unabashed rants

I Know It’s Over, But It Never Really Began: Spotify Free

The party’s finally over, then. Anyone firing up Spotify today will have been directed to an ‘important announcement’ about the future of Spotify. They try to put the usual positive spin on it, mentioning how great it is that we’ve all embraced Spotify as tool for listening to and discovery of music, how it’s helping fight piracy, etc, etc. “…So it’s vital that we continue offering an on-demand free service to you and millions more like you, but to make that possible we have to put some limits in place going forward.” Long PR story short: as of the first of May, Spotify Free will be limited to 10 hours per month, individual tracks limited to five free listens. Which Spotify try to say won’t matter, because their research shows people use Spotify to discover new music. Which is all well and good, and justifies the ‘5 free listens’ model. And 10 hours, they point out, is 20 albums anyway! …Per month. Because who listens to more than 20 albums/200 songs in a month, eh? Anyone who followed last week’s Music Diary can see that I rely almost entirely on Spotify for my music listening. Since its features exploded this time last year, it is the only piece of music software I ever use. The announcement refers to users “giving up on piracy”, and it being “exactly what we hoped would happen”. Full disclosure time: Spotify genuinely is what killed a lifetime habit of heavy music piracy for me. I haven’t illegally downloaded anything for well over a year, and my hard-drive is free of ill-gotten MP3s. I know, I know, I’m a saint. But save your rosaries: with this change, for me, piracy has become a lot more attractive as an option. …I’m being idealistic again. I know that. Whenever I interviewed bands and threw a Spotify question in, they seemed sceptical. We’re not seeing any money from it, was the consensus. No-one really seemed to understand Spotify’s business model. And so the party had to end. But that never seems to make the hangover any easier, does it?

