Popjustice » The Briefing http://www.popjustice.com Thu, 27 Nov 2014 11:06:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 Five newish songs, at least one of which is really amazing http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/five-newish-songs-at-least-one-of-which-is-really-amazing/132660/ http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/five-newish-songs-at-least-one-of-which-is-really-amazing/132660/#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 16:38:42 +0000 http://www.popjustice.com/?p=132660 CRASH!

Samantha Jade is a former X Factor Australia ‘champ’ and she chucked this perky, Meghan Trainor colour palette-stealing video, for new single ‘Sweet Talk’, on YouTube a few days ago. Popstars in the UK don’t release this sort of music very often but it’s a jolly little number, don’t you agree?

More Samantha Jade on Facebook

BANG!

This is ‘Lips Like Wine’ by TIO. They’re from Canada. “We make music,” they say in an email that they probably sent to everyone, “from a self feeding wellspring of churning, purple and black waves which says; “you could sit there, or stand, but we are invoking THE invitation, it is open, swaying and dropping. Movement and memory are the goal, together, lips like wine”.”

Coincidentally we gather that’s exactly what Cheryl had in mind with ‘Crazy Stupid Love’.

More TIO on Facebook

WALLOP!

You might know Karin Park as one of the names behind Margaret Berger’s still-amazing ‘I Feed You My Love’. You may not care what she’s done before and you may simply want to enjoy this dark and delicious gloompop belter in its own right. That is your choice and, however you choose to proceed, we do not wish to stand in your way.

More Karin Park at Scandipop

CRASH AND BANG!

A few people have been in touch (thanks chaps) about this new single from Stockholm Syndrome, that amazing girlband (now a duo) who we wrote about a few times in the past, and whose incredible ‘Pretty Girl’ somehow ended up on a Cheryl Cole hairstuff advert back in April. ‘Kalabalik’ isn’t exactly a classic, but it makes for breathtaking listening all the same.

More Stockholm Syndrome on Facebook

BANG AND CRASH!

Ekkah are called Rebekah and Rebecca (amazing), their new EP’s out this week and this is the best song on it. It’s quite likeable, even if – presumably intentionally – it’s largely uneventful. (You don’t want to scare off the blogs, do you?) Ekkah are managed by the same team as Plan B, Tom Odell and Jess Glynne so don’t expect them to turn into Mini Viva any time soon but they should keep you happy if you find JUCE a bit on the exciting side.

More Ekkah on Facebook

OH SOD IT

Here’s Mini Viva.

What. A. Banger.

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Why you really keep mishearing that Taylor Swift lyric http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/why-you-really-keep-mishearing-that-taylor-swift-lyric/132627/ http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/why-you-really-keep-mishearing-that-taylor-swift-lyric/132627/#comments Tue, 25 Nov 2014 13:50:03 +0000 http://www.popjustice.com/?p=132627 taylor-swift-on-a-horse

There’s an interesting piece on NYMag.com about ‘Blank Space’, the Taylor Swift song that recently broke a chart record but would have broken at least one other record (‘MOST AMAZING SINGLE EVER RELEASED’) if it had been ‘Style’.

Anyway, the interesting piece concerns something we all know exists but rarely acknowledge in public: the fact that in ‘Blank Space’ the line “long list of ex-lovers” sounds so much like “lonely Starbucks lovers” that many people think Taylor’s actually singing about a coffee emporium-based romance scenario.

According to our notes from the album playback we, too, made that mistake when we first heard the song. In fact a portion cut from our 1,989 word album review (in order to get it down to 1,989 words) says this:

Lady Gaga declared that ‘ARTPOP’ would provide what she described as a ‘reverse Warholian expedition’, but with considerably less fanfare Taylor offers a few expeditions of her own: a reverse Sondheimian expedition with ‘Out Of The Woods’, a reverse Orwellian expedition with privacy banger ‘I Know Places’, and an espresso-fuelled Shakespearean expedition with ‘Blank Space’, in which the ‘star-crossed lovers’ you so often find in pop lyrics somehow end up in Starbucks.

