Even though I’m kind of a big deal (2 second cameo on Songs of Praise, literally tens of Youtube views, and not one, not two, but three BBC Radio Bristol interviews), you probably don’t know who I am. We actually have quite a lot in common. I too, have a monosyllabic name and blue eyes. I went to a private school, and also got baffling looks from careers advisors when I expressed interest in something other than keeping track of people’s money, suing people for their money, shooting brown people for oil money or teaching kids how to do the above. We both make art for a living, although in reality our lines of work couldn’t be much more different, not least because I am clearly the fellow who is a big deal and selling 20 million records is just for total lameoids who’ve lost focus on the key cultural mission of doing gigs down the road for 20 quid and some chips.
My first interaction with your music resulted in the thought process of “I don’t like this music, I will not listen to this music”. Later, a snobbish comment about you that I made to a woman fan of yours probably cost me some sex, which taught me a lesson on the subject of being judgy about people’s musical tastes. Then, a few months ago, I discovered your phenomenal responses to abuse on Twitter, and figured someone who could experience such outlandish success and still engage with their detractors using such wit and self-awareness could not be so bad, whether or not his love is brilliant and / or pure.
So when you came out with this rant on the Guardian site defending your achievements, I was taken aback. I didn’t think you’d stoop to giving a serious reply to Chris Bryant’s dig, given your propensity to not take such “Haters” seriously. Granted, its rich for New Labourites like him to chuck around claims about the state of “the arts” while simultaneously bragging about how they’ll do nothing about it. It’s also uncalled for for him to, as we say in the hip hop community “put you on blast” and name drop you in an unrelated argument as some kind of villain responsible for inequity in the art world, especially as selling off stuff for millions without any integrity is kind of New Labour’s top hobby of recent decades.
A few things though:
“Every step of the way, my background has been AGAINST me succeeding in the music business. And when I have managed to break through, I was STILL scoffed at for being too posh for the industry.”
Really James? That industry run in part by private – schooled SImon Cowell? That industry that expects people to work for years on low or no pay (as you no doubt did) to secure a living? I work mainly in indie theatre, which I suppose is pop music’s Waitrosey Cousin, but I think if I walked into a meeting of either of our industries and said that my poshness held me back I would justifiably get smacked with a Vermicelli nest.
We didn’t choose our backgrounds. We don’t have to let them constantly define us. But it would be folly to pretend they don’t confer advantages on us. You go on to say:
“the only head-start my school gave me in the music business, where the VAST majority of people are NOT from boarding school, is to tell me that I should aim high”
Really James? Oh, and also violin and piano lessons, which the majority of state schools struggle or fail to provide. And security from violence and drugs. And good food. And good enough grades to get a free degree paid for by the military. Even if said aim-high talk were the only head-start you were given, you may be startled by how little that encouragement alone is given in outside the higher echelons of our education system, which often writes off whole swathes of students deemed not worth the effort. James, whether you or I like to admit it or not, privilege exists. It colours every sector of our society, and sets the rules of the game before you even play it. It doesn’t disqualify your hard work and achievements, but it presents innumerable obstacles to those who work just as hard but do not share in its advantages. We are not the cause of privilege, but we are symptoms of the pernicious malaise it casts on the civilized world.
“I got signed in America, where they don’t give a stuff about, or even understand what you mean by me and “my ilk”, you prejudiced wazzock, and I worked my arse off. What you teach is the politics of jealousy. Rather than celebrating success and figuring out how we can all exploit it further as the Americans do, you instead talk about how we can hobble that success and “level the playing field””
REALLY JAMES? The land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, that’s your model for excellence? Do they REALLY celebrate and exploit the successes of Lockheed Martin, Shell and, yes, even Warner Bros, the conglomerate who own your record label, or do they allow them to hoard wealth towards a tiny section of society while the rest slump back into pre-war poverty and mass alienation? If this “politics of jealousy” were really in control of our stuffy little Stars And Stripes-less isle, would the 5 richest families have as much wealth as the poorest 15 million people? Is seeking a system where the less well off can get employed really going to “hobble” your success, or is that the daft and paranoid accusation of a man terrified that the American Dream may dissolve upon waking in Britain, and in fact, in America? Your “shit songs” and “plummy accent” were never a problem, but using the millions of fans you have as a platform to speak to to peddle the Reaganite guff that inequality of opportunity doesn’t exist, totally is.
Go bum a Bald Eagle, you right-wing twonk.
Jake fucking Spleen