|Il Divo For Life
Geregistreerd op: 05 Jul 2010
Woonplaats: Belgium/With Seb
|Geplaatst: 31-08-2010 18:37:58 Onderwerp: telegraph : Il Divo: 'Please don't call us a boyband' : 2007
Their blend of pop and opera has sold more than 22 million albums worldwide. Their female fans shower them with underwear. So why is it, asks Jan Moir, that the only people who take Il Divo seriously are Il Divo?
On a Friday night in London, Il Divo somehow manage to make it through the packed bar of the Soho Hotel without being noticed. Yet anyone scrutinising their progress could tell by the way they move through the crowd that they are stars; the kind of celebrities who are used to being mobbed and have good reason to be fearful of groups of women.
David, the American Divo, moves fast and wears a baseball cap pulled low over his eyes. Urs, the Swiss-German, has a quick, measured stride, the tick?tock of his cowboy boots ringing out on the wooden floor as his gaze fixes on his toes. Carlos the Spaniard? Not quite so furtive.
With his inky quiff and drooping kiss curl, Carlos looks like a cartoon character, one whose smile would be accompanied by a white flash and a "Ting!" sound effect. For him, you suspect, a gentle mobbing might be welcome whatever the circumstances.
Two years ago, he was the Divo who said on television that he envied the singer Tom Jones, because Jones always got heaps of lingerie thrown at him on stage. Now the quartet can barely get though a concert without a barrage of knickers being pelted at their heads.
"Every time it happens, it is a shock," says David. "It's not something that you ever expect. You are in the moment and you are performing and all of a sudden, whack! Right in the face. Or they wanna shake your hand and you go to shake their hand and all of a sudden there is a thing in your hand and it is a pair of panties and you say oh… urgh… thank you."
Bringing up the rear is Sébastien who, by general Divo fan base consensus, is the best-looking in the group. Tonight, by way of disguise, he is wearing a jaunty white panama. Well, he is French, after all!
Poor, handsome Seb is the one who suffers most from the indignities visited upon the group by the more demonstrative Divas, which is how the fans style themselves.
"I was sitting in the limousine outside a London studio and fans were passing things through the window to be signed," he says. "A girl put this thing in my hand and said, 'Every time I turn it on, I think about you.' When I handed it back to her, I noticed it was vibrating. I only signed it because I thought it was a pen or something. A big pen."
"A very big pen," says Carlos. Ting!
Such incidents are all part of the everyday madness of being in Il Divo, the singing sensation that has sold more than 22 million records around the world since its launch in 2004.
The group was the brainchild of Simon Cowell, the pop impresario and talent svengali behind such shows as Pop Idol, The X Factor and Britain's Got Talent.
Six years ago, he hit on the idea of forming a quartet who sounded a bit like the Three Tenors but looked like Armani models and, most importantly, could wander round wearing an untied bow tie and looking moody in traditional beefcake manner.
After a two-year search for perfect harmony and planed cheekbones, Cowell signed up David Miller, Urs Bühler, Carlos Marín and Sébastien Izambard, a miniature United Nations of tenors, baritones and toned abs.
The first three Divos boast some classical training in their background, although they seem to have been in musicals rather than pure opera, while Sébastien, a self-taught singer-songwriter, was recording his second solo album in France.
Together, Il Divo became much more than the sum of their parts. Their eponymous first album went straight to number one in this country, a success emulated around the world, with a further 13 number ones and record sales in 26 countries.
Il Divo sing in English, French, Spanish and Italian – a stroke of multi?market genius – and have gone on to release two more major albums, Ancora and Siempre. They are currently one of the biggest acts in the world, living proof of Cowell's sure instincts when it comes to knowing what the public want before they do themselves.
Certainly, Il Divo exploit a worldwide market love of soft, sub?operatic music and they tap straight into a hot spring of female passion for clean-cut men burbling on about love and regrets and how much they adore their mummies.
One of their biggest hits, Mama, begins with the words "Mama thank you for who I am, I know you believed in all of my dreams" and ends with the emotionally thunderous "and I owe it all to you, Mama". Oh, lordy. It always brings the house, and the pants, thundering down.
