Alex Mann stole Glastonbury when he rapped onstage with Dave, but columnist Mark Beaumont worries that Cowell might try to monetise the concept
I’m beginning to believe there’s nothing Piers Morgan can’t ruin.
He could present me with the Nobel Prize for literature and it’d instantly be rendered a tawdry bauble. He could present me with free flights to watch Morrissey renounce Britain First onstage with a reformed Smiths on Copacabana beach and it’d feel like getting the clap from Anne Widdecombe. He’s like some kind of King Mudarse – everything he touches turns to shit.
Take good old Alex Mann. You remember, the 15-year-old kid who hopped onstage with Dave at Glastonbury and speed-rapped his way to viral superstardom. We all loved that guy, right? I can’t have been the only one overjoyed that he’d been showered with offers of management, modelling contracts and record deals and hoping that he forms a fan-guest supergroup with Foo Fighters’ Kiss guy and The Killers’ Mexican drummer dude.
For a second, the act of getting an enthusiastic fan onstage for an unrehearsed collaboration looked like a new way to cut through the industry production line and the talent show pay-as-you-vote method of rinsing the gormless, apathetic, screen-obeying general public of spare cash while simultaneously force-feeding them more tasteless musical gruel like they’re trying to make moron foie gras. Maybe, I thought, we could literally pluck new, pure talent straight out of the moshpit and instantly beam it into a million homes without the algorithm getting its grubby little coding on it.
Then Mann appeared on This Morning with Morgan, and the ham-faced twatgibbon hailed Mann’s talent without recognising that of ‘Thiago Silva’’s writers Dave and AJ Tracey, and the whole thing started to feel a bit shabby.
Mann clearly has a talent for speaking other people’s words very quickly, and I personally hope he turns out to be a beanie-hatted Stormzy in time. But suddenly Mannmania starts to look like another way to bypass the hard work and talent it takes to get to the level of Dave or Tracey. Piggy-backing on other people’s tunes is the James Arthur/Michael Buble/Noel Gallagher route to stardom and chances are, if Mann does end up in a recording studio, he’ll be surrounded by so many producers, beat-makers and song-writers it’ll make a Beyonce album look like a campfire sing-along. Any talent he might happen to have will be smothered by the money men. It’ll be Tom Odell all over again.
Plus, the fact that Morgan’s already got a sniff of it makes it all the more likely that Mann’s phenomenon will be twisted for wicked ends. Morgan has a hotline to Cowell; Mann insists he wasn’t a plant, but considering the attention he’s had how long will it be before we see the next major label signing down the front at a televised festival gig with a sign saying ‘pick me!’, only for their for-now-secret labelmate onstage to ‘pluck them from obscurity’ to perform an impeccable on-tape duet which happens to land, studio-recorded, on Twitter half an hour after the end of the set? There’d no longer be any need to slip a rap label’s latest signing a feature or two on the big name act’s album, Jay-Z style, you could just get them ‘discovered’ live on iPlayer.
Maybe I’m cynical – actually, scrap the ‘maybe’ – but I still believe that working your way to a genuine mass appreciation of your art is the best way to build a solid foundation for success, rather than a blinding flash of internet exposure. Because if Cowell isn’t already thinking of ways to monetise the idea of the viral Glastonbury fan invasion, you can bet your life the rest of the rap community is. Brace yourself for A$AP Signwaver and ‘Lil Ordinaryblokehonest…