Rag'N'Bone Man fits the Brits' music-crushing formula
After a sleepless night for no-one anywhere, the Brits have announced their Critics Choice Award winner for 2017. And it’s… drumroll… Rag’N’Bone Man, a major label electro-lite soul singer with a big beard! Just like last year, only that guy had a smaller beard. And the year before, but less electro, no beard and a hat. And the year before that, but with no hat and a lisp. And the year before that, but with no lisp.
For an award supposedly chosen by the votes of a wide array of critics and music industry tastemakers, it’s about as imaginative as Dave announcing, with great fanfare, a brand new 2017 season of QI repeats. Either a) the Brits Critics Choice votes are heavily weighted towards critics from White Major Label Soul Singer With A Gimmick Magazine or b) those same critics that come together every year to present Albums Of The Year lists celebrating dazzling variety and innovation get to the Brits vote and decide what we need is another well-funded, slightly electro, unchallenging bloke clogging up the charts. And then, bizarrely, none of them vote for the winner’s album in the following end-of-year lists. How’s Jack Garrett doing in your favourite mag/website’s 2016 round-up lists? Exactly.
No discredit to Rag’N’Bone Man – NME even interviewed him recently – but surely it’s time to call bullshit on this charade? Yes, it’s conceivable that critics, whoever they are, are being asked to vote for who they think is the most likely act to break through, take one look at Rag’N’Bone Man’s X Factor exposure – Emily Middlemas’ cover of ‘Human’ went Top 40 – and consider him a shoo-in. Sure, one year after the award went to Garrett, who is basically a two-thirds scale model of Rag’N’Bone Man, it’s a sign that the industry is at least trying to subvert the standard popstar aesthetic. But what an opportunity is being squandered here. With so few platforms providing a major push for new acts, the Critics Choice award is basically our only chance to promote the most innovative and ground-breaking acts upholding the UK’s proud tradition of dragging music forward by the snout – of which there are currently dozens in the grime, electronic and underground rock scenes – to an audience of millions who actually go and buy that one record every year. And what do we offer them? More water-treading ‘neo’-trad mainstream stuff that makes the UK look as full of fresh, game-changing new ideas as the producers of The Fast And The Furious 87.
Of course it might well all be an industry fix, and the record-buying public is falling annually for the major label equivalent of the Brexit bus. But the relative flop of Jack Garrett – only going silver compared to every other winner’s platinum debut albums and advancing British music not an inch – should surely make the Brits paymasters realise it might do better by throwing its weight behind a dynamic UK music scene, not flogging an increasingly decomposed horse.