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To What Extent Are Children in Need Singles More Concerned with Fundraising Than Musical Aesthetic?

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To what extent are Children In Need singles more concerned with fundraising than musical aesthetic?

In this essay, I will look at two of the most recent Children in Need (CIN) songs: ‘Take Me Home’ by Jess Glynne, and a cover of Avicii’s ‘Wake Me Up’ performed by Gareth Malone’s All Star Choir. I will consider the musical composition of the songs, plus consider the different approaches to marketing and fundraising. Ultimately I will try to assess whether CIN looks for maximum fundraising potential from their singles or focusses more on making a good single.

Glynne’s song ‘Take Me Home’ peaked at number six in the UK singles chart. It is a slow and emotional piece of music. According to Glynne, it is based around “the need to have someone who cares what you are at your most vulnerable” (Mail Online, 7th November 2015). This core idea is shown in the style of the piece, starting with a simple chordal progression in the lower ranges of the piano and an accompanying violin. Many of the dramatic moments rely on slow crescendos followed by a rapid departure of instruments until all that remains is the piano and raw voice. The extreme range of these dynamics take the listener on a more emotional ride than the average pop song.

There is a lot of repetition of the core lyrical phrase ‘Oh, will you take me home?’ – the fact that it is a rhetorical question could be seen as a marketing technique, giving the listener the impression that Glynne is speaking to them directly. Glynne also shows off her impressive vocal range, but whilst this adds to the contrast between the different sections it works against the functionality of the song, as the majority of listeners will be unable to sing it accurately all the way through. A prime example of this can be seen in Chorus two; where two consecutive ‘Will you take me home?’ lines are sung an octave apart – a skill that not many people could copy. This would be an issue when it comes to promoting the single, as listeners would not be able to remember the song without listening to it many times over. This may have contributed to the song not reaching the number one spot.

Looking at the way the song was marketed, Glynne had previously earned a high profile reputation in the music industry, with multiple nominations for Grammy, Brit and MOBO awards, as well having had a number of hits between 2013 and 2015. Her celebrity status may have given fundraising executives for the BBC a sense of security, as they presumed she could provide them with a successful single. However, whilst she has been associated with famous musicians such as Tinie Tempah, to many people she is still unknown. Also, considering the fact that between 2010 and 2014, BBC One’s analysis of its demographics shows that the ‘declines [of viewings for BBC One] have been [the] greatest amongst children and adults aged 16-34’ (Service Review of BBC Television – July 2014, page 7), it is likely that the majority of people watching CIN will be aged 34 or above. Many of these people have grown up with the show since it started in 1980, so they may watch it every year out of habit.

Perhaps choosing Glynne, who as a 26-year-old is more likely to appeal to a younger age group, was not appropriate as she may be considered to be a ‘generic young singer’ to many older viewers. Having said this, it could be argued that Glynne’s single did not reach number one because the CIN show was broadcast on Friday 13th November 2015, which was the night when the Paris Attacks occurred. The BBC figures show that 7.7 million people watched the show that night, compared to 8.3 million last year, as many people switched over to BBC News to watch the Paris Bombings live; these are the lowest figures for CIN since 2006.

In addition it was the first year since 1980 where Sir Terry Wogan was not the main presenter, having had to withdraw just days before the show. Wogan is a popular figure, particularly with the older generation, so his absence may have been enough to prevent some from watching the show.

The second piece of music, Gareth Malone’s All Star Choir’s cover of Avicii’s ‘Wake Me Up’ did reach number one. It opens with a simple, single line of melody played on an electric keyboard. In contrast to Glynne’s song, there is a young boy’s voice dubbed over the instrument during the introduction to the song. The fact that a child is speaking engages the audience early on, as the voice could be seen to represent all the children who may benefit from CIN. This allows the audience to focus on the whole point of the composition, which is to raise awareness and money. The theme continues as the song goes on, as a choir of children hum a repeating motif. When watched with the accompanying video this parts

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