Which decade is Tops for Pops? – the results: 5th place.

5th place – The 1980s. (23 points)

2007: 4th place, 27 points.
2006: 3rd place, 33 points.
2005: 1st place, 34 points.
2004: 3rd place, 30 points.
2003: 2nd place, 35 points.

10. The Jack That House Built – Jack ‘N’ Chill. 1 point.
9. Shake Your Love – Debbie Gibson. 1 point.
8. Valentine – T’Pau. 1 point, least popular.
7. Say It Again – Jermaine Stewart. 1 point.
6. When Will I Be Famous – Bros. 2 points.
5. Beat Dis – Bomb The Bass. 4 points.
4. Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car – Billy Ocean. 2 points.
3. Tell It To My Heart – Taylor Dayne. 4 points.
2. I Think We’re Alone Now – Tiffany. 5 points, most popular.
1. I Should Be So Lucky – Kylie Minogue. 2 points.

wd1988Oh, Eighties! Whatever happened, that a once mighty decade should sink so low?

Five years ago, the 1983 chart was so strong that the results had to be decided by tie-break. Three years ago, the 1985 chart emerged as our outright champion. Last year, the 1987 chart hit a record low – and this year, the shoddy sounds of 1988 have disgraced the entire decade.

Although things picked up a little towards the end, with respectable placings for Bomb The Bass and Taylor Dayne and even a lone victory for Tiffany, 1988 was never going to recover from that disastrous opening run of four consecutive last places: Jack ‘N’ Chill, Debbie Gibson, T’Pau and Jermaine Stewart.

And time and again, the same complaint was voiced in the comments box: it was that cheap, tinny, synthetic production job that you hated the most, be it from Jack ‘N’ Chill’s Woolworths-own-brand take on house music, from the brash aspirationalism of Bros, or from the rattling and clattering of cut-price diva Taylor Dayne.

I have been revisiting and refining a favourite theory over the past couple of weeks: namely that towards the end of each decade, chart pop drops a generation, leaving those who thought that pop was always going to grow with them feeling scornful and betrayed. In this instance – and as someone who was a 26 year old DJ in an “alternative” nightclub at the time, I can speak with some measure of authority – it was Kylie, Tiffany and Bros who grated on our sensibilities the most (the equally youthful Debbie Gibson being too marginal a figure to care about). God, but we hated them all with a passion: they were “production line”; they were “plastic”; they endorsed Thatcherist values (whether they knew it or not, but WE COULD TELL); and they were everything that some of us hated disco music for in the late 1970s (“mindless brainwash music for the masses”).

Meanwhile, in a handful of clubs in the London area, a new movement was brewing which would provide pop’s next great paradigm shift. Like the paradigm shift of punk before it, acid house (and its close siblings, techno and rave) never really dominated the charts; instead, they had to content themselves with Changing Everything. Down at my club night, we were already transforming the venue with home-made smiley-faced banners; a month or so later, we even gave away matching badges to everyone who walked through the door. There were faint clues in the Bomb The Bass record, and there would be stronger clues in a couple of future Number Ones: Theme From S-Express and The Only Way Is Up.

A seminal year for youth culture it might have been; but at our chosen point in time, it was still a shit period for chart pop. Better luck next year, eh?

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