Music ones to watch lists: This millennium’s school yard brawl

David Newbury

112278342 255x300 Music ones to watch lists: This millennium’s school yard brawlThey say the millennium bug didn’t happen. True, no aeroplanes fell from the sky nor did microwaves grow fangs and rampage through suburbia, but something sure happened. As the century changed, a New Year tradition was wiped from the family RAM and replaced with rows of indecipherable data: The List.

Mere resolutions couldn’t fill the chasm created from returning to work, unable to gorge on port and stilton at 3pm.The List had created a gap only expert countdowns could fill. An analogue Mr Motivator pogo-sticking up the BT Tower to meet the Special K woman wearing a nicotine patch couldn’t compete with The List’s digital ambitions.

It started with TV. Paul Morley and commercial Radio DJs would talkabout how cool Megatron was before scowling at a minor celebrity’s thong, cynically destroying people’s memories. But The List had greater ideas for music, it would tell us the future, it created Ones To Watch countdowns.

These industry insights troll every music media outlet, itching to be top tastemaker and outdo rivals, where heralding an unknown musician first is the blogging equivalent of schoolyard ‘my dad is harder than your dad’ bragging.

In digital age where the old NME adage of build ‘em up to knock ‘em down, binges on super strength CSS and bands are ”too print” before their demo gets a Korallrevenremix, blogs  needed to releasetheirs pre-Christmas with a sound bite and a link. Nicely formatted, immediate and Tweetable.

The BBC couldn’t be quite as snappy. First releasing a long list, before tiresomely dragging out the top five day by day when we all knew Kiwanuka would be top. He’d already been playlisted and on Later. The NME didn’t even try, simply throwing 100 bands in the air shouting scramble.

Deciphering The List isn’t difficult. PR’s dictate the names and despotic hacks like me place them in an order on a casual whim. So democratised in a musical Arab Spring, here’s the generic breakdown to create your own List.

The Female Star: This is probably the trickiest category. Do you go for credibility, saleability orquirkiness?  This easy one is Lana Del Rey, but she’s too obvious. Much better to go for Ren Harvieu’s sultry jazz groove, but she’s could be too, well, Radio 2, so there’s FOE the goth-litegrunger who’s just teetering on the right side of Avril Lavigne. The NME touring Azalia Banks and the Brits ordained Emeli Sande prove if you pick a name out of the air people will listen.

The Male Star: Undeniably the dullest category. The days of a new Prince appearing disappeared withFrancis Rossi’s ponytail, and the best male soloists made their name with bands first-Gruff Rhys.  This year’s Jack Johnson is Michael Kiwanuka with his inoffensive coffee table beach appeal. Branded with a voice beyond his years is Jamie N Commons and his epic by numbers pithy doom folk while to remind us the Brit School doesn’t just turn out Jessie J’s there’s King Krule whose polished street screamagermumblings are destined for T4 on the beach.

In fairness The Male Star’s talent pool isdiluted by The Electro/Dance Star, which outrageously remains a male domain. US dubstep monstrosity Skrillex is great for children with ADD and Fearne Cotton but for people with taste UK electro prevails: D/R/U/G/S produces shatteringly smooth rave while Patten’s scary gloom dance terrorises basements clubs. But isn’t dance meant to be fun? In that case pick Canada’s Doldrums’s quelchy sample friendly groove.

The Scene Band: Each year needs a sound, and 2012’s is ethereal lo-fi nu-gaze. The History of Apple Pie give MBV a lo-fi twist while Lilies on Mars and Fear of Men provide the art-house edge. If you want to be really scene then London’s Fever Dream take Ride and smash them into The Fall.

Guitar Saviours:2011 wasn’t good for guitars, Airship failed and Yuck got boring, but 2012 gives us Tribes, a novelty rumpus between Towers of London and the Manics, and Zulu Winter , the new Snow Patrol.  Genuinely good bands are slacker grungers Fanzine, and the new Strokes with dashes of Jonathan Richman-Howler, but do we really want more boys posturing in leather Jackets and caps?

The Hipsters: The Blogs’ favourite. NYC’s Friends are the uber-sexy electro bass poppers who appear on Letterman one night and a squat’s mattress the next, and Canadians Grimes who creates ghostly Lynchian electro and TheWkend who releases mixtapes for free! Very Hip! 2012 though belongs to Swedish electro with Nicki and the Dove- Kylie Minogue fronting The Knife, and the thundering sacherine of Icona Pop.

So there you are, simply pick one from each category plus three from the rest, then add you mates band as a wild card and you’ve conquered The List. Now start a blog.

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  • Chris Blackmore

    “They say the millennium bug didn’t happen. True, no aeroplanes fell from the sky nor did microwaves grow fangs and rampage through suburbia, but something sure happened”.

    I don’t know who “they” are, but I and a great many other programmers worked bloody hard to ensure all the legacy code still in use was checked carefully for problems with the date, and I am fed up with clueless hacks churning out tripe about how it was all hype.

  • zumbruk

    You and me, both.

  • Catherine Allison

    They’re called The Weeknd and they’re brilliant! Check them out.   and Skrillex is the sound of the Antichrist

  • Skint Richie

    arrrghh this makes me want to not listen to anyone mentioned in it. I feel sick

  • G2us

    Did anything in this article actualy say that the millennium bug was all hype? Were you reading some different text to me ?  This article has nothing to do with programmers working hard to ensure that the world didn’t self destruct !

  • abacci

    You don’t need an apostrophe in ones.

  • Thos O’Sullivan

    I saw this as early as today. From Chicago to Toronto and back to where it was made in Glasgow

  • Dorothea

    Just as I suspected: the internet and the proliferation of radio stations have created a vast ocean of talent and creativity that performers can merge with.  It’s very difficult to keep up with, and oldies like me don’t even try.

    Some of it is good and some of it is rubbish of course, that’s always been the case.The difference is that now, Music Journalists actually have to listen to lots of music, and give their own opinion, instead of following what someone more knowledgeable has put in a list.And guess what!  Some people will disagree with other people! Oh No! How will they know what’s in fashion and what’s out?

    ps the Millenium Bug was a technical hitch, not black magic or an infectious disease. It was prevented from doing damage, using a time-consuming, but not magical, process by people who knew more about computers than you do.

  • Alex Moore

    If you’re serious about new music, then you should really get a Tumblr and start checking out the bands everyone are talking/posting custom artwork about… Transit, Titlefight, The Wonder Years, Basement, Man Overboard, The Story So Far, La Dispute, Touche Amore.

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