Britain is crowded with male singer-songwriters who look like your little brother’s friend that your mum is letting crash for a few weeks because he has “stuff” going on at homeby Caroline O'Donoghue / July 12, 2020 / Leave a comment
Music festivals are off this year, of course. There is no way to have a festival that is socially distanced and still call it a festival. At festivals, you are not a person, but merely one body in a herd of cattle. It’s glorious. Everyone’s mindlessly grazing and defecating in the same field, watching with their big cow faces and their curious cow eyes. People claim they go to festivals for the music, and I don’t believe them. We go for the idea of music; we go for the break from civilisation; we go to become wild again. We go for spectacle.
Which is strange, particularly when you think how little spectacle there is in modern pop acts. The UK in particular is crowded with male singer-songwriters who look like your little brother’s friend that your mum is letting crash for a few weeks because he has “stuff” going on at home. Take our recent 20-something chart toppers. Lewis Capaldi has had a fight with his dad, your mother tells you fervently in the kitchen; Ed Sheeran isn’t getting on with his mum’s new boyfriend. And George Ezra! Well, love, George got caught with cigarettes in his schoolbag, and just needs to lie low for a minute. They are pop stars who do not look like pop stars, and aren’t doing much to overcompensate for the fact either.
The world doesn’t need another journalist picking on Ed Sheeran’s music, particularly as there’s nothing wrong with it. But there’s nothing to look at. This is not a dig about how Ed Sheeran looks: there is literally not much to look at. A typical Sheeran shindig has no dancers, no outfit changes, no cannons of confetti being shot into the crowd. There is just a man with his guitar and, gasp, a loop pedal. Is it the honest, stripped-back, three chords-and-the-truth authenticity that so many people yearn for in an age of online fabrication? Yes. Is it spectacle? No.
Women-led pop, however, knows how to put on a show. American singer Lizzo dominated festival coverage in 2019, and rightly so: a lingerie-wearing black flautist with a team of dancers, alternately rapping,…