I felt dizzy and had to throw my arms around the microwave to steady myself. The noise had done something to my balance, my inner ear swamped by alien acoustics. I can’t begin to describe the aural pain I was feeling. It didn’t seem to affect Judy. She just sat at the kitchen table, a large mug of coffee in her hand, and her head bouncing like a overactive thyroid made of rubber.
‘Bleeding hell!’ I cried.
‘No,’ said Judy, ‘Bleeding Heart.’ She held up her latest acquisition, an album by somebody called Leona Lewis.
It was too much for me. A series of noises had made me feel nauseous and not a little suicidal. ‘Why does she have to whine like that?’
‘It’s called spiralling.’
‘And all the groaning?’
‘Oh Richard, it’s called putting a bit of passion in it.’
‘Are you sure she’s not enjoying a bowel movement?’
‘Do you always have to be so rude?’
I staggered across the table and picked up the album, if only to see how much more of it I had to endure. ‘Oh good,’ I said, scanning the back cover, ‘there’s even a bonus track.’
‘Stop complaining. It’s currently the number one album in the UK charts,’ explained my wife, who believes that anything voted number one by the great British people somehow ensures quality.
‘You could present people with a turd and they’d take to their hearts if it were packaged right.’
‘Oh, Richard, you’re so negative. The girl has got a good voice.’
‘It’s a matter of what you want the voice for,’ I suggested. ‘Animal testing, anti-terrorism, anti missile countermeasures…’
‘What don’t you like about it?’
And indeed, it was a good question. What don’t I like about Leona Lewis and her voice?
Perhaps it’s the fact that it’s the musical equivalent of sugar-fuelled fast food chains where obese children sit sucking syrup through a straw and petulantly demanding a hit of whatever they’ve been told is good by the clever people in marketing. It’s ITV’s endless dirge of middle-of-the-road cover versions and their obsessive promotion of wannabees with above average voices and no personality, when a credulous public vote for either generic black soul singer no 8, the usual camp Cliff Richard impersonator, a paint-by-the-numbers bimbette ‘super group’, or an odd looking outsider whose actually quite safe because he’s only dyed his hair white. I’m a man who enjoys neither an ‘urgh’ nor an ‘ooh’ in my music. I detest the easy way that the music industry manufacturer ‘hits’ based on their knowledge of the market. It little matters what they promote, the fact that they promote it will ensure the product’s success. The country is being run not from Whitehall but from the offices of public relations companies and advertisers. Success isn’t based on achievement but on hiring the right publicist who can ensure your name appears in the right places. KT Tunstall didn’t go far enough when she described American Idol as a ‘money-making puppet show’. These programmes destroy people’s souls, indoctrinate them with the belief that minor talent is enough to achieve nationwide fame, and that the country is blandly uniform in its celebration of the inarticulate, the moronic, the vacuous, and the musically dull.
‘I’m going back to bed,’ I said after the second it took me to consider all of this and then realise that Judy wouldn’t agree with any of it.
‘I’ll shout you when it’s finished,’ said Judy, smiling in triumph.
I didn’t answer. I wouldn’t hear her anyway. Soon Neil Young was screaming in my ear, repairing the damage that Leona Lewis had done and reminding me that sometimes the world actually gets things right.