I won’t be bowing down for our new Queen: Beyoncé

I for one welcome our ubiquitous new overlady.

I for one welcome our ubiquitous new overlady.


“Nothing bothers me more than when groups like Pearl Jam and Nirvana whine and moan and complain about life and being famous. Let me tell you, being famous is great! If you hate your job so much, why don’t you fuckin’ go work at a car wash or McDonald’s or something?” – Noel Gallagher

Remember when you actually liked Beyoncé? Me neither. However I never really disliked her, she was just there (or everywhere actually) in the same way that Nando’s or traffic lights are. The tipping point from passive disinterest to actual dislike came when her astonishingly misguided HBO documentary ‘Life is but a Dream’ was shown a few weeks ago on the BBC. This came complete with a fawning introduction from Alan Yentob that was more than a little embarrassing in its ‘get down with the kids’ hand-wavium about what a paradigm defining artiste Beyoncé’ really is.

The film is a skewed, boring and hagiographic 90 minute attempt to get people to like Beyoncé. It instead ends up revealing her to be a classic study in God-fearing American narcism. We are compelled to empathise with the loneliness of superstellar stardom, the kind of celebrity that eradicates the ability of the star to live a normal life. Yet her attempts at introspection – obviously scripted, filming herself with full hair and make-up at 3am complaining about how her life has changed – are too fatuous to take seriously. I found myself muttering ‘give me a break darling’ at the TV, rolling my eyes and saying it like Jeremy Kyle when he is mining a serious vein of prickishnness.

Beyoncé’s life does seem like a dream, perhaps because nothing about it feels real.  It seems as if she lacks the intelligence to realise that she has lost touch with what it means to be a bag of perspiring, respiring carbon like the rest of us down here below the Mount Olympus where the likes of her and Jay-Z live.  She lacks the ability to turn what her life has become – being an outsider due to wealth and notoriety – into great art. Think of Bowie, looking down at his audience in the 80’s wondering how many of them owned a Velvet Underground record. Think of Eminem’s lyrics in the song White AmericaWhat has Beyoncé contributed to this rich seam of artistic introspection? This:

Way to make your fans feel appreciated Bey.

Thats whats most grinding about Beyoncé, her enormous, all-conquering sense of entitlement. She genuinely believes the guff her record label executive spouts about one of her albums being ‘totally original’. Beyoncé talks about songs, mostly written by other people, songs that Alexandra Burke could sing just as well, as if they re-shaped the surface of the planet. This leads to two problems: firstly her nauseatingly transparent humility, which manifests itself in constant referrals to the role God has had in her success feels insincere. Secondly because she  is told be those around her (and by Alan fucking Yentob) that her music is original, that it is groundbreakingprofound and all the other shit, she actually seems to believe it. In the realm of Queen Bey its not familiarity that breeds contempt it is insularity that breeds it.

Bey looks unhappy to be wearing Halle Berry's costume from 2004's 'Catwoman' movie.

Bey looks unhappy to be wearing Halle Berry’s costume from 2004’s ‘Catwoman’ movie.

The success of ‘Single Ladies’ (a song co-written by three men) has led to Beyoncé being lauded as some kind of modern day icon of the feminist fourth wave. In fairness much of what she says is admirable:

– women and men should be payed the same

– men shouldn’t alone in defining whats sexy and what is feminine

Why then are her actions at odds with her words? Beyoncé espoused the above in the pages of GQ (spoiler alert: she comes across badly) . Consider that the cover shoot was orchestrated by Terry Richardson, a man so misogynistic he may as well have the word tattoo’d to his fucking forehead for the rest of his days so that nobody mistakes him for being anything else. Our Queen appears in the shoot half-naked, playfully posing in male sportswear, complete with ‘the gap’. Whoops looks like you’re playing a role in classic male sexual fantasy Bey! As long you sell some Pepsi I’m sure its worth it though.

Slightly better looking than Emmeline Pankhurst tbf.

Slightly better looking than Emmeline Pankhurst tbf.

Beyoncé has been called “the most important and compelling popular musician of the twenty-first century … the result, the logical end point, of a century-plus of pop.”  She is a phenomenal performer, arguably the best in the world today; but when her shows are broken down they are around 60% lights and effects, 30% shaking of her famed ‘booty’ and about 10% singing.   It’s gospel burlesque shot through the prism of 21st century technology at a thousand miles an hour. It’s not important. I’m not compelled. I’m pretty sure this isn’t the logical end point of a century of pop:

“In 2009, both Beyoncé and Kelly Clarkson had hits (Beyoncé’s “Halo,” which charted in April, and Clarkson’s “Already Gone,” which charted in August) that were created from the same track, by Ryan Tedder. Clarkson wrote her own top line, while Beyoncé shared a credit with Evan Bogart. Tedder had neglected to tell the artists that he was double-dipping, and when Clarkson heard “Halo” and realized what had happened she tried to stop “Already Gone” from being released as a single, because she feared the public would think she had copied Beyoncé’s hit. But nobody cared, or perhaps even noticed; “Already Gone” became just as big a hit.” (From this article in The New Yorker.)

