PREFACE: So... The writing below was supposed to be for an online column about my favourite topic: pop music. The magazine website that was supposed to publish it didn't like the funny lines and were not up for running anything even mildly amusing about acts that they have worked with in the past or hope to in the future (totally forgetting the fact the NME used to refer to Bryan Ferry as "Byron Ferrari" in the '70s even though he was one of their most popular cover stars...). If they're not willing to compromise then neither am I. Here's my first and last Dirty Pop article...
Welcome to the first ever installment of Dirty Pop – a new column named after a lyric sung by Nsync some 14 years ago which aims to illuminate all the goings in pop music through some sharp observations and lively discussion. Dirty Pop will look at the real news, you know, actual events and significant developments (as opposed to an artist getting out of a car at a public event, going into said an event, and leaving again etc).
We know what you’re thinking, “Thank goodness. This couldn’t have come sooner. I’m constantly bombarded by popular culture news updates and am inundated with think pieces but what I really need I just one insightful source to guide me and shape my dinner party conversational fodder.” We hear you. So let’s get on with it.
February, of course, was awards season! So undernourished are the rich and famous when it comes to recognition and praise that they require numerous annual events to tell them, “Hey, just keep on keepin’ on”. Such troopers.
The Grammys were the biggest let down of the crop. Having AC/DC open the ceremony was extremely misleading as what followed was ballad, after ballad after ballad (apart from Sia’s ‘Chandelier’ performance, which, like Sia, kicked ass in many ways). You know it’s been a bad night when “Kanye doing a Kanye” is the talking point of an event. Literally, Kanye West semi recreating the same thing he did six years ago was as exciting as things got. As a result, the politics of Katy Perry’s presidentially sanctioned and Brooke Axtell prefaced performance of ‘By The Grace Of God’ to promote the It’s On Us campaign pledge to eradicate domestic abuse and sexual assault, in front of an invited audience that included Chris Brown, fell by the way side.
Every year at the Oscars actors are all forced to recognise their own uselessness when none of them are able to put on a three minute skit to amuse their peers and the viewing public. Thus pop stars (and Rita Ora) are recruited to provide some actual entertainment on the night.
Lady Gaga’s performance to mark the 50th anniversary of The Sound of Music made her the biggest winner overall. She did what Madonna would never have the guts to do – stand still and sing for her life. Her marvellous medley provoked positive but, ultimately, patronising reactions: “Oh, wait she can really sing?” Yes. Duh. It’s a continuation of the widely and wrongly held consensus among too many critics that the best parts of Lady Gaga’s concerts are when she sits down at the piano and sings a cappella. Let’s clear this up once and for all; a true artist can make equally compelling auditory and visual impacts simultaneously. They need not be exclusive. Furthermore, Lady Gaga’s triumph provided further proof, alongside her recent announcement of starring in the upcoming series of American Horror Story, that she is a true pop renegade with the ability to live and thrive outside of album campaigns and tour schedules. Forget awards, Lady Gaga is winning at life.
Oh wait, don’t forget about awards as we had one final event to attend in the shape of the BRIT Awards. Ant and Dec were a great choice for hosts but the biggest laugh of the night had to be Lily Allen’s inclusion in the British Female Solo Artist category (her last three chart positions tot up to N/A, #93 and #43…).
But just when we all thought there was going to be no headline moment, Madonna unwittingly delivered. Madonna, of course, made the most relevant move of her career since slipping her tongue in Britney Spears’ mouth over a decade ago by succumbing to gravity.
It was a definite tectonic plate shifting moment in the pop hemisphere, but let’s not forget the other significant outcomes of the night, such as One Direction’s lack of presence. Obviously they couldn’t attend, they are on a world tour that had them stationed in Japan at the time, but the fact that they only won in a category that relied on social media interaction from fans was telling. And that they didn’t even pre-record a thank you message for an award they were clearly going to win was even more pressing. Pharrell Williams managed to find the time to send along a “sorry I’m not there but ta all the same” VT – what, do One Direction think they’re busier than Pharrell Williams? Apparently so. It just served as yet another sign that the end is nigh for One Direction. Good luck, Niall!
The one life and industry affirming artist of the night was Paloma Faith who has too often been harshly overlooked. Finally, her strong voice, vivacious personality and determined attitude was formally recognised and physically rewarded. With or without a Tracy Emin designed statue, her obvious flair would be the same but it clearly mattered a great deal to her. As well as proving that true talent can win out, Paloma also stands as testament that anyone with or wanting to pursues a useless MA, such as the Time Based Arts masters she herself possesses, can still make something of themselves.
Dirty Pop’s (Inaugural) Star of the Month Prize Goes To…
*Drum Roll* *Confetti cannon burst* …Max Martin!
As proof of how hollow and ultimately meaningless officially sanctioned recognition can be, Max Martin, the hallowed father of everything that truly great modern pop is, won his first ever Grammy this year (for producer of the year). Yeah, WTF? The man who delivered unto us the likes of ‘…Baby One More Time’, ‘Teenage Dream’ and too many other mind-bogglingly perfect pop songs to recount, has only just received his gold plated gramophone-shaped acknowledgement from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. So, no wait here. Right off the bat – Max Martin you are the man of the hour. Long may those ego-driven souls seeking pop immortality suckle from your bountiful teet of talent.