Saturday, November 21, 2015

Mercury Music Prize 2015

It's interesting to note that the Mercury has reached a point where it's not got a sponsor as such, any more, and is "in association with BBC Music". It's a fair enough way to spend a small slice of licence fee (probably a better return on investment than the BBC Music Awards) but must be strange that the second highest profile music award in the UK can't attract an above the line sponsor.

Anyway, this year's winner is Benjamin Clementine's At Least For Now. It might be coincidence, but a lot of the BBC Four coverage found space to celebrate the 'curse of the Mercury' winners - Speech Debelle, Roni Size, Ms Dynamite - and in a way that challenged the 'last seen leaving the ceremony with a cheque for £20k, and disappeared' narrative. Perhaps a partnership with a cultural organisation like the BBC rather than the marketing department of a bank is allowing the Mercury to at last be comfortable about not caring about sales, and focus on the value of the recordings.

Benjamin was so warm in his victory, too - first inviting all the other shortlisted artists on stage; then dedicating his win to the victims of the Paris Attacks, before being overcome with emotion. Genuinely, you feel that the prize couldn't have gone to a nicer man.

Eurovision 2016: First homophobic artist selected

For some reason, every round of Eurovision seems to come with some far-right tosspot or another being selected to go and do a song. This time round, it's Germany who have put forward a homophobic anti-semite to sing for them.

Xavier Naidoo, an R&B singer of mixed Indian, African and German heritage, was named by the ARD public broadcaster as Germany’s entry for the 2016 Eurovision contest in Stockholm.
But the choice was criticised by politicians and activists who said his lyrics suggest homosexuals are paedophiles and contain anti-Semitic slurs.
Xavier appeared at a Far Right rally for Germans who believe that somehow Germany is shaped like the Hitler vision of Germany, and that the Weimar German constitution remains in force. (If they really believed this, they'd be trying to pay for bread with pianos.)

Oddly, not everyone has suggested that it's a terrible idea:
“I am sure Xavier will be a worthy representative at the Eurovision,” Nicole, a German singer who won the contest in 1982, said.

“I like his music a lot and I find it great that an established artist has the courage to compete on the international stage.”
Nicole's Eurovision winner was, obviously, a Little Peace. Which turns out to have meant a little piece of Poland.

I wish I was on Ken Bruce (With rotation on Jo Whiley)

Sandi Thom's heart-string-tugging video complaining that she wasn't on Radio 2 got a bit overshadowed by events last weekend.

To be fair, 'Sandi Thom posts self-pitying video to Facebook' is the sort of story which would have been overshadowed by reports of a fifteen-minute delay to services on the Cambridge guided busway, so it's not surprising her pleas for fairness didn't get full attention as stories started to come in from Paris.

Thom has, in case you missed it, pulled a Status Quo, assuming she had some sort of divine right to be on Radio 2's playlist with her new single. Her birthright denied her, she has elected to stop making music (or, in other words, bring her life into line with the position we'd assumed she'd reached several years back):

“I am done with this industry. I am fucking sick and tired of having to sit on the edge of my seat waiting for these people to come back and tell me their verdict of whether this song is going to be a success,” she said in the video, which was later taken down from the social network.

"Honest to God I'm fucking sick to death of the bullshit this industry pulls on people like me and I've had it. Enough. I'm done.

"Fuck you Radio 2. Fuck you Bauer network and fuck the lot of you."
The suggestion that maybe she might try to make a better single next time seems to have passed her by.

Are Radio 2 being unfair? Not really; Thom hasn't released a single since 2013; she hasn't scraped the top 40 singles since 2006; and nobody's bothered to update the list of her albums on Wikipedia since 2012. It's not really Radio 2 saying that the new record won't be a success; it's the form book.

What's especially toothsome about this whole thing is that Thom was launched - well, relaunched - as a vanguard of How The Internet Changes Things, with those live stream sessions in her basement online years back. I say "her basement" - notably, the basement was constructed on the same backlot they used to fake the moon landings. But to go from sitting on MySpace disrupting the music industry to swearing on Facebook because the music industry has disrupted you back is the circle of life.

