St. Lucia – Dancing on Glass
One of the most exciting moments in an entire pop career used to be when it was time for the first single from the second album. This was often the point when, as a pop fan, you knew in your bones how things were going to progress – either onwards and upwards to chart glory, or straight to the dumper.
All things being well, this should be the moment when everything crystallises, you prove that any initial success wasn’t a fluke, and your imperial phase begins – basically, your Like a Virgin, It’s a Sin, or Bad Romance moment (I’m counting The Fame Monster as an album here). Conversely, you have those singles which land high but sort of finish you off – for example Dina Carroll’s Escaping and Louise’s Arms Around the World – both big blustery ‘event’ productions that actually have very little to say and no tunes to speak of. I suspect these songs are a result of the aforementioned pop stars having to travel the globe for promotional purposes and thinking ‘ooh, let’s have a song about that’, not realising that it’s a crushingly dull subject (Janet’s Runaway is of course the honourable exception here).
Nowadays this particular moment seems to have lost its importance, and I can’t quite figure out if it’s because I just don’t understand the pop business anymore or because things have genuinely deteriorated. I’ve tried to get on board with the whole streaming counting towards the chart thing, but I can’t help but think it’s introduced a huge element of passivity into what should, in my opinion, be a very active thing. The top 40 used to reflect genuine effort, in that you had to go down to Woolies to physically buy the record you loved. Even clicking ‘buy’ on iTunes is at least a decision, but can it really be the case that something charts because you stuck on a playlist on Spotify and couldn’t be arsed skipping something? I don’t like it. But then I’m thirty years past the age where it’s supposed to matter to me, so I’ll grudgingly admit to being out of touch and move on to a song that brought all those exciting, imperial feelings rushing back – it’s Into the Popvoid’s single of the year: Dancing on Glass by St. Lucia.
This record is, in every way, the kind of record a returning pop star should make: recognisably the same sound, but bigger, shinier and more confident – and with a tune that gets you jumping around in front of the mirror in your bedroom (this is the ultimate test of a pop song as far as I’m concerned – its ability to make you look like a fool and not care).
The fact that Dancing on Glass also sounds like it could soundtrack the end credits of an unmade Mannequin movie only makes me love it more – a glorious, Fairlight-y riot of fizzy synths, chugging sequencer lines and Running Up that Hill-ish hits, perfectly married to a ‘get your skates on, you never know when it’s too late’ lyric (“we’re not that young so we’re never gonna stop”). It’s a record that perfectly executes one of my favourite pop tricks, namely that it makes you wait for the high point, peaking at 2:52 as it enters a victory lap of choruses and all the best noises from throughout the song come together. It finishes with a lovely, sparkly ‘did this really just happen?’ swirly keyboard line, which makes you have to put it on again straight away because you need to make sure that, yes, it is that brilliant.
All told, Dancing on Glass is just about as euphoric as pop gets, and were we still living in the Old Republic of Pop, we’d be marvelling at how many weeks it had spent at no.1. But the First Order is in charge now, so perhaps we’d better hope that Justin Bieber gets wind of it.
Entered chart: did not chart
Who could sing this today and have a hit? Well, Prides could do a lovely – and barely distinguishable – version couldn’t they? But with new album Matters on the horizon, I’m still hoping that 2016 will be St Lucia’s year.