Gregory & The Hawk, Daughter, She Makes War, Tristen, Napoleon IIIrd - Tips for 2011: Reality Stars Vs Reality
Tiffany Daniels 04/01/2011
Towards the end of every year reality TV competitions dominate our television screens, take possession of our radio waves and taint our topics of conversation. 2010 has been no exception, with The X Factor making headlines across a wide variety of publications. The Sun and their posse covered the usual scandal and inner-circle bitching, while everyone from Harry Hill to Heat dressed up as Wagner. More surprisingly, Cher Lloyd made her mark on the NME's Cool List, and rather than choose to cover something commercially known, winner Matt Cardle opted for a rendition of Biffy Clyro's “Many of Horror” as his debut single.
Simon Cowell's latest exports advancing on our independent scene makes for an alarming prospect. Not only does it threaten the people's perspective of self-possessing music; it adds an unwanted tinge to international prestige, but above all; it suggests that some within the entertainment industry consider themselves creatively equal to those within the music industry. As much as I enjoy watching The X Factor, when the two become confused, the results leave a bitter taste in my mouth.
A resounding example is Katie Waissel. In the early days of the competition, Waissel came out like the bastard child of Madonna and Florence Welsh. She had it all: hairspray and theatrical makeup abound, brandishing a wardrobe straight out of Top Shop, she looked like Kate Bush had a vicious fight with a rainbow. Her fashion sense wasn't the only deceiving factor: her vocals dug ferociously into a pot ravished by alt- pop pioneers Chan Marshall and Corinne Bailey Rae, and she covered everything from Kings of Leon's “Sex on Fire” to Bob Dylan's “Make You Feel My Love”. Later on in the show Syco bore their teeth, and her undying need to be different was
challenged by the production team's desire to appeal to the majority and thus keep her in the competition. Waissel's image was consequently subdued to reflect that of a 1960's housewife. Of course, the media fed off the frenzy, and the songstress unabashedly defended herself by claiming, “I'm just a girl that wants to go and sing… I'm not fake. I'm going to let my hair down and show everyone who I really am: I'm a misfit.” Others branded her “unique” and “outrageous”.
Those with an ounce of sense know this was never true, but her rank in the competition begs the question - who believed her? Her supporters are under the misguided belief that she really is exceptional, and not just a humdrum mix of those alternative pop stars that found success before her. Likewise Matt Cardle, previously a member of Southampton based band Darwyn, brandished a guitar onstage like it was some outstanding achievement. He also reportedly declared that he would write his own material should he win. Whether that self-penned album will now come to fruition, we shall see.
Ironically the contestant that challenged the show's format was cast as a “brat” and regaled for her “American hip-hop thing”. Cher Lloyd may have rapped like she was born in Harlem not Malvern, but that she rapped at all confronts The X Factor ideal. Instead of being hailed a breath of fresh air and a welcome change, she was criticised until her exit. It didn't stop Cheryl Cole from pointing out, “Cher's been true to herself from the start”,but it did stop PR from inhibiting fellow panelist Louis Walsh from slagging her off to the media, just as it stopped the editorial team from casting the 17-year-old in a more positive light while on screen. The affects were disastrous - a week following Walsh's comments, Lloyd was voted off.
There are similar tales of press and media manipulation throughout the history of The X Factor. No doubt many of you dismissed the show as a fix from the start, and many watching are aware that the public are not and will never be in control… What a lot of people do not appreciate is the subtle brainwashing The X Factor promotes. It's the idea of the alternative, struggling, self-righteous pop star that does the real damage; not the façade of talent, not the threat to the charts. If you watch the show with a critical eye, mindful that this is fundamentally a program documenting the antics of the mainstream, it can provide a useful insight into something we're trying to work against. It doesn't matter that 1.9 million people choose in earnest to eat their tea in front of the television; it matters that a proportion of those people fail to analyze and properly comprehend what they see. The X Factor is not the route of all evil - our own ignorance is.
Hopefully my following tips for 2011 will shed a little light on the real “misfits” out there.
