There’s a crop of pop stars currently doing the rounds that are arguably the least fun musicians and singers, ever. That’s because they’re careerists first, musical entities second. Of course, pop and ‘selling out’ is not a new thing by any stretch of the imagination and, in a lot of cases, nothing to get worked up about. Little Richard, Ray Charles, The Beatles, The Supremes and a whole load more made a tidy profit out of selling their rears to the highest bidder and weren’t any less fun for it.
However, there’s now a breed of pop star that are so hungrily dull that they’re not even willing to hide it anymore. There’s a language that’s developed from shows like Pop Idol, The X Factor, Fame Academy and now, The Voice UK, that has seeped into modern pop stars. One of the things a modern pop star must do is to vow to work hard and bleat on about never letting the chance go. Giving 110%, all the time. Chuck in a token ‘being true to yourself and putting your own stamp on things’ and you’re onto a winner.
Look at the likes of Jessie J and JLS, and you have people who look more like wannabe CEOs of a franchise. They’re so blah, so well drilled, so professional, that if you invited them to your house party, the best thing to do would be to stick a tray in their hands and get them to serve drinks. They’re the pop equivalent of someone who won’t have that pint because they’re driving tonight. They’re the pop equivalent of a Premier League footballer giving a listless post-match interview.
That’s not to say musicians aren’t allowed to be ruthlessly ambitious. Hip hop has been unabashed about the quest for money and Madonna has never been too shy about being a more than just Yet Another Pop Singer. However, in the case of rappers, you get the hilarious pantomime that goes along with it. Hip-hop is a circus and gossip column rolled into one, with beefs, feuds and dysfunctional lovers. Nas got stung by Kelis filming her sex with someone else and sending him the tape (allegedly) and Snoop managed to juggle accusations of very serious crime with appearing with Martha Stewart (another felon) pouring brandy into mashed potatoes.
With Madonna, she couldn’t ever be described as boring. Her Sex book may have been crass and needy, but it is absolutely more interesting than Marvin, Oriste, Aston and JB appearing on packets of condoms and regular appearances on absolutely everything, ready to do yet another backflip and pitch-perfect routine. Madonna’s infatuation with fashion houses and counter culture may seem magpieish, but wouldn’t you rather be faced with that rather than Jessie J who determinedly stands there, promising to work hard and cram in as many notes as humanly possible?
She’s a professional like a supermarket security guard, not required to be creative in the public eye, always tastefully quirky, rather than playfully strange. And since the terrible death of Amy Winehouse, we’ve had a crop of signings that fit this uber-professional bill. They show up on-time, they even work when they’ve broken their leg. Where’s the fun in that? Pop stars are supposed to be divisive for the way they walk their walk, rather than this omnipresence of the grafting careerist. Likewise, Rihanna’s courting of controversy is often yawnsome and tedious, seemingly a result of dogged careerism.
At least Kanye West has the decency to be vulgar in his quest to be taken seriously – Olly Murs seems to have forged a career based entirely on saying ‘yes’ the second he picks the phone up. At least The Beatles had the decency to lose huge sums of money with various harebrained business ventures – Mumford & Sons look and sound like they’re temping for the council.
Of course, it’s all just as orchestrated, but at least good pop stars have the patience to get beyond their first albums to start milking the corporate bull. It’s like we all asked for another Prince and instead, got an army of waddling bank managers more akin to Phil Collins, only with tits and lycra. Effectively, what we’re faced with is a group of young musicians that are trying to pass off an edge, when deep down, they’re all grinning inanely, looking at longevity at all costs, and to hell with giving us all a shot in the arm of pop’s most wonderful trait – fun.