Music

The Coronation Celebration Playlist is the worst possible representation of Britain

King Charles's coronation could have been a chance to celebrate the diversity and creativity of the UK. Instead we got this Coronation Celebration Playlist

Michael Bublé, Coldplay, Take That and Tom Jones feature on the Coronation Celebration Playlist

Michael Bublé, Coldplay, Take That and Tom Jones feature on the Coronation Celebration Playlist. Photos: Eva Rinaldi, Daniele Dalledonne, Raph_PH, vagueonthehow

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has published a Coronation Celebration Playlist on Spotify, part of a toolkit intended to help people organise coronation parties ahead of King Charles’s big day on May 6.

There’s a lot to unpack here. This is a bad playlist. It’s incoherent, it has no real through-line and songs seem to have been picked for their titles alone or to tick vague boxes. There’s not many actively awful tracks here (though Michael Bublé’s It’s A Beautiful Day and Coldplay’s A Sky Full of Stars are extremely skippable) and there’s a few solid classics, but none of them seem to have been given any thought.

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It’s like someone has typed keywords into Spotify and dragged in the tunes that came up first. It’s basically one long list of suggestions: People Get Ready to Come Together as we celebrate Daddy Cool and, hey, Let’s Dance because It’s a Beautiful Day so Say You’ll Be There to celebrate the King on his Green Green Grass of Home and let Love Reign O’er Me. It’s a playlist assembled by the sort of person who thinks they can be a wedding DJ, but would realise quite quickly that it’s harder than it looks.

But what’s depressing about the list is not how shallow and route-one it is. After all, its prime objective is presumably to offend the least amount of people at your street party as possible. No. What’s depressing is all of the things it isn’t. A coronation isn’t a celebration of a King. Not really. It’s a celebration of a country and its people. When Charles’s mother, the late Queen Elizabeth, was crowned back in 1953 the event symbolised a new age of youth and vitality in post-War Britain. Charles’s, alas, was never going to capture a moment in quite the same way, mostly because his personal brand is “baffled and exhausted”, which, though probably an accurate summary of the country he rules, isn’t much to shout about.

So what should the Coronation Celebration Playlist do? Celebrate Britain? Sure. Unfortunately someone seems to have forgotten that the United Kingdom is comprised of more than just England until right at the end of the process, when they seemed to have panicked and added the first Welsh and Scottish acts they could think of (Tom Jones, The Proclaimers) and then gave up on Northern Ireland all together (Lads, Teenage Kicks is RIGHT THERE).

Celebrate the Commonwealth? Lots of potential there, surely – the British Empire once ransacked half the world, the least we can do is highlight some of the incredible music those countries now produce. Alas, the entire Commonwealth, 54 countries stretched across the world, is represented here by Canada’s Michael Bublé – a man who, like an embarrassing relative, should only be seen at Christmas and even then as little as possible – and Jamaica’s Grace Jones. Grace Jones, obviously, is incredible, a statuesque goddess with an amazing back catalogue. Maybe though, just maybe, Slave to the Rhythm wasn’t the best choice considering Britain’s role in the slave trade.

Well how about diversity? Modern Britain is a pansexual, multicultural, many-gendered nation and has the art to prove it. But of the 27 songs here only four feature a person of colour: Boney-M, Grace Jones, Emeli Sandé and a fifth of the Spice Girls. One of which we’ve covered already, another is German. A fifth, Dizzee Rascal, was cut from the Coronation Celebration Playlist shortly after the list was published when someone pointed out his domestic abuse conviction. The other 23 artists are white. The LGBT+ community gets Queen, Years & Years and the Pet Shop Boys, though in all cases they seem to have been chosen for the song titles alone. And what about woman? Half of the country are women. Six. There are six songs on this 27-track playlist performed by a woman.

It’s just so depressing. We’re a country overloaded with creative diversity. We have one of the most exciting music scenes in the world. Grime! Metal! Dance music! Indie! Jazz! There’s some decent songs on here – no-one is going to argue with Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God) or The Beatles’s Come Together. Bowie’s Let’s Dance remains a banger. Who doesn’t like Take That’s Shine? But none of them really says much about what this list is for, or what the day is about. It’s a shrug of the shoulders and half an hour of writing down what you hear on Radio 2. It’s boring. It’s a waste.

And maybe, in a way, it’s perfect? Preoccupied with England, mostly male, mostly straight, boring, predictable and reminding us uncomfortably of colonialism and slavery? Sounds like the monarchy to me.

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