Sunday, April 12, 2009

Number 1s of 2009: April 12

Even though it took her ten weeks to get there, Lady Gaga managed three weeks at the top with "Poker Face." And now... more synth pop.

That's Calvin Harris, "I'm Not Alone", the first single from his second album. He's a Scottish producer who had a string of eighties-influenced hits from his first album in 2007, and notched up his first number 1 last summer on "Dance Wiv Me", a collaboration with Dizzee Rascal. His other major singles are "Acceptable In The 80s", a none-more-eighties tribute to the decade of his birth, and "The Girls", a celebration of his own success with women which managed to come across as self-deprecatingly tongue-in-cheek rather than unbearably smug. Perhaps because of the video.

The video for "I'm Not Alone" is something else. The song itself has a fairly open-ended lyric about alienation. The video interprets that with Harris as a mad scientist impassively experimenting on his captive dancers. It took me a few viewings to figure this out, but the idea is that he's cutting bits out of them to assemble a Frankenstein replacement for his lost teddy bear. It's not remotely graphic, but still quite unsettling in its way, and I can imagine some of the music channels reaching for the Ofcom handbook when it came in. ("Is he tightening a vice...?") Considering it's a dance record, the video's hollow joylessness is a very bold choice, and I think it works.

The eighties revival is clearly in full swing now. As if this and "Poker Face" weren't enough, the current top five also features "In for the Kill" by La Roux, a record so eighties it ought to come with a Rubik's Cube and a poster of Arthur Scargill.

At any time in the last fifteen years, this would have seemed self-consciously dated. Now, it's suddenly acquired an air of modernity. We've hit the tipping point.