Category Entertainment News

8 of the best pop star cameos

Something old. Something new. Something borrowed. Something True.

As ITV viewers found out on Wednesday, no wedding is complete without a former member of Spandau Ballet belting out a rendition of one of 1983’s biggest hits.

Tony Hadley made a guest appearance in Benidorm as the wedding singer at Joyce and Monty’s big day, much to the delight of viewers.

Once he had performed a heart-warming rendition of True, he treated guests to a bonus performance of Gold as he sped off on the back of a boat.

Hadley is far from the first pop star to make a cameo appearance in a TV show.

Here are eight other great – and not so great – pop star appearances.


1. Ed Sheeran in Game of Thrones

It’s quite nice when you’re riding a horse through the woods and stumble upon Ed Sheeran singing a song to a group of soldiers by a campfire.

Although when Arya Stark did precisely that in an episode of Game of Thrones last year, viewers and critics weren’t quite as enthusiastic.

The Independent described his cameo as “painfully unsubtle”, Forbes said it was a “mistake”, while CNN said it “felt like the kind of stunt to which the series needn’t resort”.

“If nothing else, it was better than Galway Girl,” said The Guardian, trying to find a positive.

It wasn’t Ed’s first cameo appearance in a TV show – he previously appeared (and sang) in a 2015 episode of Home and Away.


2. Cheryl in What to Expect When You’re Expecting

Cheryl’s experience as a judge on a talent show certainly came in handy when she made a cameo appearance as… a judge on a talent show.

The currently un-surnamed singer traded in The X Factor for the fictional Celebrity Dance Factor where she judged the performance of Cameron Diaz’s character in 2012.


3. Rihanna in Bring It On: All or Nothing

The Bring It On series of films has brought us many stone cold classics – such as Bring It On: In It To Win It and Bring It On: Fight to the Finish.

But it was 2006 masterpiece Bring It On: All or Nothing, starring Hayden Panettiere and Solange Knowles, that gave us a delightful cameo appearance from Rihanna.

Four years before she turned to S&M, a younger and more innocent RiRi was in the film offering a prize to budding cheerleading squads.

Her cameo saw her announcing that the winners of a high-school competition would win an appearance in her new music video.


4. Boy George in The A-Team

Boy George appeared in a 1986 episode of The A-Team (nothing to do with Ed Sheeran) called Cowboy George.

The convoluted plot involved the singer helping the A-Team escape a mob who are after them because they’ve been framed for killing a sheriff.

Highlights of the episode include Boy George kicking down a door and Mr T dancing to Karma Chameleon.


5. Drake in Anchorman 2

To be honest, we could do an entire feature on all the cameo appearances in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.

Kanye West, Will Smith, Harrison Ford, Sacha Baron Cohen, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey all crop up in the 2012 film.

Many of them appear in the star-studded battle of the news crews at the end of the Will Ferrell movie.

But Drake’s guest appearance is actually right at the beginning, when his character… err… expresses his approval, shall we say, of Christina Applegate’s figure.


6. Ian Brown and Jarvis Cocker in the Harry Potter films

Hidden deep inside the 19 hours and 40 minutes of Harry Potter films are cameo appearances from some of UK music’s biggest music stars.

Stone Roses frontman Ian Brown and Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker both appear in the big-screen adaptations of JK Rowling’s novels. (Sadly not together.)

Brown is briefly seen stirring a cup of tea in The Prisoner of Azkaban, while Cocker portrayed Myron Wagtail, lead singer of The Weird Sisters, in The Goblet of Fire.


7. Ariana Grande in Scream Queens

As a rule, cameos are generally short.

Ariana Grande’s appearance in comedy-horror show Scream Queens certainly fell into this category, as she was cruelly killed off almost as soon as she had appeared.

The singer appeared Side to Side with the likes of Lea Michele and Emma Roberts when she starred in the show’s 2015 pilot episode.

But her foray into acting was short-lived, as she was murdered by a scarily masked, knife-wielding devil.

However, Ariana brilliantly came back to life just long enough to send out a tweet to her followers to let them know she was being murdered.


8. Snoop Dogg in… basically everything

If there was an outstanding contribution to cameos award, Snoop Dogg would win it.

He made a wonderful appearance as himself in 2015’s Pitch Perfect 2 and has also cropped up in Bruno, Entourage, Bones and 2004’s Starsky & Hutch.

His undisputed peak, however, is surely still to come.

The rapper has repeatedly said he’d love to appear in Coronation Street. He first mentioned it during a trip to Manchester in 2010.

We will simply not rest until we’ve seen him ordering a pint in The Rovers Return. Get to work, ITV!

