Katie Melua’s Convincing Bid to be a Gay Icon

A new freaky government, the death of the Blackberry, a paid-for Times online, fish dishes on the Pizza Express menu and a volcanic saga from that attention-seeking infantile island we call Iceland: We all knew 2010 would be a year of change. One shift not even King Cowell himself saw coming though was Katie Melua getting cool. I had her neatly cellotaped up with Norah Jones and Lucie Silvas in the mental box marked “Please Mum, I know it’s your car but NOOOO”

So when she rocked up on Graham Norton’s set last week I spent half the episode sitting there slagging her off to my flatmate. (“Why is Katie Melua on the Graham Norton show? I thought she got publically mummified in her own knitting three years ago or choked to death on a mouthful of tarragon”. “Shut up Jack, I’m trying to listen to Minnie 50p-face Driver’s anecdote on how famous she is” Etc.) But then Katie’s turn to sing arrived and she was surprisingly very good, in fact, borderline inspiring.

Katie sang ‘The Flood’, the first single from her forthcoming album The House. The album is produced by William Orbit, which is a bit of a step-up from that ferret that used to manage her*. ‘The Flood’ kicks off with an interestingly asymmetrical pace, otherworldly instruments and some wonderfully poetic lyrics. Eastern influences pour in from the word go, making Katie’s new image a bit like that well-deserved Turkish Delight at the end of a bracing country walk. Then the song suddenly adopts an up-tempo Arcade Fire style disco ballroom beat that rivals the early works of Roisin Murphy. Honestly Katie, I’m eating bitch pie.

The sexy video arguably tops the song though. A group of inexplicably tasteful muscle men dance in their pants, colliding with each other erotically and spiritually with long sticks before a golden rock face as the all-new eye-shadow-a-go-go Katie drifts around in what looks like Queen Victoria’s corsets customised by Xena*. The dancers are at once incredibly attractive and elegant in the way that an over-priced lubed-up French rugby calendar trys to be*. And then as if Katie hasn’t done enough for us, she ends her video on a slow motion clip of two tribal men embracing in a unison of art, warmth, athleticism and understanding.

This is Katie Melua’s bid to be a gay icon, or to at least sell a CD to someone who doesn’t shop at the Edinburgh Woollen Mill.

Granted, as the music press will droan - she will never be Kate Bush. But no female solo artist will ever truly rival Kate Bush’s originality and at least Miss Melua is trying to earn her inevitable music industry Kate Bush comparison unlike these gash media magnet recession stars Florence and Marina. Contro?

Finally Katie has joined the more interesting and darker side of the music industry, pledging her support for Patrick Wolf shoulder pads and a die-hard make-up palette. We should all buy Katie’s new record if only to set an example to the hoards of paisley “goes well with a nice bowl of parsnip soup” type female solo artists out there who still need to bin their chintz and toughen up a bit. This is the closest thing to cool that Katie Melua has ever been. Thumbs up for a successful reinvention Katie, you deserve the pay-off that will come from this. Maybe she can even afford to quit her part-time job in a lighting shop (pictured above).

Katie Melua’s new album The House is released in the UK on May 24th

Katie’s 2010 tour includes 13 dates in Britain, so look out for those in December too.

Watch the video to The Flood here.

*Katie Melua’s last manager wasn’t actually a ferret. Digital Spy misinformed me.
* Xena is a Princess warrior. I feel I should point this out as I recently discovered one of my readers was born in 1994.

Above: *Some reckon the models in Katie Melua's video were reminiscent of the naked French rugby calendars Dieux Du Stade. The calendar features players from France's premier rugby team Stade Francais, who are owned by the gay entrepreneur Max Guazzini. As well as making his boys pose, Guazzini invites players from other teams to make guest appearances in his calendars and DVDs. Guazzani is also famous for dressing his team in hot pink, floral prints and Warhol-inspired shirts. We've digressed.

This article was published by Gay Times on 4th June 2010. See this post and Jack Cullen's other Gay Times posts here.

