A Solemn Watcher

Thomas Lawrence frowns intently at pop culture.
Recent Tweets @meserach


Here we are then. 241 Doctor Who stories, from worst to best.

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First note, you have Frontier in Space twice. I assume one was meant to be Colony in Space (I assumed the higher ranked of the two, at #91 between Crimson Horror and The Sun Makers)

I added this ranking to a spreadsheet I have which gathers together a bunch of different attempts to rank all of Doctor Who, including your own out of ten scores as posted on the Eruditorium as occasional Tuesday content last year. Those rankings don’t (yet?) cover Doctors Nine through Eleven, but there’s still more than enough here to chart a correlation and point out a few things.

As you’d expect, your out of ten ratings from last year and this ranking correlate very well (linear regression gets me an R-squared of 0.85; I’m a shitty statistician though, so I have no idea if there’s a better way to crunch the numbers there). There are some outliers, though: here’s list of stories that a simple linear correlation of your ranking to your out of ten scores would be most wrong:

The Talons of Weng-Chiang (5/10, yet 99th: you’d expect about 7/10)

The Moonbase (3/10, 153rd: you’d expect 5/10)

Galaxy 4 (5/10, 96th, expect 7/10)

The Three Doctors (10/10, 81st, expect 7/10)

The Masque of Mandragora (6/10, 190th, expect 3/10)

The Claws of Axos (5/10, 95th, expect 7/10)

The Daleks (3/10, 145th, expect 5/10)

Mission to the Unknown (6/10, 198th, expect 3/10)

Planet of Evil (7/10, 178th, expect 4/10)

The Mutants (8/10, 154th, expect 5/10)

Of course this might be down to any number of factors: different aesthetic criteria applied to the two different assessments, ambiguities of opinion, evolutions of opinion, performativity of opinion (I know you mentioned somewhere about doing the out of ten scores that there was an element of you overplaying your critical hand here and there..)


anyway, like, obviously “we run things things don’t run we” doesn’t mean the same thing as “we run things things don’t run us” so

Totally want to hear more about this.

Late but not never. Forty words on each track in last week’s Top 40. Links go to Youtube and may break outside the UK, sorry to foreigners. Refer to last week for context: I’ll get increasingly digressive on repeat entries.

#40: Dappy - No Regrets

The triumphalism codes as bluster; regret means self-reflection, but Dappy doesn’t like what he sees in the mirror. But rather than change, we surge on, choir-backed, and proclaim “I’m just being me”. But what if who you are is terrible?

#39: AWOLNATION - Sail

"Sail with me into the dark" - Pop’s loved to make suicide seem beautiful, but here the ugliness and the poetry rub directly against one another - throaty yelling into tinkly piano. Which feels at once more honest and less.

#38: Shakira - Can’t Remember To Forget You (feat. Rihanna)

Is it compulsory that female pop-idol team-ups fail the Bechdel test, as if shitty men are pop’s equivalent of the Anti-Monitor? The video rejoices in lesbian subtext, but otherwise there’s no evidence either has anything to say to the other.

#37: Little Mix - Little Me

One of the happier consequences of The X-Factor’s habit of throwing together groups from individual acts is that you get a bunch of strong voices. And it’s appropriate that women’s voices together in harmony is what sticks in memory here.

#36: Katy Perry - Roar

Little Mix’s esteem-killer is at once abstracted and internal, but Katy Perry’s is some man, which is less compelling. Yet there’s a political tinge to the identification of politeness with oppression, and we all have our own routes to empowerment.

#35: Kid Ink - Show Me (feat. Chris Brown)

And we need every ounce of empowerment we can get arrayed against things like this. Kid Ink lines: “you’re just my type… cup in your hand… on the floor like a doormat”. So, your type’s drunk and vulnerable? Impressively vile.

#34: Sophie Ellis-Bextor - Young Blood

Sophie’s untouchable ice-queen act isn’t the best fit for balladry; a strong ballad vocal packs decisions and emotional transitions into each phrasing, but this feels inert and gauzy, as crystallized and frozen in time as the relationship in the lyric.

#33: Avicii - Wake Me Up

"Wake me up when it’s all over / when I’m wiser and I’m older" Hold up, how’s that meant to work? Enlightenment while unconscious? But then, what else are the video’s pogoing festival teens seeking but transcendence in the autosomatic?

