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’.

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[48] Robbie Williams, ‘Rock DJ’

Sausages

Top of the world, ma. Williams was at that point where he could release a fart and it’d waft merrily to No.1; somewhat like ‘Faith’-era George Michael, except ‘Faith’ stalled at No.2. But you get the drift. ‘Rock DJ’ is no mere emission – it’s a cocky summing-up of our man’s place in the world at the turn of the century, and yes, that place is somewhere beneath a heap of writhing groupies. A punishing bassline, lyrics that sound as if they were thrown together while he was at the bottom of that pile, rapping that would make even the great John Barnes wince – it all adds up to a will-this-do? that certainly does.

Junior says: Of the single sleeve, “It looks like sausages.” OK. No real comment on the song, but she and her sister danced around in circles, like Robbie but without the tiger pants.

Best bit: Yes. All a bit downhill for the lad after this.

[9] Pete Wylie & The Oedipus Wrecks , ‘Sinful!’

Now we know it’s 23 years ago. You wouldn’t find a crazed-eyed maverick like Pete Wylie in the charts today, ranting his own agenda and making music so vast it thumbs its nose at categorisation (although I imagine iTunes will say ‘rock’). And that’s a bad thing, believe me (“I wish you’d believe me”). We don’t need Cowell-spawned dinky-Robbies and mini-Mariahs, we need lunatics, and not just slightly odd people like the Black Eyed Peas.

For all that, ‘Sinful!’ is fairly straight, just bold beyond its arrangement. It wasn’t a fluke either, as Wylie and Wah! flirted with modest chart placings for over a decade. Then Britpop came and everything interesting died.

That’s hyperbole. Pete would like hyperbole.

And there’s still room for him, if Junior’s a yardstick. She sang along with the closing “it’s sinful”s and when I asked her, “Is it sinful?” she said, “Yeah”.

So true, boo-hoo:

[13] Roots Manuva, ‘Witness (1 Hope)’

And at unlucky number 13 we have the UK hip-hop industry. “Britain’s best rapper” – yes, sorry to break it to you, Dizzee Rascal, Lady Sovereign, Derek B, Daz Sampson, Simon Le Bon, Robbie Williams etc, but he just is – was born Rodney Smith; not as silly a name as his US equivalents Calvin and Tracy (here’s looking at you, Snoop and Ice-T), but certainly a moniker designed to undercut any gangsta pretensions. Luckily, Rodders is above all that, preferring hard-nosed social commentary, homegrown grooves, and salt of the earth shout-outs to “ten pints of bitter” and “cheese on toast”.

Junior and I do the giant stomp to the sinister beats, eerie harp samples and menacing yet tinny synths that sound like the march of the Federation soldiers in Blake’s 7. ‘Witness (1 Hope)’ is a chunky, phat-farming bounce.

The fact it reached No.45 on the singles chart shows how UK hip-hop bangs its head off a brick wall. The fact it took the sticky paw of novelty popsmith Calvin Harris to usher Dizzee Rascal to No.1 shows how UK hip-hop holds its hands up in surrender.

[15] Finley Quaye, ‘Sunday Shining’

Finley was 1997’s one year wonder. Smash hit single, monster album, scene-stealing Brits appearance (in ’98, admittedly, but you know what I mean), Mercury nomination… hmm, apparently no Mercury nomination. He must’ve been gutted. The flippin’ Propellerheads got a nomination. ROBBIE BLEEDING WILLIAMS got a nomination.

Well, I thought Maverick A Strike was quite good. 60-70% of it anyhow. ‘Sunday Shining’ takes a Bob Marley tune, makes it interesting, adds some light rawk, a sprinkle of cool and maintains the ma-ri-ju-ana quotient. Wikkid, man.

Junior and the iDog hook into the sinuous beats and lazy, slinky guitar licks. “Yes, sweetheart,” I say, “I know Robert de Niro didn’t seem like much of a ‘hero’ in Meet The Fockers the other night. Finley’s referring to… erm, jeez, I dunno.”

He’s Tricky’s uncle, doncha know. These segues are getting worse.

[2] Take That, ‘Back For Good’

Well I never. There are two types of people: those who understand that this is a pop classic and those who reckon that Robbie Williams’ wrongheaded, legacy-pissing, smug “punk” cover is somehow better. That kind of thing narks me right off. They’re the same earnest Mojo readers who dislike ‘.. Baby One More Time’ and ‘Independent Women’ but fawn over Travis’ and Elbow’s respective versions. Bands who do this believe that they’re legitimising the song by stripping the pop nous and adding dreary rock chords. They’re not. It’s an in-joke that reveals their fear of what the boys might think.

You can possibly tell which side of the fence I occupy. I never had a problem with Take That, a blessed relief after New Kids On The Block. The songs were ordinary, inoffensive, with the odd one or two rising above the parapet. Then I saw them perform this on the Brits and was bowled over by the hooks and its near perfect form. The middle eight is weak, but nothing else is, and it doesn’t outstay its welcome. Hindsight shows it was a one-off for Gary Barlow, the awkward, rotund George Michael that never was.

Junior and I didn’t have time to discuss the record. She sat in the ring and chewed her foam pig while I puzzled over why the mixer was making everything sound fuzzy. I should dust more often. A flawed performance then, an ill-fitting tribute to this soppy dazzler.