This week the BBC finally released its long list of candidates for the BBC Sound of 2015. The longlist contains 15 candidates of varying genres and age but contains a few candidates which some may think should be left off.
Last year’s winner was Sam Smith and it is certainly true that the publicity hasn’t done him a disservice. He’s just been nominated for three Grammy awards after becoming a huge success stateside. Yet the question should be not whether it harms the acts involved but whether it actually helps them at all. The list tries to promote up-and-coming artists in the music industry who are picked for their individuality as well as talent; this can be said for some of the candidates but do the acts that win actually gain anything from it. Or is it simply cherry picking the newcomers likely to go far and giving them a small boost?
Many of this year’s candidates such as George the Poet, a young poet who performs beautifully written poetry accompanied by music, certainly have their own unique style but does opening it up to a democratic vote really enable innovation within the music industry? The winner is voted for by ‘pundits'; music fans chosen by the BBC, music critics from the Guardian and other music related professions.
Previous winners of the list include Haim, Adele, Ellie Goulding and Jessie J who have been very successful but some previous winners have disappeared as quickly as they were thrust into the limelight. Ever heard of Little Boots? Or Michael Kiwanuka? Little Boots was the winner in 2009 and Michael Kiwanuka was the winner in 2012. You could hardly say that winning did either of them many favours.
So does it really promote acts who deserve the award or those who are easy to sell? While some acts on this year’s list are interesting, many echo qualities of established artists who are already famous. One of the acts on this year’s list is dubbed a ‘folksier Ed Sheeran’ and although Ed’s popularity is perhaps a favourable reference, any such comparison can be considered as much a dismissal as an endorsement depending on who you ask.
Some of those who make the list and don’t win can still achieve success like George Ezra or Ella Eyre but many are cast aside. The music industry is vicious and many don’t make the cut. Yet it seems wrong to make the acts feel special and included just to be knocked down, even if considerably more humane than The X Factor.
BBC Sound does bring some well-deserved attention to many creative and innovative artists but surely it would be better to present the list as a whole instead of choosing one out of 15 to represent The Sound of whatever year it is. It would be much more representative to have The Sounds of in order to commend true diversity within British music.