This probably is though. Perhaps Beyoncé is the perfect 21st century pop idol, an iconic pop vacuum. She has very little to say, her life is about as different from you and me as Henry VII’s (they were both desperate for an heir) was and her twitter account is about as enjoyable to read through as the first time you used Microsoft Excel without knowing what the fuck was going on. The worst thing is that we don’t expect better, the market has made us dull, paralysed and stupefied us into expecting nothing more than an attractive woman writhing in front of some neat graphics.

Bow down bitches!


Maggie, Morrissey and Legacy


Mozza and Margaret (Getty, AP)

‘Great’ people tend to be those who can ignite profound change and inspire blind devotion in equal measure. They are those rarities amongst us who can ‘set the weather’ by shaping it with their very will. Above all they never compromise, they can’t be bought or sold: they lead and others simply follow, shellshocked in their wake.

People like this don’t actually exist of course. Great people merely make waves in the tides of history, they don’t direct the process itself. Yet with the death of Margaret Thatcher this week, an inevitable operation of mythologising and beatification, led by Downing Street and in the rightwing press has begun in earnest. View with trepidation the front pages of the Mail and Telegraph on Tuesday: a backlit photo of ‘our Maggie’ at her ‘Rule Britannia’  peak, smiling benignly, the light warming the famously unmoving hair into a halo, a visual representation of a calculated attempt to rewrite the history of our country. This is Thatcher rebranded – above the swill of old hatreds, joining the pantheon of British political leaders who are now apolitical symbols of national unity.

Who stands against this?

Certainly not the Labour Party – their last Prime Minister spent £100,000 renaming a room in Downing Street after her. The BBC has been cowed into showing vapid commemorative programming that, deliciously enough, has been beaten in the ratings by Coronation Street. The really despicable moments of Thatcher’s reign, for instance discrimatory legislation like Section 28 has barely been mentioned this week. When the discord and disharmony sown by Thatcher has been shown on the news this week it has dwelt far too much simply on the fact that many people despised her and not why they despised her. Similar to the way the 2011 film ‘The Iron Lady’ showed a horde of screaming protestors battering the great ladies car without explaining their motives at all. Terrifyingly that film and the sycophantic press coverage this week will probably shape the way a vast majority of under-35’s remember Thatcher.

That leaves us with Morrissey.

An 80’s icon who divides opinion in a way that is startlingly similar to Thatcher, Morrissey’s song ‘Margaret On The Guillotine’ was probably the first protest song that I ever heard and actually understood. Ironically the artlessness of Thatcher the person (her interests didn’t stretch very far beyond watching the occasional episode of ‘Songs of Praise’ and an encyclopaedic knowledge of Tennyson) and her government created an atmosphere of opposition that created great art – everyone from Billy Bragg to Sue Townsend owes a strange kind of debt to Thatcherism.

Through his music and interviews (in one he famously wished the Brighton Bombing had claimed her life) Morrissey represented a slice of culture and a section of society that vehemently loathed Thatcher. This week his chance to dance on her grave finally arrived. He didn’t hold back.  Much of the truly vehement appraisals of Thatcher this week have come from similar figures from the period.

Yet by displaying such naked, reckless hate for Thatcher, Morrissey reveals a character remarkably like that of the Iron Lady. In fact there are many similarities between the two; their aforementioned divisiveness, their intransigence and their proclivity towards hubris. They are both magnets for hatred from the press and the public. Thatcher’s slide to irrelevance began as she was tearfully ushered out of Downing Street, Morrissey’s as The Smiths fell apart around him in 1987. For Thatcher’s remark about the ‘enemy within’ trade Mozza labelling the Chinese a ‘sub-species’. Was it Mozza or Maggie who said this:

“If you just set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time and you would achieve nothing”

It ends there though. Morrissey is merely one of the great songwriters of the last 30 years. Mrs. Thatcher was a politician who changed Britain in a revolutionary way. What transpired under her leadership may have been better than the alternative; a managed decline of a former great power, Michael Foot creating a Warsaw-upon-Thames land full of nationalised pubs, intermittent electricity and unbreakably powerful unions. This does not however excuse the unblinkingly one-eyed coverage of Thatcher that has occurred since her death, nor does it mean the public should contribute to what is already being called an “all but a” state funeral. Churchill – a leader who united the country in a remarkable way deserves such an honour but Thatcher, who has left us with a legacy of profound divisions especially between rich and poor and between the celtic fringes of these islands and England, simply does not deserve the accolade. Nor would she want it.

