Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Artists Who Made 2020

Throughout 2020, COVID-19 has had a truly monumental impact on the music industry, with live performance revenue the biggest casualty. Venues have been forced to close for most of the year, with some small independent venues left with no choice but to shut up shop for good. Festivals and gigs all over the world have been postponed, rescheduled or cancelled all together and who knows when things will ever get back to normal. 

However, in spite of all of this, it has been truly wonderful seeing some of the ways venues, artists and the industry as a whole has coped and adapted during this difficult time, often for no financial gain but instead, simply to spread some love. Artists have performed for us via live streams, the likes of Jools Holland, Laura Marling and some of the fellas from IDLES have done some online music tutorials, and there’s even been a few socially-distanced concerts – who would have thought it?! 

So, let’s get onto something more positive and take a look back at some of my ‘Artists of the year’. Ordinarily, this would be a list of new artists to look out for, those who have contributed a brilliant album or delivered a fantastic live show etc, but of course, in the true spirit of 2020, this year it’ll be slightly different! 

Alongside those categories just mentioned, I’ll also be talking about the artists that have gone the extra mile and contributed more than just music.  

 

John Lennon 

John Lennon simply had to be mentioned in this list as not only did 2020 bring with it the 40th anniversary of Lennon’s tragic death, but it also marked what would have been his 80th birthday. I must admit, I was somewhat disappointed with the amount of mentions the musical legend received this year, but the world has been facing more pressing issues, so just this once, I shall let you all off. I for one spent most of the year listening to Beatles classics and Lennon’s solo albums – but that’s nothing new. A welcome addition to this was the playlist, ‘It’s Johnny’s Birthday’, posted on George Harrison’s Spotify account. Let us not forget that this year also marked the 50th anniversary of Harrison’s dreamy album, ‘All Things Must Pass’. I can only hope that both Lennon and Harrison are up there jamming together now, making more wonderful music that we all one day get to hear. 


Celeste 

Despite not having yet released her eagerly anticipated debut studio album, Celeste is someone that I’m sure we’re all familiar with. Last year she won both the Brit Award for Rising Star AND the BBC Music Award for Introducing Artist of the Year. This year, she was named by Elle magazine as one of “10 Trailblazing Women Changing The Future You Need To Know”, and she is behind the track ‘A Little Love’, the first original non-cover song to serve as the soundtrack to the annual John Lewis Christmas Ad. I’d say that these days, that’s practically up there with being asked to do the next Bond track and mark my words, it wouldn’t surprise me if that’s next on her agenda. Bring on February 2021, when she FINALLY releases ‘Not Your Muse’ – no pressure, Celeste. 


Willie J Healey 

Willie J Healey’s second studio album ‘Twin Heavy’ was one of my favourite albums of the year, however, as I’ve already written a whole article on the other (Laura Marling’s ‘Song For Our Daughter’), I figured it was only fair to talk about Healey’s here instead. The 1970s is by far my favourite decade for music and had I not known any different, I may have been convinced that ‘Twin Heavy’ was a lesser-known album from that decade that I’m only now stumbling upon. The warm, up-beat record has been a companion of mine throughout the year and I look forward to hearing whatever Willie does next. What secured Healey in my list of ‘Artists of 2020’ though, was the very cheeky and unexpected added bonus he gave us all this year in the form of a Christmas song (aptly named), ‘Merry Christmas’. As a stickler for the classic Christmas tunes (although frankly, every year I am annoyed and disappointed at how underplayed The Darkness’ ‘Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells Ring’ is), Healey’s track is certainly an exception. It’s sweet, loving, and uplifting and I seemingly cannot get it out of my head as it’s all I’ve been singing in the shower since I first heard it.  

 

Orlando Weeks  

Mr Weeks has made it onto this list as not only did he treat us all to his enchanting solo album ‘A Quickening’ back in June, but he’s also used his platform to raise money and awareness for worthy causes. He made two collages in collaboration with Kate Friend, with all proceeds going to both Black Minds Matter and National Bail Out. In addition to this, he also launched the art project ‘Card Collaboration’ for Save Our Venues. For this project he invited a host of artistic collaborators, friends and peers to create artwork using a template that was inspired by the visuals that accompanied ‘A Quickening’. 140 illustrations were completed with each item costing £40 and all were sold - that’s a whopping £5,600! Not bad for a few doodles. I was lucky enough to nab myself one of Willie J Healey’s, another of my ‘Artists of 2020’. I implore you to listen to ‘A Quickening’ for it is a beautiful collection of songs about the love, anticipation, excitement and at times hopelessness felt by the (at the time of writing) expectant father, Weeks. To conclude, not only has he demonstrated this year that he is capable of making brilliant music without the other members of The Maccabees by his side, but, he’s also a top bloke too. 


