So, I now have 15 years of Now That’s What I Call Music albums done, and a huge spread sheet detailing my opinions on every one of these. 1407 songs, by 715 different artists. Working on a 4 minutes per song average (which is pretty fast and loose, but it’ll do), that works out at 3 days 22 hours spent listening to pop music. As a big fan of big data, that at least throws up some interesting results- I may add some extra detail for next time, to add some more analytical joy. But for now, it’s just about quality, and the various winners and losers this time around.
So firstly, who sits astride the 80’s and 90’s as a pop colossus? To qualify for this, I set a limit at a minimum of 6 songs featured, and then based it on the tried and true Groom Method™ of rating to work out how well they had done*. They are presented in the time honoured tradition of reverse order, as per the Top of the Pops act, 1973. Feel free to whistle the riff from Whole Lotta Love as you read this. And the winners are as follows;
10) Crowded House & The Human League – 75% from 6 songs
Laid back New Zealand soft rock or 80’s electropop? Does it matter when both are so damned tasty?
9) Tina Turner – 77% from 13 songs
Down four places from number 5, but still hanging on through sheer ferocity. A near permanent fixture in this chart, and deservedly so!
8) Spice Girls & Erasure – 79% from 7 and 12 songs respectively
A new entry for Girl Power here, and no move from Erasure, coming in at number 8 again. Good lord the Spice Girls were really quite good!
7) Queen- 80% from 15 songs
Down one place from number 6, but even by sheer volume (sound and quantity wise) Queen are unstoppable. They don’t even need to tell you not to stop them. Almost renders one of their best songs redundant.
6) Beautiful South (inc. Housemartins) & Duran Duran – 85% from 13 and 10 songs respectively
Down two from number 4 last time, but a great showing for Hull and for Birmingham, from two distinctive pop bands.
5) Oasis- 88% from 8 songs
A massive new entry for Oasis, who due to the cut off point, have only released great music so far. No cocaine induced slide into half arsery yet.
4) Neneh Cherry- 92% from 6 songs
Down one, despite an increase in quality. Everything is still getting better pop wise. Games are being upped!
3) Blur- 93% from 7 songs
Another new entry, surely the top one… Looks like Blur vs. Oasis has been decided… or has it? I think the answer was always they’re both great, but Liam Gallagher is a moronic divot, and Damon Albarn a pretentious div. Graham and Noel are the best though.
2) Pet Shop Boys- 95% from 10 songs
No move. No drop in quality. What a band!
1) Radiohead- 100% from 6 songs
Straight in at the top. Not a pop band, but popular nonetheless. Still strange that such odd, downbeat music would ever get this big!
Not quite enough music released to make the top 10, but still yet to release a bad song are;
5 Songs- KLF, Pulp, Salt ‘n’ Pepa
4 Songs- Fatboy Slim, Massive Attack, Meatloaf, R Kelly, Take That
3 Songs- Bjork, En Vogue, Heaven 17, Morrissey, Peter Gabriel, REM, Transvision Vamp, Wildchild
I have listened to 116 songs by the combined horrors of the below list. I do this so you don’t have to. You can donate by cash for my therapy, if you like.
10) Chaka Demus, Kim Wilde & Status Quo – 40% from 4 songs
9) George Michael, INXS, OMD – 33% from 6 songs
8) Wet Wet Wet- 33% from 9 songs
7) Simple Minds- 31% from 8 songs
6) Cliff Richard, Paul McCartney & Roxette – 30% from 5 songs
5) Boyzone – 30% from 10 songs
4) Culture Club, Level 42 & Louise – 25% from 6 songs
3) Lighthouse Family & Soul 2 Soul – 8% from 6 songs
2) Peter Andre – 0% from 5 songs
1) Paul Weller (inc. Style Council) – 0% from 9 songs
Yes. Peter Andre is catching up with Paul Weller. A damning indictment of mankind. In fairness to the above acts, at least half have at least one great song. Apart from Weller and Andre, the remedial art group of pop.
Keeping it short, only two acts outside of the shitlist above have released three songs without any of them being redeemable. Brother Beyond and D-Ream, I salute your uselessness.
1) Phil Collins (inc. Genesis)- 16 songs
A week after the seventh seal is broken, and the world is destroyed, and mankind gone from the earth, Phil Collins will record a snarky pop number about it
2) Queen (inc. Freddie Mercury)- 15 songs
Probably not going to increase from here, sadly. I mean, unless some of the awful stuff they did with alternative frontpeople gets in. It really better not.
3) Tina Turner & The Beautiful South (inc. The Housemartins)- – 13 songs
Sarcasm and style never go out of fashion.
4) Communards (inc Bronski Beat and Jimmy Somerville) & Erasure– 12 songs
Between these two and the Pet Shop Boys, you could make a whole double CD of great, groundbreaking gay pop, and I would buy it so hard.
5) Eternal & UB40- 11 songs
Reggae and soul, done well is always going to sell.
As you can see from the above low quality jpegs (I should do this as a Powerpoint presentation! Everybody LOVES Powerpoint presentations!) it’s not been a good 3.3 years. A slow slide from a peak in late 1995, showing the exciting new scenes of the early 90’s slowly dying away, with little but bad fluff to replace them. Big Beat, trance and R&B sustain a slight recovery as we come into 1998, but all a bit bleak really. Still, we approach a new millennium, who knows what will change there?
It’s also ruined all the rules I set out previously, which is deeply frustrating.
If you look at the quality over time, even that’s taken a hit from it’s steady rise since 1983.
The only conclusion that can be drawn, I think, is that beyond OK Computer, 1997 was a TERRIBLE year for music.
One Last Top 5
This time, being the top 5 Now! albums so far, and a few tracks that explain why.
- Now 7 (1986) – 66%
Pet Shop Boys- Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money), Housemartins- Happy Hour, Peter Gabriel- Sledgehammer
2. Now 32 (1995) – 64%
McAlmont and Butler- Yes, Blur- Country House, Coolio- Gangsta’s Paradise
3. Now 27 (1994)- 64%
Enigma- Return to Innocence, Doop– Doop, Tori Amos- Cornflake Girl
4. Now 33 (1996)- 63%
Luniz- I Got 5 On It, Pulp- Disco 2000, Oasis- Don’t Look Back in Anger
5. Now 17 (1990)- 63%
Beats International- Dub Be Good to Me, Primal Scream- Loaded, Orbital- Chime
See you in another ten!
* The Groom Method™- A great song is given one point, average half a point, and a crap song, nil points. This is then divided by the number of songs and multiplied by 100 to give a percentage score. You just wasted 20 seconds of your life reading this.