It is almost that time of year again when magazines, newspapers, DJs and other music industry figures produce their own lists of the ‘Ones-to-Watch’ for the new year. Most people in the music business love to feel like they have tipped an artist for greatness long before anybody else knew about them. Though (sadly) not in the music industry, I am no different. I still like to tell anyone who will care to listen that I once saw Florence and the Machine in a tent with about 30 other people and now she’s dressing like the Virgin Mary and performing to thousands (maybe millions, if you count those sitting on their sofas at home?) on the X Factor. These Next Big Thing lists are usually fairly boring and often pretty predictable, with certain artists seeming to crop up in all of them. In fact, I find it more interesting to look back at previous years’ lists and assess how many of the tipped acts have actually gone on to real success.
Every year the BBC compiles a list of 15 acts to watch out for which is then cut to five artists and, finally, one act is chosen to receive the title of ‘Sound of 2011’ (or whichever year it may be). Last year the BBC had rather mixed fortune telling success: their number 1 tip was Jessie J, whom no one can deny has had a very successful year; others who have reason to be pleased with themselves are James Blake, The Vaccines, Anna Calvi, Wretch 32 and Warpaint. However, there are some, such as Daley, Esben and the Witch and Nero whom I have barely heard of. Furthermore, Claire Maguire was an artist who, this time last year, was on everyone’s lips but where is she now? Curiously, in a year when female solo artists are all the rage, Maguire has totally failed to drum up any sort of attention, despite major label backing. Looking back further to the BBC’s 2010 list a similar pattern is apparent: a number of clear successes in Two Door Cinema Club, Ellie Goulding, Everything Everything and Delphic but also a group of complete nobodies in Daisy Dares You, Devlin, Rox and Owl City. Perhaps Daley, a Manchester born singer-songwriter, apparently, will have a phenomenally successful 2012 but it was a mistake to describe him as the Sound of 2011.
Therefore, it will be interesting to see which artists gain the thumbs-up from industry big-wigs in the coming weeks. I would like to put out my selection early doors: They are a band called Spector whom I saw a few weeks ago at the Shipping Forecast in Liverpool and who gave a lively and refreshing performance on Later Live with Jools Holland last night. I was a big fan of vocalist Fred Macpherson’s previous two outfits, Les Incompetents and Ox.Eagle.Lion.Man and, therefore, was extremely excited to hear about his new project. I am not sure how much their name owes to Phil Spector, the revered and now incarcerated record producer/murderer, but, on the basis of the few tracks they have released so far, they have created a sound which I am sure would turn the head of their namesake (if they can get their songs played on Corcoran Prison FM they will have done very well). Their style is, for my mind, definitely pop and they could go on to achieve a degree of mainstream radio success. It largely depends on whether that is what they want because, equally, I could see them maintaining a loyal fan base and receiving critical acclaim without ever selling many records. I really hope they do well in the next 12 months if only because Macpherson deserves it; I recently saw an interview in which he declared that he would never stop making music because it is what he loves doing. This kind of persistence and determination deserves to be rewarded, particularly in a world where someone like Lana Del Rey can become famous over night.
So, let’s hope that in 12 months time Spector will be ubiquitous and not sitting in a trash can with Daisy Dares You nostalgically discussing what might have been. Then, at least, I can turn around to everyone and say ‘I told you so’.