[13] One Direction, ‘Steal My Girl’

one-direction-2014

I don’t wanna talk
About things we’ve gone through
Though it’s hurting me
Now it’s history
I’ve played all my cards
And that’s what you’ve done too
Nothing more to say
No more ace to play

That’s what I sang the moment I heard ‘Steal My Girl’. My wife looked a bit uncomfortable.

I’ve since learned we’re supposed to think of Journey’s ‘Faithfully’ too, but, well, I’m British and we didn’t pay Journey any attention until ‘Don’t Stop Believin” was on The Sopranos. OK, I mean Glee.

The point is, ‘Steal My Girl’ sounds like other things apart from itself, which is just one of those things that pop does – you just twist it into different shapes, throw in a hands-clapping-above-the-head chorus, draw back, release, give that little tingle that makes you forgive any corniness. Whatever’s been stitched into its patchwork, ‘Steal My Girl’ is proof One Direction are making increasingly strong records, no longer content to churn out shrill will-this-do-isms that satisfy every top 10 criterion but subtly short-change the fans. I find it pretty implausible that anyone’s going around trying to spirit Harry Styles’ girlfriend away from him – unless they’re John Mayer or something – but at the same time it’s charming there’s still some vulnerability about him/them, however affected.

“You’ve been singing this at bathtime,” accuses Junior 2. She’s right. She also has a series of hand signals to describe the lyric, and she and Junior belt it out. Still, Junior herself has some reservations: “Everyone says they’re show-offs,” which is reasonable in every way. She likes it despite all that.

Last word to Junior 3, who judges it alongside the Neneh Cherry track we played earlier. “It’s a thumbs-up from me because it’s One Direction and it’s a bit more cool.” This is the world we live in.

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Glee Cast, ‘Don’t Stop Believin”

Rachel off of Glee

The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing callow record buyers that those Top of The Pops compilations were the real deal. I was duped once – but only once – when I sifted the sales racks in WHSmith and found an LP of glittering pop hits by (and the memory might be fuzzy here) the likes of “The Jam”, “Soft Cell” and “XTC”, for just two quid! A bargain even before you factor in the laughing lady with the Farrah Fawcett hairdo, pulling a t-shirt down over a bare bottom half. I already had a sharp ear back then and it took me one intro to realise there was something fishy about this album. A bit of further investigation, and I never played it again.

I’m sure a relisten now would reveal ample competence on the part of the session players, but no bite, no star quality. Like I say, you fall for it once.

Or we all fall for it all over again. At least Glee’s brazen about it, but still their covers – despite extraordinary production values and belting performances – lack the edge of the originals; after all, they’re not trying to reinvent the wheel. The thing about ‘Don’t Stop Believin” though, is, for once, it sounds like a different song from Journey’s teasing anthem. The a cappella ‘pianos’, the girl/boy exchange, even the relative brevity make a successful pure pop transformation.

Why talk about it now? Junior requested it: “This is my favourite.” “I like it too,” piped three-year-old sister, and they do both have an alarming handle on the lyrics. And a routine. Sometimes I question the wisdom of working full-time and leaving my daughters at the mercy of a mum who’s determined to indoctrinate them in all manner of apple pie pop culture. Then I realise it’s ace.

But again, why talk about it now? The Music Diary Project revealed that I don’t share music enough. A good 90% of my listening is through earphones on a commute, and while that’s great for wallowing in my favourites and discovering new stuff without distracting input, half the fun of music is communal experience – talking about it, listening together, arguing, preaching and, yeah, dancing like loons. That’s why I started Jukebox Junior. I need to find more time.

[6] The Carpenters, ‘Goodbye To Love’

The Carpenters

The Guilty Pleasures movement is a flawed model; it requires you to be ashamed to like pop music, to sneer at any artist who favours melody over image or ludicrous image over workaday melody, to disparage anything that doesn’t satisfy the consensus of stifled peers. It’s no pleasure, it’s the tiniest loosening of your credibility belt. To take only furtive enjoyment from the music of ELO, Toto, Hot Chocolate, Wham!, Dolly Parton, Chicago, New Radicals, 10cc, even Take That – purveyors of open, carefree pop or heart-on-sleeve romantic rock patronised by GP playlists and compilations – is to find no joy at all. It only belittles. Hate all that stuff by all means, turn your nose up at Girls Aloud, but for pity’s sake don’t slope off home and play it behind closed doors. Love what you love, abhor what you abhor. Send an SAE for more sermons.

The Carpenters are the perfect candidate for backhanded veneration, with their hook-laden songs, smooth arrangements, celebrations of love, that old brother-sister closeness and cutesy presentation. That’s why I mentioned it. Take them as a novelty and you’re ignoring the power of glorious tunes like ‘Goodbye To Love’ which sounds like the 70s in miniature. Well, there’s no punk here, granted, but the soaring fuzz guitar solo against massed voices certainly points rock in one direction – to Glee, probably; to the elevation of the power ballad to pop-rock’s purest art form. Who’s arguing?

Junior? No, not arguing, even though she thinks that fuzzy solo sounds like a trumpet. She adds her “ahhh” to the heavenly chorus and is intrigued by the possibility of a family band, asking two-year-old sister, “Would you like us to make records together?” “No.”