As you'd expect, Thom has received a backlash, some of which has been bullying and unfair, some of it fair comment. Thom seems vaguely surprised there was any response at all. She told The National:
“A lot of the people commenting were men and a lot of them, which is sad to me, were Scottish.
I'm not sure Thom really would prefer it if people who didn't like her came exclusively from Wales.
“It has been mad. I had to tell myself not to take a lot of it personally. I have been here before and I didn’t do anything to deserve it – it just feels like ‘round two, ding ding’. It’s tough for my family – my mum has really struggled with reading some of the things about me.
That must be hard, and - this being the internet - a lot of people went too far, too harshly, and too quickly. But...
Thom, who plays in London tonight, added: “I’m pretty outspoken, I don’t tend to teeter round the edges and smile in all the right places. It’s easier to say nothing than it is to speak out.
You can't, surely, put a video out telling the BBC, the commercial networks and "the lot of you" to get fucked, and praise yourself for being blunt speaking and unafraid to take a stand, while also complaining that people take a stand back at you, can you?
“I was called a brat – I’ve worked my arse off for years and these people don’t appreciate that. They don’t know about my life and how hard I’ve worked.
But this is, sadly, irrelevant. The guy who plays the drums night after night after night on a cabaret cruise liner is also working really hard in music, but that doesn't mean that Chris Evans should have him on the programme to drum. And if you're putting so much effort in, and not getting anywhere... well, it's harsh, but maybe you're wasting that effort?
“I don’t know how many people have messaged me privately and said they agree, but they won’t say it publicly. Everybody shoots the messenger.”
This is a lovely - the implication that there might be thousand upon thousand of secret Thom supporters, quivering in seclusion; uncountable even to Thom such are their numbers.

It might have been better if she'd not accidentally implied that she'd shot the people who had contacted her via Messenger, but let's set that aside and just breathe in that claim:

Everybody shoots the messenger.

This is often true; but it's a phrase usually used when a person has attempted to reveal something unpleasant but important. Thom seems to think that "waaah waaah Radio 2 won't play my song" is a communication on a par with the dangers of thalidomide, or the risk of global warming, or bullying in the Tory Party, or sexual misconduct in the Liberal Democrats.

She seems to be saying that the people who responded to her video by comparing her to Les from Creme Brulee are punishing her because the truth that Jeremy Vine won't be cueing her up to lead into a discussion of the Autumn Spending Review is a truth too harsh for us to look at directly.

Maybe time will prove her right.

(It won't.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Folding magazines: Three titles shutter

None music magazines, although all had connections (greater or lesser) with music - Details, FHM and Zoo have all run out of time today.

Bauer is officially only suspending FHM and Zoo, although it's pretty clear that they're not coming back in any meaningful form. FHM long ago lost its ability to write about music in an interesting way; Zoo never had it.

Meanwhile, in the US, Conde Nast has decided that maintaining Details and GQ is one aftershave-and-cufflink title too many, so it won't sweat the Details any longer. Around the turn of the century, Details would do a regular music issue, and ran a series of sampler CDs, but recently it's been focusing more firmly on the 'men who have an ironing board' market.

He probably did think the song was about him, and correctly so

Carly Simon has surprised nobody by confirming that, in part, You're So Vain is about Warren Beatty:

The singer, 70, tells PEOPLE that the second verse of her famous song refers to none other than Warren Beatty.

"I have confirmed that the second verse is Warren," she tells PEOPLE in an interview pegged to her much-anticipated memoir, Boys in the Trees, to be released later this month.
Nobody surprised, perhaps, apart from the poor sap who paid a fortune in an auction to be told the secret of the song. He might want a refund now.

Monday, November 16, 2015

This isn't a post about the Bataclan

This isn't a post about the Bataclan.

This isn't a post about the Bataclan, because there shouldn't need to be one.

This isn't a post about the Bataclan, because what do you say?

This isn't a post about the Bataclan, because anything you could say is redundant.

This isn't a post about the Bataclan, because why would you need to write a blogpost to say that shooting people in a venue is cruel and evil.

This isn't a post about the Bataclan, because we're humans, and it should be taken as read that our hearts weight heavy, our senses appalled, that we embrace all who lost dear friends and sweet relatives that night.

This isn't a post about the Bataclan, because there is nothing we can say to take away the pain,, to unwind what happened.

This isn't a post about the Bataclan, because they wanted us to focus on what they did; how easily, how lazily they attacked the softest of targets.

This isn't a post about the Bataclan, because they want it to be.

This isn't a post about the Bataclan, because it's a post about the future, about saying 'fuck you' to people who want to steal away our experiences.

This isn't a post about the Bataclan, because it's an affirmation of life, of love, of enjoyment, of going to places in the dark to watch bands, of helping the people next to you when the audience surge lifts them off their feet or when a too-drunk man tries to get through to the front; of being giddy with the joy of getting lost in the moment, in the crowd, in the music, in the dark.

This isn't a post about the Bataclan. This is a post about love.