Ed Sheeran is a rising star and we all need to get on the Sheerio band wagon before it leaves us behind. I'm not even being sarcastic. His album X debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts, he's best friends with Taylor Swift, and it seems like every pop artist in the world is lining up to do a cover of one of his songs. Even better, Sheeran is a genuinely nice guy who serenaded a dying fan as she took her final breaths when he heard about her situation from Twitter. So to hear that Sheeran was named the Most Important UK Artist should come as no surprise... Except for the fact that Sheeran was named the most important musician by a black music station.
BBC Radio 1Xtra debuted its first Power List of the 20 Most Important UK Artists in the Scene from the last year, and Sheeran came in at No. 1. Directly behind him were two more white artists, the men of Disclosure, with the first black musician on the list, Tinie Tempah, coming in at No. 3. Again, this would be an understandable opinion piece coming from any other station, but the fact that a white man topped the list of the most important and influential acts on a black music station didn't sit right with a lot of people.
The implications there are clear. Naming a white man as the most influential act in a forum that is supposed to cover black and urban music makes it an easy leap to assume that 1Xtra considers Sheeran to be the most important act in black and urban music, despite not actually being black. Even the way that BBC chose to defend themselves was problematic. "Every single day of the week, every single hour of the day we support black artists and other races that make black music sounds," said 1Xtra Music Manager Austin Daboh. "I think that anyone who wants to bring race into the discussion is probably a little bit misguided."
First of all, the statement contradicts itself. It's hard to claim to support black artists every hour of the day and then tell people they're wrong to bring race into the discussion. It's even worse to claim to support black artists and other races that make black music sounds and then produce a list that, by your logic, claims a white man is doing better at "mak[ing] black music sounds" than black artists are. In fact, that's everyone's whole problem with the Power List.
Wiley, a black artist who came in thirteenth on the list, used his Twitter to discuss the innate offense of the list in a multitweet rant.
And Wiley was not the only person to express his displeasure, bewilderment, and confusion about BBC Radio's decision. Many fans tweeted their reactions as well.
Listen, Sheeran is a very talented musician and he is definitively a big name in the industry right now. However, placing him in the No. 1 spot on a list like this was a mishandled situation that 1Xtra needs to correct with something better than a half-hearted apology. They are, as they said, a station that supports black music no matter what race is making it, but pointing to a white artist as the best performer of black music is offensive and it happens way too often in today's society.
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