She blazed a trail, with the caveat that it was for herself and for people like her. All opposition was either wrong or the enemy. To consider her a symbol of national unity is to be sadly misguided. Equally to assess her legacy as she assessed her opponents: in extreme terms that border on hatred, is to poison the discourse to come: the sight of smug Brixton hipsters who probably wouldn’t even know what a ‘pit’ is celebrating her death was almost as irritating as the tearfully masturbatory tone of the right-wing press this week.

2012 in Review: Part 3 – Obama Sleepwalks, Romney Blunders and the BBC explodes

Obama - better than you now, in the past and almost certainly in the future.

Obama – better than you now, in the past and almost certainly in the future.

Enough about Bane, what about Bain? Former CEO of Bain Capital (the kind of organisation that nearly sliced James Bond in half with a lazer) Mitt Romney managed to make people with access to television news in 2012 feel comforted – ‘no, I’m not as stupid as that guy’ people said the world over. Whether he was casually flipping through ‘binders of women’, telling us with a straight face that ‘corporations are people’ or pissing off the whole of Great Britain on a foreign relations tour that was more Peter Griffin than presidential, Romney managed to make even the biggest imbeciles feel smart in 2012.


The only thing pleasing about Romney’s presence was the obviousness of his ultimate absence from the presidency. The worldview Romney represented is currently flowing down a demographic sinkhole into political irrelevance; old rich white guys won’t be able to get away with telling people to ‘self-deport’ much longer, they can’t even get away with it now anyway. Barack Obama, despite numerous achievements, even the fact that he is President at all (reading ‘Dreams from My Father‘ this year I was struck by just how incredible a man Obama is), has been disappointing – the fact that Guantanamo Bay is still open, Drones still buzz around shredding civilians with about as much discretion as Britney in a hairdressers and a more general malaise in his presidency – a sense that he has allowed the extremist wing of the Republican party to set the political agenda since 2010, all added up to a feeling of impasse around his presidency.  Yet Barry remains the first man to sleepwalk his way to the White House, his lethargic debate performances and the notion that his election was a statistical inevitability rendered the election itself oddly artificial, devoid of real drama.

Great Britain puts its collective ring on it.

Great Britain puts its collective ring on it.

I’m one of those annoying hipster types that was not looking forward to the London Olympic Games in 2012. There was that ugly red squiggle ‘sculpture‘ in the olympic park, the crappy corporate hysteria that surrounds every games and the frankly bizarre science fiction sex toy mascot things. Thus, having spent most of the summer organising  all the sarcastic things I would say about the games in my head for the inevitable Twitter free-for-all that would ensue, I ended up massively disappointed. In the best possible way. Being a Londoner this summer was like being a Bolshevik in October 1917. It was more than ok. It was a dimension away from the London of a year previously, as if the city had demarcated two periods of craziness, one bad (buildings on fire, lots of trainers stolen), one good (slow motion montages of healthy role models, lots of gold medals won). You would walk around and see random people smiling, grinning even. The weather was a delight. We won a silly number of medals. Luis Suarez was booed with delirious abandon in the football tournament but not as much as slimy puss-cheeked Tory Chancellor George Osbourne was whenever he creeped into an Olympic venue.

Jess Ennis - um yes.

Jess Ennis – um yes.

We booed! We cheered! We had debates about the intricacies of sports that we didn’t understand on Twitter. We realised that as well as having much better booty, Jess Ennis was a much better role model than Pippa Middleton. We laughed as jumped up diet-Bieber Tom Daley only managed a bronze after the media had spent four years wanking over pictures of his bronzed torso and TOWIE tooth filled maw. The opening ceremony was a sensational triumph (even though nobody talked about how most of its best imagery was nicked from the film ‘Brazil’). The BBC surpassed itself with glorious seemingly 24 hours a day coverage, whilst avoiding the temptation to roll out the John Barrowman/Tess Daley/Fearne Cotton axis of evil. Outside of expunging the image of Boris and Dave dad-dancing, the legacy of the games so far (writing this in the first week of 2013) seems to consist of this and this. Generation. Inspired.

