Members Lounge

Losing My Edge: James Acaster tells about a song that he really loves and sort of wishes he didn’t

"To be honest, I hate that I’ve given you this and it’s gonna be in an article"

Luke Cartledge: Hello James Acaster. Let’s imagine that I’m a much more interesting person than I actually am, and for some reason you’re trying to impress me. I ask what your favourite song is. What are you going with?

James Acaster: Well, first I’d like to say that I don’t do that.

LC: Right.

JA: I just go with honesty every time. Maybe that’s the product of being a standup – the audience see through you whenever you lie anyway, whenever you’re being disingenuous. I nearly said a song by Neutral Milk Hotel for this; there are so many times when I’ve said ‘Two Headed Boy Part 2’ by Neutral Milk Hotel probably is my favourite song, and there are loads of people who that would impress, but loads of people who’d think that was pathetic.

But ‘Ponyboy’ by SOPHIE is a pretty safe bet I think. She was a genius, that [2018’s Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides] was one of the most important albums of the last decade, it’s shaped the future of pop music and music in general, and it’s just an absolute tragedy that she didn’t get to completely fulfil all over her potential. But it’s a miracle, and something that I’m very grateful for, that she managed to make that album and have that impact. That song is the pop single from the album if there is one, and among anyone who really likes music, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who’d tell you it’s shit. Even if they don’t like it they’d probably be like, “Oh yeah, that’s cool, we can’t really rip him for that”, even if they’re not into hyperpop. Whereas if you said you liked a song by 100 Gecs – which I really do – a lot of people might look down their noses at you a bit. 

LC: It could be seen as a more ‘respectable’ version of the same thing, you mean?

JA: Yeah. That album is gonna last forever and ever, and definitely at the minute no one’s gonna disrespect it. But it’s not like I listen to ‘Ponyboy’ every day. I still have to be in the mood for it. Nobody’s watching Apocalypse Now every day of their life, but you might go through a phase of watching Happy Gilmore all the time. 

LC: So what’s your musical Happy Gilmore?

JA: ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ by Gotye. It probably isn’t my favourite song now, but I remember I lived in Brixton at the time and got home really drunk one night and it was just on my YouTube. I can’t remember how it came up, but in my drunken head I was like, “This is the most incredible song ever!!!” Then I remember spending the whole day with it on repeat on my headphones on my iPod, going around London listening to it over and over again. It’s just a pure pop song in a way you don’t hear that often. 

I didn’t know that everyone was listening to it – I thought I’d discovered it. I didn’t understand algorithms at that point; that song had been thrown up on my YouTube recs because it’d gone viral, whereas I thought I’d discovered this random song. It turned out that there was already a backlash of like “Fuck this song”, and I was like, “Right, I’ve got into a really uncool song here.” It’s not one I stick my neck out for, like I might with some stuff, like ‘Torn’ by Natalie Imbruglia. No one’s really knocking that. But if you say ‘Somebody I Used To Know’, they’re gonna go, “What are you, some fucking incel?” To be honest, I hate that I’ve given it to you and it’s gonna be in an article. 

LC: Sorry. But has this ever come up? Have you ever mentioned that you like it to anyone else?

JA: Nope, that’s how embarrassed I am about it. But also I absolutely exhausted it within those 24 hours. I listened to it one day back-to-back, non-stop, and never listened to it again.

LC: Have you even heard it accidentally since?

JA: Not really – it doesn’t really get played does it?

LC: It’s like we all did what you did, and just rinsed it never to be listened to again. 

JA: Yeah, we all overdid it.

Party Gator Purgatory, James Acaster’s debut record with his collaborative project Temps, is out on 19 May via Bella Union