Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sound check

We're approaching the end of the year. You might have noticed. But more pertinently, it means we're approaching the end/of beginning of musical punditry beanfeast, where no sooner have the lists of greatness left the collective maw then Tips For, in this case, 2010 pieces start being filed. What that now means is it's about this time of year that the labels start priming their big shots for the following year with next level gigs, limited edition 7"s and well placed tie-ins with on paper independent labels.

Ellie Goulding is all over this. Signed to Polydor and teamed up with hip production and remix name Starsmith, she's got a single coming out in November on Neon Gold... which by, ooh, sheer coincidence put out two 7"s by Marina & The Diamonds (think Break Glass In Case Of Florence Welch Emergency) ahead of her being inked to Atlantic. She's just been on the NME new bands tour with among others Yes Giantess, who help bolster the electropop side along with Delphic ahead of the facile 'bands are back!' angle that'll land on The Drums, Sound Of Guns, Dinosaur Pile-Up, Everything Everything and, to an extent, Music Go Music. It's October and yet you can already see how the BBC Sound Of 2010 poll will end up. And we know that whatever gains exposure from the industry pundits and vested interest merchants that way will we transmitted by print and osmosis onto the record buying public.

Or will it? Breaking More Waves posted in the week about Little Boots' dealing with the hype that accompanied the pressure on her to perform back in January when she won the BBC poll, how a single didn't come out until May and possibly as a result the album has stuttered towards some sort of achievement - nine weeks in the top 40 at the time of writing (it's just left the top 75) but after entering at number 5 it completely crashed to number 40 as if it were Placebo or something, an artist whose days of wine and roses with the music media were long gone but still had a following, not the debut by a critically adored singer. New In Town was a duff choice of single, true, but even when Remedy started picking up steam the album only recovered as far as number 23 and has to date only just topped 100,000 sales, number 90 on the sales list of the year. Bearing in mind Florence & The Machine would have had the number one album for five weeks were it not for Michael Jackson it suggests she hasn't quite lived up to expectations... but then who does? There have been eight Sound Of... top tens, and in the interests of a warning from history we've checked out how the powers of perception have waxed and waned over the years.

Number one: Not actually in order, just a list of ten.
Number of artists featured with a top twenty single that year: Four: Ms Dynamite, The Coral, The Music, POD (Alive, anyone?)
Complete misses: Custom, who we suppose was the ersatz number one given he had the longest write-up in the piece. "This man is a ready-made star... Custom's catchy, 80s-tinged rap-rock tunes Streets and Hey Mister could be the Teenage Dirtbags of 2002" it was said of the New Yorker. They weren't, and he seems to have completely disappeared. Also special mention to singer-songwriter Peppercorn, whose album was withdrawn after a week.

Number one: 50 Cent, who seemed to think his business was largely done after a couple of singles and he could, ahem, diversify the brand enough.
Top twenties: Eight, and bearing in mind one of the other two were Interpol that's not too bad.
Complete misses: The Datsuns, who'd already had a top thirty single, but that turned out to be their height.

Number one: Keane
Top twenties: Seven
Complete misses: Gemma Fox crept into the top 40 come April but was barely heard of again. Such is the way of post-MC Dynamite UK urban female singers.

Number one: The Bravery. They did release a second album but the Coldplayesque first single and presumably similar album completely failed to register on anyone's radar in Britain, whereas in America it was the song that launched them onto modern rock radio. Funny the way things turn out.
Top twenties: Six
Complete misses: Where oh where is Tom Vek? Neither hide nor hair for four years now.

Number one: Corinne Bailey Rae. Second album out in February.
Top twenties: Five
Complete misses: Number two - Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! With that voice! And that production! And that opening track! Had someone just discovered blogging, perhaps? Sway, having presumably given up on making it in his own terms, has made various failed attempts to make it on everyone else's: "In May 2009, Sway performed "The Phatso Dance" with Soccer AM's Tubes, and a cameo from Chris Kamara - it is unclear whether this will be released as a single." Oh, do you not think? However the real sinker - at least CYHSY reached number 26 with their album - was Marcos Hernandez. "In a bad year for pop, which saw Smash Hits magazine close and Top of the Pops cancelled, it was always going to be hard for this former boy-band singer to make an impact" said the end of year roundup. Yeah, that'll be it. Especially in the year of Lily Allen.

Number one: Mika
Top twenties: Three! The top three, as it happens.
Complete misses: The last call of the Coldplayites saw off Air Traffic and Ghosts, but our anti-champion is Sadie Ama. "After a whirlwind few months of MD & A&R meetings, radio interviews, magazine articles and photo shoots, Sadie decided to hold back, build on her style & sound and wait until the time was right for her to enter into a career in music. A couple of underground smashes later, she's ready. The press have been super quick in spotting the potential of this future superstar.... please make way for Sadie in 2007. As we speak she is in the studio, building on her signature sound and preparing her assault on the mainstream." That is still on her Myspace. What actually happened was her first proper single stalled at 67 and she was never heard of again.

Number one: Adele. Every single newspaper and magazine ran with either Adele or Duffy as their top choice, and at the time it was hard to split the difference as to who'd be the successful one. In retrospect and being aware of the modern sales pitch, the Alison Moyet-esque one versus the bubby blonde was no contest at all.
Top twenties: Six
Complete misses: There's a full page interview with Joe Lean in the current NME, which is the sort of thing successful and popular singers usually get but no matter. In it he reveals that, after a second attempt at recording an album after either they or their label cancelled the first two weeks before release, his Jing Jang Jong have been dropped and he wants to sign to ATP Records. Good luck!

Number one: Little Boots, as stated.
Top twenties: Seven
Complete misses: You could say VV Brown, still being treated as pop royalty by the papers despite never coming near actual sales. You could plump for Passion Pit, comprehensively lapped by the two bands we keep confusing them with, The Big Pink and Temper Trap. But no, the garlands go to Dan Black for not even managing a top 75 entry, the first Sound Of nominee to manage that since the proper top ten was introduced. See, one he'd had to change the Notorious BIG cover nobody really cared.


Breaking More Waves Blog said...

Thanks for the name check. Maybe at Breaking More Waves we are verging on autism, but we love December for the end of year lists - particularly the Sound Of / Ones To Watch lists.

We reckon you're pretty bang on with the artists you hinted at for next years BBC list - I guess there will be some soul / r'n'b / hip hop in there as well.

Right now we are compiling our One's To Watch list for 2010. Expect some obvious choices and some less so from 1st Dec. Last year we put Marina and the Diamonds and Yes Giantess (who were just called Giantess then) on our lists and only now are they breaking through. Ha, we were ahead of our time :)

Incidentally, you mention Joe Lean. We saw the man himself the other day coming out of a gig. He's still wearing his skinny jeans painfully tight and still seems cocksure of himself. Hopefully his experiences of the industry will one day lead to a positive outcome. He'll probably make a superb manager for new bands or something. Can't stand his music though.

Pinup Nights said...

I've read both your blogs. I mind at the start of last year we were offered Frankmusik live and I decided against it, on the grounds that he was clearly rubbish. I've met Florence (she DJ'd at our club night) and I'd have to say on current evidence she is light years better than Marina, who I don't get at all. Flo is genuinely bonkers while this Marinaa seems very careerist. Hasn't she effectively sat on her album for a year to let Flo fizzle out??

Little Boots was clearly poor from day one, I dont know how she got such support - Ellie Goulding seems worse.

I have to say I like Everything Everything though!