Beta: Back to basics, it's all about the music
Pop music is having a reality check. Look around the music landscape right now and you won't see too many fascinating characters. This is a world where Bastille, Tinie Tempah, Lorde, Sam Smith, Macklemore and Bruno Mars rule the airwaves. Mainstream music in 2014 is about the music and being authentic, gracious and normal.
Of course, there are those who have chosen a different path from the pragmatic. Daft Punk created robot alter egos, but probably because they're mopey gits who didn't want to speak in public. Beyoncé's careful public persona is more tightly controlled than Kate Middleton's. Lady Gaga's career is in flux, but she remains intriguing, in thrall to her career success. Kanye shoots his mouth off about being the next Steve Jobs and it's brilliant. Miley Cyrus is known more for her physical behaviour than her thoughts. Overall though, it's a tame, humble bunch who reflect the audience rather than transcend them.
Rock music was once populated by rock'n'roll degenerates like Slash and Nikki Sixx who lived to excess. There used to be theatrics with bands like Kiss and Alice Cooper. Now we have The National, a great band whose greatest crime might be drinking too much wine on stage. Even Kings Of Leon who made up for being the most boring men on the planet by partying too hard and fighting with each other seem to have settled down. And don't look to Arcade Fire to fan any flames in interviews, they have a major label release to promote.
These days, a deviation from the norm amounts to James Blunt sarcastically retweeting haters. Perhaps that's because being a musician in the 21st century is a professional business. The job requires well-adjusted hard workers.
One Direction are kept on a constant schedule of touring and recording because the industry around them is designed to make as much money as possible while the fans are still interested.
Case in point, Justin Bieber. Before last weekend, the most interesting aspects about him were that he was caught peeing into a mop bucket and he looks like a lesbian. Beneath it all there's an average 19-year-old who hasn't found his true self yet. So many people are depending on him to make them money and who wants to stop a cash cow? There's just too much at stake.
NEW ARTIST OF THE WEEK
Not the name of a singer-songwriter but a four-piece band from London who may just be about to release one of the best UK albums of 2014.
The indie-pop band named after Dorothy from The Golden Girls (Beatrice Arthur), formed in 2010 and have been quietly releasing impressive singles rather than talking themselves up.
Central to their musical magnetism is the duality between both the male and female vocals. Orlando Leopard and Ella Girardot give the band's considered music an egalitarian approach, showing both sides of the gender coin.
Midland finds Ella leading a charge for sweet and satisfactory big vocals with heart. Orlando takes main vocal on Grand Union, a deceptive song with a chorus that delves deep into darkness. The dynamic between the two singers adds weight to the music which hovers between piano-pop crescendos, guitar-lead subtleties and nuance. The album, Working Out, is out on February 21st.
TRACKS OF THE WEEK
From the Blur man's solo album of the same name due in April, Everyday Robots looks at the relationship between human nature versus modern technology but wrapped up a contemplative Gorillaz-esque piano ballad that'll ease the pain of that poor 3G connection you're on.
The two brothers from a small tourist town in the East Midlands of the UK were unknown at the start of last year but critical support from the likes of Other Voices and NME expedited the release of their debut album, probably meaning that most people didn't get to hear it yet. Their new single is a pleasant ramshackle rock ballad that closes the album.
No not a Balkan version of Ke$ha, but a Canada via New York London-based singer whose new single sounds like a big pop track but carries some house music and electro-pop in its DNA.