It is just as well we chopped that bit out because as well as being a terrible piece of writing it was also wrong about the Starbucks bit.

So why does everyone hear the line incorrectly when, once you know what she’s singing, it’s totally obvious what she’s been a-warbling all along?

Well, the interesting piece goes into all sorts of things. According to a linguist quoted in the article, misheard lyrics are mostly about what you think you’re going to hear. The interesting piece explains that part of your understanding comes from what you’re actually hearing, and the rest comes from “our minds — from our expectations, in other words”.

What the interesting piece doesn’t explain is why anyone would actually expect to hear ‘Starbucks lovers’ in a Taylor Swift song. ‘Starbucks lovers’ is not, as they say on the internet, ‘a thing’.

But ‘star crossed lovers’ is a thing. It’s a thing from a Shakespeare romp called Romeo & Juliet, which was a love story, which inspired a love song, which was called ‘Love Story’, which was by Taylor Swift.

If you are listening to a Taylor Swift song you are subconsciously expecting something to do with Romeo & Juliet.

THE END.

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Some words of advice for Only The Young http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/some-words-of-advice-for-only-the-young/132600/ http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/some-words-of-advice-for-only-the-young/132600/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 14:57:27 +0000 http://www.popjustice.com/?p=132600 only-the-young-new

Hello Only The Young.

There’s a picture of you at the top of this letter in case you’ve forgotten what you look like.

We were sad to see you go out of The X Factor on Saturday night. It’s unusual for your sort of act to do very well when it comes to the live finals so you did a good job to get to this stage, but it’s also a shame you ended up getting the boot as a result of a weird format quirk without getting to sing. If you’d been singing against ‘Stevi’ in a normal Sunday night boot-off debacle, you’d probably still be in the show.

But let’s not dwell on what’s happened. Instead, let’s look ahead to what comes next.

You will almost certainly find yourselves bound by X Factor contractual nonsense, meaning you can’t release anything for a while. You probably want to just get on with everything. But actually, it’s fine. There’s no rush. People won’t forget about you. Well, they might. They might not think about you on a daily basis. But it won’t take much to remind them when the time’s right. And sometimes it’s good to let the dust settle.

The next few months are critical, and they’re not about what you do. They’re about what you don’t do.

Don’t do anything rash, don’t do anything shit. The best popstars achieve what they achieve by saying no to nearly everything. By all means, turn on a few Christmas lights if you want to. That is allowed. But don’t say yes to much else. Don’t become known as the sort of band who’ll turn up to anything. Ask yourself what Jake Quickenden would do. Then do the opposite.

Think of yourselves as a Wall’s Viennetta. Imagine that you are amazing, which shouldn’t be hard because you are, indeed, amazing. And imagine that you are in the freezer. You will still be amazing when you’re taken out of the freezer in six or eight months. You’ll probably last a year, if you want to stay in the freezer that long. The point is that everyone will go bloody berserk when you come out of that freezer. They’ll want you so much that they won’t even want to let you defrost for a while like it suggests on the box. But what if you’re taken out of the freezer and shown around to loads of people, carted around the country to rubbish local radio roadshows and dodgy product launches before your big first single’s ready? You will melt and became rubbish. You can try and get back in the freezer but you’ll just be a frozen brown puddle. Who’s going to want to eat a shit Viennetta a year from now? Nobody. The Viennetta will be in the bin.

This is a picture of a Wall’s Viennetta.

viennetta

Screengrab this picture or save it to your ‘camera rolls’. Remember the Viennetta.

Obviously, you need to get a record deal. (The Viennetta principle is important here, too. Decent labels don’t like melted and refrozen Viennettas.) Syco will get first refusal, and maybe you know already whether they’re going to be interested. They’d do a good job on you if they wanted you, but if they don’t then that’s not the end of the world. If your contract says you have to stick with Sony, RCA are probably a good bet.