MARMITE - “You either quite like it or you unlike it” : Jack Cullen exposes the myth behind this megaton beefed-up marketing shocker.

People go out of their way to say “Ooh it’s like Marmite isn’t it, you either...” and the conversation instantly falls into a coma of cliché and disinterest. It’s a social invasion.

I’m fed up with Marmite’s infamous testament – you either love Marmite or you hate Marmite. It’s a marketing campaign so strong, so meaty, so pungent and so influential on soft-minded citizens it makes Dr. Goebbels’ work for the Nazis look farcically ineffectual by comparison.

Because of course the plain bread truth is, hardly any of us are mad enough to love or hate Marmite. If Marmite was so enamoured then it would appear on menus, its devoted lovers would carry pots of it around with them, spreading away at plastic tables on trains, ripping their Prêt a Manger meatball ravus apart to load them up with a generous slap of beef extract. And as for hating it, does anybody have such an empty life that they can afford the time to actively despise a brand-name bread spread? Like, seriously.

Most of us, in fact, fall into the following three categories when it comes to Marmite:

1. You quite like it
You’ve had a fun night out, you’re sitting in the kitchen chatting to your flatmate about that boy, the kettle’s on, ooh – why not have a bit of toast, with Marmite perhaps?

2. You’re not that fussed really
You’re on a speed awareness course, its lunch break and the biddies have put on a buffet. Why is Marmite one of the sandwiches on display? A bit odd you think. Oh well, you pile one up anyway alongside the tasteless wafer thin turkey and the kill-yourself-now egg cress mess.

3. You hardly ever eat it and as a healthy human have no opinion on it
Just like you hardly ever eat Primella cheese and have no opinion on it. Just like you hardly ever eat Ambrosia custard and have no opinion on it. Just like approximately 85,000 other products in your local supermarket that you hardly ever eat and have no opinion of.

So why get all worked up about Marmite’s marketing lies? Because the phraseology of it has secured itself a place in household language.

Only today MSN, one of the world’s most influential online authorities, released an article called ‘Marmite Musicians’. The article lists pop acts like Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, The Spice Girls and Cliff Richard as ‘Marmite’ artists because you… you guessed it… either HATE them, or you LOVE them. No Msn. No. We like Lady Gaga, we no longer care about The Spice Girls, we are scared by Cliff Richard and unimpressed by his suppressed sexuality, and as for Justin Bieber, he’s just some stupid pop kid. No loving. No hating. See?

What’s even worse is MSN know this themselves. On Justin Bieber they write “So it's not so much love him or hate him, as love him and don't have a clue who he is. At the moment, he's still pretty much a North American-megastar, combining teen heartthrob with loose R&B stylings. So there's a lot to hate. Or, if you're a teen girl from Ontario, a lot to love.” So basically, he’s not even what they call a ‘Marmite’ artist.

This is what irritates me. People go out of their way to say “Ooh it’s like Marmite isn’t it, you either...” and the conversation instantly falls into a coma of cliché and disinterest. It’s a social invasion. Students in new-wave universities like The University of Basingstoke are probably discussing this perplexingly successful Marmite campaign right now as a case study in their Contemporary Beef Extract Marketing Do-Dah Management degrees.

So I paid a visit to the route of all this evil: Marmite.com

Even in Google search, Marmite’s website proudly brandishes its indestructible campaign in your face - “Marmite – Love It Or Hate It”. The site instantly forks its traffic, forcing you to choose between two paths, Marmite is Perfect or Marmite is Horrid. I click on Horrid and am taken through to a hate site hosted by Marmite themselves. Words are instantly put in my mouth – “Eat Marmite? You'd rather rip the wings off live chickens. You'd rather be stripped naked in public. You'd rather swallow rat's tails and snail shells... Enough already! We get the picture. And yes, you're in the right place...” (And yes, Marmite’s in-house writer Francesca Simon has an incorrect use of apostrophe, not I)

In the empire of Marmite.Com there’s merchandise, you can download a free audio book, they even have downloadable screensavers in the fan club area. There’s also a Marmite cook book written by Paul Harley. Thanks Paul.

