Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Number 1s of 2009: 19 July 2009

After two weeks of Cascada, and with the Michael Jackson deluge finally making its way down the charts, normal service is more or less resumed with the new number one - JLS, "Beat Again."

JLS were the runners-up in the 2008 series of The X-Factor, Simon Cowell's Pop Idol clone. The main difference is that X-Factor allows vocal groups to enter. But of course, it's a lot easier to find a decent undiscovered singer than four decent undiscovered singers who've already had the motivation to form a band - so generally, the groups don't do very well. And besides, it's harder to get a human interest angle in a four-piece - so the groups are even more screwed than that. In fact, in six years, they've never won. JLS, however, put up a fairly strong showing, coming in second behind Alexandra Burke (whose coronation single "Hallelujah" was the Christmas number one last year).

In theory, "JLS" stands for "Jack the Lad Swing." In practice, everybody seems to acknowledge that this is a truly dreadful name which must never be spoken of again.

Reaching the final of the X-Factor without winning has not generally led to chart success. By the time the runners-up release their own records, everyone's largely forgotten about them - and Simon Cowell has first refusal on their contracts. The other 2008 finalist was intolerable underage muppet Eoghan Quigg; his album came out a couple of months ago to reviews that weren't so much scathing as horrified, and lead single "28,000 Friends" failed to chart in Britain. (The album did okay in his native Ireland... for a week.) Until now, the only non-winner to have a number 1 hit was Chico Slimani, who topped the charts for two weeks in March 2006 with "It's Chico Time." But he was a novelty act, and that burned out pretty quickly too. Oh, and there's pop-classical singer Rhydian Roberts from 2007 - he's never had a hit single, but his album did well.

Oddly, Simon Cowell passed on JLS. The band are now signed to Epic, who clearly see a future for them as a boyband operating vaguely in the area of Timbaland and Justin Timberlake. The single, "Beat Again", is actually quite decent.

And then you see the video.

JLS were never exactly the greatest dancers in the world, so the decision to stick them on a sound stage and point a camera at them for three minutes was highly questionable to start with. This is some of the most ragged "synchronised" dancing I've seen in a video since "C'est La Vie." And at least the editor bent over backwards to disguise that. (But I direct your attention to the 2:05 mark for some of the worst Irish dancing you'll ever see.)

To be fair, though, it's not just that JLS aren't very good dancers - this video has the sort of choreography I thought had been banished in 1986. Grabbing the heart... just about excusable. Pointing at the wrist to signify time, though? Lying down at the mention of death? Oh god.

Lost for words, I called Susi over to look at this thing, and I can't really beat her description: it's the sort of dance routine that people come up with for an A-level performing arts exam. Wow. The label have given them the right material, they've given them the right promotion... and then they give them this video. It doesn't seem to have done too much harm, to be fair. This is one of the fastest-selling singles of the year. But god, the video is way off the mark.

In fairness, though, it's far from the worst video I've seen this week. Behold Alina Puscau's "When You Leave". It's awful in ways that defy all common sense. (And stick with it, because it gets even more horrible after the 2 minute mark, when it unveils its third and worst idea.)