Blue, Eurovision and the Return of the Man Band

Photo: Ian West/PA Wire

Now that the Easter holidays are over, and the Royal Wedding has been and gone, there’s really only one thing left to look forward to in the upcoming weeks of revision and exam hell: Eurovision. Instead of the leering Andrew Lloyd-Webber hosting some half-hearted televised audition process, called something cringingly outdated like ‘Making Your Mind Up’, this year, somebody came up with the excellent idea of recruiting noughties boy band Blue to fly the flag for Great Britain. You remember Blue; they sang that song ‘All Rise’ full of bad law puns, and somehow persuaded both Stevie Wonder and Elton John to duet with them. Their latest offering sadly lacks the hallmarks of a great Blue song, namely, the half-way rap, as heard in classics such as ‘Fly By II’ and ‘All Rise’.

“It’s because Simon’s cut his plaits off”, says my flat mate Leanne, an authority on Blue’s resident rapper ever since he kissed her on the cheek in 2003, “without the plaits, he can’t rap”. We can only hope that the live performance of ‘I Can’ in Dusseldorf will feature the characteristic stage moves we’ve come to expect, from the Anthony Costa head nod, to the knee-lifting dance routine, not forgetting the timeless throw-back-your-head-and-think-of-England high note from Lee Ryan.

Blue are just the latest in a long line of nineties/noughties band reformations. 2006 saw the return of Take That, a band so popular, the government had to set up a nationwide helpline to console heartbroken fans after the band split in 1996. Their return could have been a disaster, and for those who are not fans of their music, it was. Despite the absence of wild child Robbie Williams, who was busy drowning in an addiction to Xanax and Lucozade in L.A., the four-piece took the nation by storm. Abandoning the cheesy dance routines the band had embraced for old hits like ‘Never Forget’ and ‘Relight My Fire’, they returned as a fully-fledged man band.

The video for the first single from their album Beautiful World, ‘Patience’, saw the band in the roles of singer, roadie and geography teacher, as they dragged microphone stands around the Icelandic countryside, with the aim of reaching a craggy cliff top and belting out ‘just have a little patieeeence’ to an audience of steaming geysers. Since then there’s been no escaping them; if they’re not on the radio, they’re in Marks and Spencer modelling menswear, or in the background of a Morrisons supermarket advert. Williams finally rejoined the band for their sixth album, Progress, which became the fastest selling album of the 21st century, and despite earlier concerns, he is supposedly now writing another album with the band, so may well be, um, back for good.

Perhaps the worldwide economic downturn has been the greatest incentive for musical reunions. Pop stars are notoriously big spenders. Elton John famously spent £293,000 on flowers one year, whilst two members of JLS racked up a hefty bar tab of nearly £7000 in one night, just a year after competing in The X Factor. For this lifestyle to be maintained, musicians need to keep churning out hits, and this is possibly the reason for the abundance of has-beens releasing new material.This phenomenon is not exclusive to this side of the Atlantic either. American heart throbs Backstreet Boys are currently on tour around the US with New Kids on the Block, despite the members being neither ‘boys’ nor ‘kids’ any more, however it seems unlikely that ‘N Sync will follow suite whilst Justin Timberlake continues to have success as both a musician and Hollywood star. Even ancient band The Monkees are reforming this year for their 45th anniversary, despite the fact that they have staged a number of revivals since 1980s.

Whilst arena tours are the manufactured pop groups’ comeback venue of choice, summer festivals are the place to find recently reunited rockers. Last year, Reading and Leeds Festival saw the return of both Blink 182 and The Libertines, the latter causing such excitement that their sets had to be stopped part-way through to control the crowd. This year sees the return of defunct glam rockers, The Darkness at Download Festival, whilst Pulp, who have been on hiatus since 2001, are playing at a number of European festivals ranging from T in the Park to Exit Festival in Serbia.

Sadly, not all reunions have been such a good idea. Queen reformed in 2005, even though their legendary front man Freddie Mercury had been dead for 14 years, whilst All Saints’ reappearance in 2007 was a massive flop, with their third album Studio 1 only just scraping into the Top 40 in the week it was released. The Spice Girls also failed to conjure any lasting interest when they reformed in 2007, although Jennifer Saunders is apparently penning the Spice Girls musical; another treat to look forward to whilst you sweat it out in the exam hall. In ‘I Can’, Blue prophesise ‘We’re not the first ones to be divided/won’t be the last to be reunited’, but if 5ive, Another Level or Daphne and Celeste are reading, please don’t bother.

The Eurovision 2011 Final will be shown on BBC 1 on Saturday 14th May at 8pm.

Jedward will be battling Blue for Eurovision victory on behalf of Ireland.

-This article is from Issue 238 (9.5.11) of Epigram. You can read the rest of the Music section here

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