February 10, 2013

Class and British pop stars

This evening's Grammy Award winners Adele (here's her James Bond Skyfall theme song) and Marcus Mumford of Mumford & Sons reflect the growing class divide among British entertainers. Mark Steyn wrote last year: 
Although fewer than 10 percent of British children attend private schools, their alumni make up over 60 percent of the acts on the U.K. pop charts. Twenty years ago, it was 1 percent.

Adele is the old kind of British pop star: daughter of a single mum and, apparently, a single mum herself now. 

But, it's hard to compete these days when you come from that deprived of a background.

Marcus Mumford, who recently married actress Carey Mulligan (another privately educated English celebrity), is the new kind of English rock star. His father is a theologian and evangelical entrepreneur:
John Mumford was installed as a Canon of Coventry Cathedral on Sunday 6th May. He is the Cathedral's new Canon Theologian and was installed at Choral Evensong and then preached at the Cathedral Praise Service. 
John Mumford is the National Director of Vineyard Churches in the UK and Ireland. He studied theology at St. Andrews and at Cambridge and John was ordained in Salisbury Cathedral in 1977, and served his title at Canford Magna, Dorset, before joining the staff of St Michael’s Chester Square, Belgravia, London. In 1987, John and his wife Eleanor planted and led the South West London Vineyard church until 2008 when they handed over the leadership of the church in order to concentrate more upon the oversight and development of the Vineyard movement, both nationally and internationally.

Marcus Mumford attended King's College School in Wimbledon, then studied classics at the U. of Edinburgh.


Anonymous said...


This is what passes for film criticism today. Nice white girl pretending to be radical by yammering about porn and art. It's like a parody of Paglia. Wasp girls can't do subversive. No matter how hard they try, it's still milk and cookies.


The movie sucks btw.

"The image of Kichi shuffling blearily up the street in the opposite direction from the line of marching soldiers drives home Oshima’s point with exquisite simplicity: His lovers may be too wrapped up in each other’s body to be conscious protesters, but their very deviance from societal norms—their pursuit of carnal pleasure at the cost of all else—makes them, in some way, radical."

Yeah, rape of Nanking and 'comfort women' must have been radical too.

"If In the Realm of the Senses is sex, then in my 20s I became something of a nymphomaniac."

Me, me, me. Just like Obama.

hbd chick said...

@steve - "This evening's Grammy Award winners Adele and Marcus Mumford of Mumford & Sons...."

meh and meh. the old working class british rockers were better.

(nostalgia isn't what it used to be! (~_^) )

Mr. Anon said...

I like Adele. She's got a great set of pipes - perhaps the best since Shirley Bassey - and she has real talent as a song-writer and a musician. And she views her job as singing and entertaining and putting on a good clean show, not shocking people with decadence and perversity. She comports herself as a lady, not as a tattooed, slatternly piece of trash, like so many of today's pop acts.

Good for her.

Anonymous said...

Non-private education in the UK in the bluecollar urban areas has been completely destroyed by blank-slaters so the same process is being seen in all areas from politics to business to entertainment. It's hard to compete when you can't read.

Although of course if the aim of the blank slaters all along was to make it so their children had no competition because their potential competitors could no longer read than the plan has worked perfectly.

Gilbert Ratchet said...

I seem to remember Genesis catching heat back in the day because its members had gone to Charterhouse. I wonder if Paul Weller could write "The Eton Rifles" today.

Ex Submarine Officer said...

One of the most prescient individuals of the 20th century was Norman Mailer.

In his 1948 novel, "The Naked and The Dead", he asserted that the 20th century ultimately would be an era of reaction and turning back of progressivism.

That was a pretty bold idea in 1948 and even still in the late 70's or so when I read it.

But it is now obviously true. Elites have arisen everywhere in the world and possess far less care for the serfs and peasants than did the typical lord of a feudal manor.

Interesting that he could see that from 1948....

Anonymous said...

Steve, you've written about chavs and the decline of working-class Brits. It shouldn't be surprising that the children of these people aren't becoming successful at the same rate as before.

I agree with Mr. Anon about Adele. She's a great singer.

Anonymous said...

"His father is a theologian and evangelical entrepreneur"

In the old days, they would have called him a temple merchant.

2Degrees said...

I have not lived in Britain for seven years, but in my lifetime class divisions have grown HUGELY. The abolition of grammar schools means that working class accent vanished from Oxbridge college quads.

The upper middle classes got rid of the competition from their own people and then sacrifices their children on the alter of diversity.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that when it comes to music, the better artists and composers are rarely upper class or even upper middle class.

