2014 Might Sound Like This

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It is now December, when music lists prevail. Everyone (me included) becomes super-opinionated and pontificates about not only what they think the best music of the year was, but also who they think will be successful in the following 12 months, heaping untold expectation on fledgling music careers that aren’t generally up to supporting that kind of pressure.  I’m not really sure why these ones to watch lists have become so prevalent in the past decade. As ever, I blame the internet and its ceaseless quest for new content, creating a spurious reason for barely qualified ‘tastemakers’ to earmark the acts that pluggers and PRs have assured them have the budget to succeed.

The kingpin of these lists is the BBCs Sound Of… Today they published the long list for 2014, and it would seem that the ‘featured artist’ is this year’s feted choice, which may or may not signal a lack of depth in the thinking behind this list. I should come out and say right now that I dislike every single act that has previously been tipped for the top from this list and must conclude that it is not aimed at a surly old fucker like me who is far too picky for his own good. Fair enough. This being the internet, however, I am entitled to my opinion and as such I am giving it to you. Happy now?

BANKS – Good tunes a bit screechy though, probably the best out of the girls in this list.

Chance The Rapper – good at what he does, he’s got really good flows.  Not my bag though.

Chlöe Howl – Ever decreasing circles, been done to death recently. No.

Ella Eyre – Doesn’t offend me but where are the hooks?

FKA twigs – Ace voice. You need to smoke a lot of weed to dig the tunes…

George Ezra – Great voice, good guitar player. Far too earnest for me. Loosen up mate.

Jungle – I like Jungle. But they sound like someone else. Metronomy, I think.

Kelela – nice but boring. Really boring.

Luke Sital-Singh – Music for bank managers.

MNEK – Great tone in his voice but hard to tell what he’s about. He needs to do his own tunes.

Nick Mulvey – Reminds me of the lighthouse family.

Royal Blood – Sticks out like a sore thumb and smacks of tokenism in this list. It’s rock by committee, and it’s too slick and passionless to be really good.

Sam Smith – Great vocalist. Where are his own tunes?

Sampha – Do we need another James Blake? Give you a clue, the answer is no.

Say Lou Lou – Disappointingly dreary, with voices this average they need to have some fucking amazing tunes. They do not have amazing tunes.

And there it is. Informed opinion at work. My predictions: three quarters of this list will disappear by 2016. Sam Smith will probably win. Banks is the outside bet.

Just to shed some light on how good this list is, as an indicator of long-term talent, let’s have an arbitrary look at past winners and what I think about their success, as I am too lazy to look up actual facts.

2013 – Haim – Still successful but can’t see their Fleetwood Mac-lite schtick lasting too long

2012 – Michael Kiwanuka – Who?

2011 – Jessie J – Longevity acquired through TV not talent.

2010 – Ellie Goulding – Just about doing it, thanks to some dreadful covers.

2009 – Little Boots – Nope.

2008 – Adele – An undeniable winner and rare talent. Still not my bag though.

2007 – Mika – No, no, no.

2006 – Corinne Bailey Rae – Can’t get arrested.

2005 – The Bravery – Currently residing in the “where are they now? No don’t tell me, I don’t care” file

2004 – Keane – Inexplicably popular for too long.

2003 – 50 Cent – Probably the list’s most successful winner but after a decade understandably waning in popularity. Let him off for that, eh.

Lily! You’ve Broken The Internet

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OK, I’ll bite. In the last 48 hours, everyone and his uncle’s dog’s worm’s torn arsehole has had something to say about Lily Allen and the second instalment of her long-trailed comeback. New single Hard Out Here and (especially) its video have caused an outpouring of opinion or, to continue along alliterative lines, a barrage of bollocks, online. You see, Lily is quite good at being snarky and has taken a flawed but fairly convincing pot shot at the mainstream music industry and entertainment media and their growing reliance on the objectification of women and lowest common denominator attitudes. And that is more than enough to provoke ALL of the people of the internet with opinions. So, here’s my opinion. I like it. It’s funny and, largely due to her charisma, Lily mostly pulls it off.

