Music · Opinion · Personal · Rant

What Has Happened to the Top 40?

One of my earliest memories as a child is singing and dancing with my Mum to ‘Reet Petite’ by Jackie Wilson. It was re-released in the UK in 1986, so I can have been no older than two or three but I adored it and used to get really sad when the plasticine Jackie would melt at the end of the video!

When I think about it, many of my memories centre around music. When I was 6, I remember watching my mum get ready for her evening bar  job, backcombing her hair and squeezing into some seriously tight Levis, listening to ‘Ride on Time’ by Black Box. Around the same time, my Mum started seeing my step-dad and I fell instantly in love with him when he let me have free reign over his record collection. I’d sit for HOURS on a Sunday afternoon putting on album after album, being oh-so-careful with the needle on the record player, listening to John Lee Hooker, Santana, Van Morrison, The Who, The Cure…he had so many records and it was such an amazing musical education.

When I was 10, I got a portable tape player and Mariah Carey’s Music Box album on TAPE, marking the beginning of my diva phase, where I’d sing at the top of my lungs to any number of female vocalists. However, at this time, I was just as likely to be listening to Guns ‘n’ Roses as I was to Whitney, my early education giving me extremely varied taste.

Skip forward a few hundred years, and I’m still as ‘into’ music as I ever was. I may not get quite as much time to listen to music as I once did, but it continues to be a passion. Today, I went to the shops in the car and stuck the radio on. Maybe it was the rain, but the reception on my usual Radio 4 was horrendous and the only station I could get was a local one which happened to be broadcasting the UK Top 40. Now, as a teenager, I would listen to the charts religiously, even committing the most low-tech of piracy, recording songs onto a tape as I listened! Sure, there were songs I disliked but there were more that I liked.

So why is it that, despite the fact that my taste in music has changed only slightly, I spent the drive home pulling this face:


Rather than just write off the whole chart based on the snippet I heard (about 5 songs) I thought I’d look into it a bit further. I looked up the current UK Top 40 and I can honestly say that there were only SEVEN songs that didn’t make my ears bleed. They are as follows:

Gerry and the Pacemakers – You’ll Never Walk Alone (obviously…)

Psy – Gangnam Style (Husband showed me this on YouTube WEEKS ago. We’re so ahead of the curve, I even have his album in my car already)

Pink – Blow Me One Last Kiss (I like Pink, she seems like a nice lady and her song was wholly inoffensive. Dunno if I’d buy it though)

Ne-Yo – Let Me Love You (Ne-Yo, like a far less aggravating Usher)

David Guetta (feat. Sia) – She Wolf (But only because I adore Sia)

Mumford and Sons – I Will Wait (Love Mumford and Sons. ‘Nuff said.)

Florence and the Machine – Spectrum (Say My Name) (Ol’ Flo has a cracking voice. And she’s a redhead)

So that’s it. Of the 40 songs, I like 7 – that means that 17.5% of the music chart is to my taste. I don’t know if I’m becoming more fussy or miserable as I get older but on more than one occasion, I’ve commented that Radio One sounds more like ‘noise’ than music. What I really don’t get is why everything has to sound the same. There doesn’t seem to be much that’s very unique, everything is vocoders, trance beats, bassy crescendos and samey hooks. It’s boring.

I know that with the advent of each new musical era, the older generation will condemn the new in favour of the old. My Grandad apparently banned my Mum from having Marc Bolan and David Bowie posters in her bedroom and I can only imagine what he’d say about Led Zeppelin, The Clash or Queen. But, I’m 28. I’m not ‘the older generation’ yet…am I? I feel very unsettled at the thought that I’m past the point where I’ll ever enjoy new music again and only listen to music that’s already happened. The feeling that there’s nothing new that will excite me any more is honestly terrifying. I know I can wait for the next Foo Fighters album and I’ll be happy again, but they’re a band I already like.

Is it just me who feels this way? Am I being really short-sighted? Can you recommend any good artists that I may not have heard?! Let me know!

6 thoughts on “What Has Happened to the Top 40?

  1. I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion I’m part of the older generation. Guns N Roses Appetite for Destruction is 25 years old this year. 25 years before Appetite was released, the Beatles Love Me Do topped the charts apparently.

    I think the divide between singles and albums is as great as it’s ever been to be honest, and singles have always traditionally been purchased by a much younger audience than albums. The vast majority of stuff I buy or listen to doesn’t chart but I suppose it’s me that’s moved on as much as the chart music.

  2. Loved this post, I wonder if im getting old sometimes, because I hate most modern music, the icons of today are rubbish. I think the only song this year I have liked – mainstream was Gotye, because the somebody he used to know tune drilled my brain, (And sounded very I loved it) my daughter is banned from anything that sounds slightly hip hoppy, rappy or sweary!

  3. I love Blurs new song but weirdly enough this morning I was talking to Joe about the crap music choice at the moment. There is a slump!!

  4. I haven’t truly enjoyed the top 40 since I would record it on tape every Saturday, being careful to cut out any “talk”. I’m a Spotify gal nowadays rather than a MTV fan, that way I can live happily in musical nostalgia.

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