Yesterday the BBC’s Sound Of 2011 Poll was announced, sending Twitter into overdrive and causing the blog world to bulge at it’s seems with commentary. The Recommender is one of the selected ‘tastemaker‘ pundits to actually vote on the poll, so it seems perfectly suitable that we pass comment on it’s lucky inclusions (and unlucky exclusions). As always there’s some obvious selections and a few WTF’s, so we are going to run our eye over the candidates and give you our thoughts.
Firstly it’s worth mentioning the list of 160+ ’tastemakers’ as we feel it reflects upon the poll, particularly when you consider some of the artists. We should also state clearly that we are proud and pleased to have taken part in the poll, as it shows that our blog has impact – we believe bloggers play an increasingly important role within the music industry and it’s things such as this that increase bloggers involvement in the music business.
The tastemakers list is made up from a variety of people within the industry, but there’s an undeniable heavy weight on BBC employees. This is perhaps understandable, with it being a BBC poll, but why then include the likes of us, or any others who are entirely detached? Surely it’s either a BBC Poll, by BBC staff, or it’s open for all corners of the industry? We are aware that the list has to be definitive and end somewhere, meaning some key influential players will be left out, but we couldn’t help but feel like there’s a lot of radio presenters. Sure, some of those working at BBC radio are very influential, and we know they are involved in popular radio shows, but is Reggie Yates and Aled from the Chris Moyles show really able to affect people’s taste as much as other important figures in music? We have no issue with them in particular, but you get our point, right?
Other influences to consider are the average ages of those selected, the genre’s they are affiliated to, the knowledge they have of underground music etc. All of these will also influence the results, so those that select the tastemakers to begin with can affect the outcomes. Apparently there’s even a round of people in the industry who are asked to suggest a pundit. We wonder who nearly made it? Who would you think a suitable tastemaker?
The lack of music bloggers is a pity too, although there’s clearly some involved, but then we would say that wouldn’t we. The totally excellent Line Of Best Fit are there, for which we praised Mr Thane, Mr Britton and Mr Hughes, but do they really need to have three representatives, when other fantastic, important bloggers have zero? There’s plenty of us around and some are properly considered A&R to A&R these days – even in the BBC’s descriptions of each artist they’re seen repeatedly stating things such as “creating heat in the Blogosphere“. Again, we ain’t complaining, as it’s wonderful to see some involved, including TLOBF, but we have to stick up for our brothers innit.
So to the resulting artists…
Getting selected is known to be a little bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy, with so much attention focused on the 15 lucky artists, but there’s no doubting the talent on show in what is a truly varied list. We are one of the best countries in the world for new music, so it’s great to see such encouragement. They are all winners already to a certain extent, but the overall Top 5 and eventual winner consistently go on to commercial success. So much so in fact that, prior to our vote, we had a run of emails from PR agents and managers, as well as from artists themselves, asking if we could select them. Our integrity is important so we should point out that we turned them all down, making our selections based on the criteria submitted and our own taste. Additionally, we can’t tell you who we eventually selected, so we don’t upset the artists, but suffice to say some, but not all, of our selections duly appeared.
ANNA CALVI – We always see a few artists that don’t necessarily have commercial appeal stamped all over them and with Anna we get a unique style and some brave music that reflects rather than looks forwards. This is remarkably striking music that burns with a passionate love and a flaming death and is both dramatic and wonderful. Votes would have been boosted by support from Grinderman and Brian Eno. Winner? No.
CLARE MAGUIRE – Signed to a major label some time ago, this exceptional singer has been known by the blogs for years, but 2011 will finally see the launch of her debut LP. Part Florence & The Machine, part Ellie Goulding, she has a massive appeal to a young audience, but with her also being part Tammy Wynette an older audience is also ensured. Winner? Yes. Anything but number one will be a shock. We also expect her to win at the Brits next year.
HOPE THERE’S SOMEONE (ANTONY & THE JOHNSONS COVER)
DALEY – There’s a lot of useful boxes ticked with this super-styled, geeky R&B artist – backed by BBC appearances, recent contributions to the Gorillaz‘s project and a signature with A&M records. Not bad, but we may have to wait a while for his debut album, so we’re not sure if he’s going to be the sound of the year. An amazing voice, yes, some clever and delicately crafted tunes, yes, but a winner? No.
ESBEN & THE WITCH – We are a blog based in their home town of Brighton so we should really be all over this group, but their doom-fueled music is a little too dark for our personal tastes. They feel like natural successors to The XX, whom they’ve supported live, so anywhere near their achievements will ensure a very successful 2011. Winners? Perhaps of the Mercury. If the recession gets deeper then the public’s appetite may be just right. Sound of 2011, economically.
JAI PAUL – Only time will tell if this male solo artist succeeds where a lot of predecessors have fallen short – naming no names. He feels like an alternative pop star for the future, but 2011 may just prove to be too early. A major record label are on board, so the push will be there, but major commercial success is harder to imagine with music this fresh. Winner? Unlikely, but with an artist this unpredictable, we could be proved very wrong. A win would be a very nice surprise.
