This year we went back to the 80s: unemployment, emigration, shoulder pads, and the music, writes Emer Sugrue
Music seems to act as a counterbalance to economic prosperity and the happiness and optimism that brings. In the 80s music was joyful, full of songs that make you want to dance around your bedroom in just your pants.
Then the 90’s came, everyone got jobs and started listening to Kurt Cobain and slitting their wrists. Sure we had our Starbucks and our foreign holidays, but were we happy?
We have now come full circle and a rake of upbeat electro-pop artists have hit the charts for our pants-dancing pleasure.
One such artist to hit the scene this year is 25 year old Victoria Hesketh, better known by her stage name Little Boots. What started as recording song covers in her pyjamas for YouTube led to her topping BBC’s Sound of 2009 poll late last year. Her first album, Hands, was released in June to rapturous praise from the media.
otwo got a chance to talk to Little Boots and ask what she thinks of her new found fame and recent album: “It’s good; it’s gone gold in England which is good, and in Japan it’s doing pretty well and in America it’s just starting to launch over there, and yeah, I think it’s going pretty good”.
Hesketh is not a newcomer to the music business. From 2005 to 2008 she was the lead singer indie-rock band Dead Disco, who split up due to musical differences. Life is quite different as a solo artist; “There’s a lot more pressure, it’s a lot more intense and it’s a lot more work, but it’s much better because there’s a lot more control and a lot more freedom.”
Although the band had some success – including the release of a single – it was perhaps these constraints that prevented them becoming as big as Hesketh has managed solo. “All the time I’d been hiding my own songs and finally I had to make the sort of music I actually wanted to listen to… Before I used to always think, ‘What would a jazz performer do?’ or ‘What would the band do?’ – now it’s so easy because it’s ‘what would I do?’ It’s just me.” It’s this artistic freedom that seems to have been the key to Little Boots success.
But even solo, Little Boots plays more instruments than most bands. When asked how long she has been involved in music, Hesketh jokingly replies “25 years”, but it’s hardly an exaggeration: she started playing piano at age five and can also play the stylophone, flute, and something called a Tenori-on – a recently invented electronic instrument from Japan.
This is such a new and strange instrument that Wikipedia actually currently lists all known players, a very short list in which Hesketh is almost the most well known.
Although Victoria Hesketh is undoubtedly talented, the whole thing feels a bit cynical and pre-packaged. Not just her, but the whole wave of 80s style female pop artists such Lady Gaga, La Roux, Florence and the Machine and Ladyhawke – all with more or less the same image and sound. Hesketh herself admits to the management’s influence on her music: “I just think about songs really, I don’t think about styles too much or influences, I have the studio for that.”
The eccentric quirkiness of these artists feels very forced at times – a fact that anyone who saw Lady Gaga at the 2009 MTV awards can attest to. Surely you’ve crossed over from quirky to plain mental when you start going to the shops in an Elizabethan bee-keeping mask.
But then that’s possibly what was so glorious about 80s music: Adam and the Ants didn’t decide to dress as poncy pirates by themselves; they were told to do so by the management. Would anyone remember ‘Stand and Deliver’ if it wasn’t sung by a guy who drew white lines on his face? What about Flock of Seagull, the only people in human history to have worse hair then Jedward?
Maybe 80s music wasn’t about balancing the misery of the world but rather matching the political cynicism prevalent then and now. With strikes, riots and Margaret Thatcher around maybe people didn’t expect their pop artists to be sincere either. The 90s, on the other hand, tried desperately to believe in the integrity of bands, which turned dark and edgy to show how much they meant it.
No matter what the motives are, it can’t be denied that Little Boots’ music generates an amazing impulse to dance. Even if you don’t like the songs at first, within hours you’ll catch yourself humming them, grooving around the kitchen waiting for the kettle to boil. Pop music has the power to be amazingly silly, and if you can forget your problems and prance around like a twat, then all the better.
For me though, nothing will compare to dancing around in my pants to the 80s classics. “I’m the dandy highway man so sick of easy fashion…”
Little Boots plays The Academy on Friday 27th November. Tickets €18.50.