Friday, 24 January 2014

Where Have All The Pop Stars Gone?

I grew up at a time when MTV was in its infancy, a magazine called 'Smash Hits' printed the lyrics to every song in the top 40 and you either spent your money on a 7inch single, a 12inch remix, a picture disc or you spent Sunday afternoon with your ear against the radio and your finger on the record button of your tape recorder.
It was the 1980's and nothing felt as good as a song you'd 'stolen' from the top 40, even if it meant you lost the last few seconds because the DJ started speaking over the top of your chosen hit. No pop stars needed a second name.

Michael, Madonna and Whitney transcended colour barriers and every white boy at my school wanted a perm with a kiss curl and a pair of penny loafers worn with trousers that barely reached his ankles. I even got my mum to pluck my eyebrows into a fine arch to try and get the Jackson look. For a 12 year year old white boy from a council estate with little contact with cosmetic surgeons it was the most I could do to look like my idol.
It was also quite a brave move to go downstairs to breakfast the next morning and have my dad say 'what the f*ck have you done to your eyebrows?'
Only for me to answer 'mum done it, she was trying to make me look like Michael Jackson'.
(I still have no idea if my makeover contributed to their divorce)
I even tried to be a vegetarian like Michael until my older brother force fed me a cheeseburger at the bus stop one day after school.
It was the 1980's and there was always a bus stop outside a McDonald's (especially a bus stop near a school) and at that time Michael Jackson hadn't really started to resemble Ronald McDonald in a black wig, so I can only blame my brothers influence on breaking my strict vegetarianism.

Fast forward ten years and Michael had turned white, Whitney had turned to drugs, my eyebrows had grown back and Madonna turned into the ultimate horror story and the nightmare that just wouldn't go away.
No matter how many times she got knocked down, she just kept getting back up, in different guises. Like the Terminator with a head mic and a bra top.
Not so much 'Like a Virgin', more like Michael Myers with a blonde wig and bad attitude, always present and always making her presence felt. The material girl with the Minnie Mouse voice and the Marilyn Monroe lips kept reinventing herself until all she could do in the end was rehash what she'd already done before.

Who'd have ever thought that over 30 years later the most controversial and rebellious one of those three huge stars would be the only one left?
And who'd have ever thought she'd have been the most 'clean living' and ultimately boring of the three?

So what are we faced with today? The Bieber's and the Britney's (already a veteran herself), the Jessie J's and the One Directioners, who's only direction within a year will hopefully be to rehab and the bargain bin. The manufactured rather than the multi-talented, the talentless rather than the multifaceted.

Where has the joy, the innocence and ultimately the debauchery gone from pop music? Even though we were naive to Michael Jackson's addictions or Whitney's preoccupation with crack cocaine we believed what they sang. I really did wonder 'Where Do Broken Hearts Go' and I really did start to question if Michael was 'Black or White?'
Madonna and her white lace gloves and 'Boy Toy' belt helped teenage girls believe they really were about to be 'touched for the very first time' even if it was for the very first time that day, and many hoped against hope that they would lose their virginity on a gondola in Venice.
As it turned out most probably lost it coming down a slide on a pedalo in Magaluf, but the fantasy remained that one day they may get chased around Venice by a man in a lion mask. I can't see Lady Ga Ga emerging from an egg, wearing a Dorito on her head or referencing Dali, Matisse or wearing a skirt made of steaks inspiring that same kind of whimsical, naive sexual fantasy in anyone old enough to be wearing a training bra or know where to rub a bottle of Veet.

The 1980's were the epitome of all things that go 'pop'. The stars we had then knew they had to self destruct to reemerge. They were like comets in the night sky rather than the pathetic pop tarts we are left with today. Katy Perry sings about being a Firework but she's hardly going to set the curtains on fire is she? Kylie remains but then she's like Tinkerbell, ever young, ever so small and ever so slightly annoying. Even if Michael Jackson was the 'Peter Pan of Pop' at least he knew when it was time to check out and fly off to Never Never land. Kylie will remain, all cutesy and coy, even when she's flashing her arse in a pair of gold hot pants at the age of 60.

I still look to the pop stars of the 80's for the right mix of talent and self destruction. George Michael is always good for a near death story and a near perfect pop song. Even though the only notable hits he's had of late are when he's been bouncing down the fast lane of the M1 he's still a huge presence in pop culture. Boy George has recently fell out of his bucket of chicken Mcnuggets and emerged revitalised, remade (up) and back to riding the bucking bronco of pop. Even Bananarama have made it from the bar and all the way back to Butlins holiday camps and Duran Duran are at this very moment new romanticising a whole new group of fans, but I want the 1980's back and most of all I want pop music back.

Back when it was about 3 minutes of pure unadulterated bliss, not pretentious, not plastic and not pimped up like a player with a bunch of naked hoes.

Back when I could illegally record songs from the radio without getting caught, rather than spending lots of money on iTunes and regretting it three minutes later.

And back when our pop stars where home-grown, organic and ultimately flawed, rather than the genetically modified pop stars we have to put up with today.

I want Michael with his kiss curl and his moon walk, Whitney with her god fearing presence and her white girl weave and I want Madonna back when she had a beer belly and a sense of humour. Come back Michael and come back Whitney, it's so boring without you and Madonna, seeing as you're the only one left, please go back to basics. Put on some weight, stop shaving your armpits, put on a wedding dress and start writhing around on dirty nightclub floors in a wedding dress like you used to.

Give me the drug addled, the tortured, the pill poppers and cocaine sniffers for those are the only ones that really put the personality into 'Pop' and take your manufactured, manicured, airbrushed and autotuned and save them for another day.

Tell Bieber to 'Beat It', someone let Beyonce know 'It's not right but it's ok' and let Miley Cyrus know the only way she'll ever get close to doing something  'Like A Virgin" is if she gives birth to a baby in a barn.

By an unknown father.