Which Decade Is Tops For Pops? – Year 4 – the Number Sixes.

You might snort at this, but I reckon that this year’s bunch of contenders have been our strongest selection to date. Particularly when compared to the horrors which I have in store for you next year; I sneaked a peek at the Top 10s for mid-February in 1967/1977/1987/1997, and I’m telling you: it ain’t pretty.

So, settle back and enjoy this comparative Golden Age while it lasts, as we wheel out the Number Sixes.

1966: A Groovy Kind Of Love – The Mindbenders.
1976: Love To Love You Baby – Donna Summer.
1986: Borderline – Madonna.
1996: Open Arms – Mariah Carey.
2006: Check On It – Beyonce featuring Slim Thug.
Listen to a short medley of all five songs.

Hah! Battle of the divas, or what? The Mindbenders aside, this pits arguably the most iconic of each decade’s female pop performers against each other. How fabulously representative!

I’ve got to be quick today, so shall have to trust you to form your own judgements (the arrogance!) without much further in the way of introductory nudging. But I will say this much at least:

The Mindbenders: Plodding, clunking and astonishingly primitive, as if mankind were just beginning to grasp the rudiments of songwriting and performing. It’s the cack-handed lack of flow which gets me about this. Well, that and the rubbish rhymes.

Donna Summer: All that pseudo-orgasmic moaning (OR WAS IT?) was so shocking for its time, but now it just sounds kinda kitsch, in a Mayfair/Penthouse period softcore way. However, it’s the essentially teasing, tickling nature of the track which gives it its true eroticism: all foreplay and no climax. (K said that he kept expecting the track to “start properly”.)

Madonna: One of my all-time Top Five Madgetrax, although it belongs more to the spring of 1984 for me. In a word: breezy.

Mariah Carey: Like a parody of everything that’s ridiculous about her grim power ballads. JUST STICK TO THE F**KING TUNE, CAN’T YOU? But then again, the void at the heart of “Open Arms” is precisely its lack of melody, and hence of any discernible direction. What’s left is mere twittering blather. (K said that it sounds like the sort of music that people play to show off their new hi-fi systems.)

Beyonce: Passing quickly over the dubious merits of Slim Thug’s contribution, what I like about this is its almost clockwork herky-jerkiness, which suits Beyonce’s not-quite-human-ness rather well. (Have you ever seen a photo of her that hasn’t been digitally enhanced, or heard her sing without the benefit of similar audio-airbrushing?) I imagine her twitching around to this like a pneumatic, silken-coated wind-up toy. Your fantasies may vary.

My votes: Madonna – 5 points. Donna Summer – 4 points. Beyonce – 3 points. The Mindbenders – 2 points. Mariah Carey – 1 point.

Over to you. Which diva rocks your world, or has your mind been sufficiently “bent” by yet more latter-day Merseybeat? Vote now!

Running totals so far – Number 6s.
1986: Borderline – Madonna. (149)

  • This is one of my all time fave tracks by any artist anytime anywhere, I think I included it in my desert island discs, darlinks – love it! (Tina)
  • pure talent, effortless in its timeless hummability (diamond geezer)
  • All that pop must aspire to. (Koen)
  • Even in my mid 80s sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll, leather jacketed, bleached haired days I acknowledged that Madame Ciccone pumped out an awe inspiring string of hits in that first decade. btw, I lost my virginity in 1984 to ‘Like A Virgin’ on the wireless. Strange, but true. (andy)
  • Back when she was ‘just’ making pop records instead of co-ordinating Events, this is a flawless pop song that’s curiously 1970s flavoured. Best of all, it’s certainly back before she took steps to address the fact that her voice was a bit, well, Disney. (PB Curtis)
  • I was about to say that it’s far from her best, but the snippet provided reminded me it’s a decent little song. Easily the best thing here. (Ben)
  • The strongest song of the five and Madge does a good enough job with it. Like all the others, the sound immediately reveals which decade it’s from. (Will)
  • Not my favourite Madonna song, but it feels very summery. I like the modulation about halfway through this clip. I expect I probbaly danced to this in the heady days of 86… (Gert)
  • I’m not generally a fan but good lord this is a good pop record. (Lord Bargain)
  • Like others not a huge fan, but this song makes my most played on my ipod. It’s ‘Borderline’ and ‘Cherish’ for me. (Chris)
  • I remember, around the time of Like A Virgin, buying Smash Hits specifically for a spread of Madge in something silky. By the time Borderline came out I was all serious head up arse and the woodentops/smiths were as close as I came to pop (I appeared on Here Be Dragonsand had a letter about Johnny Clegg and Savuka published in Folk Roots magazine around this time so you can see how far) and had to pretend I didn’t like it but I did. (dem)
  • Quality there, admittedly, but I’ve never liked her voice. (z)
  • She sounds about 12 years old in this. What staying power. (asta)
  • Nice; boppy; harmless – for me she came into her own later on. (Hedgie)
  • As ever I am immune to the whole Madonna hype, a woman of no discernable talent who realised that if she acted outrageously enough nobody would notice. Proof positive that you can fool most of the people most of the time. (Alan)

