Number 1s of 2009: April 26
Well, Calvin Harris lasted two weeks. And we stick with the homegrown acts for our next number one...
That's Tinchy Stryder featuring N-Dubz, "Number 1." Stryder, real name Kwasi Danquah, is Ghanaian by birth, but grew up in London and has been around on the grime scene for several years now. Grime is England's mutant version of rap, which started off decidedly aggressive and underground but, as you can hear, seems to be steadily mutating into pop-rap. (It says a lot about the genre, though, that Stryder's Wikipedia entry finds it necessary to tell us not just that he comes from London, but which bit of London.)
Serious attempts to push Stryder as a national star began last year with "Stryderman", a single that bombed out at number 73. I suspect part of the problem was a chorus that felt the need to stress exactly which bit of London he came from. Londoners have a chronic tendency to assume that everything that happens in London must be of wider interest. In fact, stuff like this just comes across as parochial. Stryder finally achieved a breakthrough with his last single, "Take Me Back", which was in a similar pop-rap vein. That got to number 3 earlier in the year, and it's not bad.
The single also credits N-Dubz as featured artists. They're a London trio who've been putting out singles for a few years now and slowly gaining a mainly teenage fanbase. Until now, this hasn't translated into major hit singles - their biggest hit was "Papa Can You Hear Me", which reached number 19 last year - although their last album did go platinum.
"Number 1" is a fairly obvious attempt to cross over to the pop audience; it has more in common with the Flo Rida single than UK grime, if you ask me. Not that there's anything wrong with that; it's probably a good thing for any genre to develop a commercial wing rather than exist in rarefied (or hyperlocal) isolation. And despite the phoned-in video, "Number 1" is a decent enough little anthem. It's not a classic - the chorus never quite sticks in my head - but it's perfectly fine.