This story begins in 2003, when I was an almost Popstar signed to Warner Records, about to release my very first single for them called, ‘Addicted’(a metaphor for love, not crack):
‘I’m so addicted to your love,I got this sickness for your touch‘
and so on and so forth…
I’d co-written and recorded the entire track in a shed in Bromley, although somehow the entire cost of the album still mounted to over £200,000 once you factored in mixing costs, PR, my inordinately expensive hair extensions, etc.
This of course was back in the halcyon days of the music industry, popstars were the bloggers, vloggers, reality stars of our generation and you could still make obnoxious demands for ‘only the red M&M’s’ in your rider and get away with it without looking like too much of a dick, so I was basically spoilt to within an inch of my life, cosseted like a little Popbaby,swathed in compliments and freebies. Despite myself, I bloody loved it.
Anyways, expectations were running high (as was my blood pressure) as we- the label, my team, me- prepared to launch me onto an unsuspecting public and our first task was to make a music video so that people could put a name to the voice, make a visual link to the lyrics and we could then start the business of promoting me as a common or garden popstar. ‘Top Of The Pops’ was only a heartbeat away, right?
I was in my twenties, dating a fat gambler (don’t even go there) and having a fabulous if not ever-so-slightly-fucked-up time. In fact, its funny/sad looking back to that time now, never realising I had the world at my feet – I just remember endless nights analysing shit whilst mainlining bacon Frazzles and crying. If only I knew then what I know now (that Frazzles contain no bacon whatsoever, for one thing)…
I really should have done more with the opportunity. I should have rockstarred it up more, turned it up to 11- TV’s out the window, having mindless, nameless, pointless sex (can sex be pointless?) with boybanders and rock legends whilst I still had the chance, but to be fair, I was still living with my parents in my old Laura Ashley bedroom in Chingford,so..
However, ‘serious artist’ and sensitive soul that I was, the one thing I couldn’t wait to do was shoot a music video – one that was all about the song, the lyrics, bringing my vision, my opus to the masses.A music video was an art form in itself, right?!! OMG, who the frik was I kidding? This was pop music for crissakes, all I had to do was look good and mouth words silently in time to the music. Simples.
Putting a single out is still massively exciting though- almost like getting married- and I was suspended in that perfect little pre-promotion bubble where you and your team still think you’re great/love your song, where there’s still every possibility of winning a Brit Award, of doing a charity song with Bono- way before your music has been thrown to the lions to be judged, reviewed and more often than not, rejected like a left swipe on Tinder. Note, for ‘rejected’, read anything below a top ten chart position. Music is nothing if not ruthless, honey.
Still in that bubble, we began prepping for the video. The budget was £25k and this was about average at the time. Enough to put a deposit on a flat (albeit one outside zone 7) or buy a brand new Toyota GT86 with a fancy cupholder these days.
We elicited treatments from the hottest Promo directors in town and I picked the one I liked the most from the bunch, which also happened to be the one in which I was allowed to wear the most clothes.
In the interests of ‘research’ I have decided to watch the video back again today, cringing through my fingers as if it’s one of those spot squeezing clips on YouTube.
Here are my thoughts and I’ve posted the video above too so you can form your own.
NOTE: Remember, this was 2003, the era of Kylie, Holly Valance and those sexy Russians, Tatu. My video is tame in comparison (this is not a disclaimer).
So, let’s look at the video, pull off that Band Aid. Naturally, I am the focal point in it— the star — only it’s a different version of me — one whom I cannot readily recognise. She’s an alias — I’m an alter ego and not necessarily through choice. In it, I’m super-blonde, trussed up like a kind of Chrissie Hynde wannabe, styled to within an inch of my life — the perfect blend of nonchalance and black eyeliner.Someone else has chosen my clothes for me as is the custom- it’s weird, here I am, signed on the basis of my individuality, yet they pay a stranger to make me look like someone else- one of many pop paradoxes I am to discover.
I have a piece of black leather wrapped around my hand — it could possibly be a glove or a (fashion) bandage, but nobody really knows (least of all me) — clever, huh? — its left up to the viewer to decide, thus making me seem really a) arty b) mysterious and c) interesting. In other news, I’m too thin and I look a bit dead in the eyes (because I’m stressed and barely eating, so obsessed am I with that ominous Radio One playlist announcement and whether it’s going to swiftly nuke my burgeoning pop career).
The video is cleverly filmed in black and white (although the real world is apparently in colour). This is done to show that I am a serious artist and not just a popstar — the fact that I don’t smile throughout offers further evidence to verify this claim. We are filming said video in Walthamstow, which has been lit and dressed to look like it is Hoxton because Hoxton is more my demographic apparently and Walthamstow has too many chicken shops and a Poundland.
Models have been cast to play characters who also happen to be models, but the kind who could potentially also be my friends in real-life. The models and I don’t speak to each other all day, despite my attempts to thaw them — I try humour, titbits of food, bitchery- I imagine this is probably how things would be if they were my actual friends, except I/the label wouldn’t be having to pay them.
It doesn’t matter to me though because I am far too busy trying to look like I’m actually pool, since this is an important facet of the character I’m playing, ‘the popstar otherwise known as Alexis Strum’, who is blonder and way cooler than me, lives in Hoxton and hangs out with models. The real me is just hoping she’s holding the cue the right way up — although of course no-one really cares because this is just a pop video and not an historically accurate documentary about the origins of pool…
Someone shouts ‘action!’ and like a FemBot,I leap into action. I nonchalantly rub the phallic pool cue and occasionally rub parts of my body on cue, draping myself over the table like a Page 3 Stunnah, no motivation whatsoever in my head for my performance, other than the prospect of a catered lunch.
I feel lost, with someone else’s haircut and I’m trapped in a monochrome prison of my own making…
But you wouldn’t know it… Alexis Strum The Popstar TM gleefully ramps it up now, disregarding all rules of the game and Jesus, now she’s GRABBING THE BALLS AND THROWING THEM INTO THE POCKETS BY HAND, LIKE A FRIKKIN’ NAUGHTY TODDLER! If you’re OCD or a stickler for rules, this will be the point at which you’ll be forced to switch the video off in digust. ‘How could she do such a thing?’ ‘Has she no respect for the game?’ To be fair, if you were in the pub, just hanging out with your mates and a nice craft beer having a cheeky game of pool and the Alexis Strumbot popped up and did that to your balls, you’d be royally pissed off by now.
It’s ok though, it wasn’t my fault. No, it was all down to that mysterious bit of black leather bandage wrapped tightly around my wrist.
It clearly made me do very bad things…
And now the maths:
Number of models in the video: 13
Number of pool cues: 2
Number of times I make love to the camera : 5.3
(I’m pretty sure there’s a drinking game in here somewhere…)
p.s. not long to go until the very first ‘Time I Almost…’ night on the 24th October @The Book Club with all profits going to Women’s Aid- book your tickets here: https://www.designmynight.com/london/bars/shoreditch/the-book-club/the-time-i-almost