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[personal profile] venta
A few weeks ago, ChrisC fell across a list of the Forty best-selling singles of 2016. We read the list with blank little faces, muttering "I haven't heard any of these!"

To be fair, ChrisC did better. He'd heard number 40, Hello by Adele, which he encountered while doing due diligence on the headliners before we went to Glastonbury. I am less diligent. However, I have spent a lot of time this year in gyms, trying to exercise my knees back into working order, and there is some rule that all gyms must show multiple TV channels, all with the sound off, and play terrible radio. Surely I would have heard some of them, even if I couldn't identify them by name.

I am working at home today, so during my lunch hour ChrisC turned on a previously unheard-of TV channel - 4music - which claimed to be going to play all 2016's number ones. We got away without any Clean Bandit, who were Christmas number one, so it was patently a lie, but they certainly delivered a decent number of the songs I was after. I had indeed heard a lot of them in gyms across the capital. (Edit: Wikipedia's list of 2016 number 1s is somewhat different, so I have no idea what list this channel was using.)

Having listened to a raft of the top singles all together, I can say with total (and objective) certainty that they really do sound all the same, and they really are shit. There is a very definite sound of 2016 - and it is heavily auto-tuned and has no discernible instruments. Not one single video featured actual live footage of a band - I commented about two-thirds of the way through that we hadn't seen a single guitar, anywhere. (Shortly after that a video by some chap called Zayn - presumably the one who used to be in One Direction - briefly included a guitar, but someone was slamming it against a wall rather than playing it.)

In fact, I don't think that any of the songs were performed by something I'd identify as a band (i.e. a collection of persons who play instruments and sing). There were people in there (like Calvin Harris, for example) who are multi-instrumentalists and very talented, but he's a behind-the-scenes kind of guy. The music seems to be all about the singers (and dancers) with voices that are so manipulated that any live performance seems a bit pointless.

And if you thought the visual innuendo in 80's videos was a bit much, then it really hasn't got any better. [Disclaimer: I strongly recommend not clicking on that link!]

There is, of course, a potential argument that I am just getting old. We speculated that back in our day there was probably 'a sound', too, so looked up the number 1s from 1995. And I genuinely think that there is a a lot more variety: Oasis and Blur being lads-with-guitars, Shaggy bringing a bit of reggae, Take That for pop and Robson & Jerome for pop-for-parents, Coolio rapping on Gangsta's Paradise and Michael Jackson at his wankiest in Earth Song. It's not the most varied programme I could dream up, but there's a good bit of elbow room in there.

Maybe I just don't appreciate the finer points of different subgenres of R&B. Which, by the way, is now a genre in its own right - quite distinct from Rhythm and Blues.

If you're interested, my singles of the year were Düsseldorf and Hymn on The 45. I don't think either troubled the charts :)
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