Wanna be a playa; don’t care how I get there
Last year’s X Factor winner Matt Cardle gave the Independent on Sunday his first major interview as his album nears release. He was the anti-Essex ‘bum’ who stooped on sheepishly and charmed the nation with his obsequious turn, ‘please sir simon sir, I’d be forever grateful to be able to play my song (so you can get me out of self-induced drudgery)’. This is the lad who turned Many of Horror to When We Collide. Who cared that his rock heroes Clyro didn’t like it, it was Christmas number one!
Usually any words out of the willing industry meat among the X Factorbots wouldn’t elicit any attention but Cardle’s on the usual themes preoccupying musicians as they hit the spotlight, selling out, credibility, fame, were startling for the way his priorities were so arse-about-tit yet so sadly in tune with the modern need to join the celebrity rat-race.
I’m not peddling the purist anti-‘selling out’ line. Any artist wakes up and smells the expensive coffee the moment they realise their sacred art is actually ‘product’ that has to interact with the market, bands especially do it all the time if the blind rush of adulation is what they want. First-album drive and desire become sophomore desperation and cliché. Questionable ‘change in direction’ struggles to be justified to a quizzical press, fanbases change, a little something within them dies (the muse) but they ignore it. What was interesting about Cardle is that he did all this with somewhat careerist preparedness before the mainstream glare, ditching his band, his throaty rocker rasp and his musical styles. X-Factor called after a friend sent in a video of him doing a solo turn, and he wasn’t about to tell them about his band. Not the right format for primetime Saturday fayre. They were not fit for the purpose of getting him ‘where he wanted to be’. Cardle says he was ‘fucked’ if XFctr failed because he had alienated everybody and himself to get there (he hasn’t yet renounced the thirst for getting ‘spannered’ but I’m sure that will come, or at least evolve into the publicity friendly version).
Unfortunately Cardle’s reborn act will never draw the ‘credibility’ of the rock and metal acts he has drawn weed-induced solace and inspiration from, as he seems to acknowledge in an anecdote about being out of place at the Kerrang awards. After a couple of listens to his work you revisit fatwas on the James Blunt and Morrison to see if yet more severity is possible for this latest apostate. Sure there will be a veneer of praise for his work, in the form of industry hangers-on if he sells units and the most sycophantic layer of the press, like the pop and gossip columns, but don’t expect Mojo or Rolling Stone or indeed Kerrang to come calling any time for an in-depth article on the man and is music soon. His is a different orbit.
Backed by the Never Withering Cowellmachine, Cardle will no doubt retain his fame for a while yet – and you suspect that he covets the highly paid vacuous celebrity status more than he does being seen as a respected musician, with the suggestion that he rather naively believes this solves everything. It’s a trope of these modern talent shows that you constantly hear being faithfully quoted back by the candidates; like I can handle the fame and the dough as it has to be better than no-mark mediocrity. It’s an extremely unhealthy trope, and not just because the lottery nature of these talent treks means only a few will make the cut, while we feel free to relentlessly take the piss out of the hapless others before they return to their hole where the rest of us bitter fucks reside. Or so it goes. Presumably Cardle must be aware fame’s glare only replaces one set of troubles with another, or twists those the process tried to suppress. And seeing as he appears to have sold out his mates at the stage of entry, he’ll have no ‘real’ people to turn to when disillusion sets in.
His album Letters, with the single Run for Your Life penned by Gary Barlow (yes, it sounds like Take That), is out on Monday. Some people will like it, those for whom music is a pillow, a meal deal and a specious consolation, but it looks like he has already prepared himself to cope with this hollow recognition.