This year’s Big D looks to be amazing. But while there has been much talk of Pendulum, much less has been said of the second big name act that shall be gracing the Derwent dining room. Most likely because that second big name is Chesney Hawkes. You do rather wonder exactly how he’s going to entertain a crowd of drunken students for more than three minutes. Is he just going to stand there and sing ‘The One and Only’ over and over until a fight breaks out?
Yet surely there must be some demand for Hawkes, otherwise booking him to perform would not be a viable option. Maybe it’s for a similar reason that the Summer Ball this year will be graced by the presence of Björn Again, the world’s most famous Abba tribute group. But why? Why does it seem to be that once we become students our music taste suddenly changes? Student music is less about music, and more about some sort of odd comedy value that can be attached to it.
I’m not claiming that Hawkes doesn’t have genuine fans. I just find it hard to believe that any of these genuine fans exist in the York student body. People aren’t really listening to this music because they think it has any real musical worth. Even the genre that we’ve created for Hawkes and singers like him is rather derogatory. Ask anyone what genre of music they’ll be listening to in Ziggy’s and they’ll answer ‘cheese’. We live in a society in which the phrase ‘it’s so bad, it’s good’ is a completely legitimate reason to justify indulging in something as seemingly ‘bad’ as half an hour of Chesney Hawkes. I know numerous people whose music tastes are nothing like the pop-by-numbers of Hawkes, but who, given enough alcohol, will scream along to some Rick Astley. I know people who pride themselves on there ‘far cooler than you’ music collection, who will, given half the chance, suddenly be overcome by a urge to show off the fact that they know all the moves to Steps’ ‘5,6,7,8’. And I still don’t quite understand why.
There is part of me that almost feels bad for Hawkes. People will cheer when he comes on stage, and they will sing along. But he’s hardly living the life of the international pop star anymore. He’s stuck singing to a bunch of drunken students, who are only aware of one song in his entire back catalogue, and are interested only in this. You almost feel a little like we’re all laughing at him, instead of with him. We’re certainly not going to spend days afterwards talking about Hawkes artistic merit as a performer. I’m not saying that Hawkes has no artistic merit, but that it certainly wasn’t taken into account by the people organising Big D.
But it’s a tried and tested formula. A friend of mine once asked the DJ in Toffs why he felt the need to play the exact same playlist week in, week out. He told her it was because people danced to the songs that he played. People liked the songs that he played. Granted, it’s unlikely that any one would have picked to listen to those songs in a situation outside of the club, but right then at that moment, these were the songs that people wanted to hear. And he couldn’t really tell her why. Just like I’m still left scratching my head about Chesney Hawkes.