Number One, #3

I am doing this, for the first time, before knowing the result. The chart unfolds before us. Ooh, exciting, eh? So, in the meantime, let’s catch up on the missed weeks of hott Number One Hits. Looking at what I’ve missed, I see I’m going to hate myself for doing this… FOUR WEEKS AGOKaty Perry – California Gurls Again. One time too many, by my reckoning. Was it even still sunny? THREE WEEKS AGOThe Club is Alive – JLSWhat exactly keeps the pop-Frankenstein that is JLS alive baffles me. What sustenance feeds this monster? The hearts of young gullible girls, and mid-twenties girls who should know better, snatched late at night? When it lifts – argh – it lifts its shirt, to show what lies beneath, is the correct response not to be repulsed? The Club is Alive is a perfect example of this shambling undead mess. Look how it masquerades as one of us, so desperate to convince us it is ‘Alive’ at it assembles itself from a set of below-adequate parts. A weird The Sound of Music sample, as shown to be pop-poison by Gwen Stefani not all that long ago. Bargain-bin electro-effects, cheap tinny synths and melting voices. The refrain “you can be the DJ, I can be the dancefloor/you can get up on me” which apart from its failings to make any sense as an analogy, doesn’t even sound snappy. 1, 2, 3, bleeding 4… You question which element, exactly, came first and was considered good enough to have a song built around it. This is not just poorly reanimated pop, it is the Tesco Value Frankenstein, a sellotaped-together selection of dull, unattractive parts that do not add up to a whole.(The chart countdown reveals that it won’t be this All Time Low song that makes #1. Phew.)TWO WEEKS AGOAirplanes – B.o.B. (feat. Hayley Williams)So, if M.I.A. is Maya, this guy is Bob? That’s just not good enough for pop music. Fittingly, neither is this. Which is where I could finish. It’s certainly not as deserving of my ire as JLS, being a moderately good song. Bringing in mediocre female rock vocals in actually hurts the song, which when Bob’s flow gets going – apart from the annoying tendency to drop at the end of a line – has a certain urgency to it. But the chorus sounds like generic R&B trying to do Evanescence and, that being the bit we’ve all heard over and over for the last month, makes this song’s ubiquity … a bit hurtful, really. Did we not learn the first time, people? (And it’s not Eminem which … I’m actually a bit gutted about. I haven’t had chance to take any of the new Eminem stuff apart yet, and I am hungry to do so. Know this, Mr Mathers: I continue to be Very Disappointed in you.) ONE WEEK AGOWe No Speak Americano – Yolanda Be Cool vs D-CupThis is more like it. Summer novelty hit which I can’t actually quite get my head round. It’s like – along with that Stereo Love song – an attempt to reclaim the viral europop people used to bring back in their heads and their mouths from holidays on the Mediterrenean and have to find on tape back at home, if only to inoculate themselves. Where that song takes a pure retro route, however, this one is that phenomenon described to a DJ of five years in the future, whose record collection only stretches as far back as this January. It bends, flexes, plays with the raw materials in its metallic paws. It is an effortless Number One. I am congratulating it more than I probably actually like it as a song, because it is a Pop Hit Designed Only For Chart Domination and it is only proper and right that this was achieved. And we return, just in time for the announcement of This Week’s Official UK Chart Number One. And it is… TODAYNeYo – Beautiful Monster The radio announcement that convinced me I had to return to this idea, right now, was that the three possibilities for a number one were NeYo, Flo Rida and Tinchy Stryder. The way they meld into a generic internet-R&B-superstar-name-generator mush. It’s the names, for one. I forgot to add the name on first posting, and I genuinely had to check which one it was. I can’t tell them apart even by their ridiculous monickers, and the music – of course – doesn’t help. The Worst Bit:The lyrics, in the opening particularly, are delivered slowly enough to be actively painful. The My-First-Metaphor, the obvious rhymes, are so easy to spot you’d have to be politely looking away not to notice.The Best Bit:There are ’90s videogame noises which build, chopping, under the song at various points. There’s one bit where it actually sounds like it’s building to strobing lasers and , but it doesn’t go anywhere more than a slightly louder repetition of the chorus. But for one moment, there’s a thrilling promise. …I’m almost upset I used up my Frankenstein’s monster analogy on JLS, but maybe it would have been too obvious, given the title. It really does sound like one of the parts that was found at the roadside and stitched together for that monstrosity, though. But here’s the thing: while it was never going to reach the Gaga One, the pop-deity its title oh-so-subtly invokes, Beautiful Monster doesn’t even have the balls to be as terrible as JLS’ beast.

Like a final, fatal LiveJournal entry…

I am sitting in a room, different to the one you are sitting in. I am watching a television: on mine, Peter Andre is talking about Eminem. Perhaps he is on yours too. Now Edith Bowman is begging us to vote, please give us your money and keep watching, just don’t stop watching. And, hopefully, one part of this scenario will have jumped out and, frankly, slapped you in the face. In Edith’s words “Superfan Peter Andre is telling us why Eminem deserves the title of the World’s Greatest Pop Artist of all time.” Peter Andre. Superfan Peter Andre.He just told us that since Eminem’s comeback, “nothing matters” (including explicitly in that the death of his friend Bizarre). It meant nothing. Not now Eminem’s Relapsed. I’ve discussed my feelings on the comeback before. But I do love Eminem. However, Peter’s (obviously fully informed) speech tells us that he was the first person to inject any kind of edginess or controversy or, it is implied, politics into hip-hop. He was the first important white person in rap. Please, be quiet, Chuck D, Erik B, Beasties, and allow your erasing from pop history. This overstating of Eminem’s importance is starting to get at me now. I can understand the discussion of Eminem’s lyrics by an English Professor, and to be honest he’s the most relevant figure in a series of talking heads featuring James Morrison, Lemar, and some actors. But the claim of Eminem as a modern Shakespeare isn’t just hyperbolic- it’s fairly obviously not even accurate. Oh wait, have to stop writing. Up Next… Eminem The New Elvis.