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Bland is the new black

See anything wrong with that sentence? Possibly the misuse of cliché caught your eye or some obscure grammatical decree I am unaware of at the time of writing? But that’s not what I’m getting at. Let’s face it, blandness is anything but ‘new’. Nothing is original anymore, and so you could argue that ‘blandness’ is merely a product of this… but surely this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t TRY and be interesting?

So let me introduce you to the subject of this article: one Ed Sheeran. Sheeran recently noted over Twitter that few articles talked about his music, as opposed to his ‘persona’. (And it must be said, that persona is somewhat irritating, but I digress.) It was only natural for me to join the dots and come to the conclusion that writing an article about his song The A Team was the best way to counter the commentary, ungrateful as it already is.

A folksy little ballad about a drug-addled prostitute, The A Team’s melody is accompanied by an acoustic guitar, strummed on every other beat with little to no variation. And we hear Ed’s voice, singing the line-salad straight out of a book of moody (but ultimately talentless) teenagers’ poetry, of white lips, pale faces and apparently the inhalation of snowflakes. Must be said, no one’s ever heard that metaphor before! The timidity of this duo of voice and guitar doesn’t help matters, keeping the song pinned down to one dynamic and generally making a mockery of the song’s supposed message. I’m all for lyrical dissonance – Hell, most of my favourite songs play with it to some degree – but when you ruin ‘hidden depths’ by whining conspicuously for four and a half minutes, you begin to see its worse side.

And despite the unpromising start, things come to a real climax in the chorus (quite an odd place for a climax, if I might add); the whining of “crumbling like pastry” brings flat and meaningless imagery onto a new level entirely. Now Ed’s being lauded for his ‘subtle’ and ‘deft’ tackling of a tough subject, like this waste-of-good-four-minutes is the latest Trainspotting.

As you may recall, our friend Ed won a couple of Brit awards this year, a feat so often assigned to the least thought-provoking artists hailing from this ‘great’ country. While Sheeran strips wallpaper and calls it music, Adele’s throatily wailing her way up the charts across the globe, and Jessie J fights against the indoctrination of songwriters everywhere – just enough to sneak a bit of fluff about ‘promoting integrity’ into the lyrics. Jesus, even our underground outfits are less remarkable than the ones across the ocean. I’m not saying the USA – or, indeed, any country – has mainstream music any better (because I would be wrong), but we seem to be at a particularly low moment in history. If there’s any time you don’t want to be associated with the recent musical achievements of Great Britain, it’s now.

You could argue that I’m complaining quite a bit, for someone so adamant that blandness is nothing new. And you would be absolutely correct. So let’s end on a positive note. While boring music isn’t particularly awe-inspiring, it creates the ground from which we may judge better musicians. In a way, blandness will always be required to ensure the good stuff can be looked upon with positivity. So let’s be thankful for Ed Sheeran and co. Now if only they can be unveiled as the hacks they are.

Jessica Weisser

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