Borkowski Weekly Media Trends 09-12-21
Michael Sheen's Saintly Stunt | Ed & Elton: A Christmas Classic? | Grammys in Crisis | Bojo's Secret Strategy
Michael Sheen’s Saintly Stunt
When famous people publicise grand philanthropic gestures, it can often lead to a mixture of praise and criticism, which primarily hinges on an alleged ulterior motive or lack of one. For instance, what does a celebrity stand to gain from giving away a portion of their wealth?
This week, Michael Sheen made some impressive headlines by declaring himself a social enterprise - a not-for-profit actor - by donating most of the proceeds from his acting work to promote social causes. His turning point happened a couple of years ago after he decided to sell his own houses to bankroll the 2019 Homeless World Cup when it was running out of money.
Michael Sheen's personal and professional commitment to this social cause is a massive statement; and he has already backed it up by selling two houses, which almost bankrupted him. However, for his integrity and credibility this cannot be a throwaway gesture; he must commit forever. And while most have applauded the Welsh actor, he'll have to tread very carefully - no more lavish holidays, fancy lunches or extravagant purchases, otherwise the tabloids will be in attack mode.
Of course, Sheen will be aware of the giant target on his back. Although, he may have picked an excellent time to pull this stunt. Celebrities and those in the public glare are noticeably making a more significant effort to, at least, appear more socially conscious. Leo DiCaprio's attendance at COP26 stands out; a moment that may have been relentlessly memed a few years ago didn't really cause us to bat an eyelid.
Regardless of where you sit on the ongoing culture wars, we may have all become collectively more ‘woke’, and celebrity good deeds have followed this overall trend. So: Bravo Michael! Let's hope you don't have any skeletons in the closet, and this becomes a wholesome moment that sets the bar very high for fellow A-listers to match.
Ed & Elton shoot for a Christmas Classic
Since the golden days of late-00s X-Factor-winners, which were halted only by the iconic efforts of Rage Against the Machine in 2009 and 2011’s Military Wives, the UK Christmas charts have lost their way.
Take 2016 and 2017, when Clean Bandit and Ed Sheeran claimed top spot with decidedly unchristmassy number-one singles that just happened to chart in December.
Then there came LadBaby, the social media star who has topped the charts for the last 3 years with his sausage-roll themed Christmas covers. They’ve been super successful – lighthearted, inclusive, and, importantly, for charity – an easy win for Christmas (especially last year, when no one had the energy for anything more seriously musical).
But they were never going to reach the heights of Mariah, Wham!, Slade and the Pogues. It feels about time we were hit with some big-budget festive popstar-ery.
Cue Elton John and Ed Sheeran, who have teamed up for a straightforwardly-titled new single ‘Merry Christmas’. As you’d expect from the two of the most successful songwriters of our age, the song is catchy (although Borkowskites feel that alternative verses from Elton and Ed overcomplicate the lyrics a bit much for an easy singalong).
But the video makes a smart move by parodying all of the much-loved takes on Christmas (White Christmas, Last Christmas, Walking in the Air, Stay Another Day etc) that have come before. It lets Elton and Ed take the proverbial out of themselves before anyone else can, and some commercial flashiness ensures it’s a visual treat.
Their only other serious competition is LadBaby, with another sausage-roll themed charity number. Except this time, there’s a twist: LadBaby’s single features none-other than, er, Elton John and Ed Sheeran.
Well, you can’t fault Elton and Ed, they’re clearly feeling festive. If you can’t beat em, join em. It’s certainly got Christmas number-ones back on the map. And about time too.
Worth its weight in Grammys?
Another year, another series of snubs and misplaced Grammy nominations in the award show’s protracted and painful march towards total cultural irrelevance. For all its pomp and politics, The Grammys remains far removed from its stated purpose: to celebrate the musical zeitgeist. Organisers have made the error of picking a clear side in the Culture Wars; one that mistakes the outcast for the underdog, paying tribute to the disgraced rather than the deserving. Marilyn Manson, Louis CK and Dave Chapelle were all announced as nominees for 2021 to widespread criticism.
In an age where many are, rightfully, willing to renege on support for art tied to problematic creators, the Grammys’ justification of its nominations of Manson and Chapelle feels like indirect support for its own troubling history. The awards have often failed to honour female and bipoc artists, either omitting them altogether or improperly categorising musicians based on archaic race identifications. One immediately thinks of Tyler, the Creator's award for 'Igor' as Best Rap Album though it was celebrated by, and received within, popular music platforms. The Grammys have notoriously normalised pop as a white artform, and any variants in racial identity have been pigeonholed as rap or r&b.
Recording Academy President and CEO Harvey Mason Jr. vindicated their eye-brow raising decisions with a disingenuous argument for artistic neutrality, explaining that the awards team “won’t look back at people’s history, we won’t look at their criminal record, we won’t look at anything other than the legality within our rules."
It feels counterintuitive to appear to celebrate social pariahs against the backdrop of a much-criticised nomination system that has historically valued popular acclaim over artistic impact. To celebrate and platform abusers and transphobes, while snubbing musical genius due to limited mainstream impact or because they don't fit preconceived templates of certain genres (*cough cough* The Weeknd), is to complicate an already tensile and fraught celebration of musical achievement, discrediting the whole system.
It is unsurprising, then, that artists like Drake have abandoned the awards show altogether. In the mainstream, if we don't celebrate the right artists in the appropriate manner, then we shouldn't be surprise if they seek recognition through communities and platforms that will.
Embattled by ChristmasPartyGate, Boris Johnson’s Secret PR Strategy: REVEALED
Late February/Early March 2021
Interior. The holiday house of a major anonymous Tory donor. Midweek.
BORIS: “Oh cripes you don’t think they’ll find out about the Christmas party will they Blumpkin? [Pet name for Carrie]”
BORIS: “Sorry yes PARTIES. I just feel all those rental sector johnnies will be jolly annoyed if they find out about Naked Twister and all that katzenjammer.”
BORIS: “Oh you’re quite right; even if it comes out it probably won’t be until next Christmas, so we’ve got over nine months until we need to worry about it. You enjoy your bath Blumpypoo and let me detain you no longer with my frumptillious…oh she’s gone never mind.”
Exit Carrie. Boris is along in the room. SOLILOQUY
“I know it’s unlikely to be for nine months but I really am loathe to have to deal with the ‘consequences of my actions’, whatever that means. If only there was a way that I could distract the hoi polloi. The bus painting lark was dynamite. Ruddy genius. And I’m working on this absolutely swashbuckling Peppa Pig routine…BUT HANG ON…nine months you say?…oh Boris you voluptuous old caballero, you know what to do.”
Phones the maid
“Hello, yes, Consuela? [Inaudible response] oh sorry Sharon that’s right how frightfully rude of me to forget again. Anyway, batten down the hatches: it’s rutting season for old Bozza. I’m going to need two scoops of viagra-pistachio, a bottle of Chapel Down, some suitably Cassanovian music - I’ve been recommended something the kids refer to as a ‘John Legend’ so see if you can find one of those, a skid-free pair of pantaloons, and my most virile Churchill portrait hung over the four-poster, and all before my Blumpypusspuss returns from her ablutions.
Hangs up. SOLILOQUY
You’ve seen the dead cat strategy. But have you seen the live sprog…[continues]”
You get the idea…