“I don’t like country-and-western,” says Chris Lowe in a spoken-word bridge on Pet Shop Boys’ 1986 single, Paninaro; “I don’t like rock music… I don’t like rockabilly or rock ‘n’ roll particularly… Don’t like much really, do I?”
For those of you who know me (personally and/or in the abstract dimension of my PearShaped portfolio), you’d be forgiven for thinking I hate just about everything. Not only that, but a lot of the time, it seems very contrarian of me (for example, I’m just about the only person I know who thinks the Rolling Stones are overrated). For all my very vocal despair however, it’s worth remembering this – I do know full well that taste is a subjective beast and, at the end of the day, who am I to hold your appreciation of Death Grips against you – right?
I’m the first to posit that the charts have gone to shit. The streaming-inclusive economy of the thing is broken and the framework, built as it was on a market for individual songs pressed on CD and vinyl, is more or less redundant. These are just that though – quibbles of economy. And, all too often I think, (particularly with regards to my own criticism) these logistic pitfalls serve to fuel heated tirades about the kind of music that makes the top-spot and not the system, which more is more objectively deserving of a smack-down. So, in a way, this instalment of A View From The Top is my way of saying sorry to you – because I’m not a fan of Ed Sheeran, but it’s more than okay for you to be, and I ought not let my upset at the state of data collection insult your aesthetic preference as I know I (and others, admittedly) have done before.
This epiphany of mine is actually all thanks to Ed Sheeran, oddly enough, who (historically) places at number one, two and four on the UK singles chart this week. Though I personally can’t identify with his Steets-esque, half-rapped/half-sung troubadoury-daubery (the number one) or indeed his habit of cultural name-dropping for indie brownie-points (the number two), I am enamoured with the simplistic sensibilities and vocal melodies on his latest track, How Would You Feel (Paean) (the number 4), best enjoyed (I reckon) in its live, acoustic rendition.
This, I acknowledge, is very selfish of me – backing down on my violent quest against fans of Ed Sheeran purely because I like his new song. No one likes a führer, and so I’ll guiltily admit to liking How Would You Feel, not because it’s cheesy and warrants some excuse (à la “forgive me, James Murphy for I have sinned”), but because I’m a big fat hypocrite. Learning curves though, Ed Sheeran’s taught me something, and I won’t be so quick to judge next time. It’s healthier for me too; all this anger is very draining. For God’s sake, I myself wrote a song with the words “why re-appropriate when you can innovate?” – that applies to energies too, not just the Beyoncé-based specificities of that circus… I don’t know, perhaps I’m guiltily ranting about nothing.
Chris Lowe himself gets there in the end, on Paninaro, going on to reassure the listener that “what [he does] like [he loves] passionately”. And I guess that’s the important thing really – making sure your musical passion is acceptance, not vehemence.