[2] Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams, ‘Get Lucky’

2013-daft-punk

Junior reckons she’s heard this 30 times. Generously, she still likes it. Junior 2 sings along as she plays a game on her multimedia camera thing and Junior 3 joins in too, dancing and raising her eyebrows on the high notes. As for me, I think I can just post the original draft of my Track of the Year piece for NME, weaving a cunning web of deceit that makes this entry look chunky rather than lazy:

On 12 July 1979, Chicago’s Comiskey Park hosted its very own disco inferno. Prompted by shock jock Steve Dahl, thousands of baseball fans brought disco records to a game between Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers that would climax with a bonfire of this abominable vinyl. The prank did terrible damage to the pitch of course, but it also cemented a notion of disco as the enemy of rock, even tracing an unwanted line in the sand between white and black pop music, as hundreds of twerps tried to consign it to the incinerator of history.

But, like the legend of the phoenix, something was stirring in the ashes. The next decade would see disco cede to hip-hop, then electro, Detroit techno and the rebirth of soul as the salient expression of black culture, but you can’t keep a good rhythm down. And Nile Rodgers, the king of Studio 54, never really went away.

It was Rodgers who first alerted us to ‘Get Lucky’, airily announcing he was working with Daft Punk and then sitting back and watching the internet explode. Chic meets Daft Punk? Have you ever imagined something so ineffably right? Helmets on billboards and teased seconds of the track in a Saturday Night Live ad break were enough to get juices flowing, but it was the sudden arrival of images on the Coachella screens that beckoned meltdown. Suddenly we had confirmation that Thomas Bangalter, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, Pharrell Williams and Rodgers were all united over the same clipped riff, decades of perfect dance music and R&B distilled into one luscious brew. And when the real deal supplanted all those loops and fake tracks that had swamped YouTube and Soundcloud, the excitement could have powered cities. No one was listening to anything else.

Why would you? This was a liquid groove, a silky vocal – punctuated by the sort of Jacko hiccups Benjamin Diamond had attempted on an earlier Bangalter production, Stardust’s ‘Music Sounds Better With You’ – robotic breakdowns, cut-glass guitar and a randy hook that insinuated itself into every cell of the brain. Disco was reborn and remembering its primary function – making people dance, making people happy. Burn, baby, burn.

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[33] Camera Obscura, ‘Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken’

Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken

While we’re celebrating UK chart success stories, Camera Obscura have had five 45s tear up the hit parade to peak between 100 and 200 – truly the shape of Pixie Lott’s career to come. ‘Lloyd…’ is the second, er, biggest of the lot, a Number 124 smash in 2006. Back then, Junior reviewed it twice: once as a random choice from the 7″ pile, then as our Number 4 pick of the year. Neither piece features on this version of the blog, so I’m free to plagiarise myself.

The first time, I admitted I could never remember this warm rush of indie-country-pop so instead blathered on about “answer” records – you know, this to Lloyd Cole & The Commotions’ fluttering meanie, Frankie to Eamon, Lydia Murdoch to Michael Jackson. But clearly these Scots also-rans worm their way into your head with galloping guitar and madly slurred vocals, and perhaps the fact it was so difficult to get a tight grip on in the first place is what keeps it so fresh.

Junior says: “It’s good and bad,” raising one thumb aloft with the other pointed down. “What’s good?” She mimes playing the organ. “And what’s bad?” “I don’t know.” “Ha!”

Best bit: The chord change from middle eight to final verse, of course.

While we’re celebrating UK chart success stories, Camera Obscura have had five 45s tear up the hit parade to peak

between 100 and 200 – truly the shape of Pixie Lott’s career to come. ‘Lloyd…’ is the second, er, biggest of the

lot, a Number 124 smash in 2006. Back then, Junior reviewed it twice: once as a random choice from the 7″ pile, then

as our Number 4 pick of the year. Neither piece features on this version of the blog, so I’m free to plagiarise

myself.

The first time, I admitted I could never remember this warm rush of indie-country-pop so instead blathered on about

“answer” records – you know, this to Lloyd Cole & The Commotions’ yelping beauty, Frankie to Eamon, Lydia Murdoch to

Michael Jackson. But clearly these Scots also-rans worm their way into your head with galloping guitar and madly

slurred vocals, and perhaps the fact it was so difficult to get a tight grip on in the first place is what keeps it

so fresh.

Junior says: “It’s good and bad,” raising one thumb aloft with the other pointed down. “What’s good?” She mimes

playing the organ. “And what’s bad?” “I don’t know.” “Ha!”

Best bit: The chord change from middle eight to final verse, of course.

[35] Destiny’s Child, ‘Bootylicious’

Bootylicious

No pop record has featured this much hiccuping since the imperial phase of Michael Jackson. From the ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ intro to the closing melismatic wail, Beyoncé tics and jerks through a female empowerment anthem that’s more obviously confrontational than ‘Independent Women’ and is – to me, at least, whose view COUNTS HERE – all the better for it. We could never be ready for this much jelly. How can you handle it when it slips through your fingers?

Junior says: “It’s good,” which admittedly lacks real consideration, but perhaps makes up for it with honesty. No more on the ball is her question “Are we having pudding?” when I say B’s singing about jelly.

Best bit: The “wooooo”, obviously, as we slide from intro to dirty funk.

