Big Top 40 'Tweet Up': Taio Cruz
What with his trademark sunglasses and his habit of breaking hearts you might be forgiven for thinking Taio Cruz is a bit of a lad’s lad. Perhaps you think he has a dodgy past or an entourage of huge meat-headed bouncer-types with 17 neck ruffles and a masculinity complex. Well, you couldn’t be further from the truth. Taio Cruz is a very well spoken bloke – sorry, I mean, an impeccably eloquent orator – with a boarding school education and the mind of a businessman. He’s charming, well turned out and unmistakably middle class.
We came to meet Taio through the good people at the Big Top 40 chart show. It was the first in a planned series of ‘Tweet Ups’; a bunch of online music journos descend on the Big Top 40 offices on Leicester Square, meet a charting celeb, listen to some tunes and ask some questions. Unfortunately, what transpired was a little different: a quick studio session observed through a fish tank style window, followed by a fluffy radio interview, culminating in an awkward fumbly meet-and-greet ‘thing’ in which you had 15 seconds to convince Mr Cruz that you weren’t just a hysterical fan. That said, we never miss an opportunity to see a pop star unplugged - especially in a room that isn’t rammed full of screaming pre-teens.
From a distance, Popworld appears to be a plastic planet dominated by money, auto-tune and airbrushing. It’s easy to imagine that the only talent necessary is a talent for making money. That’s why it’s great when pop stars perform acoustically; they’re stripped bare. Exposed.
But for those of us who don’t occupy a high brow haven, Taio Cruz really doesn’t have to prove himself. He’s a consummate hit machine who attacks the industry from every angle; writer, producer and performer. He’s a don. An RnB god.
He starts with his number one hit single, ‘Break Your Heart’, the song that is so incredibly cool that it lead to gaggles of straight white guys doing that 'drop shoulder slide' dance that only black guys and the gays should ever attempt. This rendition really benefits from the acoustic guitar. Taio’s voice is soulful and smooth, despite complaints of a sore throat. Rather than sounding like a cheesy chart hit, it becomes a solid, radio-friendly ballad .
Next up is ‘Dirty Picture’, luckily without pop’s diluted answer to Courtney Love, Ke$ha. It’s a pretty good song and a decent enough performance, but one thing does puzzle me. Taio’s songs all express a sort of sugar-coated misogyny. Not to the extent that it’s offensive, but just enough to appeal to an FHM audience and the problem is that it doesn’t match up to his personality. In conversation, he is intelligent and composed. As if there’s more going on in his head than the old T&A. His concluding track, ‘Come On Girl’ only feeds the idea. Perhaps Taio Cruz is the character who sings the songs and Adetayo Onile-Ere (his birth name) is the well turned out gentleman we see between songs.
The performance was followed by a brief interview. Big Top 40 presenters Rich and Kat - who, despite being on the radio had a lot of stylists to hand – posed a selection of vetted questions. We’ve embedded the video (above), but to summarise, we learnt that he likes Glee, has had no difficulties with people he’s collaborated with and is a fan of Michael Jackson. Interestingly, when he was listing people he’d like to collaborate with, he said that Lady Gaga was “almost there”. Rather than elaborating on this point though, he went on to answer a question about what he most looks forward to: a day off apparently.