Which decade is Tops for Pops? – the results.

5th place – The 1990s. (26 points)

2006: Equal 4th place, 21 points.
2005: 5th place, 26 points.
2004: 4th place, 27 points.
2003: 5th place, 25 points.

10. Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Dub – Apollo Four Forty. 4 points.
9. Remember Me – Blue Boy. 4 points.
8. Barrel Of A Gun – Depeche Mode. 4 points, most popular.
7. Ain’t Nobody – LL Cool J. 2 points.
6. I Shot The Sheriff – Warren G. 1 point, least popular.
5. Clementine – Mark Owen. 1 point.
4. Don’t Let Go (Love) – En Vogue. 3 points.
3. Don’t Speak – No Doubt. 4 points.
2. Where Do You Go – No Mercy. 1 point.
1. Discotheque – U2. 2 points.

wd90topWell, this is a surprise.

I was expecting a much stronger result for the 1990s this year – especially after the first few rounds of voting, which actually placed them in the lead for a couple of days. There was a brief moment of resurgence towards the end, thanks to reasonable showings from En Vogue and No Doubt – but the combined weight of No Mercy and U2 dragged the decade back down from second place to last place, in just two days.

Whereas all our other decades managed to produce at least one winning song, the 1990s never finished any higher than second place – something which they managed four times (Apollo Four Forty, Blue Boy, Depeche Mode and No Doubt). Thanks to Warren G, Mark Owen and No Mercy, they also managed to finish last on three occasions.

Personally, I think 1997 has been rather hard done by. Looking through the ten songs, I’m struck both by the lack of so-called “manufactured” pop, and by the comparatively uncommercial nature of many of the tracks. “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Dub” and “Remember Me” are club tracks with substance; neither pander to obvious crowd-pleasing formulas. “Barrel of a Gun” and “Discotheque” are similarly uncompromising rock tracks, which make no concessions to daytime radio-friendliness. “Don’t Let Go (Love)” and “Don’t Speak” are mature ballads, which favour emotional integrity over stock schlockiness.

wd90botThis was a period when the radical and controversial changes that Matthew Bannister had introduced at BBC Radio One were starting to bear fruit. With the “Smashy and Nicey” era firmly dead and buried, this was a new, credibility-chasing, almost self-consciously “intelligent” re-incarnation, which was keen to distance itself from the “disposable” – hence the preponderance of slightly more stretching material in the charts.

However, “stretching” does not necessarily equate to “enduring”, and it has been interesting to discover how little some of these tracks are remembered. The age of high new entries and rapid descents was upon us, with its consequent devaluing of the upper end of the charts. “Ain’t Nobody” and “Discotheque” might have reached Number One – but most of us have struggled to remember them, even just ten years on.

1997 was also the year when the Britpop wave started to recede. Blur pointedly turned their back on the genre, and started looking towards American alt-rock acts such as Pavement for inspiration. Oasis brought out the disasterous cocaine-nosebleed that was Be Here Now, and lost ground which they have never fully recovered. Pulp were on extended hiatus, pending the release of the similarly career-dampening This Is Hardcore in 1998. Instead, the year belonged to Radiohead’s OK Computer and The Verve’s Urban Hymns, two albums whose weighty solemnity signalled that the party was drawing to an end.

By the end of the year, the Spice Girls were straddling the globe, paving the way for the resurgence of Robbie Williams in 1998, and for the rise of pure pop acts such as Steps and B*Witched. 1997 thus stands as something of a high water mark for “credibility” in the charts – which is precisely why I was predicting a good result. Perhaps you’re all a good deal more Pop than I had given you credit for.

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