Sick of the world and want to leave it? Us too! But join the queue: most pop stars are way ahead of you. Every musician, from Demi Lovato to Grimes, is heading into outer space for inspiration right now.
Among those caught up in pop’s tractor beam is Doja Cat, whose Kiss Me More video saw the rapper and SZA as huge pink aliens who abduct an astronaut for a threesome then trap him in a jar. The video for the second single from album Planet Her, Need to Know, is similarly space-themed. It sees Doja as a sexy extra-terrestrial on the pull accompanied by Grimes, who recently got “beautiful alien scars” tattooed on her back, and has insisted that she’s moving to Mars when she turns 50 in order to set up a human colony – a plan backed by her SpaceX billionaire boyfriend Elon Musk.
Then there is pop-punk’s leading UFO expert Tom DeLonge, whose band Angels & Airwaves recently announced their new album by literally launching it into space, in a renewable hydrogen capsule. Robbie Williams – who is so convinced aliens exist he made a whole documentary about them with Jon Ronson – recently revealed he had written a song with Shaun Ryder after “bonding over UFOs”.
Demi Lovato went one better: the singer revealed they had meditated until they “made contact” with extraterrestrial beings. “I have witnessed the most incredibly profound sightings both in the sky as well as feet away from me,” they wrote on Instagram, adding: “If we were to get 1% of the population to meditate and make contact, we would force our governments to acknowledge the truth about extraterrestrial life among us.”
Even The Pop Star Previously Known As Cheryl Cole admitted to researching aliens during lockdown, claiming the book The Three Waves of Volunteers and the New Earth by Dolores Cannon – a UFO expert who claims the planet was populated by “volunteers” who arrived here from outer space – “changed her life”. What we’re saying is: not since the late-90s/early-00s space-themed music video trend (Michael and Janet Jackson’s Scream, Britney Spears’ Oops! … I Did It Again, Backstreet Boys’ Larger Than Life) have pop stars been so obsessed with matters cosmic.
It is understandable that musicians believe in extraterrestrial beings: after a year socialising over Zoom or from behind a mask, every interaction IRL feels like you need to relearn social skills after arriving from another planet. But astronaut Chris Hadfield, the only person ever to record an album in space (2015’s Space Sessions: Songs From a Tin Can) and who went viral for his performance of Space Oddity on the International Space Station in 2013, has another theory for the sci-fi pop boom: we’re in the middle of another space race.
“Songwriting is a reflection of personal experience, but also of pop culture, so if there’s something that is currently in the news it gets reflected artistically,” he says. “And currently, space is fascinating. We’re flying a helicopter on Mars; we have people living permanently in space; Richard Branson [with Virgin Galactic] is going to space; so is Jeff Bezos; the Chinese just launched people; and Elon Musk is revolutionising space travel.”
He is right: summer 2021 is all about billionaires blasting off. If we are not insisting that Jeff Bezos should be banished to outer space (at the time of going to press, 125,000 people have signed a petition calling for the Amazon CEO’s permission to re-enter Earth after his 11-minute trip to space this month to be denied), we are hearing Musk boast he’ll be selling trips to the moon by 2024.
Branson’s rocket is also rumoured to be launching any day now: Virgin Galactic will eventually send paying customers into space – reportedly including Justin Bieber, Katy Perry (who went to the moon in her ET video way back in 2011), Rihanna and ‘NSync’s Lance Bass, who is so keen on space travel he trained as an astronaut.
But if they plan on recording anything up there, Hadfield has bad news: it is really, really hard to sing in space. “I tell people to stand on your head for about three hours so you get super uncomfortable and all the fluid flows up into your head and your sinuses fill up and your tongue swells up a little bit, and that’s what it’s like,” he says. “It’s really strange.”
Aside from journeys into near-Earth orbit, this sudden fascination with life on other planets probably has a lot to do with the hotly anticipated declassification of Pentagon files into UFO sightings, meaning that, these days, believing in aliens is less a career-ending eccentricity than a fairly understandable viewpoint (though we’ll draw the line at anal probes).
But really: isn’t the sci-fi pop boom also about the fact everyone just needs a break from this planet at the moment? It’s been a terrible year and a half – there was a pandemic, you might have heard about it – and we all just need some time off. Forget two weeks in Greece on a travel corridor package holiday: what could be more relaxing than quietly and silently floating in space, where no one can hear you scream that big wail you’ve been holding in for 18 months? Elon: sign us up.
Chris Hadfield’s new book The Apollo Murders, is out on 12 October
This Article firstly Publish on www.theguardian.com