A list of the UK’s all-time best-selling albums emerged today, and it bears as little resemblance to a reasonable human’s list of the actual best albums ever as Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson do to warm-blooded vertebrates.
‘Sgt Pepper’s’ we’ll give you. ‘… Morning Glory’, fair enough. Greatest hits from Queen, Abba, Bob Marley and Madonna, OK. The odd true classic from Fleetwood Mac, Jacko, Paul Simon, Coldplay, U2 and REM, phew. But some of the albums the so-called ‘people’ bought in their millions are so utterly bereft of redeeming qualities that they can’t help making the UK look even more foolish, crass and sheep-like than the average “refeyendum”. To look upon these putrid shitefacts of our country’s collective bad taste and consider that every single one of them sold over two million copies in the UK is to wonder that we’re legally allowed to use forks, let alone buy records or vote on complicated matters of international trade and unity.
Robbie Williams, ‘Swing When You’re Winning’ (2001)
What’s so bad about it?: Let’s spell this out – it was Robbie Williams, doing swing classics. Alongside Jonathan Wilkes and Rupert Everett, or The Shat Pack, as they’ve since become known.
Why did so many people buy it?: Because nans and Christmas. And that sly-dog sexual frisson between Robbie and Nicole Kidman in the video for ‘Somethin’ Stupid’, allegedly recreated IRL on a yacht in 2004.
Worst moment: Robbie desecrating the memory of Frank Sinatra by duetting with his recorded voice on ‘It Was A Very Good Year’, and getting blown out of the booth by a dead bloke.
Norah Jones, ‘Come Away With Me’ (2002)
What’s so bad about it?: It’s soporific, simplistic jazz wallpaper muzak, as innocuous and pointless as Russell Kane on Question Time.
Why did so many people buy it?: Five months after 9/11, people wanted to turn their brains off from the terrors of the outside world, and nobody was better at putting shirt-tearing dinner parties into states of brie-nibbling hypnosis than aural security blanket Norah Jones and her debut album, which was essentially soft jazz whale-song containing a backwards message saying ‘everything’s alright, keep eating the cheese’.
Worst moment: A cover of Hank Williams’ ‘Cold, Cold Heart’ which sounded like… um… anybody?
Phil Collins, ‘…But Seriously’ (1989)
What’s so bad about it: The beginning of Collins’ solo rot, ‘…But Seriously’ saw the balding Buster chirpy chappie that had given us ‘Sussudio’, ‘Two Hearts’ and ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’ turn tediously po-faced, delivering arguably the corniest multi-millionaire-notices-homelessness-from-gold-plated-limousine ballad ever recorded in ‘Another Day In Paradise’.
Why did so many people buy it?: They expected better, frankly. Genesis were enjoying their mid-80s pop peak and Collins’ previous solo albums had been slick 80s pop riots with the odd ballad on them that could get a tear out of a Tory leadership candidate. Nobody expected Collins to dump such a drab bag of half-arsed white-soul donkeyshit in their laps and call it his “issue-driven new direction”.
Worst moment: ‘Father To Son’, the sound of one of rock’s most celebrated drummers singing along to percussion that sounds like someone with erratic wind issues popping their finger in their cheek.
Dido, Life For Rent (2003)
What’s so bad about it?: Dido’s other album in the Top 60, 2000’s ‘No Angel’, at least had a minor point to it since it contained ‘Thank You’, the song sampled by Eminem for the incredible ‘Stan’. Its follow-up, however, had no such cult cred connection to recommend it; just 54 minutes of mimsy maritime mithering crying out for Adele to come along and bellow Dido clean out of the charts forever.
Why did so many people buy it?: Let us answer your question with another question. Why did Sex And The City 2 gross over $305 million?
Worst moment: Trying to appeal to the Pascha chill-out crowd on the monstrously dreary ‘Stoned’, a song about as drug-blasted as an MP meticulously Tweeting everything they do at Glastonbury.
The Corrs, ‘Talk On Corners’ (1997)
What’s so bad about it?: For the blissfully uninitiated, The Corrs are three tin whistle, drum and violin-playing folk rock sisters and their David Icke of a brother on guitar, and ‘Talk On Corners’ was their arduous sincerity-rock second album, rightfully dismissed as sonic arse gravy by the record-buying public until some divot decided to put their cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams’ on a reissue and it promptly sold 3 million copies.
Why did so many people buy it?: Besides ‘Dreams’, the reissue also included Tin Tin Out remixing ‘What Can I Do?’ into a crunchy surf-hop pop song that sounded mildly ‘edgy’ for model-based folk rock, went to Number Three and screwed up 1998 for everyone.
Worst moment: Whenever the tedious slop rock slurry breaks into a spot of traditional Irish folk music and every Celtic musician ever turns in their grave.
Michael Buble, ‘Crazy Love’ (2009)
What’s so bad about it?: Soul, swing and jazz standards slavered in enough big band Bond bombast to make Mark Rylance wet his new lady-spy knickers.
Why did so many people buy it?: Ooh, ‘ee’s right dreamy, innee. And what’s that one you can whistle, makes you want to shop at Iceland, you know…?
Worst moment: Whichever bit invented Olly Murs.
Leona Lewis, ‘Spirit’ (2007)
What’s so bad about it?: The death of noughties popular culture, as the fastest-selling debut album ever (at the time, beating Arctic Monkeys) ‘Spirit’ was the biggest success of any X Factor winner, ensuring almost a decade more of cloned Syco TV non-entities being rammed down the gagging gullet of the charts until the whole thing stopped struggling and embraced the blessed release of irrelevance.
Why did so many people buy it?: The public wants what the public gets. And in 2007, it wanted nothing more than an over-publicised Whitney Houston rip-off ripping off Snow Patrol’s rip-off of Coldplay.
Worst moment: The one word of ‘Here I Am’ that Lewis presumably changed in order to get her only writing credit on the album.
James Blunt, ‘Back To Bedlam’ (2004)
What’s so bad about it?: So they gave David Gray (also, we should add, in the Top 60) a gun and sent him on a military tour of Kosovo and he came back as James Blunt, toothy Twitter gag monster and creator of the most whiney, nails-down-a-blackboard posh-boy soul album in history.
Why did so many people buy it?: For ‘You’re Beautiful’, a song so dreadful it manages to make the line “there must be an angel with a smile on her face because she thought up that I should be with you” scan.
Worst moment: So many to pick from. Is it the lame “fuck” dropped into ‘You’re Beautiful’? The childish smirk of the ‘Wisemen’ line “those three wise men, they’ve got a semi by the sea?” The half-arsed industrial pistons in the back of the clearly very sane ‘Out Of My Mind’? The heartbreaking image of battle-weary soldiers under Blunt’s command, after risking their lives in service of our country all day, having to sit through him playing war-torn misery-fest ‘No Bravery’ over dinner?