1976: Love To Love You Baby – Donna Summer. (128)

  • As a prepubescent schoolboy in South Africa, I remember my English teacher being desperate to obtain a copy of ‘Love to Love You Baby’ after the government banned it. For me it is iconic, legendary, paradigm-shattering and thus easily deseres 5 points. (Hedgie)
  • I can still recall the first time this came on the the car radio while my mother was at the wheel. I was commanded to explain how this in any ” way, shape, or form” was music and why it was allowed on the air. Being neither a music major nor a radio station owner I just sat and cringed, wishing it would end. But my friends and I thought it was the most daring thing around. (asta)
  • When Donna Summers was on, we’d have to turn down the radio or the parents would be sooo embarrassed. (guyana-gyal)
  • Five points – just because I was a teenager in the seventies and this was the soundtrack to a few sleepless nights, if you know what I mean *nudge, nudge, wink, wink* (Alan)
  • Embarrassing memories of this as a teenager when I was too repressed to go ‘all the way’ on the dancefloor. (Lucie)
  • For all that it’s cheesy (and, let’s face it BASE and VULGAR) I bet it’s bloody difficult to er, pull off a record like this, so kudos for that. Also, memorably parodied by Cristina (Diva passim), which we wouldn’t have had the considerable pleasure of without this. (PB Curtis)
  • An orgasm set to music wins every time. (cf. Jane & Serge, Lil’ Louis). (Chig)
  • The ambient orgasm of 1976, a bit of foreplay before 77’s Giorgio Moroder collaboration. (andy)
  • Orgasm or not – it goes on way too long. I detest it. (Chris)
  • To be honest I prefer the Jimi Somerville version, but as 70s disco stuff this is pretty good. and very summery! (Gert)
  • Reminds me of when the old man and I lived in a flat in Elm Avenue in Nottingham, one night our downstairs neighbours played “I feel love” constantly for seven hours – still love her and this track! (Tina)
  • Normally I would expect a bit more structure and variation from song, but this one really does it for me. (Simon C)
  • My least favorite of her 68 hits. But still. (Joe.My.God.)
  • too timid to be sexual, too tinny to be sensual (diamond geezer)
  • dated, not musical, probably would feel different about it if I’d had a girlfriend at the time… (Chris Black)
  • I just wanted to slap her by the time I’d listened to this a couple of times. And not in a good way. (z)
  • About as erotic as a pork scratching flavoured condom. (Ben)

1966: A Groovy Kind Of Love – The Mindbenders. (103)

  • Groovy Kind of Love is just a great song; feels very summery, which is all wrong for a February selection! Proper poppy pop, pop-pickers! (Gert)
  • it’s great to hear the pre-Phil unsanitised original (diamond geezer)
  • Wonderful song, although it really does sound astonishingly primitive! (Simon C)
  • Kinda sweet , kinda clumsy. (asta)
  • Raw, certainly, but I like it far better than the Phil Collins version. (z)
  • Straightforward dad-dancing track. (Lucie)
  • Typically sixties but at least from a time when songwriting was more important than gimmicks. Not terribly original, but the song has held up well over the years. (Alan)
  • My Mum and Dad had this, and I’ve subsequently developed a deep ironic attraction for all the things that are wrong with it. The word “groovy” in particular, which is more memorably deployed by The Turtles (“I really think you’re groovy/Let’s go out to a movie”) with whom The Mindbenders probably share a muse. (PB Curtis)
  • The production, orchestration and performance don’t seem to suit the song, although I suspect I’m under the influence of the Phil Collins version, which – and I can’t believe I’m saying this – I prefer. Fair enough track but, unless you’re Austin Powers, “groovy” dates it somewhat. (Will)

2006: Check On It – Beyonce featuring Slim Thug. (89)

