Katie Melua’s convincing bid to be a gay icon.
More from Jack Cullen
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 the other 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 naked Australian footie calendar wants 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 (www.ewm.co.uk).
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.
Katie Melua’s new album The House is released in out now, katiemelua.com
Katie’s 2010 tour includes 13 dates in Britain, so look out for those in December too.
*Katie Melua’s last manager wasn’t actually a ferret. Digital Spy misinformed me.