Interview with Brian Higgins, aka Xenomania, that’s an interesting counterpoint to Marcello’s onslaught on pop (see below). Higgins turns out to be like a lot of other pop auteurs, trying to smuggle a bit of the other (other) into the charts – the name of his songwriting stable is ‘the opposite of xenophobia’; an open-ness, a magpie eye for anything from anywhere that might make a hit glitter more brightly.
If you don’t like the results, of course, Higgins’ claims are hot air. They might be even if you do. What I found more intriguing was Xenomania’s inversion of the traditional svengali set-up. In the general scheme of pop, the claim of the hitmaker is that anyone can be a success if they’re given the right song and a wash and brush-up. This was how Stock Aitken and Waterman saw the Reynolds Girls, for instance: proof of their hypothesis that they’d hit on the perfect formula for pop and that it could turn any ordinary mortal into a briefly shining star. For Xenomania, though, only certain artists are worth writing for – Gareth Gates: no; Girls Aloud: yea – but Higgins believes that anyone can still play a part, as a writer. “Everyone has a No.1 in them”, he says – and his motley of bus drivers and Gina G backing singers seems to bear him out. It’s a denial of the prime anti-pop tenet: that it’s in songwriting and personal expression that the really rare talent lurks. A denial that fuels the haters’ fire (if Higgins denigrates creativity so easily then no wonder the output is soulless pap!), but for those of us who do enjoy Pop:04 it’s heartening confirmation that the current hands on the wheel know precisely what they’re doing.