[6] Justin Bieber, ‘What Do You Mean?’

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Junior rolls her eyes, and I think we’ve all been there, haven’t we? “I like it,” she admits, “but it had to be by Justin Bieber, didn’t it?”

She feels similar antipathy towards One Direction, breaking the mould of 10-year-old girls everywhere. The “I like it” is the key though. There’s a chance she can get past all that prejudice, like loads of us have, and reach the point where she realises it’s the song that matters. OK, that’s not true, it has to be the pop star as well – and that’s possible here too as Justin’s proved himself the kind of great guy who’ll cede the Christmas No.1 to the NHS Choir through the power of diamond geezerness alone.

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[13] One Direction, ‘Steal My Girl’

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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.

[20] Sivu, ‘Can’t Stop Now’

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Junior’s nine now. I first wrote about the way she experienced music in November 2005 when she was 20 weeks old, fidgeting in her bouncy chair to the minimalist hip-hop of Antipop Consortium. Since then, she’s formed her own opinions, protested about doing this at all and asked to do it again. I think she believed she was famous at one point – if ‘famous’ means a couple of dozen people knowing who you are without actually meeting you, then I suppose she was.

In 2008 Junior 2 arrived and then Junior 3 turned up in 2010. Three girls who reckon they know more about music than their dad. Out of the four of us, I’m the biggest One Direction fan, so perhaps they’re right. But can they recite an entire volume of the Guinness Book of British Hit Singles? No, they cannot. Who’s the real winner here?

None of us knows much about Sivu, but I have press releases in my inbox so I can busk it. He’s really called James Page, was born in St Ives (Cambs version) but somehow ended up in Kennington feeling the weight of South London’s urban dislocation. He sticks it in song, although ‘Can’t Stop Now”s tumbling flow dings a note of optimism with its folky trills, rising keys and faked laser sheen. The ooo-ooo-ooos alone plant it in our top 20 of the year. It’s no headbanger but that’s what Junior does anyway, giving Page the actual thumbs-up. Junior 2 says, “It sounds good to me because there’s lots of people talking,” while Junior 3 adds, “We’re still going south.” She’s playing with a compass.

[7] Justin Timberlake, ‘Mirrors’

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Once you’ve got over the initial disappointment that the intro doesn’t lead into a Steve Winwood 80s CD-rock wad-waver, you’ll find ‘Mirrors’ is soppy R&B at its crunchiest, capturing my girls hearts as they “Uh-oh” and clap hands right up until the fifth minute, when it starts to feel like Timberlake’s bent on soundtracking his entire six-year absence in real time.

The first few minutes is about as tight a pop song as he’s delivered this year, in a comeback that’s otherwise designed to make Arcade Fire’s Reflektor feel like a masterclass in 60s beat-group concision. I can’t get too het up about these grossly indulgent records when they’re creaking with ideas – and The 20/20 Experience is, some ordinary, some inspired. It’s better than heaving your sorry bones all the way to track 14 on an immaculately presented, identikit One Direction album. Everyone could use an editor, but some editors’ jobs are easier than most.

The 2013 Popjustice Twenty Quid Prize

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THE CHALLENGE

Get my daughters to review Popjustice’s Twenty Quid Prize shortlist for the best British single of the last 12 months (actual judging this Wednesday, 30 October).

THE PANEL

Junior (aged 8, the original Jukebox Junior from back when she was 20 weeks old in November 2005, reviewing Antipop Consortium and songs from The Sound Of Music)
Junior 2 (aged 5)
Junior 3 (aged 3)

THE SONGS

Chvrches, ‘The Mother We Share’
One Dove reform with Clare Grogan on vocals

Junior: “I like the start. The music gathers up.”
Junior 2 appears to know all the words.
Junior is now oh-ohing and says it’s “all right”.

Disclosure feat. AlunaGeorge, ‘White Noise’
Deep house meets proto-UK garage. Alex Party, basically

Junior is excited and grooving along, as we hip dads say.
Junior 2 appears to know all the words.
Junior 3: “They say ‘yesterday rup'”.
Junior likes the keyboard sound. “It’s like when you touch an iPhone.”

Duke Dumont feat. A*M*E, ‘Need U (100%)’
More like Duke Derek Saunderson, right?

Junior: “It does repeat sometimes. ‘White Noise’ is better.”
Junior 2 appears to know all the words.
Junior 3: “I want ‘The Grand Old Duke Of York’.”

