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The YouTube video shows a woman wearing glittery antlers at the top of the fakest looking fake staircase in set design history. The camera pans up to her face in time for the chorus of her new single. She sings: “Cause I actually do enjoy being a cripple.”
This is Héloïse Letissier, aka Christine and the Queens, and “Cripple” is an early version of one of this year’s least expected earworms. We all know it now as “Tilted” with its off-kilter synths and Franglais lyrics. Back then “Cripple” was entirely in English and as Letissier has explained in subsequent interviews, she misunderstood the specific English definition of that word and the stony-faced silence of a crowd in Brighton during that song made her realise it was time to bring out the dictionary.
Commercial radio is a tricky mistress to impress. I have been genuinely surprised to hear “Tilted” on radio stations I had grown to believe would only recognise the Bieber-Goulding-Timberlake rota until the sweet release of death. Letissier, who goes by “Christine” now as a matter of course, is not the usual go-to playlisted artist for stations picking from a much reduced pot to play much repeated songs, often at the same time every day for each week of any given month. Given the lyrical content (Franglais, peculiar grammar and fuck-it attitude to rhymes included) it’s one rare glimpse of something genuinely different amongst a depressingly familiar compilation of crowdpleasers.
Yes I do understand that the statement “billingual queer electro anthem” contains enough words to send mainstream audiences running for their hills but what can you do when the year’s been such a clusterfruitcake. More please, Christine.
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Rule 1 of the Internet: never read comment sections.
You’ll recognise what I mean. A story reporting that expert analysis showing how rappers/hip hop artists use broader, deeper vocabulary than rock stars, or how hip hop is more influential than rock, and all hell breaks loose. I made the mistake not long after David Bowie’s death of clicking “read comments” underneath a story reporting Kanye West was considering releasing a tribute album. Whoopsie on my part there. Just reduce the comments to a pastiche of long-lost 1970s comedies, that’s what I found myself doing. “A black man?! Covering white person’s music?! Somebody open a window!”
I’m something of a magpie for these things. When Frank Ocean may or may not have implied/admitted same-sex relationships, it took a few mouse clicks on Twitter to unleash a splurge of comments connecting the words “Frank Ocean” and a certain derogatory term for homosexual. Long, deep sigh.
I’m no Frank Ocean expert, man alive am I not. To my ears this is the sound of the new form hip hop and pop music are developing, somewhere around the edges of experimentation and free-form narrative. Hear it in Rhianna’s “Work” or Beyoncé’s “Hold Up”. While so much playlisted stuff continues along its conservative and predictable path, it’s the urban and hip hop worlds where the interesting experimentation and bravery flourish. Sorry comment section dwellers.
Friends, acquaintances, people who serve me 10% DIPAs against all our better judgements, all puff out their cheeks and exclaim: pfft, eh, funny old year, this.
Indeed is has been. Summaries of this year have had to start some time around mid-October just to make sure they included everything and still managed not to fit in everything. Here’s my little tiny speck of dust on the Internet windshield. As ever (and yes, I’ve done these things before, and now they’ve become the only reason for this blog’s existence), this is my show and not yours (*thwoop*), so what I mean by “in no particular order” and “tracks of 2016” are flexible in their definitions. There will be one song a day, the order is not by preference, although they often become inadvertently by narrative, and if you look through previous years’ indexes you can join in playing “hunt the dead HTML links”.
This has been quite the year. And this is quite the list of the top tracks soundtracking it – in no particular order and in my humble opinion.
1. David Bowie, “I Can’t Give Everything Away”
2. Frank Ocean, “White Ferrari”
3. Christine and the Queens, “Tilted”
4. Le Super Homard, “Dry Salt In Our Hair”
5. Sharon Needles, “Hollywoodn’t”
6. Bon Iver, “33 “GOD””
7. De Montevert, “It’s Alright, I’m Probably Dreaming”
8. Shura, “What’s It Gonna Be?”
9. BOSS, “I’m Down With That”
10. Boxed in ft. Foundation. “Running Out”
11. ZAYN, “Pillowtalk”
12. The Capital, “Hummingbird”
13. The Coral, “Distance Inbetween”
14. Palomino Party, “Black Russian”
15. Eädyth, “Break”
16. Altar Flowers, “It’s Only Love”
17. ACCÜ, “Adain, Adain”
18. YJY, “Summer Lifeguard”
19. Dua Lipa, “Blow Your Mind (Mwah)”
20. Tokyo Police Club, “Not My Girl”
21. Viola Beach, “Boys That Sing”
22. Beth Orton, “1973”
23. Yr Eira, “Walk on Water”
24. Tulketh, “Bowling Alley Carpark” and Polypores, “Handshake in the Dark”