A new year is upon us and the media is going, like, “really wild” over the BBC’s Sound of 2011 poll as we “speak”. So here are a few things to look out for in the hip ‘n’ happening world of pop in 2011…
The continuing rise* of Katy B
One of the best things about pop in 2010 was seeing Magnetic Man and Katy B break into the top 10. The former’s ‘I Need Air’ was one of the best singles of the year, and introduced us to an interesting midway point between dubstep and mainstream pop. When Katy B ‘On A Mission’ followed that single into the upper reaches of the chart it looked like a new pop era was upon us. Hopefully Katy B’s debut album, as yet untitled but to be released in March, will fulfill the promise of Katy’s so far so excellent singles. Starting the year with another top 5 entry in ‘Lights On’ bodes well.
The Pet Shops Boys ballet!
There’s nothing wrong with JLS, but whatever else you can say about them, they’re unlikely to ever perform a song about the Russian revolution, or write the score for a ballet. For that kind of pop thrill we turn to the Pet Shop Boys, whose new venture is a ballet to be performed at Sadler’s Wells theatre in London in March. The Most Incredible Thing is based on a story by Hans Christian Andersen and its themes of sacrifice, redemption and justice are very much typical of the subject matter Neil Tennant usually deals in. If past performance and the teasers on the duo’s official website are anything to go by, the chances of this being better than average are literally better than average.
The Vaccines giving guitar music a kick up the behind.
2011 will see the return of The Strokes who once upon a time were an extraordinarily exciting yet retro guitar pop group who threatened to see off Toploader and their tragic feelgood-indie ilk, and who were sort of successful, except they themselves spawned the equally tragic landfill-indie uselessness of Razorlight. Like The Strokes, The Vaccines peddle the kind of short, fast, breezy guitar pop that at once feels fresh and exciting and at the same time like lots of stuff from the past. Their trick is to make guitar music that has enough tuneage behind it to sound hit-worthy and which avoids Coldplay style plodathons with lyrics about “holding on” and “not giving up” and so forth. Be brave The Vaccines, and try not to lead us into a valley of indie-guitar shit for half a decade. The Strokes sounded a bit like Television, The Vaccines sound a bit like The Ramones. Rock is doomed to be exhumed periodically from here until the end of time, but at least The Vaccines do it in a fun way.
Pop’s return to the TV schedules?
The BBC, in their infinite wisdom, are trying to block an attempt by Five boss Richard Desmond to buy the rights to Top Of The Pops. While they don’t have any immediate plans to resurrect the weekly window on the charts, they’re not prepared to let anyone else have the use of their “brand” (the BBC’s description) either. The corporation’s bosses are said to be desperate to find a suitable replacement for the show and their hand may be forced by Simon Cowell’s recent announcement that he intends to create a weekly TV show based on the charts. The question arises: who do you trust the least with this venture? The most conservative man in pop – Simon Cowell, the porn tycoon and purveyor of televisual grot – Richard Desmond or the Beeb, which has stumbled from one PR disaster to another ever since Sachsgate. Still, hopefully 2011 will see the vacuum created by TOTP’s being replaced with something that can do the current charts justice. A good question to ask at a pub quiz, a query which would fox the anoraks who can tell you exactly what combination of drink and drugs Jim Morrison had imbibed before writing his rubbish poetry, would be: “What’s number one in the charts this week?” Because apart from chart-watching anoraks like me, no sod knows. This situation needs addressing.
X Factor’s influence diminishing*.
Matt Cardle has done the double with the sort of grim predictability we’ve come to expect in football from Manchester United. And as anyone who’s not a United fan knows that team are despised for their thuddingly tedious dominance of the sport. Cardle’s competent, boring, personality-free Christmas number one will be the last of its type IF a) indie types stop carping on, and get out there and write great left-field pop songs that capture the nations attention b) Cowell gets bored of the UK and focuses all of his attention on America and c) if some sort of natural or manmade catastrophe takes place during 2011 which consigns humanity to oblivion – which lets face it seems more likely than Cowell easing his grip on his power over pop. Would this man have allowed Malcolm McLaren present Top Of The Pops? I think not.
The return of Britney Spears
Because in the past she has displayed an almost Madonna-like capacity to surprise with an amazing record just when you think her career is broken beyond repair. Max Martin (amazing) and Dr Luke (also amazing) are at the helm again and they’re promising a “more electronic, grimier” sound on the new Spears record. Which is a bit like U2 saying “on our next record we’re going to try to be as bombastic and overblown and pompous as possible, because we like to stretch ourselves”. One awaits Britney’s latest comeback with interest nonetheless. She’s been at the pop lark for 12 years now, she ought to know what she’s at by this stage. We’ll see.
Born This Way, the new album by HRH Lady Gaga of Bonkershire