When I was in Italy I saw a car advert with the slogan “Go fun yourself” and thought ‘that has to be for non-anglophone markets only’, but it turns out that we have it here too now.
Iain Mew. Cis/white/hetero/male. I am from the UK. I write for The Singles Jukebox and I also did One Week One Band: Coldplay. The url comes from this song. My avatar is by werepop. See here if you want to see photos of stuff I ate.
Source: Flickr / puplett
Ed Sheeran, most important artist in UK black music, and the erosion of niches
The BBC’s radio station 1Xtra has a remit to 'play the best in contemporary black music with a strong emphasis on live music and supporting new UK artists'. You may have heard of its recent power list of ‘The Top 20 Most Important UK Artists In The Scene’, the scene presumably being contemporary black music.
This list (which it’s worth noting was decided by a panel including black DJs from the station) named the most important UK artist in black music as Ed Sheeran, to opposition and ridicule. Sam Smith and Disclosure also made the top five. The result is as grimly hilarious as Macklemore having the most successful song ever on US Billboard rap charts, but the similarity to the issues with Billboard rule changes goes beyond that.
The list, per a BBC response quoted in the Independent, took into account ‘variables such as sales statistics, quality of music and impact across the wider industry’. What appears to have happened is that because Ed Sheeran has links to the UK urban music and has released some records which reasonably fit within it, he is counted as an urban artist and everything he’s done is the material of an urban artist. Even if his success owes far more to “The A Team” and “Lego House” and “Little Things”, which I doubt anyone is calling urban. This is similar to the idea that Rihanna’s “Diamonds” should have topped an R&B chart because Rihanna is an R&B artist even when releasing songs that appeal to pop audiences primarily, or the idea that it doesn’t matter that Macklemore has minimal appeal to the audiences for hip-hop stations.
There’s a different dynamic here in 1Xtra being a radio station trying to justify its existence by claiming Ed Sheeran’s success as their own, and for various reasons the UK did not such developed genre charts as the US to lose. The result is still similar. Rather than using artists with crossover appeal to bring over audiences to more niche content, the effect is to drown out the achievements within the niche, concentrating a wider range of publicity behind fewer names. Ed Sheeran doesn’t need them.
This kind of thing also feels like a product of the increasing influence of generalised internet distribution channels, and of artists as cross-media personalities. YouTube and Spotify, which drove the Billboard changes, place everyone on what looks at first glance like a level playing field, erase some distinctions and provide great stats. So do Twitter and Instagram. If the industry increasingly makes lists and decisions based on those stats, the importance of songs and their audience is lost, even more than with airplay or record sales. It’s not clear whether that’s what ‘impact’ meant here, but it often is. How would you determine what proportion of Twitter followers are into Ed Sheeran’s urban music? Why bother when you can just use the most impressive sounding numbers?
Meanwhile, news about Microsoft software correctly predicting the results of all eight second round World Cup games is very annoying for implying that this is much of an achievement.
The crucial fact unmentioned is that second round games pitch first round group-winners against runners-up, and all eight games were won by the group winners. Of those, five were from the eight seeds picked in the draw to begin with, and there were no seeded runner-up v unseeded group-winner contests.
The real story is not of proven software. Rather, the interesting bit is that despite all the drama, late goals and a couple of penalty shoot-outs, every match result turned out exactly as even the most basic model would have predicted.
This, though, is the way of these things now. It seems to be impossible, within this World Cup pop-fetish nexus, to admire all of these wonderful footballers at the same time. Offer a favourable opinion on any one of the World Cup’s glamorous-star players and the instant response is sure to include a slew of angry messages expressing a scathing preference for somebody else. Messi playing well? Ridiculous. Cristiano won the Ballon d’Or. Neymar? Are you even watching? Rodríguez rules. The terms of modern celebrity fandom demand exclusive loyalty, a ranking of preference, a hit parade. Where did all this come from? And is it ever going to stop?
There is perhaps a purely sporting angle to all this, another side-effect of the collapse of Spain’s supremacy at this tournament. That great team were above all a force for tactical collectivism, a team in which – despite their high-grade talents – the ball was always the star. In its absence there is naturally a sense of bracing contrast at the sight of thrillingly expressive individuals driving on a clutch of often rather flawed teams. It is, in part, Spain’s gift to this tournament. The grown-ups have now left the building. In their absence we can enjoy the ragged edges, games decided by moments not method, the rebirth of the lone star.
I like this observation, though the article is kind of outdone by one comment on it:
I noticed this happening a few years ago, and as a joke amongst my friends set up a Tumblr dedicated to Leighton Baines. I expected to post about 3 things, make my friends laugh and then forget all about it.
Then I started getting followers from around the world. Two years later it has 250 followers (ok, probably miniscule compared to Rodriguez and Messi etc but this is about Leighton Baines)
the truth is that my colleague Giorgio Chiellini suffered the physical result of a bite in the collision he suffered with me.
— Amazing wording in Suarez’ apology - Clintonian, one might almost say. (via tomewing)