So Many TV Dads Are Making Basic Music That We Ranked Them All
Who has the best discography: Nick Knowles, Jason Manford, or Alfie off 'Eastenders'?
Bradley Walsh AKA the most successful British male artist of 2016, with actual musician Stormzy. Still via YouTube
It is October and the seasons, to paraphrase Bob Dylan, are a-changin'. Temperatures are dropping, you're seemingly never wearing the appropriate amount of layers, advent calendars are on sale in ASDA, and your local HMV is filled to the rafters with covers CDs from 'the bloke off that game show' destined to while away the years in a glovebox compartment.
Flirting with the idea of becoming a "musician" seems to be the logical career move for D-list celebrity men on British TV these days; corner the mum market with a few cheap, Ofcom-safe laughs and then, once you've got them onside, rinse their purses clean by showing off your sensitive side. A few covers of some familiar show tunes and you've secured next year's Maldives holiday fund. Pop on a cowboy hat and you're destined for a brief co-hosting stint on The One Show. Seemingly every week another face only familiar to those who watch terrestrial British TV hops aboard the big band bandwagon to release an album – but who's the best? Below, we pick through piano albums and show tunes, brass sections and baritones, to crown the ultimate musical daytime telly daddy of them all.
6. SHANE RICHIE
OK, who?: A former Eastenders actor, Shane played street-smart orphan Alfie Moon on the iconic soap, before becoming a game show GOAT and hosting the National Lottery's In It To Win It.
At the time of writing, Shane Richie's forthcoming Americana album A Country Soul is still "in the works". His team weren't able to send over even a snippet of the closely guarded country and western, which fucking sucks, because I really wanted to hear unconfirmed-but-guaranteed-banger "That Bottle Ain't Your Friend". Turns out like any #trueartist, he's still holed up in the studio, poring over guitar tunings and fidget spinning the spurs on his cowboy boots. Thankfully, this isn't Shane's first foray into music. Nor his second. Back in 1997, he released The Album, a remarkable collection of covers including yer parents' fave smoocher "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" and a baffling, Limmy-esque take on "Grease Is The Word." Album two, Once Around The Sun, though, takes the biscuit with "Let's Do Sex" (above).
It's really quite… predatory? "All I want is to get close to you," he purrs with horrible faux-George Michael diction, "so much closer than you want me to." I mean, Jesus Christ, Shane. You kiss Nana Moon with that mouth? "Your body says yes, but you say no," he problematically continues. After careful consideration, I've had to bump him right down for this one – even the joke-birthday-card-for-male-relative chorus of "You say let's do lunch / I say let's do sex" can't save it. Hopefully he's learned his lesson third time around.
What the fans say:
5. JASON MANFORD
OK, who?: Stand-up comedy everyman and panelist on 8 Out Of 10 Cats, a snarky, sarky comedy show centred around opinion polls of the UK populace. Sort of like a Mancunian Seth MacFarlane.
What's going on here then? You're supposed to be a happy chappy, Jason! You're all about the PG-13 banter on 8 Out Of 10 Cats, pushing the boundaries a little bit, but not so much that you have to be placed on the higher shelves in the WHSmiths '3 for a tenner' DVD sale. You're supposed to play the part of the beaming, cheeky uncle who ends every wedding with his cummerbund tied around his forehead; beloved by Aunties in spite of a sexting scandal in 2010.
So where's all that gone? Why are you singing opera?! Like Susan Boyle soundtracking a straight-to-DVD Disney sequel, it's all orchestral arrangements and showtunes, capped off with a theatre-school croon that has more needless faux-heartstring tugging than a that McDonald's ad about the dead dad. All well and good, but not what the nation wants or needs from a man whose brand is 'get the Jägerbombs in'.
What the fans say:
4. ALEXANDER ARMSTRONG
OK, who?: Posh as a tea cosy co-host of BBC game show Pointless – a fittingly-titled celebration of niche knowledge and cornerstone of any self-respecting British student's daily routine.
There's always been something a bit off about Alexander Armstrong's presenting vibe on Pointless. On one hand, he seems kind of jovial – that little smirk twisting the corners of his mouth into ever-tighter spirals as his co-host Richard Osman cosplays a non-existent British character off The Big Bang Theory – but on the other, he is very stern. Seemingly always one idiotic answer away from snapping, getting right up in Ken from Leamington Spa's face and calling him a twat.
