Six months after the BBC announced their Sounds of 2012, how have the predictions held up? Between 2003, when the annual poll of music pundits started, and 2011, over fifty percent of those on the list went on to major commercial, and usually critical, success – Adele, Lady Gaga, Florence and the Machine and Plan B are now all household names. In 2011 that pattern appeared to be interrupted. The poll winner, Jessie J, got what she probably felt was her reward for topping that year’s list, but only Wretch 32 also went on to sell respectably. Even so, when this year’s list was announced, the traditional and online media carped about the predictability and the term “self-fulfilling prophecy” became associated with the poll (google “Sound 0f 2012” and “self-fulfilling prophecy” and you get over 2000 hits – and not of the same quote).
This year the poll winner, laid-back soul-singer Michael Kiwanuka, only managed a number 4 placing on the album chart when he released his album in March: of previous poll winners, only The Bravery in 2003 and Little Boots in 2009 had less impact. But in both years, there were other, more successful acts on the list (2003 – Kaiser Chiefs, The Magic Numbers and RHUL alumni KT Tunstall; 2009 – Gaga, Florence and La Roux). The lack of impact of this year’s BBC list is in part this is due to the fact that most acts appear to have been a little slow in producing material; nine of the fifteen acts have yet to release albums (although American indie band, Friends album Manifest! will have been released by the time you read this, and StooShe have an album out later this month). However, of those who have released anything this year, only two acts have had any degree of success:
Ren Harvieu, whose album Through the Night reached number 5 on the album chart earlier this month and may follow Adele’s, Duffy’s and Norah Jones’s well trodden and predictably boring path to success (the album is well crafted, but dull); and Girl band StooShe, who have a top 5 single under their belt – ‘Love Me’ a lyrically emasculated but otherwise very catchy, version of a song originally entitled ‘Fuck Me’ (I hope the latter version makes it back onto the album), and have just been announced as Nicky Minaj’s support act on her British tour next month.
All in all, the BBC’s powers of prophecy appear to have waned over the last two years. Of course it may be that the BBC’s prediction will prove correct by the end of the year. If not, however, then it would appear to be a symptom of the general state of flux in the music industry that it is hard to predict where the next big thing is coming from. That may be no bad thing, and herald the way for a revolutionary change of direction in musical tastes that is badly needed.