A look into the marketing genius of “Scotland’s Beyoncé” and “North Shields’ Superstar”.
The indisputable talents of “Scotland’s Beyoncé” Lewis Capaldi and “North Shields Superstar” Sam Fender aren’t hard to miss. But is a massive poster of Capaldi with a towel on his head on the London Underground lessening the lyrical authenticity of his music? The singer isn’t afraid of, shall we say, exploiting his Glaswegian heritage. It’s stupid and it’s funny, but it’s also marketing genius. His antics include my personal favourite “Paolo Nutini… isnae fucking here”, and his brief stunt working in Greggs selling sausage rolls. These have gained him widespread media attention – his 3.8m and Instagram and 800k Twitter followers are a testament to just that. He divides the Scottish audience, who either believe he’s the funniest thing to come out of Scotland since Limmy, or a cringeworthy idiot deserving of Noel Gallagher’s slating. He has exploited his hometown in order to become a sort of self-made figurehead for Glasgow, heavily utilising local slang and making references in Instagram stories to his persona of “Loveable Glaswegian eejit”. This is effective in the sense that it has both captivated and divided a national audience, but has, nonetheless, got their attention.
However, this online persona is an exact antithesis to the music he creates. In fact, Capaldi’s debut album, Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent is a raw ode to heartbreak. It features his breakthrough number 1 hit Somebody You Loved, along with a series of correspondingly sad love songs. If you only knew Capaldi’s persona from his twitter feed or advertising campaign claiming that, “if you like chubby guys who sing sad songs this is the album for you”, it would be hard to believe that a timeless break-up album of skyscraping ballads came from the same guy. But it’s precisely this dual-edged persona that Capaldi capitalised upon to sell nearly 90,000 copies of the album on its first week of release. Combine this success with three top 10 singles, and can you blame the guy for coming on stage in a Chewbacca mask dancing to Bits and Pieces? With a sell-out-in seconds tour, Capaldi is the one laughing now.
Fender’s debut album also capitalises on his hometown. In the 13-track Hypersonic Missiles, Fender uses his experience of life in North Shields to delve into the social and political crises in today’s Britain. White Privilege denounces the government and its history of white male supremacy. Leave Fast is a poignant exposé of the ignorance of the authorities towards poor towns. It’s not difficult to see why the album has resonated so strongly. Fender has always claimed that he and his band have “taken an organic approach to building a fanbase, it hasn’t just come overnight; there are people that have been there right from the start”. His origins of playing to pubs full of local fisherman, and his praise of the small community which raised him have created an image of Fender as something of a “local boy hero”. His rise to Brit award winner has been no small feat, yet he still retains the image of “the boy next door”, returning to his hometown to play a triumphant gig after his Brit award success. Fender walked on stage to Geordie anthem Local Hero and was met with a crowd of adoring fans. So although he himself may have managed to Leave Fast, Fender will forever be a local legend, openly as proud of his Geordie heritage as his captive audience are of him.