#32: Imagine Dragons - Radioactive

Painfully epic soundtrack to a thousand inspirational YouTube bro-mides. And in fairness the drum-thumping does sound immense, if laboured, but nothing else here can match it, least of all the lyric: “A revolution, I suppose.” You mean you’re not sure?

#31: The Weather Girls - It’s Raining Men

The work of camp has always been to speak truth to power; to code the unspeakable as light entertainment, to bring the subversive into the public sphere as silliness. “It’s Raining Men” was always deadly serious; we’re just catching up.

#30: Miley Cyrus - Adore You

Melisma is meant to connote playfulness, prettiness and even ecstasy, but these are too placed to be playful, too leaden to be pretty, and ecstasy, well, for all the video’s grinding, it’s rather a dry hump. There’s just no energy.

#29: Bastille - Of The Night

It’s not like 90s Eurodance was unaware of its darker side - check out the occult symbology and creepy fairground vibe in Corona’s video - but it understood the value of contrast and not speaking the subtext. Still funny, though.

#28. Martin Garrix - Animals

For all the up-front aggression, what sticks out are the subtler downmixed touches: the screams, yes, but also those wooshing noises in the build to the first drop, like fleeting figures glimpsed over the shoulder on a dark city night.

#27: Beyoncé - XO

"You love me like XO" - Kisses and hugs, yes, but also extinction and oblivion, negation and nothingness, error and eternity. "You kill me boy"; an ego-death, love as transcendence, slipping the surly bonds of Earth to touch Jay-Z’s face.

#26: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis - White Walls (feat. Schoolboy Q & Hollis)

Doubtless Macklemore’s biography features some level of economic hardship, but the point of the Cadillac is the celebration of achieving the signifiers of wealth in a society structured against you, while white dudes get handed shit in preference to you.

#25: Lorde - Royals

And that’s the key flaw here - Lorde confuses the expression of wealth with aristocracy. The real aristos have long been subtler than that, and the anger here is misplaced: it don’t run in their blood either. That’s the point.

#24. OneRepublic - Counting Stars

It’s not that pop music can’t be about how money sucks; it’s just that it should do so with some consciousness about the social structures that make it so. Otherwise we blame the victims. It’s not the counting that’s capitalism.

#23: Chris Malinchak - If U Got It

Headphone music, in that it sounds like it happens inside your skull; it’s minimal but claustrophobic, even suffocating; the echoey, oddly treated vocal loops like ghosts of memory, singing about love and eternity, yet solipsistic and bounded. Austere, evanescent, compelling.

#22: Eminem - The Monster (feat. Rihanna)

Is Rihanna actually a good fit for songs about emotional and mental trauma? It seems to touch uncomfortably on her status as an Abuse Survivor, which is kinda terribly reductive. Or maybe it’s just the numbed flatness of her voice.

#21: Sub Focus - Turn Back Time

Actually this is more drum n bass than anthem house, and it’s those signature vocal cut-ups that really mark it out both as that genre and a truly retro piece. And good thing, since I love and miss them terribly.

#20: Idina Menzel - Let It Go

Why isn’t pop also musical theatre? What codes as “theatrical” about this is the self-conscious performativity of the phrasing - demonstrating rather than being - but this is a voice largely lost to pop. Authenticity is probably to blame. Again.

#19 Katy Perry - Dark Horse

To an extent the divide between bubblegum and hip-hop inflected pop’s always been illusory, since the Neptunes produced Britney at least, but this is still a departure for Katy Perry. “I’m capable of anything” - on this evidence, well, maybe. 

#18. Tinie Tempah & Labrinth - Lover Not A Fighter

Oh man, the bluesy middle-eight. Finger snaps! A masterclass in elevating relatively pedestrian vocal material - Tinie’s got some good lines, but Labrinth’s vocal hook is weak - with production that understands the value of new things every thirty seconds.

#17: Matrix & Futurebound - Control (feat. Max Marshall)

See, if the vocal here was cut-up like Sub Focus’, we might have something. “Your fire takes hold” - but the fire in this track’s all in the drums, the rest is all cooling synth washes and icy treble. Hmph.

