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Pop isn’t stupid enough

One of the joys of the iPod era is hearing a long-forgotten song pop up on random when you least expect it. My heart was gladdened in a deep and profound manner to hear ‘Prince Charming’ by Adam and the Ants thundering along. What a song. Two drummers, man dressed as a dandy highwayman, fat Marco on guitar….it brought it all back. ‘Ridicule is nothing to be scared of’, he sang, and he meant it. Sadly, it seems too many of today’s pop stars seem to disagree.

Today’s pop charts are a soulless place. The modern pop star is armed with a team of stylists and PR people, controlling their image with a strategic focus most arms companies would be proud of. They plan what they should say, where they should say it and how it should be reported. The haircuts cost thousands of pounds and is as important as the bassline.

Nobody looks like they are having any fun.

X Factor may be full of deeply amusing bellends, but who will win it? Either the scary teen girl or the ferociously bully-able wee lad who almost wet his pants during his performance of ‘Mad World’ (the dire Donnie Darko soulcrusher, not the sparkly Tears for Fears version.) Presiding over it all is Cheryl Cole, a pleasant enough racist, a woman whose public persona is so precisely controlled you suspect she has a spreadsheet telling you when she will next smile and for how long.

Pop music is not supposed to be like this. Could modern pop have a mental Welshman pretending to be Elvis? A camp virgin whose main audiences are working-class grandmothers? A boy/girl group whose most risqué move was removing the girls’ skirts to reveal the bottom of a bodysuit? Could it feature women who looked like they worked in Boots and men who looked like they stepped straight off a cruise ship? No, it could not, and this is a bad thing.

American r’n’b takes a lot of the blame, firstly for how interchangable it all is, and secondly for the corrosive influence it has had over a generation of inner city kids who now seem more comfortable singing about South central LA than Brixton. Radio One should also be called to account due to their shameful policy of only favouring records they suspect will be a hit (in other words, records which have a significant amount of record company spend behind them.) That means that the tried and tested, the accepted look, will always get the nod ahead of any demented interloper.

Pop is not art. Pop exists to thrill. Would ‘Video killed the radio Star’ be a hit now? Probably not. It’s just too weird. Nobody wants someone who is a bit different and the world is a poorer place for it.

When I was four, I wanted to be Adam Ant. Not for the girls or the money – I was four – but because he looked like he came from another planet. Sadly, no-one has that in their armoury now. Sometimes progress is good, but pop needs to get back to basics. Stupid, pointless fun basics.

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8 Responses

  1. Adam Ant was my first crush . Good article!!

  2. Genius. Adam had it all. Stupid look (which had I guess evolved, without stylist help, from his perv-punk earlier persona), ridiculous ideas, eminently quotable interviews and shit hot pop songs. I mean, c’mon, Kings Of The Wild Frontier is fucking brilliant. And it’s about Red Indians (sorry, native Americans) and Adam’s worldview about himself and his fans being the direct descendants of their style!
    Can you imagine Cowell allowing any of his puppets this kinda freedom?

  3. i suppose we should take into consideration that Adam Ant now frequents mental institutions…which to me just makes him more of a hero.

  4. Adam Ant could have been a star at any time fom the 50s to the 90s. He created his own world. Sadly, as HW says, I don’t think it would be allowed now. And we’ve lost something there.

  5. You’re describing a synergy of two things: American cultural imperialism and the cult of celebrity.

    The Jam, as an example, were a quintessentially English band, almost all of their material still stands up and speaks about their country and lives. I know they’re not a pop band but they were popular and other bands who charted but did so on their own terms, like The Stranglers, Status Quo, The Kinks, Sex Pistols, and The Clash. The Enemy did so again recently, but pop music is becoming a soul-less, ball-less desert.

  6. The Enemy are utterly gash though.

  7. I met fat Marco once, in London, just immediately prior to them going overground big. He actually said to me, that “Adam is a bit of a dick, really” which endeared me to both of them even more, weirdly.
    There’s a great bit of footage of them on the Royal Command Performance where the bass player goes a bit postal and throws his bass away mid song, exposing the miming. The look on Adam’s face is terrific. Look for it on YouTube, well worth it.
    The bass player was replaced soon after by the bloke who was in the Vibrators and Poxy Music, Gary Tibbs.

  8. This
    is it, poor quality I’m afraid…

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