their (remarkable) follow-up, “Old Pop In An Oak”. (Tom)
  • (1st place) Yeeeeeeehah! Git down. This is what I call proper music. (Clare)

Decade scores so far (after 6 days).
1 (2) The 1980s (21) — Come on baby, this laugh’s on me!
2= (1) The 2000s (18) — Known to carry big things, if you know what I mean!
2= (2) The 1970s (18) — We can’t let love like ours just fade away!
4 (4) The 1990s (17) — Where did you come from! Where did you go!
5 (5) The 1960s (16) — Gotta keep on the run! We’ll follow the sun!

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