Just as there’s been a resurgence in rock bands, many of whom recalled the 1970s in style, in the middle of the Noughties, so there’s been a revival in the singer-songwriter genre. It’s an illustration that there’s very little new in music, simply fashions that are periodically recycled. The singer-songwriters had last been popular at the beginning of the 1970s, existing somewhere between folk and rock. But on its return the style appeared to position itself much closer to pop music, enjoying very visible chart success. This time, too, many of the artists were female, a distinct turnaround from the 1970s, when things were very male-dominated.
KT TunstallRaised in Scotland, Tunstall burst on the scene in 2004 with her debut album Eye to the Telescope, which received great exposure when she appeared on Jools Holland’s Later… show, after which the CD went into the top ten.
The ensuing fame brought nominations for the Mercury Prize and Brit Awards, and widespread touring, followed by an acoustic album, KT Tunstall’s Acoustic Extravaganza, in 2006, that consolidated her success.
Katie MeluaBy far the most successful of the new female singer-songwriters, Melua barely qualifies, since much of her material actually comes from other pens (notably her producer and manager Mike Batt, the man behind the Wombles music in the 1970s). But songs like Nine Million Bicycles, from her second album, Piece By Piece, showed she had staying power, and cemented the achievement of her debut, Call off the Search, which went quadruple platinum.
Born in Georgia, Melua grew up in Belfast before moving to Surrey, a child of middle class parents, although she attended a showbiz school before entering the music business.
Her first two albums have sold so well that she’s become Europe’s biggest-selling female artist.
Sandy ThomSandy Thom came to prominence in 2006 as the girl who did a series of webcast concerts from her living room in an attempt to drum up interest in her work. She’d already released a single, I Wish I Was a Punk Rocker, on a small independent label, and it had risen to 55 on the charts.
21 days of webcast concerts brought her a major label contract and plenty of publicity, which brought the re-release of the single, rising all the way to the top, this time, even as her debut album, Smile, It Confuses People, showed her as a new star singer-songwriter.
Since then there’s been controversy about those webcasts, with many stating she had strong financial backing, rather than working independently. But for most CD buyers, that’s irrelevant – it’s the music they hear that counts.
James BluntAlthough the women have done very well, they’ve been eclipsed by one man – James Blunt. A former army officer, he’s enjoyed four chart singles, including the number one hit, You’re Beautiful, while his debut album, Back to Bedlam, has sold millions of copies. He also became the first British artist in almost a decade to reach the top of the American singles chart.
In spite of his astonishing sales, there have been a number who’ve felt he’s been over-exposed, and his songs, though self-composed, are really more pop than folk. But it’s impossible to deny that in 2005 he became the biggest force in British music.