Joan Armatrading still knows how to get to the heart of the matter: Her music is pop-soul, dead simple – just a beat, a bassline and a gleaming chorus
Joan Armatrading Consequences Out Friday
A month ago I was at The O2 in London for the Brit Awards. It was the best Brits ever, just because the 4,000 spectators were so thrilled to be there (and none of them, as far as we know, caught Covid).
But I did find myself wondering about one thing: why does British music have so many big figures, and so few awards for them?
At the Brits there are 12 or 13 gongs to be handed out; at the Mercury Prize, just the one, plus 11 runners-up. Their American equivalent, the Grammys, has more than 80 categories.
One year the BRIT for Outstanding Contribution might go to someone less famous who has also blazed a trail and built an oeuvre – such as Joan Armatrading (above)
Sometimes at the Brits there’s an Outstanding Contribution award, but often there isn’t. Why it comes and goes, nobody knows. It should surely be annual, dancing to the only rhythm that makes sense for an awards show.
One year it might go to a legend like Mick Jagger, the next to someone less famous who has also blazed a trail and built an oeuvre – such as Joan Armatrading.
A Caribbean-born Brummie who is now a youthful 70, Armatrading has collected an MBE, a CBE, five honorary degrees – and no Brits. Her greatest hit, Love And Affection, is still making new friends 45 years after it reached the Top 10: it has had 20 million plays on Spotify.
‘I am not in love,’ it famously begins, ‘but I’m open to persuasion.’
There’s no line quite as memorable as that on Consequences, her 20th studio album, but Armatrading still knows how to get to the heart of the matter. Her music is pop-soul, often dead simple – just a beat, a bassline and a gleaming chorus.
Her lyrics sound like your aunt coming round to sort your life out.
This brisk 35-minute album hits its stride straight away with Natural Rhythm, which takes a sparky drum track and adds a bucketful of joy. It softens you up for Already There, a love song that sweeps you off your feet by blending power with charm.
Best of all is Better Life, an anthem so jaunty that it might well be the sound of the summer, if a 70-year-old could get enough radio airplay. Never mind the algorithms – let’s just give her an Outstanding Contribution award.