Snow Patrol's prime slice of dullarama has been declared the most played song of the century. But don't blame yourself, argues columnist Mark Beaumont
So tell me, when was the moment you lost your last, flimsy shred of faith and respect for humanity and began to look forward to the rising floodwaters swallowing our cities forever like so many stubborn spiders in the bath? The Brexit vote? Trump and his supporters going full racist? The Panama papers? The Tide pod challenge? Naked Attraction? Mumford & Sons? The Cats trailer? Every Question Time since 2016? Toff?
Heaven knows all of those have almost pushed me over the edge. But a deep-seated tolerance, punishing workload, heavy-duty medication and disinterested disdain for pretty much everything has seen me through until now. Now, when it’s announced that ‘Chasing Cars’ by Snow Patrol is the most played song on UK radio this century. Thanks humanity, I’m done. Book me on the first solo mission to the Saturnian moon of Titan with a lifetime’s supply of earplugs and a pillow to hold over my head as I scream the whole way there.
How, in the name of all things passionate, tuneful and unholy, have we come to this? ‘Chasing Cars’, the sound of the motorway exit you missed at the last minute, the sneeze that won’t come, the orange crème Revel, the Christmas cracker that comes apart without snapping and has a shit plastic ‘jumping’ frog toy in it that just kind of slides across the table and gives the dog a month of loud, agonising constipation. The dull facsimile of Snow Patrol’s ‘Run’, which was a dull facsimile of Coldplay’s ‘Yellow’, a song so flimsy and weightless you could get it for free at a Tesco self-service check-out. The worryingly damp fart of pop.
That this is the most played song of the 21stCentury is a more damning indictment of the worth of our species than any number of Magaluf Weekenders or Anne Widdecombe speeches beamed directly at the nearest super-Earth. I hardly need to list the better songs released since 2000, the century of The Strokes, Arcade Fire, Muse, Kanye West, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Arctic Monkeys, The National, a load of Jay’n’Bey, Vampire Weekend, Wolf Alice, Alvvays, The Killers, Foals, Grimes, Stormzy, The Libertines, Lana Del Rey, Bright Eyes, Beirut, Stornoway… I mean, even most of the pop shit we’re supposed to pretend to like these days is better than this nil-nil draw of a song. And let’s not forget, these radio playlist compilers have had the entire history of recorded music to choose from – The Beatles, The Stones, Bowie, Har Mar Superstar. Even the ten seconds of music that plays when a Chaser marches across that raised bridge looking like they’ve just had a hefty swig of their own piss or the Samsung ringtone that sounds like someone whistling ‘I am a wanker’ are more representative of the decades of awe-inspiring musical invention undergone in the rock’n’roll era. Mark E Smith and your granny on bongos should get more airtime.
What do you mean ‘how does it go?’ It’s the most played song of the century! Actually, good point. So thin, so vaporous, so utterly without substance or feature is this Wetherspoons curry night of a song that it’s almost as if it’s been ergonomically designed to slide directly through your memory and out the other side without leaving any trace it was ever there at all, like a Ben Affleck performance or Change UK. If it helps, it’s the one that sounds like every X Factor semi-finalist’s losing song – two-note guitar, misty synths, tune that an AI programmed on a Nokia 3310 would write if you played it ‘Fix You’. Does the same thing but a little bit louder, gets embarrassed by itself and stops. No, it’s not the Adele one, that’s ‘Chasing Bollards’ or something. Never mind, you’ll know it if you heard it.
Which is precisely why it’s the most-played song of the century. It’s not so much music as sonic hypnotism. The slow, repetitive, soporific music is basically the aural equivalent of a swinging watch, and look at the lyrics. “If I lay here, would you lie with me and just forget the world?” Okay Gary, just for a second, I’m very busy. “Let’s waste time chasing cars around our heads.” Yes, yes, that’s nice, it’s very comfy here. “Show me a garden that’s bursting with life.” I can see it Gary, yes, so lovely, getting sleepy now. “Your perfect eyes, they’re all I can see.” Yes, I’m looking into the eyes, not around the eyes…
Now it would be very easy at this point to blame the blanket exposure of this cornflour E of a track on humanity’s need for familiarity, its unadventurous tastes, its reluctance to be challenged, its general lack of interest in music other than as a vaguely emotional accompaniment to a poignant moment on a TV medical drama or cry sex. But it’s actually not our fault. The YouTube video of ‘Chasing Cars’ has a paltry 213 million views, a figure which the average Ed Sheeran video wouldn’t get out of bed for – ‘Chasing Cars’ might be the most played song on radio but it’s a long way from being the most listened to song of the century.
No, it’s the fault of the stations. The presenters, producers and playlist compilers who underestimate you on a daily basis. For them ‘Chasing Cars’ is the perfect airtime-filler – innocuous, vaguely stirring, sounds like everything else at once. It’s the sort of thing they think you like, and thus it’s an insult to everything you are. Radio thinks you’re a boring, unimaginative, easily suggestible, undiscerning, braindead ‘content consumer’ who doesn’t care if your content has any flavour to it at all and will just choke down anything you’re fed like a battery chicken in the cultural abattoir.
But you do get a vote. Next time ‘Chasing Cars’ comes on the radio, simply switch to a different channel – 6 Music, NME Radio, or just any DJ playing a song that surprises you. They’ll soon get the message and, who knows, maybe they won’t be so quick to ply us with the next song that sounds like a birthday meal at Jamie’s Italian, QI getting cancelled because of the cricket or a Mark, My Words column that hasn’t yet slagged off Bastille.