Michael Kiwanuka 

Although I would have loved to have seen four-time nominee, Laura Marling, finally be awarded the prestigious Mercury Prize for ‘Song For Our Daughter’, there is no doubt that Michael Kiwanuka truly deserved to win with his self-titled third album, ‘Kiwankuka’The album’s title is an emphatic statement about self-acceptance and the first track ‘You Ain’t the Problem’ is both an encouraging message to its listeners, and also a reminder to Kiwanuka to be kinder to himself. I’ve seen the clip of him being told by Annie Mac that he is this year’s winner of the prize more times than I wish to admit as his joy, surprise and humility is palpable and infectious. 


Sophie Ellis-Bextor 

For those of you who have been living under a rock for the past year, no, this is not a joke. Sophie Ellis-Bextor thoroughly deserves her place on this list. Not only is ‘Murder on the Dancefloor’ still a certified BANGER 19 years after its release (Christ, that makes me feel old), but her ‘Kitchen Discos’ have provided us all with a welcome burst of pure joy (she’s also turned ‘Kitchen Disco’ into a Greatest Hits album). The utter chaos that ensues during these videos is heart-warming and reassuring to many of us stuck at home. Ellis-Bextor appears, clad in sequins singing her head off and trying not to trip over the wires and cables covering her floor. I want to send a message to all five of her sons that often also make an appearance during the discos – although you probably think it’s completely embarrassing, I assure you, your mum rocks. If you haven’t watched any of her ‘Kitchen Disco’ videos, then what on earth are you doing still reading this? You can thank me later.  

 

 

Artists We Lost This Year 

 

Unfortunately, this year we have lost some true musical masterminds, some real greats. I can’t mention them all in this short article, so please do forgive me for only focusing on a few. 

 

Bill Withers 

Bill Withers has penned some timeless classics, including ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’, ‘Lovely Day’ and ‘Lean on Me’ which emerged once again recently and became a bit of an anthem of hope and solidarity in the time of COVID-19. It’s hard to believe that Withers retired from music way back in 1985 as many of his songs are still regularly heard, played and covered to this day. 

 

Ennio Morricone 

As someone who studied Film Production at Uni, it should come as no surprise that as well as music, I have a great love and passion for film. Therefore, I was greatly saddened upon hearing the passing of Italian composer, Ennio Morricone back in July. For those of you reading this who aren’t big on films or the name doesn’t ring any bells, you will almost certainly be familiar with some of his iconic work. Morricone’s is wildly considered as one of the best film composers of all time (rightly bloody so). Not only has his musical compositions enhanced numerous award-winning films (70, to be exact), but he has also greatly influenced the works of other musicians. If you haven’t already, I urge you to go and watch the entire ‘Dollars Trilogy’ and allow your eyes and ears to revel in all of its beauty.  

 

Peter Green 

Peter Green may not be a household name, but he has been hailed by many prominent musicians and an influence to many of the greatest guitar players alive today. BB King once said that Peter Green was “the only one who gave me the cold sweats”, high praise indeed. The founder of Fleetwood Mac, Green was one of the greatest guitar players of the 1960s blues-rock era and in my opinion, ever. In 1970, he left Fleetwood Mac after only 3 short years, due to his struggles with his mental health, seemingly caused by his heavy use of psychedelic drugs. Prior to this though, he had written some truly beautiful songs such as, ‘Albatross’, ‘Oh Well’, ‘Man of the World’ and ‘Green Manalishi’ ­– oh, and let’s not forget ‘Black Magic Woman’. Mick Fleetwood himself has said that Fleetwood Mac would simply not have existed without him and blimey, imagine a world without Fleetwood Mac?!  No Peter Green equals no Fleetwood Mac. No Fleetwood Mac equals no viral video of @420doggface208 simultaneously skateboarding and drinking cranberry juice whilst lip-syncing to ‘Dreams’ and what a seriously bleak world that would be. Tonight, I will make sure to once again listen to ‘Man of the World’ and thank my lucky stars that Peter Green graced the Earth.  


There we have it, my round up of the ‘Artists of 2020’. I’m sorry for all those deserving artists that I have missed, I simply ran out of writing space and time! 2020 is now nearly over and boy, what a year it was too. I think it’s safe to say that most of us will be very happy to see the back of 2020 and fingers crossed 2021 will have far more to offer us all. For now, I’ve included below some numbers to call if you’re lonely or need someone to talk to during this difficult festive period and beyond. Merry Christmas and stay safe. 

 

Samaritans – 116 123 

Refuge – 0808 200 0247 

Mind – 0300 123 3393 

Shout – Text SHOUT to 85258 for a free, confidential text conversation. 


Eleanor Holloway-Pratt 

@e_hpratt 

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