It's about being uninhibited and spontaneous. The higher in the social order, the more planned and delibarate people become which makes for crappy music. Adele sings from the heart in a way that upper class peope are incapable of.

poolside said...

Watching the Grammys today makes me glad I grew up in the '70s.

Anonymous said...

this adele is also welsh - talented singers are also disproportionally welsh and from religious backgrounds

Anonymous said...

Intersting question.

'Traditionally' (which really means only 50 years or so in this instance, the wellspring of British rock 'talent' were the offspring of the lower middle classes, the classic 'grammar school boys' ie intelligent and perceptive but born to parents of quite modest means, but respctale and a sight above the nihilistic, dumb, violent chavs.
But these days, such youth are few and far between, their parents being enthusiastic advocates of contraception (being smart and thrift and all), and anyway they're more likely to be glued to lap-top screens either surfing porn (thus short-circuiting the 'love' ie sex aspect of rock), or playing on-line games.
The chavs, who have multiplied vastly since 1960 are into American black rap rubbish and simply haven't got the talent or application to do anything, let alone make music.
That leaves the toffos. Going to expensive private schools, they have excellent facilities and music lessons, plus they are likely to be imtelligent, talented and have families interested in culture. They see pop music as a game they can excel in and win at - just like everything else their expensive education prepares them for.

Anonymous said...

You're little puzzles are too tough on an ageing myope like me with fading eyesight.
Have some pity.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of 'The Jam', Bruce Foxton (remember him, the spiky haired guitarist and author of the unsuccesful - and not very good - 'Freak'), sent his young son to Eton, the same private school he railed at in 'Eton Rifles'.

Anonymous said...

Side note, but, despite its self-destructive tendencies (particularly aging baby boomer hierarchy still living in the 1960s - the Anglican church is producing some of the most important Theologians and religious movements in the christian world - the Alpha Course, for example, and theologians like NT Wright and a slew of minister-scientists like Polkinghorne, Barbour, etc.

*if* the New York Times and MSM were really intent on covering innovative, important thinkers Polkinghorne would be ranked as among the most important of the modern age- but we all know they are not interested, they are only interested in carrying out their agenda which means reporting the opposite.

Ghastly Oik said...

Its annoying you have to pay to read the rest of that Mark Steyn article, as it did look like it might be worth a read.

Is there any way you can get it for free?

Have some pity, I'm one of those deprived types.

@hbdchick - good choice!

@Mr Anon yeah Adele can knock a good tune and seems a half decent human being.

Anonymous said...

I like Adele. She's got a great set of pipes
would like to hear her sing like a white welsh woman not imitating a black woman.

Anonymous said...

Adele is a chav, heavily influenced by black underclass culture. It drives me crazy that Steve calls her an old style British pop star. Is he seriously comparing her to Petula Clark, Cilla Black, and Dusty Springfield? What a moke. Adele is the product of socialist dysgenics and crap multiculturalism.

Oh, and did I mention her voice sucks, sucks, sucks?

Anonymous said...

It's something that was talked before about British politics... all high-class people... even the leftists are from good schools.

heartiste said...

"Good for her."

And she demonstrates poor character by not refusing her gluttonous compulsions and pushing away from the table. Ever think that her plum-shaped body and the reason for her single mumhood might be related?

Ron Mexico said...

Your trolling over at the NYT today is pretty funny, Sailer. But it always just makes me very sad: high-handed contempt from weird old bachelors in Sweden; nauseous moral posturing from empty-nesters with too much time on their hands; and
a tone poem
cat lady
--on a cell phone?--
and nothing ever changes, no progress is made, still, 2013: "We now know what our grandparents couldn't, that there is only one race. The human race."
Paging PMan: the good Doctor might want to make some posts at the Stone today.

Anonymous said...

Adele, the single mum, is a good musician. Much better than Beyoncé, Madonna or Christina Aguilera and other such items.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Perfidious Albion is so anxious to sever all ties to its grand history as the Catholic Isles of Angels that it no longer can even stand to call Vespers, Vespers.

No, it must be evensong...

That oblique grousing aside I do like Mumford and Sons

Douglas Knight said...

Steyn's source, that he named but did not link, was Julie Burchill, whose source was a 12/2010 Word magazine article by Simon Price that may never have been on the web. He compared a week in 10/2010 to a week in 10/1990.

Douglas Knight said...

