For some reason, Liam Payne – a man who, in literally every other potential universe, is a personal trainer who gets voted off Love Island after less than a week for failing to 'have craic' – is a famous pop star. And, unfortunately, he is not particularly brilliant at it.
Having been placed in One Direction aged 16, Payno has certainly been to the University of Pop Star – he has done world tours and written songs and recorded singles, and now he is a solo artist, who on Wednesday night made his US TV debut on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, performing single "Strip That Down." But when left to his own devices – that is, when not backed by the Zayn and Harry Styles charisma factory – his performance falls flat. This is especially embarrassing when you know that he's shooting for Justin Timberlake circa "Rock Your Body" (watch the clip of Liam performing above, then go here, and see the influence for yourself) and more realistically and hitting Robbie Williams circa "Rudebox," if Robbie Williams had become clinically boring circa "Rudebox."
The difference between Timberlake and Payne is that, for all Timberlake's flaws and the fact that he essentially rose to fame on the shoulders of black music and producers but now gives little back to a black community which needs advocates, he's been putting in work since childhood. From a young age – we've all seen the Mickey Mouse Club videos – Timberlake was whipped into shape. He's been performing since forever, and while that's not necessarily a perfect childhood, it did set him (and others like him, including Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera) in good stead for a career in pop. Liam, on the other hand, was shoved into One Direction and expected to be a pop star overnight. That's all well and good when you're surrounded by the band's other, more naturally charming members, but it becomes a bit of a problem if you try to strike out on your own and end up looking like you're struggling at the back of a street dance class at a community centre.
In the UK, we don't really go in for the whole "child star" thing – we tend to favour the cult of personality over polish, and even our best pop stars (at this point, Little Mix, Charli XCX and a strong showing from Mabel) are more famous for their ability to release bangers on bangers than for smashing choreography. In all fairness, though, Little Mix give it a pretty amazing go. It's not necessarily a bad thing, it's just that when someone like old Payno tries to emulate Timberlake, it can never be expected to go well, because the worlds they're from are so extremely different.
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(Image via YouTube)