FEATURE: Lead Us Not into Temptation… Why the Heart Needs to Rule the Head in 2018



Lead Us Not into Temptation…



Why the Heart Needs to Rule the Head in 2018


THE next few pieces I am writing will…



look at music careers, the way the industry has changed; how music can change and evolve – and why it is important to throw everything into an album. For now, fairly briefly, I want to look at the predictions that have been laid out and why a more intelligent and brave approach to music needs to take place. That might sound insulting, and vague, but it is aimed at the mainstream and the artists that are promising good things; why the themes they sing about (sex, love and struggles) need to come from a deeper and more spiritual place. Before I move onto the final instalment of my 2018-sounds-related pieces; I want to break off and tell a story. We all have regrets, I guess. One of the biggest ones in my life was back in school; back when I was fourteen and was truly popular. My sex-life is not exactly great – don’t need to put the neon sign up to tell you the truth behind those words! – but, when I was riding high in high-school; I was asked out. In fact...that was, actually, the last time I was actually asked out. The girl, Charlotte, was maybe too shy to come forward – I forget her surname but she asked me out via a friend of hers. I was popular back then because I was sporty. I ran cross-country and was athletic; played on the football team – whilst managing to cancel that all out by being a massive nerd!



A poet, academic and general outsider – it someone got my name out there, at least. I did not reject that offer of a date because of arrogance and the fact I could do better. The fact is…I don’t know why I turned her down. She was extremely beautiful and has a great, northern voice; she was popular and would have been perfect. She is probably married and happy now; so I doubt she wracks her brain: I have kept it in my head all these years. It actually affects my every move and I wonder whether things would be different if I had said ‘yes’ to her. Maybe life would take me in a different direction and be worse: perhaps I would be further along and where I actually want to be. That might sound like a random detour but if I were to write a love song; I would take from that time and write from the deepest part of my heart. I know there are speculations mainstream music might strengthen and change the tide. The reason I am focusing on this type of music – for the last time in a while – is because that is where most of the attention is paid. It has been a while since mainstream artists, when talking about love, have really impressed me...


IN THIS PHOTO: Cailin Russo/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Artist

The last artist I got excited about, in that position, was Lorde. Again; I shall try and limit mentions of her for a little while: here is an artist who is very young but able to project issues around relationships in a very mature and different way. I am not suggesting there needs to be a moratorium on all artists who present love and heartbreak in a very lifeless way. I am excited most by female artists coming through and what they can do. I am looking at the artists who have the potential to do something intelligent and soulful; compared to those who might aim for the mainstream dollar. Cailin Russo has appeared in a couple of Justin Bieber videos and is being tipped for great things. September Rose is a song that is personal and fresh but does not suffer the same fate as other mainstream artists might face. Stars like Nadine Coyle, Pixie Lott and Rita Ora are tackling relationships without much distinction and depth. They have writers and producers backing them and are aiming towards the side of the market that wants something urgent and uncomplicated. That temptation and need to embrace something easy is one of the greatest fears I have this year. Certain polls have tipped acts like Billie Eilish and Sigrid to succeed.


IN THIS PHOTO: Nadine Coyle/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Artist

They are great, young artists that have a sense of self and control. Maybe that is the split we are seeing. Those independent-minded musicians who write their own material (or have a bigger say) who write about relationships with wider emotion and a more compelling edge; those who still go for the trashy and simplistic (and have a legion of others working with them). Throw in the likes of Jessie J to the latter; Jessie Ware to the former; big-name artists like Justin Bieber can go with Jessie J, too. My biggest music-based wish is there is a rearrangement of ideals and order so those compelling young artists replace the established order whose music is rather shallow and populist. It may sound like I am picking on the girls but the fact is, I am being rather positive and complimentary.  The one thing that unites all musicians is personal relationships. That is the commodity and spirit everyone has any puts into their music. The point I am trying to make is moving music from the generic and salacious to personal and inspiring. If artists are going to stick with love/relationships as a majority share; one would hope they inject some new angles and ideas into the pot. I have mentioned some mainstream-lite artists who are less concerned with soul and compelling; they are in it to get quick streaming figures and meaningless popularity.


