[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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[14] Neneh Cherry, ‘Spit Three Times’

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Junior 3 says we should’ve played this at Christmas. She then sings ‘Jingle Bells’ in a vaguely similar tempo, which is odd because there’s nothing festive or jolly about ‘Spit Three Times’, a song that explicitly references the “black dog in the corner”, the manifestation of Neneh Cherry’s depression after the death of her mother. Maybe it’s just that we remember lost ones at this time of year.

Cherry seemed like a lost one for so long. This year’s fantastic Blank Project is her first pure solo album in 17 years – she’s edged in here and there, notably going jazz freakout with The Thing in 2012 – but even a little bruised it was a strong, confident record, helped along by Kieran Hebden and RocketNumberNine. One of my stellar moments of 2014 was interviewing Cherry in a pub in Kensal Rise, where she’d taken time out from a friend’s wake to talk about the new album. That’s a punishing schedule that says a lot about the demands of trying to muscle back into the public eye, but she really wanted to talk about this – something that meant a great deal to her –and even understandably distracted, she was generous and lovely company.

Junior thinks this is “good, in a slooow motion way,” which is how we all described trip-hop in the early 90s. Cherry’s woven into the fabric of all that, as Massive Attack’s babymother in the late-80s, and into the Bristol sound in all its variety as a Rip, Rig & Panic pioneer even earlier. Gareth Sager of RR&P even barged into the interview halfway through, asking to sit on my lap. Old habits die hard.

[11] M.I.A., ‘Bad Girls’

M.I.A.

Can’t help thinking M.I.A. has found her song and is sticking to it BUT I LIKE IT. I think I like it because of the reaction it draws out of Junior – she pulls the buffalo stance and a lightning flurry of rude boy gestures. Doesn’t M.I.A. do just that to all of us? She’s a Neneh with haphazard politicial bearings, and her songs are the Guardian Guide gone audio.

All this and “it sounds like a bad girl’s voice”. So Junior and I agree Maya talks it like she walks it.

[1] Neneh Cherry, ‘Buffalo Stance’

Gigolo. Huh. Sucker.

La Cherry burst on to the scene, all pregnant earth mother horsing around on Top Of The Pops. She was bold, beautiful and the hippest thing since sliced Furious Five. She invented Massive Attack, Sugababes and Betty Boo. She called the unborn girl Tyson, a green light to idiot Beckhams everywhere, and made Bomb The Bass rock the place. Yeah, you’ll remember I explicitly referenced this song right back at No.20. You should’ve known.

Difficult to call, this. I mean, does everyone realise it’s a stone cold genre-busting phat classic? It’s a cool pop record with a surprise around every corner and faultless cred, erm, credentials. Neneh annoyed the pants off people, sure, but that’s what comes of being an outré risqué locomotive.

As for Junior, it shut her up. She was bellowing along the South Circular after Catford, so her mum shoved in the Cherry and it silenced her in seconds. Awe. Or. Or it was so loud, Junior’s mum couldn’t hear the young lady anymore. Either way, result.

[16] Neneh Cherry, ‘Manchild’

Neneh Cherry

Trip hop invented here. Should Neneh go up against the wall for paving the way for Morcheeba? Or should we thank her and her cohorts for Blue Lines, Dummy and Maxinquaye? Whatever, she co-wrote this with Massive Attack’s 3D and their producer Cameron McVey, and some arrangement duties were taken on by Nellee Hooper, so an early sign of things to come.

Or, as my big sis put it at the time, it’s a nice song until she tears the towel off her head and then you’ve got this banshee rapping in your face. And she’s PREGNANT. Big sis wasn’t wrong, but I like the rap – I can even perform it for Junior, who remains unmoved. She’s used to seeing her dad act the goat, fortunately. Let’s face it: she’ll have to endure years of it.

Can’t stand that trip hop label, and I’ve only gone and perpetuated it. Needs a new name. Slow hop, maybe. Marijuanabore hop. Was-quite-promising-until-it-got-diluted-by-chancers-bereft-of-ideas-and-concepts-of-melody hop. More?