Music A to Z - part two - "A"


People often ask, "what type of music do you like?" If pushed, the first thing I'll say is pop, but that's like saying I read books with words in them.

Pop is generally interpreted as the colorful, shallow, but totally catchy stuff that dominates the music charts.

Pop-stars are seen as empty shells with pretty faces, unable to play their own instruments and programmed to generate screaming fan-bases. The songs are written by mysterious, faceless, mole-people and shared out amongst the talent, turning all music into one nebulous, well-choreographed mass of annoying howler monkeys.

Pop Music

Well, that's not really fair. Pop is just popular music. Taylor Swift and Beyoncé are pop artists. Miss Swift arrived via country music and Mrs Z is often considered R&B, which nowadays incorporates everything from Hip-Hop to Soul. The Beatles, Marvin Gaye, Rod Stewart, Queen, The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac are all basically pop-stars. They write four-minute songs with a "hook" in an attempt to appeal to the widest possible audience.

From time to time, these artists don't follow the song-writing format (Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody is a great example, which ironically turned out to be one of their biggest chart successes), but the bulk of why they are so famous and POPULAR is the fact they write pop songs. They sing about love and breaking up...and sometimes they even play their own instruments.

Just for the record, I like several styles of music, but pop is probably the main one. Which should serve as ample warning as we start our journey through the alphabet.

A is for...

A-Ha - "Take On Me" (1985)

Music videos were not invented in the 1980's but the advent of MTV meant that bands could no longer just rely on their music to get airplay. By the mid-80's everyone made videos so only the best stood out. Norway's A-Ha came onto the scene all guns blazing. Armed with a catchy tune (don't lie, you'll totally sing this in the car if you hear it) and a groundbreaking video, Take On Me was a colossal hit, selling upwards of seven million copies worldwide. A-Ha went on to become Norway's biggest ever band although their subsequent singles never quite recaptured the success of their debut.

I remember going to a friend's house and recording his copy of the song on my portable tape recorder. The recording was awful, of course--full of hisses, clicks and background noise--but it worked until I was able to buy a compilation album that had the song on it. Being twelve had certain financial drawbacks.

Anggun - "Saviour" (2005)

Jason Statham is perhaps not the first name that springs to mind when considering music choices, but without him and his barmy and completely ridiculous movie franchise The Transporter, I likely would never have heard this song. Anggun is well-known in her native Indonesia, her adopted home of France, and across Europe. Making music since the early-80's when she was only twelve years old, she's slowly built a fan-base that's allowed her to have a long and successful career.

I heard "Saviour" whilst watching The Transporter 2 and was immediately taken with Anggun's husky contralto, so my thanks to "The Stath" and his flying scissor-kicks.

Just for the record, the song was originally written and recorded in French. So, Anggun is better than most of us at singing AND languages.

Fiona Apple - "Criminal" (1997)

Apple became well known at the same time I was in the process of emigrating to the United States. After getting settled, I happened upon a piece of junk mail from Columbia House - Get 6 CDs for $1 or somesuch. Of course, after you sign up they never leave you alone, but I had left my music collection behind in Scotland and figured I'd start rebuilding. One of my cheap CDs was Tidal by Fiona Apple. It had good reviews, but I'd never heard a track of it. I figured I'd give it a try for a buck.

Apple possesses a deep and husky voice and a poetic slant to her lyrics that sometimes, upon first listen, make her songs a little opaque, but never boring. And Apple herself isn't afraid to court a little controversy, making people a little uncomfortable with her persona. The video for "Criminal" was deemed too sexual, her adolescent appearance (she was 20) making an uneasy juxtaposition with the song's theme of getting something easily using sexuality. Others condemned her for her skinny appearance and for promoting anorexia. Apple revealed in an interview that she developed an eating disorder after she was raped at age twelve, believing her body was "bait" and brought her unwanted attention from men. The video for "Criminal seems counter-intuitive to this stance since she appears in various states of undress.

Either way, what she created with Tidal is indelible. I could've included any one of six tracks I think are fantastic, but here's the most notorious.

That's A. I'm always interested to hear your opinions so feel free to let me know what you think. Come back again for the next letter of the alphabet.



  1. I've noticed you have a penchant for ladies with voices that I would describe as (old fashioned word) torch singers. Excellent choice never the less. I especially liked Anggun as her "look" reminds me a wee bit of Nicole Scherzinger with whom I am totally infatuated! Ooops, did I say that out loud!!! LOL

  2. Loved being reminded of my tape recording years ♡ I'm guilty. Lol visiting from a to z challenge


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