Today 6 Music unveiled its 100 most popular songs since the station began; and the biggest shock was just how conservative the top ten is. OK, nobody expected Lower Dens (a choice clearly bearing the Tom Ravenscroft seal) to garner many votes, but Coldplay at number one? Surely not.
Of course, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, the Killers et al are good at what they do, but they’re nothing you can’t hear in any branch of Argos on a Saturday afternoon. Let’s cut to the chase: they’re not exactly “cutting edge”.
When 6 Music listeners petitioned, pestered and harassed the BBC Trust to save the station from closure a few years back, were we striving to salvage the last remaining nationwide outlet for innovative, “alternative” music, or simply standing up for our right to listen to Coldplay’s Clocks?
True, the shortlist was uninspiring, but I don’t want to be too critical of the station; with Tom Ravenscroft, Jarvis Cocker, Marc Riley, Cerys Matthews and Gideon Coe on board it boasts some of the finest music broadcasters on the radio. However the fact is, in recent years its daytime output has often swerved dangerously towards the mainstream.
For instance, a couple of Saturdays ago I was surprised to hear (I kid you not) Pump Up the Jam by Technotronic. Whether or not this was a clever, ironic, postmodern gag is irrelevant. Pump Up the Jam by Technotronic is rubbish, and if I want to hear Pump Up the Jam by Technotronic I will purchase a copy of Big Tunes: Back 2 the 90s Vol II.
This is obviously an extreme example, and perhaps if the licence-fee payers want a more pop-centric 6 Music, featuring Coldplay and chums, then that’s what they should get. But hold on, there might be more to this than meets the eye.
Coldplay are a hugely popular band; they have nine and a half million followers on Twitter. So when they tweet their fans, as they have done three times over the past few weeks, asking them to vote in the 6 Music poll, it’s a powerful weapon in their battle against relative minnows like Mclusky and Peter Bjorn and John. Voting was easy too; just follow a link and click on your favourite. No need to register, and no need to prove you’ve ever listened to 6 Music.
So perhaps this top 100 is not as representative as it initially appeared. Maybe the panel selected the more middle-of-the-road entries as token gestures, not anticipating they would trounce the opposition through the power of social networking. That might be wishful thinking, but there MUST have been a few despondent sighs in 6 Music towers when the votes were tallied.
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