Debate: Has 1999 been a bad year for pop?

There have been more No 1 chart hits this year than ever before. Has pop become a shallow, marketing-led scramble for the top slot?

YES

JOHN PEEL

Veteran DJ

IT'S PROBABLY true that on the surface pop music has become increasingly banal and dominated by marketing strategies but beneath all that things have never been better. I don't follow the charts and know very little about what the boy bands are up to. Still, I think its a shame that you can no longer get freak records into the charts like Rolf Harris's "Two Little Boys". The charts have become a separate area of activity and are about as real as EastEnders. It is a selling game with organisations geared to focusing sales of a record into a particular week so that it goes in at Number One. I find the whole thing amusing. Eventually the human spirit will rebel, but in the meantime that doesn't mean there aren't other interesting things going on in the real world.

NO

TRACEY MASON

Record store owner

AS FAR as I'm concerned this year has been better than last year for pop music. You will always have the boy band type stuff in the singles charts, but it's designed to be sold to kids in Woolworths for 99p. Older record buyers would rather spend pounds 12.99 on an album and in 1999 we've had far more quality albums releases. In 1998 sales were affected by the World Cup and the record companies hardly put out anything over the summer. This year we've had variety like Latin and dance music and you can't ignore Cher's hit "Believe" which was Number One for ages. The popular singles tend to end up re-mixed by Judge Jules and Pete Tong on compilation albums. People prefer buying all the best songs together on one CD rather than lots of singles.

JIM IRVIN

Mojo magazine

IT'S BEEN a bad year for consumers who want to hear something original. A few good songs have stood the test of time in the charts, like Madonna's "Beautiful Stranger", but most have been based around the same old formulaic pop song and sound alike. We've always had an element of manufactured pop - Marty Wilde in the Sixties, Kylie in the Eighties - but it seems more dominant now. The charts are meaningless, ruined by database targeting and selling singles at 99p to get them to Number One in the first week. It's much easier for record companies to manufacture bands like Westlife, which just tap directly into Boyzone's fan base. But pop reflects what's going on and we are living in rather polite anodyne times. New Labour hardly inspires a kick back revolution like punk.

NO

MARY ANNE HOBBS

DJ, Radio 1

IF YOU look at the history of mainstream music as represented by the Top 40 it's always been absolute bilge. But pop music itself has never been stronger. It feels worse because now, more than ever, mainstream music is about marketing triumphs and manufactured boy bands. You could sell dead rats with the right marketing behind you. Occasionally a band that's been championed will make it through to mainstream, like Basement Jaxx, who deserve all the success they get. The thing to remember is as the charts get worse and worse, the groundswell from the underground gets stronger. In terms of real music, things are better than ever. You just won't hear it unless you listen to late night radio.

PAUL VULLIAMY

14-year-old schoolboy

I'VE NEVER liked pop music generally, so for me pop has been as bad this year as any. I'm not interested in boy bands who can't sing and are there just for they're looks. I prefer dance music by people with talent. None of my friends are into pop music. Some like rock or drum 'n' bass, but even the girls don't like boy bands - unless they listen to them secretly and don't tell us. I don't follow the charts or watch shows like Top of the Pops. My family do, so I have an idea what's going on, but I can't tell you what's Number One this week, for example. I listen to the radio a lot and I buy the occasional album. I am pleased that there has been a lot more dance music in the charts, though, and I hope the charts will start to include more and more different types of music.

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