I Took a Pill in Ibiza

The Best UK No. 1’s of 2016 (posted April 2017)

Right, let’s finally finish 2016! Only four months late! Then move onto Ed Sheeran! Oh God, pop music is torture!



Special Mentions

‘Paradise’ – Charli XCX

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A staggeringly gonzo bricolage of 90’s rave tropes, all turned inside out and formed into a club smash that’s romantic, exciting, alien and more. I didn’t enjoy a single song in 2016 as much as I enjoyed this.
[Listen]

‘Suitcase Jimmy’ – Evans the Death

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Evans the Death continue to be my favourite British band going at the moment. Their latest album – Vanilla – was recorded on a barge using guest musicians they found on Facebook, continuing to both diversify of their sound and increase the anger in their work. A particular highlight of the album is Suitcase Jimmy: a stonking barrage of trumpets and shouting which would be the defining sound of British Indie if only I had my way.
[Listen]

‘Madeleine Crumbles’ – Major Parkinson

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A beautiful nightmare; all sweeping violins, ethereal choruses and gritty verses. It’s parent album can’t come soon enough.
[Listen]

‘Higher’ – Carly Rae Jepsen

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I didn’t start listening to Carly Ray Jepsen’s Emotion album until early 2016, meaning that it missed out on being included in my Best of 2015 list. I’ve always been slightly ashamed of this: the album’s great. Luckily, Jepsen’s 2016 appendum – Emotion Side B – is just as good as it’s big sister, even if it doesn’t quite hit the same heights. ‘Higher’ probably comes closest to those highs, hence why it’s on the list, though shout-outs have to go to the songs ‘First Time’, ‘The One’, ‘Body Language’, ‘Cry’, ‘Store’… hell, all of them. Everything gets a shout out. Carly Rae Jepsen’s the best.
[Listen]

‘Same’ – Clarence Clarity

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Clarence Clarity specialises in throwing discordant noises, random computer sounds and distorted voices together into labyrinthine messes that somehow work as solid, cathartic pop songs. Same is technically the B-side to his single Vapid Feels Are Vapid but I prefer it, so on the list it goes.
[Listen]

‘Stained’ – HMLTD

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A baroque piece of 80’s throwback goth electro, married to an actively tasteless aesthetic which combines The Damned and Bauhaus into something distinctively new. Its music video also wins the prize for most disgusting of 2016, so you know the band’s doing something right.
[Listen]

‘Ain’t It Funny?’ – Danny Brown

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Maybe funny’s not the right term: boisterous, demented, trumpet-filled and swinging are better. The most enjoyable rap track of 2016 for me.
[Listen]

‘Me And Your Mama’ – Childish Gambino

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An immense two-part soul throwback featuring intense vocals, biblical gospel backing, meaty instrumentation, and the most delightfully childish name of the year. An astonishingly fun track with some real impact behind it.
[Listen]

‘One Call Away’ – Charlie Puth

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What can I say, this song just gets me. Is it trite, cheesy and overly earnest? Yes, it is. I love it.
[Listen] [Original Review]



And now the list itself:

#5 – ‘Love Yourself’ by Justin Bieber

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This is my least favourite song of Bieber’s ‘Actually Quite Good Phase’, coming well under both What Do You Mean? and Sorry in my estimations. Unfortunately, due to the absolute dirth of No. 1’s in 2016, the number five slot either had to go to this or Cold Water by Major Lazer, Justin Bieber and MØ. I can’t remember what Cold Water sounds like, despite the fact that I last listened to it five minutes ago. Love Yourself it is.

#4 – ‘Shout Out to my Ex’ by Little Mix

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Easily the least interesting song Little Mix has ever released. As previously explained, it’s little more than “an repeat of Love Me Like You, which in turn was a repeat of Black Magic, only without the magic bits”. Love Me Like You and Black Magic are both fantastic hits though; being a direct retread of them still means that you’re a pretty good pop song, particularly given how joyless everything else was that year. Little Mix on autopilot is still better than almost everything else in the pop scene; that’s how good a band they are.

#3 – ‘I Took a Pill in Ibiza (Seeb Remix)’ by Mike Posner

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It grew on me. Though I’m still convinced that the remix instrumental completely misses the point of the song, I can’t deny that it sounds wonderfully atmospheric, resulting in the minimalist pop hit of early 2016 that was the easiest to lose yourself in. This became the song that I most enjoyed listening to in the first half of the year; at least, it was light years ahead of it’s nearest contemporaries Stitches and 7 Years.