I found the original Simon Price article in Word. It is quoted in its entirety here and here. Here are the relevant paragraphs:

"The perception that poshos are colonising the charts isn’t an illusion. It’s demonstrable fact. The Official UK Top 40 of the week ending 20th October 1990 contained 21 British acts. Of these, 16 and a half - ranging from PiL to Paul McCartney to Pop Will Eat Itself - went to their local state school as children. Another four could not be verified by forensic Googling, but it‘s safe to assume they did too. Just half of one act was educated privately: the Pet Shop Boys’ Chris Lowe, who attended Blackpool’s independent Arnold School.

Fast-forward two decades, and a very different picture emerges. Lifting the lid on the corresponding week’s chart in 2010 reveals a far more complex can of wriggling worms. Of 17 British acts, two attended top private schools (Battle Abbey boy Taio Cruz and the aforementioned Ms Doolittle) and three went to fee-paying stage schools (BRIT alumni Adele and Katy B, and Italia Conti pupil Pixie Lott). A further two were groups with mixed educational backgrounds: The Saturdays (of whom two emerged via stage school, including another Italia Conti product, and one Surbiton High), and The Wanted (at least one of whom attended Sylvia Young). Three were TV talent show creations, and one unverifiable. Only seven were ordinary comp kids, unassisted by privilege or patronage, and even that figure includes Syco-signed producer Labrinth, who is Simon Cowell’s nephew."

In particular, if you summarize this as saying that 60% are posh, you are counting Adele (and, even more bizarrely "tv talent show creations"). Price does not seem to have used the numbers 1% and 60%.

hbd chick said...

@anonymous - "Speaking of 'The Jam', Bruce Foxton (remember him, the spiky haired guitarist and author of the unsuccesful - and not very good - 'Freak'), sent his young son to Eton, the same private school he railed at in 'Eton Rifles'."

heh! typical.

Corn said...

"I like Adele. She's got a great set of pipes - perhaps the best since Shirley Bassey - and she has real talent as a song-writer and a musician. And she views her job as singing and entertaining and putting on a good clean show, not shocking people with decadence and perversity. She comports herself as a lady, not as a tattooed, slatternly piece of trash, like so many of today's pop acts."

I don't approve of her and her man having a baby out of wedlock, but yeah, I tend to agree. She seems to be a better specimen of humanity than Madonna or Gaga.

agnostic said...

What's happened to the Celts over there in Britain? Did boring new audiences turn their backs on them too?

They began at least with Lennon and McCartney, then peaked in the '80s / early '90s with David Bowie, Bryan Ferry, Kate Bush, Bonnie Tyler, Big Country (SHA!), the Cocteau Twins, Eurhythmics, Simple Minds, Jesus and Mary Chain, the Proclaimers, the Cranberries, Primal Scream, the Pogues, My Bloody Valentine, etc....

Seems like the only one that jumps out today is U2 -- formed back in the '80s. Belle and Sebastian, too. May be missing a few others, but it looks pretty bleak for the blue-skins.

Whenever the zeitgeist turns more Romantic (in response to a rising crime / homicide rate), there's a taste for all things Celtic, at first somewhat laying-it-on-too-thickly like the imagery in Zeppelin, but then becoming totally effortless and lacking in self-consciousness, like Big Country's mixture of primeval Celtic folk and New Wave.

agnostic said...

I guess Adele is part Welsh and that Mumford guy is part Scot... still, the regional pride of Celts in Scotland, Ireland, and Wales seems to have declined or vanished. How many "Scottish bands" come to mind or show up on the charts? Sad.

Anonymous said...

In his 1948 novel, "The Naked and The Dead", he asserted that the 20th century ultimately would be an era of reaction and turning back of progressivism.

Reaction disguised as left-wing, anti-racist, anti-sexist progessivism. Very clever.

Hail said...

Adele -- as a symbol of the White lower-class in Britain, represents something else, too:

I was certain that she was Black before clicking the link in the OP to her video. I'd never seen her picture before, but had heard her song(s).

She sounds Black. That is, she consciously imitates Black singing styles, vocal patterns, intonation, etc. (If you don't want to take my word for it, google 'Adele sounds Black').

Hail said...

Adele was nominated for an "NAACP Image Award" last year.

For this, which is an obvious aping of Black music, without pretense of a 'White' spin (as previous generations of real or alleged Black-->White borrowings have been).

Play the video without looking at the video. Imagine you didn't know the race of singer. Who among us would assume it is a White woman?

Anonymous said...

