Popcorn? When this CD turned up on the doorstep I was expecting bubblegum pop or some-such but what I actually heard when I pushed the play button was nothing of the sort.
So what is Popcorn music? I’ll refer to the liner notes of “Sweet and Salty Popcorn” to explain. Popcorn is a “genre” (movement would be a better description I think) born in Belgium of all places that is difficult to pinpoint accurately – its roots go back to the late 60s and it could sort of be likened to the Northern Soul movement in the UK. In fact the name popcorn comes from the first club that was identified with the sound – a café (called the De Oude Hoos)that held Sunday afternoon dance contests in 1969 and later opened full time as “The Popcorn”.
The music itself is underpinned by a “slow swing” dance and indeed Popcorn DJs will slow down the records to make them fit this aesthetic. The Popcorn clubs of Belgium are as far removed from the raves and night clubs of the UK and elsewhere as you could possibly get – they’re often in small towns, in unlikely diminutive venues and ply their wares during daytime hours… and the Djs will slow the records down to get the right tempo for the dance. The dancers are in the main over 40 years old.
So has the Popcorn phenomena died out in Belgium – far from it would appear and even the Guardian newspaper in the UK has recently run an article on the scene.
What about this album then? Imagine slow and gritty (and old) R and B and you’re sort of there, but it’s more complicated than that. The whole Popcorn thing is that it is impure and varied…and yet once you hear the album you’ll be able to say “That’s a popcorn tune” when you hear one. The music is necessarily slow (for the dancers) with vocals and a percussive and staccato drum beat for the dancers. It’s sort of like listening to a Sunday afternoon black and white film (with actors you’ve vaguely heard of) at your grandmothers in the late 70s – oddly alien and yet strangely familiar. There are orchestral stabs and a sleaziness that isn’t really all that sleazy at all in a 50’s kind of way. It will certainly appeal to those who enjoy soul, girl groups of a certain age, latin grooves, R&B and fifties grooves.
Most of the music you will not have heard before and many of the artists will be equally obscure; though you will have heard of Earth Kitt and Tony Martin I’m sure. There’s no real stand out tracks so to speak, but the whole album has a certain vibe about it that I actually quite enjoyed. The last song on the album (there are 20 tunes on here!) is the aforementioned Tony Martin and “She Makes a Nice Cup of Tea” which tells the story of a lady with a yacht on the water, a chauffeur, a maid and a porter …and her dear mother taught her secretly how to serve a nice cup of tea”. I don’t think it’s about a nice cup of tea at all and it’s fab… “No Lemon”!