#16: Busta Rhymes - Thank You (feat. Q-Tip, Kanye West & Lil Wayne)

The “Thank You” of the gospel lyric is directed at deity, but the only things other than themselves really bigged up here is one another - we’re gentlemen, not to mention we veterans. So it’s about friendship, really. Which, bless.

#15: Ellie Goulding - How Long Will I Love You

The appeal here is presumably meant to be in the simplicity; the very insipidness I railed against coded as straightforwardness and lack of affect, appropriate to the lyric’s profession of devotion. Whichmight work if I believed it even slightly.

#14: Vance Joy - Riptide

A Manic Pixie Dream Girl movie condensed into three minutes. Which is a concentration. Pedestals - or higher shelves - are for objects. “All my friends are turning green” - how nice for you. Next show off your fancy watch?

#13: Fuse ODG - Million Pound Girl (Badder Than Bad)

Despite affixing a price tag to “his” woman, Fuse ODG still manages to sound like he cares more about her as a person than Vance Joy. And he doesn’t pretend his admiration for her is clever or artistic. Infinitely preferable.

#12: The Vamps - Wild Heart

More dream girls. The boys here don’t know her name, but why let that stop them diagnosing what she needs with a glance? Spoiler: it’s them, and their allegedly wild hearts. Why learn her name? It’d only disappoint the dream.

#11: OneRepublic - If I Lose Myself

What’s the actual attitude to losing yourself here? It might be happening “by your side”, but losing yourself in what? The music? Each other? Is it a hope or a fear? Did OneRepublic care enough to decide, even on ambiguity?

#10: Jason Derulo - Trumpets

#10: He’s watching his own music video in bed! #9: His painting, of himself, above his bed, sings along behind him! #8: The Katy Perry song her bra reminds him of is either “Hot n Cold” or “UR So Gay”!

#9: Beyoncé - Drunk In Love (feat. JAY Z)

Just as only Nixon could go to China, there’s a sense in which only Beyonce can be so surrendered to her man in song: we know she’s coming from the place of being the Independent Woman. Doesn’t excuse, but contextualizes.

#8: Avicii - Hey Brother

There’s a lot of songs about love in the charts, to put it mildly, but fraternal love’s relatively uncommon. Perhaps because it’s unconditional, so we can’t justify it to others (or ourselves)? So it’s hard to say much of meaning.

#7: Neon Jungle - Braveheart

Nothing in pop’s better than the early, transgressive hits of girl bands establishing themselves - “Wannabe” being the modern ur-text - all bratty braggadocio and asserted swagger. Here that’s fused with current sounds, to show they can. Growing on me.

#6: Pitbull - Timber (feat. Ke$ha)

Horns have always sounded louche and beery - that’s what “Trumpets” is about - but the harmonica has them beat, doesn’t it? That’s what it’s doing here, apart from acting as a line-dancing signifier - sounding like how drunk feels.

#5: Katy B - Crying For No Reason

In hindsight Katy B’s always has more in common with Robyn than was immediately obvious - songs about isolation in clubs - but here it hits, well, full force. And I can’t feel sad about more Robyn in the charts.

#4: Gorgon City & MNEK - Ready For Your Love

I love how that vocal’s low enough to sound like it’s whispered in your ear before the chorus kicks in. Elsewise, all that echoey reverb and synth washes marks this as another for the “urban anomie meets romantic existentialism” file.

#3: Pharrell Williams - Happy

It does sound like it can go on for 24 hours, and that’s the main resistance here, the feeling of being inaccessibly infinite: there being no way in from the outside if you’re not at least a little happy already.

#2: will.i.am - Feelin’ Myself (feat. Miley Cyrus, French Montana & Wiz Khalifa)

There’s a through line here about the intersections of “feeling yourself” - self-actualization, self-confidence, self-love and self-pleasure - but mostly I want to see a remake of Snow White where the magic mirror tells the Queen that she’s the shit.

#1: Clean Bandit - Rather Be (feat. Jess Glynne)

We’re gonna be here a while, so let’s break it down. The strings come first, but not the long drawn strings you’d get with Goulding, these are sharp, clear, a melody to themselves: foreground, not background; joy, not contentment - vital.


I’m going to start off my tenure here at One Week One Band by talking about some things I’m not going to be talking about. (Except now, when I will be talking about them to talk about not talking about them, blah blah blah, et cetera.)