You are brilliant, but because of the sort of act you are, it would be easy for you to seem crap. During the X Factor live shows it seemed like a few poor decisions were made regarding song choices and staging. They were choices that unfairly pigeonholed you as a really naff band before you’d even had a chance to prove that you weren’t.

Obviously, you’re not very cool. Not in an ‘oh let’s go and eat some street food in Deptford while pretending to like PC Music more than we actually do’ sort of way. That’s fine – you might not hear this from anyone in the media, or anyone working at record labels, but the secret is that most teenagers aren’t that cool either. (Here’s another really big secret that most people at labels won’t tell you – most teenagers DON’T EVEN LIVE IN LONDON!) But not being cool doesn’t mean you’re uncool. It just means you exist. People who exist is a good demographic.

For a lot of people you talk to in the coming weeks, the ghost of Steps will loom in an annoying if not terribly menacing manner. Ignore that, and ignore the people who talk about Steps. Loads of your fans will be really young, but you don’t have to make music for children. Kids love loads of music for older people. They love Calvin Harris and they love Rihanna and they love Rita and they love ‘Anaconda’. You can’t make an experimental jazz album, obviously, and roping in members of The xx to make your album might be a bit of a strange decision, but the point is that you can make music that sounds really sophisticated and modern and smart and it doesn’t all need to be happy-clappy nonsense. Call TMS, call Xenomania, call Biff.

Please don’t do anything that sounds like Wham!. Don’t you dare do anything like this.

Steps were mentioned just then, but S Club 7 could also seem like a good reference point. Their forthcoming tour probably seems like a safe bet. Maybe you’ll consider buying yourselves a support slot on that tour. Be careful about this. Don’t find yourselves blinded by the fact that you’re a mixed group. Their target audience is all wrong for you. So while it’s important that you don’t go too young, it’s also important that you don’t go too old. S Club 7 are probably only a useful reference point in terms of what you think S Club 7 would look and sound like if they launched in 2015. The answer is that they’d look and sound quite different to S Club 7.

It’s probably most useful to think of yourself as a Little Mix that happens to have a couple of chaps knocking around. Whack out a single that sounds like ‘DNA’ and you’ll be fine.

Don’t change your haircuts. The haircuts are great.

Have fun and don’t forget the Viennetta.

BYE

Popjustice
X

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Rihannawatch: Threat Level Critical http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/rihanna-threat-level-critical/132577/ http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/rihanna-threat-level-critical/132577/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 13:00:54 +0000 http://www.popjustice.com/?p=132577 threat-level-critical

This morning we have taken the step of shifting the Rihanna Single Threat Level to Critical status.

Please remain calm and read the following words.

An explanation of the Rihanna Single Threat Level system

As you well know, nosiness experts MI5 have in place a system of threat levels based on potential problems vis-a-vis the whole national security thing.

It’s split into five stages. We’ve basically copied those off the MI5 website and changed ‘an attack’ to ‘a Rihanna single’.

Low: A Rihanna single is unlikely
Moderate: A Rihanna single is possible, but not likely
Substantial: A Rihanna single is a strong possibility
Severe: A Rihanna single is highly likely
Critical: A Rihanna single is expected imminently

When we moved into Q4 almost two months ago, the Rihanna Single Threat Level (RSTL) moved from Substantial to Severe. As the days and weeks have ticked by, that threat has intensified.

As you can see, by moving the Rihanna Single threat level to Critical, we are acknowledging that a new Rihanna single could appear at any minute – and for this reason we suggest all readers remain on high alert. Actually is ‘high alert’ a different classification system to the threat level one? And where do RED ALERT and DEFCON 1 fit in? You get the idea, anyway.

Our intelligence

MI5 base their threat levels on “the assessment of a range of factors” including current intelligence, recent events and what’s known about intentions and capabilities. Our intelligence is bloody rubbish to be honest but the recent events and known intentions and capabilities provide COMPELLING EVIDENCE.

