Where does he go from here? (Is it down the lake, I fear) The challenge of the musically evolving teen idol

Craig Ferguson tells a story about being an unhappy film actor grumbling on the set of Jim Carrey vehicle Lemony Snicket about why he’d rather be elsewhere.
The producer’s response was uncharacteristically helpful by Hollywood standards: “I’m sure that can be arranged.”
His point, one Ferguson went on to prove as host of his own talk show for nine years, is that getting famous and staying famous are two different things. The latter takes a few ounces of cast-iron will.
Don’t trust any celebrity in film or music who sighs and says “yeah, it just happened. Crazy, eh?” if asked about a long career.
If they’re still successful after five or ten or certainly twenty years, be under no illusion. It is that they, or the team around them, planned it that way or made plans similar to that.
It’s all the harder when you’ve become famous because thousands have fallen in love with you, as Harry Styles, Justin Bieber and Zayn Malik will find out over the next decade.
Two separate occasions recently made me realise how difficult it is to tread the path from beloved teen idol to creative, credible artist.
One was The BBC’s Scott Walker Prom. A teen idol of his day created the Scott 1-4 albums and inspired Jules Buckley and his Metropole Orchestra, Jarvis Cocker and his former Pulp guitarist, Norwegian singer Susanne Sundfor and the wondrous John Grant to make an evening dedicated to his first four solo records. There were some gripes, most notable a hipper than thou review from The Guardian, about not marking the later more experimental albums like Bish Bosch and Tilt. But anyone who starts off in the public eye adored for his cheekbones and becomes loved for his chord changes and use of orchestration is a rare talent indeed.
Second was Nick Heyward, who gave a fascinating interview to Radio 5 Live and another to freelance writer Malcolm Wyatt.

Calling Captain Summertime – the Nick Heyward interview


He has released his first album in 12 years after an up and down career where he has sold his house to pay for his latest record Woodland Echoes to be mixed and engineered professionally.

And Heyward knows about these things after asking Geoff Emerick (whose first job in the studio was engineering Revolver) to work on his debut solo album, North of a Miracle.

Since Alan McGee used the Oasis money in 1998 to give the Haircut 100 man a solo album release Kite, Heyward has popped up at ‘80s Rewind festivals but making enough to make new records has clearly been a struggle. He must have asked himself where does he go from here when he couldn’t find his way to the lake.
Once the screams have died down for your looks, how many heartthrobs have carved out a career as credible musicians and made consistently interesting records? Scott Walker certainly. Tom Jones, perhaps. Justin Timberlake. Damon Albarn certainly. Taylor Swift possibly.  George Michael and Michael Jackson, before we lost them. Chet Baker sadly didn’t hang around long enough to bask in the reputation he deserved. It makes the achievements of Scott Walker and those select others all the more impressive. And the constant battle for Nick Heyward to keep fighting the good fight all the more admirable.
For the rest, for those teen idols who want to disappear, well that can be arranged.

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“…Feeling” – Good!


This site was dedicated to pop music, old and new, which made me get out of my seat, lost myself, find myself, get emotional, stop me in my tracks or just smile or dance. Not asking much.
Its name was inspired by Prince and just as I was getting it off the ground, we lost him. So ever since then, I’ve been listening to his music and there hasn’t felt the need to listen to someone else. Why would you when you’re wading through a catalogue as vast as his with the vault still to be discovered, right?
Then a song stops you in your tracks. The new James Blake album popped in my ears, and the new-ish PJ Harvey song landed late towards me, but then another song, destined to be this year’s Blurred Lines/Get Lucky/Uptown Funk rolled into town.
Justin Timberlake has long been trying to fill the loafers of Michael Jackson (“that’s a big glove to fill” as he told THE FACE ahead of Like I Love You), but with Can’t Stop the Feeling (let’s gloss over the fact it comes attached to a cartoon he’s voiced), he’s madde his most perfect lift of what made Jacko great. Max Martin (who else but Max Martin) has thrown the kitchen sink and the whole John Lewis utensils department at it. There’s a sneaky bassline (like Le Freak), a guitar break like Stevie’s Do I Do, a slowed down and speeded up vocal (like George Benson’s Gimme The Night), fingerclicks like Patrice Rushen’s Forget Me Nots) and a choir singing at the end (like Wanna Be Starting Something). It helps if you have a great chorus and you know how to sing. Whatever he and Max Martin were going for, they hit.
And it’s summer. No 1 all over the world guaranteed.