If you closed your eyes and were asked to draw a pedophile it would probably look a lot like this.

If you closed your eyes and were asked to draw a pedophile it would probably look a lot like this.

What next for the BBC after a year of acclaimed sporting coverage? A massive sex scandal/cover-up involving that dead bloke who dressed like a sweet shop and inspired more nervous laughter (Jimmy Savile) than anybody else in British history? Indeed. The Savile scandal was the most genuinely lurid and disconcerting story of the year. Unlike Joseph Kony, Savile didn’t need to be made famous – he was famous, perhaps the most famous British television/radio personality of the last half-century. His eccentricism:  the manner in which he spoke, dressed; his reclusive personal life, all marked him out as ‘different’. A friend to Prince Charles and Thatcher, the first host of Top of the Pops, a man who raised £40 million for charity. 

Entertainer. Philanthropist. Pedophile.

Entertainer. Philanthropist. Pedophile.

Yet Savile’s sexuality had always been questioned. There have been idle pub jokes: “I wish everyone would stop criticising Jimmy Savile. When I was 8, he fixed it for me to milk a cow blindfolded” and so on. More famously there was the Louis Theroux documentary “When Louis met… Jimmy” in 2000, which painted Savile as a sad man, desperate to remain in the public conciseness but without public intrusion into his public life; a cipher in his own home clinging oedipally to objects that reminded him of his late mother.  In October a storm broke; Savile it appeared was a predatory sex offender and possibly even a necrophiliac. As these allegations broke, day after day, the media – and in particular our dear BBC became a chickenless head that frankly didn’t have a fucking clue what to do. Panorama was investigating Newsnight, and Newsnight was investigating itself and Jeremy Paxman didn’t know who to ask questions of and Esther Ransen wouldn’t shut up about how much she loved kids and ITV was laughing a lot and Philip Schoefield gave David Cameron a list of names (Sorry Lord Mcalpine) and Eamon Holmes and these women presumably felt ashamed. Total chaos then. Personally I would’ve dragged Prince Charles out in front of the flashbulbs and asked him some impertinent questions but he is a prince and we are a bunch of peasants, so that kind of thing doesn’t happen in this country. I was reminded of my old school. The whole affair was succinctly surmised by my mother: “He’s ruined the 70’s for me”. Quite. In related news the Pope got twitter this year, @Pontifex.

Kent Brockman: Professor, without knowing precisely what the danger is, would you say it's time for our viewers to crack each other's heads open and feast on the goo inside? Professor: Yes I would, Kent.

Kent Brockman: Professor, without knowing precisely what the danger is, would you say it’s time for our viewers to crack each other’s heads open and feast on the goo inside?
Professor: Yes I would, Kent.

As a year I think it’s safe to say that 2012 began in January and finished unexpectedly in December. It was a decent enough year, lacking a bit of the sparkle of 2011. The bloke shouting “FENTON” was no Rebecca Black for example. Or maybe it was? That will be for the historians to decide in the years ahead of us. I look forward to 2013; Joseph Kony’s continuing, epic game of hide and seek, the Pope’s first hashtag and best of all a film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.


2012 in Review: Part 2 – Crying Claire Danes, Bane and beards

Television in 2012 was as feckless as ever. While that guy whose face resembled a medium sized ham with two pickled onions stuck in the middle of it won X-Factor; the BBC completely revolutionised the talent show genre by putting Tom Jones, diet-Bono, the Fringe and Will.i.am in big fucking chairsThis was ‘The Voice‘. This was the future of television. Or it was just another shite show that nobody watched after the auditions.

Will.i.am continuing to do for blazers what Jimmy Savile did for the tracksuit. Note Tom Jones' grizzled Umpa Lumpa look.

Will.i.am continuing to do for blazers what Jimmy Savile did for the tracksuit. Note Tom Jones’ grizzled Umpa Lumpa look.

The only thing I really got into in 2012 was Showtime’s terrorist drama ‘Homeland‘, two series of which were broadcast on Channel 4 in the UK. My televisual year was therefore dominated by images of actress Claire Danes weeping, staring and yelping with such authenticity that it spawned this. The first series was a brilliant I-can’t-recommend-this-enough mixture of mental illness, uncomfortable sex scenes that you wouldn’t watch with your mates let alone your parents and the murky moral minefield that is the War on Terror. The series finale was so tense that I don’t think I moved for the entire 2 hours; Channel 4 hadn’t been this exciting since Ahmed broke all the plates on Big Brother 5. Would Brody detonate the suicide vest? Would the wind change while Claire Danes was making one of her crazy faces? Why was Saul‘s beard so God damn itchy?

