[34] Annie, ‘Heartbeat’

Heartbeat, or Anniemal really

So who’s to blame for Annie’s peculiar lack of chart success?  Is it her? Is it us, the diehard pop fans who only bought one copy of each record? Or is it a shady cabal of music industry insiders, a manipulative coven with a vested interest in undermining Scandinavian pop; perhaps executives who were once hungry A&R people who saw their Number 1 dreams for their acts come to naught at the dread hand of ABBA in the 70s? It looks pretty clear from here.

Because how can pop music this flimsy, this breathy, this shaky on its pins not win the hearts of a nation? It’s better than ‘Fight For This Love’.

Junior says: “I’ve heard this before,” which puts her a step ahead of 60-odd million people in this country. “It sounds like robots.” And just to prove she’s down with Annie, she quietly joins in with the chorus.

Best bit: The first airing for that pumping Motown beat. It sounds like Annie’s heart bashing its way out of her ribcage.

[15] Annie, ‘Chewing Gum’


This is a “nice” song, so says Junior. She might not peg it as all that nice if she knew the dirt behind the lyric – yet AGAIN; what’s with all the naughty female soloists this week? – but it’s just as easy to engage with its surface gloss.

Annie from Norway is a darling of the blogosphere, and that’s pretty much where her darlingness ends. It’s a low down tawdry old shame that these pop scholar artists don’t actually appeal to the pop kids, whether they’re mixing it with Richard X or Xenomania or whoever, and gorgeous albums like Annie’s debut gather dust in the racks. Her second’s suffered an even worse fate, its release postponed endlessly until the label finds a hit – any hit – to give it a launchpad. ‘Chewing Gum’, with its hugely irritating hooks and synthy marvellousness, should’ve been one of those gold dust hits – that it wasn’t is YOUR FAULT.

Oh no:

[3] Robyn with Kleerup, ‘With Every Heartbeat’

Robyn with Kleerup, ‘With Every Heartbeat’

The Swedish popstress graced the charts before, back in the ‘90s, with ‘Show Me Love’. No, not that one. It did nothing to prepare us for this swooning beauty. What did prepare us was the fact that ‘With Every Heartbeat’ had been hanging around for a good year or two, but let’s gloss over that. It hit No.1 this year, so that’ll sway the arbitrary rules.
Sad techno is an occasionally populated genre, yet rarely is it rendered as gorgeously as this. Kleerup provides the synth washes and electric strings, while Robyn drops her standard tough-girl shtick to bare all – emotionally, dirty fans. The building melody is off-the-peg, but delivered with a lump in the throat and when Robyn punctuates every word of the chorus with a caught breath it would be a hard soul to resist. ‘With Every Heartbeat’ is a stunning marker, a genuine sign of a woman who can make the pop world her own. Good old Scandinavia – first Annie, now Robyn… well, first ABBA, then A-ha… then The Cardigans… um, there’s a point here.
Well, Junior was delighted to have it on the turntable, and graced the baby doll with a waltz. She likes the shinier side of pop – a weakness of mine too – perhaps she’s been brainwashed. Anyway, that’s two heart-rending tunes in a row. Time for unfettered joy!

[5] Annie, ‘Heartbeat’

Annie from Norway was the first artist Junior saw live. The second was Saint Etienne, about half an hour later. Junior was minus three weeks old at the time but, with poetic licence, I can imagine that she was watching through her mum’s bellybutton. I’ve never asked her what she thought of Annie. I thought she was rubbish. You could barely hear the vocals and she spent her whole set standing at the back of the stage with the bloke who was making all the music come out of his computer.

On record Annie makes sense. Her voice is still wafer-thin but every song is an icy pop gem, with all those keyboard pulses, strokes and effects and crisp percussion, and that Scandinavian ear for a hook. She sounds flimsy in the old Camden Palais; in the living room she shimmers like the Christmas tree.

The fifth best single of the year, ‘Heartbeat’ sees Junior flying around the room, laughing, dribbling in her dad’s eye. No, I’m not crying at Annie’s tender memories of a fleeting love. I’ve got dribble in my eye.