  • Catchy; sexy Beyonce vocals – the contrast between recicative and aria has been with us since Monteverdi. (Hedgie)
  • like it even if it’s a bit “modern” to my elderly ears (Tina)
  • 5 points. When this was first released I hated it. I still think the video is rubbish and the lyrics are ridiculous — but what gets me is how her voice plays off the arrangement. Sue me. I like experimental jazz too. (asta)
  • Not as good as ‘Crazy In Love’, but what is? She can dine out on that one for a bit longer as far as I’m concerned. (Ben)
  • It’s got a good vocal melody, and this contrasts nicely with the stop-start rhythm. (Koen)
  • another tuneful chorus let down by a (c)rap verse (diamond geezer)
  • Could have done without Slim Thug but I agree, it suits her and that’s not meant to be insulting. (z)
  • Really little more than an excuse to shake her booty a lot in the video but there are worse things in the world. (Alan)
  • Points for Beyonce’s voice and the chorus. Points off for the chaps and the repetitiveness. (Will)
  • Oh god. This makes the ones above seem like classics. It’s not just because I’m getting old, is it? But I find it very difficult to find anything to like, let alone love in Noughties pop. (Gert)
  • Would be great if the lyrics, vocals and part of the backing track were removed. (andy)
  • Unlike Mariah Carey, I’m clear that this song is shit. The rinky-dink melody reminds me of the theme to every pre-fives TV show ever made, and is further degraded by the revolting fad of soul divas to “dirty up” their bland piss by including some dork rapping badly. Is “wangstas” even a word? I DON’T THINK SO. (PB Curtis)

1996: Open Arms – Mariah Carey. (41)

  • Every now and again (back in the 90s at least), Mariah Carey could produce an all right, tuneful song. This run-of-the-mill ballad is somewhere between those and the sort of tuneless warbling she does these days. Nice piano bit though. (Will)
  • It would be a great song sung by someone else, but I really don’t like Mariah Carey. I don’t understand how she thinks straining and creeking equals emoting pain. I was watching a programme last night about Piaf, Hollieday, Garland, Callas, and Joplin – now they could do ‘pain’ without pretending they were giving birth. (Gert)
  • Journey’s version was better. And that was a sentence never before written on a blog. (Joe.My.God.)
  • Succeeds in what might have been considered hitherto impossible, that being making the “Journey” original sound like a classic. (Alan)
  • Too much vocal wibble-wobbling: not much of song. (Hedgie)
  • I’m sure she’s single-handedly responsible for the ridiculous amount of warbling present onAmerican Idol et al. (Adrian)
  • Until this selection, I’ve remained happily ignorant of everything about Mariah Carey except that apocryphal starving africans urban myth quote but I now see that she is to blame for all those stupid vocal gymnastics in X Factor auditions. So if nothing else she has given me something to laugh at. (dem)
  • I couldn’t tell the difference between one Mariah Carey song and another if there was money in it for me; they’re all dominated by her “look at me working out my vocal cords” bullshit, so I have no idea whether the song is any good or not. (PB Curtis)
  • Poor mimi lives in her own little world and she’s sucking all the air out of it. (asta)
  • Now every teenager that can’t hold a tune thinks they have talent. Scarey starts each and every ‘song’ with at least 30 seconds in which to search for they right key, followed by a similar time searching in vain for the tune (if one is lurking) (andy)
  • words cannot express how much I hate the arrogant dead-end pompous vocal tricksiness peddled by this vastly overrated warbling automaton… but I’ve had a go (diamond geezer)
  • Phil Collins connects two of these acts: The Mindbenders – Groovy Kind Of Love – Phil Collins – Against All Odds – Mariah Carey. I should make clear now that I HATE Mariah Carey and EVERYTHING SHE F*CK*NG STANDS FOR with a passion. Luckily, this is one of the crappier of her crap songs anyway, so easily comes last. (Chig)
  • I don’t hate this but it is the weakest of the bunch…..she seems to have collected quite a lot of ire from the previous commentators – poor Mariah must be crying all the way to the bank (Tina)
  • I’d better not add to the negative comments here in case she stumbles across this and reprises her washing-up “incident”. Actually, what the hell – this is utter shite. Supremely soulless bombast “sung” by one of the most pointless human beings in existence. (Ben)
  • Close your arms and your mouth Pariah and shut the feck up!!!! (NiC)
  • It used to be the Five Horsemen of the Apocalypse you know. It’s just that the other four couldn’t take any more of her whailing. (Koen)
Decade scores so far:
1 (1) The 1970s (16)
2 (3=) The 1960s (14)
3= (2) The 1990s (11)
3= (3=) The 1980s (11)
5 (5) The 2000s (8)

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