I ran in the gym today whilst watching an endless revolving door of garish pop videos on the TV screens. It used to be that I would quite happily tune into the pop music on the big screens, but these days it all seems rather tragic and facile. I never thought I'd become the man that didn't "get" popular music, but I'm pretty sure they don't make 'em like they used to! What I do find astonishing is the way that women, in 2016, still allow themselves to be portrayed as sexual vessels in these pop videos. Legs out. Tits out. Lips smeared with butter. In one video a woman was firing missiles from her bra. I think it was meant to be a bit post-feminist, but sadly she didn't look much like a warrior. She was too busy pouting and preening to be at all effective.
I recently saw a photo of a string quartet - all female - dressed in tiny dresses. One of them seemed to be using her violin as a dildo. It was most distasteful. It's obviously hideous that men still want to look at that crap, but I've also started thinking that women actually have to take some responsibility. No one was holding a gun to the heads of those string players. They've obviously simply decided that sex sells. They're not wrong. And of course, they're free to wear whatever they like, and portray themselves as they wish, but they can't expect people to take them particularly seriously and certainly have a limited right when it comes to complaining about sexism in the industry. It's all rather 1980s. Or am I being unfair?
This evening I attended the inaugural Mercury Music Development cabaret for new musical writers, which somehow felt like a really important event. For some time I have thought how wonderful it would be to have a monthly cabaret where writers could try out new material in an un-pressured, supportive environment.
The cabaret happened at the Phoenix Artists' Club, better known to theatricals as the dreaded Shuttleworths. It's where West End performers usually end up at the end of a night when all the other London venues have closed down. Until the smoking ban came in, nobody knew it actually had a ceiling! It was always so full of thick, brown cigarette fumes! I have spent many a disastrous evening there, surrounded by drunken actors weeping!
Anyway, the event was hugely well-attended and we were treated to songs by all sorts of contemporary musical theatre writers including my mate, Pippa Cleary and Zara Nunn, who went to music school with me in Northamptonshire. It was really good to get a sense of who is out there, right now, doing what, and how well. There were a fair number of comedy songs, and quite a lot of rather turgid ballads which could have done with being half the length, but there was a huge amount of variation, proving to me that musical theatre is actually one of the most versatile art forms out there. We were treated to proper jazz, some beautiful wistful impressionism and music which had almost operatic pretensions. It was a great night, brilliant organised, and the next time it happens, I might dare to sing or play something myself!