[1] Taylor Swift, ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’

Taylor Swift

Junior’s favourite bit is the line “hide away and find your peace of mind with some indie record that’s much cooler than mine” – as much for the delivery, of course, as the actual lyric. Taylor Swift has grown up, become caustic. When she called a boy “mean” on Speak Now, well, that was never going to cut anyone to the quick. But she has the arsenal now. Where once a chap could make “a rebel of a careless man’s careful daughter” now he just bleats away on the phone while Taylor rolls her eyes, exhausted.

When this starts, with its curious forestalled guitar intro where ‘No Scrubs’ and ‘Long Train Running’ meet, Junior shouts, “Taylor!” That’s the crossover talking. I’ve mixed feelings – I loved Fearless and Speak Now but can’t begrudge her smart step into the straight-up pop market. She should be heard by everyone and this is a wonderfully joyous, barbed, free, sarky, emboldened record to pull that trick with. It does everything right, with glee.

So all hail Taylor Swift’s leap up from billion-seller to billion-and-one-seller. She’s really made it now.

Next up, Junior and I will tackle 1980 and get all tiresome about Dexys Midnight Runners. Although I think I said that last year.

[2] Solange, ‘Losing You’


Solange Knowles is a hipster. Just look at those hips move!

She’s also a great popstar who possibly never will be. That’s all about where you align yourself too – no one ever had No.1s hanging out with of Montreal, Dirty Projectors or Dev Hynes. I met Hynes about four years ago, standing at the back of a We Are Scientists gig. I asked him what he was doing there and he told me he was a friend of the band. Five minutes later he’d disappeared only to burst onto the stage with a grin as wide as his hat, toting an acoustic guitar. That’s what he does, pop up all over the place having a whale of a time and alchemising absolutely zero hits.

In Solange he has a muse for his True Blue instincts and in purely melodic terms it’s working just fine. In fact, in pure pop single terms it’s working just “fantastic” according to Junior 2 and I’m right there with her. ‘Losing You’ is sweetly heartbreaking but so spry it feels like hope. Still, the whoops and clattering beats are just the party happening outside while Solange frets within.

Junior sulks about the strawberry bits in her yoghurt. Somewhere a clock chimes.

[3] Ellie Goulding, ‘Anything Could Happen’

Ellie Goulding

This is big in my house. It could hardly fail with all those “ee-ee-ee-ee”s and the increasingly manic yowls of “I know it’s gonna be” that Junior 2 apes perfectly even when it’s not playing. Junior herself has a rather unsettling ‘hoochie mama’ dance to accompany it, and I’m always sent by the sheer pop vastness of the song. The only dissenting voice is Junior 3 who wants to hear, “Na-na-na-na baby give it up give it up baby give it up”.

I know we were all supposed to be blinded by Ellie Goulding’s talent a couple of years ago but I couldn’t hear anything that wasn’t flimsy. Weak squash. Something was there but it could’ve benefited from some concentrated flavour. I can hear that here. ‘Anything Could Happen’ has sonic force, a crucial shiver in its first verse and sees Goulding switch her setting from cutesy to gutsy as the synth barricades go up.

[4] Everything Everything, ‘Cough Cough’


You can understand why Everything Everything get up a few noses. Jonathan Higgs’ swooping – unexpected, unpredictable, frequently falsetto – vocals, the tricksy time signatures, the nonsensical name (from Underworld’s ‘Cowgirl’, right?), the boilersuits, the spelling (‘My Kz Ur Bf’), the faces, the rainforests, the civil wars, the dearth, the surplus, the rapacious zeal of the banking system, the government, the abundance of channels but nothing worth watching.

Good though, aren’t they? If anything, ‘Cough Cough’ is a softening of the EE proposition but it’s still as jerky – in tempo, in vocal delivery – as any of their greatest nose-getting-up moments and is nothing like any conventional pop you’re familiar with. Even so, it has a proper chorus of peaks and higher peaks, an ideas-crammed compactness and the exuberant pride of the daft.

Inevitably it’s greeted with a lot of forced coughing around here, which makes a change from the involuntary torrent of the last couple of weeks, and Junior seems to know swathes of the rabbiting lyrics. She doesn’t even look annoyed.

[5] Girl Unit, ‘Ensemble (Club Mix)’

Girl Unit

A bit more chirpy than the startling ‘Wut’ from a couple of years back, ‘Ensemble (Club Mix)’ – lead track from the Club Rez EP – is no less brilliant and sees Mr Unit morph his UK bass into UK slap bass funk. Like an electro Chakk. Or an unembarrassing Level 42 without Joseph and Emily in the backseat. Or, according to vague consensus in my kitchen, a driving scene from Ferris Bueller. So, a funky synth-sharding Yello that warrants the sand dance and a few shimmies from Junior and some rhythmic head-nodding from Junior 2 while she draws pictures of Moshi Monsters. I can’t help thinking that’s exactly what Girl Unit wants.

