They say the millennium bug didn’t happen. True, no aeroplanes fell from the sky nor did microwaves grow fangs and rampage through suburbia, but something sure happened. As the century changed, a New Year tradition was wiped from the family RAM and replaced with rows of indecipherable data: The List.
Mere resolutions couldn’t fill the chasm created from returning to work, unable to gorge on port and stilton at 3pm.The List had created a gap only expert countdowns could fill. An analogue Mr Motivator pogo-sticking up the BT Tower to meet the Special K woman wearing a nicotine patch couldn’t compete with The List’s digital ambitions.
It started with TV. Paul Morley and commercial Radio DJs would talkabout how cool Megatron was before scowling at a minor celebrity’s thong, cynically destroying people’s memories. But The List had greater ideas for music, it would tell us the future, it created Ones To Watch countdowns.
These industry insights troll every music media outlet, itching to be top tastemaker and outdo rivals, where heralding an unknown musician first is the blogging equivalent of schoolyard ‘my dad is harder than your dad’ bragging.
In digital age where the old NME adage of build ‘em up to knock ‘em down, binges on super strength CSS and bands are ”too print” before their demo gets a Korallrevenremix, blogs needed to releasetheirs pre-Christmas with a sound bite and a link. Nicely formatted, immediate and Tweetable.
The BBC couldn’t be quite as snappy. First releasing a long list, before tiresomely dragging out the top five day by day when we all knew Kiwanuka would be top. He’d already been playlisted and on Later. The NME didn’t even try, simply throwing 100 bands in the air shouting scramble.
Deciphering The List isn’t difficult. PR’s dictate the names and despotic hacks like me place them in an order on a casual whim. So democratised in a musical Arab Spring, here’s the generic breakdown to create your own List.
The Female Star: This is probably the trickiest category. Do you go for credibility, saleability orquirkiness? This easy one is Lana Del Rey, but she’s too obvious. Much better to go for Ren Harvieu’s sultry jazz groove, but she’s could be too, well, Radio 2, so there’s FOE the goth-litegrunger who’s just teetering on the right side of Avril Lavigne. The NME touring Azalia Banks and the Brits ordained Emeli Sande prove if you pick a name out of the air people will listen.
The Male Star: Undeniably the dullest category. The days of a new Prince appearing disappeared withFrancis Rossi’s ponytail, and the best male soloists made their name with bands first-Gruff Rhys. This year’s Jack Johnson is Michael Kiwanuka with his inoffensive coffee table beach appeal. Branded with a voice beyond his years is Jamie N Commons and his epic by numbers pithy doom folk while to remind us the Brit School doesn’t just turn out Jessie J’s there’s King Krule whose polished street screamagermumblings are destined for T4 on the beach.
In fairness The Male Star’s talent pool isdiluted by The Electro/Dance Star, which outrageously remains a male domain. US dubstep monstrosity Skrillex is great for children with ADD and Fearne Cotton but for people with taste UK electro prevails: D/R/U/G/S produces shatteringly smooth rave while Patten’s scary gloom dance terrorises basements clubs. But isn’t dance meant to be fun? In that case pick Canada’s Doldrums’s quelchy sample friendly groove.
The Scene Band: Each year needs a sound, and 2012’s is ethereal lo-fi nu-gaze. The History of Apple Pie give MBV a lo-fi twist while Lilies on Mars and Fear of Men provide the art-house edge. If you want to be really scene then London’s Fever Dream take Ride and smash them into The Fall.
Guitar Saviours:2011 wasn’t good for guitars, Airship failed and Yuck got boring, but 2012 gives us Tribes, a novelty rumpus between Towers of London and the Manics, and Zulu Winter , the new Snow Patrol. Genuinely good bands are slacker grungers Fanzine, and the new Strokes with dashes of Jonathan Richman-Howler, but do we really want more boys posturing in leather Jackets and caps?
The Hipsters: The Blogs’ favourite. NYC’s Friends are the uber-sexy electro bass poppers who appear on Letterman one night and a squat’s mattress the next, and Canadians Grimes who creates ghostly Lynchian electro and TheWkend who releases mixtapes for free! Very Hip! 2012 though belongs to Swedish electro with Nicki and the Dove- Kylie Minogue fronting The Knife, and the thundering sacherine of Icona Pop.
So there you are, simply pick one from each category plus three from the rest, then add you mates band as a wild card and you’ve conquered The List. Now start a blog.