Here’s the thing: Little Mix is a “manufactured” band….

Elisabeth Sanders is absolutely killing it on One Week One Band this week re: Little Mix. Important popwrite!











I feel ancient here

You’re not alone

30 on this coming wednesday

32 in May.

33 very shortly.

33 in August. 

Turned 38 two weeks ago.

26 as of last September.


28. I think.

A formalist experiment: forty words on each track in the Top 40. Links will be to videos on Youtube where possible: apologies if they break for non-UK readers. Sentence fragments likely. Hand-waving vagueness inevitable. Askbox open if you seek expansion.

#40. Storm Queen - Look Right Through (MK Remix)

One paradox of EDM is the tension between being the most human music - it’s for dancing, for being visceral - and the most robotic. And here we have a lyric about being social but unknown: dancefloor as existential party.

#39. Ellie Goulding - Burn

Cowell-esque church bells and winner’s song triumphalism awkwardly abuts urban club cred my generation anthem, run through by Ellie’s trilling warble. We light it up, they can’t put it out: who are these sides? Few clues; rebels with no cause.

#38. Lady Gaga - Do What U Want (feat. R. Kelly)

Sex as resignation; exulting in surrender of bodies but not selves: not invalid as sexual expression, but deeply problematic as pop, even before R. Kelly arrives proclaiming not to give a fuck. I’m inclined to agree, and turn him off.

#37. Calvin Harris & Alesso - Under Control (feat. Hurts)

More EDM existential tensions, as him from Hurts philosophises on the nature of freedom while Calvin craps out another synth stab melody line. The build is exciting: the climax resolves into the same old shit. Such is every youth revolution.

#36: Little Mix - Move

I’m a sucker for something percussion led. Clicks, claps, cowbell and snaps under vocal harmonies, an ascending bassline builds to an endlessly deferred climax. But that’s okay, these ladies are happy in their groove; they just want to, well, move.

#35: Chase & Status - Alive (feat. Jacob Banks)

See, for urban existentialism you can’t beat a breakbeat: with that rattling along at 180bpm, what lyric wouldn’t sound like a desperate howl against a careless world hurtling on without you? Pop becomes a pyrrhic victory. Astoundingly bleak video, too. Grim.

#34: Ed Sheeran - I See Fire

It feels like an indictment of Ed Sheeran’s career that he’s a good fit for Hobbity bucolic folk fantasy. But these are the imperial years of cider drinking earnestness in chart pop, and here its godhead pays back a debt.

#33: Miley Cyrus - Adore You

Did the tweenage Miley deal in this kind of exaggerated melismatic cooing (“yo-o-o-o-o-ou”) anywhere? I ask because it’s almost the only point of interest I can find in this weirdly inert ballad; such a slow jam it’s more like jelly.

#32: OneRepublic - If I Lose Myself

Aural wallpaper in eight shades of beige, so smooth-milled as to be impossible to get any kind of grip upon. The U2 influence is obvious in every sense. Stadium-ready, in that it’s vast and empty, a container for other experiences.

#31: Shakira - Can’t Remember To Forget You (feat. Rihanna)

Could probably only be disappointing with that artist credit, but it’s disappointing in an unexpected way - who expected ska-rock, from either party? Bouncy and propulsive yet somehow unsatisfying. Not nearly as absurd as these elements together should have demanded.

#30: One Direction - Story Of My Life

Mumford tactics are used in support of an oddly ambiguous and troubled lyric, with the titular hinting at world-weariness. “I spend her love until she’s broke inside.” Quite the reversal from the prior story of love as your self-esteem’s salvation.

#29: Lorde - Royals

As statement of intent, astounding: one thing to make pop this disaffected aged 17, but quite another to debut with a claim to “queen bee” in a chart with Beyonce in. I’ve criticisms aplenty, but you gotta salute the ambition.

#28: AWOLNATION - Sail

Trip-hop’s unholy mall-squatting union with nu-metal is unsurprisingly angst-drenched. “Maybe I should kill myself” is bracingly direct for this kind of thing, but every generation needs its screaming emotional venting twinned with world-ending bass vworp to terrify its parents with.

#27: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis - White Walls (feat. Schoolboy Q & Hollis)

For all Macklemore and Lewis’ evident social conscience, they sure love some ostentatious appropriation. Undoubtedly tongues are buried firmly in cheek, but it’s not like hip-hop’s conspicuous consumption wasn’t always done with a sense of irony as well as defiance.

