I Want to Dislike BST Hyde Park's Retrograde Line-Up but Unfortunately It’s Lit
Feminism is complicated, OK!!
Much tea has been spilled over diversity in live music over the last few years. Particularly festival line-ups, which came under more scrutiny than an unknown disease after The Guardian published figures in 2015 that highlighted a grim display of homogeneity across the board. In terms of gender representation, the most balanced event in the UK was Wireless, where women made up a whopping 20 per cent of the stage presence.
Last year, Adele became the eighth woman to occupy Glastonbury's headlining slot in all its 70-year history, and, in April, Beyonce will be the first woman to headline Coachella in a decade – and the first black woman to headline the event ever. One of the few festivals to try tackle this effectively is Afropunk (which came to London for the first time last year) – fair enough, its 'No Sexism, No Racism, No Ableism, No Ageism, No Homophobia, No Fatphobia, No Transphobia, No Hatefulness' mission statement is printed on 30-foot banners and hoisted above the stages.
All of which is to say: the line-up for Hyde Park's British Summertime 2017 has completely ignored this entire and very mainstream conversation of the last few years and assembled a set of headliners whiter and more male than the Trump administration. And I have never been more here for anything in my life.
The headliners – a veritable who's who of mine and my dad's iTunes' combined – are Green Day, Justin Bieber, Kings of Leon, Phil Collins, The Killers and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. You may find some non-white faces among the bands, including The Heartbreakers' force-of-nature that is drummer Steve Ferrone, but all in all that is a lot of dicks swinging around one stage throughout July. Full support hasn't been announced yet but at the moment we have Stevie Nicks and The Lumineers opening for Tom Petty, Elbow and Tears for Fears for The Killers, Pixies for Kings of Leon, and Martin Garrix, Tove Lo and Anne-Marie for Bieber.
Now, given how frequently I have personally and publicly had a go at organisations for whom "intersectional" might as well be a dietary requirement, I should hate this. This blindingly whitewashed array. This musical Olive Garden menu that might as well be officially sponsored by Entourage, bootcut jeans and the comments section. However, I do not hate this. In fact, I love this. I love this for Green Day, for Bieber and for The Killers and their one album, Hot Fuss, which I'm pretty sure was followed by thirteen years of silence. That much is obvious. But mostly, I love this for Tears For Fears.
For those among us not particularly invested in British synthpop of the early 80s, Tears For Fears are a band from Bath formed by iconic duo Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith who changed pop and also my life. Their many hits – including but not limited to "Everybody Wants to Rule the World", "Shout", "Woman In Chains", "Sowing The Seeds Of Love", "Head Over Heels" and "Mad World" – are huge tunes, to be sure, but they are also more than just huge tunes. Using infectious pop as a vehicle for heavy topics (their debut The Hurting is a concept album about childhood trauma), Tears For Fears are woven into cult history as much as they are your parent's memories of clubbing.
For example, we literally would not have a Donnie Darko without "Head Over Heels" and "Mad World" (even if the latter has gone on to become an X Factor staple for emotional men in hats or "the weird one"). Their bleak brand of synthpop had more in common with Gary Numan and Joy Division than their more buoyant peers Simple Minds and The Human League, and though the likes of Soft Cell and Echo and the Bunnymen were doing similar, it was really fucking unusual for two council estate lads who got their name from an Arthur Janov book to shoot to number three in the UK charts (and again to Christmas number one in 2003 thanks to Gary Jules) off the back of the eternally bleak chorus "I find it kinda funny / I find it kinda sad / The dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had". The particular state of existential suffering that ran through their work like a current of depressing electricity captured something about the British psyche in a way that nobody else managed before or has done since. Incidentally, "Pale Shelter" was heavily sampled by The Weeknd on "Secrets" – one of Starboy's stand-out moments – and if anybody in pop knows a thing or two about bleak and depressing aesthetics, it is Abel Tesfaye.
After releasing three albums together and parting company in 1991, then getting back together again for 2004's Everybody Loves a Happy Ending and a series of anniversary releases, last year Tears For Fears played their first live dates in the UK in a decade. Now, in July, for reasons I cannot fathom, they will appear before Elbow – fucking Elbow – supporting The Killers at Hyde Park, in what looks to be the largest celebration of angsty white men since they pressed Bright Eyes' entire discography to vinyl. And yeah, if you must know, I lived for that as well.
Sometimes, ethics are complicated. Sometimes you'll date an arsehole and not do anything about it. Sometimes you enjoy things Lena Dunham has created in spite of what you've read about her personality. Sometimes you want to see Soulja Boy deck Chris Brown even though Chris Brown is a categorically terrible human and yet Soulja Boy's only claim to fame is writing a song about jizzing on a woman's back while she's asleep – and you know the only possible victory here goes to whichever trash TV station hosts the fight. In the spirit of all that is beautiful and flawed about humanity, bring on July 8 and the stellar line-up of Tears For Fears, 90-minute toilet break, and The Killers, who I'm sure will play that one album Hot Fuss that they have and nothing else.
You can find Emma singing Tears for Fears' praises on Twitter.
(Image via album artwork)