Why should I even bother mentioning it when the Guardian alone will write at least 10 articles examining its impact to the nth degree, squeezing all the fun out of it as they go? Because of bloody opinions, which have rendered whole, previously fragrant, areas of the internet unusably stupid.

Initially, a lot of wild-eyed, self-important buffoons, too many to make it anything other than scary, couldn’t see past the ironic gloss, they didn’t have the critical faculties to fathom the paper-thin satire. Everyone has their gullible moments and can be taken in every now and then by a slickly crafted spoof. But what Lily Allen’s Hard Out Here is, is a massive tongue in cheek piss take with neon signs and great big whistles and bells endlessly pointing out the joke and still some people didn’t get the auto-tune, or the dancers, or, in fact,  any of it.

Probably by design – it’s not really very refined or subtle – it is easy to discern the intended message and thinly veiled targets, it doesn’t require too much effort, but the slobbering mob of people with opinions, the haters, were too wrapped up in having something snarky to say about the queen of snark that they missed the point, even when it was very clearly spelled out in the lyrics.

Almost as bad were the people who, having been force fed the idea for three perky minutes until it was all too clear, pontificated about how clever it all is. Bold it may possibly be but clever it is not. It doesn’t need to be clever, especially considering how it outwitted a worrying amount of people, so why pretend it’s clever? Why? Because they’re patting themselves on the back for getting the joke. Well done everyone.

Inevitably, the whole thing proved irresistible to the trolls who moved in en masse to wind-up all those well intentioned people who get the joke. Unless she really is trying to reclaim the word bitch…?

Why stop there though? This is an opportunity for everyone (including me) to make an ill-formed opinion heard, so on it ploughed, with the intersectional feminists getting involved claiming that Allen’s use of women of colour (WOC) made her not only a bad feminist but also a racist to boot. Then just for good measure the woolly liberal white male crusaders, who are somehow the best judge of these things,  stepped in agreeing wholeheartedly that it was indeed racist and all that was achieved by the video was the objectification of black women while reinforcing Allen’s white, middle class superiority.

Now, every single website in the world has at least one think piece discussing the use of WOCs, feminism, sexism, racism, every-ism… (The Guardian, disappointingly, is only up to five articles).

WAKE UP EVERYBODY. IT’S A POP VIDEO. It’s not a political manifesto, it’s not a bandwagon jumping twerk-athon, it’s hardly the Female Eunuch, and it’s not Lily being too stupid to realise that she is indulging in the things she says she is against. It may be misjudged, it might not quite hit the mark like she intended, but making a point clumsily is not akin to racism. The video pokes fun at a particular hip-hop video trope. It would probably have worked a lot better if she had been one of the twerking girls but the very thing she is talking about – the open misogyny in modern media is her intended target, lest we forget – has rendered her too scared to show her body in public. So, the video director got in girls to do the twerking, and that muddies the message but it is still simple exaggerated imitation as satire, and to see it as anything else, especially something more sinister, is disingenuous.

It’s not perfect but then, nothing is. It’s one girl signing a song and acting out an exaggerated piss take about an issue that has clearly affected her. I’m fairly certain it was never intended to change the world, to create a new unity among all people and to smash the diseased cultural hegemony that prevails, so let’s not get upset that it achieves none of those things.

AntiSocial Media

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The advent of the internet caused an actual paradigm shift, not a pretend one made up by marketing fucktards. A real one.  Its effects have transformed a large swathe of modern life, most notably media and communications. Some of the avenues the internet has opened up have been undeniably helpful and brilliant but, unfortunately, some of those avenues have been altogether poisonous.

