"The Big Prize"
It’s inevitable that in a review of the year, I would have to pick an artist to stand above all the others to stand up as the best thing 2009 had to offer. Maybe they summed up everything that made 2009 the year that it was. Maybe they just had loads of great songs. Maybe they had something special about them. Or maybe, they’re Lady Gaga.
2009 always stuck me as a year with very little identity of it’s own. We are switching decades, and so it’s a year of transition, looking back to previous eras to work out where to go next. In this way, is there any other artist who could sum up 2009 than the eclectic madness of Lady Gaga? Queen of “so bad it’s good”, Gaga flits between disco, euro-pop, ballads and hip-hop without missing a beat with production values through the roof. Insane costumes, incomprehensible music videos, complete lack of shame. I don’t now if she’s really that crazy, or as I like to think, she’s developed her persona as a big postmodern commentary on the music industry. Whatever the truth is, she’s immensely enjoyable and for the first time in a long while, I’m paying attention to the pop industry again. Also, a total of 7 weeks at No.1 with 3 hit singles isn’t bad either.
Honorable Mention: Mumford and Sons
Other than the radio, the key way people are exposed to new music right now is through music videos. The music video can be a tricky art form to pull off. You have to reflect the content of the song, but without illustrating every lyric (unless that’s an effect you are going for). You’ve got to create a unique style for the artist, but also make them look good and have it fit with the rest of their image. The main thing it needs to be is memorable. This year’s Willy for Music Video of the Year goes to an artist whose videos are nothing but memorable, and one video in particular of theirs. The award goes to…
Lady Gaga’s video for Paparazzi is a 7 minute epic tale of the fall and rise of a betrayed diva. More costume changes than you can count, teams of dancers and crazily high production, this is a video that really sums up Lady Gaga’s persona. That includes the strong sense of overblown irony that seems to inhabit Lady Gaga’s image an music. Very few artists could pull off an introduction to a music video more than half the length of the song itself, with all the dialogue in Swedish, but it seems to work for Lady Gaga.
Honorable Mention: Bad Romance- Lady Gaga
Sometimes, one song is all you need. One song to catch someone’s imagination. One song to encapsulate the mood of society. Or just one song to get you up and dancing. Digital downloads are making it so much easier for people to find that one song, and this year’s winner is the result of just that. One song, capturing the mood a group of people, and cherry picked out as it’s own entity. So many great songs came out in 2009, it was a difficult decision, but in the end the Willy for Single of the Year 2009 goes to…
Killing In The Name by Rage Against The Machine
2009’s Christmas No.1 was a late entry into the running for Single of the Year, but when it came around, it was a shoe-in. It is a symbol that Facebook groups can actually make something happen, rather than be group pipe dreams. It proved that the Bitish public still have a hint of the punk rebellion within them. It showed that despite their television dominance, we still have a choice about who ends up being Christmas No. 1. Yes, after the event people have moaned that Rage Against The Machine are on the same parent label as the X-Factor singles. Yes, people were still doing what they were told when they bought it, in an ironic twist on the song’s message. I don’t think any of this really matters. We still have a sense of humour, we still care about the Christmas No.1 slot, and thanks to Rage Against The Machine’s generosity, we’ve all raised some money for charity too. I think that’s deserving of an award, don’t you?
Honorable Mention: Bonkers by Dizzee Rascal
The album format was once seen as a dying art, with singles seen as the way forward. This idea was given even more creedence with the rise of digital downloads, allowing people to easily cherry pick their chosen songs from albums and ignore the deeper cuts or intended order. However, this shift seems to be turning with the fall of the physical single, and bands being more adventurous with their album releases and concepts. This years Willy for Album of the Year goes to a band who are bringing the once unpopular idea of the concept idea back to the mainstream. And the award goes to…
21st Century Breakdown by Green Day
Building on 2004’s seminal American Idiot, 2009 brought about the classic rock influenced, pop punk, concept album wonder that was 21st Century Breakdown. Though with less of a plot than their previous release and possibly weaker singles, this was a far more cohesive album in this reviewer’s opinion, and is one that is designed to be listened to in once sitting, rather than cherry picked from. Songs flowing seamlessly into each other at points, the final track referencing the opening and many more touches like this make this a true representation of the album experience. While there may be argument over whether Green Day are punks any more, it matters little when they can produce albums like this.
