Monday 2 January 2012

BBC Sound of 2012

1. Michael Kiwanuka - 4/5
2. Frank Ocean - 4/5
3. Azealia Banks - 3/5
4. Skrillex - 3/5
5. Niki & The Dove - 4/5

A$AP Rocky - 1/5
Dot Rotten - 3/5
Dry The River - 4/5
Flux Pavilion - 3/5
Friends - 4/5
Jamie N Commons - 4/5
Lianne La Havas - 4/5
Ren Harvieu - 3/5
Spector - 2/5
StooShe - 1/5

Could 2012 mark the end of the reign of the female popstar?  It's undeniable that the last few years have been dominated by women and it's been reflected in the 'Sound Of' poll winners - from Adele's monumental rise to fame (2008 winner) to Jessie J's chart success (2011 winner), with Ellie Goulding (2010 winner) and Little Boots (2009 winner) between.  Other top nominees have included Florence and the Machine, La Roux and Lady GaGa (all 2009). 

This year, just under half the nominees are female.  They may represent some of the better artists in the list, but they have some strong male competition.  At the time of writing, Niki & The Dove have won fifth position and some heavy hitters such as Lianne La Havas and Azealia Banks are yet to position.  Yet the biggest names on the list are male, predominantly Scrillex, Dot Rotten, Michael Kiwanuka and Frank Ocean.  Will one of these gents hit the top spot?  And don't even talk to me about StooShe.

What's also noticeable is the heavy bias towards urban music.  Rap, hip-hop and grime seem to be perpetually growing in popularity over the years and it's obvious the UK has some great home grown talent as well as the influx of American artists.  There's also been a rise of the artist-producer.  Far from taking a backseat, producers like Scrillex and Flux Pavilion are increasingly taking the fore.  Then, following Kanye West, rappers like Dot Rotten have proven their producing credentials.  It's like the modern pop equivalent to Wagner's Gesamtkunstwerk.

But is this to the detriment of traditional guitar bands?  Spector are the only representative on the list - and not a great one.  Even bands like Dry The River or Friends employ an element of electronica.  Has the standard four-piece been exhausted?  Is electronica taking over?  Is the population obsessed with futuristic music?

Then again, a synthesizer may have been futuristic in the eighties but it's now become de rigeur in music production.  The overriding sense in this year's list is a lack of innovation.  That's not to say it's a bad list, but the artists are very much rooted in the past.  Ren Harvieu, Lianne La Havas and Michael Kiwanuka are the new members of the soul revival, whilst much production stems from the eighties revival of the last few years.  And dub-step?  So 2011.  Even Jamie N Commons harks back to traditional Americana.  Perhaps in ten years time we'll be listening to the new 70s prog rock or 90s brit-pop?  Guitar music - wouldn't that be a revelation?

Still, the Sound of list may reflect the next year of music but it's by no means definitive.  For some, it's even a curse as they strive to live up to the hype.  Undoubtedly there'll be some surprises along the way - and a new Rihanna album.  It's clear we have a decent year ahead, but the future of music?  I'm not so sure.