#26: Avicii - Wake Me Up

More Mumford influence, here visiting anthem house and settling right in with scarcely any need to redecorate. Acoustic arpeggios build seamlessly into the standard stabby synth-o’-clock climax. Again the lyric has a weariness that gives the lie to the euphoria.

#25: Katy Perry - Roar

Consciously evokes the none-more-80s training montage classic to sell a straightforward empowerment anthem. “I stood for nothing/ So I fell for everything” is a neat, clever couplet, but sadly swamped in the mixed metaphor salad and full-on yawping chorus pileup.

#24: Beyoncé - XO

Via a drowsy, growly delivery from Beyonce, a bad-taste Challenger sample and a “light’s out” motif, we arrive at end-of-night as apocalypse, love’s consummation as the last spark prior to oblivion. To which? Enh. Nihilism’s not my flavour of Bey.

#23: Kid Ink - Show Me (feat. Chris Brown)

The inversion of Show Me Love’s defiant female petition for emotional sincerity into a male desire and entitlement to sex is gross enough. And then we add noted domestic abuser Chris Brown. Chris, no-one’s got to show you fucking anything.

#22: Idina Menzel - Let It Go

Disney, obviously, but as chart pop  this clashes intriguingly with the fire as self-actualization metaphor prevalent in earlier entries. This is still self-expression, but as individuality and isolation rather than communality - the existential impulse fully embraced. As musical theatre!

#21: Little Mix - Little Me

The instinct is to condemn this, for trading in platitudes and false redemption for scars running longer and deeper than three minutes of girlband pop could ever touch. But fuck that. This needs to be here. Better over-earnest than cynical.

#20: Bastille - Of The Night

A seeming attempt to redeem 90s Eurodance by making it DARKER AND ANGRIER. Comics fans know there’s nothing more 90s than rebooting old properties by making them dark and angsty. Possibly Bastille knew that, but it’s funnier if they didn’t.

#19. Martin Garrix - Animals

The star here is the drop into the clicky noise, lifted straight from the Neptunes. With horror movie screams, car alarms and the motherfuckin’ distorted vocal, this manages a genuine menace. And where’d our urban existentialist nihilism be without fear?

#18. Tinie Tempah & Labrinth - Lover Not A Fighter

Not their best work, but I could listen to endless hours of Tinie rasping “Yeaaaaaah” in that inimitable fashion over Labrinth’s ooh-shiny-things kitchen sink production. And “In my vintage eBay watch, that’s why I feel like the Hoff” is excellent.

#17. OneRepublic - Counting Stars

At least it rolls right along, pushed by that oom-pah drum beat. No idea what it means, though: some cod-utopian thing about forgetting the money, maaaaan? To which, ugh. It’s easy to watch it burn when you have spare, Tedder.

#16: Elyar Fox - Do It All Over Again

Bieber’s broken, we need a replacement. To YouTube! I quite like the slap bass mixed with wub wub vworping, even if it’s just cynically taking California Gurls and sticking dubstep in it because. I hate more or less everything else.

#15: Eminem - The Monster (feat. Rihanna)

Last time these two were portraying an abusive relationship. Here it’s the same, but between Marshall and himself. Self-abuse, then, and it’s masturbatory indeed - having the outlet is healthy, but that doesn’t mean you should reward it with attention.

#14: Sub Focus - Turn Back Time

Given the title, this is appropriately the most retro feeling of the current chart’s glut of anthem house. It’s all here: the cut-up diva vocal, the piano loops - did I catch someone going “jack your body” just then? Blimey.

#13: Busta Rhymes - Thank You (feat. Q-Tip, Kanye West & Lil Wayne)

Busta and Tip swap spit(ing) over a loop of funk piano for seemingly no-one’s enjoyment but their own. Yeezy and Weezy pop in to say hi. Hey, everyone’s having fun. Minimal in every sense, utterly inessential but hard to hate.

#12: Beyoncé - Drunk In Love (feat. JAY Z)

Bey and Jay take a relationship performed in music to it’s logical extreme and just make a song-as-sex-tape. Good for them, although a surfboard dick sounds painful, frankly. Anna Mae lyric is unacceptable though, don’t care if it’s their kink.

