It may have escaped your attention, but in the last few weeks much of the UK music press and media has been engaged in some nostalgic eulogising and simultaneous genre bashing of Britpop. 20 years ago the nation was rocking to the sounds of guitars and swaggering about like it owned the place and right now, it seems to be all anyone wants to talk about. Yet there were other genres and other non-Britpop artists making hay in the Cool Britannia sunshine and very quietly it would appear that the biggest of the lot are being recognised.
First, a few weeks ago there was MØ’s cover of “Say You’ll Be There” (which got its live debut at our gig of the year so far) and now we have a little homage of sorts from Swedish pop starlet Ji Nilsson. The Spice Girls may not strike many as an obvious source of inspiration but as a generation of young fans (and they had plenty) grows up and starts to make its own music, it should come as no surprise.
With “Wannabe”’s second most famous line, ”Make it last forever / Friendship never ends”, featuring in “Heartbreakfree”, Ji Nilsson has taken inspiration from Girl Power’s most bombastic anthem and crafted something much more emotive and mournful. Soft synthy melodies cushion the anguish within as she looks out at her friend and denies her heart for fear of having it broken. The power of her emotion and depth of her love is too deep to risk so the friend zone must be locked and the key thrown away. The pain of seeing them with another is more acceptable than the pain of not seeing them at all.
The vocals are resigned to their fate. “I can’t stand the thought of us being over / coz tell me how I will ever get over you / I won’t. / I can’t break free / Let’s be friends be friends forever” she sings, the pain of this acceptance evident within the misted soundscapes and the forced half smile on her face. “Heartbreakfree” is like some gorgeous delusion and you can’t help but feel for her, wishing her to take the risk and find love and happiness as we know what will happen if she doesn’t. The head is ruling the heart and as she keeps telling herself this is the best way forward, the pain won’t go, it’ll only end up hurting more.
Who would have thought all those years ago as five over the top and brash young women ran roughshod over the world, that they would end up inspiring such fragile and beautifully melancholic pop music.