The Universal // Blur
Though British Gas has since sadly killed its magic somewhat, ‘The Universal’ still stands as one of Blur’s – and Britpop’s – finest moments. With an acclaimed music video that pays tribute to Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (and an additional cover art homaging 2001: A Space Odyssey, which the video also draws aspects from), the song beautifully shows off the band’s endless range and willingness to experiment with its huge orchestral instrumentation and off-kilter themes of science-fiction, dystopia and loss of free will.
While the verses contain the primary imagery of an Orwellian future where people appear to be living under the control of a drug known as “the universal”, it’s the chorus that truly makes the song the triumph that it is. It’s a powerful moment for the band that includes strings, brass and even a choir as Damon Albarn’s vocals go from a teasing croon to doing as the lyrics suggest and just letting go.
It’s no wonder why Blur still choose to end their sets with this: it’s a crowd-pleasing belter of a song that, despite its overall meaning, also packs a surprisingly jubilant and emotional punch (go look up their performance at the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games and try not to feel anything).
Words by Samantha King