There comes a time in the careers of certain people when they hold the whole world in the palm of their hand – or, at least, it must seem like the whole world. Mike Rosenberg, aka Passenger, has just arrived at that point following the massive success of his song Let Her Go. This tune, while being nowhere near his best (as anyone who knows the 2007 album Wicked Man’s Rest will attest), has that elusive quality shared by Mr Blaunt’s You’re Beautiful: it’s a song that gets to the heart of what women want to hear. Just as Bridget Jones caught the imaginations of a generation of women, so Let Her Go speaks to them all. They will never tire of being told that the ex who abandoned them so cruelly now regrets it utterly. It’s not that they want them back, it’s just that they want to be told they’re right, and You’re Beautiful tapped a similar, if rather more cynical, vein. No woman hearing this song wants anything other than for Rosenberg to be their boyfriend. Well, ex-boyfriend.
But while Rosenberg laughed and joked with his audience as if they were mates down the pub, leading singalongs that were remarkably lacking in basso profundo, his every move accompanied by a chorus of coo-ing women, something universal was on display. Rosenberg is an artist on the crest of a wave, and he’ll never know the like of it again. He’s full of mischief, childish excitement and simple wonder at what’s happened to him. Continually congratulating his audience for coming to actually listen to the songs, take in the lyrics, understand the artist, it was if he was refusing to acknowledge that the majority only really wanted to hear the one tune (several left after the money shot). The cheeky asides, the rude jokes about Cher, the intimacy he wanted, that he’s used to, all of these will soon vanish as the business changes him from kid in a sweetshop to sweetshop owner. There’ll be a new kid on the block and he’ll either be a washed-up one-hit wonder or his star will simply grow and grow. Whichever it is, he’ll look back on this time, the time before he had to prove himself to men in suits, as a golden age.
All artists who really succeed hit this point, it seems, the point when they go from simply being one of the people to one apart. Songs of alienation will follow. Right now, however, Rosenberg is the child who’s inherited millions. He’s excited, generous, unbelieving. He’s grabbing his opportunity with both hands and loving it. I know what it’s like to walk onstage and have a couple of thousand people cheer just because it’s you. Ironically, none of them knew who I was. Everyone knows Rosenberg so the rush must be incredible. It’s his time and he deserves it, but he won’t give many more performances like last night’s, because he’ll change. He started during the encores – the first was Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a Prayer. He shifted ever so slightly as the crowd adored him. He’s more than half way there.
‘Are you with us, Brighton … are you with me?’
Last night, Mike Rosenberg changed. I wonder whether he noticed.

The short review reads as follows:

Mike Rosenberg, aka Passenger, has the world in the palm of his hand following the massive success of the song that every girl wants to be sung about her, Let Her Go. This performance, in his home town, was one of a man about to move on into the heady clouds of stardom. He joked, led singalongs and teased his audience, ‘bullying’ them into an encore. He lapped up the adulation, and quite rightly – it will never be this generous again. His burgeoning stardom perhaps obscured the fact that, when push comes to shove, he’s really very, very good.

3 thoughts on “Passenger

  1. Mike does not need to change, & may not want to prove himself to men in suits”; he isn’t motivated by adulation and money, but by creativity of a highly perceptive and poetic nature. Remember, when busking he has played to pigeons, or to one of a few people, & has loved it regardless. He is not your average “waiting to make it big (bucks)” person, as the sincerity in his songs reflects the man’s impetus and vision – he won’t move in directions that are not of his choosing.
    For me, Mike is always ‘moving in the right direction’, and history has proved that popularity is not synonymous with creative fulfilment or personal happiness.
    Good article, I might add, and I do hope your prediction does not hold true of Mike.

    • Thanks for your comment, which is very interesting: all of what you say may well be true – neither you or I can really know.
      It does seem true that fulfillment or happiness is not necessarily achieved through popularity, though many may feel this to be true.
      The truth is that change, whether of a sort welcomed or not, is inevitable – for an artist, necessary, even. The fear is that the machine takes over the man, whether he wants it to or not.
      He will change. Time alone will tell us in what way.

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