There’s no doubt that 2011 was the year of the “doof doof”. From the rise of David Guetta and LMFAO to the euro-club beats adopted in an overwhelming majority pop songs from Rihanna‘s “We Found Love” to Britney Spears‘ “I Wanna Go”, there was no avoiding the thudding sound of the sub woofer and all the manic, Ibiza-esque dance-party vibes that went with it. But if you abide by the laws of physics, you’ll know that for all actions, there is an equal and opposing reaction — and we can see the specter of antithesis looming for 2012. While last year saw an almost completely unblemished carpet of techno beats upholster the music landscape, 2012 looks set to tear that carpet up and replace it with raw wood.
We’re talking about the new guard, a genre of new artists we’ve dubbed “realwave” (thanks to Carles for giving us the ability to invent genres with the simple suffix “wave”), who have been lurking on the sidelines but still managing to make some noise despite the deafening reverberations around them. It began with the ascent of Adele, Mumford & Sons and Bon Iver — artists, who are, for all intents and purposes, artists. In 2011, these artists represented “authenticity,” or the ability to make music that was not only chart topping and relateable, but that also relied on the strength of songwriting, real instruments and organic talent. Yep, that means no auto-tuned voices, synthetic bass lines or garish costuming.
From Adele’s beautiful, heartfelt lyricism and emotive live vocal to Mumford & Sons’ rootsy instrumentals and Bon Iver’s gently experimental, dynamic sound, these artists have provided a much needed sanctuary from banging beats and flashing lights. And perhaps now, after we’ve worn the soles of our dancing shoes right into our heels, we’re actively seeking more realwave. We went to the party, sure, and we had the time of our lives, but it’s morning now, the sun is shining through the cracks in the curtains, our heads are splitting and we’re groping at the bedside table for Advil and Gatorade.
Now a new set of artists are emerging to follow in the footsteps Adele-Iver-Mumford triumvirate for 2012, and we’re predicting realwave will be the definitive genre of the year. For instance, touted as the next big thing, Ed Sheeran turned some heads with his stripped down performance of “Lego House” at the Brit Awards this week. Standing alone in the middle of the stage, wearing a simple t-shirt and jeans combo that made him seem as though he could just be popping down to the shops, Sheeran used nothing but his voice and his guitar to make a global audience stand up and take notice. Sheeran will also be appearing at this year’s SXSW festival, and looks to be at the helm of a whole new crop of realwave artists.
The Lefsetz Letter is in agreement about the realwave movement, and the example set by the Brit Awards for the paring back of music, “Last time I checked, music was something that went in the ears. And to see Ed Sheeran perform solo is to be touched, in a way that only music can. How many of these moments did we have at the Grammys? Maybe thirty seconds of the Civil Wars?… There’s a plethora of performances from the Brits online. Very few mashups, just people getting to perform their entire songs, solo. Sometimes less is more.” Along with Sheernan, the already mentioned Civil Wars, Dawes, and the newly inducted Gotye are slowly forming this new sub-set of performers whose focus is on the music first and the spectacle, well, never (we don’t want to gloat too much but all three acts are in our You Oughta Know family).
Call it what you will, but realwave is a thing that’s actually happening right now, and you should prepare to familiarize yourself with some of the real creatives of the music industry. But that’s not to say we’re in for a year of boring, guitarsy folk music — the realwave vanguard are about as diverse as one LMFAO party outfit. While acts like Sheernan have the simplicity of beautiful lyricism and natural vocality and their disposal, the success of “Somebody That I Used To Know” tells us that there’s definitely room for an avant-realwave, as Gotye’s focus on obscure references, his commitment to creating sounds from scratch using new and vintage instruments, and his dedication to the detailed crafting of music to promote innovation, has proven.
The Brits [The Lefsetz Letter]
[Photos: Getty Images]