[14] Keri Hilson featuring Kanye West & Ne-Yo, ‘Knock You Down’

Nobody told me that you become more susceptible to glossy R&B with age; I’ve had to find out for myself. It was shocking at first, thinking “This Ne-Yo album knocks most modern pop into a cocked hat/Jordin Sparks sounds awesome on ‘No Air’/Everything Beyoncé does is – how do you say it? – The Bomb/Christ, I like more than one Leona Lewis song” etc, but now I wear my bling on my sleeve. Well, I’ve got a 10 quid Casio watch.

Although blessed with a silky, appealing voice, Keri Hilson doesn’t have the charisma to pull off the hits, so she gets in the smartest talent bankrolling can buy. Seem to remember Kanye being a smart talent, anyway. 808s & Heartbreak sounded superb on first listen, then turned out to be a moany nothing; neither was I sold on ‘Supernova’, but if we’re talking charisma, Mr Hudson hasn’t even come within a universe of an ounce of it. Kanye’s rap on ‘Knock You Down’ is a mess – the Michael Jackson gag not in the same league as the same on ‘Slow Jamz’ – so it’s left to Ne-Yo to give the song some class. His disbelief at wanting to spend more time with the missus than his mates – “I used to be commander-in-chief of my pimp ship flying high!” – is enough to carry the track alone, but credit to Hilson for some fine cracked vocals as this soppy song peaks.

“This is a lady singing,” Junior points out, puzzled because she thinks Keri is a boy’s name. Maybe if you’re a rotten Chelsea player. She then confirms that it looks like a lady on the cover, so it’s a relief for Keri even as the boys threaten to subsume her. Not that you can tell Junior anything – when I inform her Ne-Yo’s on the mic, she says “I knew that”, and it’s possible she did, what with the bounder being everywhere these past few years. His touch is magic enough, and Junior demands a repeat play.

What? This isn’t ‘Miss Independent’?

[2] Michael Jackson, ‘Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough’

It’s well-established that Junior’s a bit of a dancer, shaking down to everything from The Jam to Prince to Girls Aloud and all the way round to entire LCD Soundsystem albums – so why does Jacko draw a blank? Does she find it difficult to listen with complete abandon in light of all the allegations against him this past decade or so? Can any of us listen now without the music passing through the prism of approbation?

In this case, Junior’s annoyed that her nursery rhyme CD isn’t playing; Dad’s “Just one song and then I’ll put it on” is cutting no ice. As for the rest of us, I think it’d be a pity if we couldn’t enjoy the music at its base, uncomplicated level, but it’s tricky to forget the freak the dazzling young Michael would become.

It’s a pity because this is easily one of the most exciting records ever made. Inspired, presumably, by Star Wars, Michael lets rip with dog-whistle nonsense about “the Force” over planet-circling strings and bombastic brass to create a vertiginous dancefloor ride that, by rights, will have you blowing chunks. That’s a good thing, incidentally. As an example of what the adolescent Jacko and mighty producer Quincy Jones could achieve together, it’s a thrilling signpost to Off The Wall and, er, Thriller; a line in the sand, leaving disco over there and, over here, hyper-tooled ‘80s gold-bar soul.

[8] Hanson, Mmmbop’

I think it was The Face that described Hanson’s cherubic looks as “Kate Moss crossed with Kurt Cobain, Kate Moss crossed with Little Jimmy Osmond and Kate Moss crossed with Desert Orchid”. The big bruv did always look as if he’d be happier leaping the fence and getting away, but what would he do? The middle lad was the talent. It was like Jermaine and Michael, without the raging madness – as far as I’m aware.

‘Mmmbop’ has some of the starburst thrill of ‘I Want You Back’, but where the Jackson 5’s debut hit united the people, this just annoyed the arse off them. Precocity, you love it or hate it, it depends who’s delivering it. Plenty bought this – it was a No.1, for pity’s sake – and they can’t all have been kids. Um, there was me for a start.

Well, it’s a true pop moment, with zip and scratching, and some classic, poorly enunciated lines. It’s all about friendships that last and friendships that disappear in the blink of an eye. I think. Who cares? Junior saw its value as a ‘dance with your dad’ floorburner, her experience enhanced by not having to see their Moss hybrid chops.

[20] Michael Jackson, ‘Scream’

Straight back on the horse. Shockingly lazy record, this. The excuse is, the version in our chart is a decent Morales mix – even so, it’s not up to much. Extra points, though, for not even giving his sister a “featuring” credit. The “Duet with Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson” is neither part of the artist billing nor the title; it’s just kind of there.

And then there’s the “most expensive video ever made”, which to these eyes seemed to feature a white room with a couple of hollow-eyed freaks in outmoded John Richmond spiky Destroy tops, and some space age special effects last seen in Plan 9 From Outer Space. Way to go, long-mac-in-the-swingpark boy.

Junior spent the song on her mat, not paying much attention but impressively moving clockwise through 90 degrees. You didn’t see Wacko Jacko trying THAT on the MTV Awards.

There’s a hook in this song that I sort of like. I think that’s what Janet brings to the party, but there’s nothing else to justify the hype that fanfared its release. I had the dubious honour of working at Sony Music at the time, and what a hullabaloo there was. Padlocked promo copies brought into the office by Ray-Banned man-mountains, reviewers shackled to chairs in the audio suites, that laughable polystyrene statue on the Thames. I wonder if they’re trying to recoup some costs now?