Every week, I listen to the new pop music arrivals on about 40 European music charts. I maintain a spreadsheet (9000 songs and counting) of my impressions. Every song is reviewed in "stoplight" fashion (green = great, yellow = so-so, red = not at all interested).
It occurred to me that I might be able to use this as a basis for ranking the countries by the quality of their top 40 charts.
That, of course, makes for a terribly subjective exercise complicated by many variables. There are some countries for which I have never been able to find a good pop chart, so they are out of the race. There are other countries whose pop charts are so consistently dull that I just don't check them at all, preferring instead to catch their hits when they rise up on the hot 100 European chart.
My records only show when a song made its first appearance somewhere. If a pop hit is to my liking, and winds up on 20 different charts, only the country whose chart I found it on first gets the credit. (In this sense, one could say that my ranking system rewards the most farsighted countries.)
So, at the end of the day, this is just a list of countries whose top 40 charts make one guy who has listened to 9000 songs over the last couple of years the happiest. We will look at one country each day (a good Euro-nationalistic exercise to correspond with Eurovision). We begin with:
Number 10: The Netherlands. 7.63% GREEN (7.63% of that country's charting songs earned top marks on my spreadsheet)
What impresses me about the Netherlands coming in at number 10 is that they do so despite having an enormous amount of levenslied (Dutch schlager) on their charts. Anyone for a Dutch-language version of "Daydream Believer"? Who thinks Patrick! has really earned the exclamation mark following his name? And WTF?
The levenslied stuff, you will note, is almost always in Dutch, whereas the country's pop and dance music output is usually delivered in English. Accordingly, levenslied is associated (fairly or not) with a less-cosmopolitan, working-class audience. (Dutch rap is usually in the Dutch language as well. Rap, which relies on verbal dexterity, always benefits from being delivered in the MC's native tongue.)
A music chart with one-third levenslied consistency is a lot for the rest of the music scene to overcome. But fortunately the Dutch also love dum-dum dance songs, and so do I. Consider that the country delighted in happy hardcore during the mid-1990s, then transitioned into dance pop like Alice DeeJay in Y2K. Today, the Netherlands are home to internationally acclaimed trance DJs like Armin van Buuren, Tiësto, and Ferry Corsten; the first two regularly top DJ Magazine's top 100 DJ polls each year, and Corsten (my personal preference) is never far behind.
The Netherlands also have a talented crop of MCs who sample from far funkier sources than their U.S. counterparts. One thing I remember about Amsterdam were the many vinyl record stores, which I imagine are filled with good hooks just waiting to be sampled.
Ah, old records. That reminds me of the Dutch pop music of the 70s, like Mouth & MacNeal's "How Do You Do?" Earth and Fire's "Weekend," and Patricia Paay's "Livin' Without You."
Hell, I even enjoy the occasional levenslied tune. ;-)
A few tracks from the last couple of years:
CJ - Rapfanaat
DIO feat Sef - Aye
Elize – Hot Stuff
Esmée Denters - Admit It
Ferry Corsten feat Maria Nayler - We Belong
Jeff van Vliet - Uit de weg
Rigby - Parade