“Starz In Their Eyes” — Just Jack

Seems everyone wants to be famous these days. Ideally an overnight success without putting in any hard work first. But fame can be a fickle master.

With very few exceptions, such fame as there is turns out to be fleeting. Your sponsors and promoters wring what they can out of you before pushing you aside in favour of the next “bright young thing”. Then you’re on your own and, usually, headed back to a place worse than wherever you started from.

“Starz In Their Eyes” is the story of this journey to fame and back. Written and performed by Just Jack (real name Jack Allsopp) the song’s title is actually the reworked title of a UK TV programme where ordinary people and occasional celebrities perform as their favourite singing star.

The TV programme spells “stars” properly, but Just Jack’s song title has the whiff of lawyerly intervention about it to make sure nobody gets sued.

That said, of all the reality TV shows which hold out the promise of fame and fortune, “Stars In Their Eyes” is probably the least disturbing. All they promise is a 2-minute slot on primetime TV dressed up as someone else entirely, and that’s what they deliver on.

But that show is very tame compared to the hype surrounding shows like X Factor. Perhaps that’s why I can’t remember seeing “Stars In Their Eyes” in the TV listings for a while…maybe the viewing public prefer being in on the journey from ordinary job to fame and fortune and back again more than they’re prepared to let on.

I’ve never been through that routine myself…if you’d heard me sing, you’d know why I was never tipped as a potential star of tomorrow…but I can understand why it’s so intoxicating for people swept up in it.

In a short period of time, you go from complete obscurity to a world of showbiz parties, limos and people looking after your every need. The TV cameras are there to record your rise. It tends to be the tabloids who record your fall.

Just Jack sets up the rise only briefly in “Starz In Their Eyes” and only insofar as it’s necessary to contrast with the fall. The fame is never glamorised. The fall is starkly described.

Just Jack also asks us what role we play in getting people to the top of this slippery pole of fame and fortune. Do proud parents play a role, encouraging you to take the opportunities along the way? What about brothers, sisters, friends?

Is there anyone truly thinking of you, or are there just people enjoying the vicarious pleasure of someone they know appearing, however briefly, on primetime Saturday night TV?

You certainly can’t rely on the people in the business. It’s their job to get every ounce they can from you for as long as they can. Then drop you and never look back.

They’ll be making sure you stay amused
They’ll fill you up with drugs and booze
Maybe you’ll make the evening news

And it’s interesting how the human dynamics work in all this.

In the early days, the industry is chasing you, flattering you, tending to your every whim until they get you hooked. Then the relationship changes. They’re in charge now, not you, and you have to perform exactly as they tell you or lose any prospect of the fame and fortune being dangled in front of you.

They’re not above pulling all sorts of tricks to make you do exactly what you’re told, whether or not you want to. And, at some point, you have a decision to make about whether you’re going to force yourself to keep going so the limos and the showbiz parties continue or whether you’ll get off the treadmill and leave all that behind.

And when you’re tripping over your dreams
They’ll keep you down by any means
And by the end of the night you’ll be stifling your screams

“Starz In Their Eyes” highlights the dilemmas for those involved in this world, where column-inches and TV interviews are the real currency and the people who get written about and talked about just the temporary face of your brand.

Even the few who make it, carry that brand around with them for ever. I recently read a newspaper article about Alexandra Burke which started “X Factor winner Alexandra Burke…”

It must be 10 years, if not more, since she won that particular talent contest…and a very worthy winner, I might add, who’s done really well since…but even she can’t escape and still gets associated with the brand which uses it to hold out the prospect of Alexandra Burke-type fame, fortune and longevity to the next generation of hopefuls.

Remember they said you’d show them all
Emphasise the rise but not the fall
Now you’re playing a shopping mall
Your mum and dad they can’t believe
What you appear to have achieved
While the rest of these users are just laughing in their sleeves

In many ways, the most insightful line in “Starz In Their Eyes” is “what you appear to have achieved”.

It’s a very knowing line, and a nod to the fact that the world of temporary fame is all about the appearance of success. In fact the appearance of success is actually more important than the achievement of it, because the product of your TV show is getting people dreaming about the red carpet reception, the flashbulbs going all around them and the spot on Breakfast TV with the eyes of the nation on you.

Then it all stops…

Now the tabloids use your face
To document your fall from grace
And then they’ll tell you that that’s just the way it goes

That’s what “Starz In Their Eyes” sets up so beautifully. When you’re a promoter, you’ll have no trouble finding a fresh crop of hopefuls. When you’re the aspiring artist, there’s only one of you. It’s your life. It’s only a fairly short-term job to them. Next year it won’t be you any more, it’ll be a new face they’re promising the earth to.

The promoters and handlers just need to say and do whatever it takes to keep the show going and deliver the viewing figures that advertisers are so happy to pay for. In the end, that’s the product — not you, not your record, not your career. But consumer eyes and advertising dollars.

I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing in principle. We’ve all got to make a buck somehow. But “Starz In Their Eyes” is a rare example of someone exploring the downside of the journey, and what happens when the merry-go-round stops.

Plenty of people sell the dream. “Starz In Their Eyes” is one of the few times the other side of the coin gets talked about.

Knowing what you know now, you can understand Just Jack asking the question…

Now why you gonna put starz in their eyes
It’s the same old story, well they just didn’t realise
And it’s a long way to come from the Dog and Duck karaoke machine
And Saturday night’s drunken dreams

“Starz In Their Eyes” is a great track which takes a different view of the world and asks questions plenty of people would rather not think too deeply about. I always like songs like that.

Ironically, Just Jack has troubled the charts very little since “Starz In Their Eyes” was a UK Number Two in 2007. Maybe the fame and fortune industry didn’t take too kindly to having its secrets held up to the public in quite this way.

I’ll just let that thought sit with you…

The video is below, but if you prefer to listen to this song on Spotify, you can find it here… https://open.spotify.com/track/52t33nLHGNyVaCceOLFGfV