A previous version of this article appeared in March 2017.


Oscars 2018: Female-led Oscar films ‘rake in most cash’

Oscar-nominated films with a woman in the starring role are more profitable than their male-led counterparts.

Female-led films earn higher box office returns – despite usually lower production budgets, according to BBC analysis.

On average, every dollar invested in a female-led film earns back $2.12 (£1.53). For male-led films this figure is $1.59 (£1.15).

Just 28% of films nominated for an Oscar since 2013 have had an actress taking top billing.

“Women are not bad box office, on or behind screen,” says Kate Kinninmont, head of Women in Film and Television UK.

Oscar-nominated films with a clearly definable female lead were 33% more profitable than male-led films, when comparing US box office and production budget.

This data, collated from Internet Movie Database, excluded documentaries and short films. The study looked at 155 films for which data was available, dating back to 2013. Distribution and promotional costs were not factored into the analysis.

The results don’t just apply to the US box office but figures from the States were used rather than those taken globally as more complete data for US figures is available on IMDB.

The female star boost isn’t just an Oscars phenomenon.

Last year was a bumper one for female protagonists, and the first time since the 1950s the top three highest-grossing US films all had female leads: Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Beauty and the Beast and Wonder Woman.

And it appears these are part of a larger trend.

Among 2017’s 100 top-grossing US films, those with a female lead earned back more on their budgets – led by The Last Jedi starring Daisy Ridley, which made $618.3m (£442.7m).

This is partly driven by box office returns that are 7% higher on average than their male-led counterparts, but to a greater extent because the majority of female-led films have significantly lower budgets.

The average production budget shrinks by 20% when a woman has the starring role.

Hollywood’s perception that “women won’t bring in the same amount of money” is hard to change, says Kinninmont.

Men ‘better bet’

Even in crowd scenes, research from the Geena Davis Institute has shown the average breakdown is just 17% women.

“When it comes to finance and money, men have been seen as a better bet.”

“If it was acknowledged that there is a big audience out there for films led by women and made by women, gender could stop being such an important economic marker. We could just have the best people making films and starring in them,” she says.

For every dollar invested into Oscar-nominated films during the last five years, 76 cents went to films with a male lead.

The Academy Awards have previously been criticised for their lack of diversity, notably in 2015, when all 20 nominees in the acting categories were white and there were no female nominees for direction or writing.

A 2017 study from San Diego State University found women made up just 18% of key roles behind the camera, including directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers.

“We have got to be reflecting real life on screen, and that goes for every kind of diversity,” concludes Kinninmont.

Note on methodology:

Films have been counted as female-led where a female actor had the first starring name on Internet Movie Database (IMDB). The analysis was done by comparing production budges and US gross box office figures obtained from IMDB for all Oscar-nominated films from the last five years, excluding documentaries and short films that don’t have lead actors in the traditional sense. Other costs like distribution and promotion have not been factored in. Films without production budget listed were also excluded from the analysis, leaving 155 films.


The Oh Sees: Literally making jailhouse rock

You may have heard psych-rock band Oh Sees in indie bars – but their maverick frontman John Dwyer wants people behind bars to hear their music too.

Dwyer’s own independent label Castle Face Records will now, on request, send their records directly to prison inmates to enjoy while they serve their time.

“I don’t know how it is in the UK but in the States we have a lot of people in prison for a lot of stupid reasons,” he explains down the line from the band’s LA headquarters.

“There are lots of people in prison who deserve be doing time and rehabilitation.

“But we have a lot of people in jail for drug offences and I would never consider them to be bad people. A friend of ours got six months jail-time for not paying a fine for graffiti.

“Obviously, I can’t judge people if I’m not aware of who they are or what they’ve done, but it’s just something nice you can do for someone who is in a crappy circumstance.”

Castle Face for the Incarcerated allows people to select a record from the label’s repertoire and send it to a friend or loved one in prison for free.

They do all they can to deliver the records to the desired inmate but John acknowledges some will never make it, due to differing prison rules.

“I don’t know what the thought process is behind not letting them have these items – maybe they’re seen as contraband – but we still stand by it.

“I’m not going to sneak it into them in a cake, by any means! But if somebody wants to listen to music we’ll send it to them for free if they can find us a way to get it to them.

“I like to think a bunch of jail guards somewhere is listening to our stuff that they’ve just stolen from the inmates and they’re like; ‘Hmm, I didn’t realise that I liked this young man’s music!”

The UK Ministry of Justice declined to comment on this story – but prison inmates in the UK are allowed to receive items in the mail on a case by case basis, depending on the category of the prison.