This quality is on full display on his recent second album, Upon a Different Shore. Despite releasing an album that has several hymns as well as a cover of Kygo's "Firestone" on it, Alexander Armstrong is very much not up for the banter here. Instead he warbles about fields of corn like he's the entertainment at Theresa May's birthday party. Bit much, really.
What the fans say:
3. ALISTAIR MCGOWAN
OK, who?: Your parents' favourite impressionist, Alistair made his name in the 90s parodying any celebrity under the non-existent British sun.
A slightly more sophisticated touch from The Big Impression's Alistair McGowan, who's taken to tinkling the ivories since putting away the lock and key to the fancy-dress box. It's actually kinda sick, too – he's managed to pull off the implausible transformation from loony costume-swapper to po-faced pianoman without becoming boring in the process. After turning the Beckhams into nasal, indecisive bores and the cast of Friends into robotic walking catchphrases, it seems the only celebrity left to flip on their head was himself. The joke's on us though, because he's absolutely smashed it, hasn't he? Sure, it's a bit bait (Satie's "Gymnopédie No. 1", Alistair? Come on) but at the very least it's a lesson that you too could meet a piano teacher on a cruise in your fifties and learn to smash through The Liszt Consolations in your fifties after a brief career entertaining the public with average impressions of Dot Cotton.
What the fans say:
2. BRADLEY WALSH
OK, who?: Formerly best known as the womanising Danny Baldwin in Coronation Street , a soap opera set in small-town Northern England, these days Bradley whiles away the days as the bubbly host of The Chase , a so-bad-it's-good weekday evening game show.
Bradley Walsh's big band album Chasing Dreams was the best-selling debut album by any British artist last year, and the only debut to go gold – a fact that he, not incorrectly, dubbed "hysterical". The Chase's manic game show host has done what any self-respecting dad would do given such an opportunity: sucked dry the bar at any awards show that'll have him, and pissed himself laughing all the way through, embracing the sheer absurdity of these bloody kids. An interview on the BRITs red carpet was an undoubted career highlight, a sozzled Walsh proclaiming himself a big fan of Stormzy's "grime… grunge? Grime!" and remarking that he's usually resigned to watching these things with his slippers and pipe at home, in the same way that Every Dad Ever likes to guilt trip their kids for never inviting them to the pub.
Somehow Danny off Corrie has turned himself into a Watford's very own Frank Sinatra. He's got the sultry swing down to a tee; his pearly white grin outshone only by his blinding vocal. What's more, the closing moments of Chasing Dreams are an underrated gem of 2016's musical history, with Bradley declaring "well, folks, that's it: the end of the session!" like Scotty T attempting to feign authoritative responsibility at the end of a Geordie Tour.
What the fans say:
1. NICK KNOWLES
OK, who?: Hunky host of DIY SOS , a home improvement show that rescues hapless would-be renovators from their own botched jobs. Obviously, he hosts game shows too. Everyone does in the UK, alright? It's like our very own version of national service.
And thus, we have a winner. The home improvement samaritan himself, Mr Nick Knowles. The DIY SOS superstar announced his debut album Every Kind Of People last week and, ever since, he has embarked on an unmistakably #indiedad renaissance capped off beautifully with his discovery of King Krule. Based on the knee-weakening, grizzly-as-a-bear teaser of his cover of Robert Palmer's "Every Kinda People", it's a miracle he's only just discovered Archy Marshall's baritone blues. The Peckham troubadour could easily have been a longstanding influence. Or maybe a co-writer.
After recently presenting a BBC documentary on mental health and adopting a vegan diet, Nick is diving headlong into #wokedad territory too, with Every Kind Of People reportedly being about inclusiveness. "It doesn't matter where you come from – what colour, creed, et cetera," he explains in the album's trailer, "I think that's really important at the moment." Just last week he got involved in gender discourse too, with some… interesting… comments about how young girls should be taught to use stilettos and handbags to fend off dickheads. "To make them use those high heels and clutch bags as defensive weapons is critical to our young women to feel empowered and able to look after themselves," he said at the Britain's Got Talent Childline ball, in the most well-meaning, but ultimately kicking-your-new-bf-in-the-shin-under-the-table-at-dinner-with-your-mates red carpet interview since, well, Bradley's Stormzy run-in. Congratulations, Nick – that beard; that husky voice box; that new, woke aesthetic…
What the fans say:
Follow Tom on Twitter.