A View From The Top #35

by Sarah Turnnidge

Sunday 5th June 2016

The eighth week has rolled on by, and Drake watches on with a mixture of weak joy and confusion as to why his track One Dance has topped the UK singles once again. Surely the people of Great Britain have grown tired of artfully sampled early 2000’s dance-pop tracks and auto-tuned lyrics? One Dance has been through a journey over the past two months; beginning life as a fresh and genuinely fun track, it has mutated into an entity that has the exact same soul as the kind of middle-aged man who whips his top off at the first hint of sunshine, blaring One Dance through his underwhelming car speakers, months after it entered into the charts, imagining himself to be the first man to truly discover Drake. In short, One Dance is slowly becoming more and more irrelevant, that same middle-aged man yelling in your face as you wait for the bus, a nuisance but largely unmemorable.

Writing about One Dance as the number one single seems now an pointless exercise, there are seven other articles on the PearShaped website that discuss it in detail, each a little more incredulous as the weeks go on. This stagnation of the charts has been written on several times, and this effect of stasis is of course important to note as it is incredibly relevant to the current music industry. However, just looking at the album charts this tale of repetitive dance/house/pop music that currently dominates the singles market becomes clouded by the resurgent popularity of indie bands emerging through the album chart. Catfish And The Bottlemen have reached the peak position with their second album, The Ride.

Catfish And The Bottlemen have experienced a meteoric rise to fame; having existed in the shadows of their own brand of indie for years, they finally began breaking through early last year and have since been seeing widespread success. This path is reminiscent of earlier indie artists who burst onto the scene in the early to mid-2000’s with a hit song (bands such as The Arctic Monkeys and The Kooks spring to mind), but does it signal a wider return to the popularity of indie rock/pop? In recent memory the music scene has appeared to exist in a constant state of flux, concentrated around the opposing concepts of mainstream/indie, when one becomes popular and begins to dominate the charts, the alternative genre steps forward and makes it’s presence felt in reaction. With artists such as Drake heading the charts week after week, existing in the somewhat in the same commercial vein as other musicians such as Justin Bieber and Zayn Malik; flouting high production costs and almost guaranteed profits, is it really any surprise that the indie band is enjoying a resurgence, in a different chart altogether?

As the roundtable review of The Ride released by PearShaped in May suggests, The Ride is not even a particularly memorable or innovative album; divisively sticking with tried-and-tested song formulas from the debut album with varied measures of success, but clearly something in that combination that works. It could be argued even that the ‘mainstream’ efforts, such as One Dance from Drake are more exciting; yes, One Dance is fundamentally a song about people in a club made mostly for people who are in clubs, but it utilises a fusion of sounds from different music scenes to create something relatively complex. This seems distant from the monotony of Catfish And The Bottlemens The Ride, which frequently falls back on repetitive chord sequences and basic, conversational lyrics, and yet becomes monotonous because it exists alongside hundreds of other tracks from similarly polished performers, with huge teams behind them to create a complex, distinctive sound.

In short, there may not be a huge difference between the chart topping single One Dance, and the chart-topping album The Ride. The fact that they can coexist at the top of the British popular charts shows the diversity in taste, but also the lack of diversity within the genre themselves. Drake, like Catfish And The Bottlemen, have given their wide audiences a broad encapsulation of what they want, and this is the reason for their popularity. This leads to the wider debate concerning the legitimacy of claiming  ‘mainstream’ and ‘indie’ categories within the chart music scene, but this is not the place for it. For now, Drake continues to rule the singles chart. Analysis of the dwindling figures for One Dance suggests that it may not cling to the top spot for much longer, but rest assured something startlingly similar will enter in its place.