Rock Review of the year: The pop world is in bits, but some bits are brilliant

It's been a fabulous year for blockbusters with brains but a nadir for Francis Coppola. Pop producers fought to stave off panic as cheap technology let everyone have a go. Dance said farewell to Darcey Bussell and hello to Hofesh Shechter, while Bob Dylan finally found himself ... on the radio. The 'IoS' critics give their overview of 2007
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

If you're looking for the bigger picture, first you'll have to bend down and pick up the shards.

The fragmentation of popular music, and indeed of pop culture beyond music accelerated, but not caused by, the internet has been a continuing trend this decade, and in 2007 the industry found itself stretched to extremes.

At the top end, the major corporations clung desperately to their big, bulletproof bankers, praying that megastar comebacks (from Spice Girls to Led Zeppelin) and stadium supergigs (Live Earth, Concert for Diana, George Michael) would set cash registers rocking, and creating new stars with the abominable assistance of TV talent contests.

If you want to witness the blank ambition and avarice of the modern music industry, gaze into the equine face of Leona Lewis, who stepped into the caterwauling role of Whitney Houston without the latter's mitigating lunacy, and broke album-sales records.

The whittling-down of choice, in a supermarket-led mainstream, has meant that such statistical feats are increasingly commonplace: see Rihanna's marathon chart-topper "Umbrella", and Snow Patrol's insomnia-curing "Chasing Cars".

But meanwhile, the democratising DIY effect of cheap technology has meant that almost anyone can make music and share it online, cutting out the middle-man. Most of it is rubbish but so is most of anything.

Ironically, one big, bulletproof banker from a previous era was at the forefront. Prince, whose astonishing 21 Nights in London at the 02 Arena was the musical event of the year, gave his latest album away free, to much hand-wringing about "the perceived value of recorded music" from retailers and record labels alike. Radiohead followed suit, and Manic Street Preachers indicated that their next album will be their last to come out on a major.

New, non-manufactured stars did emerge. Mika, a sexually ambiguous Lebanese dandy with a skyscraping falsetto and a line in incredibly catchy 1970s MOR, won as many haters as lovers (and that's never a bad sign). If he did things the old-fashioned way, then Beth Ditto, the plus-sized Gossip punkette, went the DIY route to become a brilliant pop star.

Our own Amy Winehouse turned into a walking well, teetering tragic heroine in the classic doomed diva tradition. She's a national treasure. Our stateside cousins don't reserve that kind of affection for their own Britney Spears: the hypocrisy surrounding a young woman who had the temerity to misbehave was nauseating, and frankly misogynist.

Album of the year? LCD Soundsystem's Sound of Silver was James Murphy's masterpiece, immaculately electronic, yet affectingly human. It was a fine year for electro pop, from Calvin Harris to Kylie Minogue, whose journey from cancer to a career-best album (X) was the most pleasing comeback of all. Trend of the year? New Rave went from music-press joke to a very real phenomenon.

And that barely scrapes the surface, a random handful of jigsaw pieces. The more the fragments shatter, the more they look like glitter. It's glorious.

Comments