Just How Good Has 2016 Been For British Music So Far?
Let's look back on the past six months of British music...
Since everything UK-related has been pretty terrible these past few weeks, MTV has decided to try and take your mind off it all. We’ve cast our minds back over the past six months of music, looking at festival line-ups, the critics, sales, and the best albums out there to see just how good 2016 has been for British music so far.
First up: the GOOD NEWS. British artists are making some of the most vibrant, electrifying and important albums in the world. From Skepta’s incredible Konnichiwa, to Savages’ thrashing Adore Life and Blood Orange’s intensely personal, brilliantly creative mix of funk, R&B and more on Freetown Sound, we’ve been blessed. Plus there’s been Disclosure’s banging Moog For Love EP (with its great, great Al Green samples), James Blake’s beautiful The Colour in Anything and then, of course, there was a certain David Bowie, may he rest in peace, with Blackstar. And there’s a whole lot more where that came from. We are sick.
Now let’s talk festival line-ups. How brave have festival organisers been this year? Not very. Young British artists aren’t being given the leg up that they deserve.
Take a look at Glastonbury. It’s the world’s most famous festival and DEFINITELY one of the best weekends of your life, but its choice in headliners this year was disappointingly conservative. We realise that festivals aren’t all about the headliners, but it’s still important and almost across the board of major UK festivals this year, the line-ups are too safe. We understand that there’s a commercial aspect to choosing headliners – festivals must sell tickets to survive – but we sincerely hope that the top lines of next year’s line-ups will look considerably different to what we’ve been given in 2016.
But there are some exceptions. For example, Wireless has been brave by putting Boy Better Know at the top of their bill. BBK are at the heart of the most important British musical moment for years, and it’s a truly positive gesture from Wireless to place faith in the Grime collective. Credit goes to Latitude for raising The Maccabees up to headliner status, too.
On Metacritic’s ‘The Best Albums of 2016 So Far’ list, five of the entries are from British artists, including Radiohead and Skepta. For that special five, their average score is 84.6. So, to a degree, critics are pretty happy, although it was disappointing to only see five out of the Top 25 were from British artists.
Next up: sales. Analysis from Music Week found that “not a single home-grown debut album released in 2016 has gone platinum, gold or even silver in the first half of the year”.
Clearly, British debuts haven’t been selling as well in 2016 as it had at the same point in 2015. At MTV, we were particularly surprised to see that Zayn’s debut Mind Of Mine, as the top seller this year, has only sold over 52,658 copies at the time of writing. This doesn’t mean that we should all panic – people consume music in a variety of ways now – but it is a little concerning. The next half of the year does look promising though. We can’t WAIT for Stormzy’s debut.
But it’s not all doom and gloom on the sales front. Music Week also reported that seven out of the 2016's top ten selling albums were made by British artists, according to The Official Charts Company. We can't write this article without mentioning Adele’s HUGE 25, which has sold well over 17 and a half million copies. Adele sold so many albums that music industry body IFPI said Adele had helped reverse "two decades of almost uninterrupted decline". Not bad.
To conclude then. A shed load of British artists are making incredible albums, which is keeping critics pretty happy, but younger British artists aren’t receiving the real backing they need from festival organisers. Furthermore, album sales are leaving something to be desired.
However, above all of this, we can look back at the first half of 2016 and be thankful. We’ve been blessed with some incredible music.