It might feel like a distant memory now, but as recently as a few years back, pop stars – and certainly rock stars – did and said whatsoever they pleased. No marginally off-key comments took on the epic proportions of a Twitter storm. No drunken behaviour in clubs was captured on a hundred smartphones and beamed around the world within seconds.
Sure, their antics were often well-documented. Some became the stuff of legend. But until the advent of social media and camera phones, the landscape was far more permissive.
That, at least, is how one pop star who was there at the time sees it (the time being any period before the current decade or so). Nicola Roberts, the self-described “quiet one” from Girls Aloud, is in reflective rather than quiet mode today. And she’s keen to stress that just because the band was a product of the reality television system, assembled by public vote on a precursor show to The X Factor called Popstars: The Rivals in 2002 (remember that?), we should be under no illusions that the quintet’s behaviour was in any way tame.
“We were fortunate we didn’t have camera phones or social media,” she says. “We’d go out and have wild nights and not worry about anyone being like that” – she mimes someone taking a picture – “with their phone. Honestly, we got away with absolute murder. We’d go from the club to [breakfast] television. We were wild. Just young and free. [It was] great fun. [I have] great drunken memories. So don’t be fooled: just because it’s a pop band and not a rock band it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a goody two-shoes.”
No. But it might now. “I do think it’s harder for bands these days,” she says. “Everyone has to be so, you know, PC, and look great, because the scrutiny is there so much more than it was. Now you can’t move without someone being on their camera phone.”