Out with the bold

There’s a chance that current musical output hasn’t really become more conservative. There’s a big chance that there are pockets of ad hoc, left-field, anti-commercial dissent all over the place that remain unheard and unseen by the majority. There’s a chance that this stuff will break out and we’ll have a new revolution. There’s a chance that pigs might fly and that we’ll all live happily ever after but there’s a bigger chance that they can’t and we won’t.

This year I found the BBC’s self-fulfilling Sound of 2015 even more depressing than usual. It was really a case of ‘is that it?’ Is that the best we can do? In the dying stages of 2015 Radio 1 had promised to resurrect rock music but their efforts seem not to have made it as far as warranting their validation for the year to come. The top five choices were all a bit meh and then some.
Predicting success for the likes of Kwabs or James Bay is hardly going out on a limb. Both have had ‘hits’ and radio playlists already, they are signed to major labels and are making pop/soul music that is great but far from challenging. Bay strikes me as being in the George Ezra school, good but not outstanding – I prefer my singer-songwriters to be saying something, or at least trying. Kwabs could be a true great, he has the lungs for it – if the songs are there (or can be found) he could be around for some time. Kwabs is unquestionably better than Sam Smith whose success has been astounding.

I should never look to the ‘sound of’ selections to find ground-breaking music; it is only a list of those most likely to become successful. As mentioned previously the very fact that you’re on the list makes it even more likely. I suppose the trouble is that we all don’t know where to look – there are too many places to find music and the increasing proliferation of such places makes most of the acts they feature even less likely to break the mainstream. Radio breaks most new music in the UK and the first rule of radio is repetition.
If stuff is safe it’s because the industry has contracted to such a degree that no-one takes risks. We need the artistic community to start this process but how will we know if they ever do? Most of the artists on the ‘sound of’ list have been around for a few years already, perhaps we still have years to wait for things to change?

Here’s a selection of my current predilections.

Wolf Alice

 Courtney Barnett