My friend in media Rob Heath agrees with me on this: “The marmite campaign is a Standard false dichotomy. Like the USA's 'You're either with us or against us' regarding their War on Terror. It's quite possible to be neither. Strong arm tactics of the most insidious variety.” An academic friend Benjamin O’ Brien agrees too, telling the Jack of Hearts exclusively: “It’s a modern obsession with polemic. You didn't really have to look much further than the 'Conservatives eat your babies'/'LibDems want to take all your money' dichotomy for a more problematic application.”

Today we live in an era of liking though, ruled by his His Royal Highness Mark Zuckerburg the First. Facebook states and dictates that we must like things. Marmite shouldn’t be an exception. I want to see a campaign that says Marmite – you either like it or you unlike it.

Further reading:

Visit Marmite’s website It’s quite nice I suppose.

Buy the Marmite cook book here. You might quite like it, or maybe you’re not that fussed.

Read Jack's opinions on Justin Bieber and his sexuality here

Above: The Marmite Cook Book. Below: Part of Marmite's Perfectly Horrid campaign

Crystal Castles Second Album


Really excited about the long-awaited arrival of Crystal Castles' second album, also self-titled Crystal Castles like their earthquake of a debut. I've been listening to it all day, I couldn't be in more or a hurry to get addicted! Look out for my review of the album on my Gay Times blog in a few days.

In the meantime you can download the album and read some more serious reviews here:

Emily Mackay in NME - "It makes you want to fight, f**k or flee, to jump on the nearest table and start ape-grimacing and throwing things, possibly your own faeces."

Killian Fox in The Guardian - "a much more satisfying record than its predecessor" (??? - typical backhanded compliment)

Brian Emerson in Second Supper - just READ it!

Oh also - Crystal Castles are on the front of the new Dazed & Confused and the song Baptism features in Tim Noakes' playlist. Check all the Dazed excitement over Crystal Castles here. Shame the Dazed cover shot is very trademark, very old school Crystal Castles.

I want to see Alice and Ethan in their swimmers at Butlins or something.


Heaven. Is. Amazing. Despite the interesting and varied answers we like to trot off about Shoreditch and Vauxhall at dinner parties when asked ‘So where’s good for gay clubbing in Londonderry young Sir?’, nothing beats Heaven. It was the first gay club affair for many of us and it will always hold a place in our hearts. Yes the gym bunny bar men at KU are cute, yes there’s something cool about the youngster bumpster scene going off in Dalston these days, but all of us are joined at the hip through Heaven. It’s the most prominent gay club in London and probably therefore the UK. Jeremy Joseph's G-A-Y, at Heaven on a Saturday night following the destruction of the Astoria, is one of London's best nights out.

And do you want to know G-A-Y @ Heaven's success secret? Cheap door tax. At a mere £4 entry to see a megastar like Kelis, and then enjoy a big night out in a seemingly endless sea of enlightened men – BARGAIN! It is this cheap door tax that lures us away from our bar stools in Soho, that lures an attractive student crowd away from their Wiis, that sets our night off on the right foot and encourages us to spend more at the bar. The day G-A-Y @ Heaven pumps its door tax up is the day we will all wake from Jeremy Joseph’s 25-year spell and walk away.
Yes, this blog post is written in an unsightly magenta.

Read my review of Kelis at G-A-Y here on Gay Times. She was brilliant.

Top 10 Sexiest Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidates: British Election Results Night Advocaat Drinking Game

Election night is upon us! I feel completely inundated with political points, policies and promises. I feel I deserve a pat on the back for showing such an unbecoming interest in British politics over the last three weeks and I can truly say I've reached saturation point with digesting political bulls**t.
I have therefore compiled a superficial game to play whilst watching the live election results this evening: The Top 10 Sexiest Lib Dems Game! It's anybody's guess now how well the Lib Dems will do tonight, but we can at least hope for a better looking Parliament can't we? Simon Cowell said it himself in his despicable Sun sell-out "I believe Britain's Got Talent". Well let's hope some of this talent gets in... make sure to drink a double shot of Advocaat tonight each time one does!