Saul's idea of a disguise - a fancy summer hat and some tinted glasses. Good luck avoiding Hezbollah Saul.

Saul’s idea of a disguise – a fancy summer hat and some tinted glasses. Good luck avoiding Hezbollah Saul.

Naturally this being 2012 a paltry year, in which all entertainment figures from the 1970’s turned out to be pedophiles and John Terry got to lift the European Cup, we did get answers to the questions Homeland posed; they were just incredibly fucking stupid. The first series’ perfect blend of suspense, hilarious false beard heavy flashbacks and plausible characters was suspended in the second series. We instead enjoyed preposterous plot twists, remote controlled pacemakers and terrorist helicopters that could fly undetectably around Washington D.C. without the C.I.A. being able to do a thing. Oh and somebody tell the actress who plays Dana that fiddling a lot doesn’t make her an actress.

I refuse to have a picture of this wanker looking happy on my blog, so please enjoy this one instead.

I refuse to have a picture of this wanker looking happy on my blog, so please enjoy this one instead.

Thankfully 2012 had plenty more stupid to bring to our screens. A cavalcade of sequels, prequels, remakes, re-imaginings and re-packages – we may look back at 2012 and see it as the zenith of Hollywood‘s absolute creative bankruptcy. Until we reach summer 2013. There was the good-looking ‘Prometheus’, a prequel to ‘Alien‘ that was so highly anticipated and so hyped up that everybody forgot that a creative collaboration between the writer of  Lost’s bafflingly shite finale and the consistently inconsistent Ridley Scott was bound to be a confusedly well-designed blancmange of a movie.The Hunger Games’ was a sort of ‘Twilight’/‘Battle Royale’ crossover without the gay vampires, t-shirt removal and graphic violence of those two. ‘The Hunger Games’ replaced those with some competent female archery, a guy who was really, really good at makeup and some convenient killer bees. It was alright. ‘The Amazing Spider-Man‘ saw Andrew Garfield (age 30) and Emma Stone (age 24) playing two 17 year-olds, making a film with a giant talking lizard in it even less plausible than it already was. ‘Safe House‘ was a by the numbers Denzel Washington thriller in which Denzel, playing a maniacal genius, showed the characters off the scale intelligence by muttering ‘tick-tock’, befriending Ryan Reynolds  and shooting his pistol with above-average levels of flamboyance. Quite. ‘The Hobbit‘ sees Tim from ‘The Office‘ embark on an epic quest, battling Trolls, Wargs and Andy Serkis in a wet suit. It’s an uncomfortably long film, containing a fucking huge number of close up shots of Ian McKellan‘s Gandalf doing weird shit with his eyebrows. The much-lauded ‘Skyfall‘ marked the 50th anniversary of James Bond by essentially remaking 2008’s  ‘The Dark Knight‘ complete with random scenes were a brooding Daniel Craig stands on a roof for no reason at all. Javier Bardem gives it his best Heath Ledger and there’s even a butler who gives our moody protagonist the perfect salt of the earth advice we would all enjoy receiving (except he is Scottish not a bleedin’ cockney). Nowhere near as good as everyone says it is.

Prometheus - the film equivalent of waiting a long time to go to the toilet and finding out that the 'toilet' is a hole that you will have to squat over. And there is no arm rail.

Prometheus – the film equivalent of waiting a long time to go to the toilet and finding out that the ‘toilet’ is a hole that you will have to squat over. And there is no arm rail. Or toilet paper. And you’re on a train.

The most frustrating film of 2012 was without a doubt The Dark Knight Rises‘. Yes it had numerous moments. The ‘Blues Brothers‘ style car chase at the beginning, a startlingly brutal moment involving Christian Bale‘s  spine and the wonderful Michael Caine turning the ham-o-meter up to 11 in one great scene. But these were the occasional laudable stars shining in a reservoir of a movie. The incomprehensible plot littered with asine conveniences, the painstakingly obvious dialogue/political allegory and the fact that NOTHING the films villain, Bane said made any sense. If I wanted to watch a bald guy masticating indecipherably through shit dialogue with a look of wide eyed confusion on his face then I can go and watch Gregg Wallace on Masterchef.  It was completely ridiculous. The way people talk about the film you’d think it’s ‘The Godfather‘ but it is not near as much fun as ‘The Avengers‘, a film which doesn’t have a batarang up its arse. I’ll end this part with some of Bane’s dialogue from ‘TDKR’:

Mpppppmhhhhhh mphhhhh mhhhh oarghhhh reckoning mmmpppp!