#2 – ‘Rockabye’ by Clean Bandit feat. Anne-Marie and Sean Paul

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Possibly Clean Bandit’s best song, combining their trademark pristine instrumentation with a solid tale of single motherhood and female strength. Even Sean Paul is used to the best of his abilities, being slotted into the background so as to provide pretty vital backing vocals. A fully fleshed out and realised track: at last, Clean Bandit have a song that feels worthy of them.

#1 – ‘Closer’ by The Chainsmokers feat. Halsey

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Yeah, it’s a failed mess, but it’s exactly the type of failed mess we need right now. The Chainsmokers are not good artists but, for just one track, they managed to accidentally hit gold, producing the track that most encompassed what 2016 was – for better and for worse.


Right then Ed Sheeran, I’m coming for you!

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A No. 1 Review – “One Dance” by Drake feat. WizKid & Kyla

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I don’t get Drake. He’s never seemed that dynamic to me, nor has he ever seemed particularly weighed down by personality. My sisters seem to fancy him, though I don’t know why. I just don’t get him.

A lot of the time, he sounds monotone and uncaring to me. The Motto and Headlines are particularly bad examples of this, with Headlines’ chorus in particular sounding like he’s just mumbling his way through it because he’s got better things to do. Elsewhere you have Started from the Bottom which misses out the majority of it’s plot and feels incomplete as a result, plus songs like Hold On, We’re Going Home which are just unpleasant on a sexual politics level.* I think I’m still to even hear a song of his that sounds finished to me. Why do people like him? I don’t know.

It should thus be no surprise that I like this song infinitely more when Drake isn’t rapping over it. It starts with some really interesting instrumentation, coupled with an ethereal performance by Sample-of-the-Week Kyla – then all this gets thrown away for a single drum beat stuck over Drake tiredly mumbling about something.

This wouldn’t be too bad if the dour tone was somehow justified. The song is basically about how much Drake loves someone and how much strength their relationship (and booze) gives him during his hard, tiring life. This is not an uncommon topic at the least but other attempts at the message have at least tried to sound happy or empowered, working via the idea that a song about something positive should sound positive. Instead, One Dance seems to be actively aping Cheerleader by OMI: both have Afro-Caribbean inspired music; both are implied to be set in clubs; both are about how much strength the narrators derive from their loves; both sound fucking miserable; and neither of them have music which matches their lyrics. Drake’s song is at least more justifiably tired that OMI’s is – a subtext in a lot of Drake’s songs is how tiring existence is, meaning that even the most positive things in his works need to ultimately be read as lesser evils trying to make existence better and failing – but there is just a massive disconnect in regards to what I’m hearing and what I’m supposed to be feeling.

Maybe it is this disconnect which both songs are actually about. I’ve talked quite a few times about Deconstructionist Post-Club Songs: songs designed to deconstruct club music and reveal how hollow and fragile the form is. These songs appear to be the opposite though: in both, love is the hollow lie and the music is the only thing that’s real. We’re frequently told that romance is necessary for a happy, fulfilling life; yet these songs feature characters who are so beaten by life that not even their best romances can manage to lighten them up; as much, romance is deconstructed and shown to be as hollow a lie as club music is. So what is left for us? Where do we go from here?

Alas, if this type of music has a flaw, it’s that it never answers those questions; hence why reconstructionist music is more popular in the charts, people generally preferring flawed answers to complete mysteries. And, though I’m a great supporter of deconstructionist music, this problem does plague this song: ultimately, it just sounds a bit miserable without having much of a point. What are people actually getting out of this song, especially considering how many other tracks at the moment are just like it? I don’t get it.

Am I missing something? I must be. If you know what, please let me know in the comments; I’m genuinely all ears on this one. Otherwise, I’m just stuck in the dark (apparently much like Drake’s work itself).

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* The one exception is Hotline Bling, which I really like. Drake sings it terribly, the music is little more than musak, the lyrics are problematic – yet combine all of these features together and they somehow end up feeding into each other, producing an almost Biz Markie level of wrongness which feels oh so right. The result is a nicely off-putting track that is highly interesting to listen to; I love it.

A No. 1 Review – “I Took a Pill in Ibiza” by Mike Posner

Previously on The Written Tevs: Pop music has moved away from being predomeninately Club Music to being what I refer to as “Pop-Club Music”, characterised by dour men whining against minimal synth/acoustic guitar accompaniment while women run around club shouting about sex.