Oh Sees and their label mates Flat Worms, Male Gaze and more bring their Castlemania show to Manchester’s Albert Hall on Thursday, 1 March; before a follow-up gig at The Troxy in London on Friday.

Unlike Johnny Cash or Metallica, they haven’t scheduled any dates in prisons – but the band’s forthcoming live album might end up in detainees’ hands in the near future.

“I personally don’t see how it could hurt anybody.

“From what I understand from my friends who have done a bit of time is that they just end up watching Jerry Springer and go with what’s on the tube.

“Obviously it’s on a case-by-case basis but I fully support somebody being able to have books and be lifted by art, while in such a predicament. That’s why there’s libraries in most prisons and the same should go for music and film.

“I don’t know if I’d call it a human right – but you’d have to be pretty mean to deny someone something as simple as music.”

Oh Sees European tour kicks off in The Netherlands on 30 June and they plan to start recording a new studio album in March.

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Stormzy's producer Fraser T Smith shares his secrets

When you picture Stormzy in the studio, you probably don’t imagine his chief collaborator to be a 47-year-old dad from rural Buckinghamshire.

But record producer Fraser T Smith is one of the star’s closest confidants, helping him create Gang Signs & Prayer in almost complete secrecy last year.

It followed his work with acts like Kano, James Morrison and Adele.

“It sounds strange, but there are great similarities between what Stormzy does and what Adele does,” says Smith.

“You couldn’t think of two more different-sounding artists, but they come from the same place, in that they’re huge characters and they’re not afraid to put themselves completely on the line.

“You’re backing them the whole way because you believe every word they say.”

Last week, Smith was at the O2 arena when Gang Signs & Prayer beat Ed Sheeran’s ÷ to win the Brit Award for best British album.

Stormzy paused to give Smith a massive hug on his way to the podium, where he thanked the producer (“my brother, I love you so much”) in his speech.

The producer is still reeling.

“It’s a week today and I don’t think it’s quite sunk in,” he says. “It’s taken a week for it not to sink in.

“I knew the album was good enough to win but it did feel like the underdog choice – so when it was called out it was literally one of the best moments of my life.”

Smith developed a close bond with Stormzy over the 12 gruelling months it took to record Gang Signs And Prayer in 2016.

“In the making of the record, it was literally four people who had heard the album, which is really unusual,” says Smith, who was born and raised in Marlow – a far cry from Stormzy’s upbringing in Croydon.

“There were no people casually dropping in to hear it. No record companies, no anything. So when it reached the point where we did the final track listing and Stormzy and I came to play it to people, it was absolutely nerve-wracking.

“Luckily, the reactions were all incredible.”

The pair have already started work on the follow-up, putting down some early ideas towards the end of 2017.

But when we speak on a snowy London morning, he’s waiting for Craig David to arrive in his south London studio.

Most people thought Ed Sheeran was going to win best album at the Brits last week. Did you think the same?

I did! Ed was on the next table, and he was making crazy bets with us. He really thought Stormzy was going to get it, but I felt the global success of Ed’s record would be recognised. So it was a bit like David and Goliath – not that you can call a six-foot-six man like Stormzy David!

It took a year to make the album – which is quite long by modern standards.

It is. It was split really into two six-month blocks because Stormzy had some shows in the middle and we took a little time apart.

In the studio, we had these huge whiteboards with all the music we’d done, and all the things we had left to do. One day, Stormzy said, “I’m not sure this track works… and I’m not sure this track works,” and we literally wiped off about 50 per cent of the record. Then we set about building on the half we knew was working, and strengthening it and improving it.

He said in his acceptance speech at the Brits that he put everything into this record. And that was 110% true. He was completely spent at the end of it. He couldn’t have done anything more. So, it’s so wonderful when it’s recognised.

The record is really diverse, with hard club tracks rubbing shoulders with gospel and R&B. Was that the idea from the start?

When we first met, Stormzy said he loved the work I’d done with Kano on Made In The Manor. That showed me that he wanted to make a personal record – because the driving force behind Made In The Manor was taking away the bravado and stripping back to the raw emotion of the artist.

The first week in the studio, we came up with Blinded By Your Grace Pt 1 and Cigarettes and Kush. We just knew from that week that we wanted to make the whole record together.

You’ve become the go-to producer for UK rap – but you have a really diverse CV. What makes you want to work with an artist?

I think it’s the emotional factor. How far an artist is prepared to put themselves and their emotions on the line. People love Adele for the same reason they love Stormzy – because they’re completely authentic.

What do you remember about recording Set Fire To The Rain with Adele?

