I obtained an Upper Second from Edinburgh University. I had no desire to become a consultant (take out the OSLTAN and you can see why) or an accountant (take out the ACOANT and you can see why) and had no plans for a Masters since I didn’t get into the Creative Writing programme and didn’t want to pursue Classics at Graduate level. I stayed in Edinburgh and suffered a horrid winter, where it was white for two weeks. In the meantime, I rejoined Fresh Air, started my Blastocyst.org.uk podcast and had a romantic relationship with a woman for the first time.
Laura was from Germany and loved Eurovision, indie music, Bruce Springsteen and Jewish culture. I met her at a dinner, where I recounted my famous ‘Brick/break’ anecdote (ask me and I’ll tell ya) and won her intrigue. We hung out over November and December 2010 and talked about our mutual love of the Boss. I was attracted to her charm but only by knowing her better did I discover we were utterly incompatible as a romantic pair. I like to joke that I did ‘National Service’ when I went out with her, but really it was just a relationship based on boredom and not having a degree to pursue.
I was still listening to music, strumming away on my 12-string, and many tunes I liked ended up on NOW 77. I really liked the charming Shame, a duet between Gary Barlow and Robbie Williams, a song from Rob’s second Best Of (his non-Imperial Phase collection), while Crossfire by Brandon Flowers is better than a lot of his work in The Killers; the chorus is enormous, like the one on The Cave by Mumford & Sons. Remember, I got a 2:1 and Marcus dropped out after 12 weeks. Who is the millionaire?
Old friends return so here is a list: Plan B (Prayin’, WITH NO G!!), Joe McElderry (Ambitions), Jason Derulo (What If, a nice earworm), The Script (For the First Time, a plodding ballad), Kylie Minogue (Get Outta My Way), The Saturdays ft Flo Rida (Higher) and Tinchy Stryder (In My System, written and produced with Fraser T Smith). Flo Rida two-times with David Guetta on Club Can’t Handle Me, another club tune by numbers that was probably written using a hat from which lines like ‘I’m rocking, I’m rolling’ were picked out and put in the verse before the guys went for a very expensive lunch.
Two songs allude to the French nursery rhyme Alouette: Promise This by Cheryl Cole and the far superior Bang Bang Bang (alarmingly the title is left off the inlay booklet) by Mark Ronson & The Business International, which here comprised Q Tip and singer Amanda Warner. Like the work of Gorillaz, it sounds like its own genre; the album the song came from, Record Collection, features a smorgasbord of stars including Dave McCabe from The Zutons, Kyle Falconer of The View, Boy George, Cathy Dennis, D’Angelo, Simon Le Bon, Wiley and, the chief co-writer on the album, Alex Greenwald from the band Phantom Planet (whose hit California was never on a NOW!).
The answer to the question: ‘What happens if Ester Dean writes a melody on a song produced by Stargate and lets Katy Perry sing it?’ is Firework, a song that seems to reference Baldrick’s poem Guns on the line ‘Boom boom boom’. I often feel ‘like a plastic bag’, which in 2010 could still be used in supermarkets for free. They were quickly outlawed, while war and poverty is still with us. Stargate kick off NOW 77 with Only Girl (In the World), a huge club and radio hit for Rihanna, and three-time with another hit for Ne-Yo, this time one called Beautiful Monster.
I completely missed this song going to number one in August 2010 because I was busy working for Fresh Air as part of their Fringe team after my unenjoyable time at an unnamed and unmentionable Fringe venue (clue: it’s not A venues, B venues, or even D venues…) I applied for lots of jobs and collected rejection slips, while friends of mine headed off to the Army, graduate placements or further study. I did enjoy learning Mandarin with Shayne, my new flatmate from Nanjing, who worked as a research assistant in the Biology department of the university. I learned the perils of authoring academic papers, and learned the Mandarin for ‘unstable’ (bu wending) as even Shayne realised Laura was completely absurd.
Max Martin is back with two songs on NOW 77: Dynamite by Taio Cruz also has David Guetta among seven writers, while DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love (WITH NO G!!) is credited to the mighty trio of Max, Shellback (a sort of Kylian Mbappe or Neymar of pop) and Savan Kotecha, though for some reason Pitbull shouts over a really brilliant pop song in the typical idiom of late 2010. It was not a number one for Max, who had three in 2010: California Gurls and Teenage Dream for Katy Perry and Raise Your Glass for Pink. He had had two in 2008 (So What for Pink and I Kissed a Girl for Katy, both on a NOW) and two in 2009 (My Life Would Suck Without You for Kelly Clarkson and 3 for Britney Spears), and would have hit tenth number one with Hold It Against Me by Britney Spears. He failed to have one in 2017, which is an affront to the universe.
