Home > I'm just saying, I'm not saying > How 4Music made me increasingly aware of my own mortality

How 4Music made me increasingly aware of my own mortality

Cheap ‘n’ cheerful landfill music video station “4Music” is currently in the middle of a series of themed programming based around the Royal Wedding. This strikes me as the kind of idea that was okayed in a meeting of top brass somewhere and then left to the interns to work out the problems with the technicalities of it all. The main problem is that there is absolutely no connection between what happens in the build up to a Royal Wedding and the day-to-day content of a music video station, unless we suddenly find out that Kate Middleton used to be the drummer in Love Bites, or Prince William finally gets around to that “TOP 50 INDIE FLOORFILLERS” article he’s been sitting on.

So 4Music instead just slapped vague regal insinuations onto their current schedule and hoped that would do. The Saturday night “GET READY FOR PARTYING” video dump is now called “THE ROYAL PLAYLIST” or whatever. Whenever they show “Duck Sauce” there’s a caption underneath it that goes “Hah can you imagine Prince Phillip dancing to this? How mad would that be?” It’s not pretty by a long shot.

Over the weekend they were showing “KATE’S HEN PARTY TOP 50.” I figured I hadn’t heard any Belinda Carlisle or “Total Eclipse of the Heart” in a hot minute and that I could probably stomach whatever Beyonce was thrown in there to make it worth my while. So I watched. I kept on watching. And I felt myself age maybe 15 years.

I know that Willow Smith and David Archuetta and Pitbull technically “mean something” but I don’t know what it is. I figured maybe I could be ignorant of them and still “with it.” Like back in the early 2000s you could have blanked on every release on Positiva vever and still been a pop buff. But no, I’ve let too much slip, and resultantly I feel myself slipping too. They started showing some video called “Poison” by Lewis Hamilton’s beard and I had a legitimate “that’s not music that’s noise” reaction. And the horrid truth dawned on me. I wasn’t just out of the loop, I was finally old.

I had the first feeling that something might be wrong during the Brit Awards. Even the briefest flick through Word Magazine in a dentist’s waiting surgery will tell you that the first sign of decrepitude in a music fan is complaining that there’s “no proper pop stars anymore.” And during the Brits, I looked at Tinie Tempah. I looked in his eyes, I looked into his soul. And I thought “Wow, you look like a junior sales assistant at Curry’s. How on Earth did you become relevant?”

Blaming Google for shortening attention spans by rewriting brain patterns has been a meme among psychiatrists for a while now, but I think that maybe Spotify has had a similar effect. It has artificially aged me. Before Spotify, discovering new music on the internet was like stepping into an out-of-town electronics warehouse: everything is new and exciting and shiny and there’s thousands of foreign imports, a lot of it is going to be incomprehensible and 90% of what’s there is going to be either knocked off or faulty. With Spotify, discovering music is like going into a second-hand bookstore: everything is musty and worn down but there’s a sense of familiarity to it all, even if you haven’t seen it before.

I don’t think I’m wrong for preferring the latter approach. Look at Hype Machine’s “Popular” list for the moment I’m writing this article. I have no idea who Black Light Dinner Party are, I have no idea who Strange Talk are. What are the odds that they make music a tenth as good as Charlie Poole did? As Baby Huey & The Baby Sitters did? As Dion did? Why should I risk listening to 100 shit MP3s by the hot newness to find one 8/10 song when I can just as easily devour entire discographies by guys who never made a bad track in their career? Out of some ill-informed sense of neophilia? Get the fuck outta here.

We’re heading for a generation crisis. If music criticism in the UK somehow survives another five years it will have fatal structural flaws. The first generation of internet critics who came up post-internet are the ones who are my age, the ones born between 1980 and 1985. They demanded dance in their indie and indie in their dance. They expected R&B producers to play Pied Piper to all trends. They sometimes even managed to write about rap music without going “It’s OK, this song’s good because he doesn’t mention ‘bitches’”. They were an evolution from what went before.

What people sometimes forget is that this post-IPC style of music critic is less than ten years old. When Alexis Petridis become a full-time Guardian employee the Letters to the Editor were full of “A man writing about popular music as a profession? How preposterous” missives. A decade later and The Lady has its own dubstep column. Things have changed.

So the first critics that came up post-Petridis were the first generation to be able to embrace popular music without reducing it to a) Asperger’s bait or b) Quantickian irony of the “Ah, but this Whigfield song is actually great and not bad like you think” variety. They claimed a lot of the territory, they set a lot of the markers up, and they’re not willing to give that land up at all. The next generation will not rise while they’re around.

Don’t believe me? Check the turnover in names writing about music in the popular printed press between 2006 and 2011. Now check the turnover between 2001 and 2006. This is the generation of music critics that is afraid of growing up, that still clings on to this idealized top 40 from our sixth form days of 2001. A generation scared of its inner Q reader, scared of its inner Steve Lamacq, its inner Whispering Bob Harris. And I think that’s why pop music in 2011 is so awful, because rather than being molded by the desires of the youth its molded by the desires of a generation of individuals shit-scared to cut the ties to how “pop” sounded in 1998/2001/2003. Hence Ibiza breakdowns in SONGS BY BLACK PEOPLE, for fuck’s sake.

I refuse to be one of those guys. I refuse to become the critical equivalent of the divorcee in a student bar. I refuse to become WordPress’s version of those 38-year-old Goth chickenhawks with 16-year-old girlfriends. So I admit it. I am too old for this game. I am too old to have any emotional involvement in pop music.

And I’m going further. If you’re old enough to remember “The Shoe People” and still have emotional investment in pop music, you’re a suspect individual who deserves to be partyvanned asap. Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a Spotify playlist consisting of nothing but “Short People” and “Welcome to Atlanta” over and over again which I must listen to.

  1. Cosmo or Bob or something
    April 25, 2011 at 11:23 pm

    If you’d all like to join me raising a glass to Nick Southall for this wonderful guest post.

  1. May 22, 2011 at 9:54 pm

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