13 January 2012

Don't marry her, er, um, *have* me, yeah


Ed Sheeran is leading the way as far as the BRITS nominations for this year are concerned. By that, I mean that he has taken the headlines so far. I've not read the story carefully as yet, but I assume this is because he is in more award categories than anyone else.

His current single, Lego House, is on radio station A lists, where it follows The A Team, a gentle and controversial song which remains heavily recurrent on the airwaves having been A listed for pretty much its whole duration of release. He has a sweet but powerful voice, he clearly can write a decent hook and he used to live in Hebden Bridge, in West Yorkshire. I only know that last bit because he was a guest on The Pulse of West Yorkshire's breakfast show when I was depping there in the late summer, and I had to replay some clips of the interview during my show.

At the gym recently, I saw the video to Lego House and they've used that second-string actor chap - you can tell I keep up, can't you? - from the Harry Potter franchise in Sheeran's place because they both have extremely ginger hair. And there ends my knowledge of Ed Sheeran.

But I was flummoxed also by another airing of Sheeran only earlier this week on the rolling music channel that is usually on in the gym. It was some countdown or other of 2011's biggest hits, and so eventually, on he came with The A Team.

They didn't show the video - indeed, I don't think I have ever seen the video. If I have, I was too busy doing sit-ups and it passed me by. Instead, they showed the young man himself - what is he, 19 or 20? - singing the song live on some T4-esque programme. And, as such, he was having to censor himself.

This isn't Eric Idle changing one line to "life's a piece of spit". This is Sheeran actually stopping himself from singing for just a split-second to remove a dubious syllable or two and take away the context of the song. There is no swearing in it, of course; the song is about a young woman with a drug addiction who has to go to extreme lengths to maintain her habit. Presumably Sheeran's people had sat down with the programme's producers, pored over the lyric sheet and decided which words or syllables Sheeran would skip over. Words that fell silent included "snowflakes", "class", "grams" and "white".

I can imagine, first and foremost, that this was a very difficult thing for Sheeran to do to his own precious song. I can only assume that he was an unknown promoting the single from the off when he did the performance and therefore was willing to do anything, as a pro, to raise the profile of his work. He maintained something of a smile onstage, but his brain was working overtime as he sang the song and forced himself to think ahead about the next mildly contentious word that needed to be expunged. He can't have enjoyed himself and it didn't come across well.

Also, it did seem pretty pointless anyway, as radio stations had no issue with the song. Drugs are something that need to be discussed maturely with older kids as they are to be kept closed off to younger ones. I suppose it's a target audience thing; primary school kids will watch T4-type shows whereas radio stations have demographics that start at the age of 15, and no younger. This doesn't mean kids younger than 15 aren't tuned in, of course, but the station has no official duty to serve them.

Essentially, this TV programme was censoring Sheeran when the words he was being forced to omit were already in the public domain. As an exercise in protecting the vulnerable, it was about as useful as that era when members of Sinn Fein had their voices dubbed by actors on the news.

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