JAMES BLAKE – Another clear choice for this poll, but it could be argued that it’s mostly down to the popularity and remarkable impact of his cover of Feist‘s, A Limit To Your Love. It’s astonishingly beautiful and shows off a tender skill that could soundtrack the solo moments of all of our lives. Regularly pairing up with Mount Kimbie, they stand at the front of a new brand of dubstep, for grown ups. He too might suit these dark economic times and is another one in line for Mercury success, but winner here? One cover song does not a winner make.
A LIMIT TO YOUR LOVE
JAMIE WOON – It’s good to see mature music like this appearing on the poll, just like the above Esben & The Witch and James Blake, but we’re not sure if it punches enough, being so understated. His sound is certainly more approachable than those other two and with a gorgeous, post-club feel there’s definitely a market. Additionally, the vocals are very strong and stand front and centre within each song, giving him a broader appeal, but winner? No.
JESSIE J – We shouldn’t like her, with her tacky lyrics (“do it like a brother, do it like a dude“), but there’s something exciting about her confident, in-your-face pop. A Nicky Minaj, Rihanna, or Lady Gaga for the UK seems to suggest she’s going to be a massive, chart-topping sensation. The tunes are lacking class, but have her strong voice front and centre and they are all rammed with an attitude that will ensure she’s played loud at every student night in clubs up and down the country. Winner? Very possibly, if it’s based on who might be huge in 2011, rather than the quality of their music.
DO IT LIKE A DUDE (LABRINTH REMIX)
MONA – It’s great to see more guitar bands appearing once again, following the solo female dominance of 2009 and 2010. Don’t all rush for your white t-shirts straight away however, as 2011 also has a broad selection of females still due to arrive, with some strangely omitted from this poll. Mona blast their music like Kings Of Leon, so if they reach anywhere near their potential they’ll be massive. Winner? Of next year’s rock acts maybe, but not of this poll.
LISTEN TO YOUR LOVE
NERO – If Magnetic Man‘s success is anything to go by then this group’s debut LP will be big. The most electronic of those acts on the poll, they will get the club’s votes, but winners? Doesn’t feel right to think they might top it. It feels like a collection of all the best bits from various genres, rather than breaking any new ground.
THE NAKED & FAMOUS – Next year’s Passion Pit or MGMT? Possibly, although they’re even more palatable and this year’s blog coverage has been consistently at fever pitch. Apart from Warpaint, they’re perhaps the most established of the artists covered on the poll, especially if you’re from their homeland of New Zealand. Perfect for Radio One, which will help, but winners? It would be good to see them win it, but we think they’ll make the shortlist, rather than overall gold medalists.
THE VACCINES – Late starters online in 2010, but their acceleration means they may simply shoot past the other contenders as they drive into 2011. With a big energy, a stylish delivery and tracks that have indie anthem stamped all over them, we suggest they could lead the kids into a whole new place, but potential winners? Yes, but having recently seen them perform a live set that felt short on follow up tunes, we actually think they’re likely to settle for the shortlist.
BLOW IT UP
WARPAINT – It’s nothing against this wonderful Californian band, but we actually have a big issue with them appearing on this list. Who out of the tastemakers are looking to artists that will be the ‘Sound Of 2011′ and thinking of Warpaint? Their album is out, their UK tour and media campaigns are done, so what exactly are they going to do in 2011? It’s crazy and smacks of tastemakers reacting to 2010, rather than knowing what is coming. Winners? No, it wouldn’t make any sense.
WRETCH 32 – That “Jeremy Kyle” line aside, this artist will be massive in 2011. Urban music throws out many acts with swagger and confidence, making them appear like they’re ready as soon as they’re taken out of the box, but this appears to be the real deal. The tunes are proper ace and he comes with an Obama-like crossover appeal. Winner? Urban artists have never won, but maybe this year it will be different. Then again, it depends who makes the final decision.
YUCK – Sadly we think this is a wasted spot, with a band that’s so reflective, being such a patchwork of shoegaze and indie, with tinges of grunge – much in the same way Warpaint did it – but sadly they don’t do any of it particularly brilliantly. Winners? We would be amazed and slightly bored if they won the poll.
So that wraps up another year’s polling. The theme from this year’s list seems to be a search for a new movement, to give the teens of this new decade something to claim (NME would certainly love that), with Mona and The Vaccines plugging guitars back in, Warpaint and Yuck giving a taste of grunge to a new generation and the post-dubstep darkness of the likes of James Blake, Esben & The Witch and Jamie Woon suggesting that less is more, especially in these economic times.
We very much look forward to the shortlist of 5 and the eventual winner, which is announced in January. Our money is on Clare Maguire winning, but we would prefer a surprise in all honesty.
Lastly, we would like to tip our hats to those who seemed to be missing. Perhaps it’s simply too early? Perhaps it’s the tastemakers’ bad judgement? Perhaps they’ll storm 2011 anyway. Let’s hope so. Near misses must go to: Clock Opera, Spark, CocknBullKid, The Good Natured, Alex Winston, IAmAmIWhoAmI, The Pass, Hannah Yadi, Bravestation, King Charles, Let’s Buy Happiness, among many others.
Who would get your three votes?