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Home > Media

Musicjism: It's not actually that deep shocker

18 February 2005

A poll has revealed that Robbie Williams has apparently made the best record of the past 25 years with Angels, a horribly commercial torch song that has no doubt provided the soundtrack to a million sales reps' weddings.

It's not really that surprising that this mega-selling ballad should be beloved of a nation that also made a millionaire of Phil Collins, but what is surprising is the top five shortlist, which was:

We Are The Champions - Queen
Wuthering Heights - Kate Bush
Love Will Tear Us Apart - Joy Division
Angels - Robbie Williams
Leave Right Now - Will Young

Random or what? It may as well have been:

Remember You're A Womble - Mike Batt
Night on a Bare Mountain - Mussorgsky
Too Drunk to Fuck - The Dead Kennedys
Noone Quite Like Grandma - St Winifred's School Choir
Star Trekkin' - whichever bunch of cunts of it was

The triumph of Robbie Williams and Angels suggests there is - as ever - a thriving market in music for people who don't really like music.

These people have a lot to answer for. They're the people who bankrolled the careers of countless hateful aural wallpaper acts from the 80s and 90s - Phil Collins, Simply Red, Mike and the Mechanics, Chris de Burgh and Wet, Wet, Wet. More recently they've been expanding their horizons with the work of Will Young, Gareth Gates, Craig David and Dido. And, of course, any charity record or easy listening compilation, eg. the soundtrack to Love, Actually.

For these people music performs two functions:

A. Preventing crushing, unbearable silence overwhelming their empty lives; and

B. Enabling them to buy stuff.

You can see them in any HMV on a Saturday afternoon, earnestly wondering whether to buy the latest forgettable George Michael album, or instead save their pennies for a John Lewis table lamp. You have to wonder whether the appeal of CDs is the music contained therein, or simply the fact that they're shiny.

It's easy to be contemptuous of the undiscerning consumer, but at least they're less pretentious than people who genuinely believe listening to the likes of Coldplay, Keane, Athlete and Snow Patrol puts them on the cutting edge of popular culture.

By now you're probably wondering if this contributor actually just hates music. This isn't the case, but there IS a lot to hate about music.

Not least is the widely-held assumption that musicians automatically have something to say. Largely, they don't. A few examples of renowned artists with precious little to say include:

- Sting: 'He starts to shake he starts to cough/ Like the old man in the famous book by Nabakov'. Ouch. Just ouch.

- The Stones: 'I want to fuck your sweet ass'. Refreshingly direct, but not exactly charming.

- T-Rex: 'You won't fool the children of the revolution'. Come off it. Surely the people MOST likely to be fooled were pot-addled Marc Bolan fans, ie. 'I've got a karmic feeling that we need to fuck. Possibly in your sweet ass.' 'Oh. OK.'

The wisdom of pop music is disturbingly flimsy. Even the 'deepest' pop stars aren't terribly deep. Pseudo-poet Bob Dylan is regularly deified for having pointed out that 'the times they are a-changin''. Well spotted, Bob.

The corollary to believing that pop stars have something to say is the assumption that listening to music somehow makes you a deeper, more passionate person. This is nonsense. If you want to be deep, go and read some Kant, don't buy an Embrace CD.

The record industry comes in for a lot of flak, but maybe we get the record industry we deserve. If your mind explodes with fresh new ideas when you listen to Snow Patrol, then maybe it's time to go and buy some books.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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