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Tuesday, December 29, 2009 

Most overrated and worst music of 2009.

2009 was the year in which the music industry's chickens came home to roost. Convinced that it's impossible to make money from "new" music, only the surest bets and most blatant copycats of already successful discoveries have been given even the slightest chance to shine. The result has been one of the worst years for mainstream music in quite some time, and hardly a stellar one for the "indie" scene either. It's no coincidence that the round-up of best of polls featured only two debut records, one of which shouldn't have even came close to being in the list in any case.

The real soul-destroying thing about the insipid nature and monotony of most of mainstream music over the last 12 months is that it continues to be so willingly lapped up. The road to stardom no longer even seems to involve a contrived start-up on a social networking site: increasingly we're back in the late 90s when anyone and everyone seemed to be creating either an all-boy or all-girl group simply by advertising for auditions. This was how we came to be lumbered with Pixie Lott: just another of 2009's attempts to jump into the by no means over-saturated market which Amy Winehouse "created" and which was filled further in last year by Adele and Duffy. We should be perhaps grateful for small mercies: rather than just one name, Pixie has two, although the stupidity of both doesn't help. Ms Lott, like Adele and Kate Nash before her went to a performing arts school, and is just as manufactured as those unlamented late 90s groups were, yet in an age where Britain's Got Talent and The X Factor now completely dominate music almost as a whole, no one seems to care or even be cynical in the slightest. Her single, Mama Do, has to be the most overplayed and most aggravating song of the year: if the cliched lyrics about her being hurt by the ubiquitous no good boyfriend weren't bad enough, the chanted "WOH OH WOH OH" throughout makes it close to intolerable. It naturally shot straight to number one, and the only hope must be that she goes the way of Joss Stone, who had similar but thankfully short-lived success a few years back and has since sank into oblivion.

Pixie is however musical bliss personified when compared to her contemporary Paloma Faith. Like with Lott, a key to her relative success seems to be the heavy rotation which all of her material has been given on Radio 2: once the station seen as irredeemably naff until Radio 1 got its act together, it now has the blessing of those who once preferred its sister ageing and growing into its supposedly inoffensive nature. Faith's Wikipedia page introduces her as having grown into her career as a "singer" thanks to her efforts at mimicking those she admired, but has now developed her own style. She has, but probably not in the way in which either the writer or Faith herself believes: she still mimics poorly those she admires, but it's her voice which defines her style. The nasal twang with which she squawks can only be compared to that other least-likely to be singer of recent times, the thankfully vanished Macy Gray, who was best herself compared to a being strangled Marge Simpson. Gray at least though didn't sound stupid when she warbled through I Try, something which can't be said when Faith squeals through the title song from her album, which is rendered by her as "Do You Want the Trooth or Something Bootiful?", for which she presumably has to pay royalties to Bernard Matthews.

Faith can at least sing, even if it isn't the most pleasant noise to listen to. Saying that Florence, out of Florence and the Machine can't sing is however it seems one of the great unmentionables of the year. No critic has been brave enough to admit that they were greatly deceived by her Lungs album, which despite being decidedly average still managed to get to 8th place in the poll of critics' polls. The proof of the pudding has emerged, both from her execrable live shows, where she seems determined to attempt to outdo Craig Nicholls of the Vines in being a tit on stage stakes, and he has the excuse of having Asperger's syndrome, and from the truly painful attempt by Florence to cover Halo by Beyonce in the graveyard which is Radio 1's Live Lounge. Halo isn't the greatest song in the first place, it being an obvious attempt to do Umbrella all over again, but only someone with the singing talent of Florence could make it sound like she was killing a cat whilst going through the motions. This, coupled with the dirge which is her truly unnecessary cover of Candi Station's seminal You Got the Love, easily deserves her the prizes of most overrated act of the year and worst cover versions of the year.

The true musical crimes of the year were however those committed by the usual suspects, the Black Eyed Peas. In one of the very few amusing things to happen on Twitter, Perez Hilton made a desperate plea for help after allegedly questioning the musical value of the group's latest album to the face of front man will.i.am, a critique that resulted in an assault. It's mystifying as to why will.i.am responded in such a way: to write such awful music you either have to have the knack of it and know what you're doing, or get incredibly lucky. Having spent the last six years having huge success, it's pretty certain that in this case it must be the former and not the latter. In other words, will.i.am must be an intelligent man and know that his music's shit; why then respond with violence to the truth, unless the truth hurts, especially coming from someone who wouldn't normally know it even if it swam all the way up his posterior?

Shit isn't really an adequate description for the majesty of "Boom Boom Pow", nor does banal adequately describe the refrain of "I Gotta Feeling", the feeling being that tonight's gonna be a good good night. As for the album title, the inspired The E.N.D. is meant to reflect that the idea of the album itself is dead, now that you can pick away at them on iTunes like "scabs". When even you are inadvertently referring to your music as scabs, perhaps you don't need anyone else to be rude about your life's work.

Tomorrow: the best music of 2009.
Thursday (probably): Top 10 albums of the year.

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Pixie Lott gets extra annoying points for having her own 'special' mobile phone model for sale.

I like Florence, though I'll admit that cover is especially bad. Pixie Lott, on the other hand, has no redeeming qualities.

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