Olly Alexander’s Eurovision entry is a new nadir for gay culture

by 24britishtvMay 7, 2024, 10:01 p.m. 24
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By 2015, I was keeping only the most distant eye on current pop music (I was 47, after all). But one song, somehow, got through my barriers and under my skin. It was ‘King’ by electronic trio Years & Years, with Olly Alexander on vocals. The song consisted of a haunting minor-key riff and a confessional lyric that added up to something yearning and achingly sad. ‘I was a king under your control’ – what an amazing lyric, simple words that say a lot, a sentence turned inside-out halfway through. This was a relationship dynamic that I couldn’t recall being explored elsewhere in pop. The ‘King’ video showed the weedy, nerdy Years & Years lads and some drama-student-style dancers reaching out for them – a pleasantly simple illustration of the song’s theme. Here was clearly an interesting new talent. And if this poignant, powerful song was only the beginning, what might it show with maturity?

Shock cut to 2024. Alexander has grown, but devolved. The two backroom boys from Years & Years have been quietly binned off. Now he is representing the UK in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest with ‘Dizzy’, an utterly forgettable tune with the dreariest lyrics. ‘Will you take my hand and spin me / Round and round until the moment never ends?’, he sings. ‘Dizzy’ is a bingo card of the hoariest pop clichés. All it needs is ‘like a thief in the night’ and we would have a full house. I have always wondered – pace Dead Or Alive and Kylie Minogue – just why is spinning regarded so highly? Vertigo is unpleasant. A ‘moment’ that ‘never ends’ is another thing I feel I’ve missed out on. People in pop music are always hoping that moments (sometimes nights) will never end. That just sounds tiring to me. So what happened? Like the rest of the world, Olly Alexander got grabbed by the vacuous tentacles of LGBTQ+ Central. He was brainwashed and then returned to the community, looking the same but now glassy-eyed and voided of humanity, like the people who were ‘capped’ by The Tripods (if anybody else remembers that), or worse, replaced by an alien-pod duplicate. Invasion of the LGBTQ+ Bodysnatchers.

The new, not-so improved Olly Alexander is all about… Olly Alexander. Like most of our modern popstrels, he sings in an ickle voice about his feewings. Inevitably, when interviewed, he comes up with the most tedious, rote-learned opinions on Israel, the Tories, the Union flag, etc. Naturally, his sexuality is now front and centre. Now I’ve certainly no objection to someone going all sexy or expressing their eroticism in pop music. This can be very interesting. Take Marc Almond of Soft Cell. His subject matter ranged from the vacancy of promiscuity to urban decay. This was all delivered with humour, casualness and an acidic side-eye, as if he didn’t know how exceptional he was. He moved from the lightest pop confections to the biggest of bitter pills, laced with genuine compassion and pain.

Alexander’s Eurovision routine, in contrast, offers up just more tired LGBTQ+ tropes. The performance is set in a ‘locker room’ (what we in the civilised world call a changing room), in which he is ‘spun around’ by a bevy of greased-torso hunks. ‘Of course’, he told the Big Issue earlier this week, ‘I said right at the beginning of this process I plan to be as gay as possible – and what’s gayer than a locker room?’. Now let me think. In my own lived experience, changing rooms bring back memories of verrucas, farts, men with small, grey willies stinging each other with mildewed towels, and rugby chaps bellowing out ‘Nice One Cyril’. Yes, all highly erotic. A rather unfortunate clip of Alexander and his dancing Marys has emerged, showing them larking about in rehearsal. In this, he sings bravely in the unusual key of J flat, and writhes about in someone’s discarded sparkly Union Jack bikini bra. The actual Eurovision performance this Saturday will hopefully be more in tune, but further clips and photos of the polished dry run (ahem) show Olly and Co reviving every dry-bummed cliché of gay porn. There is much grinding and a lot of humping. It is very reminiscent of the naff gay-chatline ads that used to pop up on late-night TV in the 1990s.

I don’t find it offensive, but I do find it boring and embarrassing. I’ve spoken to so many gay men who find this stuff so off-putting. It’s meant to be enlightening and empowering, but it’s depressing. It’s like throwing out a line to find an ‘identity’ and landing ancient clichés from before Olly was a lad – heck, from before even I was a lad. I’ve heard people say of him, ‘Oh, bless, he’s just a silly twink’. I would remind them he is approaching middle age at nearly 34 years old (he looks good for it, admittedly). The ugly-duckling late developer who hits the dance floor long after adolescence and really goes for it can be strangely sweet and touching to behold – but only the first few hundred times you see it.

The sad devolution of Olly Alexander is a microcosm of the cultural cul-de-sac that male homosexuality now finds itself in today in the West. I can’t help thinking of that agreeable lad who sang, ‘I was a king under your control’, and the dead hand of LGBTQ+, which snuffed out all his promise. Gareth Roberts is a screenwriter and novelist, best known for his work on Doctor Who.

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