The 1st RYAN Awards: 2020, January-June

Buckle up, it’s the first biannual RYAN Awards! I will be giving out awards based on what I’ve listened to, watched and read in the last six months, and celebrating all of the great music which has both come out and which I’ve only just discovered!

The awards which are up for grabs are as follows:
1. Best Album
2. Best Song
3. Best Artist
4. Most Underrated Artist
5. Best TV Show
6. Favourite Book

It was very hard deciding all of these awards. I would love any feedback either on the comments or on my social media 🙂

Best Album
It’s been a busy period for pop music, with seemingly everyone releasing new tracks. We’ve already had new albums from Dua Lipa and Lady Gaga, both of which are incredible and unique in their own right. The Weeknd hit the top of the charts with his own 80s-inspired album, ‘After Hours’, and Rina Sawayama broke into the pop world with ‘SAWAYAMA’, an album with heavy Noughties influences. However, my personal favourite album was inspired by nostalgia, combining electronic music with punky lyrics and some wonderful collaborations. Mura Masa manages to blend a range of genres, seemingly effortlessly, and create his own signature sound. Although the album lasts only 37 minutes, I could lose myself in its sounds for hours.

🏆 Winner: Mura Masa – R. Y. C 🏆

Best Song
With lots of new albums comes lots of new songs, and there’s many which have taken my Spotify by storm in recent months. In May, Tove Lo released the Pawprint Edition of her 2019 album ‘Sunshine Kitty’, which featured five new tracks (mostly pre-released as singles) and a couple of exclusive live performances. In February, she teamed up with Sean Paul to create a summer bop which would have been perfected for long, hot, summer nights. Maybe next year? ‘Calling On Me’ is a feel-good anthem about falling so deep in love with someone that you’ll do anything for them, and you want to live up to the best version of yourself. I suppose I can *dream*. Very close to claiming the award too, were ‘Bikini Porn’, also by Tove Lo; ‘Dead Weight’, the lead single from PVRIS’ upcoming third album ‘Use Me’; and ‘Boss Bitch’, a catchy, uptempo rap song from the Birds of Prey soundtrack, from Doja Cat, who is quickly becoming 2020’s biggest breakthrough.

🏆 Winner: Tove Lo, Sean Paul – Calling On Me 🏆

Best Artist
It would seem obvious for me to say that Tove Lo has been the best artist of the last six months – and so, I’m not going to give her this award. Even my biased self would agree that I have spent enough time discussing her brilliance. Trying to think of criteria for this category is especially different: do I give it to someone established? Someone new? Someone with two or three great new singles or a very good album? In the end, I went down the album route and picked a big name, rather like the Grammys would (although this is obviously a far superior incarnation). Dua Lipa released her second album ‘Future Nostalgia’ back at the end of March, and while she faced a big challenge from Lady Gaga, overall I would argue that Dua has taken the Pop Queen crown and made it into her own. ‘Physical’ was her first 2020 release, a fun, 80s-infused dance track which can owe it’s name to the Olivia Newton-John track from 1981. For me, artist means more than just the music: to win, you need to have the visuals perfect too. While ‘Future Nostalgia’ is a very good album, it’s whole vibe couldn’t have been reached without the stunning visuals presented in music videos such as ‘Physical’ and ‘Break My Heart’. This is where, for me, ‘Chromatica’ failed in a way – although we were meant to be transported to a new planet, it just felt like a normal album. You can tell Dua has taken more creative control over her new music as well, and while her sassy, slightly sarcastic tone was detected in hits such as ‘New Rules’, she’s really put it to the forefront of her new work and made a massive success of it. The crown is hers, and I would bet that she isn’t going to let it go easily.

🏆 Dua Lipa 🏆

Underrated Artist
When I decided to make this one a category, I knew exactly who I wanted to win it. To have critical acclaim from professionals is one thing – and I’d argue that it’s not the most important by any means – but to have huge support from a growing fan base is another. And even if you have both – often, commercial success might not follow, no matter how popular your music is. Rina Sawayama’s album ‘SAWAYAMA’ has an 89 rating on Metacritic – yet if I hadn’t seen her open for Charli XCX last year, I would have no idea who she was. I certainly wasn’t expecting the blend of sonic pop, nu-metal and Noughties nostalgia that I received when I pressed play earlier this month. If you only listen to one song, make it ‘Dynasty’ – Evanescence meets indie pop in an irresistible, intense, gothic blend.

🏆 Rina Sawayama 🏆

Best TV Show
I’ve made a conscious effort to watch more TV over the last few months, mainly on Netflix, and it’s pretty hit and miss. The best show you’ve never heard of on the platform is definitely ‘Occupied’. It’s a dark Norwegian political thriller, which depicts a dystopian future whereby Russia has occupied Norway, with the backing of the European Union, after going 100% clean energy causes too many problems for the big countries of Europe. Think it sounds a bit heavy for you? It’s very intelligent, but if you strip away the politics, it takes a close look at the personal ramifications of the occupation on citizens at all levels, from the Prime Minister, to a journalist trying to expose corruption, to a Norwegian restaurant owner who needs Russian business to survive, and gets pulled into a dangerous web. It’s complicated, but if you watch it closely, you will be rewarded. There’s a lot going on, but it’s never boring – especially in the second season, the twists get increasingly madcap and dramatic. You won’t be able to stop watching. All three seasons are close to flawless, and that’s why it wins the RYAN Award.

🏆 ‘Occupied’ 🏆

Favourite Book
In expanding the music and television sides of my blog, I’ve neglected the reading side. Indeed, I haven’t even picked up a book in over a month – regrettable, but I know that I’ll eventually get back to it. Back when words interested me sufficiently, I came across Kimberley Chambers, a former DJ and market trader, now an author who uses her experiences of the East End of London to create gritty, tense gangland thrillers (who’s also one of the nicest people on Twitter!). Honestly, she’s the best writer I’ve come across in a long time – her ensemble writing style, incorporating the emotions and feelings of multiple characters in as little as a sentence, along with deep personalisation of even the most minor characters has influenced my own writing. The book which got it all going for me was ‘The Feud’ – the opening of a brilliant trilogy, referred to as ‘The Mitchells & The O’Haras’. Combining savagely dark twists and plot points, with nasty characters, but also more light-hearted, comical moments (if you’re into your soaps, think gritty EastEnders with flashes of the humour of Coronation Street), I felt as if I was part of their world. One of the central characters, Eddie Mitchell, has a great character development – at the start, he’s likeable, then he seems hotheaded and nasty, before embarking on a remarkable redemption arc which carries the whole trilogy through. If you get the time, get yourself a copy of ‘The Feud’ – although you’ll definitely want to get the two sequels to the story as well!

🏆 Kimberley Chambers – The Feud 🏆

Without doubt, this has been one of the hardest posts I’ve ever made, but it felt important to reflect on the most unique six months of my lifetime so far and put everything which has helped keep a level of normality into context. It also feels good to write something which only gives out positivity, without needing to sound fake. Every piece of work I’ve mentioned here is worthy of awards in their own right, and I would recommend everything I’ve referred to. If you liked this post, I would also recommend reading the rest of my blog as well 😉

If everything goes well, the RYAN Awards will be back at the end of December for its 2nd edition!

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