The other night I was listening to Gnarls Barkley's St Elsewhere. It's one of those albums which I was a bit non-plussed with when first I bought it, but have come to really like the more I've listened to it. These days its accompanying marketing blurb would probably claim it was "genre-crossing". It certainly has some soul and gospel tinges, a touch of hip-hop and maybe even a jungle rhythm here and there.
Of course, "Crazy" was a huge hit and went down in "parp music history" when it became the first single to reach number one in the U.K. due to download sales alone. This great slowed-down version of the song really shows off Cee-Lo Green's fantastic soul voice. I particularly remember it featuring several times on Top of the Pops, although as far as I was able to determine at the time, this particular arrangement seemed to be unavailable in the shops.
This TOTP clip from 2006 proved to be one of the last number ones featured in the weekly chart run-down programme as it was axed a month or so later. We still get a best-of-the-year round-up at Christmas but it's clear that those whose views hold sway at the Beeb no longer see a place for the "Pops" in the TV schedules, bursting as they are with top quality programmes night after night.
The Christmas and New Year TOTPs last week were notable in two respects. Firstly, they presented a selection of almost unremittingly poor songs. Some were better than others of course, but there was certainly nothing which sent me scurrying to Spotify or iTunes. Mind, it's not that Top of the Pops ever played consistently excellent music. I'm old enough to remember the glam rock days of the seventies and even at the age of thirteen I knew that there was better music out there than Mud, the Sweet and, er, Gary Glitter. I'm sure it's true that the programme never existed with the intention of showcasing the critically acclaimed artists of the day, but rather to promote the three-minute pop single in all its disposable, sometimes tacky, glory.
The second reason the TOTP programmes last week were notable is that I'd heard almost none of the songs before. Music is almost totally fragmented these days with, for example, entire radio stations devoted exclusively to one style--black music hived off to Radio 1 Xtra, indie to xfm, and so on. As a result I exist in what I laughingly like to consider a rarefied musical world inhabited by the likes of Radcliffe and Maconie, Guy Garvey and Jazz Record Requests, and so I never come into contact with the chart pop fodder being peddled on Radio 1.
It does mean though that I might miss a great pop song now and then. And we can't have that. Come on, the Beeb. Bring the Pops back!
(Just to prove, I hope, that I'm not just a terrible muso snob, here's a gem from the archive. It was massively popular, has never--to my knowledge--been played on Radcliffe and Maconie. I think even Jazz Record Requests has so far steered clear too. It's a great song though and this is a great performance. Whassup Top of The Pops?!)