Popular Welsh music in the 21st century

Goldie Lookin' Chain

Last updated: 05 December 2008

And so to today, as we attempt to document history as it happens...

Disclaimer: To include everyone who's currently making musical waves in Wales would be nigh-on impossible, so forgive us for cherrypicking a little. For now, we've chosen to focus on some of the better-known names around.

Badge saying I Love Now

These days Welsh music is as healthy as ever. Armed with a DIY ethic inspired by punk and early garage bands, many young acts are forming record labels, promoting their own gigs, organising mini festivals and releasing their own material.

The music industry is increasingly casting its beady eye westwards towards the emerging talent from Wales, and Welsh acts are finding success in the mainstream.

Bullet For My Valentine
Bullet For My Valentine

Two of the biggest names in Welsh rock are Lostprophets and Funeral For A Friend, who have taken the music industry by storm in recent years. And with a massive groundswell of young post-hardcore bands, particularly in South Wales, such as Bridgend's Bullet For My Valentine.

On the darker side, the brilliant Cardiff rock band Mclusky caused a stir at the start of the decade, though after three increasingly inventive albums they sadly called it a day in 2005. Former members formed two bands: Shooting At Unarmed Men and Future Of The Left.

Culprit One
Culprit One

But it's not all rock, hardcore, punk and emo in 21st century Wales. Acts such as Culprit One and High Contrast are making waves in dance and drum'n'bass circles respectively, and Texas Radio Band, Attack+Defend and MC Mabon are still making vital, skewed Welsh language pop.

Talking of pop, groups such as Dragonheart, TNT and Pheena began the decade by holding up the flag for Wales in the treacherous territory of teen mags. However, all pretty much failed to break through to the mainstream, just as Andy Scott-Lee, Jessica Garlick and James Fox had mixed success in shaking off their reality TV past.

Seemingly out of nowhere, Goldie Lookin' Chain managed to successfully get much of the nation's youth speaking in their irrepressible patois. Who'd have thought that "your mother's got a penis" could become a playground chant? But when their label Atlantic dropped them in early 2006, they failed to overcome their novelty status and instead found a niche performing at student balls and releasing tracks online.

But out of the wilds of Gwynedd came the blues-soul voice of Duffy, working with Suede's Bernard Butler to produce songs of powerful pop presence, propelling her to millions of sales worldwide.

Charlotte Church
Charlotte Church

The future? Well, who knows. Continued international success looks likely for the 'Prophets. Penarth singer Jem remains one to watch: she became a stateside sensation before setting her sights on the UK. Things look promising, too, for The Automatic, coming straight outta Cowbridge to take their spiky indie to the kids. Their second album, This Is A Fix, showed a new maturity.

Stereophonics managed to return from the creative doldrums with 2005's Language, Sex, Violence. Other? Feeder have continued as a popular stadium and festival draw, the Manics still have a devoted fanbase, and Super Furry Animals are still making breathtakingly inventive music.

People say music is going to change the world but it can only be a soundtrack.

Super Furry Animals

Meanwhile, classical music in Wales has undergone a resurgence, with several artists crossing over into the mainstream. While Charlotte Church's forays into pop have received mixed reactions, the success of Katherine Jenkins alongside familiar names such as Aled Jones and Bryn Terfel looks set to continue. Other classical artists, including Elin Manahan Thomas and Natasha Marsh, have been steadily building notable bodies of work.

And if the seas should rise, earthquakes decimate the land and civilisations crumble, one thing seems certain: Tom Jones will still be making music. His 2008 album, 24, was widely regarded as a return to rock-soul form.


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