Take social media as an example. On the face of it, it seems like a brilliant idea, a great way to find old mates, stay in touch with people you’re not geographically close to anymore; to highlight causes and spread a bit of love. Nice.  In practise however, it has opened the floodgates to the widespread dissemination of nonsense as fact and a barrage of spit-drenched hatemongers spewing forth ill-formed wisdom like a super-sewer spraying gallons and gallons of velvety shit straight into your mind.  Yes, everyone’s got an opinion but most people should really keep theirs to themselves.

People have always loved to bitch and moan, it’s fairly natural and in a ‘real life’ situation there are the checks and balances of society to temper and govern that behaviour. But now, with multifarious social platforms to broadcast whatever strange notions float through their brains, everyone is under the impression that it’s not only their right, it’s also their duty to maliciously destroy everything. A strange and worryingly widespread sociopathic streak has been laid bare. No one can go on the internet and post anything at all on their facebook, twitter, YouTube, tumblr or whatever other personal outlets they may have without a barrage of bile raining down, from the mildly disagreeable ‘is that the best you can do?’, ‘what a load of rubbish’ and ‘really?’ to the outright hostile ‘I’d fackin kill im’ ‘stupid bitch, still fuck her tho’ and the almost ubiquitous ‘cunt’.  The media aren’t even exempt as the comments section of the Daily Mail and CIF on the Guardian’s site ably demonstrate.

All the hate would be bad enough on its own but there also exists the sunshine brigade whose opinions are equally as trite and uncalled for with their relentless positivity and cloying ‘it’s ok they’re doing their best’ spiel. Social media has rendered the whole of the internet utterly unappealing. The public are idiots. We all know this, it’s innate knowledge but the relative anonymity that the internet affords the casual hate-filled commentator seems to have given a huge green light for the vast majority of people to become callously obnoxious and cruel.  And, like an Ouroboros, here I am bitching and moaning on the internet about bitching and moaning on the internet. Am I part of the problem, almost certainly but, it’s my right and duty to tell you you’re a cunt.

The NME Is Staffed By Educationally Sub-Normal Buffoons

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What’s happened to the NME? I know all the banal cliches about hating it because I am old and it’s not aimed at my generation but that’s not what I am talking about. What I am talking about is the lack of care, the general fecklessness, the complete disregard for forming coherent sentences.

Recently they ran a piece on the top 500 rock n roll albums as voted by NME staff past and present. All very well and good, it’s the sort of endlessly naval gazing, backwards looking snooze-athon that the entire media industry has been indulging in for about 20 years. There’s no ground breaking journalism going on there any more, everyone knows that but if you’re going to undertake such a large project at least do it properly. The online version was riddled with mistakes, half formed sentences, spelling errors and poor grammar. Yes, they had to write 500 captions and that’s a lot for their tired little fingers but still, that’s their job. Do it properly.

A week later, a similar thing happened with their online piece about the biggest vinyl sellers of the 21st century. It was, in places, barely legible. This isn’t me not being down with the NME hep-cat’s new-fangled lingo, it’s just fucking sloppy nonsense written by people who take no pride in their work.

When I was an avid NME reader [cue Hovis music] they had an embarrassment of fantastic writers, who could make the hair on the back of your neck stand up merely by describing how good a Buffalo Tom gig was. I don’t even like Buffalo Tom. Now they are unable to caption a picture with any wit or style or, in fact, in recognisable English.

I let most of this stuff slide these days, I may, perhaps, mention occasionally, on my Facebook page, how awful some of these things are “ooh, the NME is rubbish”  I’ll say, “get a sub” I might add, all to general indifference but today I was shocked to discover, while reading some trite drivel about Huey Morgan, that not only are NME staffers incapable of writing basic copy, they are also unable to discern a cat from a dog. Has it really come to this?  This article http://www.nme.com/news/various-artists/73668 links to a tweet from Huey stating that the tweet shows a picture of a cat in a cup BUT IT’S A DOG. IT’S A FUCKING DOG. It’s very clearly a dog.

What’s happened to the NME?