The charts went mental this week in the UK. Usually I would only talk about the Number One single, but since that hasn’t changed hands I don’t have to, and the number two spot has ended up being MUCH more interesting.
In case you have spent the past week on Mars, I should remind you that this past Monday former Prime Minister Maragret Thatcher died. Idolised by the right, despised by the left, she was an incredibly controversial figure and, as the right wing press fell over themselves to canonise her, some people on the left openly celebrated her passing. I wouldn’t usually talk politics on this site, much less in this series, but I should contextualise all that I’m about to say. In the political spectrum I’m pretty far to the left (certainly farther to the left than any mainstream British party). I loathed what Margaret Thatcher stood for, though I’m only old enough to have more vivid memories of her successor John Major, and I loathe what her party continues to stand for…
With that said, I do not celebrate or revel in her death. I didn’t celebrate Saddam Hussein’s death, I didn’t celebrate Osama Bin Laden’s death, I didn’t celebrate Harold Shipman’s death. Any death is potentially a tragedy for someone, and we shouldn’t celebrate that. However, that doesn’t mean that we have to swear off being critical of a person or their legacy when they die, just because that may be seen as insensitive. I feel Thatcher’s legacy is poisonous, and the way the right has tried to suggest that any debate about that is despicable and offensive since Monday is ludicrous.
So, what does this have to do with the charts? I hear you ask. Well, somebody came up with the idea of campaigning to get this song to the UK number one spot, and the country lost its collective shit. Please note that I’m not endorsing this video’s commentary.
I’m not sure where I stand on this. I wasn’t one of the 50,000+ people who bought it this week, and I don’t find it immoral that others did, because that in itself isn’t a celebration of an 87 year old woman’s death, but as satire goes it’s a little blunt for my taste, and I tend to feel that it’s obscured the debate that should be swirling around what she DID by focusing it on a stupid song and whether A: it would reach number one and B: if it did, the BBC would play it on the official chart show.
If you were going to run a campaign to get an anti-Thatcher song at number one this week, I’d have gone for this: a profane but relevant song about the legacy she left
The biggest problem, I think, hasn’t been the song itself, but the way that the BBC and the media have reacted to the song and the campaign to get it to number one. Apparently the chart show has changed since I last listened to it (about 15 years ago, to be fair) and they don’t now play every song in the Top 40, as they used to. That said, they apparently usually play every new entry in full. Except in this case. In the end the BBC didn’t play the entire song, but instead bent over backwards to contextualise it. They invited a reporter from Radio 1’s news show, Newsbeat, on to explain the events that had led up to this song charting, but then only played a seven second clip of the song, before offering a couple of vox pops on whether people thought the campaign had been appropriate.
Ultimately I think this was the worst of all possible worlds in terms of how the BBC might have handled this particular controversy, because not only does it hand victory to the likes of the Daily Mail (because the song wasn’t played in its full 51 second ‘glory’), but it also gave them license to complain in articles like THIS that an ‘unrepentant’ BBC had still played the ‘offending’ lyrics.
All in all, everyone lost this argument. It was a stupid argument, about a stupid song, an unfunny stunt, and ultimately the only interesting thing that has come out of it is the only sub 60 second Top 10 entry to date. It was an odd week for pop in the UK, but not really a good one.
This is number one. It’s by Bruno Mars. It’s not terrible, but it’s not for me.
I really don’t have anything half as interesting as I said about the UK charts this week to say about this, so let’s just move on and resume normal service next week.
Pop Record of the Week
Okay, so this isn’t brand new, but this second single from Paramore‘s fourth album, which came out last Monday, is an infectious, bouncy, pop-rocker, powered along by Hayley Williams. It’s also a nice lyrical balance, with Williams clearly growing up and writing about a long term relationship but retaining her youthful, excitable, outlook.
We’ll have more on Paramore in an upcoming I Shouldn’t Like This, but…