Magazine article The Spectator

Season of Fruitfulness

Magazine article The Spectator

Season of Fruitfulness

Article excerpt

Autumn. Excellent. Loads of new albums, one or two of which might even be worth listening to. Unfortunately I am on a poor run of CD purchases at the moment. There are times when your megastore instincts could not be more finely tuned. Even your most marginal acquisition is a work of hidden genius, waiting patiently to be discovered. Then there are times like these, when every album is like Alanis Morissette's second album, or anything by R.E.M. since Automatic For The People. (I blame the summer sales. Those three-forthe-price-of-two deals can bring you to your knees.) But the autumn brings with it exciting new pop vistas, as well as the Madonna album. During the next three months pop obsessives like me will spend frightening amounts of money. Their spouses, unable to find their credit-card statements, will deduce that they are having an affair. Only the brand-new CDs still in their wrappers piled up all over the house will give any clue to the real truth.

But although the run-up to Christmas will make a few musicians very rich, it will make a lot more very miserable. Just as there are far too many books published and too many British films about gangsters made, so there are far too many records now being released - maybe three or four times as many as there were 20 years ago. The failure rate in pop music remains horrific. Around 80 per cent of records released between now and Christmas will do nothing. And that's just the major labels: add in all the tiny independent labels and Europe's failed pop-star mountain begins to assume terrifying proportions. If a decent number of them weren't selflessly leaping into the wine lake next door, we could be facing geological catastrophe.

Failure. There, said it. Politicians' careers end in it, sporting careers constantly flirt with it, but pop musicians never dare mention it. This most purely capitalistic of art forms esteems success beyond all else. If someone isn't selling records, they fall off the map faster than useless England cricketers. Gary Barlow, former songwriter and lead singer of Take That, no longer has a record deal. Eternal, a hugely successful girl group only an album ago, ditto. Squeeze, a great band which hasn't sold enough records in recent years, were dumped by A&M and are now making slightly disappointing lo-fi albums for their own label. …

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