The cover of NOW 85, credited to Gary De Bique at Qd Ltd, is of some boogie boards. Given the song of summer 2013, there should be a man in a helmet somewhere. Random Access Memories sounded expensive and Get Lucky, trailed smartly online, hyped up the new Daft Punk album. Would it be like Homework or Discovery, or more like Human After All?
The album included contributions from musical genius Chilly Gonzalez, disco pioneer Giorgio Moroder, Julian Casablancas from The Strokes, Todd Edwards who worked on the cut-up track Face To Face and, of course, Nile Rodgers and Pharrell. One chap worked in the 1970s and 1980s with David Bowie, Madonna, Diana Ross and his own band CHIC; the other worked with Britney, Justin and his own band N.E.R.D. There was no way a four-chord marvel about dancing would fail, and Nile Rodgers finally achieved the kudos to match his influence on popular music over the last 40 years. Having beaten cancer, he tours incessantly. Meanwhile Daft Punk stayed in character as ‘the robots’ throughout the campaign, which ended up in an Album of the Year GRAMMY.
Get Lucky is the obvious NOW playlist choice. The other big song of summer 2013 has aged terribly; a bloke murmuring ‘I know you want it’ on a song that stole the vibe of Got To Give It Up by Marvin Gaye and written while Robin Thicke was on drugs. It gave Pharrell his second of three humungous hits in 2013. He need never work again, but he never needed to after all the Neptunes production work. Robin Thicke’s next album, about his divorce, flopped and that was his career over.
Justin Timberlake stopped acting for five minutes and put out (incredibly) only his third set of music as a solo artist, a double release with the title The 20/20 Experience. Mirrors, another Timbaland collaboration, was a big number one and a big track on the album, which he toured. His old friend Nelly also returned with two big hits: Cruise, a duet with Florida Georgia Line (not on a NOW), and Hey Porsche.
In songwriter news, Ed Drewett co-writes Dear Darlin’ with Olly Murs, Max Martin and Shellback return with the hooky Taylor Swift song 22, Dr Luke copies the Jagger song by writing Walks Like Rihanna and giving it to The Wanted, Jason Derulo co-writes his own tune The Other Side and Greg Kurstin and a songwriter named Lily Rose Cooper (nee Allen) worked with Pink on True Love, where Lily gets a featured vocal credit. Charlie Brown is the latest singer-songwriter given a major-label push and his song On My Way is a self-empowerment song that sounds very 2013.
Rock muscles its way onto Disc 1 with two enormous songs: Radioactive by Imagine Dragons and Still Into You by Paramore, a song I didn’t like at the time but which I was so captured by in 2018 that I recorded it as part of the 100 Songs from 100 NOWs project. The 1975, a rock group from Manchester who dominated Radio 1 in 2013, appear with the addictive Chocolate, while Tom Odell brings his elegant piano and nearly-there vocals to NOW 85 on Another Love.
I think Come & Get It by Selena Gomez, with tabla drums running through it, is incredible and addictive: Ester Dean plus Stargate, sung by Selena, equals hit. Almost as good is Heart Attack by Demi Lovato, while more dopamine hits came from the shoutalong I Love It by Icona Pop featuring Charli XCX, a singer from Hertfordshire called Charlotte Aitchison whom we will meet again soon.
Two massive commercial radio hits of summer 2013 were by blokes called Mike. Mike Rosenberg recorded as Passenger and blethered on philosophically, aping Joni Mitchell, about only loving a woman when you Let Her Go; Michael Buble seemed to take his cue from U2 or (as per the satirical Good Morning Baltimore from the musical Hairspray) Stephen Schwarz as he sang It’s a Beautiful Day, proving he was now a popstar rather than a jazz crooner. My friend Adeel Amini followed him for a documentary and said only good things, which is on brand because he does seem terrific, and has a son who went into remission for cancer, forcing a postponement of his 2017 shows. He headlined Hyde Park on July 13 2018; I hope he plays It’s A Beautiful Day, with its awesome melodic heft.
Other nice blokes having hits in 2013 were Ant & Dec, who are adored by millions thanks to three TV shows: they were the hosts of Britain’s Got Talent and I’m a Celebrity…, and also had their Saturday Night Takeaway, bringing back the anarchy of SM:TV Live (I used to love Wonkey Donkey…IT’S GOTTA RHYME!!!) and coming back into the charts with Let’s Get Ready to Rhumble after performing it on TV. Proceeds for the downloads in 2013 were donated to Childline, proving how nationally treasured they are (even as Ant goes through a tricky divorce and addiction issues).