#11: Ellie Goulding - How Long Will I Love You

The Waterboys wrote this as full folk, fiddles and all, coasting on Celtic charm. Ellie opts to strip it back, exposing the lyric for the insipid glurge it is. Love may be stupid, but love songs don’t need to be.

#10: Vance Joy - Riptide

Ho Hey, ho hum. It’s an uptempo jangle at least, and there are worse things than scraggly white dudes with acoustics singing nonsense (“left hand man” why, exactly?) about their dream ladies. I just can’t think of any right now.

#9: Matrix & Futurebound - Control (feat. Max Marshall)

The joy of drum n’ bass to me is the kinetic rush of breakbeats stampeding to the horizon, but the icy, melancholy synths and the cooing, wistful vocal is a cold shower where I wanted an aphrodisiac. Too much control.

#8: Fuse ODG - Million Pound Girl (Badder Than Bad)

Exchange rate aside, a million pound girl sounds less glamorous than a million dollar one. But that’s kind of the point: this is both cheap and cheerful. Cloyingly so, but I can’t hate it, especially in this sullen January chart.

#7: Jason Derulo - Trumpets

In the video Jason is repeatedly cockblocked by a voyeuristic marching band. This isn’t even in the top ten most ridiculous things about this song. No idea how far Jason’s aware just how ridiculous it is, but either way, hilarious.

#6: Avicii - Hey Brother

Why the heck doesn’t Dan Tyminski rate an artist credit when he’s the entire thing for full minutes? A decision as cynical as making this mish mash-up of meaningless fauxspirational folk bromides and half-hearted house hand-claps in the first place.

#5: Pitbull - Timber (feat. Ke$ha)

Exactly the opposite way to fuse country music and EDM: take two of the least po-faced artists around right now and embrace the cheesy gimmickry inherent in the enterprise. Still not actually, you know, good, but at least it’s honest.

#4: Neon Jungle - Braveheart

That thunderous farting bass is excellently disruptive, and the Japanese counting and rap break provide welcome hints of personality. But the rest sounds like the dance remix of itself, and just isn’t as brash as I want it to be.

#3: The Vamps - Wild Heart

Oddly, the one track in the chart where I actually like the bluegrass banjo twiddling. If only it were much higher in the mix. As in, drowning the rest. Also: other than burning in sunlight, how are these boys vamps?

#2: Pharrell Williams - Happy

In a chart clogged with miserablism that pretends profundity, no way I’m not falling for something this breezy. You’ll get swept away or it’ll blow right past you, cause nothing’s going to spoil it’s day. And right now, I’m happy.

#1: Clean Bandit - Rather Be (feat. Jess Glynne)

At once of a piece with the diva house trend and standing apart, pointing another way: those playful bloops, these brightening strings, that wide-eyed piano riff! All redeeming the simple sentiment of the lyric. In the end, there’s joy enough.










"The day of limbo".
I mean… I guess? Except I’m in a happy committed relationship, so erm… no longer in limbo?

But are you dating Hermes Conrad.

"We would design our fictional study around two points of data collection: measuring the proficiency of both experimental group and control group before the new law comes into effect, and afterwards, let us say in 6 months time."
You hear that, lofrothepirate? We need to start using a lab notebook.

"John, there’s the lagoon."

"Okay… this looks bad."
closest book was the Hawkeye ‘My Life As A Weapon’ book. la la la.

My closest book is a Berlin travel guide.
"Menus increasingly champion traditional (and long underrated) ingredients such as root vegetables (like parsnip, turnips, and parsley root), old-fashioned grains like barley and buckwheat, and game and other meats like Blutwurst (blood sausage), Zickleinleber (baby goat liver) or Ochsenbäckchen (ox cheeks)."

My closest book is a colour-by-numbers with no words in.  HA!

"He won’t take much convincing - it’s a show about selfish boasting."
oh dear


"Do something under fire"
(A roleplaying book. Vincent D Baker’s “Apocalypse World”.)
Depending on how you interpret the instructions, I could also have had “Man, woman, ambiguous or transgressing.” Or, excellently: “if you have sex turn to page 48”.










"The day of limbo".

I mean… I guess? Except I’m in a happy committed relationship, so erm… no longer in limbo?

