In April 1986, at Johnny Marr’s kitchen table, Morrissey was having a cup of tea. He and his songwriting partner were listening to BBC Radio 1 when the news came on. Brushing aside the rest of the day’s trivialities, the catastrophic news just in: there had been an explosion in reactor 4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. The full scope of the chaos was, in that instant, still unrealised. On the ground – in the moment – and amidst (admittedly waning) Cold War tensions, it was a terrifying scenario; no one could even begin to imagine what effect that kind of accident might have – it wasn’t just completely devastating; it was also entirely new. Steve Wright, in his infinite wisdom, followed the news bulletin by spinning Wham’s I’m Your Man. As you can imagine; razor witted Sir Laughs a Lot and his jingle-jangle wizard companion took quite severely to the distasteful jockeying. It’s from this bleak anecdote that the loner-anthem Panic was born. “Burn down the disco,” sang Morrissey on the single, backed by a choir of schoolchildren; “hang the blessed DJ – because the music they constantly play, it says nothing to me about my life.”
Dua Lipa exists in a similarly abstract realm to Steve Wright; one where throwaway metaphors about the missionary sex position can be used to address the on-going feminist quest for equality, and where ignorance is the answer to your romantic qualms. The metaphor guns for betterment or revenge, rather than liberally pinpointing male injustice as a deviance from a moderate (and frankly, nowadays) expected centre. Here apparently, two wrongs make a defiant right… but without the ironic knowhow of say, Wolf Alice, slashing up a similar kind of ex on You’re a Germ. No, this is plain and simple. Boring, boring ill-thought out, crappy dancehall vomit.
But then, that’s what this column is about nowadays – a weekly reminder that there’s just no accounting for public taste. And yes – just as the last time I wrote one of these – it all seems a bit tragic up at the #1 spot, when there’s any number of extremely clever musicians speaking honestly and fervently in the swampy and oppressed depths of quality songwriting. (If you’re interested, the new Susanne Sundfør album out on Sept. 8 deals in commentary on abusive geopolitics and analysis of a dually global and also personal experience romantic deceit and mistrust).
You can’t dance to it though, can you, Stu.