Goodbye 2016: Questions we still don’t have the answer for

Questions we still don’t have the answer for

In a year of uncertainty, 2016 has thrown up more questions than answers. Here are some of music’s biggest mysteries.

If 2016’s shown us anything, it’s that nothing is certain. Fake news, shoddy polls and false promises have stolen the headlines this year. Fun stuff!

Music’s at least given us some clarity. Frank Ocean came back. Grime’s resurgence wasn’t reserved for just one heady year. Future headliners are forming a queue - that much is all clear. But upon closer inspection, there’s been more confusion than confirmation. Nobody has a bloody clue when music’s biggest names will put out a new record, where it’ll be streaming and for how long. Becky with the good hair may or may not be a real person. Kanye West challenged what it meant to “finish” a record with ‘The Life of Pablo’. Bon Iver referred back to cryptic numerology instead of a pursuit of the truth.

In short, nobody knows what the hell is going on. And as a reflection of 2016’s did-that-just-actually-happen madness, music is providing few certainties. As we stumble hopelessly towards another twelve months, here’s a rundown of the questions emerging this year that we still don’t have an answer for.

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Are surprise releases a good thing?

Some bigwig label bosses aren’t too keen, but it’s definitely working for the artists. Frank Ocean gave himself autonomy through ‘Endless’’ sneaky ‘kind of an album, kind of not’ release. Kanye West drew constant attention by tinkering with ‘The Life of Pablo’. Beyoncé completely stole the agenda with ‘Lemonade’’s audiovisual double whammy. But spare a thought for James Blake, who decided to release ‘The Colour in Anything’ with no warning, only to see Radiohead return and hog the headlines mere hours after his third record came out. Is it all fun and games for fans? Decide for yourself.

Is The Is Are?

Or Is The Is It? Is It Are Is? Is The Is Is? What Is It? Is It Are?

Cole. Cole from DIIV. Yes, you. Explain yourself. What are you getting at here, you grammar-denying monster? What’s your game? Please help. ps. Why haven’t you sacked your bassist yet? Thanks, all the best.

Will there be a better national anthem than Flea’s U.S. rendition?

Is there any song that lends itself more readily to dexterous low-register twangs that the United States of America’s national anthem? The answer to this question is quite obviously ‘no, there isn’t,’ and Flea – Red Hot Chili Peppers’ patron saint of the slap-bass - is the man who knew this in 2016, far before anyone else. His attempt to ‘MAKE AMERICA BASS AGAIN!’ was possibly a pivotal moment in the world as we know it.

Yes, his avant-garde rendition of ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ might’ve valued sheer guttural force above, y’know, the actual tune of the song. Yes, it might have plunked clumsily through the air with all the subtlety of Boris Johnson trying to shove his latest racist comment under the rug, and yes, it may have gone on for about two minutes too long. However, with his challenging, subversive performance Flea has forced us to confront our own humanity, in all its stark honesty. Move aside, Turner Prize shortlisters, Pulitzer prizewinners, and Michael Gove’s unwanted opinions on the subject. This is real art.

What is “waundry”?

Justin Vernon, you don’t need to explain yourself. We get it. You’ve seen some wild shit. You’ve bought a calculator. You’ve made some fire rhymes. ‘22, A MILLION’’s tracklist is like staring into the mind of a mad scientist, like witch house never died. But fine, that’s just you. Keep being you.

But what the fuck are you playing at, rhyming “quandry” with “waundry”? WAUNDRY? What does that even mean? 

Why didn’t you just use “laundry?” That works. ‘666 ʇ’ is a great song, ok? Lovely vibe, loud pounding drums, plenty of feels. But it’s really hard to get past this. Yes, it’s art. Ok, you can apply your smoky heartthrob tones to anything. Even “fuckified” sounds good when you sing it. But this is a step too far. Especially - and this is the real toughie - when it sounds like you’re laughing while singing “waundry.” Is this some kind of sick joke? At least explain what it means. Please. Because it’s not a tribute to an established drycleaning service based in Delhi, is it?

Why are James Blake and Bon Iver singing about avocados?

