Why the rise of featured artists might be hampering new talent breakthroughs

Why the rise of featured artists might be hampering new talent breakthroughs

The debate about how to break an artist in 2017 continues, but there’s also a discussion to be had about how you can actually tell one has broken.

Even in last year’s new artist drought, plenty of new names were enjoying hit records, but it’s clear that breaking a record and breaking an artist is no longer the same thing.

It’s easy to blame that on a lack of fan loyalty, but you have to wonder whether artists and their teams always help themselves when it comes to carving out a distinct identity.

In last week’s Top 40, 21 songs were performed by either a combination of artists or with a featured artist. Some are great records, but given this proliferation of collaborations and the propensity for modern pop music to draw on similar sounds and structures, is it any wonder that the public occasionally struggles to truly connect with artists who seem to lack the confidence to put their own vision across?

And is it coincidence that the one new artist that has definitively broken through of late, Rag’N’Bone Man, has a CV remarkably light on featured artist slots, despite having the sort of distinctive voice that identikit dance producers would kill for?

Left to his own devices, Rory Graham has forged an identifiable image (he was the most-pestered-for-selfies person at this year’s BRITs) and persona, to the extent that he’s fronting his own radio adverts for his album.

Plumbers don’t fix your sink with the help of a “featured plumber”. And artists don’t usually credit a guest painter. Musicians who want to make it in 2017 would be advised to stand on their own two feet.

Mark Sutherland feat. George Garner
Editor
msutherland@nbmedia.com

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