Music

Why Bryan Adams will always be better than Drake

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Dave Fawbert
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This week, Drake's song One Dance became the most-streamed song of all-time on Spotify, pushing Major Lazer's MØ and DJ Snake-featuring Lean On into second place. At the time of writing, it's been streamed an enormous 882 million times. At 2 minutes and 54 seconds long, that's 4866 years of Drake.

Nearly five millennia of listening to One Dance.

In July this year, Justin Bieber released the song, Cold Water, co-written with Ed Sheeran and performed alongside Major Lazer and MØ and finally ended the dominance of Drake's One Dance at the summit of the UK charts, where it stubbornly remained, against all opposition, for 15 whole weeks.

Bieber ensured that Drake narrowly failed to take the chart record held by Bryan Adams, with his 1991 smash (Everything I Do) I Do It For You, which, helped along by being featured on the blockbuster Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, stood atop the charts for an almighty 16 weeks.

So, this song must surely be one of the greatest songs ever written?

No, it is absolutely, categorically, not.

Let me explain.

I am a voracious consumer of pop music. I was brought up on the genius of Pet Shop Boys, Madonna and Michael Jackson and the peerless one-hit wonder pop - Whigfield, Alex Party, Corona and all the rest - of the early nineties. I have followed the thrilling fortunes of pop ever since, as it hoovers up the best of every other genre and refines it into three minute nuggets of life-changing brilliance.

Scholars of the future will look back upon this recent era and realise that we have truly lived in a golden era for pop music, ever since Lady Gaga appeared from nowhere to save us from The Fratellis and the rest of them in 2008. The same year saw Katy Perry announce herself onto the world stage with I Kissed a Girl, Beyonce reached arguably her pop peak with the release of I Am... Sasha Fierce, while Rihanna had broken into the big time a year before with the unavoidable weatherpop of Umbrella.

For the next few years, we were all treated to an absolute avalanche of enormous, unashamed hit singles, year in, year out, with Calvin Harris injecting dance energy, synth blasts and lasers into pop when he released I'm Not Alone in 2009 and the entire pop world rushed to copy him.

Of course, things reached a perfect pinnacle in 2011, when Calvin and Rihanna combined for one of the greatest pop songs ever created: We Found Love. Meanwhile, Kanye reached the peak of his expansive sound with 2010's brilliant My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which threw the kitchen sink at everything, with huge success.

But, as always - and as it should be - with pop, there was a reaction. Bubbling under the surface was a more restrained, nuanced take on things: stripped back, minimal music accompanied by introspective lyrics, full of self-doubt. The polar opposite to the likes of the euphoric Harris and Rihanna collaboration and Kanye's bombast (albeit, Kanye was responsible for helping kick off the movement with his previous album 808s & Heartbreak).

Leading this movement, amongst others, were two Canadian acts: Drake and The Weeknd - both of whom have since moved into the big league, the latter by virtue of moving into a more traditional pop sphere with the Max Martin-assisted Can't Feel My Face.

Drake, though, has reached the summit of fame with barely any compromises, and the release of his new album, Views, earlier this year was met with the sound of the internet exploding.

But, frankly, I'm sick of him, and One Dance is the final straw.

The navel-gazing, the morose, flat, monotone delivery, the miserablism, the minimalism - all of this I could just about take clogging up the pop arena when the vibe was as good as Hotline Bling, his previous single, which at least demonstrated a decent vocal hook and a clever sample.

But One Dance? It's just so boring. It is tedious. It's boring, and flat, and dull, on every conceivable level. Drake sounds bored to death singing it, there's virtually no dynamic shift between verse and chorus, he can barely be arsed to use more than four or five notes, all adjacent, throughout the entire song. I've heard it about a hundred times and I still can't sing the melody of the chorus. It sounds like he's just sung the entire song on one note and then got a studio engineer to idly wiggle the dial on an autotune plugin to give it some variation. Pop is meant to be euphoric, life-affirming, to have energy fizzing through its veins. This sounds like it's on life-support with the leccy meter onto its last 50p. Minimal is one thing, this just sounds like it can't be bothered, because 'this'll do' and the hordes will flock and listen to it, on repeat, for eternity.

And yet, these flaws are its very strength.

June 2014 saw the Official Charts Company introduce streaming data into its numbers for the first time: something that absolutely was a necessary and correct move. How can you say that 'these songs are the most popular in the country' based purely on sales, when people are consuming music through Spotify and the rest in ever-increasing numbers? You can't. A listen through a stream is just as valid a listen as any and should be included to help gauge a song's popularity.

But another aspect of streaming was not necessarily anticipated: the emergence of increasingly-influential playlists. With many people relying on them for their fix of music, the top 40 has become ever more static, as songs push their way in, make their way onto a host of playlists and then refuse to be budged, hanging around for months on end.

And One Dance is the absolute perfect song for a playlist: it's inoffensive, it's not loud, it's not in your face, it's not aggressive. It will nestle between pretty much any other songs you care to put either side. Its utter, lifeless blandness is its greatest strength. No one's going to turn that playlist off in the office, or turn the radio off when it comes on.

Therefore, until Biebs and the gang came along, it looked set to stay at number one forever, despite the possibility that no one actually loved the song. No one minded it, but no one actively loved it. And that's not good enough, for me, to be a number one song - and certainly not good enough to claim a chart record. Worst of all, it's not even that catchy. But it makes total sense that it has claimed the streaming record.

Love is all Around and (Everything I Do) I Do It For You may have been fairly inoffensive fodder, but they were well-crafted, brilliantly-written pop songs, performed with undeniable passion, that inspired enough people to go out every week and actually buy them, from a shop... okay, you got me on the 'alright grandad' lines now.

One Dance is like anti-music. It's the absence of what makes music, and particularly pop music, great. He couldn't even bothered to make a proper video for it, for God's sake. Bryan Adams made his entire band lug their gear to the middle of a forest. What excuse does Drake have?

Drake fans can hurl abuse at Dave on Twitter by following him @davefawbert

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Dave Fawbert

ShortList.com staff writer Dave’s primary passions are pop, prose, punning and power ballads (and alliteration). A lower division football enthusiast and long-suffering cricket fan, he is one of only 110 people followed on Twitter by Chas Hodges from Chas ‘n’ Dave. Follow Dave on Twitter like Chas: @davefawbert

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