The Avocado Question is maybe the biggest leftover from James Blake’s third album ‘The Colour In Anything’. Do he and Bon Iver actually sing “an avocado?” And why? Maybe it’s even the infinitely funnier “we never cuddle”, depicting a turbulent relationship between two of indie music’s resident sad lads. We knew little of what was to come after this song came into the world, but it’s probably just Justin Vernon testing the waters of lyrical absurdity before singing about sleeping in a stable, mate. The Avocado Question aside, the funniest part of this song is actually the very start, when Vernon’s trademark howl is met by - and listen really close here - a cute little remark of “niiiice” from Blake. Good song though. Well done boys.

Are Alex Turner and Miles Kane the original sesh gremlins?

Alex Turner and Miles Kane. Ah, yes, Miles and Alex. Our brave boys Kaner and Turnip. The sort of carefree blokes who boldly venture forth in velour sportswear without a second thought, and engage in a passionate and dramatic bromance to rival The Notebook’s plot arc. The kind of jolly lads who’d lend you 50p in the chippy to buy yourself an extra chicken nugget, before singing a hilarious parody version of ‘Hotline Bling’ to the entire shop. The pair who truly never know when to stop. Up until now we’ve taken this endurance for granted… but what if… what if Alex Turner and Miles Kane are the original sesh gremlins?

The more you think about it, the more it makes sense. Alex’s attempts at speaking French, with all the slurring cloudiness of four nights on the razz, bear all the hallmarks of a true sesh gremlin at work. Miles Kane’s name is just a few letters removed from ‘getting caned’ for lord’s sake. It’s plainly obvious that this dastardly duo met over a bottle of Stella Artois by a river, and bonded via the penning of a note under the moniker Dan & Dan. The Last Shadow Puppets are also The First Sesh Gremlins, and it’s possible that they might even be Banksy, and all. Makes. U. Think.

Why does Charli XCX hate ‘Sucker’ now?

We get it, artists can sometimes - on the odd occasion - maybe get a little bit sick of playing the hit from their first album thattheyhatebutneedtokeepinthesettokeepthefanshappy. That’s okay. That’s totally fine. What we just can’t comprehend, though, is when one of our faves decides to hate her ENTIRE last album. C’mon, Charli, ‘Sucker’ is a bona fide CLASSIC and just because you wanna give something new a go - which we’re totally onboard with, okay? - doesn’t mean you have to start being mean to yr old albums :( They’ve got feelings too, you know?

What the hell is actually going on with Brand New?

If any band know how to - quite simply - fuck with their fans, it’s Brand New. Since the release of their fourth album ‘Daisy’ back in 2009, the Long Island four-piece have been tantalising their adoring followers with the threat of a split and this year, things kicked back into overdrive. After offering up a new track, updating their website and even - god forbid - getting themselves a new promo picture, people started to, obviously, get pretty excited. They whipped that rug out from under us quick.

Since then, they started to sell a t-shirt with ‘Brand New: 2000 - 2018’ scrawled across it and decided to reveal they thought about putting out a new record this year, but decided against it. “What’s left should be a strange demise,” they wrote, in a letter to fans back in September, continuing their cryptic tirade. WHAT DOES IT ALL BLOODY MEAN THOUGH?!

How does an oligarch ‘ave it?

‘Party Like A Russian’ might be the song released in 2016 that leaves the most questions unanswered. The Modern Rasputin himself probably conjured up the lyric of the year - sorry, Bon Iver, you’re in 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th place - with “put a doll inside a doll”, but there’s still one question that really pangs for an answer: how do you ‘av it like an oligarch?

Oligarchy, noun: a small group of people having control of a country or organisation.

Robbie wants to take over? Cameron, May, Trump, Williams. Or permanently mend East-West relations through the power of a creepy as fuck pop song. Or just being rich as hell and going on a big ol’ sesh? “I’m always off my trolley,” after all. Absolutely no answers, here. Robbie. Come on. Also can you lend us the suit from the video?

What happens if you don’t look so beautiful when you sleep, and you are actually very, very aware of it?

With their latest album title, The 1975 gave character limits actual night terrors, and pushed syntax to its very limits in the process. ‘I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It’ (deep breath) also raises an incredibly hurtful issue. When Matty Healy dreamt up the whole thing, he was obviously taking influence from the likes of David Beckham, and other such immortals who manage to make sleeping look well fit. It’s all fine and dandy for these rock stars, but has Matty ever bothered to spare a thought for the broad majority; the living corpses who slumber in a wide-mouthed, yeasty-breathed puddle of viscous drool, causing recoils of horror with every earth-shuddering snore across the top deck of the N171? Eh? Eh?! Has he?!