  • Someone we know said they’d heard the single would appear on November 24.
  • Another person we know said they’d heard it would be November 25.
  • The latest Rihanna has ever debuted a new single during Q4 is October 27, meaning that her new arrival is now a month overdue. If this was a baby they would have induced it a fortnight ago.
  • Obviously we all know she has been recording music, and Rihanna has confirmed that an album exists. David Guetta, Ne-Yo and DJ Mustard are among those who’ve recorded with her. Furthermore Calvin Harris recently announced that his submissions won’t appear on the album, suggesting that a tracklisting has been finalised.
  • Anyway we’re not here to talk about the album, all we want is a single.
  • Recent reports suggest something’s coming soon.
  • It’s not Q4 without Rihanna.
  • She’s not going to want to release it too close to Christmas because everyone loses all sense of reality from December 16 onwards.

There are loads more bits and bobs floating around but you don’t need this spelling out. Unless something goes horribly wrong or something annoying has happened, Rihanna could release a single at any moment. 

How might a Rihanna Single appear?

There are three ways this single could make an appearance.

Pre-announced.
She’ll use social media to announce that the song will premiere later that day, or in the coming days. Everyone will get very excited. There will be a hashtag. Fake versions will appear. Someone will start claiming they heard it when it was supposed to be on someone else’s album. The producer will tweet a lyric. Blah blah fucking blah.

Semi-Beyoncéd
The single suddenly appears on iTunes and VEVO.

Accidental appearance.
So far there have been no snippets or leaks from any of the sessions attached to this project – it’s been completely watertight in that respect. But as the song starts on its way to digital retailers, broadcasters and services such as Shazam, it may leak in part or in full.

How can I prepare for a Rihanna Single?

low-battery

How’s your phone’s battery? 
When a Rihanna Single Threat Level is at a Critical stage, it’s unwise to leave the house or office with less than 89% charge on your phone.

Does your phone have enough data?
We’re near the end of the month – if your next billing cycle begins on December 1 there’s a chance you might be running low on data. Check this before you leave the house. If you’re out of data, simply don’t leave the house.

If you do need to leave the house, do so before 1pm.
Any official news of a Rihanna Single will come from her US label and will be timed to achieve maximum impact. The earliest time we reckon an announcement would be made is 1pm UK time, based on an 8am announcement from New York, but LA would still be in bed at that point so we’d say the UK ‘danger zone’ is 4pm-7pm if they’re going for a morning announcement. In all likelihood the new Rihanna single will appear just as you’re sitting down to eat a nice dinner you’ve spent ages cooking.

Get your browsers ready. 
If you’re using Google Chrome, we recommend the Easy Auto Refresh plugin thing. Find the ‘Videos’ part of Rihanna’s YouTube account and set the extension to refresh every ten seconds. If something suddenly appears, you’ll know almost instantly.

Read up 
Have another look at our notes on preparing for a Pop Monster, see if any of the Pop Emergency rules still apply, and wonder out loud how many times Popjustice can post what is essentially the same article.

Make sure your iTunes account is up to date.
In the event of a Rihanna Single suddenly appearing on iTunes you are not going to be wanting to be fucking around with the last three digits on the back of your credit card.

What do I do in the event of a Rihanna single?

We are currently on a state of high alert but please do attempt to behave normally. Go about your everyday life until something happens.

But when a Rihanna single does appear, give it a listen. It will probably be quite good.

In anticipation of a Rihanna single, we’ve reactivated the Pop Monster Instant Response Form. Please do let us know what you think of the track when it appears.

What if a Rihanna single doesn’t appear?

Do the same as us: print out this picture…

straws-for-clutching

…then cut out the straws and clutch at them all day every day until new music does turn up.

GOOD LUCK EVERYONE.

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Proposed script for tomorrow morning’s S Club 7 event http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/proposed-script-for-tomorrow-mornings-s-club-7-event/132430/ http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/proposed-script-for-tomorrow-mornings-s-club-7-event/132430/#comments Sun, 16 Nov 2014 16:04:29 +0000 http://www.popjustice.com/?p=132430 article-0-00480a0300000258-435_634x463

Thank you for coming this morning! Great to see so many familiar faces.