Agnostic - I was just thinking of the biggest Irish band of all - U2. Then I remembered that 50% of them are English Protestants by birth, one is Welsh. So not such a good example after all.

Anonymous said...

Agnostic - Sorry to be nit picking. Im not sure what Celtic credentials David Bowie and Bryan Ferry have?

Many of the others were only partly celtic bands.

Anonymous said...

Adele's huge debt to black music is obvious, which is why she chooses to cover such seminal black artists as...Bob Dylan and The Cure.

Anonymous said...

"Adele -- as a symbol of the White lower-class in Britain, represents something else, too"

Black influence and contribution on music is not a "lower class thing" it is a omnipresent thing. All popular music today and it's various modern conceptions are derivative of blues, pop, rock and country music would all be unrecognizable today without it. You really should familiarize yourself with the 20th century.

Anonymous said...

Then I remembered that 50% of them are English Protestants
anglo-irish, which is different, sweetheart

Hail said...

Anon @ 5:41:

The fact is: In the past, all White borrowings or adaptations of Black music were significantly 'whitened-up'. (Many Whites smoked tobacco in the 1700s. Were they "copying Amerindian customs"? Well, okay, that is the origin of tobacco. But Europeans did not copy the religious ceremony aspect and all. They adapted it to their own culture -- Same with music).

Consider the 1950s song "Shake Rattle and Roll" --

(A) Listen to the original version by "Big Joe Turner" [Black]

(B) Listen to the much-more-successful version by Bill Haley [White]

Lacking any knowledge of the races of the two men, no American would be confused -- (A) is Black and (B) is White.

With "Adele" and increasingly with White music and culture, it's different. A rubicon has been crossed. Adele consciously imitates Black style, without giving it any kind of European touch at all, vocally. I bet 19 of 20 people (at least) would assume Adele was at least part-Black, if they listen to a recording of a song of hers and have no further information.

A lot more is down this rabbit hole, though -- the 'Chav' phenomenon in Britain involves a lot of imitation of Black/Nonwhite mannerisms and so on. A big chunk of the British 'working class' (one new characteristic of which is not-so-much actual working) has got it bad, it seems to me.

Matthew said...

"Although of course if the aim of the blank slaters all along was to make it so their children had no competition because their potential competitors could no longer read than the plan has worked perfectly."

Their goal was to turn government schools from a source of education to a source of indoctrination in the new state religion - the PC MultiKult.

Matthew said...

"Adele is a chav, heavily influenced by black underclass culture."

Besides her obesity and single parenthood, none of us would appear to know enough about Adele to know whether or not she is a chav. She certainly seems to carry herself with a lot more dignity than the foul-mouthed skank ho Lily Allen, who was born to much wealthier parents.

Steve Sailer said...

Hail, I can assure you that in 1967 English singer Dusty Springfield was consciously imitating black American singers:


Steve Sailer said...

From Wikipedia:

"Aged 14, Adele discovered Etta James and Ella Fitzgerald by accident as she stumbled on the artists' CDs in the jazz section of her local music store and was struck by their appearance on the album covers."

It would seem like Adele displayed both good taste and strong-willed individuality in picking out admirable singers from long before her birth to be her role models.

Perhaps her reasoning went like this: "Here are a couple of women singers who were kind of heavyset like me, yet people are still buying their records after all these years, so their singing must be worth studying."

Steve Sailer said...

Okay, "Son of Preacher Man" was recorded for "Dusty in Memphis" in 1968. The songwriters offered it first to Aretha Franklin, but she turned it down, only recording it after Springfield had a hit it with it.

Hail said...

Steve, fair enough on that Dusty Sprinfield song. (Who, according, to Wiki was actually born to "Irish-Catholic" parents in England, FWIW -- certainly a musically-talented bunch). Another example of conscious imitation of Black style would be Janis Joplin, I think.

Still, the examples of 20th-century Whites drawing from, but NOT nakedly-imitating "Black music", are inordinately greater.

Speaking of Dusty Springfield, she did have a more-typical 'White sound' for most of her career, it seems, for which she made her name:

This and this and this. (It appears Dusty's late-'60s 'soul' phase coincided with her decline in popularity).

Adele, though, is producing what is called Pop music, which is being played on Top-40 stations, and for which she has won the Grammy for Best Pop Song, but I can't find anything in Adele's repetoire (perhaps another commenter can) which does not sound like naked imitation of Black singing style.

Polymath said...

Adele used to be much heavier than she is now, and seems to be continuing to slim down, so I won't criticize her for her weight.

