What’s in a song?: Lil’ Chris – Checkin’ It Out

Few things give your life perspective more than comparing your achievements against others. Reading the accomplishments of someone at an age younger than our own only serves to highlight our personal failures and lost potential. You begin to feel that if you’ve had no success before 25 then just give up now, you’ve wasted your time on the planet. I wonder why am I not winning Brit awards if by my age Bowie had already released all his seminal Glam albums? By my age he’d already been married once and had a child. By my age he’d lived. Of course, that’s a stupid train of thought; I have experienced things that Bowie never has and likely never will so have no need to feel bad at his success. I just need to take the chances as they come to me and be brave enough to follow my own path regardless of how long it may take. That said; it also helps to be able to look back at the end with no regrets, having contributed in some small way to the collective cultural consciousness. The way I see it; if I can write and perform a song that will grab you for those short, fleeting moments of it’s duration then I have achieved something in life and should be proud, regardless of whether you like it or not. It’s all about the reaction; aesthetics have no place in it. If you happen to enjoy the song, well I’ll consider it a bonus.

Chris Hardman (Lil’ Chris) died yesterday. He was 24. I vaguely remember when the ‘Rock School‘ programme was on but I didn’t really follow it due to being intensely jealous of the opportunity these children were given. That, and a serious allergy to Gene Simmons. Lil’ Chris, being the charismatic frontman and songwriter in the final group, was (as is so often the case) promptly snapped up by producers and ‘Checkin’ It Out’ was released months later. It is a song I greatly enjoy. Yes, it is a Franken-mash of better songs (‘Close to Me‘, ‘I Predict A Riot‘, ‘My Sharona‘ etc.). Yes, it is depressingly precocious. Yes, his jaunty cap angle offends my very being. It’s still a good song. A functional tune performed with verve and class. Seriously consider, how many 16 year old manufactured pop stars sound this raw? How many have a significant section dedicated to guitar solo after shouting ‘guitar, ow!’? How many use ‘brrrrrrrrrrrrr’ with such artistic abandon? Not many. I’m not trying to argue that it should have set the world alight or anything, I just want to highlight how rare this type of song is. His personality is writ all over it; effervescent and disjointed as it may be. All at the age of 16.

Fun fact: this was one of the first songs I ever bought on iTunes. I have no regrets. It is far more fun then most of the dross out today (looking at you, Swift) and it revels in it. That’s surely the whole point of expression; be yourself and create something only you can create. That way it lasts longer. It is remembered long after you think it lost. Though Lil’ Chris didn’t trouble the Top 3 again (arriving right at the end of the public flirtation with pop-punk), he did carve a small niche as a lower tier celeb, avoiding wasting his moment in the process. He didn’t implode in any petulant, fame-grabbing manner. He just stuck around and survived. Yet because that goes against type, we forgot about him (even though he’d had his own TV show at one point and starred in musicals). We forgot ‘Checkin’ It Out’ and I forgot how jealous I was of his early success. But this song, even for a tiny moment, affected me. It will always affect me. Lil’ Chris added to my life experience and listening to it now brings back such strong memories. He achieved something in his short life that I can’t begrudge him. I can only sit silently in thought as I contemplate the extra years I will have that he won’t.

Few things give your life perspective more than death. Especially early death. Especially when there is no destructive build-up we can follow in the papers. It is utterly sobering. But I suppose the only thing we can do is make the most of what we have. We can only ever live in the moment and should we have to go, make sure we leave something behind. The past successes of others is irrelevant. Age is just a number after all.


4 thoughts on “What’s in a song?: Lil’ Chris – Checkin’ It Out

  1. rebeccafelgate says:

    So sad to hear about Lil Chris 😦 I too loved this song and duly bought it on iTunes.
    Depression is a tricky and monsterous mother f*cker. I am sorry he didn’t get the help he needed. Long may he live on in this jaunty pop song!

    By the way – he also went on to do a couple of West End shows 🙂 he was still a success beyond his 1 hit wonder xxxxx


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