I was pondering what is the difference might between a singer/songwriter and a group. Obviously in the former the recording contract is in an individual’s name and for the egos a name up in lights and perhaps a different award category to groupd (yes another month or so and we’ll be thinking about Album of the year etc). But is that it?
You may jump up and, you fool its obvious, the song writing credits, but then very few groups collectively write lyrics; nine times out of ten the singer is also the lyrist – sensible really he has got to get his mouth around the words. Not convinced, lets look at some example – U2 – Bono; Coldplay – Chris Martin; Radiohead – Thom York. Yes some groups have multiple contributors lyrically, but they’re in the minority.
So is it the music? This stands a bit better to closer scrutiny but not by much, many singer/songwriters have had the same musicians working with them for years and contributing to the music composition process, for example Tom McRae and Jamie Cullum. At the other end you have bands where one on individual has been the common factor, and often extremely strong in their vision that the music is heavily based on their input, for example The Fall (Mark E Smith is the only common factor on all albums) and Yes (Chris Squire is the only common thread).
So next time you’re tempted to pigeon hole someone as a singer/songwriter think about it.