Empire Of The Sun - 'Without You'
If 2010 is going to be the year in which we reap the benefits of Lady GaGa's hard work, in raising the bar representing what is expected of pop stars - specifically in relation to dressing up like a weirdo and being enigmatic - then Empire of the Sun deserve a special mention for raiding the theatrical wardobe a whole year early.
Even if their music is not for everyone, they do provide a clue as to what the male pop star should be thinking about wearing for the next 12 months if they wish to compete. Never mind the easily-raised vests and low-slung jeans of yer JLS, never mind the Buble suit or the Ne-Yo hat. All of these things are too easy, and therefore officially Part Of The Problem.
2010 is the year in which we should be reasonable, and demand the impossible. We demand a big white stripe across the eyes, we demand vertical hair like Rhydian styling Jedward into a 99 with no flake, and most of all, we demand a huge pair of wings, on EVERYTHING.
(Here's the video. Jack Johnson would not make this, it is fair to say.)
Now, this where being reasonable comes in. It's possible that pop stars might find it hard to bring home the double whammy of astonishing songs and a cavalcade of eye-peelingly great looks. Some of them are only human after all (not you, GaGa, relax). The trade-off between a good look and a good song was, until recently, just something we all had to learn to put up with.
The trouble was, some people misinterpreted this situation in order to claim that having a good look proves that you do NOT have a good song. Which would therefore mean that it is only those performers who look ordinary that can properly concentrate on making amazing music. This meant that artists had to deliberately avoid dressing well, in order to give their bad songs the 'credibility' of a poor wardrobe. Which is mad.
It's confusing. People need clarity. So here's what I propose:
I propose a reunification of sound and vision. I propose that pop stars should remember to look amazing at all times, and to sound incredible, even in the live arena. If this means they need to stand still sometimes, well, so be it. Let the wardrobe carry the eye, and don't forget to bring the songs.
However, under the strict new guidelines, even Empire of the Sun may yet struggle. They do have a great look, that's for sure. What they don't have is a song which truly matches it. They're pretty close, but there's something a bit mushy and soft about what they do, like it's slightly blurred and brown when it should be in hyperfocus and glorious primarytechnicolourvision.
This would not matter if they were a blurry, browny kind of band, but look at them, they're a feast for the eyes. It's not their fault that the meal they serve up for the ears has a whiff of the Bovril on toast to it. But if we are to embrace a new dawn of astonishing sensurround pop, everyone, even Luke Steele, is going to have to try a bit harder.