Occasionally, very occasionally, I reminisce about my youth and the magazines I used to get as a kid. 90 minutes with its new season league ladders that would last about a week before I got fed up of moving the teams around to reflect their positions; Melody Maker and Select with their free cassettes of new music (first time I ever heard Green Day was on a Melody Maker free tape) and the myriad of others that have long since fallen by the wayside, some that I read, some that I didn’t.
One such magazine that now resides in the great publishing house in the sky (that I didn’t read, I hasten to add) was Smash Hits. For those of you too young to remember, Smash Hits was, in a way, the Heat magazine of its day but focused entirely on pop music. Aimed mainly at teenage girls it devoted much of its pages to the ‘hunks’ of the 80’s pop scene. In later years it had its own annual awards ceremony, the Smash Hits Poll Winners Party which was attended almost exclusively by the kind of people who would faint with excitement at Michael Jackson concerts. It was a pretty big deal as I recall though, even hosted one year by Will Smith, post Fresh-Prince but pre-Independence Day.
As you would expect with something aimed at teenage girls and focusing entirely on the mainstream, the Smash Hits Poll Winners Party wasn’t exactly all about the music. Awards, as I recall, included such illustrious and critically relevant categories as ‘Best Haircut’ and ‘Most Fanciable Male’ which brings on to NME.
The nominations for this years NME awards were announced yesterday and while they were obviously much less anaemic and soul destroying as last weeks Brits Nominations (though not entirely. For the most part it’s same old big bands nominated for the same old awards) there were still one or two categories that more than raised an eyebrow.
By my own admission I have been away from the new music scene for a while now and to be fair, I was never really an NME reader (as mentioned, Melody Maker was my music paper of choice) so I haven’t ever paid too much attention to their awards either (shame on me, I know). Because of this I may be about to complain about something that has been part of the NME awards since time immaterial. I do know this isn’t something that’s been added to the awards this year so it’s not a new thing but I’m fairly confident it wasn’t around ‘In my day’ (I make myself sound so old, I’m really not).
I am talking of course about the inclusion of the ‘Best’ and ‘Worst Dressed’ categories and the ‘Hottest Man’ and ‘Hottest Woman’ categories as well.
I always thought that the NME was supposed to be the pinnacle of music journalism, THE place you went to find out about new music and what was hot in the ‘alternative’ music scene. A band would know they’d made it if they were featured in and liked by the NME. Now it would appear that somewhere along the track the points have changed and the New Musical Express has pulled up at a very different station indeed.
Why do we need these categories exactly? What do they add to the musical world we live in? Or is this just a cunning ploy to try and get the mainstream pop audience, the Tweens and the ‘Twilight Moms’ to take an interest in a more diverse musical landscape? Unlikely.
Also, doesn’t this send a message, one that is all too prevalent in society today, that your looks and appearance are important? That you can’t truly be taken seriously as an artist if you don’t look like a model? Balls to that.
Also included in the awards categories are ‘Hero’ and ‘Villain’ of the year. I have less of a problem with these categories but I’m still not sure exactly what they add except a bit of pantomime to the ceremony. That said, included in the nominees for ‘Hero’ of the year is Rage Against the Machine. Now, surely the heroes in this were not RATM but the people who set up the Facebook group and started the campaign to get them to number one rather than the X-Factor single in the first place. RATM were merely a conduit through which a previously silent majority could vocalise their displeasure with the continued blandification of our musical society at the hands of the all powerful ‘moguls’ such as Herr Cowell. If this truly was the most heroic thing that happened in music last year then get it right and find those facebook people!
One, seemingly abstract, category I do agree with though is ‘Best Band Blog’. My reason being that it advocates greater interaction between bands and their fans. Much like in the days of yore when bands had fan clubs that would send you exclusive newsletters and badges (the very height of desierability), now blogs and Twitter give us more direct acces than ever to our favourite musicians. In return we, as fans, are rewarded with exclusive content and first dibs on gig tickets. Also, if nothing else, it’s always great when Los Campesinos tweet about football you’d forgotten was even on.