Battlelines were drawn this week when Jake Bugg greeted his No.1 album chart success with the immortal cry, “I’m keeping that X Factor shit off the top spot.” The pop braves rolled their eyes as yet another rock tyro had a swipe at – yawn – ‘manufactured pap’, while the, well, rock tyros hailed a new Loudmouth Liam championing their cause. There will be blood. Or skinny eyes and sneers at the very least.
It’s not the first time Bugg’s come out fists flailing at the reality show mob. Back in May he told the Guardian, “At school people would say I should go on Britain’s Got Talent, but I would never have done that because it doesn’t seem genuine, it doesn’t feel natural.” He’s big on authenticity. Only last month he was banging on to The Sun about how he doesn’t dig the charts “because it mostly sounds like crap, to be honest”. Well, that’s as good a reason as any not to tune in.
Quizzed this week by his local site This Is Nottingham, Bugg claimed he wouldn’t know his X Factor chart rival from Eve. (It’s Leona Lewis, by the way). “I know that she’s off X Factor,” he says, “and she probably doesn’t write any of her songs.” There’s that disdain of anything not ‘real’ again, although Leona has a co-write on half the songs on the album ACTUALLY.
But has he got a point? Are Bugg and his guitar-toting peers actually keeping “that X Factor shit” off No.1? Apart from the immediate effect – consigning Lewis’s new album ‘Glassheart’ to a lowly No.3 – there are signs Bugg and his indie/rock brethren have got a tightening stranglehold on the charts. Why? How? What can it all mean? Let’s struggle to answer all that.
Bugg is the sixth rock/indie/alt. act in a row to take the UK No.1 album spot, following The Vaccines, The xx, The Killers, Mumford & Sons and Muse (and the Mumfords again). Two’s company, three’s a crowd, six is a seismic shift in the cultural landscape. It says here.
Anyway, it’s an eye-catching development in a year that’s seen the albums peak dominated by Adele, Emeli Sandé, Ed Sheeran, Adele again and a bit more Emeli Sandé. There hasn’t been a seam of indie triumphs like this since… since… hang on – since Gnarls Barkley vanquished another X Factor winner, Shayne Ward, in May 2006 and set off a run comprising Snow Patrol, Red Hot Chili Peppers, er, Orson, erm, Sandi Thom, Keane, Lostprophets, Muse and Razorlight. Stretching a point, but you get the idea.
It’s likely Taylor Swift’s going to strike a blow for the pop team this weekend, taking down an indie record much cooler than hers, but she’s an entirely self-started pop star anyway. So has change already happened? Do Bugg and crew represent a new rock hegemony that’s fatally wounded the X Factor giant and given succour to a mainstream public itching to get some guitars and/or banjos back in their lives? Maybe.
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At least until the Little Mix album comes out.