Adele was looking for a rhythmic track. That’s why she approached me in the first place – because she’d heard the stuff I’d done with hip-hop artists, but she knew I’d also co-written Broken Strings by James Morrison and Nelly Furtado.

So I got a drum loop going – I was actually thinking about early U2, Under A Blood Red Sky or Sunday Bloody Sunday – and I came up with the piano line. Adele came in and started singing these incredible melodies over the top, which were the basics of the verse into the pre-chorus.

Then, Adele’s way of writing lyrics is very, very agonising because she puts herself back into the place of pain and emotion when she was splitting up with her boyfriend. She would disappear into my kitchen, smoke a few cigarettes, come out and say, “OK, I’ve got a few more lines, let’s do it again”.

The chorus is a scene from her life, is that right?

Yes. She’d just split up with her boyfriend and it was raining so hard she couldn’t even light her cigarette. It just captured the hopelessness of it all.

But it was really on a knife-edge whether the song would ever get finished. I could tell it was so raw that she might not be able to bring herself to finish it.

I saw on Instagram that you had Nile Rodgers in the studio last week…

That was…. I mean, last week was one of the best weeks I’ve ever had in my life. Stormzy winning two Brits, and then suddenly Nile Rodgers is around and he wants to come into the studio with me and Craig David..?

I just was absolutely in awe of him. He carries his guitar on his back like it’s a packed lunch, or something. He put it down on the sofa, so I picked it up and started playing. And I asked him, “How many guitars have you got?” expecting him to say 20 or something.

He said, “Well I’ve got a few, but this is the one.” And I almost froze.

I said, “What do you mean the one?” And he said, “Well, I’ve had this since 1971. This is the guitar I’ve played on everything.’

“Le Freak?”

“Yeah.”

“We Are Family?”

“Yeah.”

“Let’s Dance… with Bowie?”

“Yeah! Everything!”

I could hardly play it after that. It literally blew my mind. It’s the billion dollar guitar, he calls it.

When will we get to hear this song?

Craig’s actually coming in today, so we’ll get to hear it soon.

You’ve mostly worked with UK acts in your career. Why is that?

Nothing other than the fact that I love British music. I love London. I think it’s an amazing melting pot of culture and music. That’s what draws me to it.

One big US artist who stands out in your discography is Britney Spears. What was your experience of working with her?

That was amazing. We got a call one Wednesday to say Britney was loving a track I’d written probably six months earlier [Trouble For Me] with an artist in America; and could I come over the next day?

So me and my engineer went straight home to pack our bags; caught the flight, got off the plane in LA, and straight into a limousine. We walked into the studio and the first person we saw was this diminutive blonde girl who said, “Hi, I’m Britney. Are we ready to record?”

I went to get a very strong cup of coffee and we did the session. Then she said, “I’ll be back tomorrow morning at 11 to hear it,” so we worked through the night to make her vocals sound as good as they could be – which was great, because she gave us loads of takes. And, as you know, her sound is very much about vocal production, so we used a lot of tricks.

And how did she react?

I’d heard stories before that if she wasn’t feeling a song, she’d say, “I need to go to the bathroom,” then get in the car and go home. So there was quite a lot of pressure!

When she came in at 11, we both had matchsticks propping open our eyes and I played the song, not knowing how she was going to react. As it got to the chorus I took a very sly glance over my shoulder and she was dancing, which was just an amazing sign. When we got to the end and she said, “I absolutely love it”.

So that was a great experience. Literally 48 hours, and we slept on the flight home.

What’s a song you’ve recorded that you wish more people had heard?

There’s a record called Icon by The Kooks, which was on the extended version [of Listen, their fourth album].

I started with a weird drum machine loop, which was actually a vocal sample of a computer saying “Kate Moss, Kate Moss”. Then Luke [Pritchard] said, “Why don’t we write a song about supermodels and icons, and how hard it is for them to get older?”

So we wrote the song about that, and it’s got all the Radiohead Kid A influences that I absolutely love, and a very Bowie-esque vocal. So it’s all my old influences worn on my sleeve, and Luke’s sleeve. We had a great time writing that song but not many people heard it.

There’s been a lot of discussion about gender equality in the music industry recently. How can we tackle the lack of female producers and engineers in the studio?

I think it will change. I’ve had two female engineers over the past 10 years, and those engineers – Beatriz Artola and Manon Grandjean – go out and talk to women and show that it’s possible to be an engineer. The doors are open.

This is art: It shouldn’t be any sort of boys club, or male-dominated atmosphere.

When there are more strong female artists coming through, that really helps, too. You know, Dua Lipa and Raye and Mabel and Anne-Marie. They’re very strong voices and they’re very strong people and I think that’ll help break down some of the barriers.

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