Rod Liddle Rod Liddle

2017 and all that

Björk was reliably doolally and the Luke Haines and Peter Perrett reissues were a glory – but elsewhere there were real stinkers

This has not been an appalling year for pop music — it was better than 1984, for example, and 1961. Simply put, it was a year in search of a direction, one foot planted in 1980s cheese or bombast, the other still dipping its toe into the now mind-sapping boredom of EDM, with the occasional nod to a middle-class version of hip hop, a once garish and interesting subculture now utterly subsumed by the mainstream. And so everything rather swathed in both blandness and uncertainty — a year, then, without edge.

Odd, really, considering the political climate. The biggest-selling albums of the year so far have come from the ubiquitous and unspeakable Ed Sheeran, Drake, Kendrick Lamar: folk, rap and hip hop assuaged into a kind of saccharine pap for the sake of mass acceptance. Bigger than all of them, already, is Taylor Swift’s genuinely awful album Reputation, in which she dissected her reputation as a serial shagger and spooky control freak. It’s the biggest-selling album of the year — maybe of all time, who knows: guileless R&B schlock masterminded by the Swedish auteur Max Martin, who is still able to storm the charts at will. But not everything that sold well was dross. Rag’n’Bone Man’s Human is right up there in the charts. This is rap, but not as you know it, Captain. Rory Charles Graham is not straight outta Compton or the Bronx; he’s a white chap straight outta Uckfield, East Sussex. His big influence is Muddy Waters and the Delta blues — that would be the delta of the River Uck, then. As it meanders gently towards the Ouse. But a good album for all that.

Elsewhere, the genre crunching worked and was even mesmerising, as on St Vincent’s Masseduction, a clever, modernist take on that ubiquitous staple, soft rock, and probably my album of the year (in that I don’t actually hate it yet).

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