INTRODUCING: THE FEMALE SINGER-SONGWRITER
Like women? Think women deserve a little more limelight? Want contemporary love songs, a decent pitch and the potential use of a capo? You don't need to resort to a Valentine's Day compilation to find a female of the species worth her salt.
GREGORY & THE HAWK
New York's Meredith Godreau has been recording music under her pseudonym Gregory & the Hawk since 2003, but it looks like 2011 might finally be the year she breaks out from her underground restraints. Following the success of her third studio album Leche this November, the internet masses are paying particular attention to her ingenious brand of pop, and she's been cited as an unusual talent by the likes of the NME and the 405.
With several gigs confirmed in the USA and Japan, it's only a matter of time before Godreau brings her dreamy landscapes to European shores. Check here. - for updates. You can also listen to her music here.
19-year-old Elena Tonra is another musician content on using a pseudonym to broadcast her material. Performing as Daughter, Tonra writes beautiful ballads dedicated to modern day society and young heartache. The results have earned her comparisons to a young Laura Marling.
After contributing to Communion's debut compilation, in 2010 she played a variety of sessions, including Tales fromthe Shop, and is due to perform at HMV's Next Big Thing show at the Borderline, London, on February 10th. You can download her free four-track EP from her
SHE MAKES WAR
As the winner of Ladyfest 2010's Just a Girl competition, She Makes War has launched herself on Britain's music scene with five times the panache of an X Factor contestant. Driving force Laura Kidd is certainly no Matt Cardle; a multi-instrumentalist, she describes herself as a “strident purveyor of grungey dystopian gloom-pop”.
Kidd plans to follow her debut album Disarm with a series of accompanying shorts, some of which have already been completed and posted on her blog. She plays Chalk Farm's The Enterprise with Catherine A.D. on January 13th.
Of all the artists on this page, Tristen Gaspadarek is the most promising. Her music echoes the alternative-psych of 1960s America, and she's collaborated with a series of local Nashville acts in the past, including those behind Holly House Music Collective. Tristen currently plays with Jordan Caress and Buddy Hughen.
Her long awaited album Charlatans at the Garden Gate is due out on February 1st, following her single “Eager for Your Love” which is currently available from
On American Myth Records.
BEHOLD! SOMETHING A LITTLE DIFFERENT
Once in a while someone tries to challenge the majority's perception of 'alternative'. They usually end up in the bargain bucket, but that's not because the idea is tired, it's because the acts in question are useless. If you're in search of someone who stands up to the test, these acts will melt your little brain.
Rhosyn is the new project of Rose Dagul, the mastermind behind harmonizing power collective Wap Wap Wow; they're back as a five piece, but are still a force to be reckoned with. When “Glass” leaked onto the internet earlier this year, a hundred hearts skipped a beat and swung inadvertently to the left field, where this band so blatantly lie.
Since that day Rhosyn have won praise from the likes of the Mercury Prize blog and Stool Pigeon, and their devoted fan base continues to grow. In 2011 they plan to “brave hailstorms” to entertain us. Let's hope it doesn't come to that. You can hear their music on their My Space Page.
Napoleon IIIrd is comprised of Yorkshire man James Mabbett, an artist who's had an affect on the British music scene since his project's inception in 2004. With a splurge of contributions and remixes under his belt, his penchant for the experimental is beyond the comprehension of the average brain.
Debut In Debt To and follow up Christiania are both released on Brainlove Records and have secured Napoleon IIIrd a great deal of attention within the music industry. Now it's time for the fans to react. In 2011 Mabbett intends to tour Spain and in February will join iLiKETRAiNS in support on their UK tour. In the meantime, you can listen to his music here.
KYLA LA GRANGE
Like Elena Tonra before her, Kyla la Grange enjoyed endorsement from Communion Records in 2010, playing at their gig nights in London, Brighton and Bristol throughout the year. She also toured in support of I Blame Coco last November, and featured in that month's issue of Noir Magazine.
Championing a sound akin to Bonnie Tyler at Halloween, Kyla plans to release a single this February, with her debut to follow later on in the year. To download a free copy of her song “Vampire Smile”, visit her Myspacepage