We’ve invited you here today to make a very special announcement. Some of you can probably guess what we’ve been planning today, but we’ve done our best to keep it all a secret until this morning!

Long story short, we’re splitting up.

On Friday night we had a chance to show the world that we could make sense in 2014. We had a chance to show the world that we wanted to make sense in 2014. We managed neither of those things.

Did we blow it? Not really. Instead, we were honest.

We were honest with you on Friday night in the same way we’re being honest with you this morning. We can’t do it in 2014 and, having taken a vote, it turns out the majority of us don’t really want to.

Our comeback ends this morning. It’s a comeback that lasted for a weekend. That feels about right to us. There will be no tour – even we wouldn’t have the audacity to try and launch a tour after Friday’s performance. There will be no new music. We’re not playing Hyde Park. There will not be a reality TV show on ITV Be showing us getting back into shape ahead of the greatest challenge of our lives. There will not be a fragrance.

Pop music is a wonderful thing. The best thing in the world. We defy anybody to ever tell us that pop should ‘know its place’. But we also understand that sometimes pop should know its time. And the time for the pop we made ended, quite naturally, over a decade ago. Another type of pop took its place. Then another one, and another one.

The pop of 2014 doesn’t sound like ‘Reach’, and the voices of S Club in 2014 don’t sound like the vocals you know on ‘Reach’, either. We only really ever had two great singers. Now we have one. 1:6 is not a great ratio when it comes to live performance. Maybe that’s why Children In Need stuck us on after 10:30pm. Or maybe they monitored the buzz after we’d announced the performance and realised that we weren’t going to be another McBusted.

Maybe there is demand for a tour. But that’s not the point. We know some of our former fans would come to see us live. But we know after Friday night that they would go away disappointed. We know that however many “WOOOO!!!” noises we made on stage, we wouldn’t be feeling “WOOOO”. We’d be feeling sad. We think that sadness would infect our audience. We do not want to spread sadness. That’s the reason we split up in 2002, and it’s the reason we’re splitting up in 2014. We couldn’t do it to ourselves again. We couldn’t do it to you again. You deserve better.

The S Club party is finally over. We’re glad, and you should be too.

BYE

S Club 7
x

PS: Rachel’s done a new album with Richard X and it’s out next Monday.
PPS: We’re going to be mentoring a new version of S Club. They’re great. Cathy Dennis co-wrote their first single with Charli XCX and it’s out the Monday after Rachel’s album.

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S Club 7 comeback liveblog http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/s-club-7-comeback-liveblog/132422/ http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/s-club-7-comeback-liveblog/132422/#comments Fri, 14 Nov 2014 22:48:29 +0000 http://www.popjustice.com/?p=132422 SCLUBLIVEBLOG

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Stop what you’re doing if it is safe to do so and watch this Kiesza album trailer thing http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/stop-what-youre-doing-if-it-is-safe-to-do-so-and-watch-this-kiesza-album-trailer-thing/132313/ http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/stop-what-youre-doing-if-it-is-safe-to-do-so-and-watch-this-kiesza-album-trailer-thing/132313/#comments Tue, 11 Nov 2014 16:21:36 +0000 http://www.popjustice.com/?p=132313 pj_276
In the above picture you can see Kiesza going record shopping and finding a copy of one of her own 7″ singles.

It has been incorrectly filed among the 12″s, but the video from which this image has been extracted is more than just a cautionary tale about the very real staffing crisis that faces a growing number of independent pop emporia.

The video, which you can watch below, is actually a promotional thing for Kiesza’s debut-if-you-don’t-count-the-other-one album ‘Sound Of A Woman’, which is out on December 1 and contains all the hits to date plus a couple of future ones too eg the title track which is a belter.

Pop feels like an exciting place with Kiesza around.

