Wednesday, June 04, 2008

If Made In London fall in a forest, does anyone hear them?

Further to yesterday's diversion on the modern media of pop, we contend that nowadays there is no such thing as a pure pop scene. It's all been subsumed into the mainstream, seen as just another part of the overall scheme of things, a landscape where Sam Sparro, Taio Cruz, Westlife and Late Of The Pier have similar marketing budgets behind them and Girls Aloud and the Sugababes only have much higher profiles because they were in the right place at the right time and so were all over the place anyway.

This is how it should be, of course - apart from this current hard sell of Neil Diamond, which must really confuse anyone under 25 or so - but pop acts haven't recovered yet from just how quickly it's happened, with the TOTP and CD:UK rugs being pulled out from under them within six months and even The Box now purely playlist computer driven rather than something to phone in and give a three digit code over to. Besides, it's not that 'your bands' don't get on the daytime radio playlists any more, because either they do or they purposefully wouldn't. The result: well, who outside the 3am Girls cares about Jamelia any more?

See, ten years or so ago you knew where you were, and the fun thing in retrospect was that the labels didn't. Caught in the crossfire hurricans of Britpop blowing itself out - are Oasis still big? What happened to all those bands? Ere, think they'll go for the Stereophonics? - and the redefinition of marketing pop's boundaries by the Spice Girls, plus sidelines like Ibiza wiping out the traditional summer fluke hit, it seemed at times they didn't have a clue how to pitch it. 2008 is a broad church, but who'd go now with a big launch for something that introduced itself like...

There was Catch, a kind of attempt to market a late Britpop group to teenage girls which never broke the top 20. There was Lolly for the pre-teens and for everyone else to look at each other and shrug. There was the 21st Century Girls, often overlooked now but perhaps the greatest failure this side of however much money RCA should have just given to passers-by rather than spend on Girl Thing, Simon Fuller's £1m signing of four teenage girls from Dudley, pitched as the band to break his former girl group employer's strangehold on the nation with their guitars and their warmed-over Republica sound. Their first single peaked at number 16, the second (Teenage Rampage, sir!) never got released and they lasted eight months into the actual 21st century. One week CD:UK devoted a big ass block of the show to them, Hepburn, Next Of Kin and the Moffatts, billing them completely straight-facedly as "the new breed of groups who play their own instruments". Cuh, imagine that! If only the Beatles had played their own instruments who knows how big they could have been, eh? Not a clue, frankly, but now that 'Wonky Pop' is the subject of endless broadsheet pieces and the showbiz columns go into a frenzy if a female singer has a tattoo or unwise hair colouring, not to mention the credit/Guy Hands crunch, we kind of miss the days of ludicrous pop signings that splutter to a halt after having thousands thrown at it early on. Does the A&R who signed Buffalo G still earn a living wage?

("There are 32 Buffalo G listeners on". What?)

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