1) Evan Harris - Oxford and Abingdon

A brilliant scientist, Evan has a long term partner, is an admirable advocate of lesbian and gay rights and has done wonders for sexual health in Britain. He's in the top spot on our Lib Dem heartthrob ladder. *

2) Jeremy Browne - Taunton Deane

Phroar - look at this blond bombshell. Mr. Browne studied politics at Nottingham University and has lived in several countries including Iran, Zimbabwe and Belgium. We want a bit more of Jez on our TVs. Good luck! P.s. He looks a bit like Jez off Peep Show doesn't he?

3) Keith Angus - Hackney North & Stoke Newington

A gay hybrid of Ant & Dec, we love 'im. Bonus points for the sexy name Keith Angus. Although sadly for us he's already in a civil partnership. He's a fan of Come Dine With Me as well, perfect.

4) Andrew Lewin - Hertford & Stortford

We love a man in a clean white open-necked shirt. Andrew is a keen cricketer and a big fan of commuting, pledging never to buy a second home in London. You can stay at mine Andrew.

5) Richard Bull - North East Derbyshire

A devout Christian and a GP, we hope Richard doesn't mind us featuring him on our list. We were as taken by the scenery as we were his looks. A nice shot of Richard out in the garden, very Austenian. Good luck tonight!

6) Kristian Chapman - Aberdeen North

He looks too young to be an MP but we're sure he'll give us his best shot. A Scotsman through and through, we're hoping Kristian will reintroduce Kilts as House of Commons daywear.

7) Stephen Gilbert - St Austell and Newquay

According to the Lib Dem's site Stephen is a bit of a gym bunny, a claim not too many Tory MPs could pull off, unless you count saunas. Stephen's also a keen fisherman, which is irressitably attractive. I'm a big seafood fan so bonus points for that.

8) Rhodri Jamieson-Ball - Islington North

Or Rhodri Weasley as I like to call him. Jamieson-Ball has done lots for Islington, campaigning against council tax one day and installing flower beds the next. Bravo hot Rhods!

9) Iarla Kilbane-Dawe - Edmonton

Another openly gay parliamentary candidate. Quite handsome for an older man don't you think? Iarla's Irish which will definitely do it for some. He lives in Camden too, how trendier can he get?

10) Chris Boyle - Houghton and Sunderland South

A winning smile lands human rights lawyer Chris neatly into 10th place.

Runners Up: Henry Vann the Bedford Lib Dem candidate almost made it into our list but we decided the hair was a bit too retro chorister-chic. We considered putting Alan Belmore in too for his efforts with the Lib Dem youth and student groups.

So! How many of these 10 will be gracing our screens over the next half decade? All will be revealed very soon. Have fun playing the Top 10 Sexiest Lib Dems game! Are there any who didn't make the list that you think should have? Have a browse on http://www.libdems.org.uk/

FINALLY, can I point out that this blog post is in jest and does not intend to undermine the political integrity and laborious campaign endeavours of those lucky enough to be featured here.
*In an acceptance Tweet on June 2nd 2010, Dr Harris said it was "kind" of the The Jack of Hearts to declare him sexiest of the Lib Dems' parliamentary candidates, but confirmed that this achievement did not assuage the disappointment of the election result, and if anything, perhaps re-emphasised a need for gay politicians to widen their appeal. (Source www.twitter.com/DrEvanHarris )

The Sun Throws The Cowell In

How base and pathetic of The Sun to wheel out Simon Cowell mere hours before the British election in a final desperate ploy to win Cameron votes. They know full well that if David Cameron doesn’t win the election that they’ve made a complete mockery of themselves and their self-declaration of undefeatable influence, rendering themselves a pathetic and damp transit van tabloid.

