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Thinkpieces And Shit

We Have Officially Reached The Bottom Of The 90s Revival Barrel, And We Are Scraping It For Dear life

Ant and Dec doing the Brits, the Chuckle Brothers on Radio 1, S Club 7 reforming: we will just keep going.
Emma Garland
London, GB

Back in February, James Corden’s reign of disappointment over the Brit Awards was finally put to sleep. After enduring four years of sweaty-faced gags so weak even a festival bar would be embarrassed to serve them, we were allowed to believe that the Brits would revive itself in a blaze of glory in 2015, hosted by someone like Danny Dyer with the ability to represent the country properly by bowling on stage, sloshing around a half-empty pint glass and shouting stuff like “Oi oi, Britain, you slags, welcome to my fucking gaff!” Everything would be ok again. It seems, as of this morning, that is officially not going to happen.


Instead Ant and Dec - the dream team of terrestrial television and personal saviours of Saturday morning childhoods in the 90s - have been confirmed to host the Brit Awards 2015 and everybody from Caroline Flack to Noisey’s own Northerner Joe Zadeh (who just described them to me as a “beacon of British culture” with absolutely no hint of sarcasm) is excited. To be honest, if the very sight of Ant and Dec’s cherubic faces doesn’t burn a hole of unadulterated joy right through your heart then you’re probably incapable of happiness and/or think the entire music industry would be better off if Paul Weller was in charge of everything. Ant and Dec are basically best mates with every single person in the country. They’re those guys in the office who are so relentlessly and sincerely nice that it’s impossible to hate them even though every fibre of your being tells you otherwise.

Ant & Dec being sassy with Cat Deeley on SM:TV Live

Their maturation from Saturday morning to Saturday night television has made them last 25 years in an industry where TV presenters are turned over faster than undercooked shish kebabs and no career is safe, so they seem an obvious choice on the basis of national appeal alone. But the decision to appoint this duo, who are now most recognisable for narrating Z-list celebrities digesting Kangaroo balls against their will (I’m a Celebrity…), as the purveyors of contemporary music is a result of something more than “playing it safe”, it's a recognition that British people actually want is the past repurposed for the present.


You might have noticed that, over the last few days, weeks and months, all the people you kind of remember seeing on children’s TV wearing orange gilets and a lot of hair gel have been resurfacing, seemingly out of nowhere and completely unsolicited. The Chuckle Brothers have become hypemen for Tinchy Stryder, S Club 7 are back together presumably because every fucking other pop group from the 90s is, Brian Harvey made his first headline since the great jacket potato incident of 2005 by demanding to see David Cameron because he didn’t understand his electricity bill or something, and now “The Music Event Of The Year” is to be hosted by those two guys responsible for “Let’s Get Ready To Rumble”. This might seem like a coincidence, but it isn’t. What’s happening here is that all the people who watched children’s TV in the 90s are now old enough to land media jobs. They’re slowly taking over commissioning, booking and promotional duties within the industry and thus the 90s revival has become more than just a “revival” - it’s a fucking siege. We are about to enter an era run by kids raised on the words: “So this is a story all about how…” and have a special place in their heart reserved for Lizo off Newsround.

A cursory glance at Pinterest, Vogue or Ian Cohen’s career will tell you that the 90s has been ”reviving” for at least five years now. Flannel shirts are a year-round fashion staple, R&B has never been bigger and indie bands continue to release music videos shot on 8mm featuring as many allusions to Twin Peaks as feasibly possible. Inevitably, all those cult fixtures end up filtering down through pop culture - spurred on by BuzzFeed’s “Remember All This Shitty Crap From Your Childhood” style listicles - eventually to be shat out onto terrestrial TV and marketed at your nan. What started with a romantic nostalgia for scrunchies and shoegaze has transformed into Paul and Barry Chuckle doing a Live Lounge set with Tinchy Stryder. We have officially reached the bottom of the 90s revival barrel, and we are scraping it as hard as fucking possible.


This is nothing new, obviously. We’ve already exhausted this trend with every other decade. If you look at the 80s, people initially drew on its conflicting themes of Thatcherism, rave culture, anti-establishment populism, synthetic aesthetics and used them as fuel for everything from avant punk to vaporwave, but eventually the entire decade was reduced to an image of someone with a bad perm, snorting coke off a Rubik’s Cube to the tune of “Girls On Film”.

Now it’s the 90s turn on the carousel of cultural fetishism. From festival line-ups featuring consistently heavy doses of Slowdive, Pixies and Sebedoh to The Big Reunion - a reality show based on the comebacks of all the pop groups whose careers can be summed up by two singles on a NOW compilation - the dream of the 90s has never been more alive, but fuck Portland, this shit is happening all over the UK from Wembley to Butlins to your Twitter feed. Unfortunately for most of the recent trends - namely S Club 7, the Chuckle Brothers and “The Big Reunion” bands - the latter is where most of them will probably stay. As much as everyone likes to have themselves a warm moment reminiscing about the great “S Club party”, nobody is in a rush to actually re-live it in 2015. It’s good for a few hashtagged jokes, but there’s no reigniting the musical career of the kind of group who, at this point, have fallen so far out of public consciousness that the last time any of its members was mentioned was when a website accidentally confused Ian Watkins of Steps with Ian Watkins of Lost Prophets. And, despite the fleeting joy brought on by watching the Chuckle Brothers foot-shuffling around a cul-de-sac with Tinchy Stryder, people needed that in their lives even less than a free U2 album.

The thing about Ant and Dec is they aren’t really a part of all that. They arrived on Byker Grove in the 90s and continued to graduate through the broadcasting world until they were strictly prime time presenters. If anybody can claim the title Lords Of The 90s it might as well be them. We live in a highly sanitary world - gone are the days of Jarvis Cocker pointing his arse in Michael Jackson’s general direction while all the Brit Pop bands engage in game called “who can do the most drugs.” So the Brits 2015 will go one of three ways…

It’ll either be the cheekiest Brit Awards since Geri Halliwell popped out, it’ll be dull and boring just like every other Brits has been, or it’ll be a 90s orgy that ends with S Club 7 performing with the Chuckle Brothers backed by Neil Buchanan’s heavy metal band and all of them get gunged by Dave Benson Phillips at the end. Whatever happens, at least you can guarantee it’ll be less suicidal than watching James Corden succeed at being the only thing on the planet less funny that Pharrell's hat.

Follow Emma on Twitter: @emmaggarland