Song 99: Blur, “The Universal” (1995)


“The Universal” is my favorite Blur song. The simple reason is that I think it’s gorgeous, but it’s also typically wry and funny, if darkly so. The song imagines a corporatization and globalization of your life, a vision that is oddly prescient for 1995. Maybe, with the Internet just emerging, Damon Albarn and his bandmates saw the writing on the wall: we’re all going to be watched, all the time, even more than we are. And we’re going to be used to sell things to ourselves.

That this message is wrapped in a lush, beautiful package is ironic, of course, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s lush and beautiful. How Blur ever arrived at this arrangement is beyond me (especially since the song reportedly began as a ska number), but I’m so glad that they did.

The Great Escape was Blur at their highest powers, with “Country House” on top of the charts and songs like “The Universal” cementing the band in the favor of critics. They’d score some more hits (“Tender” and “Song 2” were just around the corner), but The Great Escape was the band’s peak, and “The Universal” was one of the reasons.


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