Reef younis has one last look at 2011: the year the papers messed with music.

Illustration by Gareth Arrowsmith

Illustration by Gareth Arrowsmith


Google informs me that 2011 was the Chinese Year of the Rabbit, an animal symbolising “creativity, compassion and sensitivity”. It felt like a different beast rose to prominence last year, though, one sadly lacking all of the above qualities. 2011 was actually the year of the fuckwit; a special breed that’s blind, deaf and dumb to anything but their own mindless, antagonistic rhetoric and an impressively narcissistic obsession with generating as much controversy as possible.

Old news, you might say, particularly as the worst kind of gay-baiting and ethnic-bashing has always largely been restricted to the gutter press columns and the Daily Mail amoebas.

Only marginally less hate-fuelled and venomous than a Jan Moir article, though, 2011 was the year the broadsheet music press decided something went horribly wrong. A total bust of a year where Wild Beasts, Metronomy, M83, Beirut, Ghostpoet, Bon Iver, PJ Harvey, Mogwai and countless others released albums of interminable quality covering the length, breadth and depth of the music spectrum. But then the Guardian also felt compelled to introduce us to the Music Power 100 – a miserable list of lawyers, executives and Team Adele as the main influencers greasing the industry wheels and give us the wild inside scoop that pop music in 2011 was “beige” and “boring”, which, by its own logic, would be Adele. Obviously. Elsewhere, the New York Times lamented the stale state of major-label rock bands, generously doing enough furious distressing over the continued existence of Nickelback for all of us, but it was the Independent’s Jonathan Owen that stormed to the title courtesy of the below:

“Britain’s music critics have outdone themselves in finding some bands so obscure they wouldn’t even be famous in their own homes. One tUnE-yArDs has sold just a few thousand copies of its ‘Whokill’ album. And the back catalogues of acts such as Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, Wild Beasts, Kurt Vile, James Blake and the Horrors are not exactly troubling the bestseller charts. It’s a slap in the face for such music juggernauts as Coldplay, Lady Gaga and Rihanna, who are conspicuous by their absence… in the Top 10 that really counts – sales – Adele’s first two albums have sold more than any other record in Britain this year.”

Firmly on the Adele bandwagon, not entirely sure who PJ Harvey is and failing to grasp the basic concept of objective end of year music polls, the some-time music writer’s formulaic approach to critical, subjective selections is a devastatingly easy one: sales = the best albums. Thank God it’s the New Year.

By Reef Younis

Originally published in issue 34 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. January 2012

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