Thursday, January 17, 2008

Sometimes it's hard to be a woman

Over at the Word magazine blog someone posted a live clip of Lightspeed Champion/Queens Of Noize-affiliated blues-folky singer Florence And The Machine last week. With, as the commenters state, nothing to go on but the YouTube embed still, it attracted these comments:

"I just know I'm going to hate it. I never watch clips of moody adolescents performing in bright orange tops. It just puts me in a mood. She'll probably be huge."

"It’s as phoney as Westlife. I bet in real life she’s really nice to her pony."

So much for advancing yourself musically.

Who would now launch themselves as a female singer-songwriter? The year, frankly, has been tied up, and tied up with two singers getting by on welters of post-Winehouse publicity well out of focus of what they actually do, who the press and record industry are putting so much into that either failing to sell hundreds of thousands of records would cause more major label damage than ten Terra Firmas - Adele, an Alison Moyet for the Nambucca kids with a producer determined to make her into Melanie C, and Duffy, a carefully crafted 'a bit like Dusty if it's on in the background' diva in the old fashioned sense of the word who has had the misfortune to be teamed with serial studio reputation wrecker Bernard Butler. Australian Xenomania associate Gabriella Cilmi, being 'a bit bluesy', is set to follow them into New Winehouse racks any day.

But of course what our friends up there are referring back to is the curse of any teenage or slightly above guitar playing diary-opening Blue-owning (as in Joni Mitchell's Blue, but it's always advisable to have a boy band loving past to 'shamefully' admit to in broadsheet interviews) singer-songwriter who attracts more than ten people to a London gig, that of being The New Kate Nash. Kate Nash, of course, used to be The New Lily Allen, and the new names bear about as much resemblance to Nash as those two do to each other, which is to say nothing of much depth, but the die has been cast, and while Adele escaped into more rarefied air once XL took her acoustic off her it's too late if you're writing about Laura Marling, Laura Groves, the hopeless Remi Nicole, our old friend Emmy The Great (who brought out her first 7" in the same month as Nash's first gig, but facts won't help you now)... hell, even George Pringle was tipped as a New Nash, presumably by someone who wasn't listening properly if they thought she has massive commercial potential.

This isn't really your standard music press pigeonholing either, as while it's either an accident of birth or of arrangement - anyone can be Nu-Rave with a flourescent top and a keyboard - there's not a lot of leeway if you're a female singer-songwriter. KT Tunstall, it's not overlooked, was originally dismissed as a New Dido as much for when she came around as what she does (whatever did happen to Jem?) but is now a supposed mainstream arbiter of cool herself, which is why you now don't see a photo of Amy MacDonald in which she isn't cradling an acoustic guitar. Where will it all lead? Maybe the second Lily Allen album will sound like a new Adele and then the music world will swallow itself whole.

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