If you ask anybody that was fanatical about music at the time of punk, the height of 80s indie, or the inception of MTV, the meeting of television and music was a key part of the experience. People will philosophise about the Old Grey Whistle Test, The Tube, and of course of Top Of The Pops. However, it feels that despite immense demand, this era is lacking a great music television programme. Sure, the spectre of Jools Holland looms over any debate about on this subject, but a late night BBC Two slot being the height of music programming feels tokenistic at best.
There’s been attempts at music TV, but none have really caught on; it’s worth giving Marc Riley’s BBC iPlayer only show, All Shook Up, the kudos it deserves, as the 6Music DJ showcased some of Britain’s most exciting alternative acts, but of course that never got the audience it deserved. Most attempts have fallen flat on their face, and with BBC One venture Sounds Like Friday looming, here’s our wish-list for just what a new show should have to succeed.
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Charisma, and a lot of it
A worry about a new music TV programme is that producers might opt for faceless young presenters with little to say, with the producers opting for a ‘let the music do the talking’ approach. Don’t just let the music do the talking. If we wanted nothing more than bands performing, we’d stick to YouTube. This new music programme needs a charismatic lead figure, a ringleader to the chaos that ensues.
Don’t be afraid to bring on challenging artists
One gets the sense that a new music show wouldn’t be able to resist the chance to showcase the bright-eyed bushy-tailed indie bands that are the flavour of the month amongst big labels and publications. In this day and age, the temptation would be to go for the likes of Wolf Alice, or Cabbage, or Black Honey, or any combination of four white people playing guitars.
Whatever the relative merits of these artists is, a new music programme needs to showcase the weird and wonderful. A new music programme must be an egress to new things, to bring innovators and mavericks to a much wider audience than they could dream of.
There’s no reason that the jolting electro-shock afro-beat of Ibibio Sound Machine, or the mangled, sultry glam-pop of HMLTD should have to take a backseat to three chords and a long haired boy singing about girls.
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Theatricality is the key
Juxtapose Morrissey’s recent rasping performance on Jools Holland with the elaborate gladioli waving figure that pranced around the Top of the Pops set in 1983 to the tune of 'This Charming Man', pretending to caterwaul. Live performances aren’t everything in the realm of television. A focus on the authentic must be snubbed, in favour of a bigger spectacle.
The context of a TV performance is different to that of a live one, so whilst I’m not saying everything should be lip sync'd, it’s more important that this programme is visually stimulating as well as sonically solid.
Make sure it’s doesn’t feel like an extension of Radio One
At this point in time, we all see Jools Holland as nothing more than a televisual Radio Two. Comforting and comfortable, but nowhere you’re likely to feel genuine excitement because of something you see on screen. Of course, we don’t want that. There’s enough Jools for everyone already. Some might say too much. But you gotta make sure we don’t go the other way, and give it the remit of a visual version of Radio One, and above all, we need to make sure Grimshaw is kept as far from this as humanly possible.
Don’t just rip something decent off
I mentioned earlier that programme needs to be more than just a rehash of what has gone before, and showcase more than just indie bands. It’s crucial to get the tone of this programme just right, to balance humour with passion, to never be boring yet never be too cringeworthy.
This new music show simply needs to find its in own distinctive voice, and bring some great music to fore with it. I know there’s not been a great one for years, but honestly; how hard can it be?
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Words: Cal Cashin
Sounds Like Friday launches on BBC 1 on October 27th.
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