As a 70s child, one of our writers Paul Clarke has always loved pop music and recently he has returned to his first love thanks to Dua Lipa. Here Paul explains why he thinks a new generation of young British pop acts should be celebrated not sneered at.
A few years ago my best mate got into an emerging young British singer called Dua Lipa who was on the road promoting her debut album. The Kosovo-born singer turned out to be his gateway drug into following a whole new generation of up and coming – mainly British – singers who could be broadly lumped together as pop acts. It also resulted in me and his long-suffering daughter being dragged along to see them at various Manchester venues.
I’ll admit that when he had what appeared to be a late, late, late midlife crisis I was sceptical. Not because I am against pop acts – after all, who doesn’t like Abba – but more a fear it was going to be wall to wall auto-tuning, backing tapes or, the horror of horrors, lip-synching.
I am not afraid to admit I couldn’t have more wrong as it has been the exact opposite. Dua Lipa at Manchester Academy was the game-changer.
I’d seen countless indie bands in the different Academy venues over the years and sadly most of them thought a stage show was the occasional mumbled ‘Hello’ or ‘cheers’. The low point was enduring Nine Black Alps sullenly play virtually a whole gig as if we weren’t in the same room.
In complete contrast, Dua bounced onto the stage clearly glad to be there and from the first second was totally connected with a mainly young and slightly overexcited crowd. This continued throughout the gig and it was as if she realised her fans had paid hard-earned money to be there, so a big show with dancers and a crack band wasn’t an unreasonable expectation. Her powerful voice filled this aircraft hangar of a venue, and her band offered a funkier live version of tracks from the record.
It’s certainly a different experience being in this sort of crowd. The first thing you notice that as soon as any act comes on there is a sea of smartphones straight up into the air to the point you can barely see the band, and you feel like saying in a slightly old man way: ‘just enjoy the moment’. But this is a new generation, and Dua’s lyrics about bad relationships, and the pressures of modern life, clearly struck a chord as virtually everyone in the room is gleefully singing along.
It might seem a stretch, but for blokes of my generation the anger of Anarchy spoke directly to my experience and fears, but songs like Boys Will Be Boys from Dua’s second album speak to her fans in exactly the same way. Snobs may sneer at that comparison, but my view is sod ‘em.
Since then I’ve been thoroughly entertained by Mabel and her hard-working gang of backing dancers at a freezing Warehouse Project. I loved both Sigrid shows as she bounded around the stage in front of her band offering a Sucker Punch of a show. The more sophisticated indie-pop of Shura playing a hometown gig at the Ritz was a lovely surprise, and to be honest, the only real disappointment was a lacklustre Zara Larsson at the Apollo, but that might have been that soulless venue as much as anything else.
We were even treated to a marriage proposal as Essex girl Anne-Marie at the Ritz invited a shaking bloke onstage to pop the question. The answer was yes if you were wondering, and there something endearing about the former karate champion spilling her guts about her messy love life in front of a group of strangers. Mind you, Anne-Marie soon got her own back happily blasting out numbers lambasting those dickheads.
It is true that none of these acts are doing anything particularly groundbreaking, but, in a subtle way, they have reinvented the pop genre to create banging tunes full of honest words that speak to their fans because they have lived it too.
In a world where young music fans are accused of being glued to their devices the fact that Dua, Sigrid and Mabel can effortlessly sell out big venues introducing their fans to the joy of live music is something to be celebrated rather than rewarded with a cynical shrug.
Dua Lipa – IDGAF ft. Charli XCX, Zara Larsson, MØ, Alma, in the Live Lounge
Words by Paul Clarke, you can see his author profile here.
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