Innovation is a difficult concept to define. Often used as a synonym for originality or novelty, it’s a term that has been cheapened by its wholesale application to objects, concepts, and people. If the latest Dyson product is innovative, just as we’re told every other has been, then how do we distinctly define a musician or creative personality as innovative without the term losing its power? Is innovation the way in which we restlessly subvert the norm? And how do we make this known: merely by shouting the loudest or being the first to be heard?
Music writers often use “innovative” as a placeholder, an easy label for new sounds that haven’t yet been neatly categorised. Every now and then, however, innovation is what defines the artist. It may be frustratingly indefinable, but no other adjective seems to fit quite as well. Think of Bowie, think of Prince, think of Stevie. Think of Kashif, who died on 25 September.
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[This piece was originally published in The Guardian on 04/10/16]