Wednesday, 9 June 2010

BBC Sound of 2010 & Ellie Goulding - Not A Poisoned Chalice ?

Last year here we queried if coming top of the annual UK music industry ‘tastemakers’ poll - The BBC Sound Of List was a poisoned chalice due to the commercial expectations that are placed on the artist by the media and the more knowledgeable music loving public.

Despite a significant number of acts on the BBC Sound of 2009 list, including Lady Gaga, Florence and the Machine and Mumford & Sons going onto to be commercial big hitters, Little Boots didn’t quite set the world alight as her positioning at number 1 suggested. The reasons suggested for the comparative ‘failure’ include the wrong choice of songs being chosen for the singles from the album, the record label marketing Little Boots to the wrong audience, 2009 being a year where big star personas were lapped up by the public (Florence, Lady Gaga) and Little Boots not having the huge personality to match, a failure by her record company to capitalise on the huge exposure the nomination gave her, and her songs and sound not standing up to scrutiny after the initial buzz that was created by tracks such as Stuck On Repeat. Here at Breaking More Waves we still very much like Little Boots and hope that following her debut album release she doesn’t fade into obscurity, but the world of pop is a hard kicking, fast moving place, so she is really going to have to come up with the goods for any future release.

At the end of last year we were asked by the BBC to cast a vote on the BBC Sound of 2010 list, and two of the three artists we voted for (Elle Goulding, Stornoway) made the long list of fifteen. (Our other choice - Unicorn Kid didn‘t make it, although he has subsequently started to make a few waves with his track Dream Catcher). Ellie Goulding eventually came top of the pile and we wondered with concern if the Little Boots poisoned chalice would be passed on to her. With a debut top five single, a number one album that thirteen weeks later was still in the top 15 and a sold out UK tour, it seems not.

Listening to Goulding being interviewed after the announcement of the list results (and Marina and The Diamonds who came second on the list) it was apparent that both artists, whilst a little apprehensive about what lay ahead, were ready for the exposure that the Sound of 2010 would give them. Their record companies had their marketing plans, release dates and strategies in place (something Little Boots label didn’t seem to have) and the Sound of 2010 nominations were just part of that plan - it almost seemed as if there was an expectation that they would be on the list.

Of course irrespective of such plans and being nominated on the list, ultimately it is the public who decide if an artist achieves commercial success, and with Ellie Goulding the public vindicated her selection. There may have been a degree of rather predictable and inevitable negativity towards her from some critics and bloggers as she moved from an underground pop act to a mainstream one, but once Goulding was fully pushed out to the public, the haters had little power or influence.

Certainly the BBC Sound of 2010 nomination for Ellie Goulding hasn’t been a poisoned chalice. With a good album, an ever improving live performance and a record company who were ready to use the nomination as part of their strategy to get her music heard, the nomination has been used successfully and now nobody is even talking about the nomination and its effect on Goulding, as they were with Little Boots last year (except this blog). She has stepped up beyond the initial exposure and despite the weight it carried, she has bore it well. The BBC Sound Of - a poisoned chalice ? No, not at all, just a great tool to give new artists that don’t fit into the X-Factor model of exposure a chance of being heard and then possibly some commercial success.

Just don’t mention Hurts - Better Than Love, their debut single proper could only manage number 50 in the UK singles chart - evidence that pop is a funny and complicated lottery. Roll on the BBC Sound of 2011 !

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