The American trio have already toured with the likes of Mumford & Sons and Florence & The Machine, they’re enjoying a lot of radio play and media coverage, and they definitely seem to be gaining fans thick and fast now that they have been dubbed the band of 2013. Their brand of edgy, Americana pop – like an all-girl Foster the People – is a breath of fresh air and a real spearhead for the evolution of female pop-music; but, in spite of all that, I can’t help but feel a bit cynical about the ideas behind BBC Sound Of… Is the whole thing just a self-fulfilling prophesy, predicting their popularity and then publicising them like crazy? Would it not make more sense to leave it just at the longlist, and give people a whole host of new artists to enjoy, rather than focus on just one?
The BBC Sound Of… has always been a bit of a hit and miss award in the long run, but every winner has enjoyed the same intense fame in the months after winning. Past recognitions such as 50 Cent, Adele and Jessie J were undoubtedly successful, and we still definitely remember their runners-up, Electric Six, Duffy and James Blake respectively, but the second place artists haven’t had anywhere near the same success. Now, of course we know that that it is not because the winners were better, or any more relevant, musicians at the time, it’s just because they are who the critics picked.
…why reward one more than the others…
Who knows, if Duffy had been picked ahead of Adele, maybe she would be the Oscar-nominated Bond theme writer. So the overwhelming success of these artists is, in some way, attributed to the corporate decision of who to name the winner. All the artists on the list are good, relevant and talented enough to be recognised by the BBC, so why reward one more than the others? If the list were revealed and every artist on it given the same amount of publicity, the public would be introduced to a range of new, diverse artists, rather than being told who to like.
Winning is simply a guarantee that you will sell a lot of tickets and CDs in the coming year, but after that you are essentially on your own. This is why often it is the bands who are further down the longlist that achieve longer lasting success, because people are always going to gravitate towards bands that they like over bands that they are told they should like.
…the winner of that year, has since died out…
Mumford & Sons, for example, were fourteenth on the Sound Of 2009 list, and though they are a bit of a hype band at the moment, they reached fame because they were persistent and talented, not because they were on the list. Little Boots, the winner of that year, has since died out and so it really goes to show that it doesn’t matter what critics think, it matters what the public thinks; or, more importantly, it matter what each individual person thinks. If you like a band, you aren’t going to be put off that they didn’t make the BBC list, you’re going to keep listening to them. Which is why it doesn’t make sense to suddenly pump money and publicity at one particular band that, sure, people like, but not necessarily more than the others, and certainly not in a way that makes you want them to compete against the others for public attention.
We want a selection of good music, and the BBC come so close to offering us that, before they whip them away and cloud them with the one they deem the best.
…good choices all round…
Basically, the Sound Of… list this year is really very good, and I urge you to give them all a listen. British music has never been so culturally accepting and has never been so raw, free and self-expressive, so check them all out, and of course give HAIM a good listen too, because all these artists deserve success and an equal hearing. So good choices BBC, good choices all round.