In interviews she has a potty mouth but it's obviously the way she was raised (lower-class upbringing, her mom was a teenager and her dad walked out when she was a baby), completely ingrained. Compared with the typical British lower class young woman she is very refined, so again I won't criticize her because she is still very young and has overcome so much already.

Anonymous said...

And this blunt imitation of Black singing style is suppose to signify what exactly? that white working class misbehaviour is the direct result of black music? but like i said black influence on white music is ubiquitous.. is black music also responsible for football hooligianism as well than?
The aesthetic borrowing done by whites does not thereby make the original source responsible for the outcome if anything it is the white-oriented creation that is the contaminated product.

Fun said...

Whites singing like blacks is not a new phenomena. It is synchronous with pop music itself. White people love singers like Adele because they can appreciate seminal black music without all the black people.

Reg Cæsar said...

Interesting that [Mailer] could see that from 1948.... Ex-Sub Off

Reaction disguised as left-wing, anti-racist, anti-sexist progessivism. Very clever. --anon

Geez, haven't you guys read a fellow named Orwell? He saw the same thing from 1948.  And Huxley before him...

Ex Submarine Officer said...

Geez, haven't you guys read a fellow named Orwell? He saw the same thing from 1948. And Huxley before him...

Sure, but Orwell/Huxley felt unsure enough of their views to have to dress things up in fantastical dystopias.

Mailer makes it much more credible/imminent by having as part of the dialog of entirely believable characters and settings in the mid 20th century when the book was published.

Anonymous said...

In many ways, the last of the clever British working class/lower middle class boys who went to art college and became a rock star was Pulp's Jarvis Cocker. Who, not coincidentally, wrote one of the great songs about the modern British class system, "Common People": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yuTMWgOduFM

Anonymous said...

"Compared with the typical British lower class young woman she is very refined, so again I won't criticize her because she is still very young and has overcome so much already. "

What has Adele overcome? In Britain there is nothing to overcome. Her ample form is testament to the easy lifestyle of the chavs.

fnn said...

1948. Here's Francis parker Yockey writing in that year:

The “chief fount” is Hollywood, which “spews forth an endless series of perverted films to debase and degenerate the youth of Europe” after having successfully destroyed the youth of America.[7]

Concomitantly “a vicious literature” promotes the “destruction of healthy individual instincts, of normal familial and sexual life, of disintegration of the social organism into a heap of wandering, colliding, grains of human sand.”

The message of Hollywood is the total, significance of the isolated individual, stateless and rootless, outside of society and family, whose life is the pursuit of money and erotic pleasure. It is not the normal and healthy love of man and wife bound together by many children that Hollywood preaches, but a diseased erotic-for-its-own sake, the sexual love of two grains of human sand, superficial and impermanent. Before this highest of all Hollywood’s values everything else must stand aside: marriage, honor, duty, patriotism, sternness dedication to self to a higher aim. This ghastly distortion of sexual life has created the erotomaia that obsesses millions of victims in America, and which has now been brought to the Mother-soil of Europe by the American invasion.[8]

Hollywood-feminism has created a woman who is no longer a woman but cannot be a man, and a man who is devirilized into an indeterminate thing. The name given to this process is “the setting free” of woman and it is done in the name of “happiness,” the magic word of the liberal-communist-democratic doctrine.[9]

Anonymous said...

Adele's football team of choice is Tottenham Hotspur, who take their name from Sir Henry Percy (who Shakespeare referred to as Harry Hotspur in Henry IV, Part 1). Percy's family owned much of Northumberland, including Tottenham which is now a part of North London.

From Wikipedia:

"Tottenham has a multicultural population, with many ethnic groups inhabiting the area. It contains one of the largest and most significant populations of African-Caribbean people. These were among the earliest immigrant groups to settle in the area, starting the UK's Windrush era. Soon afterwards West African communities – notably the many Ghanaians – began to migrate into the area. Between 1980 and the present day there has been a slow immigration of Colombians, Congolese, Albanian, Kurdish, Turkish-Cypriot, Turkish, Somali, Irish, and Portuguese populations.[citation needed] South Tottenham is reported to be the most ethnically-diverse area in Europe, with up to 300 languages being spoken by its residents.[12]

According to David Lammy MP, Tottenham has the highest unemployment rate in London and the 8th highest in the United Kingdom, and it has some of the highest poverty rates within the country.[13] There have also been major tensions between the African-Caribbean community and the police since (and before) the 1985 Broadwater Farm riot.

That's the neighborhood Adele was born in. Definitely working class.