Yet while it is easy to mock Il Divo, it seems only right to give them credit, too. After all, they are four young men from humble and reduced circumstances who are working hard to throttle every opportunity out of this chance they have been given.
The purists might not like it, but what Il Divo make is Mother's Day music at its most potent; well-packaged and glossy, an unthreatening smoocherama of popera and lush orchestration. The difficulty is that few take Il Divo seriously, except themselves. Even their management have doubts.
"Yes! We had a discussion with them yesterday and we were all very surprised when they said, 'Listen, guys, you don't have any credibility'," says Urs.
Do they see it as a problem?
"Yes, I think that they probably do. Or maybe it is this connection with Simon Cowell, which will always stick to us. Of course, he is known for his talent shows and we all know that most of the people who win these talent shows do not have a long and very successful career. Our case is completely different, but still that is the first thing people think about. 'Il Divo, Simon Cowell, ooooooh!'?"
He lifts his hands in a scary monster gesture. "I have kinda given up on it. We do what we do and a lot of people seem to like it. But there will always be people around who will try to stamp it into the ground for whatever reason."
So what has eight legs, one quiff and a credibility problem? Clue: it's not a spider doing an Elvis impersonation. Yet one wonders why the group fret about it, rather than luxuriate in the comfort of their worldwide record sales.
Perhaps because one of the damaging side effects of being associated by proxy with the lowly, untrained pop acts in which Cowell specialises is that some believe they do not sing live at all of their shows. The rumour persists, despite a complete lack of evidence to support it, and mention of it provokes a troubled silence from the group.
"I think that is probably a situation where people don't believe what they hear, because we sound too good to be true," says David, after a pause.
"The truth is that we sing our nuts off every single night. My face does not turn red like a baboon's butt for no reason. I sing all the high stuff. I sing more high notes in an Il Divo show than any given opera that exists.
"We just get up there and we hammer it out every night. And people just can't seem to fathom that this is actually possible."
By this time, we are in a private room in the hotel, where the group chow down on a hurried boy meal of steak sandwiches and pasta – a rather lonely Friday night dinner grabbed between landing at the airport and getting on the train.
This is the reality of life on the road with Il Divo: disciplined and gruelling, despite the surface gloss. They spend 16 hours a day with each other, rarely see their assorted girlfriends and wife (Carlos is the only one who is married), and tonight the air occasionally prickles with testosterone and grievances, despite the laughter, undoubted Divo charm and their impeccable good manners.
"People call us a boyband to reduce us as artists. We don't come from a contest or anything like that," insists Carlos.
Urs adds: "We are a male vocal quartet. People use the word boyband in a diminishing, negative way."
Like Mr Cowell himself, who referred to Il Divo as "my opera boyband" in an interview with a British newspaper in June?
"Well," says David, "he deals in the pop world, which is full of labels and terms. It means nothing."
The latest chapter in the Il Divo story is a coffee-table book that attempts to chart their musical and personal journeys to date. Amid the lush photographs and fan stats, the group admit they don't really get on together; there is the acknowledgment that they weren't friends before they started and the suggestion that they won't be when it all ends.
"Carlos is not always easy to be around," writes Urs. "Urs likes everything to be on time," writes Sébastien. "Sébastien takes things very personally," writes David. "David is like a big kid," writes Carlos. And so on.
The book, like the group, is curiously defensive, but still manages to stir the emotions with a big stick. We discover that David's parents nearly went bankrupt trying to create a chair designed to help bathe children with disabilities.
Sébastien was badly beaten by his mother and, even though he finds it hard to forgive her, recently found it in his heart to buy her a kitten. Urs was brought up by his mother, a milliner, after his father walked out on them.
And Carlos married his sweetheart Geraldine in a ceremony at Disneyland last year. "Hear ye, hear ye," cried a toastmaster as trumpeters announced his bride's arrival. "Please rise and welcome the love of Carlos's life."
Well, I guess you had to be there. With Il Divo, you've always got to be there; pants at the ready or not.