2016 has been a real shithouse year, to the extent that "ugh, 2016" is now a synonym for "everything is bad all the time for everyone." Part of this is because of things like Brexit and all those celebrity deaths, and part of it is for reasons people forget sometimes, like all the mass shootings and fascism.
With only a few weeks to go before America has to decide between two bad people to run their country, you'd think 2016 might be due a breather, to gear up for November. But no. That's not what's happened at all. The Kraken is awake, and the Kraken comes with the news that Neil Milan Amin-Smith, aka. the Guy From Clean Bandit, has announced - via a tweet that's difficult to read without expanding it first - that he's quitting Clean Bandit, and will no longer be Neil, the Guy From Clean Bandit.
Upon inhaling this beckoning cloud of anguish, you may find yourself asking: should I be worried about Neil's departure from Clean Bandit? What of this piece of news and what am I supposed to do with it? Can I print it out and hold it and cry wet, salted tears? Not yet, young child. This isn't comparable to the 2014 separation between Alt J and their bassist Gwil Sainsbury, though it does sit in the same iconic kingdom. For this is a man whom the world once loved, yet the world knew so little about.
In testing moments like these, we all need to take a moment to read, to learn, and to grow. So in memory of our beloved Neil, here are some highlights from the time that Neil, the Guy From Clean Bandit, spent in Clean Bandit. May it teach, replenish, cleanse, and wash you anew with joy.
He Played The Violin on "Rather Be"
If you have somehow made it this far and don't know what Clean Bandit is, because you can only remember things in annual cycles, they were sort-of-but-not-really the Chainsmokers of 2014. They also got incredibly famous incredibly quickly off the back of one unbelievably successful (and admittedly perfect) single, and two of them - not Neil, crucially - look like what we assume Chainsmokers look like, off hand. However, Clean Bandit have never, to our knowledge, said "even before success, pussy was number one."
But you know who they are, really, because that unbelievably successful single, "Rather Be", has neatly filled the cultural chasm left by the Nokia ringtone. It's been used to sell M&S food and Coke; it's on the PES 2016 soundtrack. For some reason it also played out Derek Jeter's final season of Major League Baseball. Here are some more facts about "Rather Be".
- Its video has 423 million views on YouTube and there's a really good cat in it.
- It won Best Dance Recording at the Grammys even though you can't really dance to it. The last time this happened was when the Baha Men beat Eiffel 65 in 2001.
- It made Jess Glynne even more famous than Clean Bandit.
- It beat the January singles sales record previously held by Spaceman by Babylon Zoo
- It was, inexplicably, the fourth single off New Eyes. You'd think Clean Bandit would have put it out first, but they didn't.
Francisco Tárrega, who wrote the Nokia tune, has been dead for 107 years. Despite departing from the cultural barge that is Clean Bandit, Neil Amin-Smith is still alive - making him the most important cultural figure of the last two decades.
This Video That Clean Bandit Did With Cortana
Apparently the next step for AI is to turn it into your saucy mate, and so we have this video where Cortana fields questions from Clean Bandit. If you have somehow missed this jewel in the dumping ground of the advertising industry, you've missed the greatest amalgamation of band and brand since Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park. Please, watch above, and be brought into the light. The video tells us a number of important and profound things about Neil Amin-Smith. For example:
- Neil Amin-Smith does 100% of the talking that is done by men in Clean Bandit.
- Neil Amin-Smith owns and is unfairly mocked for owning this legitimately good jacket.
- Neil Amin-Smith holds his head in the same position at all times, because he cares deeply and so should we.
- Neil Amin-Smith will, within three questions, take steps towards fucking an AI, and is therefore more prepared for the future than any of us.
This Extremely Hot Photoshoot of Him Playing The Violin Shirtless in the Ocean
This Brief and Devastating Beef with Olly Murs
Neil is openly gay, and had a brief but captivating relationship with Olly Alexander (lead singer of Years and Years). This is an important contextual point, because shortly after they broke up, the other famous (but much worse) Olly in pop music (Murs, obv) found himself broiling in a rich, bubbling pot of beef with our sweet, departed baby angel Neil.
In an interview with the Sun, Olly Murs announced that he is "probably 20% gay" because he's got "a lot of gay friends" and has "a bit of campness" about him – which is exactly the sort of thing your most Olly-Murs-like mate would say. Everyone got really angry, obviously, which prompted Olly Murs to tweet: "Don't just read the headline you plonkers". No one did, obviously, because internet, and also because it's Olly Murs. Then our Neil, our precious angel Neil, came in from nowhere with "I did read more than the headline & I was still a curious mix of bored & appalled", and then followed it with "pls fast-forward 2 ur musical theatre career" and as far as anyone can tell Olly never got back up. Ouch!
This Other Clean Bandit Song, Which Is Good
This is Clean Bandit's second single, which came out in May. It's one of those bangers that pretends to not be a banger for a bit and then suddenly becomes a banger, which is the kind of trickery we can get on board with. The video is very good, and stars one of the owls who played Hedwig in Harry Potter. And, as we all know, this world has precious few celebrity owls.
Also it's meant that Louisa Johnson, the youngest ever X Factor winner, has more to her name than the unfathomably bad cover of "Forever Young" they made her do, which makes it a beautiful and altruistic act in an otherwise Godless industry.
His Memory Box
And finally, how could we forget. In Neil's passing letter, he confided in us, his family under an uncaring sun, that he keeps a box of memories under his bed. And, at one point, we've all done this, haven't we? Yours might have had old tickets in it, or unused condoms, or pictures you drew of goblins with tits. But Neil's memory box is better. Neil's memory box is the best memory box. It is one that has elevated the medium of the memory box to a new echelon.
In his sign off screed, he writes: "I have this little box under my bed where I keep things I have collected along the way, things that people have sent to me, polaroids of me and little mix, and general pieces of touring tat that I can't bring myself to throw away."
Neil leaves us with memories - of him, his obscenely handsome face, and a shoebox, and polaroids of Little Mix. For some reason, multiple polaroids of Little Mix, and no polaroids with anyone else. There's a polaroid camera in his house, and its purpose is harrowingly specific. No pictures with Ed Sheeran from this camera, nor George Ezra, no. Just Little Mix. Only ever Little Mix.
So… so long Neil, the incredibly handsome and nice guy from Clean Bandit who changed pop-and-therefore-all culture, forever. Let us think of you in peace, floating through history with fistfuls of polaroids clutched to your chest behind a violin. When we see you, we'll say hi. But until then, bye, bye.
Duncan deleted his Twitter so you can find Noisey on there instead.
Photo of Olly Murs via Wikipedia