Friday, 27 January 2012

Fools & Gold: Have Some Conviction, Killjoy!

It is that time of year again. The X Factor has found itself a winner and that winner has a single out. It is at this point in proceedings that all serious music journos are required to whip out their cocks and wank furiously whilst wailing about their first Radiohead purchase. Of course to do this in the privacy of a locked bathroom would be ludicrous. The serious music brigade are out in force and they want the spunk of pop resentment to land right in our faces.

I remember listening to Damien Rice for the first time in 2002. It was like a revelation. I was fourteen going on fifteen and I had never before heard anything like the strained, icy romance of The Blower's Daughter or the frightening, complex duality of I remember. Three years on, I was listening to a CD of 'O' on an aeroplane when I fell asleep and thought I had dreamt a bonus track more beautiful than anything else on the album. It wasn't either of the actual bonus tracks hidden at the end if the recording but it was probably their presence that inspired my aural hallucination. Anyway, this song haunted me for ages but I can not, try as I might, remember its tune. It has to stay there, on that plane where I dreamt it, somewhere in a cloud over the Atlantic.

The point of the dream song is that we all form emotional attachments to music but we can't wrap them up in cotton wool and expect to find them unchanged each time we revisit. The Telegraph's Neil McCormick seems to disagree with this and has instead chosen the easy option of throwing his arms up in the air in protest at The X Factor turning an alternative classic into pop tripe.

The thing is, Neil, The X Factor is a walking embodiment of commercial music. For it to pick a track for one of its winners, that track must already be easily accessible. That track must have wheelchair access and a disabled parking spot. When Alexandra Burke sang Hallelujah in 2008, she was singing a karaoke classic that had been covered more than two hundred times and featured in the soundtracks of Shrek and The O.C. She was not, contrary to popular opinion, squatting down for a wee on Jeff Buckley's grave. When 2010 winner Wett Flannle bawled out his languid cover of Biffy Clyro's Many of Horror, he was covering a track that was already very popular with fourteen year old girls. He wasn't making it so.

The same is true of Cannonball. It is a song with a simple melody that you'd have to have lived under a rock for the past decade to not know. It is not abstract trophy of NME readership, suspended in the cloudy ether like the Childlike Empress in The Neverending Story.

Don't get me wrong, I'm hugely disappointed that Little Mix will be making their first mark on the industry with Damien Rice's Cannonball. I'm disappointed for them because I think that they are better than that. They are better than covering a drivelling ballad that no longer means anything anyway. They deserve their equivalent of The Promise or Freak Like Me or even, at a push, Independent Women Pt I. Until they get that, I shall agree with @Popjustice's tweet, "At least there's one good thing about the Damien Rice cover - It's annoyed Neil McCormick"

Are our associations with the music we love really so weak that they crumble under the pressure of a mainstream cover version? I believe people should have more conviction in their music tastes. When I say conviction, I do not mean a horn-rimmed muso ranting on about liking the Smiths before it was cool. I mean accepting the fact that you cannot hold on to anything forever. Look back on the first time you heard a song - when it was new and untainted by association - look back on that moment with fondness but don't ever expect to get it back.

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