London lads beat Beyonce to No 1

It is remarkable that LF System, a little-known dance outfit from Scotland, have been dominating the UK singles charts, says Stevie G in his Downtown column
London lads beat Beyonce to No 1

LF System’s ‘Afraid to Feel’ has been number one in the UK for six weeks, bringing the DJs sudden fame.

I recently wrote in this column about the big tunes of the summer and all of the big names were featured (Beyonce, Kendrick, Drake, Lizzo, Burna Boy, Fireboy, Megan, etc).

It’s been huge for albums, too, and all those big guns feature again, as the music industry flexes its muscles in the first proper post-lockdown summer since the pandemic.

With all of the big names around, it is remarkable that LF System, a little-known dance outfit from Scotland, have been dominating the UK singles charts: ‘Afraid to Feel’ has been on top of the UK charts for six weeks in a row.

It’s remarkable, because few people had heard of the west Lothian DJ duo before the start of the summer: Conor Larkman and Sean Finnigan only gave up their day jobs — as a roofer and petrol station worker — a couple of months ago, yet here they are keeping Beyonce off top spot in the charts. The duo poked some gentle fun at the US pop diva by tweeting, “Maybe next time; good effort”, at the news that they had again held her off from last week’s top spot.

All jokes aside, it’s incredible that such a modest dance track can go head to head with the big marketing machine of Beyonce and her millions of followers. Beyonce is doing a good job of keeping her own single relevant, and ‘Break my Soul’ now comes with a really good ‘Vogue’, sampling Queens remix featuring Madonna.

I’ve always yearned for the days when big artists put effort into their remixes and Beyonce has pulled out all the stops this time. But what about LF System? It looks like they might make it seven weeks in a row!!!

It’s a great story. The DJ duo used to play together in Edinburgh clubs and decided only a couple of years ago to make some tunes as well. They have released a couple of sample-based jams, with nods to the 1970s and 1980s, as first ‘The Main Ingredient’ and then ‘Silk’ were the basis for their tracks. ‘Afraid to Feel’ fits perfectly into the modern tik-tok eco-system, but it reminds me of many of the great drum ’n’ bass, house, and garage flips of the 1990s. It was commonplace to flip obscure soul tracks back then, and sampling is again very popular right now.

Their update of the Silk track cleverly interpolates and rerecords the original Debra Henry vocal and messes around with the pace; the tempo change is the key to the track’s success, especially in an era when old-school rave aesthetics are becoming popular again. It is an innovative track, and it’s amazing that it has become such a smash hit. More power to LF System, who seem to be a down-to-earth duo still as surprised as anyone that they are now pop stars!

Anyone with an ear to the ground can see that there’s plenty more where this came from, and ‘B.O.T.A’, by Eliza Rose, is bubbling under as another huge crossover hit. It is also everywhere right now. Using one of my own favourite tracks, by Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam, it’s a sped-up, soulful rave anthem with a catchy vocal hook that refuses to leave your eardrums! This track is already huge and will probably make number one, if LF System ever get tired.

The UK DJ, producer, and vocalist has worked her way up over the years in the music industry, and, again, it’s a refreshing story. The collaboration with Manchester DJ and producer Interplanetary Criminal is another viral dance hit that is everywhere this hot summer, and it should pave the way for more club hits. It’s far from the first time this has happened and it won’t be the last.

Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, many underground dance jams crossed over and became hits, and the first time I really heard house music was listening to Inner City on the radio in secondary school.

This year’s ‘Good Life’ and ‘Big Fun’ have a similar spirit, and ‘Afraid to Feel’, ‘Make Me Feel Good’, ‘B.O.T.A.’ and many other tunes, are having their deserved moments in the sun.

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