NOW 76: Robyn – Dancing on my Own

Summer 2010 meant graduation at last for me, as I got letters after my name – MA, since in Scotland first degrees are Masters degrees over four years – following four years in which little Edinburgh became my second home. I spent a sunny summer up in Edinburgh learning about the world thanks to a nameless Fringe venue who taught me that no matter how good you are at your job, or how enthusiastic you are to do it, there is no substitute for treating colleagues well and part of a collective mission to do something as well as it can be done. I felt like a spare part and didn’t like the feeling.

The one good thing from the experience was that I treated myself to a Yamaha 12-string guitar, which I would strum as I worked as a freelance proofreader. Over summer I watched several games of the 2010 World Cup (Japan beat Cameroon!) and played a lot of pick-up football on the Meadows. In spite of being utterly uncertain about the future, life was the best it had ever been.

Music was less brilliant. The opening salvos of NOW 76 were below average but got people dancing around the world. California Gurls (ugh) gave Katy Perry a number one hit; it featured Snoop Dogg and was co-written by Messi and Ronaldo, whom you will know by now are Max Martin and Dr Luke, with assistance from young Bale, aka Benjamin Levin whose moniker was Benny Blanco.

Stargate (a sort of Laudrup brothers) were on hand to help Rihanna with Te Amo, and RedOne (George Weah? I’m struggling for football analogies) did the same with Lady Gaga on Alejandro. Before you start raising objections about putting the men before the women in that sentence – something Bjork has raised legitimate complaints about for not getting full credit for producing her recent albums – I must ask who is the better known star: the act or the producer?

Stuart Price is one of the producers well-known in the industry but able to walk down a street unmolested. He helped Madonna in her disco period (not on a NOW) with songs like Hung Up and did the same with Kylie Minogue on All The Lovers and with Scissor Sisters on Fire With Fire, making him a two-timer on NOW 76. It was he who produced Human for The Killers, and he will pop up soon with Take That. helped Usher have a dull hit with OMG the year after his band had spent 6 months at number one. He need never work again but I think he is a philanthropist who is also enthused by tech and computer coding. He two-times with Rock That Body, another Black Eyed Peas song which has 10 writers credited including David Guetta. Will let other folk have a turn, including The Smeezingtons. They two-time as they write both Wavin’ Flag, the official song of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, still fondly recalled during the 2018 incarnation, and Nothin’ On You, a number one for B.O.B., a chap called Bobby Simmons Jr.

Bruno Mars is a credited featured vocalist on Nothin’ On You, singing the hook, while oddly it is Kelly Rowland who gets top billing on Commander, with the featured artist David Guetta. DJ David is the lead artist on a track featuring Chris Willis (the mighty voice from Love Is Gone), Fergie (superb but unrecognisable, also two-timing) and LMFAO on Gettin’ Over You (WITH NO G!). David completes a hat-trick by writing Acapella for Kelis, where he is uncredited.

In songwriter news, Cathy Dennis, who wrote Can’t Get You Out of my Head, worked with Eg White on Once, which is given to X Factor runner-up Diana Vickers. I would put this in the category of Popjustice pop, as it contains some magnificent chords and sounds terrific. Also two-timing is Fraser T Smith, who co-writes Dirty Picture (Taio Cruz ft Ke$ha) and Until You Were Gone (Chipmunk ft Esmee Denters), who all return to a NOW.

Others who are welcomed back include Pixie Lott (Turn It Up), Cheryl Cole (Parachute), Scouting For Girls (This Ain’t a Love Song, which is speed metal…no it isn’t), Example (Kickstarts, which was heavily rotated on Radio 1), Plan B (the uberhit She Said, all over commercial radio in summer 2010) and Alicia Keys, with Try Sleeping with a Broken Heart, a piano-driven ballad written with Jeff Bhasker, one of the decade’s unsung hitmakers who has recently worked with Harry Styles, Cam and Bruno Mars on a song about funking people up. Timbaland ropes in Justin Timberlake on Carry Out, while Labrinth gets a credit on the Tinie Tempah track Frisky.

Also also two-timing is Senor Worldwide, Pitbull, who shouts his way through I Like It by Enrique Iglesias (poor) and All Night Long by Alexandra Burke, which made more money for Lionel Richie, as it’s a cover of his song. Given a choice between Pitbull and DJ Khaled, I’d choose Jason Derulo.