[6] Hot Chip, ‘Let Me Be Him’

Hot Chip

“All Hot Chip songs sound the same,” says Junior’s mum and then attempts to sing ‘Over And Over’ and ‘Ready For The Floor’ over the top. I don’t think that’s right. In fact I always argue they’re wildly variable – but, um, I’m just talking quality there, aren’t I? They have a certain mode and occasionally enhance it with a spine-shivering hook, that’s the Hot Chip way. A singles band? They’re probably the most consistent presence in my year-end charts but I can never go crazy about their albums, so yeah. Which makes it all the weirder that ‘Let Me Be Him’ is just an album track.

Half a dozen singles from an OK album and you don’t release the best track?

Junior’s kinder, if a bit avant-garde. She breakdances in slow motion then tries to imitate Hot Chip’s banks of synths on her Nintendo DS. Hey Alexis, Joe, Al, the others – you’re inspiring a whole new generation!

I don’t quite know where the song’s going. Let me be “him” – who? Your man? The guy with all the ideas? Everything I ever wanted to be? But words are just adornments when the central pull of ‘Let Me Be Him’ is a wordless chorus, somewhere between Enigma’s ‘Return To Innocence’ and New Kids On The Block’s ‘You Got It (The Right Stuff)’. It’s neither as hammy nor as airheaded as those though. It’s a euphoric, embracing release that draws us into Hot Chip’s circle, bathes us in the generosity that characterises all their best work. And this is one of their best.

[7] Carly Rae Jepsen, ‘Call Me Maybe’

Carly Rae Jepsen

It’s easy to insinuate a pop song into the global consciousness: take a low synth thrum/quiet storm verse that suggests a Kelly Clarkson explosion without the mess, surge off into clipped disco strings instead, nail a killer melody and – here’s the thing – write a lyric people will talk about (and remember). “Why is this crazy? People do it all the time.” It’s the cute conceit that makes everyone want to cover it – and that snowballs into a phenomenon. See? Easy. Carly Rae Jepsen is almost incidental, but she can do naive excitement, sounds like she’s feeling it and is the untarnished face of a novelty.

Sometimes everything just meets. I started Jukebox Junior as a fun way to get me writing – it worked, it grew, it changed my life – and back then I had a willing audience. Well, she was trapped in a bouncy chair and flapped her arms if she liked a bassline or simple, direct tune. But you can’t stop a person growing up. I never meant to brainwash her anyway, but of course she’s developed her own tastes. She’s a seven-year-old girl. She likes One Direction, she likes David Guetta’s fast-track hooks even more. I’m not saying she doesn’t enjoy some of the songs she’s introduced to here, just that the thrill of recognition always triumphs. She’s got a whole routine for ‘Call Me Maybe’ and that’s something I’ve never seen before. So there you are, maybe this place can become an exchange of knowledge as she engages more completely with pop and I continue to lose bits of myself to Steely Dan.

[8] of Montreal, ‘Dour Percentage’

of Montreal

A time-lapse photograph of Prince holding a blooming flower.

Junior 2 whips out a guitar, Junior whips out an air guitar. Junior likes how “the drum goes”, Junior 2 likes “the jungle”.

[9] Plan B, ‘iLL Manors’

Plan B

Naturally the “OI!”s go down well in a household of barely controlled chaos, but Junior collects her thoughts calmly enough to say, “I like the beat”. There’s a lot to like in Plan B’s lurch back from the New Boring brink. It tackles the UK riots in Janet and John style for the hard-of-understanding and mixes Shostakovich strings and tin drums to scintillating effect.

There’s a kind of livid satire here too though. The rich boy’s scorned, but the chorus is knowingly yobbish. B’s pretty unimpressed either way.

[10] Frank Ocean, ‘Pyramids’

Frank Ocean

Would you believe it? Even when he was plain old for all we know heterosexual Frank Ocean, he was making records to prop you up and take notice. I know! ‘Pyramids’ seems like an age ago – possibly a side effect of it spanning millennia in a blood-twisting Heinleinian odyssey through Cleopatra’s personal development – but everyone was rupturing their own spleens in excitement at how damned amazing it was. And is. Ocean sings with total commitment and that peculiar connection he has whatever the subject, as centuries pass and slow jamz turn to beetling grooves. It’s a bold achievement from a bold man, and beams in here as an earthly representative of album of the year Channel Orange – we could’ve had Sweet Life, Thinkin Bout You, Forrest Gump, Bad Religion, even that glorious cover, but this is your handy Frank Ocean grab bag megamix.

“I prefer Wiley.” Thanks kid.