Two big number ones of 2010 came from The Smeezingtons. Forget You, originally with a more violent title, took Cee-Lo Green back to the top in the UK (but not the US), and featured a lyric comparing the protagonist, a mere ‘Atari’ to the ‘X-Box’ of a new man. The ballad Just The Way You Are gave Bruno Mars the first number one solely credited to him, and bounced back up to number one at the end of October in the UK, having had its first week at the start of the month. Bruno is a three-timer on NOW 77 thanks to Billionaire, the Travie McCoy song on which he sings a hook about wanting loads of money (his wish came true). Not on a NOW is Love The Way You Lie, a seven-week US chart-topper for Eminem (guess who’s back…) and Rihanna.
Jamie Scott would write many hits in the 2010s, the first of which is Heartbeat, a lovely song given to Enrique Iglesias and Nicole Scherzinger to become Enrique’s 12th top 20 hit (thanks inlay booklet). That track is followed by summer anthem Cooler Than Me by Mike Posner, which sounds like 2010. Swedish House Mafia return with Miami 2 Ibiza, uniting two continents under the EDM groove, with vocals by Tinie Tempah. Tinie two-times thanks to his anthemic song Written In The Stars, which namechecks children’s author Malorie Blackman (‘where the hell all the sanity at’ is a great rhyme) and Massive Attack. Thanks to many TV appearances, I wonder how bored Eric Turner got singing the hook, which soundtracked Sky Sports’ Super Sunday coverage.
Michael Buble’s song Home appeared on an earlier NOW but his domination of the middle of the road was solidified by the excellent Hollywood, another song I loved in autumn 2010. It’s hard to imagine a time before Buble, but I presume there must have been such an age. Ditto Adele, whose cover of the Garth Brooks version of the Bob Dylan song Make You Feel My Love was sung on ITV primetime and became a top five hit as the country cottoned on to Adele from Tottenham. It helped drive sales of 19 even as 21 was on the way, and is one of Dylan’s only NOW appearances. In 2007 Mark Ronson had put trumpets over his song Most Likely You’ll Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine) but that was not on a NOW. Indeed, Dylan has never had a UK number one under his own name.
A new name, Katy B, closes NOW 77 with On A Mission. Like Adele, and unlike Ed from Suffolk, she went to the BRIT School. Eliza Doolittle, meanwhile, was the granddaughter of the great Sylvia Young, who founded the theatre school which educated the previous generation of performers, including the likes of Tom Fletcher from McFly, whose band are present on Disc 2 with Party Girl, a harder sound than previously as the band try the new electropop sound. Dallas Austin, the Gianluigi Buffon of pop who was a safe pair of hands (TLC, Pink, Sugababes), helped produce and write it.
Other smooth females included Rumer, with her song Slow that was all over Radio 2, and Shontelle, with a mighty song called Impossible. Alesha Dixon’s Drummer Boy just sounds like product (pass straight to The Boy Does Nothing), while Pixie Lott continued her chart run with Broken Arrow. Hayley Williams from Paramore hit the top of the charts singing the hook on Airplanes, a great song by B.O.B., who proved that he could have hits without the Smeezingtons. Nelly, meanwhile, stopped counting his money and put out Just a Dream, and Labrinth (real name Timother McKenzie) released Let The Sunshine, an addictive piece of pop from a chap signed to the Simco label.
The Wanted were a boyband managed by Ashley Tabor, who ran Capital Radio’s network and played the band in what was surely a conflict of interest. It would be like Simon Cowell only promoting Simco (later Syco) acts on his TV show…Ah. The latest X Factor product was a beige version of Robbie Williams from Essex called (Peter Dickson voice at the ready) Olly Murs, whose debut single Please Don’t Let Me Go was catchy and charming. Diana Vickers (My Wicked Heart) and Joe McElderry (Ambitions) surely performed their songs on primetime TV; both have since gone to the stage in musicals or pantomime.
Roll Deep had another number one with Green Light, while Jay Sean enlists the help of Onika Maraj, who used the stage name Nicki Minaj, on the funky dance-pop song 2012 (It Ain’t The End). Like DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love, it was a song about partying in the face of the apocalypse. If all else fails, Armand Van Helden produced the year’s earworm with a song with no words apart from the intonation of the name ‘Barbra Streisand’.