If there’s one thing about sleeping, it’s that the person taking a kip doesn’t tend to be aware of their own gaunt, slack-jawed appearance. With their ridiculously titled (and admittedly brilliant) second album, The 1975 have ruined the bliss of ignorance forever. We don’t looking beautiful when we sleep, and now we’re fully aware of it. Thanks a fucking bunch, The 1975.

Is Frank Ocean still busy making that bloody staircase?

Safe to say no one actually knows. But yeah, probably.

Was James Blake’s new album a howl of pain about England and the planet today, or more ambient chillax?

Ever since that infamous post-Mercury interview, James Blake’s formerly genre-fluid sound has become easily classifiable. On the one hand, there’s howls of pain about England and the planet. Elsewhere, there’s ambient chillax. Got it? That’s all there is. Nothing else. Simple.

‘The Colour In Anything’, at a whopping hour-and-a-quarter in length, is a tough one to pin down. On the one hand, ol’ Bonny Bear’s Actual Real Life Howl at the start of ‘I Need A Forest Fire’ seems to answer the question straight up. Forest fires? They’re all over the place at the moment – Spain had a nightmare with them this summer. He’s howling. It’s “nice!” - James says so himself.

There’s plenty of opportunity to kick back and chillax, though. The likes of ‘Waves Know Shores’ seem practically written for the stuff, to be honest. It seems somewhat plausible that maybe, just maybe, Jimmy B’s done the unthinkable. Could he have finally created an album that’s… both? Someone get Newsnight on the blower.

How did The Magic Gang’s Jack Kaye get all this way on his own?

He’s trying to find out. He’s trying to find out. He’s trying to find out. He’s trying to.

Poor Jack. First he’s dubbed with the ‘Young Ed Miliband’ comparisons and now he’s in a pickle, seemingly ending up in an unknown place without having a clue how he got there.

But let’s be honest: The Magic Gang’s ‘All This Way’ is clearly a song about falling asleep on the Northern Line and ending up in High Barnet, a box of chicken strewn across poor, dazed Jack’s lap. What a silly sausage. Actually, we’ve managed to answer this one. Cheers Jack, we’re always here to help.

What does Brexit mean?

It might be easiest if we start with what Brexit doesn’t mean, here. Brexit doesn’t mean breakfast, that’s for sure. Especially not European Union-regulated breakfast, with rules about ingredients, properly imported meat products, a total lack of food-borne viruses, that sort of thing. Brexit doesn’t mean breath mint either, for what it’s worth, though Nigel Farage could probably do with one after all that stinking bullshit he’s been busy spewing. Oh no. The thing with Brexit is, nobody has a clue what it actually means.

Since we were first told that ‘Brexit means Brexit,’ we’re no closer to working out exactly what ruinous chaos half of the United Kingdom have managed to wreak, but here’s a quick recap of the facts we do know. Brexit: Red, white and blue, according to Theresa May, though we’re hazarding a guess here that Brexit is mainly a miserable shade of blue, with specks of white acting as tears of regret rolling down its ruddy cheeks. Enjoys: deluded notions of ‘getting our country back’ whatever that means, racism, unregulated light bulbs with poor energy efficiency, The Daily Mail, falling pounds. Hates: Everything that provides any joy in life.

A couple of years ago, the only word escaping definition was the mildly annoying genre classification, ‘witch-house’. What heady days of innocence those were, in hindsight.

2016 WHY?

WHY? You spineless fucking prick. We’re down and out. Can’t you see we’re already fucking dead? Stop kicking us when we’re down. It doesn’t even hurt anymore. We feel nothing. Bowie. Snape (RIP Severus). Cohen. Prince. Brexit. Fabric. Trump. Pokémon Go. The rise of Farage. Every Black Mirror episode feeling eerily familiar. The Hunna. The Stranger Things kids being led to their demise, one telly appearance at a time. Adam Curtis’ ‘Hypernormalisation’ making no fucking sense whatsoever. Our precious Toblerones. THIS IS HORRIBLE. STOP. END THIS.

In 2016, a year when so much has gone wrong, was music the real winner?

No, even that fucked up.