“We’re all capable of giving and receiving love” - Will Young on Pop Idol and the success that followed

Just a few weeks ago Will Young announced an anniversary tour, the aptly titled Will Young - 20 Years Tour, in celebration of his Pop Idol win. He’ll return to Sheffield in 2022 but before that he has a few things to do first — like handcuffing himself to a facility that breeds dogs for laboratory research.

Monday, 29th November 2021, 9:47 am
Updated Monday, 29th November 2021, 10:26 am

Since he won the show’s first series back in 2002, Will has gone from strength to strength with album sales of over 10 million and the No.1 best-selling single of the noughties, Evergreen/Anything is Possible.

It’s safe to say that it’s been quite the journey, a take Will agrees with before interjecting with an amusing anecdote, philosophical insights, passionate opinions and some cutting ripostes. But first, Pop Idol and his audition...

“You know that they told me to dance? I didn’t want to dance but they told me I should and then they ridiculed me”, he laughs.

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He speaks with a fondness for the show, “Pop Idol as a talent show was good, it was pretty innocent back then. It was probably the only chance I had to be a singer.”

We spoke further about talent shows in their various incarnations, another that came before X Factor was Pop Stars, remember that? In Sheffield the auditions were held at the City Hall, a place Will holds dear.

“I love the City Hall, it’s such a beautiful space. I always feel like I’m in this giant ballroom of a ship when I perform there. There’s something really special about that venue.”

“Another reason that it’s so special is when we perform there the frequencies sometimes get mixed up with the local cab firm”, plus one for City Taxis there.

Will Young will be performing at the Utilita Arena, Sheffield on October 24, 2022.

“I’ll be in the middle of singing, Leave Right Now and then you’ll get ‘drop off, around the corner’, one of these days I’m going to do the drop off, you know, jump in the old Toyota Prius.” Taxi for Will aside, there’s a wonderfully comedic element present throughout. Almost as if you could just go on this continually weaving and effortlessly veering journey in those shared conversations. It’s a side you rarely see to artists, unless you’re referring to the likes of Adele or even Amy Winehouse, it’s refreshing.

Right on cue, our conversation took us elsewhere, Will is seriously considering leaving the capital, there’s a distinct weariness in his tone.

“I was in Athens recently and I noticed how watched we are in London. I don’t know what it’s like in Sheffield but I feel like we exist in George Orwell’s 1984 and we’re told it’s for our security. It isn’t really, it’s just to extract money from us. It’s like we’re living in this huge nanny state, where we can’t be trusted to look after ourselves but we can.”

“I’m just worried about this country, I feel like we’re a bit f**cked. It’s a shame because I think we’re amazing as well with such a rich multi-diverse array of cultures”

“Pop Idol as a talent show was good. It was probably the only chance I had to be a singer.”

Will is a big fan of Gogglebox, believing that it’s representation of different cultures is so well done, “It celebrates difference but also humanity and what connects us.”

“If difference was celebrated more, you’d find that the boxes aren’t so needed, one of the things that humanity is missing completely is the celebration of difference. If you started off from the outset, in education, celebrating this you wouldn’t need such things as labels.”

“If I could have one wish, I would start a new version of pride that celebrates difference, which is really just a celebration of humanity.”

Will told me of his plans to join animal rights protesters from ‘Camp Beagle’ to protest at dogs being bred for testing purposes. Something he’s stridently against, “there’s still animal testing in this country, it’s not needed”. The self-professed dog-lover speaks firmly and passionately.

“I love the City Hall, it’s such a beautiful space. There’s something really special about that venue.”

“Not one thing in my home is tested on animals, I check the labels for everything I buy, I’ve got to be responsible. I’m going to handcuff myself to this centre called MBR Acres”, I asked whether he was worried about his profile? “I’m going to do it anyway.” And, he did.

Will Young will be performing at the Utilita Arena, Sheffield on October 24, 2022. Tickets are available here. He’s currently working on the album 20 Years - The Greatest Hits, which will come out in 2022.

Will Young - new colour portrait © Joseph Sinclair 2021
Will Young archive colour shot 2 (c) Indira Cesarine 2002.jpg