A View From The Top #89

by Liam Hill

Alteration at the top of the charts is an increasingly rare occasion, and whilst I’m glad that change has come for the top spot, the circumstances which bring this about couldn’t be more melancholy or heart-breaking.

Despite his faults and control of great chunks of popular music (including this week’s charts), Simon Cowell has used his musical machine, contacts and generosity to follow the historic tradition of charitable singles, this time bringing to the table a rendition of the iconic Simon & Garfunkel track, Bridge Over Troubled Water. Featuring music veterans Robbie Williams, Roger Daltery and Brian May, alongside modern heroes Stormzy, Craig David and Emeli Sande, the star-studded track embodies the solidarity behind the Grenfell Tower disaster. Not only do the collaborations within the music business embody the sense of community surrounding the devastation, but the success upon release highlights how society as a whole has been touched by the incident and are eager to provide relief where possible.

Gareth Malone also brings a contribution to this week’s number one with The Choir For Grenfell - this for me is the most poignant moment. Gareth beautifully incorporates members of the public, embracing the real wider sense of community that has surrounded this tragic event and giving a voice to the ordinary people of society. Bringing a local and authentic choric contribution is truly touching and meaningful, and a genuine attempt to bring a relatable addition to this week’s number one.

However, as important as this song is not only to the victims but to the nation on a wider level, I find myself struggling to enjoy this version itself. Simon & Garfunkel’s craftsmanship behind the original is so beautifully touching that I find myself painfully underwhelmed by the arrangement used by Cowell & Co. I find no need to modernise Bridge Over Troubled Water, it’s truly timeless, yet still an electronic drum pad is found creeping in around half way through the track, it being around here where regretfully I start losing interest.

Moreover, whilst the honest poeticism of Stormzy and WSTRN welcomingly widens the audience of listeners, for me their contributions (in particular WSTRN’s which is slotted in the middle of the track) break up the track, slightly disturbing the sense of togetherness felt throughout, notably compared to the choir.

Nonetheless, whilst it is welcoming and promising to see change at the top spot (especially with a reintroduction of such an iconic song), the rest of the charts are generally disappointing. With a further scattering of Cowell’s prodigies and allies, namely Liam Payne, Little Mix and Rita Ora, alongside multiple features from Quavo and Justin Bieber, the charts are a painfully dull place to be. There’s nothing remotely exciting or interesting in the top ten, with it being naturally predictable, mediocre and safe. With releases coming from even relatively mainstream “rock” stars Liam Gallagher, Haim, Lorde and Arcade Fire in recent weeks, it’s painfully disappointing and frustrating that not even an ex-Oasis legend can disrupt the charts. At least the album charts are looking a little more promising, with Royal Blood, Lorde and Fleet Foxes all being present.