(Here’s a wee article I wrote for studenty.me. It’s a nice site, full of funny and interesting things to read. Check it out.)
Earlier this month, The Guardian published an article about “The New Boring” in pop music, mentioning acts like Ed Sheeran, Birdy and Mumford & Sons, artists who are happy to stand back and let the music do the talking. The article cites Adele’s now famous performance at the Brit Awards this year, where she sang “Someone Like You” stripped back to the bare essentials of vocals and piano, as the moment where the floodgates opened to let in a wave of “beige music”.
I’ll admit it freely – as much as I love “real” music (ugh), there’s nothing better than a great pop song. And I don’t mean LMFAO or Pitbull or whatever is the newest craze on the dancefloor. I mean basically anything Beyonce releases, Katy Perry’s “E.T.”, even Ke$ha – yes! Ke$ha! Say what you want, but “Tik Tok” is one catchy song, and it sounds just as good today as it did on it’s release two years ago.You have to give these people kudos. They’re producing the music that we want to sing along and dance to, and they’re doing a damn fine job of it.
But this new invasion of “beige” musicians want to make us feel bad about liking catchy pop music. Ed Sheeran keeps up a constant bleat of “I’m real” and “I write my own music”. That’s great and all, but listening to said music makes me want to punch wee Ed repeatedly in his smug “real” face. “The A Team” contains a lyric that pronounces a drug addicts face as “crumbling like pastries”. Hmm. He even raps in “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You”- an infuriatingly dumb “up yours” to his haterzzz. No Ed, I definitely do not need you.
Probably the worst part of all this is beige musicians taking my favourite pop tunes and turning them into beige songs. Take Boyce Avenue. Here he is, performing an acoustic cover of “Only Girl (In The World)”. Isn’t that the saddest, most depressing thing you’ve ever heard? He takes a feisty song about sex and turns it into this horrifying, sycophantic ode to a steady girlfriend. The line “want you to take it/like a thief in the night” becomes “And when you’re lonely/I’ll keep you company.” He’s probably a very talented musician but lord, you couldn’t make anything more boring if you tried. Beige, beige, beige.
True, music is becoming an increasingly visual art form. There’s a high pressure on musicians to maintain a zany public image, with costumes, alter egos and extravagant production becoming just as (if not more) important than the songs themselves. Sheeran and co. may feel as if their music is a fitting response to this, but to be honest I’d take a million Lady GaGa’s in meat dresses singing a million awful songs over one guy with a guitar singing one mediocre song. If you’re going to get away from the big productions and let your music do the talking, at least make sure it’s up to scratch.