And now back to our scheduled program:

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Mike Posner has written a Post-Club song. Mike Posner. Mike Posner has a Post-Club song.

Mike Posner is one of those artists who’s regularly in the charts, yet has never produced a single note that anyone’s ever remembered. I promise you, most of the people who listen to this song on the radio will not know who sung it and will never realise they’ve heard another song by him. The reason for this is that the guy’s a pop culture chameleon: he writes whatever’s popular at the time in an actively inoffensive way, thus ensuring that a) unadventurous trend followers will buy his work in their millions and b) no-one will ever recognise the work as his because it’s lack of identifying features will allow it to disappear into the back of whatever party playlist it eventually becomes part of.

You can see this if you compare his biggest hit – Cooler Than Me – and his latest song – I Took A Pill in Ibiza – to the other songs that were popular when they were released. Cooler Than Me was released in the second half of the Club Age of Pop and had techno instrumentals, a cocky vocal delivery and an entitled set of lyrics which befitted pop’s self-aggrandising hedonistic nightclub ideology of the time. Now though, things have changed and so Mike Posner’s last hit is an underwritten acoustic whinge lamenting his wasted days clubbing in Ibiza (thus making this song pretty much a straight rejection of the ideology underlying every other song he’s released for a decade now).

Even with his inoffensive blandness though, Mike Posner still manages to be infuriating because if he does have a personality, then it’s one of a whiny self-involved douche. This is particularly true for Cooler Than Me which is primarily composed of Posner moaning about a girl at a party who won’t sleep with him because she thinks she’s “cooler than me”. The only problem is that, by the lyrics own admission, the woman is someone who’s enjoying herself and has tons of interest from several other men while Posner is sat in the corner of the room, moaning to himself about how he’s not getting any. She’s totally cooler than him. She’s completely in the right. If I was that woman, I wouldn’t sleep with Mike Posner either.

This sense of sneering that Posner cultivates feeds into I Took a Pill in Ibiza too. When he mournfully sings “I’m living out in LA / I drive a sports car just to prove / I’m a real big baller cause I made a million dollars / And I spend it on girls and shoes”, it’s meant to be an ironic counterpoint which takes the hedonistic images of club music and turns them into empty icons of defeat; but to me it just sounds like he’s still bragging about these things, only he’s doing it in a way that allows him to pretend he feels sad about it all. “Oh I live in a nice house with a manicured lawn and meet my fans in the streets and drive nice cars and have lots of money; it’s horrible.” Bite me. It’s a brag song pretending to be the opposite; I don’t believe in it.

Maybe I’m being unfair on the song though. Indeed, I’m almost definitely being unfair on the song. It does raise the very good point that a life of fame isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be, and the idea of making it an acoustic song with subverted club lyrics is very clever, if somewhat zeitgeisty. And a world in which even the most uninspired of artists are paying lip-service to Post-Club values is a better world than one where they’re not. All in all-

Wait, the song that actually hit No. 1 is the SeeB remix of I Took a Pill in Ibiza?

THE CURRENT UK NO. 1 IS A CLUB REMIX OF A SONG CRITICISING CLUB MUSIC?!?

Why would you even remix such a song? Posner’s original lyrics took club tropes and manipulated them to satirical effect; to then revert these lyrics back into a traditional club song just misses the damn point. I don’t believe Mike Posner’s original song but I can at least respect what it’s doing; this remix is less than pointless, it actively refutes it’s own meaning.

That said, I actually quite like the remixes’ sound: it has this nice half-club/half-ambient sound which reminds me of Lost Frequencies’ Are You With Me and improves quite a bit of the bland acoustic stylings of the original. It’s also much nicer to listen to than contemporaries such as Stitches (whose music is almost non-existent) and Lukas Graham (who’s still too hokey for my tastes). It still doesn’t need to exist though and doesn’t sound good enough to make up for that fact.

So yeah, all versions of this song just suck. In the case of the original, it’s mostly Mike Posner: no matter what the lyrics say, it’s still the voice from Bow Chicka Wow Wow telling me how hard his life is. In case of the remix, I don’t even know why it exists, nevermind why it’s popular. Mike Posner, even when he’s basically alright, is still hard to like. I would say that I hope that this is the last I time I hear him but I know that it won’t be; I just need to wait for the next zeitgeist to come along.

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What was I saying about Posner not being original?