Britain is in turmoil! Following Thatcher’s death, a campaign to get Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead from The Wizard of Oz into the charts has been successful, but the BBC say they won’t play it in full on the Chart Show. So on the one hand you might reasonably have concerns about censorship, free speech and your right of dissent, but on the other you’ve got, well, Munchkin fury.
Now, Radio 1 censors songs all the time, generally for swearing or explicit sexual references. The radio edit of Azealia Banks’ 212 sounded like she’d borrowed Norman Collier’s microphone. But to ban a song that you might otherwise hear any Sunday afternoon on Radio 2, because of the motives of the people buying it, is some complicated new level of doublethink.
So if YOU were looking forward to listening to the Top Ten today and enjoying a silent gloat while Dorothy and the Munchkins established that the person in question was not only merely, but really most sincerely dead, what are your options now the BBC have spoiled your fun? What subversive messages are hidden in the rest of the songs in the Top Ten?
“I don’t know about you but I’m feeling 22!” sings Taylor Swift in 22. In a song recorded in 2012 that can only mean one thing – Taylor is positioning herself as the embodiment of the post-Thatcher political scene following the Iron Lady’s resignation in 1990. “We’re happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time… it’s miserable and magical!” Well it’s certainly been a mixed bag.
In When I Was Your Man, Bruno Mars blames himself for Thatcher’s fall from grace. “My pride, my ego, my needs and my selfish ways caused a good strong woman like you to walk out my life.” But there’s a double-edged criticism implicit in his dirge. It was Thatcher’s own ideology that encouraged Bruno to selfishly individuate! And now they’re both paying the price.
The Saturdays critique the right-to-buy legislation introduced in Thatcher’s first term in What About Us? – “I’ve been watching and waiting, why don’t you give it or take it?” And Pitbull continues the socio-economic analysis in Feel This Moment – “Ask for money and get advice. Ask for advice, get money twice.” He goes on to tell us how he’s made billions in the free market before delivering the killer blow: “I’m far from cheap, I break down companies with all my peeps” – a clear dig at the Big Idea of denationalisation.
Justin Timberlake addresses the notion of individualism as he sings to his own reflection in Mirrors. “My mirror staring back at me, I couldn’t get any bigger with anyone else beside of me,” he croons in a savage satire of Thatcher’s belief that there’s no such thing as society. And what could be a more pointed attack on capitalist federalism than Nelly‘s Hey Porsche? “I don’t need nobody’s permission” he laughs, in a song that deliberately confuses material pleasure with personal objectification to devastating effect.
Pompeii sees Bastille take the Roman city as a metaphor for the ruined industrial communities of the North. The dark clouds that roll in over the hills in the song are the coal dust of the abandoned pits. “Many days fell away with nothing to show… We were caught up and lost in all of our vices.” We’re warned of the cyclical nature of history too, that Thatcherism hasn’t died with the lady herself – “If you close your eyes, does it almost feel like you’ve been here before? How am I gonna be an optimist about this?” Sad. Pink takes a similar view of a nation’s devastated manufacturing base in Just Give Me A Reason but with a more hopeful tone – “Tear ducts and rust, I’ll fix it for us. We’re collecting dust but our love’s enough.”
And so to the song at Number One (according to the midweeks published on 10th April of course, as are all the songs I’ve mentioned – your actual chart experience may vary). Duke Dumont‘s Need U (100%) featuring A*M*E might seem like just another feelgood dance track. But it’s all there in the video. A man visits hospital with a tape recorder – of exactly the sort you could have bought in 1979 when Thatcher came to power – lodged in his stomach. We see him leave without receiving any treatment and learn that the video takes place in America. The implications are obvious – in a country with no NHS, medical help is the privilege of the few. Our hero tries to go about his life regardless, but constant misery ensues as his condition causes everyone around him to suffer potentially fatal choreomania. Eventually, exhausted, we see him undergoing an operation – but at what cost?! If Thatcher’s policies have led inexorably to the current dismantling of a free health service then are we all doomed to dance until we die? Enjoy tonight’s Chart Show!