Welcome to Day 15 of our pop culture advent calendar. Every day we’ve been handing out a little treat in the shape of a mini-blog on something or someone we’ve admired or thought worth noting in 2012. Today we’re going to take a new tack and make a prediction.
Pop music’s unpredictability has always been one of its most alluring qualities. Who could have predicted the way – in the seventies alone – that glam rock would give way to disco, or that punk would rout prog? Who could have known that scrappy, almost avant garde off shoot of late seventies black culture, rapping, would come to utterly dominate the charts in its various mutations in the late nineties? Who would ever have dared predict that the almost aggressively talent-free Cheryl Cole would actually have a music career?
But we will make one prediction. God knows we aren’t the first to make it – in fact we were beaten to the punch by those notable cutting edge pop visionaries the Daily Telegraph – and we have very little to back it up, but we think 2013 will be the year that this man, who we saw on the tube in July of this year, is vindicated:
So there you go – 2013 will be the year it’s proved that, despite appearances to the contrary, rock’n’roll is not dead.
At first, we felt a bit worried about that t-shirt and the underlined not. Isn’t that a little bit defensive, we thought? Isn’t it a bit “I did not have sexual relations with that woman?” Then there was the demeanour of the t shirt wearer himself. Despite his earphones presumably being plugged into purest, hardest rock’n’roll, he was half asleep, a little depressed. And then we thought, “when was the last really great rock’nroll album”? Really good, pedal to the metal, full throttle, adrenaline-racing rock’n’roll? Our minds went blank. Perhaps rock’n’roll was finally dying?
But the more this year has gone on and the more obnoxiously dull, joyless and lazy most chart music has seemed (we are not going to stop harping on about the Britney/ will.i.am atrocity until each has publicly apologised and all media agreed to never play the song again for at least a century) the more 2012 has reminded us of 1991 and 2003, those other years where processed chart pop seemed to be teetering anemically towards its death. In both cases, it was guitar bands that came to the rescue, in the various transatlantic forms of Nirvana, Suede, The Strokes, The White Stripes and Franz Ferdinand. We have a feeling 2013 may see a similar comeback for the guitar, or perhaps more accurately, a mass desertion from pop, if only to escape yet another fucking Rihanna album. We don’t base our prediction on the band-heavy BBC Sounds of 2013 poll, eerily accurate though they have often been, or on the palpable desire of many in the music industry to see a changing of the guard. If pop history has shown us anything it is that fans will not be led for long where they do not want to go: just look at the increasing resistance to the music industry’s marketing monolith, X Factor. Our prediction has simply come from listening to friends moan that music has never been so bad and remembering that this has traditionally meant something interesting is about to emerge from the world’s garages, rather than the bedrooms.
We won’t (or rather can’t) predict which bands will arrive to boot pop up the arse, or how long their moment will last before electronic pop does one of its wonderful mutations and seizes back the charts and our attention. But we can feel the guitars coming over the hills, a distant cavalry to shake things up a little.
Of course, we could be wrong about all of this. The truth might be something far more depressing: that not only is rock and roll dead, but pop is on its last legs, too. Pop music, the most vital and vivid art form of the last century, may be close to draining the last drop from its shallow pool of ideas, exhausting the last energy from the constraints of its format. But people have been predicting the death of pop since the moment it first began its new born mewling, and it has proven a resilient and highly adaptable little fucker: our Christmas wish is that it remains so.
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