2014 is over and the blogs have pretty much said everything there is to say about music last year. So it’s January now and there’s nothing left to do but make desperate stabs in the dark about the deadening, air-headed artists who will inevitably end up soundtracking every mildly uplifitng television ident for the next year or so. Obviously, there’s no better way to predict the future than through a pointless survey of the faceless old guard, the ambiguously, mysteriously termed ‘industry experts’. Maybe I’m just bitter that no-one asked my opinion. Then again, who needs the advice of the staff of a cutting edge music magazine when you’ve got Toddla T and B.Traits on your side? Not the BBC, clearly.
The Sound Of… poll has been running since 2003, and with each concurrent edition, the BBC’s panel has successfully predicted the following year’s least exciting artist. The winner, seemingly, must be an artist with almost no charm who will inevitably manage to seize the attention of the flock-minded, gormless masses with flock-friendly, gormless music for around one year before fading into obsolescence faster than you can say “This update is only available on iPhone 4S and above”.
For an idea of just how cringe-inducingly predictable the results always are, you need look no further than Kitty Empire’s almost flawless predictions in her analysis of the poll back in 2007. That was eight years ago though. I’d love to tell you that something had changed. That critics had stalled from championing bland, easily marketable music to actually take a moment to think about the effect they’re having on the industry as a whole. The cyclical positioning of disposable artists represents a greater ill in the economic backdrop of music. An artist’s longevity is now so short that the poll itself actually rests on the fact that nothing lasts longer than six months, by which time the polls are ready to open again, and the experts begin to twiddle their thumbs over what kind of turgid, grey noise they will tell say you need to listen to in the following year.
The most glaring heinousness – when you skim your eyes over the previous lists – is that you’re staring at a list of 100 + artists most of whom mean almost nothing to anyone any more. Besides a couple of exceptions like Yeah Yeah Yeahs (who had already had a number one EP in the UK two years before their nomination) and Jessie J (who was already singing annoying songs on youtube a year before hers) their hit rate for choosing paper-thin artists – who stand as much chance of surviving the fray as Jeremy Clarkson does of being invited to give the opening address at the next Love Music Hate Racism event – has been astounding.
The nominations for 2015 included Slaves, who could well be this year’s Royal Blood if they manage to get Ricky Wilson or somebody else who was famous six years ago to wear one of their shit T-Shirts during a GMTV appearance or something. Then there was George The Poet, who’s being touted as a sort of mum-friendly, 2015 version of John Cooper Clarke and does flaccid, tacky motivational, talky songs about… let’s say… the government? And how could we forget Raury? Despite the industry doing everything they can to make Raury trendy, there’s just no escaping the fact that he’s so fucking cheesy it hurts. Of course, there’s no accounting for taste, but when you remember that taste is being forced down most people’s throats by a bunch of insiders who can’t see past the end of next July it’s actually pretty abysmal. Maybe we all just need a reminder that we are our very own human beings with our very own thoughts and feelings.
Honestly, if James “look I’ve got a silly hat” Bay still means anything to the baying hive-mind in 2016, I will not only eat my own slightly pungent, worn out Thinsulate beanie, but I’ll eat his unfeasibly clean, perfectly-tilted, faux-cowboy atrocity too. But fuck eating headwear. I urge you, wade into the world, buy a second hand record by someone you’ve never heard of, fall in love with it and never look back.
This year, a kind of smug Topman brat used to be in Skins took the number one spot by doing a really poor impression of one of those really bad bands that shuffling lads in V-Necks hold very dear. Think Disclosure if their brief had been to make their music intelligible to a baby, or the kind of dog that smiles proudly after relieving itself all over your favourite shoes. So, as the architects of contemporary culture continue to sculpt the musical landscape in their flat-pack, nice boy with acoustic guitar, nice girl with inoffensive voice mould, I can only hope the good public will heed my advice.
Don’t let them tell you what you want.
- – - – - – - -
Words: Billy Black