Sound of 2014: Who Cares? - By Volume

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Sound of 2014: Who Cares?

Adam Knott laments the celebrity focus of the annual pop checklist. Author: on December 2, 2013
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Every December, the BBC polls music industry moguls and experts to put together a list of ones-to-watch in the coming 12 months. In previous years, this collection of musical question marks has included such now-famous names as Adele, Ellie Goulding, and Jessie J. A flick through the remaining past winners reveals a troubling trend: turns out that the aforementioned moguls and experts have basically never been wrong. Perhaps we should ditch those monikers and call these people, quite literally, tastemakers. Sound of 20xx is a self-fulfilling prophecy; the mainstream – both media and public – turns to it for direction, and it gives both groups a sat nav with the power of persuasion.

But it’s not just this that annoys me. No, it’s that By Volume has never been invited to contribute this is hardly, if at all, about the music these people create. Every year, the longlist is revealed, and the question it asks somehow remains: who will be a star in 12 months’ time? In defiant fashion, I have to ask: who gives a fuck? Because if you care for music, you certainly don’t care how popular a band is – and that works both ways, for the underground acts you’ve followed for years and the ones that just broke through the wall. Who do we revere? Whoever we enjoy listening to.

Sound of 2014 Longlist

  • Banks
  • Chance The Rapper
  • Ella Eyre
  • George Ezra
  • FKA Twigs
  • Chloe Howl
  • Jungle
  • Kelela
  • MNEK
  • Nick Mulvey
  • Royal Blood
  • Sampha
  • Say Lou Lou
  • Luke Sital-Singh
  • Sam Smith

It troubles me, because within the longlist and the final standings there’s always a tonne of talent. Sure, it sails too safely at times, but that’s the result of democracy: everybody gets what nobody really wants. These artists are profiled in a way which makes their essence feel half-musical, half-personal, as though we should care that FKA Twigs was a back-up dancer in Jessie J’s (who, dontcha know, won this thing once!!) “Do It Like A Dude” video. As though we should care that she even also dances. Sure, it’s nice to know about someone’s personality to a minor extent, but are we really going to start dressing up someone’s career to date as some sort of intangible Road To Fame, whose bias will be confirmed in our discussions of the winner and forgotten in all mentions of the also-rans?

I’m tired of this shit. If you want to tell the world which up-and-coming artists they should know about, review something brilliant they’ve created. Don’t skate over the art and hoist them up onto a glimmering pedestal and declare them exciting musicians out of the context of that creativity. It’s depressing to hear, so long in advance, that The 2014 Award For Music Goes To… anybody. Stop making this about their popularity and start making it about their worth. The idea behind this annual ritual is a really fucking promising one, but can we please refocus the lens?

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