Having heard the boring and intensely unoriginal song that was last week’s Number 1, I thought surely, surely, there would be something new this week. But alas, Shawn Mendes’ mind-numbing single still clings to the top spot. Before last week’s column, I had never heard of Shawn Mendes, or his mediocre song. But as it turns out, the Canadian has been floating around for some time, having risen to prominence through Vine, of all platforms. What’s more, he opened for Taylor Swift on the US dates of her mammoth 1989 World Tour. And if you want to hear something truly terrifying, the guy is only 17. In this case, perhaps we can excuse Mendes for writing a song whose gimmick relies on the fact that “kisses” rhymes with “stitches” (except it doesn’t really, does it, Shawn?).
But what is even more horrifying than the boring song occupying the top spot, is the utter travesty at Number 3. This week, someone (Jonas Blue and Dakota, apparently) decided they needed to make a techno remix of Tracy Chapman’s beautiful, acoustic track, Fast Car. Chapman’s version is of the most heart-breaking yet uplifting songs I’ve ever heard, brilliantly combining poignancy with hope and musical simplicity with well-developed narrative.
Jonas Blue, why did you think that a techno remix to this song was a good idea? Why? The remix strips the song of all the emotion of the original, adding a bizarrely bouncy house beat and a bastardized version of the original guitar riff between verses. Speeding up the song means that the narrative is obscured and the synth sounds used are just annoying. My question is: where are people meant to listen to this? I doubt people want to listen to a song about a girl taking care of her alcoholic father and trying to save money to start a new life while downing jaeger bombs in Unit 1.
Admittedly Dakota does have a nice voice, and perhaps if you’d never heard the original you might think this was a nice song. But that only makes it even more tragic that this version has become so famous. Now people might actually think this is the original, the same way so many believe that “Oh sometimes I get a good feeling” comes from Flo Rida, not Etta James. Of course I can appreciate the art of sampling and covers; there are countless examples of this kind of talent - take Jamie xx’s (There’s Gonna Be) Good Times as a recent example - but this is not one of them.
Elsewhere in the world, there is room for hope. Rihanna’s new single, Work, was released this week and it is excellent. I am a sucker for dancehall music making it into the mainstream and this track is probably Rihanna’s most Caribbean-influenced thus far. One Direction dropout Zayn Malik also released his debut single, Pillowtalk, this week, to mass hysteria. The track is wonderfully chilled and sexy and is bound to do well in the charts.
Therefore, let us hope and pray that both Shawn Mendes and Jonas Blue (especially Jonas Blue) have dropped off the map by next week, so that my faith in pop music can be restored.