THE BEGINNING

Let’s say you’re a struggling celebrity. Perhaps you’ve been on Hollyoaks, or you made it all the way to Eastenders and hung in there for, say, five years. But you left. So what now?

Illustration by Gareth Arrowsmith

Illustration by Gareth Arrowsmith

NOVELTY SONGS ARE PRICELESS PR, SAY DANNY CANTER

Let’s say you’re a struggling celebrity. Perhaps you’ve been on Hollyoaks, or you made it all the way to Eastenders and hung in there for, say, five years. But you left. You were sacked or you jumped to avoid a creative coffin the shape of Ian Beale and things haven’t been going to plan since. You’re too famous to get a job on a checkout, but no one wants you on the box either. So what now? Simple: before your agent stops returning your calls you get him or her to put you up for Strictly Come Dancing (at best), or the ever-ironic I’m A Celebrity Get Me Outta Here (at second best), or Dancing On Ice (not so good) and so on. I know it’s not ideal, but while the reality celeb show can be a daft and humiliating (re)launch pad, it’s long proved to be the most successful when attempting to ignite a public comeback.

For the bigger star, there’s something new. Or old. Comedy sketches and particularly novelty songs can sway our fickle perceptions quicker than you can say “Dick in a Box”. Just ask Michael Bolton – a fossil of MOR white soul who, until a month or two ago, you probably had forgotten ever existed. An appearance on Saturday Night Live, alongside comedy musical trio The Lonely Island, changed all of that, though. Now Bolton is the guy responsible for ‘Jack Sparrow’; a brilliantly bizarre RnB parody in which Bolton, recently wowed by a Pirates of The Caribbean “marathon”, as he puts it, highjacks The Lonely Island’s latest slick hip-hop production to croon about Kiera Knightly, giant squids and “Pirates so brave, on the seven seas”. It’s been viewed well over 27 million times since it was uploaded to YouTube at the start of May.

What makes ‘Jack Sparrow’ such a brilliant and lasting three minutes of PR (other than how well the whole thing is executed – in that glossy way that America does so well and The One Show doesn’t) is that it’s random from all angles. While no longer relevant, Bolton is surely a star okay with having had his day, and it’s not like he’s self-referencing his widely known quirks either, like George Michael did when appearing on a Comic Relief sketch with James Corden earlier this year. He does have a new duets collection to plug, sure, so ‘Jack Sparrow’ doesn’t feel as for-the-hell-of-it as Justin Timberlake’s ‘Dick In A Box’ did in 2006 (also a Lonely Island skit), but that has little effect on how we now see Michael Bolton, simply because he was willing to have a laugh. (‘3-Way’, which followed in June, even managed to soften Lady Gaga’s constantly tortured, poe-faced public image).

Comedy has always wanted to be ‘rock’n’roll’, and right now it’s as close to it as it’s ever been, acting as a provider of PR gold better than Celebrity Coach Trip.

By Danny Canter

Originally published in issue 30 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. July 2011.

« Previous Article
Next Article »