You can’t open your browser these days without seeing an article about how rubbish old straight white men are, can you? They are the brunt of all jokes, the target of most social justice assaults revolving around words like “privilege” and “harassment” and “classic rock”. It’s not hard to see why, since they are by far the easiest demographic to make fun of. I mean, have you ever seen one? Like, out in the wild? They’re brilliant, the straight white men, eating a Greggs on the bus and getting pastry flakes all down their football shirts, legs impossibly akimbo in lieu of a flashing sign pointing to their crotch saying “caution: balls sweating”, dropping fat shaming memes into a WhatsApp group conversation named "Shagaluf 2k16 ;)".
You see them shuffling down the street, don’t you, with that weird, bandy walk of theirs where one foot goes really far left and the other really far right, like a penguin smuggling gak through customs. Or in cars, which they’ve customised to make as loud as possible in case someone’s personal space was going uninvaded. Or in bars, where they congregate around packets of meat flavoured crisps and talk about how you can’t even shout your opinions at a random woman on the street anymore without her looking at you with a mixture of fear and disgust.
It’s not nice to mock people, especially when making generalisations like “they all smell like Lynx Africa and ham”, but with the way they go about in public, they’re basically asking for it. Fortunately there’s a safe haven for them now, in the form of Radio X – a replacement for XFM that was initially marketed as “the first truly male-focused station” (before they realised that women enjoy and play music with guitars as well). When banter-loving men are feeling oppressed by a world that’s suddenly trying to hold them accountable for the things they have been doing and saying for ages, they can tune in to Chris Moyles, wash their man size chocolate buttons down with a class of Mangria, and listen to the Kaiser Chiefs. Why not, I guess. Everybody needs a bosom for a pillow.
So, when 50,000 Radio X listeners were given the chance to take part in a poll to establish the best British songs of all time, obviously Oasis’ “Wonderwall” – an objectively decent tune universally hated by everyone except buskers and drunk men in large groups – came out on top. It was followed by even more Oasis songs in positions two, three and four, then some Stone Roses, then more men, then some more men, then ten songs that basically comprise the last half hour at every Propaganda club night there has ever been. Here it is in full:
1. Oasis - 'Wonderwall'
2. Oasis - 'Don’t Look Back In Anger'
3. Oasis - 'Champagne Supernova'
4. Oasis - Live Forever'
5. The Stone Roses - 'I Am The Resurrection'
6. Arctic Monkeys - 'I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor'
7. David Bowie - 'Heroes'
8. David Bowie - 'Life On Mars?'
9. The Verve - 'Bittersweet Symphony'
10. The Rolling Stones - 'Gimme Shelter'
11. Elbow - 'One Day Like This'
12. Queen - 'Bohemian Rhapsody'
13. The Beatles - 'Hey Jude'
14. Pulp - 'Common People'
15. The Smiths - 'There Is A Light That Never Goes Out'
16. Oasis - 'Slide Away'
17. The Stone Roses - 'Fool’s Gold'
18. The Smiths - 'How Soon Is Now'
19. The Beatles - 'A Day In The Life'
20. Joy Division - 'Love Will Tear Us Apart'
Obviously, after seeing this, the general first impulse is to post it to Twitter alongside a variation of, “Oi, your just leaked his sex playlist”. I’ll tell you now, I had mine drafted, ready to go. But then I thought, you know what, maybe this time the straight white male community doesn't deserve this blow, right now, from me.
Your boyfriend just voted for his top five British songs of all time pic.twitter.com/JzhivWyxAJ
— Danny Wright (@dethink2survive) March 29, 2016
Radio X listeners think Oasis made the best 4 British records of all time. We're about to find out if a man can die from sneering.
— Glenn Airey (@GlennAirey) March 29, 2016
The top 4 of Radio X's 'best of British' countdown were Oasis, but not one of them was Slide Away what's wrong with Britain
— James (@JamesDolan_) March 28, 2016
Don't mock Radio X listeners for loving great Oasis songs. Mock them for voting Elbow's 'One Day Like This' above anything by The Beatles.
— David Renshaw (@ddavidrenshaw) March 29, 2016
Funnily enough most of the anti-poll tweets came from men, proving conclusively that the only people who care about the results of a Radio X poll are members of their demographic with critical disagreements. But if you think about it, is there really anything in the results to make fun of? A nationwide poll by a rock station with Vernon Anarchy in the U-Kay as a host wasn’t exactly going to come out as a smorgasbord of diversity was it? It was going to feature a lot of British rock music, which hasn’t made any exciting developments since the early 00s. Being surprised or angry about Elbow turning up in a British rock poll from Radio X is like being surprised or angry that a Donald Trump rally was full of racists waving anti-immigration placards.
I guess the reason this poll looks like it was published in 1997 is because that’s roughly the time most of Radio X’s listeners clearly stopped listening to new music. Only two entries in the top 20 were released in the last 15 years –Elbow and Arctic Monkeys – and that’s only because they operate so close to the British rock blueprint established by those who came before.
Some of us move on, discover other music, and go hunting for it because the industry has changed and the UK charts aren’t necessarily representative of what’s actually happening in our music culture anymore. But that is the literal opposite of Radio X’s role on the air. The kind of people who, in 2016, maintain that “Wonderwall” is the best song the country has ever produced are the type who think we might as well stop the presses right now and just put What's The Story Morning Glory? on repeat until the Sun envelops the earth and the universe relapses.
The thing is, nobody can honestly sit there and say Oasis didn't have fine moments, The Smiths weren’t great, every line of “Life on Mars?” isn’t nonsensical genius, and every eight minutes and thirteen seconds of “I Am The Resurrection” are anything but pure euphoria. Every truly great song ends up being trashed because we overplay it to death and back again, and that’s going to be just as true of “Hotline Bling” as it is is of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. Nothing escapes the exhaustion of repetition. Even Liam Gallagher, a man so confident in the power of his own music that he lists God as a secondary career choice, hates “Wonderwall” now. “Every time I sing it I want to gag,” he is quoted as saying.
What I’m trying to say is, less of a reason to jibe Radio X, is this poll actually a murky vision of our own future? Will we not all, at some point, become the “straight white dudes” of Radio X, seeking comfort in what we already know because the world is evolving at a pace we will all eventually struggle to keep up with? In the future, when everyone is caramel and queer, will our children’s children mock us all for listening to Radio Grime, hosted by an aged Craig David flanked by Dappy and one of the Southside Allstars; us desperately voting for ten Big Narstie tracks in a row as the Best of British 2036 poll? Will they roll their eyes as we wax lyrical about apps, that time Skepta played mainstage at Glastonbury, and how social media was the only way to stay plugged into underground music because FM radio was so fucking slow? Will we all eventually stop listening to new music and just stick to what we know?
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