Musical megastar Ed Sheeran gets some unfair bad press but there’s one thing that bothers Slade fan Aidan Smith – his seemingly unstoppable march towards Christmas number one.
It’s difficult to tell, in Ed Sheeran’s exciting young life, whether last week would have rated as a good or bad one. Typical of the carrot-topped pop multi-millionaire’s schizophrenia must have been the day he popped into Buckingham Palace.
He was there to collect his MBE which is a fine honour to have bestowed on you at the age of 26. Ah, but he fondled Prince Charles’ elbow! On being congratulated on his gong, Sheeran supported HRH’s arm with his other hand. This isn’t the done thing.
Gary Barlow tried something similar, thinking the Queen was in need of his assistance as she walked among the popsters performing for her Diamond Jubilee at the Buck House gates. The soor ploom expression confirmed she was not amused and Barlow is still waiting on that knighthood. For Sheeran, the headline in our most Royalist of newspapers screeched: “Hands off, Ed, you must know the etiquette!”
Still, the MBE was for more than “services to music” and also recognised his charity work. Surely such good deeds are beyond criticism when stars are giving of their time, and maybe their money as well, to help the needy. You may think them bland, you may think them bombastic, but to slag them off for such big-hearted gestures would be mean-spirited, yes? Well, in the week of his palace appointment, Sheeran was accused of “poverty porn”.
The honeymoon period for celebs “doing charidee” is well and truly over and there are now annual awards for the efforts deemed to be the “most offensive”. They’ve been set up by the Norwegian Students and Academics International Assistance Fund who’ve nominated Sheeran’s Comic Relief film on the plight of Liberian street children for one of these most unwanted prizes.
Now I must be careful when assessing the career of Sheeran. He’s one of my eight-year-old daughter’s favourite performers and no ballet run is complete without back-seat mimicry of his polite emoting. Stella and I watched the film which has caused such outrage and, lacking any cynicism, she found nothing to mock, although did make the pointed observation that, with our man leaning soulfully against a boatshack while a plaintive piano tinkled, it resembled a music video.
Moved by the story of kids who have nothing, sleep rough and yearn to go to school, Sheeran offered to put them up in a hotel. “Can I do this?” he asked the camera. Yes, apparently he could. The film has been criticised as verging on “poverty tourism” and of being a star vehicle. “Ed Sheeran has good intentions,” admit the award organisers. “But the problem is the video is focused on Ed Sheeran as the main character. He is portrayed as the only one coming down and being able to help.”
READ MORE: Interview with Ed Sheeran from 2012
I see what they mean and Sheeran may be guilty of gaucheness but there are worse films of this sort out there – namely all of the ones featuring actors – but I don’t think he thinks he’s Bono. What he is is a big star, one of Britain’s biggest. Almost everything he says or does is news, delivered in capital letters dotted with spotlights. Also last week, because his monster sales figures extend to vinyl, what was dubbed “the Ed Sheeran effect” was blamed for thwarting the black plastic ambitions of smaller acts as factories struggle to cope with demand. And, in other Ed Sheeran news, over the past few days he seemed to be pushing to perform the first song at Prince Harry’s wedding to Megan Markle although what he said was he hadn’t been asked but would regard it an honour if he was.
So, with my daughter watching what I write, I have some sympathy for the plight of Ed Sheeran, which is obviously not in the same stratosphere as the plight of Liberian urchins. But one thing about his seemingly unstoppable march does concern me: his designs on the Christmas number one.
This used to be a great race, and to have won it was a noble honour. All that dutiful home taping of the Hit Parade, every Sunday evening with a microphone jammed against the transistor radio, was we pop-pickers compiling our own Hansard. This was no less vital a record of national opinion, and the most important entry was always the last one of the year.
Now I know that not every Christmas number one had a festive theme but those that did are the ones which endure.
What, you’re bored of Slade’s Merry Xmas Everybody? Then, as Alan “Fluff” Freeman said, or should have done, you’re bored of life.
Even if acts weren’t singing about Christmas, their Yuletide releases had to be special – those were the unwritten rules. If the song was just another track from the latest mega-selling album then it was cheating. Sheeran’s contender Perfect comes from his latest mega-selling album, albeit that Beyonce has phoned in a guest appearance for this version. Back in May, Sheeran almost killed off the charts for ever. Because of the bonkers system of every stream counting as a purchase he managed to score 16 placings in the Top 20. If he gets to the top of the tree with this one, I may be forced to tell my daughter he doesn’t believe in Santa Claus.
Meanwhile in other Slade news, guitarist Dave Hill has just published his autobiography and I really hope someone gets me it for Christmas. Your correspondent may not have been brave enough to copy Hill’s clobber from his first Top of the Pops appearance – a woman’s pink coat on top of a boiler suit – but I wore my hair just like him with the fringe cut severely high. Yes, as if in readiness for frontal lobotomy.