Fox (n): carnivore of genus vulpes; crafty person; scavenger; (vb) to confuse; -ed (adj): to be drunk.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Wan direction.

THERE was a time when pop was raw.

Music made by people who had something to say, who were angry or witty or sad, and there were so many people doing it that you could choose which genre you wanted your angst delivered in.

There was operatic drama courtesy of Freddie Mercury, thrashing rage from the Sex Pistols, poetry by Bob Dylan, drugs and sex and heartbreak and hating your parents by everyone from Suede to Eminem by way of Oasis and the Rolling Stones.

None of it was played, interminably, on telephone helplines and in lifts and supermarkets because it was the only decent thing anyone had produced for ten years, to the point where hearing a few bars of something you used to love made you scream and claw at your own ears.

But that's the point we've arrived at - from pop that was red in tooth and claw we now have the occasional Adele, producing lovely heartfelt songs we all like listening to right up until the 75th time you've heard it from a car insurance company.

Where's the passion? Where's the difference? Where's the recognition that hours spent practising in your parents' garage and writing your own songs can, with luck and a touch of stardust, haul you from a tenement or tower block to having champagne with the Prime Minister?

I'll tell you where it is. It's in the same dung-production plant that's given us the X Factor, Iggy Pop selling car insurance and two Brit Award nominations for that gormless gurner Olly Murs, that's where it is.

Now, the Brits have never been the greatest arbiter of musical cool. They've given far too many awards to Robbie Williams for that. They're recognition of what's popular, and as such they've always had a fairly eclectic list of nominees and singers.

The Brits put Justin Timberlake on stage with Kylie to do a cover of Blondie; they had Amy Winehouse and Mark Ronson; they mixed up Boy George and the Four Tops, started a fight between Ronnie Wood and Brandon Block, and gave us the Union Jack mini-dress.

They're mainstream, yes - but mainstream music was still interesting, when you got it all in one room and gave it booze.

And last night, what did we have? We had Michael Buble quite seriously nominated in the same category as Bruce Springsteen, while the latest X Factor winner and FLIPPING MURS went up against Adele, and we even had to hear from the worst judge from terrible talent show The Voice who thinks rock involves wearing black jeans and very little else.

The best British single of the entire year was, apparently, a straight-to-call-centre Bond theme. And it wasn't even Goldfinger!

On top of that, the organisers invented a special award to give to hairless boy band One Direction, who arguably have become a worldwide phenomenon but have done so by singing about how they love insecure teenage girls who need to "get some".

Aside from the fact it's mildly tasteless, they're songs written and performed by other people and which shamelessly exploit the fears and obsessions of young women to make money for a group of frankly pervy record executives while enabling Harry Styles and his chums play chlamydia roulette.

They've every right to sing and make some money, but The Beatles they are not. Aside from some jokes about Harry's taste in women their appearance last night was so tame they actually waved hello to their parents from the stage. Led Zep would have cried, had they been so brain-dead as to tune in.

But then had Led Zep auditioned for a record executive today they wouldn't get past the opening bars. Modern pop isn't about talking to teenagers - it's about grabbing their pocket money, and what's more doing it in ways that don't bring joy.

So One Direction tell girls they need to flick their hair and let Harry Styles do as he pleases, and Beyonce sings about being strong while crawling around on her hands and knees in a thong. Music is bland and formulaic, and nobody tries to do anything new and exciting with the amplifiers.

Pop stars don't set anything on fire, never trash their hotel rooms, and if they do have a meltdown like Britney Spears they end up so tranquilized by medication and management teams the only remarkable thing about them is the dead, staring eyes left wondering what happened.

Put that lot in a room and give it booze and what happens? Half of them aren't allowed to drink and the other half are on a diet, that's what. And the whole thing is overseen by a compere of the moment who will be as bland and inoffensive as possible, because that's how idiot record executives think they make money - not upsetting anyone.

But the music we love best is offensive. It's the stuff your parents didn't understand, your teachers used to confiscate and the BBC wanted to ban. It's Frankie telling Mike Read to relax, it's whacking up the volume, it's Betty Boo shouting to get up, get with it or get out of my sight.

The stuff that sells is the stuff that's dangerous. It's Adele revealing what heartbreak really feels like, Lou Reed talking about heroin and androgyny, words and music that somehow or another give you a taste of a life you'll never have but makes you feel a part of this whole sorry mess we call humanity.

But yet - One Direction sells. In their millions. And 7.5m people tuned in to watch nothing happen at the Brits last night, the highest viewing figure in ten years. Those are the kind of statistics which make fat, boring, safe record executives laugh and say people like me are just being nostalgic.

Then again, I'd say that's 7.5m people hoping against hope that things will get interesting.

Either that or they're waiting for a quote on their travel insurance.

Please hold, your call is important to us.