It’s cunning of the producers of Celebrity Big Brother to run the show in early January, a time when newspapers have nothing to write about, and everyone’s brains are so corroded by two weeks of booze and sofa-bound sloth that they’ll gawp, open-mawed, at literally anything that passes their field of vision.
Even by the show’s tawdry standards, though, the build-up to this year’s series has been particularly cynical. Pre-run publicity centred on a blatant PR stunt – sorry, ‘fight’ – between contestants Dane ‘Dave’ Bowers and Alex Reid, reported as fact by The Sun, Daily Mail and The Mirror.
Is this acceptable now, just flat-out making stories up to suit the interests of Channel 4’s marketing schedule? If so, it’s a depressing development. Although not quite as depressing as the parade of Z-list chancers invited into the house.
In addition to two aforementioned meatheads, there’s Vinnie Jones – another meathead – R&B has-been Sisqo, europop producer/group sex enthusiast Basshunter (otherwise known as Asshunter), and an obscure Page 3 model who Davina McCall told us had appeared “everywhere from Nuts to Zoo” (the full gamut of publishing, then).
It’s hard to see how the producers could have picked a bunch of less charismatic and recognisable people, short of filling the house with members of Mumford And Sons. But there’s one contestant whose presence inspires something other than sustained derision, and that’s one-time grime star-in-waiting Lady Sovereign.
After all, it’s one thing to laugh at Another Level’s Dave Bowers – a man whose sub-Daniel Bedingfield emoting, for me, triggers harrowing memories of standing ashen-faced on the dancefloor of Winkers Nightclub, Chalfont, circa 1998.
It’s quite another to mock Lady Sov, a gifted artist once considered enough of a big deal to be signed to Jay-Z’s Def Jam label. Her debut album, ‘Public Warning’, sold 250,000 copies.
That was four years ago. Since then it’s all gone a bit wrong. While on tour in 2007 she started self-harming, and overdosed on anti-depressants. Her second album, 2009’s ‘Jigsaw’, sank without trace (although NME raved about it).
It’s sad to see Lady Sovereign reduced to appearing on Celebrity Big Brother, last refuge of the fading performer. Then again, what else can she do? When you’re an artist whose brief moment of mainstream exposure has passed, you’ll do anything to sustain the buzz – even if it means cramming into a Mini with the bloke who sang ‘The Thong Song’.
Her plight is worth reflecting on at this time of year, when the media is crammed with Next Big Thing tips, many of whom will be forgotten about by the time the class of 2011 rolls around.
Such is the churn of bands, the relentless hunger for novelty, the recent musical past is thought of only in terms of how inferior it is to our own cutting-edge times (“Ha! Remember when people got excited about Black Kids? Idiots!”).
So here’s a New Year’s resolution. In 2010, let’s all be less fickle with our music tastes. The bands we champion now, let’s stick with. Maybe then, our Next Big Things won’t become next year’s reality TV hopefuls.