Thursday, 7 January 2010


I had the unusual experience recently of watching two TOTP's on consecutive weeks.  It's unusual for anyone, come to think of it, as they've stopped broadcasting it, but this was the Xmas chart, and the "Best" of 2009 chart. 

In the main, it consisted of stuff that I didn't like. But, watching with an objective head on, it was quite interesting to see what had sold.  Or what they had somehow persuaded us to buy.  They being the record company/promotion company.  I saw people that I'd heard of, but never actually seen.

One singer was Alexandra Burke, doing a fairly involved dance routine to a song called, I think, "Bad Boys", who apparently were always catching her eye, or some such.  Now, she's an attractive woman, she can sing, and there's nothing wrong with the song in that it sounds current and is catchy.  I still thought it somehow didn't work in some way though, but I wasn't sure why.

It took the Doc of Rock to put her finger on it, when we saw her on the second TOTP.  "Not very convincing, is she?", she observed.  I instantly knew exactly what she meant.  That was why I'd thought something was amiss before.  I just didn't believe her when she sang "the bad boys are always catching my eye".

Perhaps it worked for other people.  For me (and The Doc) though, the performance just wasn't believable, which kind of invalidated the whole thing.  I've seen the same thing at live gigs and open mics in Edinburgh many a time, when performers failed to convince.  Perhaps they were trying to imply they were a life-weary old traveller who'd seen everything, when in reality they were a fresh-faced youth from Penicuik, and the limit of their travelling was the bus to Edinburgh.

But sometimes people are convincing.  That's when the magic starts happening, and you believe for a moment what they're telling you, that they really were in prison for loving someone, or they had made time stop, or the character in the song really had kept racing pigeons, or whatever. 

Where this convincing-ness comes from, I have no idea.


  1. Go Nelson on the blog front! I agree, if she was Amy Winehouse I could believe it but knowing she won a talent show, having seen earnest interviews with her makes me think that the closest she's come to a bad boy is Simon Cowell - very different indeed. I remember having a similar conversationa few years ago, drunken and whilst listening to a mixtape expertly composed by someone else, in a flat in fountainbridge. It had Stay With Me by Lorraine Ellison on it, which was a hard track to find on cd then. Everything about that song seemed to be the opposite of the charts then, genuinely sounding relatable emotion, lyrics and above conviction in what she was singing. I can like an excruciatingly bad song and/or performance if I believe the person believes their lyrics.

  2. The 'unconvincingness' often comes from singers singing someone else's lyrics. The people who write/wrote some of the Girls Aloud stuff had a pretty wicked sense of humour which I'm convinced the gals themselves never really 'got' and so looked unconvincing singing them. They're thick as shit, but some of their tunes are great and they've no idea - they're obsessed with the image, not the dynamics of the music and lyrics combined, as is the case with your Alexandra person, except in her case both the music and words are shite.

    Gawd, that was a bit wordy. Hi Nelson!

  3. What do you mean by conviction, though? Do you mean that when we're singing about being in love, we should actually be in love? Alexandra should only be singing about bad boys if backstage she's two-timing Shane McGowan and Nick Griffin? There's a difference between singing your autobiography and portraying (as an actor does) an emotion in a well-written (well-contrived) set of words and melody. Haven't we all had the experience of seeing someone at OOTB or wherever do a cover version that was much better than them doing their own stuff?

  4. Naw. Conviction doesn't mean you have to be experiencing the emotion/feeling/sentiment at the time. It means you look like you love what you're singing about and the music. Alexandra and co. just look like they're enjoying being pop stars.

  5. Hi Tommy! I think you're right. I also think Norm's analogy with an actor is useful. No-one's saying that actors have to actually experience what is going on in the roles they portray. Otherwise it would be a bit tricky to get anyone as the lead role in the biopic of Joan of Arc.

    So, naw, as Tommy eloquently expressed it. Somehow though, singers have to convince us, make us believe it. In the same way that the French actor Daniel Auteil makes me believe he's a successful TV presenter of a literary chat show in "Cache", although I know he's not. I don't know a single thing about Alexandre Burke's own life, I just know that I didn't believe her.