The other day, I had a look at the UK Top 40 singles chart and only recognised one song. I like to think I have a fairly rounded knowledge of most aspects of modern music, but as I scrolled through the chart, sifting through strange names and feeling like an old man all of a sudden, it struck me that maybe I had become stuck in my ways a bit. The music that I listen to, though not perhaps being as commercially successful, is the music that I like, but not even being able to think of one line, or even whistle the tune, from a lot of the 40 most popular songs in Britain made me feel just a little out of the loop.

There was a time, many years ago, when I would wait by the radio for the charts to be revealed and would feel sympathy and excitement if one of ‘my’ songs had fallen or climbed a few places, but I suppose this was one of those musical phases we all go through. When the friendly-rap, grunge and colourful-pop of the 90s gave way to the indie-rock, guitar bands of the 2000s, I found my way into the charts, but now that my teenage favourites have given way to sexy-pop and club music, I feel like I’ve been left behind. Rather than being disheartened though, this made me think that maybe the music industry has been split, more than ever, into two distinct worlds. There was always an underground and a commercial side to music, but in recent years it is as if the venn diagram of the two doesn’t cross at all.

…the chart has become full of the names the young-teen and middle-aged viewers have voted for…

The massive increase in talent competitions and pop-band producing TV shows means that the commercial side of music is churning out more ‘big-names’ than ever, and ensuring more chart-toppers each year. This means the chart has become full of the names the young-teen and middle-aged viewers have voted for. Having thought about this, I realised it was no wonder that I had lost touch with the charts, because not being a fan of these talent shows means that I am losing all contact with the social circle the chart runs in.

I’m not suggesting that the chart has become corrupt, or that it is impossible to make a commercial name for yourself without going on one of these shows, but it certainly seems that way more so than before these shows became so established. There used to be a time when Top of the Pops was the way to see a band on TV, and you only made it there if enough people bought your music, rather than the other way around, but now it seems that anyone can do it and so the charts have become just a weekly turnover of who has been on TV the most that week, rather than who is most popular.

…become less cynical about the industry…

Despite all this, I am attempting to familiarise myself more with the charts, to desperately keep up with modern culture, and become less cynical about the industry, but I think until these talent shows, ringtone friendly singles and Hollyoaks music specials come gracefully to a stop, I’ll prefer an unknown band in a random bar on my Saturday nights.

Image courtesy of Radio 1.


About The Author

Josh is an English and Creative Writing graduate from Royal Holloway University of London. He writes plays, presents radio, draws comics and listens to folk music.

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