IN THIS PHOTO: Pixie Lott/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Artist

Whilst the likes of Pixie Lott, Nadine Coyle and, say, Rihanna provide something aimed more at young audiences who prefer hot beats and polished production over nuance and quality – there are those in a position of power who go a lot further and expend more effort. I know I just mentioned Rihanna in a post celebrating great black artists: I know she has a commercial appeal and is inspiring a lot of people. Lana Del Rey has a huge fanbase but takes subjects of love and desire in a more sensual and cinematic direction. She is someone who has been accused of lacking any real identity and memorability - but you cannot accuse her music of lacking personality. She reminds me of the blue-eyed Soul singers of old; those songs that have romance and shiver but brought you into a unique universe. Maybe there is something fashionable about liking a certain artist. If they seem cool and sexy; they have an edge or a can craft a hook-filled song – is that something you should be focusing on?! Young audiences, in a lot of ways, are still being fed cheap and sterile music because that is what (marketing people and labels) think they demand. Music, in a way, is a form of education. Love, relationships and coping with rejection are subjects people need to know about – it does not matter how old you are.



Maybe young listeners are more naïve and having their eyes opened to something new: older listeners are looking for direction and fresh insight. You cannot say music aimed at younger listeners (teens and those discovering music for the first time) is innocent and censored – given the sexualised videos and explicit suggestions. What worries me most is how hollow and shallow a lot of popular music is. Some might say I can walk away and it is not aimed at me. That is true but, as a journalist, I am looking out at the mainstream and hoping it takes responsibility. I am pleased hotly-tipped names like Sigrid and Billie Eilish are getting their dues. They are mature and multi-talented artists who have had their hearts broken but are not willing to cheapen what they do to appeal to the ultra-commercial. It is tempting, if you have lust and passion, to put the purity and openness of those emotions into song. If you are heartbroken and vengeful; that can lead to some rather spiked and direct words. These emotions go through everyone but, for songwriters, there is more relevance and potential. If your fans are, say, ten or eleven - does that mean you have to write something banal or easy-to-remember? You are instantly giving them little credit and assuming they do not want to be moved. Penning those aimless, generic lines might get you up the charts and on certain radio stations – we have seen it too often and, surely, this kind of music will not endure years from now?!


IN THIS PHOTO: Sigrid/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Artist

I will look at boy-made music in a bit but two artists I have followed for a while, and am excited about this year, are FiFi Rong and Lola Coca. Both are London-based and have colour and passion on their side. FiFi Rong mixes Electronica and hybrid movements; strange textures and epic compositions with that inimitable, striking voice. She has a sense of the beguiling and unusual but, at the heart, deals with personal issues and how love moves her. Lola Coca, by contrast, has a less emotive and intense approach. She uses humour and cheek; some keen wit and an impressive amount of confidence to give the finger to guys that take her for granted. Both these artists have been recording for a while and are unwilling to compromise in order to get a fast passage to the mainstream. I wonder whether mainstream megastars like Ed Sheeran are leading artists down a bad road. He is not the only one whose songs of love and not exactly the work of philosophical genius. I know it is more complex than a binary argument: those artists who put their soul and keener intellect into love; those who are too commercial and scared to try anything with any real depth. Perhaps I am being harsh on artists, in general. They are all in the business for good reasons - and want to move people.



What I hope is the new breed of Pop/mainstream artists has the ammunition to compel change. Love and romance are subjects I have attacked in the past – too common when it comes to the music we here. I have made peace with that side of my brain and come to accept there is a definite place and purpose for love songs. If done right, they can inspire people and open minds: if they are lazy and personality-free; it leaves a sour place. I disagree with the notion certain Pop acts have their place because there is a demand out there. There is only that demand because this is the type of act/sound the mainstream has proffered. The fact a band of new artists, male and female, look set to bring something different to music. That is heartening to hear but I worry they might have to wait longer for glory because of the success and place the less-reliable and pioneering hold. Attach whatever word you want to love - but it is a powerful thing and, if done right, can change a person’s life. I have told a story concerning a regretful time; a lot of musicians have (these kinds of tales) in them and, if shared with their audience, it can give them guidance and comfort. There are those who go for the cheap and tasty – songs easy to write that will get them commercially laid – but those who go further and think bigger represent music’s finest and…