Honorable Mention: Them Crooked Vultures- Self Titled
Everyone loves free music. With record labels faltering and wondering how to get people caring about their music, many labels and bands are taking it upon themselves to give away the recordings for free, hoping to entice people to buy their other songs or to convince them to pay to see them live. It ends up as a good deal for them, and a great deal for us, so it’s becoming all the more common. iTunes give out free songs every week, bands drop down full albums and others give away their new singles for gratis. With all this variety, it’s hard to choose, but the Willy for Free Download of the Year 2009 goes to…
Tales From The Grave In Space by Gama Bomb
A full album of tongue in cheek metal is a wonderful to be given free. Especially when it’s this fun to listen to! But why be happy with a short summary here, when you can check out my review and link to your own copy!
Honorable Mention: Song for a Son by Smashing Pumpkins
Live Music. The way it is truly meant to be heard. A great studio album is a brilliant thing, but it is only when a band can pull off that sound and atmosphere live that you know they are truly a good band. A band becomes a great live band when they can add something more when you see them in person. This years Willy for Live Artist goes to…
One of the leaders of the 90s pop punk movement, singing songs about masturbation and being an outsider, Green Day had pretty humble beginnings for stadium filling rockers. But that’s what they have become, a true stadium band, following in the footsteps of bands such as Queen, The Who and Guns n’ Roses without a hint of irony. Being able to replicate their new high production sound live is impressive enough, but when combined with a killer stage show, they make most other live bands look like they aren’t trying. Audience participation, video screens creating a plethora of stage scenery and enough pyrotechnics to shame a metal band. What’s not to love?
Honorable mention: Muse
Every year we get an influx of brand new artists and bands, giving amazing new music to the world in a way that hopefully no-one will have heard before. New music can be an interesting category, because it can mean a variety of different things. It could mean a band who only started playing this year, or it could be a band who came to fame this year. It could even be a supergroup formed this year. For the 2009 Willy for New Artist of the Year, I have chosen a group from this second category. The award goes to…
Kings of doom laden indie rock, White Lies came to fame in 2009 with the release of their wonderful “To Lose My Life” album. Despite forming in 2007 under the name Fear Of Flying, it wasn’t until the change to the White Lies moniker that they garnered success. Eloquent lyrics and a heavy atmosphere are what set White Lies apart from the pack, getting gloom back to to top of the charts for the first time since the goths of the 80s. Aren’t we glad they did?
Honorable Mention: Them Crooked Vultures
"I Only Wish I Could Give All The Winners One Of These"
Hello, and welcome to my (admittedly belated) musical review of 2009.
2009 seems to be best summed up as a year of nostalgia. More than any other year in the Noughties, 2009 seemed to be heavily harking back to the 1980s. Synths were making a comeback in all forms of music. 80s stars were hitting the limelight once again, for a variety of reasons from comebacks to deaths. In general, people seemed to wish they were still wearing leg warmers and listening to New Wave in a club somewhere. Maybe we just wanted to be happy in the economic downturn, and with the proliferation of songs telling us to dance appearing in the charts, I think this is a definite possibility.
2009 was the year artists such as Florence and The Machine, Lady Gaga and Susan Boyle came to prominence, showing the power of both originality and the industry’s influence. It was a year of comebacks too, with Blink 182 and Blur reforming, and The Beatles getting a new lease of life through remastered albums and their own video game. As with ever year, the music industry also lost some key bands and musicians to both break-ups and deaths. Oasis finally snapped, as did Chas and Dave. The world also lost the legendary Michael Jackson, and fan favourite drummer ‘The Rev’ of Avenged Sevenfold.
Despite these sad moments, 2009 was a year I think we should all look back on fondly, and so I present to you my awards for the year. Awards which I have dubbed “The Willies”. So without further ado, here are the categories for the First Annual Willy Music Awards:
New Artist of the Year
Live Artist of the Year
Free Download of the Year
Music Video of the Year
Album of the Year
Single of the Year
Overall Artist of the Year