Tuesday 6 March 2012, 16:51
I'm a Pop Star!, the last but by no means least of a three part BBC TWO series, is all about the men and women who go it alone, armed with just a microphone, some songs and an unquenchable desire to be pop top dog.
Not wanting to share the limelight with anyone suggests an ego of gargantuan proportion. But after meeting lots of solo stars and, chatting with them at some length, I have come to the perhaps surprising conclusion: they aren't all egotistical attention seekers. Of course some are. Like Adam Ant who openly admits: "I'm egotistical, you have to be to be a pop star". But there are others who are surprisingly shy and rather introverted, like Rick Astley and Nik Kershaw, both of whom were not only gobsmacked by the raging sea of screaming fans that greeted their first performance but also slightly mortified at being the only one in the spotlight. Such is the complexity of being a solo artist, whose face adorns many a teenager's wall and provided them with their first crush. (Talking of which, my Rick Astley poster - I think my mum still has it. And 20 years later he didn't disappoint!)
Anyway, back to the show. Of course most solo acts are fixated on one thing. They unashamedly admit to wanting to be No.1. No other chart position will do. Cliff Richard, famous for having rather a lot of them, still admits:
"If you make records, the only reason you make records is to be number one; that's the only thing. But that's what you aim at. I've never heard of anyone who says 'I just want to get to number 30'. It's a waste of time, isn't it"
In this film we set out to define the pop star. Broadly speaking pop stars fall into two categories. There are the soldiers. The ones being led along often by a Svengali figure. And then there are the generals. The ones that forge their own paths. Adam Ant was one such general whose extraordinary vision brought us such pop brilliance as 'The Dandy Highway Man' and the Prince Charming dance! Genius.
Of course it's the solo pop act, perhaps more than the boy band or girl group, that becomes the object of a young girl's or boy's affection. Often, to a rather alarming degree. Gary Numan told of girls wetting themselves when they met him. Will Young got cornered in the frozen food department of M&S and Mika got trapped in a hotel lift with crazed fan, wearing only a towel! You'll have to watch the film to find out why.
I also wanted to unravel the complex lifecycle of a solo pop career. With some notable exceptions, Madonna for one, the solo pop star has a shelf life. It's a cruel and fickle world and, like Alesha Dixon says:
"I think it's really important to have a thick skin when you're in the music industry, because you're working with a lot of sharks and you're working with a lot of ruthless people that will drop you like you're a penny. They won't care. It's a business"
One of the things that moved me the most about making this show was the artists' honesty. We're all expecting stories of brilliant careers, chart-topping successes and musical prowess. But perhaps more surprisingly are the rather more complex, often heart-breaking tales of being a star on your own, with no team mates.
Jason Donovan was the quintessential teen heartthrob, poster boy of 80s pop. Multiple No.1s. Dating Kylie, pop's princess. Star of one of the West End's biggest musicals. Even though he couldn't sing really well (by his own admission), he couldn't stop selling catchy pop records. Led by 80s pop Svengali Pete Waterman, the pop world was at his feet. But he wanted more:
"I was Joseph at The Palladium, on a huge wage with a big record, a hit show, um, you know, and I wanted to be Kurt Cobain from Nirvana. I did, that's what I wanted to be. I looked at myself in the loin cloth in the mirror, and thought 'what the hell are you doing?'"
After spiralling out of control and into drug rehab, his career seemed over. It's a touching and sad pop career trajectory. And Jason's honesty in the show is admirable:
"Sitting in the back of an ambulance, having collapsed from cocaine, is a particular moment in my life, I feel, um, I'm not proud of. I'm through it. And that's never gonna happen again."
And the heartfelt admissions don't stop there. From Adam Ant's nervous breakdown to Gary Numan's musical downward spiral, pop's fickle world has had its casualties. But hey! Without them the world would be a worse place. They've given us something to obsess over, someone to have your first crush on. They have brought us the soundtrack to our lives. So to those who serve on the pop front line - we salute you.
Join the discussion...