Catalogue is plentiful on NOW 76 to balance the (un)original club music. Fyfe Dangerfield of Guillemots covers She’s Always a Woman, the Billy Joel song, which is the first of many hits to feature in an advert for John Lewis. For a fifth time You Got the Love appears on a NOW, this time in a live version from the 2010 BRIT Awards where Florence is joined by Dizzee Rascal on You’ve Got the Dirtee Love. As with Don’t Stop Believin’ on NOW 75, we have the original and its repurposing, as Dirtee Disco was a hit for Dizzee.

Adeel Amini and I both agree that The Sound of Music was an odd reference point for the JLS song The Club is Alive, co-written by Savan Kotecha, Steve Mac and (my main men) Rogers & Hammerstein. N-Dubz, meanwhile, are here too with We Dance On, borrowing Luciana and (my main man) Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major. Professor Green was a bloke called Stephen Manderson who rapped over the Beats International song Dub Be Good To Me, got Lily Allen to sing the hook and had a hit with Just Be Good To Green which, fully 20 years after their heyday, make Jam & Lewis two-timers: Jason Derulo, confusingly, has a song called Ridin’ Solo and writes Solo for Iyaz, a song which steals its riff from Again by Janet Jackson, co-written by Jam & Lewis.

There is another two-timer, Justin from London, Ontario, who duets with Sean Kingston on the bouncy Eenie Meenie (which Justin co-wrote and which sounds like 2010) and takes the lead on Baby, his first monster hit, which I never knew (thanks inlay booklet) was co-written by Christina Milian and the guys who wrote Umbrella for Rihanna. On it, lest we forget, Ludacris rabbits on about his ‘first love’. Fellow child star Miley Cyrus steps away from her Hannah Montana persona and releases Can’t Be Tamed, a song that is 50% mid-period Britney Spears and 50% Lady Gaga.

I always detested We No Speak Americano by Yolanda B Cool & D Cup, some Australians, which was everywhere over summer 2010 with its irritating riff. Two Romanians, meanwhile, produced top club hits: singer Inna was Hot, while Edward Maya picked up an accordion on Stereo Love. I didn’t go clubbing in 2010 so I never heard it, but I can imagine lots of hot sexy men and women dancing to it over summer. Pendulum were flying the drum’n’bass flag with Watercolour, which closes Disc 2.

Far better was music made by Swedes (as ever). For the first time, the triumvirate of Swedish House Mafia – Axwell, Sebastian Ingrosso and Steve Angello – pop up on a NOW with One (Your Name), where they got help from Pharrell, who sings over a heavy trance beat, the likes of which would feature heavily in music of the first half of the decade before ‘the drop’ slipped into parody, as Andy Samberg and The Lonely Island would demonstrate here. This clip is absolutely not advised for anyone currently at work or under the age of 15.

Robyn, who ought to be held in higher esteem, is the playlist choice with the track Dancing On My Own, best used by Lena Dunham in her overrated comic drama Girls. In this new era where women are if not running the world then non-executive directors of it, the female race is no longer subservient to men’s whims (hurray!) and songs like this are ‘empowering’, a stupid word that translates as ‘reminding people they can do something’. The song thuds into life and doesn’t let up, with Robyn skating over the top of the track with another excellent vocal. I still prefer Show Me Love, a Max Martin classic, but Dancing On My Own possesses a soul that the likes of I Gotta Feeling lacks.

For the first time on a NOW, a band I used to adore, Train, appear with the marvellous Hey, Soul Sister. They lost my respect when they rhymed ‘tenderloin’ with ‘tender coin’ on a track from the album Save Me, San Francisco, from which this song was taken (return straight to Drops of Jupiter and the underrated Calling All Angels).

Also notable on NOW 76 are two grime acts. Skepta tried to have hits with the likes of Rescue Me, but quickly realised an independent mindset was best for him, while the Roll Deep crew went all the way to the top of the UK charts with Good Times, led by the vocals of Wiley, one of eight co-writers of the song under his name Richard Cowie. It remains funny that Wiley and Dizzee Rascal, the Biggie and 2Pac of UK grime, always seem to pop up on the same compilations. Wiley blazed a trail while Dizzee went Bonkers and is better known in popular culture, while Skepta would reach the same pinnacles as the two by 2016.