She worked for a long time to get to the point where she could be an overnight success, but the way she quickly established herself as a Big Pop Thing is a good reminder that you don’t need endless dicking around with teaser singles, or courting ‘the style press’, or trying to get specialist radio on board, in order to make an impression.

Sometimes it’s alright if you just chuck out an amazing single, make sure it has a decent video, let everyone know you’re a popstar rather than just someone singing on a dance track, watch the whole thing sail to Number One and find that you’re a global pop property within six months.

In the best possible way, Kiesza makes this whole thing seem extraordinarily easy. One of our big hopes for 2015 is that there are more Kieszas in the charts.

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The new Neon Jungle video is all quite nice, BUT… http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/the-new-neon-jungle-video-is-all-quite-nice-but/132150/ http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/the-new-neon-jungle-video-is-all-quite-nice-but/132150/#comments Wed, 05 Nov 2014 09:59:48 +0000 http://www.popjustice.com/?p=132150

Above these words you will see the video for Neon Jungle’s next single ‘Can’t Stop The Love’. The song features your friend and ours Snob Scrilla, but the video features loads of footage of Neon Jungle fans singing and ‘larking about’ (alongside The Jungle and Scrillo).

It’s better than Kitty Brucknell’s attempt at the same thing and it conjures a pleasing ‘X Factor ad break’ feel, but it could have been three times better.

Basically in the final thirty seconds of the video, while Neon Jungle are singing their song in a poshly filmed studio location, all the fans and characters we’ve grown to know during the course of the video should appear behind the girls, sing along and be hugged by the band etc.

That’s it. Thirty seconds that capture the magic of pop and the magic of pop fandom. Fans and idols are not so far away after all. The internet is real life. Anything is possible. Blah blah bloody blah. Total cost: a few train fares and an Iceland buffet.

ALSO

While we’re here, let’s just have a proper look at the latest incarnation of Amira’s hair.

pj_266

pj_264

This is almost certainly the pop haircut against which all other 2014 pop haircuts can and must be judged. Good work Amira.

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McBusted are doing a tour in 2015 and you can get tickets tomorrow (or win some today) http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/mcbusted-are-doing-at-tour-in-2015-and-you-can-get-tickets-tomorrow-or-win-some-today/132108/ http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/mcbusted-are-doing-at-tour-in-2015-and-you-can-get-tickets-tomorrow-or-win-some-today/132108/#comments Tue, 04 Nov 2014 11:56:21 +0000 http://www.popjustice.com/?p=132108 McBusted press shot

We’re giving away tickets to see McBusted on tour!

“Hold on,” you’re thinking. “I heard rumours – or saw with my own eyes – that McBusted put on an excellent live show when they took their unique brand of UK punk-pop-but-mainly-pop on the road earlier this year. But how, unless I use a time machine like one in a film I’ve seen, could tickets to that tour be of any use to me now? Without bending the laws of time and space those tickets would be, at best, purely ornamental.”

Well the news here is that McBusted are GOING ON TOUR AGAIN – next year.

Video content

In order to draw attention to the forthcoming tour, ‘the lads’ have made an amusing piece of video content, which you can see here:

Ticket details

Tickets go on sale on Friday morning but if you’re an O2 customer you can get Priority tickets 48 hours (that’s two days) before general release by visiting http://www.o2priority.co.uk/Events/McBusted/1060 from 9am tomorrow (Wednesday). The presale ends at midnight on Thursday.

These are the tour dates:

MARCH
Monday 16: METRO RADIO ARENA NEWCASTLE
Wednesday 18: FIRST DIRECT ARENA, LEEDS
Saturday 21: MANCHESTER ARENA
Sunday 22: MANCHESTER ARENA
Tuesday 24: MOTORPOINT ARENA, SHEFFIELD
Saturday 28: BARCLAYCARD ARENA, BIRMINGHAM
Sunday 29: BARCLAYCARD ARENA, BIRMINGHAM
Tuesday 31: ECHO ARENA, LIVERPOOL

APRIL
Saturday 4: THE O2, LONDON
Sunday 5: THE O2, LONDON
Thursday 9: MOTORPOINT ARENA, CARDIFF
Friday 10: MOTORPOINT ARENA, CARDIFF
Monday 13: BOURNEMOUTH BIC
Wednesday 15: BOURNEMOUTH BIC
Sunday 18: CAPITAL FM ARENA, NOTTINGHAM

The competition bit

You might not need to buy any tickets at all because we have one pair of tickets – that’s two – to give away to a Popjustice reader.

