Warning : This blog post contains some generalisations, because without them every opinion piece would be redundant because of the exception to the rule.
When last week the 2013 Brit nominees were announced the general consensus was that it didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. With a couple of minor glitches (Cat Power in best international female wasn’t fully expected) the awards simply appear to be rewarding the big sellers. No surprises here really, after all the awards are effectively a back slapping exercise by the music industry for the music industry.
However, these safe nominations left us pondering. In 2012 the biggest shock was Adele getting cut off in her prime during the live show; hardly the stuff of outrage. Is there any chance of a moment of rock ‘n’ roll behaviour at this year’s ceremony? Will there be a Jarvis mooning a MichaelJackson, a KLF performing a thrash metal version of their biggest hit before dumping a dead sheep outside an aftershow party or even just good old Suede perplexing music industry execs with a flash of nipple, trashy glamour and raw visceral guitars amongst the blandness of the rest of the awards.
Looking down the list we suspect not. Where’s the class of 2013’s angry outsiders that have infiltrated the mainstream? Alt-J? An innovative album sure, but they just seem too passive to ever rage against the machine. Jessie Ware? She may have been marketed as the mainstream pop act it’s OK for cool kids to like, but we’d suggest she’s more likely to be giggling over a glass of wine with Nick Grimshaw than throwing her champagne furiously at someone.
And here’s why. There’s little anger in music anymore. There’s little politics. Everyone is too afraid to upset anybody. Even the new wave of alternative indie guitar bands (traditionally a route for outspoken views) such as Peace, Luls and Palma Violets seem to have very little to say. And when they do, it seems to be a poorly thought out exercise in self-promotion, like Eagulls recent rant on their blog which lacked in any sort of inspiration or intelligence, as well as appearing to be misogynistic and concerned more about fashion than anything else. Interestingly a few days after it was posted it was removed. What were we saying about everyone being too afraid to upset anybody? Oh that. (You can still see the rant, which has been preserved by This Is Fake DIY here )
In the UK 1 in 9 high street stores are empty / shut, public services are being slashed left right and centre, long term unemployment including youth unemployment is high and homelessness has increased, yet very few musicians seem to offer a voice against any of this. In the past this hasn’t been so. Musicians often rallied against politicians, offering an alternative voice and inspiration for youth culture, but now the anger seems to have gone, replaced by apathy. Those musicians of the past still wanted to be famous rock stars but they wanted to make a difference as well. From The Clash to Springsteen, they were able to put across intelligent (and sometimes not so intelligent views) and if they got it right and weren’t too patronising or preachy make their fans think. Now it seems the number of Facebook likes is more important to many young bands than talking or singing about what is happening to their country and maybe for the fans of the music as well. Certainly reading music blogs (and we shamefacedly include our own in this) lyrical content of songs gets short coverage. Has it come to the point, perish the thought, that what bands are singing about doesn’t actually matter anymore? Have we all become not only apathetic to what’s going on in the world, but also in the way we listen to pop music?
Music can be a force can that can act as a catalyst to change, an angry cog in the machine. Yet right now, that machine seems sadly complacent, rusted and stuck.