January 4, 2012

Brit Beat

Live from London

I’ve spent the last month scuttling around my hometown and its environs, sipping warm pints of bitter in ancient, dark pubs and taking brisk country walks along the stone-walled pathways that locals have been enjoying for centuries. I’ve also spent a fair amount of time unsuccessfully stalking David Beckham, who left L.A. to finish out 2011 in Beckingham Palace, the impressive mansion he owns a few miles away from my parents’ more humble abode. Unfortunately, he brought that miserable Spice Girl with him. He should have left her in Beverly Hills with Eva Longoria, talking about shoes and handbags, sucking a lettuce leaf. This is pure envy I’m displaying, by the way. I’m sure his pop-star-cum-designer wife is a fascinating woman.

Anyway, I digress. It’s a wonderful place, England, full of wonderful people who have very strong opinions on everything — especially music. A few years ago, the BBC asked my kinsmen an important question: Who is the most important Briton of all time? Churchill won, of course. Who doesn’t love themselves a bit of Winston? He was followed by other usual suspects like Darwin, Shakespeare and Newton, and then the No. 8 spot was held — somewhat controversially — by a musician: John Lennon.

Indeed, poor, tone-deaf Ringo was the only Beatle not to make the top 100. That must have been a particularly bitter pill to swallow when the likes of Boy George, Julie Andrews and Johnny Rotten had. The BBC was quick to point out that the survey results were purely subjective. Oh, the wisdom of the great British public.

My 4-year-old nephew Archie is wasting no time forming an opinion on music and, most importantly, what music is worth dancing to. At a family party the week before Christmas, he led a platoon of miniature movers and shakers — resplendent in sparkly leggings and stripy hoodies, manically waving glow sticks — onto the dance floor. Their top choices? Three Brit boy bands: One Direction, The Wanted and JLS.

The members of these pretty pop constructs (who are only a few years older than their fans) seem to have cornered the market in singing vapid lyrics — “The way that you flip your hair leaves me overwhelmed” — while wearing chunky knits in hot weather and sporting sprigs of bum fluff on their pubescent chins. The kids love ’em.

The most fiercely contested prize in UK music is the No. 1 single on Christmas. For the last few years, Simon Cowell and his “X Factor” finds have held the charts captive, but this noel the nation fell in love with a far more original and probably deserving bunch. On Dec. 25, it was announced that the Military Wives had hit the top with their emotional choral tribute to their husbands, soldiers with the British Army.

The moving love song was written by Royal Wedding composer Paul Mealor, the music set to lyrics compiled from letters to and from the servicemen and their wives during a six-month tour of duty in Afghanistan. The choir sang it for the Queen at the Royal Albert Hall and turned hardcore music critics into jabbering wrecks. Selling 556,000 copies in the week leading up to Christmas, festive sentimentalists aren’t the only winners; proceeds from each sale are being donated jointly to The Royal British Legion and the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen Families Association.

“Wherever You Are” is released in America this week. CNN chatster Piers Morgan has already tweeted support and invited them on his show. I think you Yanks will like it. It warbles with the spirit of patriotism, defiance and hope that you have in abundance.

I’m leaving London in a few days (laden down with Cadbury’s chocolate and a re-stiffened upper lip) to return to lovely Louisville. I’m excited to get back to the bluegrass state, but sad to leave my country behind. It’s going to be a good year for the old place: George Michael has recovered from pneumonia; Adele has got over her throat problems; pioneering dance duo Underworld has been appointed music directors of the opening ceremony at the London Olympics; Coldplay is rumored to be headlining the closing ceremony; and The Stone Roses have gotten back together. I’ll be watching the next 12 months unfold with interest … from afar.

Follow Sarah Ivens’ adventures in Mommyland at ivensbabyblog.dailymail.co.uk.