The date of the 58th Eurovision Song Contest seems as apposite as any on which to discuss the future of pop music. As we have previously noted on the Mediolana blog, Francis Fukuyama's magnum opus The End of History and the Last Man prophesied a postmodern era when culture was increasingly reduced to the curation of what had already been created. In many senses, YouTube is the ultimate vindication of his thesis: the ability to look up cultural material from the often-distant past is arguably its biggest USP; as valuable an outlet as it is for up-and-coming artists, high-quality new content has been somewhat peripheral to the success of Google's most famous video portal. And in the albeit imperfect and limited experience of our CSO, the number of truly great recently-formed artists to be discovered via the regular social media channels can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
It is therefore with some degree of surprise that we at Mediolana can feel with rampant justification to have seen a young, dynamic artist who actually has the potential to rescue the torpid UK music scene from its present location at the business end of cultural annihilation: Florence Arnold. Arnold, who goes by the stage name Florrie, seems to possess the necessary ingredients for musical greatness: (i) material that is qualitatively superior to pretty much any of her contemporaries; (ii) an innovative streak (witness the multiple key changes in the simple but very memorable Shot You Down); and (iii) iconic looks.
However - as Florrie herself will doubtless be aware of - a great many artists attain critical mainstream acclaim without ever achieving their full potential; earning more money than is necessary to pay several sets of bills and enjoying global exposure, they nevertheless do not accomplish anything like what they could have, and their corpus of work will not trouble the musical historians of the future.
To circumvent this fate, Florrie (and any other such creative doyenne) would be well advised to consider following these three tips:
1. Lifestyle is Everything. Handling failure can look easy when compared with handling success. The beauty of failure is that as far as wider society goes, no one wants to know you and one has the opportunity to confront deficiencies in private; the problem with success is that everyone wants a piece of you and most of these people may not care too much about the consequences. Successful pop artists don't necessarily have to live like saints, but looking at the sheer number of musicians whose musical output and trajectory have been wrecked (or more chillingly, made mediocre) by time- and creativity-sapping alcohol, drug abuse and rocky relationships, some basic deference to spirituality and science is in order for all those hoping to make their mark in this field.
2. Own the Means of Production. Artists should ensure that they know their music production technology at least as well as their producer. Spending hours mastering the finer points of Logic Pro et al when one could be partying with the glitterati sounds categorically insane to the uninitiated, but it is precisely this level of obsession which as much as almost anything else is an immuniser against a limited cultural lifespan. The same is true for video: in a post-MTV, post-Internet 1.0 age when visual perception is paramount and Final Cut Pro + SSD storage = Democratisation of the Moving Image, artists need to be aware of their aesthetic parameters, which both conceptually and technically are far larger than most of them realise.
3. Globalise! Perhaps one of the great ironies of the Internet and other late twentieth and early twenty-first century technologies is that they have revealed just how insular many people actually are, and how unwilling they are to expose themselves to new cultural or artistic influences. However, as the great composer and percussionist Stewart Copeland wisely counsels, the successful musicians of the future will be those who break out of their ghettoes and expand their palettes: listening to Bulgarian chants, Cameroonian drum beats and Sufi whirling dervish music is not a quirky diversion but the very essence of music-making.