Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The pop music blues

It now costs a whopping 55 euros ($66) to fill up the tank of our 2-door Fiat Lancia, a car that while firmly in the "economy" class of automobiles only slightly out-performs a snowplow in mpg. But this is not my biggest gripe about the evil automobile. It is pop music. Since May, I've driven through parts of the US, UK, Italy, Spain and France and listened to the respective top 40 charts of each of these so-called "developed" nations. I jab at the tuner buttons endlessly searching for something that will distract me from the rigors of the road. Ok, James Blunt is just creepy enough to last into the autumn, but will we be hearing "You're beautiful/It's true" on the airwaves in, say, 15 years?

While pondering this (in France), I thought about Continental Europe's anemic contribution to pop music (I define "Continental Europe" as Europe minus the UK and Ireland for now), and decided upon a list that I hope to expand the next time behind the wheel.

So, consider this my first installment. The synthesized drumroll, please:

My all-time list of top Continental European pop songs, in no particular order. These songs are chosen because they have staying power, meaning we are just as likely to hear them on the radio 10 years from now as we were 10 years ago.

Country: Germany -- Song: "99 Luftballoons" -- Artist: Nena -- 1984
Country: Norway -- Song: "Take on Me" -- Artist: A-ha -- 1985
Country: Italy -- Song: *"Gloria" -- Artist: Umberto Tozzi -- 1983
Country: Sweden -- Song: "Dancing Queen" -- Artists: Abba -- 1975
Country: Spain -- Song: "Macarena" -- Artist: Los del Rio -- 1993
Country: France -- Song: **"She" -- Artist: Charles Aznavour -- 1974

* redone in English by Laura Branigan with new lyrics
** while numerous French acts (Air, St. Germain, Noir Desir) of recent years deserve mention, only Chuck gave us a No. 1 hit in 1974.

Because this is pop music, everyone has an opinion and of course everybody thinks their opinion is somehow more enlightened than the next person. I'm dubious. This list is about as bulletproof as you can hope for given the subject matter. That said, if Nick Hornby has already done the research on this, I graciously defer to him.


Anonymous said...

You forgot about Austria's Falco and did you know that Laura Brannigan died?

Anonymous said...

And don't forget Europe's "Final Countdown"!

Anonymous said...

I can understand why you used the filter of the radio, and the notion of ten years before equaling ten years after. But those are pretty tough hurdles, and I think the list gets a little more interesting and if you adjust them somewhat. For example, 2002's "Ketchup Song" was definitely a one-off, and it's hard to imagine hearing it on the radio in 2022, but it's not a worse song than the Macarena. Also, the most influential European music probably isn't making it on the radio too much but still is important; I'm thinking of Sweden's The Hives.