Janet Street-Porter: Makes us puke
4 June 2005
This will be remembered as the year pop music finally lost any credibility it ever had. It's been a gradual process, with the long and winding road from Bob Dylan's protest songs of the 1960s finally ending up in 2005 in the car park of good intentions and zero content.
Hmm. 'What facile mindless balls is this?' you're wondering. And rightly so. Thankfully it isn't ours, but the opinion of one Janet Street-Porter, in yesterday's Independent.
And she didn't stop there. Oh, no. Slave to a veritable tsunami of creative juices, Street-Porter slimed across a young Bob Dylan (committed and inspired), and Otis, Percy, Aretha and Marvin (revolutionary artists), before dunk-startling her readers into the cold reality of the music industry as it is today, all fickle and hollow; no hope, no aspirations, no heart. Then she finally got to the point of a piece entitled 'why Geldof makes me scream'.
To cut to the crux: 'Pop music can enrich our lives and give us moments of great happiness. But when Sir Bob Geldof, no matter how sincere, tells me that a concert in Hyde Park is going to help raise awareness of poverty in Africa I just want to scream.' There it is. This of course is in rather infantile hook-hungry response to this week's unveiling of Geldof and others' plans for July's Live 8 spectacular. In case you missed it, here from the event site is an explanation of what Live 8 is all about; and of course, why Janet Street-Porter wants to scream:
'This is not Live Aid 2. These concerts are the start point for The Long Walk To Justice, the one way we can all make our voices heard in unison. This is without doubt a moment in history where ordinary people can grasp the chance to achieve something truly monumental and demand from the 8 world leaders at G8 an end to poverty. The G8 leaders have it within their power to alter history. They will only have the will to do so if tens of thousands of people show them that enough is enough. By doubling aid, fully cancelling debt, and delivering trade justice for Africa, the G8 could change the future for millions of men, women and children.'
As Geldof pointed out at the launch, Live 8 is 'not for charity, but for political justice'. Richard Curtis - who, if the opinions of Street-Porter are to be taken seriously, has no business dabbling in anything other than the telling of jokes - summed up: 'There are millions of people already committed and Live 8 is there to say to the rest of the world: Join in and try to see whether or not eight men in one room can't change the world on one day in July.'
Changing the world? Street-Porter is unimpressed. 'It's ironic,' she types, 'that pop music believes it is an appropriate conduit to 'save' Africa, to make us aware of poverty and debt, suffering and injustice. Pop music in the 21st century is also the industry of conspicuous waste...' Though this be inconsequential balderdash, yet she is right, there is mild irony in it. But at heart it is the specious rambling of a reactionary old heap, and it is utterly, infuriatingly beside the point.
Street-Porter, like many of us, doubts the sincerity of charity-hugging pop stars. With the exception of Elton John, she loathes them all. Mariah Carey she condemns as 'the nightmare diva to end them all', a living embodiment of 'conspicuous consumption'; Geri Halliwell is 'shallow and self-seeking'; Chris Martin 'uses private jets to meet up with Gwynnie and the baby'; Radiohead, the Rolling Stones and Atomic Kitten also use private jets. They gad about in them like pop stars. What really riles Street-Porter however, is that these self-same stars then have the bare-arsed audacity to perform for free in the possibly-self-serving pursuit of putting an end to world poverty; and they have the nerve to use their public profile as a platform to preach what they consider worthwhile views. What on earth is going on with the world? Bob Dylan will be blathering on about farmers soon.
Of course the fact that Geri Halliwell is, as far as the human eye can see, shallow and self-seeking, can hardly be denied; and of course it is annoying to see pop stars trying to be subtle when bigging themselves up with tales of their own beneficence: but if the Good gets done, who the fuck cares who's doing it or why? And if it transpires that the Good that does get done actually does more bad than good, then at least *something* got done, and lessons can be learned. It is after all, better to try and to fail than to sit on one's arse fizzing piss and vinegar all day. And whatever you may think of Bob Geldof, he definitely gets things done.
Street-Porter on the other hand is illogical, bitter and boring, and terribly unforgiving. Whatever happened to giving someone the benefit of the doubt? If a bunch of ex-child-molesters suddenly got together, cultivated some dead land and planted a whole host of golden daffodils in its place, would you damn their charming deed on the strength of their past crimes? Would you stomp all over their sick little sapling-beds and threaten to cut off their balls? Well, Janet Street-Porter would.
Chris Martin, Sting, Mariah Carey, Craig David, Madonna, Dido et al. They may be many unpleasant things, but they are not child molesters. We personally wouldn't let Craig David do our babysitting, but we will at least attempt to see beyond the possibility that his only interest in taking part in Live 8 is his own personal gain. If it'll make Janet Street-Darkside happy, we'll even assume that he couldn't actually give a flying fuck for the starving and AIDS-smitten children of Africa, but what we can't do is understand how it could possibly matter.
'Today, musicians can't just make revolutionary music,' she bemoans, 'they have to have opinions on everything from human rights to global warming.' It's toss of course, but beyond that, it's wrong to label Geldof a musician. For a while now, in all but job title, salary and general loathability, Geldof has been a politician. Geldof is the politician you never thought you'd see - the plain-speaking no-bullshit non-Party activist who Gets Things Done.
But you can't win 'em all, and the fact of the matter is, Bob Geldof gets on Janet Street-Porter's nerves. But Bob shouldn't take it personally because as far as Janet is concerned, the whole of modern pop culture can go hang. 'It's about as
threatening and revolutionary as a Big Mac,' she says. Bloody Big Macs. Always trying to put a stop to world poverty.
'These days,' she drones, 'talent is sifted via prime-time television series, signed up in response to viewer reaction...' Obviously she is aware of the irony. She can't really have managed to completely block out last November, and the time she spent catching eels with Huggy Bear and tightening ever so slightly the invisible noose around Brian Harvey's neck.
Of course: rather like an overpaid, oversized troll, Janet Street-Porter is almost certainly just playing with us.
How tedious. How stomach-churning.