But are you dating Hermes Conrad.

"We would design our fictional study around two points of data collection: measuring the proficiency of both experimental group and control group before the new law comes into effect, and afterwards, let us say in 6 months time."

You hear that, lofrothepirate? We need to start using a lab notebook.

"John, there’s the lagoon."

"Okay… this looks bad."

closest book was the Hawkeye ‘My Life As A Weapon’ book. la la la.

My closest book is a Berlin travel guide.

"Menus increasingly champion traditional (and long underrated) ingredients such as root vegetables (like parsnip, turnips, and parsley root), old-fashioned grains like barley and buckwheat, and game and other meats like Blutwurst (blood sausage), Zickleinleber (baby goat liver) or Ochsenbäckchen (ox cheeks)."

My closest book is a colour-by-numbers with no words in.  HA!

"He won’t take much convincing - it’s a show about selfish boasting."

oh dear


"Do something under fire"

(A roleplaying book. Vincent D Baker’s “Apocalypse World”.)

Depending on how you interpret the instructions, I could also have had “Man, woman, ambiguous or transgressing.” Or, excellently: “if you have sex turn to page 48”.

So here’s a thing I wanna talk about. Because there’s a strange hole at the center of this article about the Annie Mae lyric in “Drunk In Love”, and it’s this: it’s Jay-Z’s line. Why aren’t we asking him why it’s in there?

Beyonce’s placed under extraordinary pressure to be the Model Black Feminist Woman in Music. Because she’s incredibly popular, incredibly successful, and because she’s built on a career on feminist anthems like “Independent Women”.

She’s not perfect, of course. And no-one is or could be, especially under this degree of scrutiny. And it’s totally legit to place her music under a feminist lens and talk about it that way. That’s valuable work.

But how is Jay-Z’s input not part of this? Surely he wrote the guest verse. Why aren’t we asking why he thinks its appropriate to equate domestic abuse with cunnilingus in this way? If we don’t pick up on that, we draw dangerously close to the idea that while women are under pressure to be perfect in their self-expression, men in the same position are just going to be terrible and there’s no helping that.

Which is an awful message to be sending, far worse than Beyonce’s tacit endorsement by mouthing along to his verse (or, indeed, including it in the song in the first place).

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Hi Tom, it's great that you have so many views on Monkseal's blog and on Strictly, but (and I really, really mean this kindly) maybe rein in a bit on how much you write as a reply to someone else's blog, so that your reply isn't longer than the blog itself! (MS's 30-odd lines to your 100 + ... ) He puts a lot of time into writing up his blogs - just as you do in your own write-ups - so it's only fair to the original blogger (Monkseal, you or anyone) if other people accept that. Take care x
meserach meserach Said:

Hi there! Yes, you’re right, it was one hel of a length screed. I was very tired when I was writing it up and I don’t think I realised just how long it had gotten. I think in future I’ll post anything that long on this blog or somewhere else similar, and maybe just slip a link in on the comments over at casa Monkseal. :)




This isn’t a rhetorical question; I’ve been thinking about it for a bit and still am not sure of the answer, if there even is one. But, now that the fervor over Roman Reloadedhas died down, I think it’s interesting to think about what the album means to pop. Is Nicki currently unable, or maybe unwilling, to navigate the waters of pop without resorting to the lowest common denominator, or is she a woman out of time?

My lasting thought reRoman Reloaded has switched from, “Wouldn’t it be great if she made a whole rap album?” to, “How would this album have turned out if Nicki had people like Timbaland and the Neptunes at her disposal?” My hope would be that if Nicki could work with peak-era Tim or the Neptunes, that the pop that she would create would be much more adventurous, something that bridged the gap between “Beez in the Trap” and the Billboard Top 10. (Or maybe “Beez in the Trap”will do that.) But maybe that wouldn’t happen, or wouldn’t even be possible considering the market.

Nicki is a singular voice in pop, but she’s come up in a time where basically no producers and/or writers are consistently bridging the gap between rap/r&b and pop in a way that doesn’t seemingly make massive concessions. Forget Tim and Neptunes, there isn’t really anyone out there right now that could even hit Nicki with a “London Bridge.” Wouldn’t it be great to hear what Nicki and Pharrell and Chad would’ve done with the “I’m a Slave 4 U” beat?