Elsewhere on the compilation it’s all Scottish folk music and Irish trad…Nope, it’s commercial dance music will.je.suis featuring Justin Bieber (#thatPOWER, with gratuitous hashtag, on which more in 200 words’ time), Calvin Harris featuring Ellie Goulding (I Need Your Love), David Guetta featuring Ne-Yo & Akon (Play Hard), Senor Worldwide featuring Christina Aguilera (Feel This Moment), Sebastian Ingrosso featuring Tommy Trash & John Martin (Reload), Armin van Buuren featuring Trevor Guthrie (This Is What It Feels Like), Breach (Jack), and Chris Malinchak (UK number one So Good To Me, which sampled Marvin Gaye’s If This World Were Mine) are all on NOW 85.
In the UK Rudimental featuring Ella Eyre (Waiting All Night), Disclosure featuring Eliza Doolittle (You & Me), John Newman (Love Me Again), Chase & Status featuring Louis Mttrs (Lost & Not Found) and Naughty Boy featuring Sam Smith, with the phenomenal La La La, all produced great pop music in the current style. A new name is Duke Dumont featuring the aforementioned A*M*E with the forward-thinking Need U (100%), a great club banger that recalls house music in 1991, while Wiley continued his second great period with Lights On, featuring both Angel and Tinchy Stryder.
Australian white rapper Iggy Azalea would be one of the first victims of the global craze for pointing out when white people take aspects of black culture and earn money from them – isn’t this de-desegregation which is in no way helpful? – and had her first big hit with Bounce. Fuse ODG (or is that FUUUUUSE) leaps onto the scene with a dance-friendly Afropop song Antenna, and the inlay booklet notes a global dance competition #AntennaDance that promoted it. The hashtag was now all over pop culture, neatly satirised in this fun clip starring Jimmy Fallon, Justin Timberlake and Questlove from The Roots (‘HASHTAG SHUT THE F— UP!’).
Peter from Hawaii and his Smeezingtons crew return with Treasure, which is 100% music from Off The Wall by Michael Jackson (nobody complained, though they would complain when he won a Record of the Year GRAMMY 2018, because he is from Hawaii and not Philadelphia). Jessie J took a job as a judge on The Voice UK and used the job to promote her new music, which was closer to Do It Like a Dude than Price Tag; Wild featured both Dizzee Rascal and Big Sean, one of those American rappers who was becoming very popular over there, and thus over here too. Dizzee two-times with his own Goin’ Crazy (WITH NO G!!!), featuring Robbie Williams singing the chorus, which is above average.
The Saturdays speak their way through the irritating Gentleman. PSY tried to sustain the Gangnam momentum with Gentleman, a song that was at least an improvement on the last one, but his 15 minutes were almost up. Why the compilers choose not to put the ‘songonyms’ together, I have no idea. A songonym is when songs share titles but not melodies or lyrics. It in inspired by the Paul Gambaccini bit It’s Not the Same Old Song.
Since I have words left over I think I can dwell on Gambo. In 2013 I actually made my own America’s Greatest Hits homage, including rock, r’n’b and pop number ones from that week in history and that week in 2013 and releasing my show as a podcast. Paul’s broadcasting is peerless, often dropping in chart positions and biographical details in a manner which has been called ‘discographic’. I haven’t met Paul but I did send him a letter to ask permission to copy the format. His reply is in my Memory Box. Paul’s career would be put on hold as some twit accused him of sexual touching and he was placed ‘under the Yewtree’.
One reason I cannot work for the BBC, which is unfortunately the best broadcaster in Britain, is because they employed Jimmy Savile for so many years while he was committing crimes (as per the title of a book about them) in plain sight. Paul has since claimed the BBC, with its layers and layers of management, is the world’s ‘worst employer’. I know of many people who work for the BBC and I use its service every day, but I don’t think I can work for a state employer (ie NHS, Met Police, BBC). I am content to be an independent broadcaster and writer, but I am of course available to produce shows independently for the BBC, who outsource a lot of work to independent production companies. And did I mention that in this era women get a really bad deal there and have to fight for equal pay? It’s improving slowly…
2013 saw my friend Chris Imlach settle in London after moving here in the middle of 2012. We both swapped music and talked about it on our Opportunity Inbox podcast (a pun on the old talent show Opportunity Knocks). When I relaunched Blastocyst.org.uk in June 2013, Chris got his workmate Glyn to play a set upstairs at a pub in Central London. My brother Rich corralled several of his friends and it was a lovely afternoon.
Proving that 15 minutes of fame could be shrunk to three, Gabz was a 14-year-old girl in a cap who sang-rapped a song called Lighters (The One) which was catchy and fun (but not great on Britain’s Got Talent. The song went top ten, and songwriters everywhere tore their hair out: so all I need to do, they thought, was let Simon Cowell put me on TV and I’ll have a hit. Like Jedward, or Steve Brookstein (winner of the 2004 X Factor).
Greedily, as Cowell shows no signs of stopping, Union J emerged from the 2012 edition of The X Factor and their wet debut single Carry You is present on NOW 85. One Direction get a NOW off as they gallivant around the globe during 2013, making Cowell more millions. Cowellpop, as the genre is called, is continuing at a pace.