To stand a chance of winning, simply email us at mcbustedtickets@popjustice.com and tell us whether you think McBusted SHOULD or SHOULD NOT cover Andrew WK’s ‘Party Hard’ on their 2015 tour.

The competition closes at 5pm today; we’ll pick a winner at random and pass our findings onto the band who will no doubt be grateful for our help.

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Steve Brookstein’s got a book coming out. But what’s in it? http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/steve-brooksteins-got-a-book-coming-out-but-whats-in-it/132094/ http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/steve-brooksteins-got-a-book-coming-out-but-whats-in-it/132094/#comments Mon, 03 Nov 2014 12:40:26 +0000 http://www.popjustice.com/?p=132094 steve-brookstein-vook

Years before livetweeting turned The X Factor from an enjoyable light entertainment telly experience into a bloodsport, one man was yelling “WORRALOADOFOLDSHIT” at anyone who’d listen. Now, he’s written a book.

In 2004 Steve Brookstein was The X Factor’s first ever winner. He released a Number One single and a gold-selling album, then he was dropped. The X Factor has since written him out of its history.

These days Steve is usually portrayed as bitter, and his Twitter feed is not exactly one that depicts a man capable of cheerily LOLing away his experiences. To be honest, if Steve was bitter that would be quite understandable – would any of us really not hold a grudge if we’d been fired for doing a decent job? – but he seems angry more than anything else, and it looks like the book is all about explaining why.

Steve announced the book over the summer, and finished writing it five weeks ago. “The book I’ve been meaning to write for years is finally finished,” he wrote, “and on it’s way to be printed.” With any luck he ran it past some subs before he sent it off. Either way we have high hopes for the book, and here’s what we’d like to see in it.

Humility

Back when The X Factor was auditioning contestants for its first series, few might have predicted how huge the show would eventually become – or how much it would contort over the next decade. Even so, Popstars and Popstars: The Rivals had already happened, as had two series of Pop Idol.

You could argue that Steve Brookstein was poorly treated but you could also say that as someone who’d been in and around the music industry for a long time and who’d had ample opportunity to figure out the (often hidden) truth of previous reality pop shows, Steve shouldn’t have been surprised about what happened to him.

To put it another way: if you sign up for a Cowell-helmed ITV juggernaut, what do you expect to happen?

So we’d like to read Steve addressing the fact that he should have known what he was getting himself into, even if some of the stories he’s likely to tell (which we’ll come to in a minute) could never have been predicted.

But we’d also like to read Steve considering this question: if he hadn’t been so vocal about how The X Factor had tried to bury him, would The X Factor have tried so hard to bury him? Did his reputation as the leading tinfoil hat conspiracy theorist of the X Factor world mean that nobody else would work with him, or take him seriously as an artist? Would he have done himself a favour by not saying anything about the way he’d been treated? Or – and we expect this will be covered in the book – is it exactly that sense of fear that all these TV shows exploit?

Some properly explosive stories

In recent years we’ve made two attempts to interview Steve Brookstein.

Most recently we tried to speak to him was when we were thinking about writing a book about ten years of The X Factor. That would have been a pretty good book, right? Well we knew we needed Steve’s input for it to make any sense, and when he declined – very politely, but very firmly – we binned off the idea.

