I recently read an article criticising the BRIT awards for being dominated by ‘pop’ artists such as Take That, Cheryl Cole and The Wanted. The article placed these artists in direct contrast to ‘genuine musicians’ like The XX or Arcade Fire. Now, don’t get me wrong, both these two apparently ‘genuine’ artists are great – they produced two of my favourite albums of the last year – but to presume that they are in some way innately more ‘genuine’ and by association ‘better’ than pop artists is ridiculous.
What a makes a ‘proper musician’? The notion defeats itself by way of the fact that the definition can only be completed with the involvement of personal bias. There is no fact to the horribly general label, only the user’s opinion of what they personally think is ‘proper’ and ‘genuine’. Whereas, if we look at the facts, every single one of the artists nominated for a BRIT award is by fact a musician. They have released albums of music which have gone out into the shops and we have brought. Indeed, it could be argued that many of these ‘pop’ artists - who tend on the whole to sell the most records every year – are in fact the better ones. The public opinion is clearly shown by the opening of their wallets. People will buy an album if they like an artist’s music and think it is good, so by association, the artist who sells the most records could indeed be seen as the best.
Of course, things aren’t that simple – but it highlights the key point that a portion of musicians simply cannot be written off simply because of personal bias. The article in question continues in its war on pop artists, saying that the future of British music will only be secure if music becomes seen as an art form and not just a commercial asset. There are many things wrong here – firstly, all music by its very nature is an art form. Music is a creative act, just in the same way as writing and painting are. That art may manifest itself in a myriad of different genres, and not all of them may be to your taste, but they are all undoubtedly ‘art’. Think of what music is made up of; melodies, lyrics, production and so on – all have been crafted by people; artists.
Secondly, is there anything that wrong with music being a commercial asset? If music didn’t sell, then no-one would hear it at all, thus, the whole point of it would be defeated. Also, without the mega-sales of those select popular artists, the labels would potentially have no money to invest in breaking new or experimental acts. By zooming out and seeing the greater scheme of things, Britain’s musical landscape is in fact a far more harmonious place.
Lastly, the article takes issue with the BRITs not featuring enough up-and-coming acts. Well, for starters, there is in fact both ‘breakthrough’ categories and a critics’ choice award; giving ample coverage to new artists (and if you look at previous winners, they have since gone on to be massive successes). And let’s think about things; if all the BRITs were was just a platform to appraise new artists, then would anyone even pay attention? No, far better is a greater construct supported by established, well known artists that catch people’s attention – and then when they attention is caught, the subtle introduction of a select few new artists; the real cream of the crop. And at the end of the day, this leaves us with the most important thing, what people actually like.