20 Nov 2011

Adventures in the Top 40: Wayward Choruses

Here’s a geeky little medium-length post about chart pop to offset all that earnest politicising in the last post, and - spoiler alert - all the earnest politicising to come in the next post. I just wanted to describe a lovely musical trend that links three of my favourite tracks clinging doggedly to the UK singles chart. Let us listen first to Nicki Minaj’s ‘Super Bass’ which has just popped out the bottom of the Top 40. An awesome song for many reasons: great hook, great lyrics, great production, she’s awesome. But one of the things that I think really defines this song in particular is how unusual the relationship is between its harmonic progressions (the chords used) and its conventional structure (verse/chorus etc.), especially for unabashed party pop.

9 Nov 2011

Political Visions/Political Actions: The Apposite Voices of tUnE-yArDs and John Maus

I’ve spent a little time at the Occupy London camp since its establishment last month, though not nearly enough to feel in any way qualified to be a representative of the protests. However, I am proud to say that I was at least there on the first night, in the exhilarating chaos of the first assemblies and the comprehensive yet unconvincing police encirclement. At that point there really was a very broad range of protesters represented: long-haulers and day-trippers, established British socialist groups and a huge number of European students showing solidarity with concurrent protests overseas. There was a slew of different aims, obsessions and strategies represented (although a good number of fundamental ideals were clearly universally shared).

In this article, I'll try to locate some of the differing (and at times warring) qualities of these young contemporary activists, as represented in the new political music of two artists giving early voice to this new political movement: tUnE-yArDs and John Maus. By comparing these two artists, I also aim to demonstrate two very different ways in which pop music can engage explicitly with politics.