Hopefully some of Steve’s book will cover some of the areas we wanted to write about because if the story’s told properly there’s an opportunity for this to be a really strong book about what really happens (or happened) on The X Factor, and what it’s really like to move forward in a career when you’re high profile enough to attract criticism, but deemed ‘over’ by the labels, the media and the gatekeepers who’d make your work a success.

The first time we tried to talk to Steve, about four years ago, was for a magazine feature, and it was more interesting. We dropped him an email one morning and later that day he called us for a chat. Despite his obvious mistrust of journalists he was immensely candid in what he told us; we were only on the phone for about twenty minutes but a couple of the stories he mentioned in passing were truly astounding. Maybe he was testing us. Anyway, after years of reading him rant against The X Factor, for the first time we were on Steve’s side.

We won’t print his stories here because they’re probably in his book and they’re his stories to tell but if he’s managed to get those tales past the lawyers then readers may find that they, too, start to see things from Steve’s point of view.

Even so:

Not too much ‘needless to say, I had the last laugh’ business

This is currently Steve’s Twitter bio.

pj_259

Steve elaborates on this point in a blog, posted in July, about his intention to publish the book.

“Talk to the press, we will bury you.” Max Clifford, August 2005
And let’s be honest, he did a pretty good job. How did he do it? Often through newspapers edited by Andy Coulson.
It is this more than anything which, ten years on, tells me that now is the right time to tell my story.

Clearly this book is going to be about the settling of scores but with any luck the book won’t just be 320 pages of “Max is in prison in 2014 so I shouldn’t have been dropped in 2005″.

It’s easy to understand the temptation, but the more Steve grinds this particular axe, the less credibility some of his claims may have. If the whole book reads like a vendetta against Max Clifford, there’ll be a point where the reader wonders if Steve’s being objective, which will harm the credibility of his argument. Presumably some of the details of his post-X Factor life are so shocking that they won’t need ‘BECAUSE MAX CLIFFORD WAS AN ARSEHOLE’ at the end of each sentence.

A decent sense of context and self awareness

Steve is not the only X Factor winner who’s been swept under the carpet by the show. Leon Jackson is never mentioned these days; Sam Bailey’s album was not exactly given the full Leona treatment. Some X Factor winners are voted to victory by people who do not buy music.

For some X Factor winners there just isn’t a decent future as the sort of act a major label needs them to be and Steve Brookstein was always going to be one of those artists. It’s probably easier to see that when you’re not Steve Brookstein.

There also needs to be an awareness that if you’re a difficult artist – and in the world of X Factor winners that can equate to saying “do you know what I’m not sure about doing an album of covers” – certain labels won’t bust a gut to make sure they get to work with you again.

Finally, Steve’s book needs to show an understanding of the fact that while some of his experiences may be directly linked to an organised attempt to keep him quiet, the media are not cruel to or militantly dismissive of all X Factor contestants who’ve fallen in popularity: they leave Leon Jackson alone, nobody laughs at Stacey Solomon, Joe McElderry’s given a decent reception. But they all smile and get on with their lives, and that just wasn’t Steve’s style. If you’re negative and disruptive in the media the media will reflect that in future coverage, but not everybody in the media is under Cowell’s thumb, or one of Max Clifford’s lapdogs.

Finally: closure

After he’d sent to book off the printers, Steve wrote about the experience and described how the cathartic process of examining the last decade of his life would allow him to close that particular door forever.

My parents had kept so many magazines both good and bad that I can now happily stick in the bin. I will keep some articles for my children so they can see what I did back then but I see this as the beginning of a new chapter in my life. Louis Walsh couldn’t help have a dig at me in the papers this week calling me “that awful Steve Brookstein” but luckily the negativity towards me is on the slide like The X Factor ratings; it’s only a matter of time before it is cancelled.

It’s all so nearly over and I can’t wait to get my own copy of the book even if it to just place it on the shelf, out of sight and out of mind.

After this book’s publication will Steve stop talking about The X Factor? Will he fuck. But maybe, for the first time, people will understand exactly what he’s talking about.

The book’s out later this month; you can pre-order a signed copy from Steve’s website.

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