Is this the year we interrogate how truly strange and unusual Prime Day is? Prime Day, in review: a much-hyped, multiple-day shopping event hosted by Amazon, a sort of self-actualising Black Friday when it sells Amazon products for slightly less than it normally does (You got that Echo Dot last year, remember? You keep asking it to play Adele and screaming at it when it doesn’t understand you. Not to prang you out, but Amazon is recording every single one of those screams and will play them back to you, in a megamix, in the Amazon hospital in which you will inevitably die) and then a load of weird crap it is trying to shift off the shelves (“46% off Kärcher Window Vac WV5 Premium!”) to make space for more, I don’t know, worker tents. Anyway, that’s Prime Day.
Why am I sullying your precious celebrity-gossip column about what is in essence a glorified summer sale? Well. Prime Day, sadly, has bubbled and bloated and become so grotesque over the past few years that it is now a star-studded mega-festival of capitalism. By that I mean, obviously, that Taylor Swift is involved. The annual Prime Day Concert aired last night, featuring Swift, Dua Lipa, SZA and Becky G, and was hosted by – just checking my notes, here – ah yes, the “PE teacher from the show Glee”. The concert was exclusive to Prime subscribers, which everyone pretends they’re not but actually are, but was probably watched by next to no one because the interface of the streaming website is horrible. Still, it’s nice, and more than a little dystopian, that they tried.
Celebrities announcing sales in shops is nothing new. Who can forget when the Argos in Chesterfield opened, and Wolf from Gladiators turned up in store to sign copies of the catalogue, for a queue that snaked all the way outside town towards the Wilko at the bottom of the high street? As a man who still owns a spring/summer 1996 Argos catalogue signed: “Love, Wolf”, I cannot. But this feels a few steps beyond that.
It’s not hard to envision a future in which we are all locked in the prison of Amazon and only a few outlaws – ie people with morals who deliberately buy their books from companies that pay a significant share of tax – rove around the now sand-blasted desert country, Bezopotamia, in roaring vehicles made of scavenged rusted car parts (the caravan is heading towards that rarest of treasures, glimmering like a diamond on the distant horizon: a Big Waterstones). If we zoom out and really look at what Amazon is already – in 2019, a year with the planet on the precipice; we’ll look back at this from our slum cities and laugh – then it’s already a bit out of control. It has got drones, it knows where we live, and it has about five years from cleaving society into two classes or sects: those with Amazon Prime next-day delivery and those who work in warehouses serving those who do. Are we really so far from fitting employees with pedometers that explode if you fulfill an order incorrectly? Are we really so far from the property market collapsing indefinitely and the only viable, affordable option left to us all is to order on Amazon something so big that we can feasibly live in the box it came in, like a cat? No, we are not. And as smooth, immoveable faces of the oncoming social collapse-cum-takeover by a megacorporation go, you could do worse than pick Taylor Swift.
Swift, as you know, is involved in a blood feud (’twas ever thus!) and album trail combo, with the particulars of this one being “the music manager Scooter Braun, he of Justin Bieber fame” and “the album Lover, due 2019”. The story is that Braun bought up Swift’s old masters catalogue as some sort of shit-eating-grin mega-flex on her; she released a statement about it in classic iPhone Notes screenshot style; and Braun’s stable of popstars came out in honour of him, etc etc etc. The latest bit is that, at the Prime Concert we all streamed and enjoyed, Swift sang the line: “Just think, while you’ve been getting down and out about the liars and dirty, dirty cheats of the world / You could have been getting down to this sick beat” with exactly enough venom for people to think it was about Braun, and for people to write headlines about it, and for beef to be reignited, amen. And me, here, now, overanalysing things when I’m on the clock and I’ve got 20 more packages to fulfil before the hour is over. God, you do have to respect the girl, don’t you. She always knows what she’s doing.
This just all feels a little bit like a recurring nightmare, though, doesn’t it? A glossy, multibillion-pound corporate party (the vibe of the entire concert is very “We threw you an extremely lavish Christmas party so that’s why no one is getting a raise this year”); Swift being mad at someone; the fact that the line “dirty cheats of the world” is supposedly about Braun and not, I don’t know, the mega-corp that doesn’t pay tax and denies fulfilment centre unions and gets away with working conditions so bad employees sleep nearby in tents just to make shift every morning, and also that there’s a planned worker strike on Prime Day because it’s so bad, and, don’t get me wrong, I’m quite sure Braun has his faults, but I think in this case, he is possibly only the third- or fourth-biggest bastard in the mix; the gloss at the top skimmed over the darkness at the bottom. It just feels like this is one instance of what we will see, for ever and ever, as Amazon’s tendrils slowly choke the world, until the police are weaponised to shoot non-Prime customers with Tasers, until we are ordered by the state to watch the Prime Day Concert, Swift front and centre, again. If you want a vision of the future, log on to Prime and watch it play out, now. If you want a vision of the future, imagine Taylor Swift in a tasselled rainbow stiletto, stamping on a human face – for ever.
Jeremy Renner, rock’s jacket potato
I always feel as if I’m the victim of an elaborate prank when I consider the career of Jeremy Renner. This is your leading man, yeah? This guy? Are you sure? Do we not already have Patton Oswalt? Do we really need Jeremy Renner here, being in things? It’s as if you’re all pretending that the man is a Hollywood lead and, the one day I let my guard down and admit that I want Renner’s face at the front-and-centre of action films, you’ll all turn around and laugh at me, pointing as you go. “Ha!” you’ll all say, won’t you (I’m envisioning this happening somewhere central, like Parliament Square. You’ve all made the trip down for this moment). “You thought we supported Jeremy Renner’s transition from oddjob makeup artist to leading man? We were only joking!”
Anyway! He’s pivoted to music now, as all 48-year-old divorced actors do (the immutable law that governs this is known as Depp’s Razor). In some quite frankly baffling sponcon with Jeep, Renner has released three short films of him mainly wearing collarless leather jackets in the middle of the desert and performing the kind of “yeah no it’s … no, I’m glad your dad’s got the band. It’s good to have hobbies. He’s still going to go to work though, isn’t he?” half-rock in front of a crowd of hired extras. “My family was my first love, and then music,” Renner told People this week, to try and explain his actions. “Acting came into my brain around 20. Music has always been my first love as far as something other than my family.” Jeremy Renner loves his family, people! Note it down!
Does anyone want their actors to sing? The answer is: no, no thank you. I can barely endure singers singing. I occasionally like singers acting. But actors singing? And that actor being Jeremy Renner, a man who, visually, is akin to looking at an unbuttered jacket potato? Singing in a Jeep? Top to bottom, I have to take a hard pass on this. Unless you all pretend to like it and I get caught out by your pranks, again. At that point, and that point only, will I admit that it is good.