Some people would have you believe that singles don’t matter anymore.
In an age when you can download seemingly every album track in the world at will, where there’s no Top Of The Pops or Smash Hits, or where Fearne Cotton and Reggie Yates present the nation’s Top 40 in a manner akin to that of two toddlers mainlining Sunny D, does the humble single even matter any more?
Yes, is the answer. Even these days, a single (or ‘track’ as we should now refer to them) can introduce us to a new artist, sum up a particular moment of history, or if you believe some of the conspiracy theorists this year, even control the weather.
The soundtrack to 2007′s summer was undoubtedly Rihanna’s Umbrella. It was number one for a total of 10 weeks, every day of which seemed to be accompanied by torrential rain and floods. Although familiarity inevitably bred contempt for Umbrella, it was a superior slice of RnB pop – uplifting, oddly melancholic, and with a killer refrain of ‘ella, ella,ella’ that managed to simultaneously delight and drive you mad.
In fact, 2007 seemed to be the year of pop tinged with a slightly sad streak. One of the comebacks of the year was that of Robyn – a Swedish singer probably best known for her 1997 hit Show Me Love. Ten years passed where the Swede rarely troubled the UK’s charts, and then back she came with one of the year’s saddest, lovely, electro-moments.
With Every Heartbeat was immense – huge, epic and swelling with a tear stained grandeur that couldn’t fail to touch all who heard it. As Ben Urdang said at the time: “this sorrowful song is a perfect accompaniment to this sad excuse of a summer”.
Of the new artists to have emerged this year, one name stood out – that of Kate Nash. At the start of the year she was a former shop assistant in Harrow only known to the MySpace addicted hoards – that changed the minute that Foundations was released, only kept from the number one spot by the aforementioned Rihanna.
Nash was to split the country’s music lovers like the proverbial Marmite – half of us loved the freshness, the vitality and the wit of Nash’s songs, while the rest cried ‘poor man’s Lily Allen‘ and derided Nash’s ‘mockney’ vocals and lyric writing. One thing is for sure though – in 2008, she’s only going to get bigger.
The scene that both Nash and Allen exploded from was to continue to ripple this year, with Jack Peate emerging with some terrific singles like Torn On The Platform (and a not so terrific album), and Remi Nicole producing the endearing Rock N Roll. Perhaps the year’s most talked about track though was LDN Is A Victim – a vitriolic parody of that very scene that appeared online, sparking fury from the likes of Ms Allen herself.
Pop music was reliably taken care of by Girls Aloud and Sugababes – possibly the two most consistent girl bands around right now. Yet McFly fans caused a storm in our mailbox when we gave The Heart Never Lies a thumbs down: it remains to be seen whether the boys’ new serious direction is to be a permanent move.
In a year with more festivals than ever before, it came as no surprise to see more and more ‘stadium indie’ bands releasing singles. Kaiser Chiefs returned with the infectious Ruby, and their fellow Yorkshiremen The Pigeon Detectives proved naturals at producing singalong terrace anthems like I’m Not Sorry. As Dave McGonigle said in his review of the latter: “It is simple, heartfelt and honest, and perhaps we’re shouldn’t ask for much more.”
Those of us who preferred a bit more subtlety with their guitar tunes were heartened by the return of Arctic Monkeys, who evolved and grew with the ferocious Brianstorm, while The Cribs released probably their finest moment yet in Men’s Needs – a superbly coruscating track with unobtrusive production from Franz Ferdinand‘s Alex Kapranos.
One of the year’s most promising new young bands were The Wombats, who produced a hat-trick of excellent tracks in Backfire At The Disco, Kill The Director and Let’s Dance To Joy Division. Look out for their 2006 single, Moving To New York, being re-issued in January 2008, which should make it the big hit it’s always sounded like.
If you liked your tracks to be a bit more experimental than the norm, then you were well catered for by LCD Soundsystem‘s All My Friends (which came complete with a choice of cover versions, including Franz Ferdinand and John Cale), M.I.A.‘s utterly barmy Bird Flu and a couple of belters from Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip – Thou Shalt Always Kill and The Beat That My Heart Skipped were infectious, intelligent and ever so slightly insane.
Yet when we look back at 2008, with its changing political landscape, its depressing run of national sporting failures and sometimes sheer apocalyptic weather conditions, there’s bound to be one song that’ll bring back the memories – all together now…”ella, ella, ella”….