Girls Aloud, ‘Something New’
Xenomaniacal J.Lo

Junior: “I like that they’re singing about girls. Who is it?”
Junior 2 appears to know all the words.

Little Mix, ‘DNA’
The Munchkins fight back

Junior: “What does “DNA” mean?” [She is told]. “Oh, I’ve seen that at the doctors’.”
Junior 2 does not know the words.
Junior 3 is reading the National Heritage handbook.

Mutya Keisha Siobhan, ‘Flatline’
Sugababes Mk I with that Dev Hynes first-side-of-True-Blue magic

Junior is distracted. “I don’t like it much.”
Junior 2 is hand-jiving. “I like it.”

Olly Murs, ‘Dear Darlin”
The hat’s off along with the bets as the Murs gets serious

All three are word-perfect.
Junior: “I liked that, Daddy.”

One Direction, ‘Kiss You’
Robot (pop-) rock with that slightly cheesy teenage boy’s bedroom whiff

Junior: “I’ve got this on my mp3 player. Is it One Direction? It’s on my DS too.” However, she is not a big fan.
Junior 3 has a dance routine for this one. It involves wiggling in her seat and pumping her arms.

Petula Clark, ‘Cut Copy Me’
Octagenarian Balearic

Petula Clark is 80. “Woah,” says Junior. Granny has got some of her records. Junior does pop-eyed surprise, then says, “It’s a bit boring.”
Junior 2: “It’s like a sleepy song to me.”
Junior 3: “I think it’s a bit boring too.”

Robbie Williams, ‘Candy’
Speedball suit-filling nursery rhyme

Junior: “Yay! ‘Candy’!”
Junior 3: “This isn’t boring!”
They all sing along to the chorus.

The Saturdays, ‘Gentleman’
So 1995

Junior: “Is it the ‘Single Ladies’ singer?”
Junior 2: “Is it Jessie J?”
Junior: “Is it the ones who do ‘Black Heart’?”

VV Brown, ‘The Apple’
Grace Jones is back, and she’s hiding the lost La Roux album up her top. Along with ‘Macarena’

Junior: “I didn’t really like it.”

THE VERDICT

Favourites:

Junior: ‘Dear Darlin” or ‘Candy’. Murs takes it because “I only like the ‘Candy’ chorus.”
Junior 2: ‘Kiss You’.
Junior 3: ‘Candy’.

‘Candy’ takes it on proportional representation.

Flops:

Junior: ‘The Apple’.
Junior 2: ‘The Apple’.
Junior 3: ‘The Mother We Share’.

[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.

Justin Bieber, ‘Boyfriend’

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Junior is seven today. And this is her first record – well, the album is. Maybe her record-buying development’s been arrested by Jukebox Junior because you’d expect her to have her own records by now, wouldn’t you? Sure, she has Disney Princess compilations and nursery rhyme CDs, but she doesn’t need to go out and buy (or ask for) One Direction or Rihanna albums because nice people send them to Daddy anyway.

So Justin Bieber’s Believe will be the answer to that first record question in years to come and it’ll all be because Bieber’s UK label thought Junior’s dad would rip it and spray it all over the Internet, so they didn’t give it to him.

This is just streaming. It doesn’t count.

To my ears this is a pale Trousersnake retread, but I just don’t get it, do I? Junior does the patented family shoulder roll and Junior 2 already knows all the words. It’s quite chilling how the Cult of the Belieber has infiltrated my house while I was trying to win the family over with clean edits of Azealia Banks tracks. This is just a taste of my powerlessness to come.

One Direction, ‘Gotta Be You’

Andrew Loog Oldham’s going to sue over that intro.

As sincere boyband ballads go, this isn’t dead before it begins. One Direction are being handled with care – just the right combination of harmless fun and puppy-shagging-your-legness – which makes them a nice fit in the teen market. It’s better than a bunch of miniature Cliff Richards sitting on stools and pretending adolescence is one big chaste wallow in romance. Yeah, ‘Gotta Be You’ is undying-love slush but at least the chaps are only declaring it so they can cop a feel.

Let’s not concern ourselves with the “mess” they made upon the poor girl’s innocence.

It’s just pleasant pop to the Juniors, who say they like it, as Cowell always knew they would. Junior 3 twirls about then raises her hands in the air for each yearning chorus – feeling that EMOTION coursing through. Junior herself is interested in the details: “Who’s singing?” Well, there’s Liam and Harry, they do the heavy lifting. Zayn’s a bit more freestyle, Louis chips in maybe. She points at Niall: “What does he do?”