In the interview Cowell "insists he is NOT telling anyone how to vote” immediately following a paragraph in which he declares his trust and liking for David Cameron whilst condemning Gordon Brown as tired, as well as casting unjustified doubts across Nick Clegg’s logical policies. The sad truth is that The Sun's readers are stupid enough to swallow this propaganda, just as teenage wannabe pop stars are stupid enough to swallow Simon Cowell.

It comes as no surprise that a man worth well over £100 million is supporting The Conservatives, a party who notoriously protect the rich whilst screwing over everyone else. Cowell’s fortune is amassed on the back of selling unrealistic hopes and dreams to low-intellect majority groups, and so it is understandable that Cowell would prefer a Britain in which the general public struggle to make ends meet, their only salvation in life being the escapism of a glittery Saturday night panel show. Similarly The Sun’s empire revolves around offering celebrity gossip and tits as a paper form of escapism, helping to pass the time between debt and death for millions.

Having forged a career out of pretending he’s God, Cowell knows a lot about giving individuals the chance to fulfil their dreams. 1 in 10,000 boys who fall at his feet get to be invisible pop stars like Joe McElderry, whilst every now and then in a gesture of freak philanthropy Cowell will erratically write a girl’s student debt clear at a tennis club bar (YES – he has been known to do this, so get ass licking!!)

Considering the cast of last year’s X-Factor featured a host of closet gays, it comes as no surprise either that Cowell would prefer a Britain in which he can market queer pretty boys at millions of young and hopeless female consumers, smashing every single possible pound out of the pig-tailed piñata, whilst shacking his young boys up in a communal ITV mansion, filing for injunctions at two-a-penny for all the dodgy backstage mishaps along the way.

Cowell tells The Sun “the majority of our wealth of talented people aren't being given the chance they need to grow and bloom at the moment.” Well somehow I don’t think Cameron is going to provide them all with dormitories in Eton. More likely he will shove them into dream-shattering works schemes where these young talented citizens can learn to sh** shovel in keeping with what Cameron deems to be their birth class.

On the contrary Cowell wimpers to The Sun how “it should be everyone's birthright to get the chance to fulfil their dream.” Let’s just hope their dream isn’t to escape abuse and persecution in another country and come to live safely in the UK.

Today's Cowell/Sun combined-combat really is an ugly and biased press conglomeration in which two power-hungry authorities throw about phrases like 'family values' when all Cowell or Murdoch really care about is power and wealth.

How dare The Sun brainwash their readers into voting for a leader who will cripple them all into near-poverty and further miseducation. How sad that Simon Cowell has willingly tarnished the few unspoiled patches of his public persona with the dirty smear of Cameron's politics.

Read The Sun’s shameless article here

Read Jack's piece from last year Jedlock: Time To Throw The Cowell In

On Canal Street

The first rule of pink journalism – NEVER insult Canal Street. The ever-pink centre of the northern gayniverse and a spiritual home to thousands. To criticise Canal Street is professional suicide, not to mention unprofitable, and so whenever us media gays pay a visit to the lovely bubbly north we make sure to return with an abundance of overly joyous praise.

For decades queens of the north have flocked to the Manchester Gay Village to build a gay life for themselves, as have plenty of Londoners who’ve exhausted Soho and fancy swapping their sushi for some hot pot. However, is Canal Street quite the emerald city you at first see from the M62?

Despite having such a large gay community, the demographic of Manchester Gay Village stills falls into quite defined categories. The boundless diversity of London is yet to fully bless Manchester’s timeless streets, as is the news that chequered shirts have had their moment. The Manchester scene is too large to enjoy a family atmosphere but not large enough (as London is) to provide a wide enough range of venues for everybody to find their niche.

I made some great friends last night, although interestingly none of them were from Manchester itself. In fact I really liked one of them but lost his number, alas, these things should always be left to fate. Anyway, enough rambling about Manchester's scene - let's crack on with my Pink Paper review of Poptastic.