Whether listeners have pushed what would be (or could be) the next Pharrell out of pop or whether a lack of Pharrells has allowed pop to submit itself to Europe is something I also don’t really know the answer to. Would Nicki over the “Southern Hospitality” or “Gossip Folks” beats be top 20 hits right now? If not, would that be Nicki’s fault? Or would it be the marketplace’s fault? 

I realize I’m sort of creating an alternate universe here that contains an irreconcilable number of variables, but Roman Reloaded leaves me with a lot of questions about pop music in 2012, and a much smaller number that I can answer. At some point, I think the back-and-forth contrarian arguing over whether the pop parts ofRoman Reloaded are “right” or “good” will look silly to us in retrospect, as the next few years of Nicki’s career should help us answer a lot of the questions that we — or at least I — have right now.

Maybe here’s a better way of putting it (or maybe not): despite what you heard on Watch the Throne, it’s really Nicki that’s the LeBron James of pop.

I don’t think there’s anyone at fault with how this album ended up turning out and certainly no pointed blame could be made of the marketplace it was released into. While, it would be great to hear Nicki work with early 2000 Timbaland or Neptunes, I would also love to hear another Outkast album and well we know how likely that is to happen. The music climate is constantly changing, and maybe “Beez in the Trap” could become a Top 10 hit—I certain didn’t hear a Top 10 single the first time I heard “Niggas in Paris” or “Rack City”—but if it doesn’t no one would be surprised. 

The separation of Pop and Rap in 2012 is kind of interesting. A hit Pop song in 2012 is so by the numbers at this point that if Guetta, Dr. Luke, or RedOne on a track one can assume that it is already a Top 40 hit, but who are those producers in the rap world? At least in terms of Top 40 hits, the era of the rap producer reigning supreme has been over for a few years now, and while there are those occational hit cross-over songs, no one producer dominates the rap and pop charts the way someone like Lil Jon was doing nearly a decade ago. Yet, if one did, who knows if they would have produced more than a song or two for this album, because while “I’m a Slave 4 U” is a classic single, it was Clipse and Kelis were getting fully produced Neptunes albums not Britney. 

And to question of whether those previous Neptunes produced single would be hits today: No, they wouldn’t be. Most songs don’t get second lives for a reason, because at least for the general public songs exist in certain period and are popular for a specific circumstance that just cannot be replicated no matter how great or timeless a song might seem. Would “Yeah” by a #1 hit again in 2012, probably not, and I doubt it would even crack the Top 20. 

A few thoughts on all of this:

1. Ultimately the problem with the back half of PF:RR is that the Guetta/Dr. Luke/RedOne sound is getting pretty played out, isn’t it? It’s like the Lex Lugar/Southside equivalent for pop music. A sound that I really liked, and in hindsight will probably remember quite fondly, but I’m tired of hearing it on the radio now.

2. One of the biggest differences between now and ten years ago is that the pop charts simply have less rap. It’s not even that rap producers can’t dominate the Hot 100, it’s that rap music itself can’t. The last actual hip-hop rap song to hit number one was “Black and Yellow” and that was over a year ago. That may not sound signficant, but compare that to the following people who had #1 songs on the Hot 100 in 2003: P. Diddy, LL Cool J, 50 Cent, Nelly, Jay-Z, Ludacris, Outkast. Not only that, but non-rap artists (namely, [white] pop singers like Britney and NSync etc) were clamoring to work with hip-hop producers and rappers too. I can’t imagine Ludacris or Nelly working with Max Martin the way that Flo Rida or, well, Ludacris worked with David Guetta. It’s equally hard for me to think of a mainstream pop star who could work with a hip-hop producer the way that Britney or Justin or Nelly Furtado did. Ke$ha? Bieber?! What if like Bieber could cut a track with like, um, Hit-Boy or something.


But if “Boyfriend” is anything to go by, Bieber’s going in exactly the direction of the Neptunes. I agree with a lot of the above from all parties, but it feels like we’re turning a corner on the Guettaisation of the charts; various signals from Usher’s “Climax” thru Beiber’s “Boyfriend” and even “Call Me Maybe” suggest a shift in dominant production values away from cookie-cutter housetrance back to the R&B/teenpop inflections of the early noughties.

I hope I’m right, for Nicki’s sake if no-one else’s.