"...and the winner is?"
Last year was a pickle for my choice of 'artist of the year'; sure, M.I.A had redefined world music/ hip-hop with Kala but there was Panda Bear, who was a part of two innovative records, two feats of electronic ingenuity that I couldn't ignore. That said, M.I.A won because her ideas were bound to wreak more havoc on the music scene as well as the fact that she stands alone now--by way of usurping Bjork--as the artist critics, fans and fellow musicians now think leads the way to which we all respond. That's a heavy-enough mantle for any one person and rightfully so, no one could carry the wave around without broadside help this year.
Still, it was curious who was the defining artist of the year...many names came up, names that blogs have been clamouring to put on their year-end lists. But even if you go by that count, no one person stood out definitively. But something did.....just not any one person.
Perhaps Janelle Monae said it best in a youtube interview I watched a few days ago...now, it's ok if you are asking yourself Janelle who (her music was recycled by Bad Boy records from last year) but the point is her words. Monae reiterates that the concept album is not only en vogue but here and now. And we've seen this especially in the last couple of months...Beyonce, Kanye West and Coldplay---three of music biggest names---all tried their hands at concepts that they could have eschewed in order to cash in even bigger than they are currently. This idea of a return to art is not exactly novel but it is refreshing especially for commrecial acts as those I mentioned. It is so easy for commercial success to be met only by commercial success and not exploration of art. It's not easy: too often we as listeners and critics think artists are solely in charge of their careers but there is a direct link between commercialism and the musical effort. That is a fact and it's the rare artist that can escape that with each recorded album.
Which lead us back inexorably to the outcome of this blog entry...but by now you know where I'm going with all this. This year, I choose a concept and not an artist per se as my 'artist of the year'. The concept is, simply put, the return to art. This I feel was carried over from last year and will be brought forward to the new year. Hopefully award shows like the hopeless Grammys will FINALLY recognize the trend and go with that in mind when the nominations are announced in a few days time. I'm not terribly optimistic but we will see, won't we?