NME columnist Mark Beaumont isn't expecting great things from Tom Hardy's grime record
Even if the world’s best plumber came to your house and fitted a boiler with such intricate and delicate skill that you’d think he’d studied with the masters at the Rudolf Nureyev school of pipework, you wouldn’t then hand him a scalpel and say ‘actually mate, would you mind taking my appendix out while you’re at it?’ You might be the most proficient and professional dental assistant known to man, but if you think I’m going to test pilot the rocket you’ve built to Venus you’re clearly out of your mind. Heston Blumenthal, fine chef, but I’m not going to buy his range of noise-cancelling headphones.
So why the hell do we give any time or respect at all to actors who’ve made records? It’s not as if the ability to read out someone else’s words in a semi-believable fashion is any indication that you can write the next ‘Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space’. Yet here comes Tom Hardy, announcing that he’s recording a grime album. Tom Hardy, menacing Kray, award-worthy Bronson, unintelligible Bane, wants us to listen to his rapping. A source claimed “It’s really starting to get some steam.” Just like most fresh turds.
Stop! Have we learnt nothing from Dogstar? From Matt Berry’s prog records and re-imaginings of the Rainbow theme? From Bruce Willis, William Shatner, Christopher Lee, Billy Bob Thornton, Alexander Armstrong, David Hasselhoff, Michael Cera, Ryan Gosling, Holly Valance, Olivia Newton John, Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Johnny Depp and Bradley fucking Walsh? Put the vast majority of actors in a recording studio and, overwhelming evidence suggests, they’re going to make a Doherty’s breakfast of it. Even the one undeniably great actor-turned-singer Kylie Minogue recognises the folly – when she invited Jason Donovan onstage for ‘Especially For You’ at a show in Hyde Park last week, she didn’t even give him a microphone. He was reduced to the status of the Left Shark of ’80s pop nostalgia.
And rightly so. Yes, by sheer luck of the odds alone, a talented tunesmith (Zooey Deschanel, Jack Black, Juliette Lewis, Donald Glover, Will Smith at a push) occasionally emerges from the acting profession just as they might, proportionally, from the worlds of pig husbandry or competitive Scrabble. Of course some child actors like The Lemon Twigs, Jenny Lewis, Phil Collins and 90 per cent of the Mickey Mouse Club grow up to find their creative talents actually lie in music. Welcome, you’ve proved yourselves, help yourself to a Grammy, there’s shitloads. But if you’re an established A-lister who’s just been interrupted gargling ‘Get Lucky’ in your trailer by a queue of record label execs offering you a three album deal, for Christ’s sake, stop clogging up our cultural flow with your steaming great chunks of musical fatberg.
It’s all part of the churning, commercialist, sell-the-sleb hellscape we suffer, a culture-wide fallacy that insists that being famous for one thing makes you an all-encompassing artistic polymath. It’s created a mass delusion that all comedians can write a half-readable novel, rappers are excellent designers of sports shoes, footballers naturally ooze a bottleable scent, Richard Branson could run the NHS and Ringo is, in any way, shape or form, a painter.
Because, quite simply, they’re easier to sell. When a screen star puts out an album only Graham Norton, under contractual obligation, is going to pretend it’s any good. After all, someone who has probably never had an ounce of creative input into anything they’ve ever done isn’t likely to suddenly pull a ‘Hunky Dory’ or a ‘Loveless’ out of their arse, even if they could find it in all the smoke that’s been blown up there. No, it’s not about the record. No-one’s buying the product, they’re buying the name on the front, a name they’ve already bought into in the form of cinema tickets, action dolls and stalking expenses. Likewise the live shows – no-one’s paying money to go hear Johnny Depp play guitar, they’re paying to be in a room with Johnny Depp. And hopefully get sonically impregnated.
As new acts get tougher to break and fewer albums make profit, more money is being pumped into these shit-but-safe celebrity options, clogging up the album charts and draining budgetary lifeblood from musicians with real talent in favour of high-profile hobbyists turning music into one big, self-indulgent pub blues side-project or karaoke croon cash-in. So here’s an idea, Tom Hardy and any other actors with a hankering to indulge your inner Stormzy. Why not donate any record label advance to an unsigned act of your choosing, record your grime album yourself and then give it away as part of a double-album package? Or just keep it between you, your backroom songwriters and your pool party full of sycophantic hangers-on, ‘kay? Because, believe me, one Thirty Odd Foot Of Grunts was thirty-odd foot of grunts too many.