Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Cher or Cher-alike?

"It's not the winning, it's the taking part." That hopeless, condescending aphorism that rings in the ears of every chubby, asthmatic kid on school sports day. All designed to encourage a sense of camaraderie and team spirit, rather than the venal every-man-for-himself mentality that defines a true champion. Maybe that's why we're just not very good at winning in the UK. Perhaps those P.E. teachers were simply too effective in encouraging everyone to have a go, irrespective of talent or inclination.

It's a cultural thing - just look at Murray Mount (or Henman Hill as it used to be known). All those hopelessly cheerful people waving their flags and gulping down their Marks & Spencers sausage rolls, knowing full well that they'll be heading home long before the final, much like the object of their misplaced affection. They shrug, shake off their picnic blankets, and make a mental note to book tickets for next year.

Our TV shows are no better. Take Big Brother for example. The only rule of the whole show is that contestants are forbidden from talking about nominations. That means no allegiances, no tactical voting, and certainly no expressing a desire to win. Yeah yeah, you're just "in it for the experience". In the States Big Brother is all about winning - in fact it's all they talk about. Because in the good old U.S of A, there are no prizes for second place.

But the most disturbing side-effect of this culture of also-rans, can be seen in shows like the X-Factor. Listen to the contestants in the run-up to the final and they'll even admit that they're not really in it to win it. They're smart enough to realise that all they really need from the show is sufficient exposure to secure an audience, then they can sign up with a smaller record label and make it "all about the music".

And it's precisely that nauseating naivete that is responsible for the abomination that is Cher Lloyd. Having risen to fame last year as Cheryl Cole's nominated assassination decoy, she's now ready to unleash her debut single on an unsuspecting world. You can grumble all you like about the anodyne pap being churned out by the winners of the X-Factor, but at least someone's happily providing soundtracks for dentists' waiting rooms and lifts up and down the country. And within six months, they'll be dropped by Cowell's sausage factory, free to return to a life of pain-free anonymity. It's the runners-up, the ones with aspirations of 'artistry', that you really have to worry about.

So what are we to make of Cher's 'Swagger Jagger'? Aside from the nonsensical title, which makes you long for the narrative coherence of the Cheeky Girls, it's all about showcasing Will.I.Am's Machiavellian influence. Coming across like a sink estate answer to the Black Eyed Peas, the track combines a shouty, tuneless verse with a chorus that riffs on 'Oh My Darling Clementine'. All blended together with the subtlety of a cut-and-shut Vauxhall Nova.

All through the X-Factor, the judging panel repeatedly asserted that Cher was exactly what the British public was crying out for. And I guess they were right, which is why 'My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding' was such a huge smash. Even so, it doesn't mean that anyone's going to rush out and buy 'Swagger Jagger'. But what would I know - I turned 36 last week, which means I'm old enough to be intimidated at a bus-stop by Cher and her hoodie-loving posse. Or I would be, if they didn't come across like a bunch of Pineapple Dance Studio rejects. They can strike all the poses they like, but I know they spent their weekend rinsing out Louis Spence's leg-warmers.

In fact, everything about the video, and the song itself, is utterly insincere. And for all her swagger (jagged or otherwise), there's something disingenuous about the big-haired faux-Fergie herself. The whole point of the song is that Cher's "haterz" are just jealous. That's why they're all so keen to steal her style. And yet, responding to negative reviews of her video over the weekend, Cher Tweeted "I have feelings. I come across as a hard faced bitch, but please give me a break. If someone can say that to me then they can say it to anyone! fight the bullies! Don't let them win! These people are not safe to be on the internet, many people are affected badly by this sort of behaviour!" Now, I may not be the world's foremost expert on the subject, but that doesn't sound much like swagger to me. Then again, my rhyming dictionary drew a blank when I looked up "petulant whining brat".

1 comment: