In 1997, after attending a Royal Gala night, Geri Halliwell kissed Prince Charles on the cheek. According to royal protocol and etiquette, you’re solely allowed to shake a royal’s hand, so the scandalous second landed on the entrance pages of newspapers and went down in popular culture historical past. Now, as an alternative of daring Ginger Spice to kiss Charles for a second time, The Spice Girls are avoiding him altogether.
The group is amongst numerous British pop artists who’ve turned down the chance to play at his coronation in May. Adele, Harry Styles, Robbie Williams, and Elton John had been additionally reportedly requested to play and refused the provide. When Rolling Stone requested why, the groups for all these artists declined to remark, bar Elton John’s, who confirmed he was requested however couldn’t play resulting from scheduling points. Musicians used to virtually line up outdoors the palace to carry out at any main royal occasion, however that has modified. The public is left questioning: Will any main star comply with play King Charles III’s coronation?
“The Nineties were so different in British pop culture. It was New Labour, everyone was playful and being a bit cheeky,” explains Michael Cragg, creator of Reach For The Stars, a ebook about Nineties and ‘00s British pop. But, Cragg says, “that cheekiness absolutely isn’t here anymore. Now we really want to know who people are and the version of the Royal family that we’ve learned of recently through Prince Harry’s book and how the Prince Andrew scandal was handled: the reality is awful. You could not be the biggest band in the world now and walk up and plant a kiss on them and it still work.”
To carry out at a royal occasion in 2023 could be to align your self with blatant scandal. The latest allegations concerning Prince Andrew’s relationship with Jeffrey Epstein and an alleged sexual relationship with one in every of Epstein’s victims are nonetheless recent in individuals’s minds. And so is Andrew’s disastrous 2019 BBC Newsnight interview about stated claims. But earlier than individuals had an opportunity to reconcile their emotions about Andrew, Prince Harry and his spouse Meghan Markle publicly introduced that they had been stepping down from royal duties. In the years since, Harry and Markle have levied a number of accusations in opposition to the royal household and the UK press, claiming their respective therapy of Markle led to fears for her psychological and bodily well being. The discourse and rising divide between the couple and the Institution has been effectively documented in Harry’s 2023 tell-all memoir Spare and the couple’s Netflix sequence Harry & Meghan.
“The royal family has faced a number of PR disasters in recent times, and anyone performing at the show would have to consider whether there would be a backlash from appearing amongst their fans,” says Simon Jones, PR to Little Mix, Niall Horan, and Louis Tomlinson.
On that very same word, it could be a laughingly easy determination to say no a suggestion to carry out for a lot of artists. Kingsley Hall of political band Benefits, whose 2022 anti-monarchy single “Flag” was primary on the Official UK vinyl the week of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, explains of the British cultural temperature, “We’ve had so much exposure and negative exposure of the Royal family – jubilees, weddings, fallings out, accusations of racism, notable deaths, someone being accused of being a sexual predator – in what I would classify as a short space of time. People are sick of it and probably won’t be involved for that reason.”
For many millennial and Gen Z followers within the UK specifically, Royalism is a grimy concept. Meg, head of a number one British music PR firm, notes that each Styles and Adele are at factors of their careers the place they should outline themselves past a profitable decade in music. “For them right now, storytelling is really important,” says Meg, whose actual/full identify has been withheld by request. These massive symbolic associations carry a variety of weight and actually go down in historical past books in daring and underlined. I can perceive why there’d be a giant PR dialogue round artists doing it or not.”
Whereas the general public had beforehand seen the Queen as a longstanding grandmother of the nation, Charles just isn’t the nation’s grandfather a lot as a clean emblem of the royal household. “ I don’t know what there is to gain for artists by associating with him,” says Meg. “With the Queen, she was fab and glamorous to some people. Charles doesn’t add anything — there’s not a legacy of his that anyone would want to align with. It’s televised, so a lot of people will hear your songs, sure, but in terms of long-term PR strategy, I don’t know if performing would add positively to an artist’s narrative unless they were staunchly pro the monarchy.”
A spokesperson for Buckingham Palace didn’t instantly reply to Rolling Stone‘s request for remark. Rolling Stone additionally reached out to the BBC, which is organizing the coronation.
Crucially, this coronation is going on in a yr when the UK’s price of residing disaster has dangerously peaked. Ellie (whose actual/full identify has been withheld by request), founding father of a British pop music PR firm, says, “Strip back the gold and red cloak, and you have a country where parents are choosing between feeding their kids or keeping them warm. How much money is the coronation costing the taxpayer? It feels like a political statement to play.”
Each artist who declines will naturally have their very own political motivations primarily based on their Britishness. As Adele superfan Grace Martha from London notes, Adele is a proud champion of being working class from Tottenham, probably the most ethnically numerous areas in Britain. “The pomp and money this coronation is costing doesn’t represent her values at all,” says Martha. “This issue is so specific to our culture; Americans might think, ‘Oh, she’s from London and a cockney, why wouldn’t she do it?’ But they don’t understand the nuances of different areas, cultures, and identities here. She’s for the ‘everyday person,’ and the everyday younger person in London doesn’t rate the royal family anymore.”
The colonialism of the British empire has been a serious dialogue level over the previous two years. That is behind the battle to safe A-List British acts, says Hak Baker, a musician from London: “Any situation where I’d bow to an openly racist colonial imperial system that refuses to apologise for its past and eradication of my people’s history I’d rather avoid with a barge pole. We are more aware of the past now. They are not exempt from recognition. I think they’re going to have a hard time.”
Han Mee of Manchester band Hot Milk agrees emphatically, calling it an “outdated institution” that doesn’t symbolize fashionable Britain. “Leave it in the past, it’s as old, aged, and expensive as the whiskey that props it up but without the strength and merriment,” she says. “I liked Liz, but it should have died with her – the coronation is a kick in the teeth when this country has never been more of a shit show.”
The actual query is: Why do the royals want this leisure worth in any respect? “No one’s talking about the date or the guests,” considers Meg. “The big headlines around the coronation right now are which musicians are in and which musicians are out, which underlines the importance of music and what the symbolism is of an endorsement from one of these megastar artists.” It seems that in 2023 the royal household wants musicians greater than musicians want them.