Author Archive

31. ‘Lost Art of Keeping a Secret’ by Queens of the Stone Age (2000)

Posted in Uncategorized on February 5, 2017 by G.K. Reid


By the turn of the century, nu-metal and pop-punk had proven so appealing that you’d be forgiven for thinking that men could only express themselves through either ludicrous macho posturing (Limp Bizkit) or nasally ironic detachment (Blink 182). The male rock vocal had become either a furious, unwitting parody of itself (“Rollin'”) or an all-too-aware parody of nothing much in particular (“All the Small Things”). Either way, recognisable human emotion was kept at bay.

Whilst cynicism is what finally crowbarred QOTSA into mainstream consciousness (with “Feel Good Hit of the Summer”), Josh Homme was the first frontman in a long while to not be wholly off-putting. Capitalising on (and subverting) his hot ginger bigness, he also sang. Properly! And beautifully! With many nuances!

The lovely, tender strangle of his falsetto is foregrounded on the chorus of “Lost Art”, a song about not telling something that, cleverly, never tells you anything. What it does do is spend three beautiful minutes simultaneously agonising over and romanticising the burden/intimacy of a shared secret. The nature of which could be as sinister a deal as “Hands Clean” or as self-mythologising as “Bonnie and Clyde ’03”. The lasting impression from “Lost Art”, though, is that you’ll end up so paranoid and emotionally dysregulated by your efforts, you probably should have just said something to somebody.

BONUS POINTS: “We’ve got something to reveal… no one can know HOW WE FEEL!”

32. ‘What Would You Do?’ by City High (2001)

Posted in Uncategorized on December 31, 2016 by G.K. Reid


Unlike later socially conscious, question-title songs like The Black Eyed Peas’ “Where is the Love?”, WWYD dares to get gritty and specific. It also dares to have all of its talk of abominations against women culminate in a fucking stonking chorus.

What’s more, in a time before the concept of mansplaining was a widely discussed thing, the video includes a moment where the guy HALTS THE SONG just so he can demonstrate how little he’s grasped what the woman has just expressed to him… only to get smacked the fuck down and be forced to admit he’s always had a bad relationship with women because he thinks THEY ARE ALL HIS MOTHER.

BONUS POINTS: The ‘Oh Happy Day’ kid!

Although if you look into the shit that went down in this band, you will see there were very few happy days.

33. ‘That Green Gentleman’ by Panic at the Disco (2008)

Posted in Uncategorized on December 31, 2016 by G.K. Reid


Panic at the Disco (with an exclamation mark) launched to a captive audience in waiting. They were the perfect, cynical counter-programming effort to a half-decade’s worth of clean-cut Max Martin-fuelled pop and ugly red-capped dudes being weirdly aggressive. The Britney/Bizkit generation begat swathes of alienated teens hungry for soft pretty boys in eyeliner, and so emo was born.

PATD were the ‘Dawson’s Creek’ of pop groups – overcompensating for their formula by slapping long words everywhere. But while Britney, Xtina and JT extricated themselves through a “WE’RE SEX-HAVING GROWN UPS” narrative, PATD shook off their adolescence by regressing. Their completely joyous second album sounds like kids gleefully playing in a sandbox, albeit a sandbox rigorously governed by the semi-ghost of Brian Wilson.

BONUS POINTS: “Things have changed for me; and that’s ok” is a perfect, repeatedly handy, pop sentiment.

34. ‘Gravel Pit’ by Wu Tang Clan (2000)

Posted in Uncategorized on December 31, 2016 by G.K. Reid


I have loved this song for so many years and it occurs to me, coming to write about it, that I have never had much clue what the hell it’s about. I legit just checked Rap Genius.

It turns out it’s about people’s names.

‘Gravel Pit’ remains the only Wu Tang Clan song to crack the UK Top 40. I remember it as a reliable staple of MTV at the time, with Richard Blackwood doing inept “back back and forth” intros at every opportunity. That transition alone probably did a lot to develop UK teenagers’ powers of discernment between styles of rap, and possibly contributed to the immediate death of Blackwood’s music career. That the song itself acted as a handy triangulation of rapping prowess was a bonus.

The brash machismo of Method Man – as he defiantly rhymes “watch” with “watch” while (as evidenced in the video) wielding a plastic club with real authority and sense of timing – is followed by the snotty, slapdash delivery of Ghostface Killah, before U-God rounds things out with a proficient if unexciting “job done” closer. The killer chorus, delivered with detached coolness by Paulissa, bridges the disparity of the three beautifully.

