This one made me punch the air and cheer, even though the focus on Westlife is relatively small. It's publicity you can't buy.
But still, I refuse to lay a rose on the coffin of pop. I'm going to stand in front of that underdog and deflect every bullet, even if a few lodge in my heart in the process.
And yes, I love James Blunt. Even if he is one of those shifty rock acts. Coldplay, as well. And Keane. Why can't we all just get along?! *sob*
Rock Of All Ages
By Caroline Sullivan
from The Guardian
The easiest way to reduce a rock fan to spluttering outrage is to tell them that James Blunt is just as much a "rock" act as, say, the Arctic Monkeys. Nonetheless, Blunt is one of the reasons that rock has surged past pop to become Britain's biggest-selling musical genre.
Last year, it accounted for 36% of all album sales, versus 25% for pop. Blunt's Back to Bedlam was the UK's biggest-selling album of 2005, its success symbolising, in one chisel-jawed package, the re-emergence of guitar music after a decade of being pop and dance's unfashionable cousin.
Ironically, considering that rock is perpetually associated with youth, it's older people who are responsible for its rise. Thirty- and fortysomethings are buying downloads to replace or supplement their CD collections, but they're also enthusiastically investing in newer guitar bands like the sing-along-friendly Kaiser Chiefs and Hard-Fi. And over-50 women - the "passive massive" as they've been unflatteringly labelled - are a guitar loving force in their own right, though it tends to be the Keanes and Coldplays who twang their thang.
But rock acts can also thank the fact that banging about on guitar is now perceived as cool again. The last time this was the case, Blur and Oasis ruled the chart, but through the high profile of Pete Doherty and Jack White and the Arctic Monkeys, the public have rediscovered a taste for the kind of visceral music that is rock's forte.
The NME's ludicrous Cool List encourages the iconisation of rock stars such as the Monkeys' Alex Turner, and fashion designers, too, have been "inspired" by the decadence they like to think rock embodies. Fashion shows last year were stuffed with male models in Doherty-style outfits that looked like they'd been rescued from an "everything must go" sale at a charity shop.
So where does that leave pop and dance music? The demise of dance has been predicted for several years, and while it hasn't happened, it's worth noting that Mixmag recently featured guitar-heavy Hard-Fi on the cover, and the best selling dance albums of 2005 were greatest hits compilations (by old hands like Basement Jaxx and Faithless) rather than new material.
As for pop, it's undeniably in a state - enfeebled to the point that Smash Hits has closed and the only boy bands who still sell records are McFly (who cleverly insist that they're really a guitar group) and Westlife. That said, however, Westlife still reach the Top 10 with every single and show every sign of outliving the rest of humanity. It's a national scandal, but the dumpy Irish crooners simply keep adding more and more hits to their already shocking tally. Rock will go in and out of fashion, as will dance, but it seems Westlife are here, literally, for life.