Why Manchester is the new creative epicentre of neo-soul and hip-hop
January is always a good time to look ahead in the music world – at new releases, or at new artists – but as the month has been drawing on, we've been thinking less about what music we want to get in 2015, but what we want to get out of it.
Here, four Dummy writers each pick one issue that they feel needs addressing throughout 2015 (and beyond).
More outspoken artists
Even for the privileged few blind to liberal racism and misogyny, 2014 was the year alternative music totally lost sight of where the bad guys hide. Nourishing as it was to hear clued-in voices pounding the message – Killer Mike and D’Angelo on Ferguson, general awesomeness from Nicki, J. Cole, Grimes, Meredith Graves (and Macklemore?!) – it felt a bit like the kind of artists music journalists like took an unprecedented kicking. Ariel Pink, Sun Kill Moon, and that dude from DIIV all shat themselves at the dinner table, but when their social media apologists united against ‘outrage culture’, an even deeper problem crystallised. It wasn’t the vocal MRAs so much as the Men’s Rights Pacifists, the coolly dismissive, arms-folded enablers of casual white-boy bigotry.
Part of growing up righteously into music is assuming our idols and fellow fans are all on side; in the same clubs, on the same drugs, fighting the same system. But it’s dangerous to assume common ground like that. When people equate apolitical music with a belief system – even if the belief is just “don’t be an arsehole” – its artists can safely step off the political soapbox. We’ve caught Bono syndrome: to nerdy heads and slacker band dudes, public statements feel embarrassingly self-righteous and cliché. Why risk public ridicule when everyone assumes you’re legit anyway?
For us in the UK, 2015 is a huge election year. It’ll spotlight Europe’s wave of Islamophobia and fascism led by Nigel Farage, Geert Wilders, Marine Le Pen and, more powerful, Hungarian president János Áder. But back home, UKIP, the Greens and the SNP also pose a rare challenge to two-party tyranny, representing the mayhem of the information age. And the atomisation of power-driven narratives is also an opportunity. In 2015 I’d like to see musicians take a chance to reflect, make new ideas and a new language, but also to note that until pockets of alternative culture form a loud and righteous alliance against the roaring madness of the times, our silence just sounds like their voice. Jazz Monroe
More colour in music
Throughout 2014, the eternal debate about seriousness and authenticity raged on. Greyscale, mysterious press shots were accompanied by equally monochrome production. When PC Music bounded into view as a technicolour collective, the conversation shifted straight into "authenticity". The divide revealed, quickly, that there was an underlying element of not being able to enjoy the music at face value: there had to be a deeper, more sinister motive behind '00s bubblegum influenced pop artists.
Out of all the nights that I went to last year, there are two moments that replay in my head. Watching GFOTY bounce about the stage shoting "Why won't you text me back?!" while wielding a bottle of WKD blue at the Ace Hotel, and seeing Kero Kero Bonito dressed in animal masks pulling various props out throughout their set. The element of silliness and humour in both cases was endearing, and the fact that such an uproar could be caused due to playful pop music suggests that we need a lot more of that kind of fun in music in 2015. Aurora Mitchell
I get sent a lot of new music every day, yet I'm finding that the artists are all saying the same things. Fewer and fewer artists seem interested in looking at the bigger picture, in exploring experiences that go beyond the same tired expressions of longing or heartbreak.
There are exceptions, obviously. I love how Jam City has been completely unambiguous in the political intentions of his new album: from protein supplements to streaming pornography to endless conflicts in the Middle East, 'Dream A Garden' is informed by and about the modern world. I love how Real Lies talk about working class life in North London suburbs in North Circular. I love how UNIIQU3 used the intro of her Just Jam mix as a springboard to discuss the events of Ferguson, Eric Garner, etc. I love how Planningtorock will name a song Misogyny Drop Dead, or write a disco track about polygamy.
This isn't a call for more upper case 'P' Political music, because music can still be political without shouting about it all the time. It's more a hope that in 2015, musicians can look beyond lyrics like My love don't love me no more, beyond meaningless one-word track titles like Home or Layer or Time, beyond cloaking their intentions in abstractions or anonymity, and try to evoke something bigger than themselves. Selim Bulut
Few things can be as crippling and frustrating as being misunderstood. I’d love to see more transparency in music – through artists, the discourses surrounding them and our attempts to understand and connect with their work.
Letting a piece of music speak for itself might be well-intentioned, however it leaves the music open to (death by) a thousand interpretations. Artists have something to say, and their message might be invaluable; the consequences of losing that could be unfathomable. Certainly in today’s environment where information streams by us faster than we can even recognise it, it’s imperative we make what we say count.
As with many things in this post-'Yeezus' world, we can turn to Kanye. One reason why that album was so impactful, illuminating and influential for creative and critical circles was his campaign around the record itself. He looked us in the eye from building walls and television shows; he didn’t talk in riddles during lengthy interviews and wasn’t afraid to tell us what was up – even if that meant losing those that might not immediately understand.
There are times mystery and ambiguity can be part of the project but often it is unnecessary, and there’s always room for self-awareness. TCF is an artist who's open about the nature of encryption in his work. Goat readily admit evading appropriation accusations in their work by coming up with an outlandish origin story. Don’t let the risk of being misunderstood overpower efforts to be understood. Be patient; the canonisation of 'Yeezus' proves that things take time.
Let’s be more open to engaging with each other. After all, striking down the author only made them more powerful than anyone could possibly imagine. Tayyab Amin