BONUS POINTS: Only last week – unrelated to any of this – did I have a Whatsapp debate about whether or not a Gravel Pit was a vagina.

35. ‘Hands Clean’ by Alanis Morrissette (2002)

Posted in Uncategorized on December 30, 2016 by G.K. Reid


One of my very favourite things about Motown is that the saddest of sentiments would frequently be married to the jauntiest of melodies (cf Smokey Robinson’s ‘Tears of a Clown’). It’s a very relatable instinct, to not just find ways to make your private pain palatable but to send it flying into something funny and – even better – something you can dance to. Ultimately this tension between sorrow and joy functions as a testament to human resilience, with the implication that that takes a certain amount of self-possession to pull off.

It may seem a huge leap to make from Motown to Morrissette, but I bring it up because – although pop music has a long, fine history of packaging unpleasant emotions into sparkly packages – it’s rare to take this approach when what you’re singing about isn’t just Smokey-esque heartbreak so much as actual adolescent trauma. Here, Alanis wields a jaunty melody to replicate the blase privelege involved in an adult man taking advantage of a young woman. It is by turns sinister and darkly comedic. It also took me about 10 years to realise what a fucking accomplishment it was.

BONUS POINTS: The song is so deft at disguising its subject matter that to a friend of mine and his girlfriend it was “their song” as teenagers (the “this could get messy, but you don’t seem to mind” bridge is such an appealing sentiment to young love). They didn’t last.

36. ‘Play’ by Jennifer Lopez (2001)

Posted in Uncategorized on December 30, 2016 by G.K. Reid


The story goes that, in the early 2000s, J.Lo robbed Princess Di of her title as “most photographed woman in the world”. I’m not sure what happened in the intervening years between Di’s death and J. Lo’s swerve into pop music; I can only assume we – as a mark of respect – stopped photographing women altogether. For what was the point of women anymore! They had reached their pinnacle! [candle/wind emojis]

Anyway, the important thing is that we could not get enough of looking at the exquisite squareness of J. Lo’s face and breaking into fevered Antiques-Roadshowing of her posterior (in a huge payback win for the British establishment, Pippa Middleton would ultimately snatch back the trophy for Most-Feverishly-Discussed-Lady Arse-in-The-World in 2011).

For a generation of white Brit teens, J. Lo was our first introduction to the concept of Latin women. Before J. Lo’s ascent, the closest I had come to this revelation was an old photograph of my sister piled high with a fruit medley, ostensibly dressed as Carmen Miranda for a party. Not that our vast exposure to J. Lo did much to broaden our horizons, of course. She was still subject to gauzy fetishising and, like “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”-era Whitney, her ethnicity was simultaneously effaced and hinted at just enough.

What’s notable is that, as much as J. Lo’s image was whitewashed, her actual music – unlike with Whitney – had to reckon with the fact that black music was popular now! Her first album, confident in the re-novelty value of an Hispanic superstar, wavered between Latin-tinged ballads and balls-out Estefanny floor-fillers. By album 2, clearly, people had lost confidence, and so we had J. Lo insisting upon her realness and her non-costliness, throwing on shades and pretending that hip-hop vernacular came naturally to her. This inauthenticity wave crested with the notorious (but actually fucking great) “Jenny from the Block”.

An oasis in all this nonsense was “Play”, which remains one of the freshest and most futuristic-sounding MTV heavy play tracks of its time, even if that’s as simply accomplished as whacking a wiping-a-clean-window sound effect into the mix every other beat.

The precision in that window-wiper sound effect is echoed in the simplicity of the lyrical throughline: J Lo likes a song; she wants to hear that song in a public space; she will straight up murder you if you don’t play that motherfucking song.

BONUS POINTS: Let’s be clear. J. Lo is not about to be reasonable, or take other patrons into consideration. ALL NIGHT LONG is how frequently she wants to hear that motherfucking song.

37. ‘Bulletproof’ by La Roux (2009)

Posted in Uncategorized on December 30, 2016 by G.K. Reid


I was resistive to La Roux for a long time, until I realised that the ability to sing in the register of someone just recovering from a panic attack could actually be an asset, especially when delivering an unconvincing self-affirmation anthem such as this. Her androgynous image was often derided at the time as an 80s pose, but her subsequent records reveal a real anxiety about identity that was all there from the jump.

BONUS POINTS: The whole thing trundles along with the pace and unrepentant tinniness of a tense Tetris game, i.e. every child of the 80s introduction to the concept of anxiety.