Monday, July 07, 2008

Number 1s of 2008: July 6

I'm figuring we'll just take these as they come, rather than wait to the end of the month. Makes more sense. Anyway, Ne-Yo lasted a single week, and now... well, here's a record you probably won't be seeing in the American charts any time soon.

Dizzee Rascal featuring Calvin Harris & Chrome, "Dance Wiv Me." Hmmm... shall we go with the version on Calvin Harris' page, which has a couple of minor sound glitches, or the one on Dizzee Rascal's page, which is in the wrong aspect ratio? Yes, these things annoy me. Alright, the sound's more important... let's go with Dizzee.

This is another surprise number one. Actually, it's a surprising record, period. Dizzee Rascal is a rapper from East London, and I still can't quite believe it's been five years since he won the Mercury Prize for his debut album.

Dizzee's early singles tended to be rather harsh and minimal records of the sort that get good reviews but play to a rather niche audience. Here's his debut single "I Luv U" (number 23 in 2003) - a great record, with a lot more going on than first meets the eye, but not exactly radio-friendly. Although it does have some fabulously ineffective radio-editting of the chorus, not to mention some industrial-strength sullenness.

And this was the follow-up. Minimal, to put it midly. Mind you, this was all fairly important stuff; UK rap used to be largely dismissed, even in the UK, as a rather pale imitation of American rap. When they started lurching off in a different direction, things got a lot more interesting.

He's made some much more accessible records since then - although the less said about "Dream" the better - and he's enough of a chart fixture that nobody could seriously claim he's any sort of underground act. (He has the misfortune to be the token UK rapper in a lot of Guardian-readers' record collections - depending on whether you consider credibility-free money to be a misfortune.) Still, his biggest hit in Britain was "Stand Up Tall", and that only got to number ten - four years ago. It's amazing what a radio-friendly hook and a very obvious video can do.

Calvin Harris, on the other hand, is a guy from Dumfries who makes 80s-retro electropop. He's the guy playing the barman in the video. He's basically known for two singles (we'll gloss over "Merrymaking At My Place", which missed the top 40), which between them pretty much sum up what we're dealing with here.

(Or watch it on YouTube without the adverts and in the correct aspect ratio. I swear, I don't know why people bother disabling embedding.) That's "Acceptable In The 80s", which kind of teeters on the brink of being a novelty record, at least once the video director is finished with it. But "The Girls" shows him in a rather better light.

(Again, I'd watch it on YouTube if I were you.) This time, the video director has got it right, and has figured out that if this is going to work, they need a bit more ironic distance. And it's a better song, anyway.

And Chrome... uh, I think he's a protege of Dizzee Rascal. Or something.

Anyway, these two (and most people don't bother mentioning poor Chrome) are an odd match, and I wasn't at all convinced about this record the first time I heard it. Seemed to me that they ended up meeting in the middle with something that wasn't as memorable as either of them. But... you know, after a few listens, it's growing on me. It's got something. It's a happy little record. Bless it.

Not sure quite what they were going for with the video. It's obviously vaguely trying to be one of those generic American R&B nightclub videos, but they've somehow ended up looking vaguely low-rent and featuring a suspiciously out-of-place man from Dumfries. I can't quite make up my mind whether they're doing a very deadpan parody, or just not doing it very well.

And if you don't like it... well, the other major contender for number one last week was the second Basshunter single, which is fucking awful. And as I predicted a while back, once again they've rewritten the lyrics instead of translating them, to remove any trace of possible interest. For those of you keeping track: it's an English-language rewrite of his Swedish-language single "Vi sitter i Ventrilo och spelar DotA", which in turn is a geek-oriented semi-cover of an equally dreadful French song called "Daddy DJ" (which passed the UK by, mercifully). It was a hit across continental Europe in 2001, though, and I guess that tells you all you need to know about the dayglo underside of European dance music.